Why the Hanka Homestead?

February 25, 2021

Whenever I write a new Chloe Ellefson Mystery, I have the fun of choosing a new historic site or museum to feature in the book. The Hanka Homestead Finnish Museum in Michigran’s Upper Peninsula provides the setting for the forthcoming 11th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, The Weaver’s Revenge.

Click the image above for my video introduction to the site.

Readers are often curious about how I choose settings. It’s a complicated process, so let me share some of the reasons that this site reached the top of the list.

First, a potential setting must appeal to me on a personal level. Between researching and writing a book, I spend a lot of time—physically and mentally—in this space. My first visit to the homestead convinced me that I’d be happy immersing myself in this place and story. (And I knew Chloe would feel the same way.)

No matter how much I love a particular site, I can’t use it as a setting unless it has enough “geography” to support a murder mystery plot. I need room and opportunities to get characters into trouble. The Hanka property is remote, with no phone service. It includes ten buildings, including a couple of specific structures that hadn’t been featured in any earlier books. Perfect!

The Hankas were Finnish immigrants, so choosing this site allowed me to celebrate a new-to-the-series ethnic group. I was excited about the opportunity to shine a little lamplight on Finnish stories, heritage, and folk traditions.

Birchbark shoes on a woven rag rug.

At best, a Chloe Ellefson mystery represents a collaboration with site staff and local experts. I always talk with site hosts before committing to a book project. (If anyone expressed concern, I’d move on. It hasn’t happened yet.) The volunteers involved with the Hanka Homestead Finnish Museum, and representatives from Finlandia University’s Finnish American Heritage Center, were enthusiastic about the idea. They’ve been extraordinarily helpful through the research and writing phase.

Some the energetic people who provided a warm welcome during my first visit to the homestead.
A private tour on a misty day. Evocative!

And, it was nice to spotlight a wonderful site that is run entirely by a small group of volunteers. Such people make the museum world go around!

As the series has progressed over the past decade, I’ve planned ahead, thinking a lot about where main characters Chloe and Roelke are in their emotional journey. I like to choose settings that permit the book’s plotlines to reflect challenges Chloe and Roelke are facing at that moment. In The Weaver’s Revenge, they’re trying to figure out exactly what their marriage will look like. I won’t share any spoilers here, but that broad issue is mirrored in a number of elements from the Hanka/Finnish story used in the novel.

The earliest museum brochure, about 1985, designed by Alan Pape.

Finally, I had an added bonus. The man who originally started the Hanka Homestead restoration/museum project, Alan Pape, was a former colleague who served as restoration chief at Old World Wisconsin from 1971-1983. He was generous with his memories, knowledge, photos, and other records from the 1980s when the restoration got underway. My mystery plot is fictional, of course, but Alan’s assistance made it possible for me to root it firmly in real events.

That’s me at the homestead with Alan, on the right, and Professor Emeritus William H. Tishler, another vernacular architecture expert. I spent a fun weekend with these two, cruising the backroads looking at old Finnish buildings and listening to their stories.

I hope you enjoy exploring the Hanka Homestead Finnish Museum as much as I have!

The Weaver’s Revenge will be published this spring by Three Towers Press. I’ll let you know when it’s available!

Second Writing Class Offered!

January 30, 2021

My first Writing Your Family Stories class filled, so I’m offering a second session. We’ll meet virtually from 6:00 – 7:30 PM on February 17 and 24.

Family stories are precious. This winter is the perfect time to capture some of them on paper! These two sessions will provide the motivation to get started, and strategies to help you enjoy the writing process. 

During this workshop you will:

  • Consider different approaches to writing family stories
  • Enjoy a variety of short writing activities designed to help capture memories or explore what interests you most about your unique heritage
  • Experiment with techniques to make your writing vivid and compelling
  • Learn specific strategies for managing your own goals and expectations
  • Have fun in a relaxed and nurturing environment

For more information, visit my online registration site.

All are welcome! Whether you’re just getting started or have a project underway, this class is for you.

Setting Reveal – The Weaver’s Revenge!

January 14, 2021

As series readers know, curator Chloe Ellefson visits different historic sites and museums in each mystery. There’s been a lot of speculation about the setting for the 11th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, The Weaver’s Revenge, which features Finnish heritage.

Over the course of the series I’ve often featured large and/or famous sites. It’s also important to shine some lamplight on lesser-known sites, where a small group of dedicated volunteers is preserving something special.

That’s what I chose to do this time. Click the photo below to view a video introduction to Chloe’s next destination, Michigan’s Hanka Homestead Finnish Museum!

I hope you enjoyed the mini-tour! I’ll have a lot more to share about the Hanka Homestead in the coming months.

(The book is slated for a spring, 2021 release. It is not yet available for pre-order. I’ll keep you posted!)

New Online Writing Workshop!

January 4, 2021

I hope you and yours enjoyed a peaceful and safe new year. I also hope the new year brings brighter days for everyone.

One of the things I missed last year was the opportunity to teach writing workshops. So, I’m taking them online.

My first offering is “Writing Your Family Stories,” a two-part class this January 19th and 26th. Everyone has stories to tell! Whether starting from scratch or returning to a project, all are welcome to participate. Let’s gather virtually and take a break from the outside world.

For more details, or to sign up, visit my new event registration page. Space is limited to ensure a good experience for participants.

Memories matter! I’d love to see you in class.

Holiday Giveaway Winners!

December 10, 2020

Congratulations to Kim H. (anxious58), Linda Hilton, and Jillian Schlosstein! Each will receive a signed, large print copy of the 10th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, Fiddling With Fate.

Thanks to all who entered, and for your lovely comments!

Holiday Giveaway!

December 8, 2020

Fiddling With Fate, the 10th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, is available in large print. And I’m giving away a copy to each of three lucky readers!

Each Giveaway winner will receive a softcover book, signed and personalized. To enter, leave a comment below.

Entries must be posted before Midnight (Central US time) this Wednesday, December 9th, 2020. Winners, selected at random from all entries here and on my Facebook Author Page, will be announced on December 10th. One entry per person, please. Good luck!

The Weaver’s Revenge—Final Clue!

November 2, 2020

It’s been great fun this fall to share some hints about the 11th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, The Weaver’s Revenge. Thanks for playing along! Here’s the final clue.

I’ll have lots more to share in the weeks to come!

Update—Travel With Me To Norway

October 30, 2020

When I partnered with the Mount Horeb Area Historical Society and Group Travel Directors last year to plan a trip to Norway , COVID-19 wasn’t on the radar. We forged ahead with a spring trip announcement, hopeful that we’d all feel safe traveling by May, 2021. The planning committee agreed that having something wonderful to anticipate could only brighten such difficult times.

Well, we get to enjoy that anticipation for a while longer than originally planned. I’m sure it will surprise no one to hear that the Chloe Ellefson tour to Norway has officially been postponed.

I’m as excited about this trip as ever, and we are committed to making it happen! Although we’re not announcing specific dates at this time, we hope to travel in spring, 2022. When we do arrive in Norway, we shall have special toasts all around!

If you’d like to be on our mailing list for trip-specific updates, let me know. We’re grateful for your interest and support. Please stay safe and well!

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I write about special historic places in each of my Chloe Ellefson Mysteries, and nothing makes me happier than sharing them with readers.

Well, guess what?

I’ve teamed up with the Mount Horeb Area Historical Society to offer a trip to Southern Norway—the land of Chloe’s ancestors! Click the link below to see what we have in store.

When I decided on a Norwegian setting for Fiddling With Fate, the 10th volume in my Chloe Ellefson Mystery series, I chose the area that enchanted me most. Now, you can experience the Hardanger Region as well!

Important note:  Although we’re making plans for a stupendous trip, no one can predict the future in these challenging times.  We understand.  We also know that anticipating an adventure can relieve stress!  If the pandemic makes it necessary, the trip will be postponed for a year (with a possible adjustment in price), not canceled.

For more information contact:

Group Travel Directors
952-885-2133
800-747-2255 ext. 133
jtollund@gtd.org
www.gtd.org

We also have a Tour Norway With Kathleen website created just for the adventure! It’s your portal for trip information, blog posts, and much more.

I am incredibly excited about this trip. I hope you can join us!

The Weaver’s Revenge – Clues, Batch 4

October 28, 2020

This month I’m sharing photos that feature things in the forthcoming Chloe Ellefson mystery, The Weaver’s Revenge. The image might represent a major element or a small detail. We’re getting close to the end!

(Wikimedia)

(Thanks to Oscar H. for this museum exhibit photo.)

I’ll post the final clue soon!

The Weaver’s Revenge – Clues, Batch 3

October 19, 2020

This month I’m sharing photos that feature things in the forthcoming Chloe Ellefson mystery, The Weaver’s Revenge. The image might represent a major element or a small detail. Here are the next two.

Stay tuned for the next clue!