I know. I’ve been away from the blog for a long time. I’m still alive, and I haven’t been kidnapped or anything, I’ve just been busy. For a while there I was in the middle of crunch time, that period all writers know about when you’re having to edit the last book while struggling to make a deadline on the next one and trying to get a mental grip on the one after that. But the edits are all done on Paradise Valley, I’ve turned in the manuscript for Book Two, and now it’s time to try and get myself into a routine where I can post a blog at least two or three times a week.
The first order of business is Paradise Valley. I need to make sure everybody knows about it. Must be five or six times a week somebody asks me, “When is your next book coming out?” I still don’t have a hard date, but the publisher is telling me it will ship to stores in mid to late November. You can already preorder it on Amazon or CBD, and we’ve gotten some really good indicators from the marketing department about how sales are going. At this point the sales people are trying to persuade all the chains and big box stores to order boatloads of the book, and it appears things are going well. Last week I was told that Kroger had ordered copies for their stores. For me, this is highly unusual, and a very good sign. Kroger typically only has ten or twelve feet of shelf space for trade paper books, so the competition is stiff. If you get in there, you done good.
A word or two about the background for the series: The name of the series is The Daughters of Caleb Bender. The title for Book One is Paradise Valley. The title for Book Two is The Captive Heart, although that isn’t set in stone and could change before it goes to press. I don’t yet have a title for Book Three, but then I haven’t written the book, either. The Daughters of Caleb Bender is the story of a large Amish family who migrated to Mexico in the 1920s and started a colony. Based on historical fact, I got the idea for the series from my father.
I asked my dad one night, “How did you come to be born in Mexico?” I knew he was born and raised Old Order Amish, and I knew there was a colony in Mexico for a time, but I didn’t know any more than that.
He said, “I think they went down there because of some kind of conflict over the schools.”
That piqued my interest, so I started digging. Very little has been written about the Paradise Valley settlement, but I found a few paragraphs here and there in books that dealt with Amish history. All of them bore the same scant details, and they all got their information from the same place— a book called The Amish in America- Settlements that Failed, by David Luthy. I finally located a copy of the book, in which I found an eight-page article about what happened.
It turns out that in 1921 the State of Ohio passed a new law requiring all children from six to eighteen years of age to attend public school full time, five days a week. The Amish had always sent their kids to school one day a week, and only through the eighth grade. They knew they were going to be farmers, and figured they only needed basic reading, writing, and arithmetic. They chose to ignore the new law. But the new law was drawn up for the express purpose of ending child labor practices— if kids were in school five days a week they couldn’t very well work twelve hours a day in a sweatshop— so the State of Ohio decided to make an example of the Amish. They arrested five of the fathers, put them on trial and convicted them of neglect and abuse. When they still refused to send their kids to school full time the state took their kids away (since the parents, now convicted of neglect and abuse, were no longer fit parents), put them in a childrens’ home, took their Amish clothes away and cut the boys’ hair. The parents were told they could have their kids back when they signed a paper promising to send them to school five days a week.
They had no choice but to comply. But from that point on, the Amish were looking for a way out. When they came across a pamphlet advertising cheap land in the mountains of Mexico, a lot of them were interested.
My great grandfather, a man named Joseph Chupp, was the elder statesman of the colony for much of the decade. When I learned that he had seven daughters and two sons I patterned a fictional family after them and the central figures for a broad family saga fell into place. Much of the story is told from the viewpoint of the daughters, which provided me with plenty of opportunities for romance.
Anyway, Paradise Valley will start showing up on store shelves in a little over a month, so it’s time to start blowing my horn. I would deeply appreciate anything my faithful readers can do to help spread the word. It really is a wonderful story, and I’m quite proud of it. I hope readers like it as much as I do.
© Dale Cramer 2010-2017 All Rights Reserved. Photography by Larry McDonald. Site design by Pulse Point Design