Friday, October 14, 2016

Guest Post: Kathleen Ernst - A Memory of Muskets

Two Mysteries, Two Timelines
by Kathleen Ernst

Introducing mystery author Kathleen Ernst, and her newest title A Memory of Muskets. Kathleen has taken the time to tell us about the two timelines skillfully woven throughout her book, and why she was inspired to write Rosina's story.

The Chloe Ellefson mysteries are set in the early 1980s.  But in the latest book, A Memory of Muskets, one of the main characters died decades earlier.

Chloe works as a curator at a large historic site.

The Schulz Farm, restored to its 1860 appearance at Old World Wisconsin.

Her romantic interest is local cop Roelke McKenna.  Chloe is a reluctant sleuth who gets pulled into murder investigations when  past events impact modern crimes.

Most of the Chloe mysteries have contained a historical plotline braided with the main plot.  I love giving readers a front-row seat to events that Chloe, for all her research skills, may never uncover.  When I structure a book this way, readers often know more by the end of the mystery than Chloe and Roelke do.

Two of the early books revealed stories relevant to Chloe’s Norwegian heritage.  For A Memory of Muskets, 7th in the series, I decided it was time to learn something about Roelke McKenna’s German heritage.

 This photograph was taken in the area I used as setting in A Memory of Muskets.

Chloe and Roelke’s overt challenge comes when an unidentified Civil War reenactor is found dead at Old World Wisconisin’s Schulz Farm.  While investigating the death, Chloe simultaneously plunges into research about Roelke’s great-great grandmother Rosina, hoping to solve an inexplicable mystery at his family farm.

Rosina immigrates to Wisconsin at sixteen, already promised in marriage to a man she’s never met.  The Civil War begins, and threatens to tear the German-American community apart.  Rosina does not have an easy time in her new home, and I hope she emerges as a strong, compelling character.

I’ve written lots of historical fiction, and love picking specific sensory details to help bring the period setting to life.  Rosina was particularly satisfying to write because her time and place were comfortable for me.  I once worked at the historic site where Chloe now fictitiously works.

That’s me at the Schulz Farm, 1982.

Three 1860s farms have been restored at the site, including the one that belonged to a newly-arrived German-American family.  Working as an interpreter at the Schulz Farm gave me hands-on practice with cooking, baking, processing flax into linen cloth, and other domestic chores. 

While working there I studied many immigrant diaries, letters, and reminiscences.  I was an active reenactor, portraying everyday women during the Civil War.  As Rosina’s story emerged I spent hours squinting at period newspapers preserved on microfilm, getting a feel for her specific locale.

My general familiarity with Rosina’s world allowed me to focus on her character, her experiences, her emotions.  And that’s where readers can connect with her—on an emotional level. 

My first obligation as a mystery writer is to tell a good story. In this case, I hope readers enjoy two.


Curator Chloe Ellefson is happily planning to spotlight home-front challenges and German immigrants at Old World Wisconsin’s first Civil War reenactment, but her overbearing boss scorns her ideas and proposes staging a mock battle instead. And when a reenactor is found dead at one of the historic site’s German farms, Chloe’s boyfriend, cop Roelke McKenna, suspects murder.

The more Roelke learns about reenacting, the more he fears that a killer will join the ranks. Then Chloe discovers a disturbing secret about Roelke’s Civil War–era ancestors. Together they struggle to solve crimes past and present . . . before Chloe loses her job and another reenactor loses his life.

Kathleen Ernst is an award-winning and bestselling author, educator, and social historian. She has published over thirty novels and two nonfiction books.  Her books for young readers include the Caroline Abbott series for American Girl.  Honors for her children's mysteries include Edgar and Agatha Award nominations.  Kathleen worked as an Interpreter and Curator of Interpretation and Collections at Old World Wisconsin, and her time at the historic site served as inspiration for the Chloe Ellefson mysteries.  The Heirloom Murders won the Anne Powers Fiction Book Award from the Council for Wisconsin Writers, and The Light Keeper's Legacy  won the Lovey Award for Best Traditional Mystery from Love Is Murder.  Ernst served as project director/scriptwriter for several instructional television series, one of which earned her an Emmy Award.  She lives in Middleton, Wisconsin.  For more information, visit her online at

Visit all of Kathleen's Chloe Ellefson Mysteries at

Monday, October 10, 2016

Friday, October 7, 2016

Guest Post: Linda O. Johnston - Unlucky Charms

Guest Post: Why Cozies?
by Linda O. Johnston

I'd like to introduce author Linda O. Johnston to Midnight Ink's blog! Her forthcoming release, Unlucky Charms, will be hitting bookshelves, and she would like to take a moment to share why she loves writing her wonderfully entertaining cozies so much. 

Why Cozies?  Lots of Reasons!

            I'm a writer.  A novelist.  I make things up and love it!  Currently, I write two cozy mystery series and two subgenres of romance.  I enjoy them all--and I especially love writing cozies.

            Why?  For many reasons. 

            First, in a cozy mystery series, I create a protagonist I enjoy working with and hope to work with for a long time to come.  They often have similarities to me.  What!  Am I writing about myself?  Not really.  But I'm a superstition agnostic like Rory Chasen, who's featured in my Superstition Mysteries.  Do I think all superstitions work?  No, at least not necessarily.  And some have opposite interpretations--black cats, for example.  They're supposedly bad luck here in the U.S. but good luck in other parts of the world.  And there are many people here who love them despite their bad reputations and even find them to be lucky.

            But... well, I do cross my fingers a lot, and knock on wood, and try to keep track of other superstitions, even if I don't necessarily believe they'll come true.

            On the other hand, my protagonists aren't always like me at all.  I also write the Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries, where Carrie Kennersly is a veterinary technician who owns both a bakery for people treats, and a barkery where she sells some of the healthy dog treats she's developed.  Now, once upon a time I wanted to be a veterinarian but decided against it when I realized that I would have to cut animals open, even to save their lives.  And these days I'm not much of a cook, although I used to do a lot more.  But I love what Carrie does, even though I don't aspire to it.  Although why someone in her position winds up having to solve murders... well, that's the nature of cozies!
            My first cozy series was the Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter Mysteries.  Kendra was a lawyer who lived in the Hollywood Hills with her tricolor Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Lexie.  At the time, I was a lawyer, and I still live in the Hollywood Hills, plus my older Cavalier is a tricolor named Lexie... But fortunately I was never accused of an ethics violation while practicing law, nor do I stumble over dead bodies.

            More things I like about writing cozies?  I get to kill people off--figuratively, of course.  But if someone harms me in some way, someone resembling them can wind up dead in my novels.  That happened recently...  

            Then there are the love interests.  Unlike in the romances I also write, a relationship in a cozy series can take some time to develop and even change.  No sex on the page in cozies, but readers can use their imaginations about what happens in the bedroom.

            I can figure out interesting ways to kill people, too--such as incorporating superstitions.  Then there are the friends and sidekicks I enjoy creating, such as Martha Jallopia, who owns the Lucky Dog Boutique in the Superstition Mysteries.  Rory winds up running her shop after Pluckie, her lucky black and white dog--another superstition-- saves Martha's life.

            Perhaps most important of all to me are the pets I incorporate, mostly dogs, like Pluckie in the Superstition Mysteries, and Biscuit in the Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries.   The love interests also have to have dogs, or they wouldn't be love interests.  And of course my romances often include dogs, too.

            Not all cozies include pets, though those that do seem popular.  There are other themes, and that's another fun thing about cozies: they usually have themes, like superstitions or the barkery, or restaurants or particular types of food, or special locations, or other things the protagonists like or do for a living... or dogs or cats.

            So, yes, I enjoy cozying up with cozies, both to read--and, most especially, to write.  Hope you like them, too!


Unlucky Charms is Available Now!

Rory Chasen, manager of the Lucky Dog Boutique in Destiny, California, hopes her new line of good-luck doggy toys will be a hit, especially the stuffed rabbits with extra-large feet. The timing of the line’s debut proves ill-fated, though, as several local shops—including Rory’s—are ransacked and vandalized with spilled salt and other unlucky charms.

The most likely culprit is disgruntled real estate agent Flora Curtival, whose issues with the town give her a motive. But after Flora is murdered and one of Rory’s toy rabbits is found with the body, Rory needs all the luck she can get while trying to determine just who killed the superstitious vandal.

Linda O. Johnston (Los Angeles, CA) has published over forty romance and mystery novels, including the Pet Rescue Mystery series and the Pet-Sitter Mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime. She also writes the Barkery & Biscuits Mystery series for Midnight Ink. You can visit Linda at