Archive for the ‘Fiddling With Fate’ Category

Hardanger Fiddles

August 8, 2019

The 10th Chloe Ellefson Mystery sends Chloe and her fiancé, Roelke McKenna, to Norway. Given the book’s title, it’s probably obvious that the plot involves Hardanger Fiddles.

Historians believe that violins arrived in Norway by the 1600s, probably from Germany and Italy. The first known Hardanger fiddle (the Jaastad fiddle) dates to 1651. The Hardanger region in SW Norway became famous for its fiddle makers—and fiddlers!

When Chloe arrives in Norway, the director of the Hardanger Folk Museum introduces her to the instrument:

“How much do you know about Hardanger fiddles?
“Not a lot,” Chloe allowed humbly.
“This region is, of course, the birthplace of the hardingfele—the Hardanger fiddle. They have understrings that resonate when the top four are played. That gives the instruments a unique sound.”
“Haunting, I’d call it,” Chloe offered.

Fiddler at the Norsk Folk Museum, Oslo

Later, a fiddler explains why the instrument was so important in rural Norway:

“Hardingfele tunes once measured everyday life. Music was deeply rooted in rituals and traditions. There were specific tunes for every aspect of a Hardanger wedding. There were tunes for planting, for harvesting, for celebrating a good yield.”

As beloved as the instruments were, there was a time when Hardanger fiddles were considered, by some, to be “the devil’s instrument.” They were associated with parties, heavy drinking, and casual sex.

(Adolph Tideman)

One particular tune, Fanitullen, was supposedly taught to a fiddler by the devil himself.

(Adolph Tideman)

Some zealots went so far as to destroy any fiddles they could find.

Such violence must have been wrenching to the fiddlers and fiddle makers, especially because Hardanger fiddles are gorgeous, decorated with intricate inked designs and mother-of-pearl inlay.

(Hardanger Folk Museum)

Many also feature an elaborately carved figure at the scroll on top of the instrument.

(Met Museum/Wikimedia)

Some fiddlers and makers emigrated, bringing their skills to the new world. The Helland brothers, who arrived in Wisconsin in 1901, became famous for their fiddles and violins.

Knut and Gunnar outside their fiddle workshop in Chippewa Falls. Picture taken before 1920. (Wikipedia)

And happily, the traditions continue today. I had the chance to learn more about Hardanger fiddle construction when Madison, WI resident Karen Rebholz made a presentation at Livsreise in Stoughton.

Karen Rebholz and several exquisite fiddles she made.
Fiddle by Karen Rebholz.
Fykerud’n Spelemannslag, which performed at Syttende May in Stoughton, WI, 2019.

I’m not a fiddle player, but I loved exploring the music and traditions while writing Fiddling With Fate!

To learn more, visit the Hardanger Fiddle Association of America. You can also find lots of performances on YouTube.

Fiddling With Fate Giveaway Winners!

July 30, 2019

Congratulations to  Megan Barry, Merry Chapman, Carol Pasbrig, Sue Wendt, Christine Witherill, and Moscato Zingler! Each won a signed Advance Review Copy of the 10th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, Fiddling With Fate.

Thanks to all who entered! Winners were chosen at random from all entries here and on my Facebook Author Page.

The official release date for Fiddling With Fate is September 8th. Happy reading!

Fiddling With Fate Giveaway!

July 28, 2019

How would you like to read my new Chloe Ellefson mystery a month before it is officially released?

Fiddling with Fate is a riveting page-turner that culminates in a nail-biting ending. It is more than superlative fiction. It’s a masterpiece. -Author Maddy Hunter, Passport to Peril Mysteries

Publishers prepare Advance Review Copies (ARCs) in order to get some buzz going prior to publication. And I have six to give away.

The six winners will be randomly selected from all entries here and on my Facebook Author Page. Each will receive a signed paperback ARC—which I will send via priority mail.

Enter to win by leaving a comment below before 11:59 PM (Central US time), Monday, July 29, 2019. One entry per person, please.

The winners’ names will be posted here the following day. Good luck!

Fiddling with Fate is a story about proud, strong women and bitter dark secrets. In her richly-detailed and multi-faceted mystery, Kathleen Ernst skillfully intertwines the past with the present as Chloe and Roelke search for her family roots in Norway amid escalating danger. Author Patricia Skalka, Dave Cubiak Door County Mysteries

Norwegian Folk Dance

July 23, 2019

It’s no secret that Chloe Ellefson, protagonist of my historic sites mystery series, loves folk dancing. In the second book, The Heirloom Murders, she dances with her Swiss ex, Markus.

The 10th book, Fiddling With Fate, reveals that she was a member of Stoughton High School’s Norwegian Dancers group. (Stoughton, WI, is well known for its Norwegian heritage.)

The Stoughton Norwegian Dancers formed in 1953 to help foster ethnic pride in the community.

Scrapbook with Yearbook photo. (Stoughton Public Library)

Those early years were challenging. Jeanne Reek, the first director, had no experience with folk dance or Norwegian heritage. Money for costumes or travel was minimal.

But the group was something special. The director traveled to Norway to learn all she could about traditional dance. The dancers’ parents organized to raise funds. The Stoughton Norwegian Dancers quickly became a beloved community institution.

That story is part of Chloe’s background.

1967-68 Stoughton Norwegian Dancers (Stoughton Public Library)

I planned Fiddling With Fate with the premise that a research expedition takes her to Norway. What would appeal to her more than learning about folk dance and music?

This travel poster beautifully captures the romance of Norwegian folk dance. (Artist unknown)

Once in Norway, Chloe finds plenty of information about traditional dances. However, she’s interested in more than documenting dance steps and styles. Here’s a scene where she and Roelke McKenna, her fiancé, visit an old dance site:

“There’s the platform.”  Roelke strode over to inspect the crumbling wooden structure.  “What’s left of it, anyway.  Do not try to climb on that.”

Already enchanted, Chloe didn’t need to climb on anything.  She quivered with the joyful energy left by generations of people who’d barely scraped a living from the rugged landscape.  This is what I need to capture back in Stoughton, she thought. How important music and dance were to rural people who worked hard for every morsel.  

I think about that every time I watch a folk dance performance. In fact, when I recently watched the Stoughton Norwegian Dancers perform for Syttende Mai (Constitution Day), I got a little emotional.

The Stoughton Norwegian Dancers, 2019.
Always a crowd pleaser!

One dance, the Halling, lets boys show off their athletic ability in hopes of impressing the girls.

The Halling ends with a particular feat. A female dancer holds a hat high on a stick, and then male dancers attempt to kick it free.

Scrapbook, Stoughton Public Library.
The Stoughton Norwegian Dancers, 2019.

What would the early Norwegian immigrants have thought to know that over a century after their arrival, a group of high school students would work so hard to preserve and share this aspect of Norwegian heritage?

Scrapbook, Stoughton Public Library.

And that these beloved dance traditions are still enjoyed today?

Stoughton Norwegian Dancers, 2019.

I can only imagine they’d be pleased.

# # #

Many thanks to Susan Slinde for sharing her memories of the Norwegian Dancers.

Why Norway?

July 10, 2019

Cultural identity, and the many ways people explore and express their own, is one of the recurring themes in the Chloe Ellefson Mystery series.

When readers meet Chloe in Book 1, Old World Murder, she takes her own Norwegian heritage largely for granted. Her feelings evolve over time, and by Book 10, she is eager to learn more about her ancestors.

Mr. Ernst and I were lucky enough to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary with a trip to Norway arranged by Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum.

We loved every minute in that beautiful country, but the place I was most reluctant to leave was Utne, in the Hardanger District of Hordaland County.

Utne, Norway.
The village of Utne marks the northern tip of the Folgefonna peninsula between the Hardangerfjord and one of its branches, the Sørfjord.

The charming village is home to the Utne Hotel. It opened in 1722, and may well be Norway’s oldest continuously operating inn.

Hotel Utne

The region is famous for its rich folk heritage, including Hardanger fiddles and exquisite textiles. Utne is home to the Hardanger Folkemuseum, which preserves and celebrates these traditions.

Tradtional folk clothing on display at the museum. The couple on the left are dressed as bride and groom.
The museum has a fine collection of Hardanger fiddles.

In addition to formal exhibits, the museum includes an open-air division. Most of the buildings have been moved from locations within the Hardanger region and restored on the museum grounds.

I wanted to get Chloe and her fiancé Roelke McKenna to Norway. When I started conceptualizing the 10th Chloe mystery, I knew what region they would explore. Quests both professional and personal send them to Utne.

Are you up for some armchair travel? I hope I captured a bit of the Hardanger area’s magic in Fiddling With Fate!

Fiddling With Fate cover

The book will be published on September 8, 2019. Stay tuned for more peeks behind the scenes.

Large Print Giveaway!

March 26, 2019

This week a large print, hardcover edition of my latest Chloe Ellefson mystery, The Lacemaker’s Secret, is being released.

Would you like to win a signed copy? For yourself, a loved one, or your local library?

“In this heartfelt tale of labor and love, Ernst produces one of her most winning combinations of historical evocation and clever mystery.”  —Kirkus Reviews

Enter to win by leaving a comment below before 11:59 PM Central Time on Wednesday, March 27th. Three winners will be chosen at random from all entries here and on my Facebook Author Page.

One entry per person, please. The winners’ names will be posted here and on my Facebook page the following day.

Good luck, and happy reading!

Fiddling With Fate

March 3, 2019

Is there anything more exciting for an author than turning in a manuscript for a new book? Yes! Anticipating publication day.

The 10th Chloe Ellefson mystery will be published on September 8, 2019—just six months away.

Chloe has a devil of a time unraveling the mysteries of Norway’s fiddle and dance traditions.

After her mother’s unexpected death, curator Chloe Ellefson discovers hidden antiques that hint at family secrets. Determined to find answers, Chloe accepts a consultant job in Norway, her ancestors’ homeland. She’s thrilled with the opportunity to explore Hardanger fiddle and dance traditions . . . and her own heritage.

Once their plane lands, however, Chloe and her fiance, cop Roelke McKenna, encounter only disharmony. Chloe’s research reveals strong women and the importance of fiddle music in their lives. But folklore warns against “the devil’s instrument” and old evils may yet linger among the fjords and mountains. As Chloe fine-tunes her search for the truth, a killer’s desire to stop her builds to a deadly crescendo.

I hope you’ll join Chloe and Roelke on this special trip to Norway!

Hardanger Folk Museum

Fiddling With Fate is available for preorder from your favorite vendor.

Happy reading!