Random Inspirations

Welcome to my blog, full of fun inspirations and insights on writing, self-publishing, and more!

It’s Here: Amish Baby is Out!

I’m psyched to announce that my newest eBook, Amish Baby: Hannah and Jakob’s Book, is out on Amazon! To celebrate the launch, I’ll be offering the book for only 99 cents for the first 3 days.

Amish Baby is full of memorable firsts. It’s the first in my brand-new series, Amish Couples, which features the characters we’ve grown to know and love from the Amish Hearts and Amish in College series. Also, it’s the first eBook I’ve written from a dual point of view; readers will see both Hannah and Jakob’s struggles with pregnancy, family, and love. And finally, it’s my first Amish book with a fan-chosen cover! Antonio and I had two promising cover concepts, which we posted on my Facebook page. Family, friends, and fans were then able to vote for which they liked better, and one concept won by just a hair. Check out the final cover reveal below. What do you think?

Here's our reader-chosen cover, designed by Antonio! What do you think?

Here’s our reader-chosen cover, designed by Antonio! What do you think?

I’ve also decided to include another excerpt of the book. Here’s Chapter Two, told from Jakob’s perspective. Happy reading!

Chapter Two: Jakob

The buggy repair shop is suffering a slow season. And since my hours, and therefore my pay, are based on the volume of business, this is not gut. I almost wish more young simmies would take the corners too fast or hit some bad potholes, just so there are more broken buggies.

“Jakob, it’s awful slow today,” my boss Amos says, rubbing his greasy hands on the front of his work pants. “I can take it from here. Why don’t you go home for the day?”

“But we’ve only just had lunch. Don’t you think more people might come in between now and closing time?”

Amos shrugs, his shoulders slumping forward dejectedly. At that moment, he

appears much older than his forty-five years. “Likely not, son. Tough going here, lately.”

I fight to keep my own back and shoulders straight. If I’m only here for a half-day, I’ll only be paid for a half day. That’s certainly no way to provide for a family—and a growing family at that.

I also know that protesting is useless. Amos might be the kind of boss who allows employees to call him by his first name, but when he tells you to do something, you do it.

“Okay, Amos. I’ll see you tomorrow. Normal time, right?”

Yah, normal time. I don’t want to cut your hours just yet.”

I flinch at his choice of words. He might not be cutting my hours “just yet,” but if this slump continues, he’ll be forced to—there’s no way he’ll be able to pay me otherwise.

“But don’t worry about that. We should be back to business as usual soon,” Amos continues. “After all, it’s October. As soon as the weather gets worse, I guarantee we’ll have more buggies rolling in.”

“Or being dragged in,” I call over my shoulder as I head out of the shop and into the bright, early fall sunshine.

It does me gut to hear Amos’s hearty belly laugh. I certainly haven’t been hearing much of it in the last few weeks. Summer and early fall are always our slowest times; the spring rains have stopped, and the dry, hard roads are perfect for driving buggies without incident—bad for us, but great for everyone else.

I grimace as I tally up today’s pay. It’s just too little, especially considering that Hannah will be having our first bobbel in less than six months.

Today’s pay cut, combined with the fact that I was sent home early twice last week, makes me sure that this will be a lousy paycheck.

At least Hannah is making plenty of money at the bakery. Although she’s full of complaints about Sourpuss Stoltzfus, she’s got steady hours and nice, healthy paychecks.

Our finances won’t stay this way for much longer, though. Right now, slender Hannah is not showing at all. But once she starts, she can’t work any more. We Amish are very secretive about pregnancies, and it would be highly improper for her to appear every day in public with a growing stomach. And since Amish maemms don’t work outside the home, Hannah won’t be able to go back after our bobbel is born, either.

It’s a shame, because Hannah’s job really is better than mine. People might not be breaking their buggies, but they’ll always need bread and coffee, as well as the delicious cakes, cookies, and pies that Hannah and Mrs. Stoltzfus bake daily.

This gives me an idea. The bakery’s business is steady, regardless of season, because the products are in constant demand. By comparison, the demand for Amos’s service changes with the weather. Come to think of it, I don’t even know how he’s stayed in business for so long as only a buggy repairman. He needs to expand.

Perhaps he could become a handyman, fixing not only buggies, but other broken gadgets. Why, we could even make house calls.

As the idea takes shape in my head, I walk faster and faster. Soon, I realize I’m almost running, but I’m headed in the wrong direction. I have to tell Amos about this—sooner rather than later.

I dash back toward Amos’s shop. I have a feeling that I just might be hearing that belly laugh once again.


Business, Publishing, and Life Vlog Episode #8

This weekend, Antonio and I shot another short and sweet episode of Business, Publishing, and Life. Be sure to check out the YouTube video, where you’ll find tips for success in business and publishing, as well as the #1 way to optimize your physical and mental performance, keeping your energy level strong throughout the week!

Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 8.43.02 AM

Also, I’m pleased to announce that I will be launching my latest Amish ebook, Amish Baby: Hannah and Jakob’s Book, tomorrow, July 29, 2014! I’ll post links here on the blog, as well as in my newsletter and on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

What tips did you enjoy most from BPL? Anything to add? As always, I love to hear what you think!

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We’re Never Too Old to be Read to: Reflections on a Book Reading

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of speaking on a writers’ panel at the Hera Hub Authors’ Salon. I also read an excerpt from my upcoming eBook, “Amish Baby: Jakob and Hannah’s Book.” It’s been a while since I’ve read aloud to an audience, and the experience was so much fun! The rapt crowd really seemed to enjoy the characters, dialogue, and the Pennsylvania Dutch words I’d sprinkled in. I was reminded of the many times during my childhood when I’d told my younger brother stories in our backyard tent or spun elaborate tales around the campfire.

Here I am reading "Amish Baby: Jakob and Hannah's Book"

Here I am reading “Amish Baby: Jakob and Hannah’s Book”

This started me thinking about how awesome public book readings are. Whether it’s a poetry reading in a coffee house or a reading circle at the local library, there’s something magical about reading–or hearing–a book aloud. It harkens back to ancient times, when oral storytelling was the main way that bards reached their audiences. How amazing must it have been to hear these stories, told in their most raw and elemental forms, right from the hearts of the bards?  And how equally incredible must it have been for the storytellers, gazing out over the enthralled faces of the villagers as their epic tales of intrigue unfolded? If you’d asked these storytellers about the most rewarding part of their  jobs, they’d probably have said it was the knowledge that their stories would outlive them, and be passed on from generation to generation. Today, we writers have this same opportunity with our literature; such is the power of stories.

If you’re an author, I would totally recommend reading your work in public. Not only is it amazing exposure for you, but hearing the rhythm and cadence of your own prose  is a great way to evaluate your writing techniques and the overall flow of your work. Book readings are fun for the audience, too, since your characters come alive through your voice modulation and dialogue. Reading with expression and even body language allows you to hold the audience’s attention, absorbing them entirely into the world you’ve created.

Before you do a public reading, however, I’d strongly advise attending a reading first. Not only will you pick up on important dos and don’ts , you’ll also realize the same thing I did the other day: that we’re never too old to be read to. Listening to an author read his or her work brings you beyond the page and into a totally new dimension.

Writers out there, when was the last time you read your work aloud to an audience? How did it make you feel, and how did your listeners respond? As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Brand-New Unpublished Excerpt from “Amish Baby”

I’m gearing up to release my next Amish fiction novella, based on the characters of the Amish Hearts and Amish in College series. This book will be called “Amish Baby: Hannah and Jakob’s Book,” and will be Book 1 of my newest spin-off series, “Amish Couples.” These long novellas will be told from dual viewpoints, and I am planning at least two more books in the series, one from Mercy and Samuel’s point of view and one from Rebekah and Braeden’s perspective.

I’ll be reading the unreleased Chapter 1 of “Amish Baby” at the Hera Hub Authors’ Salon event tomorrow evening, but for those of you who can’t make it, I’ve also decided to post Chapter 1 here. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on the launch date for “Amish Baby,” but for now, happy reading!

Here's the comp photo that I'm thinking of using on the cover of "Amish Baby." What do you think?

Here’s the comp photo that I’m thinking of using on the cover of “Amish Baby.” What do you think?

Chapter One: Hannah

The new girl at Stoltzfus Bakery is no Mercy, that’s for sure.

Esther is Mercy’s “replacement,” if you can call her that, and I’m responsible for training her. Why, I’m not sure. After all, she is Mrs. Stoltzfus’s niece.

She’s fourteen years old, and has just graduated eighth grade, the end of our formal Amish education. However, she seems much younger, with her squeaky voice and bony, gangly limbs. She buzzes around like a little black fly, humming through her days with almost manic energy. She seems eager to please; the only problem is that she messes everything up.

“Oh, you need some flour?” Esther says as we stand side-by-side, rolling out pie crusts. “Here, let me.” She rises on her tiptoes to grab a fresh bag of flour from the top shelf, but she’s only able to reach it with her fingertips.

“Esther, wait,” I protest, but it’s too late. She has been inching the flour toward the edge of the shelf without any real grip, and a split second later, the entire bag tumbles down. The bag pops open as it hurtles through the air, and suddenly, the counter, Esther, and I all turn as white as snow on Christmas morning.

Esther fumbles for the now-empty bag, brushing flour out of her eyes. When she finally stands up, her face is flaming red under its thin dusting of white.

“Sorry, Hannah,” she says, looking downward at the mess. “I can’t believe I was so doplich.”

I can. But this is no time to talk; Esther and I have both been arriving at work early during her training period, and the bakery is not yet open. Mrs. Stoltzfus is busy in her back office, and will be out soon to open the doors. We need to clean this place up, and fast.

I take a deep breath, willing myself to be patient. Even though I want to yell at Esther, I know I can’t. Not only would it be unkind, I know she’d tell her aunt. “Come here, Esther. Let me dust you off.”

We brush the flour off each other’s clothes, hair, and faces. She reaches the front of my dress, and I tense slightly as she bats at my abdomen. I’m only three months pregnant, and I’m not showing yet. But the thought of Esther’s hand anywhere near something so precious makes me nervous somehow.

“Okay, Esther. Gut enough.” I hand her a wet rag to wipe down the floury counter. I figure this is safer than giving her the broom—the bakery is full of things to knock down, or perhaps to trip over.

Instead, I sweep the area myself, yawning. My pregnancy has been easy so far, but I do feel more tired than usual—and the earlier mornings of Esther’s training period aren’t helping out at all.

I’m just emptying the dustpan into the garbage and feeling pretty proud of myself, when the door of the back room opens and out lumbers Mrs. Stoltzfus.

Although it’s the first we’ve seen of her all morning, there is no, “Gute mariye,” at least not from her end. Both Esther and I say it, but Mrs. Stoltzfus simply frowns at us, her gaze fixed on the unfinished pies on the counter.

“I thought I told you two to come in early so Esther could learn to make pies—before the bakery opens.” She looks straight at me. “So if that’s what was supposed to be happening, why are there a bunch of half-made pies on the counter when I want to open the doors right now?”

Ugh. Ever since Mercy left, I’ve become Mrs. Stoltzfus’s favorite person to yell at. Sometimes, I wish Mercy would come back just so someone else could take a tongue lashing some of the time.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Stoltzfus,” I say, bowing my head. “The pies should’ve been in the oven by this time. But there was an accident.”

I glance over at Esther, waiting for her to confess to her doplichkeit, but she keeps her eyes focused on the freshly swept floor.

“An accident?” Mrs. Stoltzfus repeats. “I don’t even want to know. For now, you two have some pies to finish. Hannah, show Esther how to make lattice crusts, please. They’re quicker than the traditional ones, and the customers like them just as well.”

There is no room for further discussion. Mrs. Stoltzfus turns on her heel and flings open the front doors of the bakery.

Predictably, Esther shows no skill for creating a neat lattice crust on top of the pies. I make all the pie crusts in the time it takes her to do one. And her lattice turns out crooked, with bumps in the little overlapping lines. When she asks me how it looks, I struggle for a kind answer.

“It’s, um, a gut start. But do you see the way the lattice is much neater on these ones?” I gesture to the crusts I’ve made, then pull the sloppy lattice off her pie, roll it out, and slice it into strips once again. “Here, let me show you again.”

I’ve just begun demonstrating lattice-making techniques for the second time that day when Mrs. Stoltzfus’s voice booms from the front counter, “Hannah! Some help, please.”

“Keep trying, Esther,” I say, patting her on the shoulder. “I’ll be back to check how you’re doing soon.”

Esther nods, grunting in concentration as she bends over her pie crust, while I scramble out to the front of the bakery. The before-work coffee and pastry crowd has arrived, and a huge line snakes from the counter to the door. I paste a smile on my face and attack the line of customers, knowing that, as usual, it’s going to be a long day.


Kindle Unlimited and Indie Authors: A Mixed Bag

Earlier this week, Amazon leaked its intentions to start a new program called Kindle Unlimited, which they touted as a kind of Netflix for eBooks. Today, the program has launched. In case you don’t know all the details, the program is available for $9.99 per month to U.S. customers only, and over 600,000 eBooks and 2,000 audiobooks are available to subscribers. The cheap price, combined with the 30-day free trial, makes it a no-brainer for voracious readers. In fact, I just signed up today!

Kindle Unlimited: good or bad? I think that, like most things in life, it's probably a mixture of both.

Kindle Unlimited: good or bad? I think that, like most things in life, it’s probably a mixture of both.

It truly seems that Amazon has a monopoly on eBooks. Here’s an interesting blog post with more facts about Kindle Unlimited, as well as reflections on the monopoly.

But what does this mean for authors, especially indies? Any books enrolled in KDP Select are automatically enrolled in Kindle Unlimited. I checked my book listings for confirmation, and found that this had indeed gone into effect this morning. However, authors are not forced into Kindle Unlimited; we have the option of contacting Amazon to remove our book(s) from the listings. Many books from large, traditional publishers are not available on the service, so any authors who decide to yank their books out of the program would be in good company.

Naturally, one wonders how this will affect authors’ royalties and payments. Amazon does a decent job of answering the question, stating that, “Once a customer reads more than 10% of your book, or a Kindle Owners’ Lending Library customer downloads your book, you’ll receive a share of the KDP Select Global Fund.” This, of course, raises the question of exactly how much of this fluctuating global fund we’ll actually be paid, and I suppose that remains to be seen. Here’s an awesome blog post that describes the global fund, and even includes some mathematical calculations.

I am excited to experience Amazon’s new experiment firsthand, and am curious whether Amazon’s algorithm will recommend Kindle Unlimited books more often than others. Although author payment is still a weird, gray area, the increased exposure could be an amazing benefit of the service. I’m also wondering how the availability of the service will affect eBooks’ success in the KDP Select free days. Free days have been invaluable for my books, increasing my readership and driving up sales of my paid books, and I’m hoping that they will still remain lucrative.

Readers and indie authors, what do you think about Kindle Unlimited? I’d love to hear your opinions!


4 Tips to Write from Multiple Viewpoints

I’m currently immersed in writing Book 5 of the Amish in College series, “Amish Baby: Jakob and Hannah’s Book.” As the name implies, this novella will be told from the viewpoints of both Hannah and her husband Jakob.

I chose to write this book from multiple viewpoints for several reasons. First of all, I figured that it would be a fun challenge to examine a pregnancy–and many of the dramas that can go along with it–through the eyes of both members of a couple. Additionally, I’ve never written an Amish Hearts or Amish in College novella from Jakob’s perspective, and only one other book is told from a male perspective (Amish Scholar: Samuel’s Book). So, I was definitely ready for another male protagonist. However, Jakob is not a super popular character, so I decided to combine his viewpoint with Hannah’s to keep readers interested and allow Jakob’s personality room to reveal itself and shine throughout the course of the book.

Telling a story from multiple viewpoints can be an awesome literary device, opening the reader’s mind to the thoughts of two main characters. It’s often used in romances to show the falling in love process through both characters’ eyes. However, if done sloppily, multiple viewpoints can spell out disaster. Not only might the reader lose track of the narrator, he or she might also become frustrated by constantly hopping from one character’s head to another.

With that in mind, here are 4 quick tips to write your next story from multiple viewpoints.

  1. Use No More than Two Viewpoints – If  you’re jumping into too many different heads, your story can easily become disjointed and convoluted. It’s possible for very experienced authors to pull off storytelling with more than two viewpoints–just look at Mary Higgins Clark. However, it you’re just beginning to experiment with this technique, start with 2 viewpoints and hone your skills before attempting more.
  2. Alternate Chapters – Telling one chapter from one character’s viewpoint and the next from the other character’s is the perfect way to keep your story fresh and hold readers’ attention. To make the readers’ lives even easier, you can tell them which character will be narrating at the beginning of each chapter. For example, in “Amish Baby,” I labeled the chapters “Chapter One: Hannah,” “Chapter Two: Jakob,” etc.
  3. Watch for Point of View Slips – The trap of POV slips is easy enough to fall into any time, but especially when you’re telling a story from multiple viewpoints. As you write, self-edit every few chapters to watch for POV slips, and make sure to have your manuscript professionally edited after you’ve completed it. Sometimes, writing from multiple viewpoints can be confusing to the writer as well as the reader.
  4. Read Examples – Reading often is one of the best ways to become a better writer. Now that you’ve thought of writing from multiple viewpoints, revisit your favorite books and note which ones are written from multiple viewpoints. Read critically, and learn as much as you can from the examples of the masters.

Writers, have you ever told a story from more than one viewpoint? If so, what techniques did you find helpful during the writing process. I’d love to hear your ideas!

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Creativity Jungle-Style: What Animal Are You?

Yesterday, Antonio and I finally made it to the famous San Diego Zoo with our friends Janice and James, who are visiting from out of town. None of us had ever been there before, and as with any new and innovative experience, our minds were working overtime during and after our adventures there.

Being "attacked" by a lunging tiger at the San Diego Zoo. ;)

Being “attacked” by a lunging tiger at the San Diego Zoo. 😉

My most striking observation was how similar the animals are to us humans. Each species had a different personality type that mirrored how we humans behave in our everyday lives, as well as in our creative and/or professional ones.

Here are just a few animal personalities I encountered. As you start your post-holiday work week, ask yourself… Which animal sounds like you, and how can you overcome your obstacles to become more creative and productive?

  • The Meerkat – These adorable little mammals make their homes in the deserts of Botswana, Namibia, Angola, and South Africa, and can crawl on all fours or stand up on their hind legs. With their small ears, intelligent-looking faces, and upright posture, they almost look human. Meerkats have no body fat, and must forage for food every day–evolutionarily not advance planners. They reside in underground burrows and are very social, living in clans of 20-30 members. If you have the creative/work style of a meerkat, you’re likely to be amazing in brainstorming sessions and collaborative work environments, but when it comes to strategizing or working alone, you generally prefer to bury yourself in the sand. Creative meerkats should focus on working in industries where teamwork is encouraged and essential, but let strategic planning and independent projects to a different personality type.
  • The Camel – With their humps packed full of water for long desert days, camels are awesome advance planners. They move slowly and are capable of deliberate, almost singular focus. The only problem: they’re stuck in their ways. We observed this firsthand when we interacted with an older male camel. He was obsessively chewing on a branch of dried wood. When the wood was moved away from him, he pouted, waiting for it to return so he could resume his chewing. He continued this behavior for the entire time we observed him, and when we left, he was still working on that piece of wood. Creative/work camels are focused, and can achieve much throughout the course of their work days. However, they are prone to closed-mindedness and are not the best at thinking outside the box. If you’re a creative camel, take advantage of that famous focus, but strive to enhance your creativity by becoming more open-minded.
  • The Giraffe – Giraffes know how to get to the top–they just stick their necks out. If you’re a creative giraffe, you’re not afraid of reaching new heights every day, and you’re always striving to go higher and shoot further. If this sounds like you, keep up the great work. Just remember that you might hit your head and face a few bumps and bruises as you break through the glass ceiling. 🙂
  • The Condor – What a show-off! Condors are sexy and they know it, especially the male ones, who are prone to flaunting their powerful bodies and plumage atop rocks and cliffs. And what a wingspan… They’re made to fly up, up, and away! If you’re a creative/work condor, you may be prone to boasting, but you’re usually able to back up all that talk, soaring to new heights when faced with a challenge. Keep the strutting in check, and you’ll go even further!

I hope this exercise was fun for you as you embark on your work-week. Can you think of any other animal personality types that I might have left out? If your creative/work personality mirrors any of these, how have you overcome your own personal obstacles to succeed? As always, I love hearing what you think!

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10 Things You Might Not Know About the Amish

As I’ve written the Amish Hearts and Amish in College series, I’ve delved deeper and deeper into the Amish culture. My books touch on various facets of the Amish lifestyle, such as Rumspringa, courting, baptism, marriage, farming, and money matters, and I’ve learned that there is so much more to this world of buggies, bonnets, and old-fashioned charm than we commonly think.

Snowy Amish buggies last winter in Pennsylvania

Snowy Amish buggies last winter in Pennsylvania

Currently, I’m in the process of writing Book 5 of the Amish in College series, Amish Baby: Hannah and Jakob’s Book. It’s the first Amish novella I’ve ever written from two different viewpoints…and the first time I’ve ever written about pregnancy in the Amish community. Since I’m 6 months pregnant, I was incredibly curious about an Amish pregnancy and the birthing customs.

One thing that surprised me was how secretive the Amish are about their pregnancies; mothers don’t even tell their other children when they’re pregnant! Another interesting fact is that not all Amish give birth at home; some sects give birth in hospitals, just as we Englischers do. And although Amish may visit “English” doctors or midwives, most of them don’t receive the customary “English” prenatal care, such as vitamins and ultrasounds. If you’re curious about more Amish pregnancy and birthing customs, check out this great website!

After I read about Amish pregnancy, I started wondering what else I didn’t know about the Amish, and I stumbled upon this blog post written by an innkeeper in Holmes County, Ohio who deals with Amish regularly and receives many questions about them from curious “English” tourists. The innkeeper tells us 10 myths about the Amish; I had known most of these facts from my research, but I was surprised by #8: some Amish have indoor plumbing. The Amish I had seen in Pennsylvania used outhouses, and I had assumed they all did this.

Amish fiction lovers out there, which of these Amish myths surprised you? Have you learned anything mind-bending about the Amish through your readings or research? As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Amish in College #4 is Out!

It’s here! Amish Baker: Mercy’s Book (Amish in College #4) has launched! This book combines some of my favorite things: entrepreneurial spirit, drama, and, of course, love. And I can’t wait for you to find out Hannah’s special news, which will come into play later, in Book 5!

Here’s an excerpt from Amish Baker: Mercy’s Book. Enjoy!

Here's the new cover of Amish Baker, designed by Antonio! What do you think?

Here’s the cover reveal for Amish Baker: Mercy’s Book… What do you think?

Chapter One

It’s a muggy summer day, and the air in Stoltzfus Bakery feels practically as hot as the brick ovens lining its walls. I finish ringing up an exhausting family of Englischers who had been full of questions about the ingredients we use in our Amish baked goods, and place my sweaty forehead in my hands. Right now, I wish for nothing more than a long, cool dip in the brook.

“Mercy,” Hannah calls weakly from her spot in the corner, where she’s mixing up dough for a fresh batch of snickerdoodles. “Do you mind switching places with me?”

One glance at Hannah tells me she’s not looking to shirk her baking duties; the poor girl looks like she’s ready to pass out. Her face is blood-red, covered with beads of perspiration, and she wobbles unsteadily on her feet, reaching out to the counter for support.

“Sit down, Hannah.” Within seconds, I’ve pulled a stool over, helped her into it, and dashed to the back room.

“What’s going on?” Mrs. Stoltzfus asks when I fling open the door. She’s sitting there doing some bookkeeping, her head propped up on her hand. She glances up with a raised eyebrow, her dark eyes ringed with even darker circles. She looks scary, like the kind of woman that little children run away from. “You know lunch is not for another hour, Mercy.”

Mrs. Stoltzfus owns and runs the bakery, and she uses the back room as an office and break room. I’m jealous of the ever-so-slight breeze that ruffles the curtains on the narrow, high window. I fight the urge to roll my eyes. It figures that she’d be spending her time back here on a day like today, while Hannah and I swelter.
“I’m sorry, ma’am,” I say, pouring Hannah a tall glass of water from the pitcher on Mrs. Stoltzfus’s desk. “Hannah and I just need a bit of water. I won’t bother you again.”

Mrs. Stoltzfus exhales in a loud hmmmph. “Yah, okay,” she says. “Just see that you don’t.”

I bite back an angry retort as Mrs. Stoltzfus returns to her books, waving me away like a bothersome fly. I race out of the office, muttering under my breath. You’d think that after four whole years of working here, she’d treat me with some respect.

Thankfully, the bakery is free of customers. I can only imagine how grumpy Sourpuss Stoltzfus would get if customers complained about waiting.

I thrust the glass into Hannah’s hands, and she gulps down every last drop of water gratefully.

“Are you okay?” I examine my good friend. She’s sitting a bit straighter, but she still has that wilted-flower look. Her face is no longer flushed; now her skin looks waxy and clammy, almost greenish. Her shiny blond hair, which had been neatly pulled back and covered with her bonnet earlier, falls down from its pins and straggles around her face. For a moment, I wonder if she’s suffering from more than overheating—perhaps she’s sick. There’s nothing worse than a summer fever.

“I think so,” Hannah replies, pressing the cold, empty glass to her forehead. “It was the weirdest thing. I felt like I was going to faint.” She stands up slowly. “I think I’m better now, though.”

“Are you able to stand at the counter, or do you need to sit in the back room for a few minutes? I can tell Mrs. Stoltzfus to come out, you know. She’s only looking at the numbers, and that can wait.”

“No, it’s okay,” Hannah says, her voice coming out fast and almost frantic. She pulls off her bonnet, tidying her hair before she puts it back on. “Please don’t tell Mrs. Stoltzfus. I’ll let you know if I feel weak again, but I’m okay to get the counter for now.”

I cock my head, studying Hannah again. I hadn’t expected this kind of reaction. Why is she so reluctant to tell Mrs. Stoltzfus that she isn’t feeling well?

“After all,” Hannah continues, “I’m going to have nearly eight more months of this. It’ll never do if Mrs. Stoltzfus thinks I can’t carry out my regular duties. Jakob and I need the money now more than ever.”

My eyes widen. Is Hannah saying what I think she’s saying?

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