Each book I write has its own specific challenges. For A Double Dose of Love, writing about two sets of identical twins was hard. With Zeb and Zeke’s names being so similar, that just added to the complexity. I couldn’t change their names because they were first introduced in Written in Love, when Phoebe was telling Jalon about her larger family. At that time, I didn’t think about writing both brothers’ stories in the same book, but once the time came for their romantic journeys, I couldn’t write them separate.

When I create characters, I use a variety of different methods. Sometimes characters are fully formed when I start writing the book, other times I have to do some pre-writing work, like filling out character charts, reading about character archetypes, and one of my favorite activities, people watching. For Zeb and Zeke and Amanda and Darla (say those names fast three times) I turned to a book I’ve used several times in the past: 45 Master Characters. This an excellent book about character archetypes used in fiction and movies. The downfall for me is that it’s heavily based in Greek/Roman myth, which doesn’t apply to my writing. But using the character descriptions as a springboard is extremely helpful.

Curious about Zeb and Zeke’s older sister, Phoebe? Read Written in Love!

Zeb and Amanda both have the same problem—they feel trapped/obligated to take care of their sibling. Zeke and Darla are free-spirited, which not only causes problems for themselves, but also each other and their siblings. Fortunately through love and forgiveness, they work through their problems. How do they do that? You’ll have to read and find out. 🙂

Here is Chapter 2 of A Double Dose of Love.

Darla tried to pack her suitcase in near silence. A week had passed since she’d found the ad touting Birch Creek’s available and willing-to-marry single men, and she hadn’t been able to get it out of her mind. Mail-order brides? How exciting! This was the opportunity she’d been waiting for. She stuffed one last dress into the brown leather bag and pulled on the zipper, the grating noise making her cringe. “Why can’t you be quiet?” she admonished it in a whisper.


She froze, then plastered a smile on her face as she turned to Amanda, who was sitting up in bed and rubbing her eyes. The silvery light of the full moon streamed into the bedroom they shared, giving Darla just enough light to see by. If it wasn’t for that stupid zipper—“

What are you doing?” Amanda croaked.

She thought about telling a fib, just a tiny one the Lord would surely overlook. He understood why she was leaving; she was sure of that. But not only couldn’t she lie to her sister, but she couldn’t think of a lie that would make sense. She lifted her chin. The truth it would be. “I’m leaving.”

Amanda scrambled out of bed and turned on the battery-operated lamp on the table between their twin beds. “You’re what?”

“I’m leaving.” Darla’s chin quivered a little. Determined to hide that telling sign, she stepped to her dresser and opened a drawer. Uh-oh.Good thing she had. She peered at her underclothes. How could she have forgotten to pack those?

“It’s the middle of the night,” Amanda barked.

“Nee it’s not.” Darla grabbed her unmentionables and shut the drawer. “It’s three a.m. The middle of the night would be midnight.” She rarely had to correct her sister yet being accurate was important.

Amanda rolled her eyes. “Whatever.” Then she looked at Darla up and down, no doubt suddenly realizing she was fully dressed from her kapp to her black shoes, then glanced at the suitcase.

“You really are leaving. Where? Why?”

Placing her hands on her hips, because Amanda needed to understand she was serious, Darla said, “I’m going to Birch Creek, and I think you know why. The bus leaves at six, and I arranged for a taxi to pick me up in an hour. I want to be at the station in plenty of time.” She hurried back to her suitcase, unzipped it, and threw her underclothes inside. Amanda stomped to Darla’s bed and unzipped the bag. “We talked about this.” She reached inside and pulled out one of Darla’s dresses, the green one.

“You talked.” Darla snatched it from her hand and put it back.

Amanda reached in and grabbed the dress again. “And you agreed it was a terrible idea.”

“Only so you would stop discouraging me.” She tugged on the dress.

“How can you even think about running away?”

“That’s not what I’m doing.”

“That’s exactly what you’re doing. Sneaking away at night without telling anyone where you’re going is running away.”

Amanda yanked on the fabric. “I’m running to something. There’s a difference. Now let geh of mei dress.”

“I will not.”

Darla stood there, holding the hem while Amanda grasped the neckline, staring at the face identical to hers yet different. Amanda had a freckle at the corner of her mouth, while Darla had a dimple on her left cheek. Otherwise, they were physically identical. But right now, she’d never felt more different from her sister. “I said let geh of mei dress.”

Amanda’s eyes widened, and she released her grip. “I’m serious. You can’t geh to Birch Creek.”

“You can’t stop me.” But Darla knew Amanda could do just that. Her sister had been hovering over her for her entire life, persuasive at every turn, and for the most part Darla hadn’t minded. She even understood it most of the time, considering she’d nearly died when she was born, and as she grew up, her whole family had been extra protective of her. Then there was the fact that Amanda had common sense she didn’t have. She’d even overheard her parents say so, more than once. But at this moment Darla had something Amanda didn’t—determination. She needed to escape before her resolve disappeared. She tossed the dress into her suitcase and quickly zipped it.

“Be sensible, Darla. You can’t geh by yerself.”

Darla lifted her chin again as she picked up the suitcase. “I’m an adult. I can geh anywhere I want.”

“What about money?”

“I have plenty saved from mei job.” Darla might not have common sense, but she was good at math and money.

“What about Mamm and Daed? They’ll be worried sick about you.”

“I wrote them a note.” She started to reach into her purse, then realized it was still on the bed. Bother. First, she’d forgotten her underclothes, then she’d almost taken off without her purse with all her money inside. She picked up the handbag, then opened it and pulled out a folded paper before slinging the purse’s strap onto her shoulder. “Here’s yer note,” she said, handing it to Amanda. “See, I thought of everything.” Not quite since she almost forgot to pack her underclothes, but her family had been at the forefront of her mind, right behind her eagerness to get to Birch Creek.

Amanda gripped the note but didn’t open it. “Darla, please listen to me. I don’t want you to do something you’ll regret.”

Those words grated on Darla’s nerves. How many times had she heard them? Not just from Amanda but from her parents too? But this wasn’t the same as when she brought home an entire litter of twelve puppies even though her father had allergies. Or the time she dove headfirst into a pond without knowing how shallow it was. She’d taken the puppies back to their owner, and fortunately the pond was deep, and she hadn’t hit her head when she dove in. She would admit that in both instances she’d made mistakes, lacking common sense. But this was different. She wanted to go to Birch Creek. I need to. She would regret it if she didn’t.

“Please get out of mei way,” she said. She pushed past Amanda and started to open the door.

“Darla. Don’t geh without me.”

She froze, stunned. Then she turned around and gaped at Amanda. “What did you say?”

“Uh, don’t geh without me?”

Darla couldn’t believe it. She set down her suitcase. “You want to geh to Birch Creek?”

“Um, ya.”

“You don’t sound so sure.” She frowned. “Besides, you’ve been saying it’s a bad idea all along. You said it again just now.”

“I know, I know.” Amanda twisted Darla’s note in her hand. “But I’ve changed mei mind. I’m allowed to do that, ya?”

Darla quietly shut the door. They didn’t need to wake up their parents, although there was slim chance of that. They could sleep through a tornado, and they had all those times Amanda had sneaked away. That didn’t matter now.When she turned and saw Amanda lowering herself to the edge of her bed, Darla plopped her purse onto her own bed and moved to sit beside her. “You really want to geh with me? To find a husband?”

Amanda nodded slowly. “Uh, ya. I do want to geh. I’m not sure about finding a husband, but I guess I’d like an adventure.”

She threw her arm around Amanda’s shoulder, both excitement and joy coursing through her whole body. “I’m so happy. I was all ready to geh alone, but I didn’t really want to.” She hopped up from the bed. “You better hurry.”


“The taxi will be here soon.”

Amanda shook her head. “We can’t leave now.”

Darla scratched her cheek. “Why not?”

“I have a job, remember? You did let the Wilsons know you were quitting, didn’t you?”

“Ya, I did. Yesterday, when I said I’d catch up with you on our walk home, right after our shift ended. But you’re right, it’s not fair for you to leave without telling them.”

“Then there’s Mamm and Daed. We need to break the news about our visiting Birch Creek to them face-to- face.”

Darla shook her head. “I’m not going for a visit. I’m going to find a husband, and maybe you will too. And when we do, we’ll live in Birch Creek.”

Amanda paused, opened her mouth as if to say something, then shook her head. She rose from the bed. “Either way, we have to tell Mamm and Daed. How would you feel if I left town without letting you know I was leaving in person? Would a note be enough?”

Oh. She hadn’t thought about that. “I would worry about you.” She took Amanda’s hand. “I’d miss you too.”

“Just like I’d miss you.” Amanda squeezed Darla’s hand before she let it go.

“You’re right. We can tell Mamm and Daed at breakfast. Then you can quit yer job, and we’ll geh to Birch Creek. I’m sure there’s a bus running tomorrow afternoon. I’ll just call and change the time.”

“How about if we wait until next Saturday? That would give us more time to plan, and I can work one more week. If we quit our jobs at the same time, the Wilsons could be in a real lurch.”

“They told me they have lots of applications and not to worry about their finding someone else.”

“Okay, but I still think this is what we should do. Are you willing to leave next week, then?”

Darla paused, mulling over the idea. She didn’t want to cause a problem for her bosses. The Wilsons had always been good to her. And Amanda was right—they did need to tell their parents face-to-face, not just take off and leave a note. She’d have time to say good-bye to her friends too. She nodded. “I’m glad you stopped me, Amanda. It would have been a big mistake to leave without talking to Mamm and Daed first. And I care about the Wilsons too.”

“I’m glad you see it that way.” Amanda touched Darla’s shoulder. “You need to cancel that taxi before it gets here.”

“I will. I’ll wait until it’s a little closer to four o’clock, though. I don’t want to wake up Max if he’s still sleeping. He told me it takes him only five minutes to get here.” She frowned. “I hope he won’t be mad because I’m canceling at the last minute.”

“Tell him you’ll pay him for his trouble.”

“Gut idea.” As usual, her sister had solved the problem. Darla smiled as she slipped off her shoes. “I’ll also tell him we’ll be leaving next Saturday so he can plan on taking us to the bus station.”

Amanda rubbed her temples and sat back on the bed. “Okay,” she mumbled, then opened her eyes wide. “But don’t fall asleep until after you call him.”

She ignored Amanda once again telling her what to do. Of course she wouldn’t fall asleep. She was too excited for that. Funny, though. Amanda still didn’t sound all that thrilled about going to Birch Creek—even though she’d called it an adventure. She didn’t look like she was thrilled either. Then again, it took a lot for Amanda to show much enthusiasm about anything. She hadn’t been so serious when they were kids, but as she got older, Amanda had grown more so. Darla missed the fun side of her sister.

She touched Amanda’s knee, her flannel nightgown reaching to her toes. “Amanda?” she said softly.


“Danki for going with me. This trip will change our lives. I just know it.”

“Sure it will.”

Darla barely heard her sister’s whisper, but she was glad Amanda agreed with her.

She moved to her own bed and laid down, suddenly exhausted yet happy. In one short week she’d be heading out on a journey with a glorious purpose, and Amanda was coming with her. She wasn’t even upset about putting the trip off for a while. Good things did come to those who patiently waited, as Mamm liked to say.

An idea burst through her thoughts. God must have changed Amanda’s mind tonight. Her twin had so adamantly tried to convince her not to leave all week, and then out of the blue, she decided to go with her. She smiled. God had to be working on Amanda’s heart too. Darla hadn’t told anyone, especially her sister, but she’d been praying for the Lord to bring them both husbands. She was tired of seeing all her friends marry and have families, and while she’d never admit it out loud, she envied Amanda when she dated Lloyd Wagler—although she never talked about him once they stopped secretly dating. It would just be nice to have a mann interested in me for a change. And in Birch Creek, not only could her parents not stop her from dating, but obviously, now that she was on board, Amanda wouldn’t try to stop her either!

Now was her chance for romance. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Darla had been asking, seeking, and even mentally knocking on God’s door, praying for him to give her that chance. She never expected it to come in the form of an advertisement found in a mailed package. Then again, God’s ways weren’t her own. See, Lord? I have been paying attention during the sermons.

She reached over and turned off the lamp, plunging the room into moonlit darkness again. “Danki, Lord,” she whispered, happier than she’d been in a long time and filled with confidence that God was answering her prayers.

Zeke scrambled up into the deer stand, then set down his flashlight before hugging his coat around his chest. He didn’t really need the flashlight tonight. The full moon was bright enough to light his path. Deer season wouldn’t start until fall, hunting the only purpose for which Amish used guns, but he spent time here year-round. Not usually at four in the morning, but he couldn’t sleep, not an unusual occurrence since he and Zeb purchased the farm. He wasn’t the worrying type, or at least he hadn’t thought so until lately, but the niggling anxiety that now stayed with him almost constantly was growing. And he wasn’t sure what to do. What he couldn’t do was stay in bed tossing and turning.

This small copse wasn’t too far from his and Zeb’s place, which was convenient. When he was in the woods, he could think. And there was no better place to think than high up in a tree. He’d been climbing them since he was four years old, much to the panic of his parents. He scooted closer to the edge of the stand, his legs hanging down and swinging, his family heavy on his mind. None of them were happy with him right now.

When Zeke heard about the farm being for sale at a good price, his father had admitted that the idea of buying it had merit. He’d just advocated praying about it first and then waiting a while. But Zeke had pushed the issue until Daed gave up and Zeb gave in, leveraging his down payment to get his brother to cave. In the process, he’d promised Zeb he wouldn’t be reckless with money anymore, and he’d intended to stick to his word. But he’d already broken that promise more than once. For one thing, the colt was a bad buy, and he realized it as soon as he’d seen Zeb’s reaction to him. But he wouldn’t admit that to anyone. And if anyone could rehab a horse, it was Zeb.

His brother had always been fascinated by them, ever since they were both young boys in Fredericktown. Zeb had even worked at an English horse farm when they were finished with school, loving every minute of it. Zeke thought horses were all right, and although he’d fallen off one when he was a kid, he wasn’t afraid of them. But he saw them in a more practical light. They served their purpose. They could be bought, trained, and sold. Zeb would train them, and he would sell them. At least, that had been his big idea.

Zeke rubbed the back of his neck. What had he gotten into? A rundown farm, a wayward colt, a disappointed twin and father, a debt Zeb didn’t even know about and he had no one to blame but himself. He’d had high hopes he and his brother could build a farm as successful as their father’s was without first going through the failure his father had endured back in Fredericktown. But not only had he always been impulsive, but waiting before taking a plunge had never lined up with Zeke’s belief that when an opportunity presented itself, he should take it or risk losing it. But he’d ended up sitting in this deer stand well before dawn, trying to calm his anxiety. The hastily erected walls of his plan were starting to close in and suffocate him.

He sat there for a long time, and before he knew it, the sky had faded from black to vibrant orange, yellow, and purple. He let the new day push the thought of failure from his mind—like He did with everything that bothered him. If he didn’t dwell on his problems, he could pretend they didn’t exist—like the loan he’d secretly secured from an old friend back in Fredericktown who already had a successful business of his own. That had seemed like a good idea at the time, and he’d needed the cash for the down payment on the property. Zeke had told everyone he had the money in savings, and they’d believed the lie. He had saved some money, but not enough. Now that they were knee-deep in the expense of trying to fix up the house, Zeke was starting to realize it wouldn’t be so easy to pay back the loan.

He climbed down from the tree and headed home. Hopefully, he’d be back before Zeb realized he was gone. Last night during supper, his brother had confronted him with Atlee’s bill for the cabinets. He’d given Zeb an excuse for failing to pay Atlee in the first place, claiming he’d take care of it right away. But the truth was he’d held back that cash for the horse auction and bought the colt with it. Now he wasn’t sure when or how he could pay Atlee for the cabinets.

Knowing only half the truth, Zeb was disappointed, but Zeke knew he was mad too. They were twins, and they could read each other with ease. Well, he could. Sometimes—a lot of times—Zeb could be fooled.

As the colorful sunrise streaked the sky on his way home, he began to feel a bit more optimistic, just as he usually did in the light of day. They’d get the horse farm going. Zeke would pay off the loan, and Zeb would never have to know about it. He’d find a way to pay Atlee for the cabinets, maybe ask him for a confidential payment plan. He’d plant the seed corn—which he still had to buy—like he’d told Zeb he would. They would buy horses, breed them, train them, sell them. He’d help Zeb get the house into a livable state. No, it would be more than livable. It would be the best house on the street. Once all that happened, the air would clear between him and Zeb, and his father would have confidence in his decisions.

He wouldn’t let self-doubts ruin this opportunity, and he’d prove he hadn’t blundered to everyone. Besides, all the other risky moves he’d made in his life eventually worked out. Why should this time be any different?

Click here to preorder A Double Dose of Love.