Cozy Wednesday with Author Kathleen Ernst (Giveaway too!)

cozy wednesday 2013 640
Welcome to Cozy Wednesday!
Thrilled to welcome Kathleen Ernst back to Escape With Dollycas today!


Very Special Seniors

Kathleen Ernst

Heritage 1When I was planning my Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites mystery series, I thought hard about my two main characters.  I wanted Chloe, curator at a large historic site, and Roelke McKenna, police officer in the nearby village of Eagle, WI, to have complex and evolving stories.   I’m having a great time with Chloe and Roelke.

There are other recurring characters in the series, of course.  Those are fun to develop as well.

old world murderAnd then there are those people who appear in one book and disappear again.  I’m four books into the series now, and over the past few years I’ve been surprised but delighted by reader response.  Often characters with very small roles prompt the most feedback.

And often, those characters are seniors.  In Old World Murder, the first book in the series, a elderly woman appeals to Chloe for help.  Chloe reflects upon the request:

She genuinely liked old people.  She liked their stories, their memories, their hard-won experience.  Their mementos, their refuse, even their homes—these things comprised her chosen profession.  Mrs. Lundquist didn’t need to beg, or to cajole; Chloe truly wanted to help her.

cookiesIn the brand new mystery, Heritage of Darkness, Chloe is visiting Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa.  She volunteers to interview local seniors about Norwegian Christmas traditions.  Some of them share Christmas cookies and cozy memories.   Others, however, have tales of some of the more spooky customs that date back to pre-Christian times, when uneducated peasants in rural Norway feared the darkest and coldest days of the year.GoatHead-HeritageOfDarkness-SS448w

Chloe visits a woman in her nineties named Edwina Ree:

“As I’ve heard about old Christmas traditions this week,” Chloe said, “I’ve been intrigued by the transition of some aspects of holiday celebrations from pagan to Christian times.”

Edwina nodded.  “Many a good Norwegian family today considers a thorough housecleaning the first essential step of holiday preparation.  Women say they do this to welcome the infant Christ.  But as children, my grandparents were taught to clean well at Christmas because this period signaled a return of the dead.”

 “A return of the dead?”  Chloe took that in.  “I did not know that.”

“You were raised in a Christian church?”


“Well, it hasn’t been all that many generations ago that church leaders labored to Christianize people’s worldview,” Edwina said.  “Preachers urged Norwegian folk to forget stories that had been passed down for centuries.  Have you heard of mørkemakten?”


“It refers to the power of darkness.  Our ancestors believed that evil forces were present during these dark days.” 

This theme provided perfect inspiration for a murder mystery.  And Edwina Ree became one of my own favorite characters.  Edwina was trained as an archivist, and has an academic interest in the topic.  But Chloe also observes Edwina standing alone one night on the porch of her isolated farmhouse, head tipped as if listening for the evil spirits once believed to roam the winter skies.

As a former curator myself, I—like Chloe—particularly enjoy spending time with elders.   I entered the museum world in the early 1980s.  I got to meet elderly men and women who had been born in Wisconsin, but still spoke with an accent because they were raised in tight-knit ethnic enclaves.  They shared recipes and family stories and folk traditions.  Some of my fondest memories involve time spent with those wonderful people.

Creating characters like Edwina Ree lets me pay quiet homage to that generation.  I hope you enjoy meeting some of them within the pages of Heritage of Darkness .

Are there special seniors in your life, or in your memories?  Anyone who shared special stories or traditions with you?  I’d love to hear about it!  Leave a comment, and your name will go into a drawing for any one of my Chloe Ellefson mysteries—winner’s choice.

I’m grateful to Dollycas for allowing me to be a guest on her blog. And I’m grateful to readers! I love my work, and I’d be nowhere without you.

For more information, visit:

About Kathleen Ernst

Bestselling writer Kathleen Ernst is the award-winning author of 25 mystery, historical fiction, and non-fiction books for adults and young readers. Her latest books include “Heritage of Darkness,” the fourth Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites mystery for adults from Midnight Ink, and “Traitor In The Shipyard,” her seventh Caroline Abbott children’s novel from American Girl.

Over the years Kathleen’s work has earned numerous honors, including multiple Edgar and Agatha mystery award nominations, and an Emmy for educational programming. To date, readers have purchased 1,000,000 printed, electronic, and audio copies of her books.

Kathleen is the author of a nonfiction history book about the American Civil War, “Too Afraid to Cry: Maryland Civilians in the Antietam Campaign,” an alternate selection of the History Book Club. It tells the stories of non-combatants who, 150 years ago, found themselves caught up in the bloodiest day in American history.

For ten years Kathleen wrote instructional video scripts for public television; honors for those include an Emmy, Platinum Best of Show Aurora Award, and a Wilbur Schramm Award of Excellence.

Kathleen has a Masters Degree in History Education and Writing from Antioch University, where her self-designed program focused on nontraditional methods of teaching and learning history–with a special emphasis on historical fiction. She spent over a decade as a Curator of Interpretation and Collections with the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Historic Sites Division, which provided great material for her novels.

She lives near Madison, Wisconsin with her husband Scott and Sophie the cat. Some of her greatest pleasures include gardening, learning folk crafts, traveling to research new books, and hearing from readers. To that end, she maintains an extensive website, an author’s page on Facebook, and a blog called Sites and Stories on WordPress.

Heritage 1
Heritage of Darkness
(A Chloe Ellefson Mystery)

4th Book in Series
Cozy Mystery
Midnight Ink (October 8, 2013)
An Imprint of Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd.
Trade Paperback: 360 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0738736983
E-Book File Size: 1165 KB



Dark Secrets Hidden in Norwegian Traditions

For curator Chloe Ellefson, a family bonding trip to Decorah, Iowa, for rosemaling classes seems like a great idea—until the drive begins. Chloe’s cop friend Roelke takes her mother’s talk of romantic customs good-naturedly, but it inflates Chloe’s emotional distress higher with each passing mile.

After finally reaching Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, Chloe’s resolve to remain positive is squashed when she and Roelke find Petra Lekstrom’s body in one of the antique immigrant trunks. Everyone is shaken by the instructor’s murder, and when Mom volunteers to take over the beginners’ class, Chloe is put in the hot seat of motherly criticism. As she investigates, Chloe uncovers dark family secrets that could be deadly for her Mom . . . and even herself.

Dollycas’s Thoughts
I love these excursions with Chloe back in time before the internet and cell phones. Yes, we did survive 🙂

Chloe really does need to rebuild her relationship with her mother and poor Roelke is caught in the middle.Both women are very stubborn and set in their ways. Can a murder bring them together or will it drive them even farther apart? No spoilers here. You will need to read it for yourself.

Beyond Chloe and her mother’s story there is a rich story of Norwegian Heritage woven within the murder mystery. I have learned so much but not in a history book way. Some of the traditions I knew from Wisconsin History classes in high school and college but put into a story such as this where they effect actual people you are getting to know gives it so much perspective. It also helps solve the mystery of the murder. 

Ernst creates such vibrant characters. She takes us back to the 80’s and even back to 1949 and 1967 to help us piece together the clues. You know she has done her research and she does travel to events so that she can bring them to life in these pages for all of us to enjoy. I picked up the first book in these series because it was set here in Wisconsin and it didn’t take more than a few chapters to become a huge fan of Kathleen Ernst. She is an awesome storyteller.

I believe you can read Heritage of Darkness easily as a stand alone, but I know then you are going to want to read the rest of of the series too. Just a little warning, I have found with Kathleen’s books, that once you start them they are extremely hard to put down so plan accordingly.

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Are there special seniors in your life, or in your memories? 

Anyone who shared special stories or traditions with you? 

I’d love to hear about it!  Leave a comment, and your name will go into a drawing
for any one of my Chloe Ellefson mysteries—winner’s choice.

Be sure to leave your email address so we can contact you!!

Contest Will End November 6, 2013 at 11:59 PM CST
Winner Will Be Chosen By
Winner Will Be Notified By Email
and Will Be Posted Here In The Sidebar.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

43 thoughts on “Cozy Wednesday with Author Kathleen Ernst (Giveaway too!)

  1. My grandmother is my special person in my memories. Every Sunday we would go to her house after church and have a wonderful home cooked lunch. Then she would sit with me and play cards or dominoes and talk about things that would just amaze me.

  2. I wish there had been a family historian. No one in my family cared to talk about the past. Dee grammyd01 (at) Comcast (dot) net

  3. I did research into a family tree because no one else was interested in doing it. And I wanted to do it while my mother was still alive to verify what I found. She’s the only one left from her generation.
    sgiden at verizon dot net

  4. My grandfather is a special person in my life. Though he lives across the country from me, I think about him every day. He is in his 90s now, and he exemplifies what a true gentleman should be. No one can ever measure up to my grandfather. He fought in WWII; he won’t talk about it much, saying only that he marched a lot, but I have a monkey a man in Germany carved from a peach pit. My grandfather has taught me much about how to garden. My grandmother passed away long ago, but she was the perfect lady, teaching me gardening, as well, and how to can, put away vegetables in the freezer, make jams and jellies, and other priceless ways of life. Living through the Depression taught them the importance of these things and they passed this along to me. michelle_willms(at)yahoo(com).

  5. No seniors in my life shared their stories with me, even my parents don’t discuss their childhoods much and it’s not like either had bad ones. If a ghost could visit me for a talk, I’d love to have my maternal grandmother come back to tell me her life story (and for her to call me her angel once more).

  6. I love to hear the stories my elderly neighbor tells. She is 92 and is so interesting, I love visiting with her.


  7. No question about it. The special senior in my life is my mother. She has a big heart and an adventurous spirit. I have been privileged to be able to claim her as my MOTHER!

  8. My grandmother shared with me her stories of growing up during the depression. She was just a teen, but she took in ironing to help the family. I’m so sad that I don’t know more about her life and her experiences. I feel like our elders have so much to give us by way of sharing stories and memories.

  9. My Nonna was an important and wonderful influence upon my informative years. She was the person who taught me to cook, bake and I learned about her life and her philosophy. She had a wonderful sense of humor and her stories were captivating.

  10. My Aunt (87 yr old / Mom’s sister) is the one that keeps the “family” history straight for me. We still write letters and send cards to each other. She’s the youngest sibling (and the last surviving one). She has some wonderful taped conversations with a brother and Mama. And, even though she has great memories of her family growing up in Oklahoma – on a cotton farm during the 1930s, she has a great grasp on today’s world. With the major exception of technology — no internet. Although she does appreciate the authors & new mystery series that I forward on to her. She’s very proud that she’s still reading and enjoying it!
    Thank you for the heads up on an author that I’ve not read!!! Will definitely get both of these & depending on the “cozy” level may recommend to my Aunt.


  11. My important, special person in my life is my mother. She’s 90 yrs. old and she’s always telling me about her childhood, with her grandma(my great-grandma) that lived with them. There was 11 kids in mom’s family, uncle Tom, her grandma, so it was a house full. Mom helped with her brothers and sisters. She helped in the kitchen, fixing biscuits, and the other foods. She helped work in the fields and garden. Mom said they sit around in the evening while her grandma would tell stories. I can’t repeat what the girls had to do when the curse visited them each month. I can say I’m sure glad it’s more convenient now a days.She would talk about how they cure the meat, milk the cow, and make butter. Walk to school a long distance and how they didn’t have to go to school, so they could help at home. The storms were bad how once a piece of straw was stuck in the tree. With her age now it’s harder for her to remember. I think that’s good because they say old people remember their childhood but not the present. Hope I many more years to enjoy mom before this happens.

  12. My paternal grandparents used to tell me lots of stories about the horse and buggy days and their life at a logging camp where my grandfather was in charge of the care of all the horses. They also told me lots of family stories that they made seem like big secrets for me to keep.

  13. Your post is so special and resounds with me. When we are growing up we are surrounded by family which we hold dear and then lost sight of their importance. I wish we had more time to spend talking and learning from our grandparents, their lives and experiences. My parents and others who imparted so much yet so much is forgotten now.

  14. Thanks, everyone, for sharing your thoughts and stories. The common thread for most of us is treasuring the stories and relationships we have or have had. I like to honor people when I write, but I also think I sometimes write to discover people or generations who didn’t like to speak of hardships or leave written records of their lives. I hope that in some small way my historical characters pay homage to all those who struggled through similar times and experiences.

  15. My maternal grandmother was the one who mostly raised me. I grew up in our family’s real estate office. She taught me how to deal and interact with people from all walks of life.

    These days I’m taking care of my FIL. He’s almost 92, has had 4 hip replacements and even with 2 hearing aids there are days he just doesn’t hear what’s going on. I make his doctor appt’s and take him when they come. I also do all his shopping and and pay his bills.

    From him I learned about my partner’s family history in Europe before, during and after WWII. I’ve also met many of those that settled in Israel. A very interesting group of people.


  16. Pretty much everyone is gone now. But, I do have all of the family photos that tell their own stories.

  17. My granddad was the special senior in my life. My brother collected his memoirs into a family book for us and I love to see both how much, and how little things have changed.

    sheiladeeth at gmail dot com

  18. My parents didn’t tell many stories but every Christmas they would make homemade kielbasa, grinding the meat, mixing in seasonings and stuffing it in the casings. Christmas morning always smelled so good when mom would cook it for breakfast. Unfortunately, I never liked eating it but I loved the aroma of it. momzillasteel at gmail dot com

  19. It is so hard to count! My mom, of course, but at 80, she is so lovely. That it is hard to consider her a senior! I had the good fortune to be very close to my grandmother’s generation, who told stories, taught me to live and love, shared their faith, and entrusted me with their treasures. As I use the tools and they recipes they left, or sleep under one of their quilts, it provides me with time to reflect and remember all that I learned.

  20. My dad and his brother could tell such great stories, it was almost a competition sometimes! I didn’t realize it at the time, of course, but when I was little, car trips to visit our grandma flew by as my dad would tell stories about the barn we had just passed by. I really enjoy Chloe’s stories and can’t wait to read the new book!

  21. This also reminded me of a recent insurance commercial about the oldest person you knew. Mine was a friend of my dad’s, he was 97. Thanks again!

  22. My mother’s side have told me most of the stories. I didn’t hear a lot of my father’s side. But we had great times together, doing all kinds of things.

  23. My Grandmother who was born in 1900, died at the age of 107. She grew up with the world changing all around her, and she appreciated many of the changes and was baffled by some of them.

  24. Thanks for sharing your stories! Even people who have passed away live on in the memories. I smiled at the story about loving the smell, although not the taste, of kielbasa on Christmas mornings. One of the fun aspects of writing Heritage of Darkness was tapping into the time of year that for many of us, brings back the most sensory memories.

  25. And here’s a comment that came in via email:

    My grandparents were from Norway, I cook and craft all the Norwegian things my Nana taught me, now I teach my daughter. I’ve read some of your books and want to read more.

    Debbie C.


  26. My mother is the dearest senior I know! My father was, too, but has been gone now for almost a year. My grandmother was very dear, also, but she has been in heaven for quite a few years. I get to live with my dear mother now and I hope I can keep up with her!


  27. When my grandpa was alive we would always go to his farm for holidays and I got to spend time with all my Aunts and Uncles. I remember we would have big meals and watch Packer football games or go visiting.
    Sue B

  28. My grandma would tell me about how she worked on airplane parts for world war 2- she is a super woman taking care of 2 kids after her

  29. I was a late in life baby born in the mid 60’s to parents that lived through several wars. My dad was born in 1910 so he had vivid memories of hard times starting with WWI. His family was so poor that they made Christmas ornaments for their tree from tin foil and some years not even that. He was lucky to get an apple or an orange in his stocking at Christmas. And presents were clothes his mom would sew and rag dolls for his sisters. I grew up hearing stories of both my parents and their family stories.

  30. I never knew my grandparents. My father was born in 1900 and my mother in 1903 (on a farm outside of Eau Claire, Wisconsin). This is before tractors and cars and rural electricity. When she was 18, she graduated Normal School and went to North Dakota to teach in a one-room schoolhouse for a year to earn enough money to attend nursing school. She married my father, a physician, in 1929, the day the Stock Market crashed. They lived through the Depression and World War II. I recall hearing stories of those times, but I was born in March of 1948 so I didn’t experience any of it. My mother retained her Scandinavian heritage, however, and she also showed me how to make candles in a mold that had been her grandmother’s. She told me about churning butter and driving the plow horses and all the everyday things people did when she was young. Neither of my parents would have thought anything of having to cope without electricity for 2 or 3 weeks after a hurricane. When the power went out, we had oil lamps and my mother cooked in the fireplace. It’s too bad most people today are so dependent on all our modern conveniences. And that’s just what they are. Conveniences. We can survive without them.

  31. I was not fortunate to have someone like that in my family to pass on stories like that. I think it benefits future generations when they hear the type of family life that their relatives went through in order for them to reflect on how they handle situations in their own families.

  32. My paternal grandmother was like a mother to me – we were very close and I enjoyed her stories of growing up and what life was like when she was a girl.I miss her intensely and cherish the memories I have with her.

  33. When my grandpa was alive he always had lots of stories to tell. I wish he was still around now to tell me more about when he was little. As a kid I didn’t always appreciate his stories as much as I do now!

  34. i still remember my Great-Grandmother…..she finally came to the US in the 70’s from China….she passed away about 30 years ago……it was a thrilling time when i would see her…..she was so adorable!!!!

    thank you for the giveaway…..

    cyn209 at juno dot com

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