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Welcome to Author Penny Estelle and The Bearded Dude in the Puzzle!

Welcome to Penny Estelle and her wild and very funny imagination. Penny is here today to give us all a window into her latest middle reader book: The Bearded Dude in the Puzzle.


First, let’s have a short synopsis of The Bearded Dude in the Puzzle:

Many years ago, in the land of kings and knights, Dozer, a powerful wizard, casts a spell over Scartin, and changes him into a tiny toy wizard and puts him inside the box of a puzzle.

Centuries later, Shelly Taylor, and her two kids, Bobby and Andrea, find their lives in turmoil. They are uprooted from their home and friends and moved to a small town in Idaho. Their parents’ marriage falls apart, and to make matters worse, for some reason the kids at their schools are shunning them.

Shelly, once an advertising executive, starts cleaning houses to make ends meet. It is in one of these old homes where the ancient puzzle is found.

As the family works on the puzzle, strange things start to happen. An evil presence is making its way to the Taylor house, intent on making sure that puzzle never gets put together, no matter the cost, and it’s up to Bobby and Andrea to make sure that it does!

This is the very intriguing cover.

The Bearded Dude in the Puzzle

And here is an excerpt from The Bearded Dude in the Puzzle:

“Bobby,” Shelly knocked as she opened his bedroom door, “it’s raining. I have to leave early today, so I’ll drop you off at school.”

“Okay, Mom.” Bobby rolled over on his side covering his head with his blankets.

“I believe your mother wants you to arise.” Scartin’s muffled voice came to Bobby.

Throwing his covers off Bobby sat up in bed, scratching his head, yawning.

“You look weary, young Bobby.”

The boy jumped up and locked his bedroom door. “Ya think?” he asked trying to use his best sarcasm. More than once, during the night, thunder had crashed, rattling the windows. “A few times the thunder had woke me up and I find Rip Van Winkle staring down at me scaring know what out of me.”

Scartin sat down on the chair, eyes wide with wonder. “I think you might have been dreaming. I didn’t see Rip here last night.”

“Ugh,” Bobby groaned. He pushed himself off the bed and got clothes out of his drawers. “I was talking about you.”

After a few minutes a smile lit up the wizard’s face and then a deep belly laugh escaped from deep inside. “You are jesting. Now I understand!”

“SHHHHH!” Bobby whispered urgently waving his hands.

Andi pounded on the bedroom door. “Who are you talking to?”

“Uhm…nobody. I’m singing!” Bobby pushed Scartin toward the closet door. “Joey and I will be here after school to work on the puzzle. Stay hidden.”

Scartin was still smiling as he put up a hand to stop the closet door from shutting

“What?” Bobby asked.

“Rip and I don’t resemble each other very much. He’s much shorter than I am.”

Stunned with the realization there really was a Rip Van Winkle, Bobby stuttered, “O..okay. Dude, just stay out of sight.”

Can’t wait to get a copy? Here is the link to Amazon:


And now for a little about Penny:

I write for all ages, from the early reader to adults. My books range from pictures books for the little ones, to fantasy, time-travel adventures for ages 9 to 13. I also write adult stories, including a family drama and contemporary, paranormal and historical westerns romances, under P. A. Estelle.

I was a school secretary for 21 years. My husband and I moved to our retirement home in Kingman, AZ, on very rural 54 acres, living on solar and wind only.

More about my books can be found in the following links: – Goodreads

Thanks for coming for a visit, Penny!


The Cloisters

The Cloisters is a part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but it is located on the north end of Manhattan between Inwood and Washington Heights. From its terrace, you can see the Hudson and the George Washington Bridge.

GW bridge

The Cloisters advertises itself as a museum of medieval art, architecture and gardens. It is that. First of all, it is designed to resemble a monastery or castle.


The museum incorporates three entire cloisters from monasteries that were located in various parts of Europe, as well as original stone for parts of its walls.

WindowIn the various individual cloisters, you can see the same sculptures worked into the tops of the pillars that the monks saw. Portrayals of hell, for one thing, were common themes. Flames, chains and gleeful demons abound.

Hell 2Hell 3

Stained glass windows are also worked into the design. This one has survived from the 12th Century.

Stained glass 3Some of the stained glass pieces are displayed as you might display a painting, and with good reason. The one following is meant to show the Israelites gathering manna in the wilderness.

Stained glass 2This is another particularly nice one.

Stained glass 4In every cloister, a garden is planted in medieval style, with plants that might have been seen in those gardens.


I am guessing the monks would have enjoyed the butterflies also,

FullSizeRenderThey certainly had a sense of humor; witness this drooling monster, used as a fountain.

Drooling Monster

The Cloisters is also home to the Unicorn Tapestries. They are beautiful, but certainly not joyous.

Unicorn 2

Most museums are quiet places. This one is especially a place for peaceful contemplation of art and life and religion. it is difficult to come away without encountering something that makes one think.

thomasThe piece of art above is a carving that represents the death of Mary, the mother of Christ. You will notice that there are ten men attending her, and you would be right if you guessed they were disciples of Jesus. Who was missing, other than Judas, who had hung himself long before this event? Thomas was not able to make it. But here is the interesting part, at least to me. When he was told by the others that Mary had risen into heaven (the Assumption), he doubted their story. In other words, the same fellow who didn’t believe that Christ rose from the dead until he could touch the wounds himself also doubted that Mary was lifted into heaven. Once a doubter, always a doubter, is the moral of that story, I guess.  And by the way, according to legend, the belt on Mary’s robe fell to earth, convincing Thomas that she had indeed been lifted up. Do you think his face turned red?


One Thing Leads To Another

Anne and I have loved visiting the beach  for as long as we have known each other (which is kind of a long time). One of the reasons we enjoy it is the unexpected nature of the beach. Twice a day the tide comes in and the tide goes out, depositing and rearranging shells, driftwood, beach glass, stones and any number of other things. We  walk the edges of the water for miles and find all sorts of things to admire. A walk after a powerful storm is especially fun.


For the last fifteen years or so, we have visited the beaches of Cape Cod, which have a wonderful selection of stones of an amazing variety of shapes, colors and textures.


At one point, we even made some jewelry and sculpture with the stones and sold those items at various shops on Cape Cod.

4 stonesSculptures 4

Christmas decorations sold particularly well.


We also began to look more closely at the stones themselves and saw pictures in the stones. Sometimes the images suggested faces of people or animals.

27 Singing Man06 Cat face

Sometimes they were seascapes or landscapes.

30 Peaceful Sunset


One day we saw a stone that was in the shape of man laughing.

HAPPY HAPPYThe name “Mr. Happy Man” came immediately to mind. Soon afterward, a story began to take shape in our minds of a young girl who finds such a stone on the beach and learns that the stone can talk (as can his stone friends). Together, they help her learn about herself and survive a difficult time in her life when her parents are getting a divorce. The name of the book is Stone Faces and it is has been published by MuseItUp Publishing.

cover Stone Faces 333x500

It is available as an e-book through the Muse web site, on Amazon and many other book-selling sites.

Amazon ebook
Amazon paperback
MuseItUp ebook
MuseItUp paperback

Funny how one thing can lead to another.

Welcome to Author Kay LaLone

Today, we welcome Kay LaLone on our blog. After a few very illuminating questions and answers, we will have an excerpt from Kay’s new Young Adult mystery, Family Secret.

First, Kay, tell us about yourself and your writing.

I’m Kay LaLone author of Ghostly Clues, my first MG novel. Family Secret is my first YA novel. Both published by MuseItUp. I live in Michigan with my husband and teenage son (two older sons and a daughter-in-law and my first grandbaby live nearby) and two dogs. I love to get up every morning and write about ghosts, the paranormal, and things that go bump in the night. I write PB, MG and YA novels. No matter the books I write, I want my readers to feel like they have met a new friend. I’m an avid reader of just about any type of book (mystery, paranormal, and ghost stories are my favorites). I do reviews and post them on my website and blog. I love to collect old books, antiques, and collectibles. You can find many of my antiques and collectibles selling on ebay and at fleamarkets.

Whenever we invite someone to our site, we always ask for a picture that will tell the reader what the author likes to do in his or her spare time. Kaye sent us a picture of her family. NICE!

family christmas 1 2014

Now, let’s move on to our questions!

Please share with us a memory of visiting the library or of reading, preferably as a young child.

I have a lot of memories of visiting the school library and taking books home. I would get so excited to see so many books on the shelves. It was always hard to decide which books to read. I wanted to read them all. I still have that problem.

Which book have you inherited from the generation above; that is, which book have you read and has stayed with you and made you reread it in whole or in part? What about the book created this attraction?

Now that I have a granddaughter, the books I love to read to her are Dr. Seuss books. Those books were one of my favorite books to bring home from the library for my mother to read to me. I have read them to my sons. Now I love to read them to my granddaughter.

Which book would you like to leave to future generations with the hope that they will read it? Why? (NOT one of the books you’ve written).

R. L. Stine’s Goosebump books. My son collected them when he was a kid and read every one of them. I still have the collection and plan on passing them down to my granddaughter when she gets old enough to read them. I think R. L. Stine has a way of scaring kids in a fun sort of way.

Take a photograph of one of your bookshelves. If a stranger were to enter your room and see it, what would it tell that person about you?

She loves to collect old mystery books like Nancy Drew and Judy Bolton.

Please tell us about your next book.

I have a lot of writing projects in the works. One of them is book 2 of Family Secret titled Family Legacy. Tom learns more about witchcraft and how to protect himself from demons. Rob and Sarah help Tom solve a mystery and kill more demons.

Are there any genres that you have never written in that you would like to try? Why or why not?

Not at the moment. I write the stories that my characters tell me to write.

Thank you, Kay, for those great answers.

Now we come to the excerpt, a deliciously scary piece of writing from Family Secret.

“Ow.” Tom yanked the chain and dragged the burning amulet from under his shirt. Even the chain was warm, but there was no way he was going to take the stupid thing off. He let it drop to his chest and rest warmly on the top of his shirt as he stared at the demon.

“It’s not your grandfather,” Tom whispered. Anger rolled around inside him because of what this thing did to Sarah.

The dark figure stepped out of the shadows causing the boys to take two steps back. The demon looked like a man dressed in thunderous storm-like clouds from head to toe. Even his face was black and the eyes a dimly puke-yellow that churned Tom’s stomach. He felt Rob’s heavy breathing just inches behind him, but it didn’t stop a chill from shimmering up his spine like fingernails on a chalkboard.

“I know who you are.” Tom tried to sound confident even though his voice shook with fear. He swallowed hard. “What do you want?”

The demon raised a shadowy arm and then his stormy cloud-like body started to swirl like a mini tornado. In a gust of black smoke, the demon shot up into the air and zipped right over Tom and Rob’s heads. The boys ducked and laid flat on the wet grass, afraid the demon would consume them.

Tom turned his head to see the black smoke head toward Mr. Watson’s house. Tom got to his feet while Rob remained on the ground. The black smoke swarmed over the house and then drifted back down. It slithered around the house like a snake looking for a place to sneak in, circling several times before seeping through the crack in the window and disappearing inside.

Rob scrambled to his feet. “That thing is inside my grandfather’s house.” His voice was high-pitched in fear. “My…” He glanced toward the empty driveway. Then he sighed. “Mom must still be at the hospital.”

Tom touched Rob’s arm to prevent him from doing something crazy. He didn’t want another one of his friends to get hurt by this thing.

“We need to do something, but I don’t know what.” Tom glanced over to the tents in Granddad’s backyard, hoping Matt or Granddad would come running to save the day. But there was no movement over there.

Inside the house, Jake growled and then started to bark wildly. Before Tom could stop him, Rob dashed upon the back porch and flung the backdoor open. Jake continued his wild barking as if protecting Rob and the house. If only the dog could save the day, but Tom feared nothing would save them.

A cracking noise caught Tom’s attention, and he turned his head toward what he assumed was Mr. Watson’s bedroom window. The glass appeared pitch black at first, and then a face appeared. The same puke-yellow eyes stared at Tom and gave him an evil grin.

And here is the cover.

Family Secret 200x300



Barnes & Noble





good reads

Avebury Stone Circle

On the same day that Anne and I went to Stonehenge last year, we also visited Avebury Stone Circle, although it was quite a different experience.  For one thing, you don’t have to stay on a path. You can walk wherever you want.

The stone circle at Avebury is also so large that it is impossible to photograph it completely except from the air. In the picture below the ditch and embankment that surround the site can be seen (in part) and the stones seem tiny. They’re not. They’re “YUGE.” (Sorry, just a little political humor).

5 Long view

That embankment and ditch (which makes this site a “henge”  is over a kilometer in circumference.  That’s a lot of digging  It was not built, as they say, in a day.

4 Four Stones

Since Anne and I did not have a helicopter or a balloon, we were limited to the shots we took with our feet firmly placed upon the ground.  Our minds, of course, continued to float.3 Anne

The stones that make up the outside circle are massive and have not been chiseled into shape as they are at Stonehenge. They seem to stand today as they were found. Some speculate that they were chosen for their shape. Others speculate that some are supposed to be female and others male. We won’t go there.

Dogs sheep

As we said, at Avebury visitors are free to walk among the stones.   They can even touch the rough surfaces, which is not possible at Stonehenge. But be careful where you step, since there are sheep grazing in the same fields.2 Touching

If you do touch them, you have the feeling that you are touching something that was once holy. Maybe they still are. So much effort must have had some great purpose, and would not a great purpose have a lingering effect.  Who knows?1villageA village grew up in the midst of the stones, which just adds to the experience as you wander here and there. At one point a few centuries ago, some villagers thought they should get rid of the stones since they had been put in place in a pagan time and for a pagan reason. Supposedly, the skeleton of one of those villagers still lies  beneath a stone that did not take kindly to being buried. The Black death soon followed, putting an end to that particular effort to destroy what was not understood. Later on, in the 18th Century, many of the stones were broken apart and used for building materials.  We let out a long sigh of dismay when we hear such things.

Stone and ManOf course, we saw faces on some of the stones. The question naturally comes to mind as to whether the people who originally placed the stones saw the faces too. Did they think it was funny? Fortuitous? Something else?

Cat plus twoThis one in particular seems to have been a witness to many dramas. What if it could talk?

JanusWere they laughing as they pushed and pulled these tremendous pieces of stone into place? Did they call this one, “the guy with the big nose?” Was there someone in town who resembled him?

The Butler

We understand completely why a visit to Stonehenge is so regimented. Many millions visit every year and if people did not stay on the paths the place would be trampled and the stones would be threatened. But if you want a different experience, one in which you can get very close to these massive pieces of rock, see them from every angle, touch them, close your eyes, and maybe get in touch with the souls of the men and women who put them in place, then by all means visit Avebury. You will not be sorry.


I don’t remember the first time I saw a picture of Stonehenge.  It was probably in a copy of National Geographic Magazine, which arrived at our house once a month when I was a kid, thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Robert Lees, two members of the church where my father preached. (I’m sure I thanked them for that gift, but not nearly enough).

In any event, I’ve always wanted to visit Stonehenge, but did not get around to it until this past September when Anne and I toured parts of England and France.  Turns out that I was not the only person who wanted to take a look at a pile of old stones.

Whereas fifty years ago the number of yearly visitors could be numbered in the thousands, now there are upward of 1.3 million souls visiting every year. That’s obviously a lot of people and something had to be done to protect the stones and the grounds from too much love (not to mention people who might want to take just a tiny piece of a stone for a souvenir). The bad news is that you can no longer walk among the stones themselves, unless you are the President of the United States or similar dignitary.


The good news is that whoever was in charge really did an excellent job. The new visitor center — which is terrific — is located about one and a half miles away from the site and is not visible from the stones. A bus takes you to the site or you can walk. When you get to the stones, you are kept at a distance by a walkway and a short fence. But you have unobstructed views.

Stonehenge 2

We were just about the first visitors to the site on the day we went. It was a foggy morning, which added to the otherworldly quality of the setting.  I’m pretty sure my mouth dropped open when I first saw them. It was not hard to imagine that we were the only ones there and to get a sense of what it must have been like to see this place a couple of thousand years ago.

stonehenge 3Stonehenge Iphone 1

As the fog lifted, we were able to see the surrounding countryside, which had also been kept relatively free from the intrusions of modern life.  Again, it is not hard to feel that you are seeing the land as it has been seen for many millennia.  Stonehenge is not on the highest piece of ground. To the south you can see a ridge that is clearly higher.  But something caused them to build right here.  It made me wonder if this was the location of some great event lost forever in time.  A battle? A miraculous happening?

Looking South

There is no time limit on being at the site.  You can walk around as long as you want.  And there are apps and other devices that give you some idea of what this all might have meant to the men who built it.  Some of the stones were transported here from mountains in Wales hundreds of miles away. The speculation is that the stones from that area were thought to have magical qualities. Maybe.


What is called the Heel Stone surprised me with a face that did not seem particularly happy.  I didn’t take it personally.

heel stone 2

We walked back to the visitor center afterward, but chose a route over one of the fields past some ancient mounds.


When we looked back (which we did often), we saw our fellow visitors were arriving in force.

Looking Back

They resembled a religious procession, circling the site.


Having just come from Canterbury, pilgrimages were on our minds.  This had just been one of a different sort.

akiwa stonehenge

It’s What We Do

Last Saturday I woke up smiling because I had plans for a walk with Alice and Zach over the RFK Bridge (formerly the Triboro Bridge and so known always in my little mind).  Zach and I took the subway over to Astoria where Alice lives and the three of us walked to the entrance, which was only a few minutes from her apartment.  But along the way, I had to stop for a picture of flowers that I vowed to have on my terrace next year (if only I could find out what they are called.  Anyone?)  FlowersAnd so, after that delay, we were ready to go.

Zach and AliceThe walkway is fairly close to the highway at this point, but it was still very nice since there was little else around and the sky was blue with white clouds in fanciful shapes: my favorite.  (Is that an eagle in the upper right? )

skyThe walkway separates a bit from the road as you go along.  And there are some very nice views of the city skyline.  I chose this one, despite the pole in the middle, because it contains the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, and the Freedom tower all at once.  There are others, but, well, who cares…. (Yeah, I’m talking to you, Met Life Building!)

The viewIn the other direction was the Pennsylvania Railroad Bridge, which I always mention just to prove I can still spell the name of the state where I grew up.

rr bridge 2RR BridgeOf course, we have to share the walkway with bike riders who are supposed to walk their bikes across.  Right!

BikersIt can get a little tight!

BikerAnd the oldest person in our group of three walkers may have gotten a little angry.  Could they not slow down as they passed?  Really?  The two younger walkers calmed down their elder.

Our PlaceI then did something i always wanted to do, which was to locate and take a picture of our apartment from the RFK Bridge.   Honestly?  I wasn’t sure what I was seeing until I got home and expanded the image.  But that streak of green at the end of the arrow is where we live. The water tower is over our kitchen.  If you had the eyes of a hawk, or a honey bee, you would see our morning glories along the fence closest to the camera.

FencesAnd here is a topic I have beaten to death and will not go into again, i.e., the need for fences on bridges to stop low-lives from throwing things over the sides and killing or injuring people.  In this case, at least it makes for an unusual photograph.

Queen Anne LaceSo, we survived the bikers and got off the bridge and there were more flowers to photograph.  MimosaAnd many things to see.  We talked to a park worker on Randall’s/Ward’s Island and learned that they have many red/black mulberry trees on the island.  We will be back next June!

A parting view.

Triboro bridge

And then after we crossed the last bridge to Manhattan and  were walking home along the FDR drive, something very amazing happened.  We saw a man in a wheelchair flying a kite.  Actually, we saw a guy in a wheelchair pulling very hard at string and we assumed that his kite had fallen and was tangled in a tree.  I think we were all planning to help him recover his kite if we could.  But then Alice noticed something high in the sky.

KiteI know.  You need a microscope to see it, so I have drawn a circle to help.  It must have been at least a half mile away from us.  It took me many tries just to find it in the blue sky.  It was really high!  That crane you see at the bottom is on top of a thirty story building being built near our apartment.

Kite 2This is a blow-up of the previous picture.

Kite FlyerAnd this is a picture of the guy doing the kite-flying.

That flying kite was the image that stuck with me during the days following.  I even got a curious urge to read Walt Whitman because he loved humanity, loved this life we are all given, and wanted so much to make sure that no one went through a single day without loving the world as much as he did.

I have also thought that I should have gone back and asked the man in the wheelchair, “Why are you flying a kite along the FDR Drive?”  But I imagine he would have turned to me and asked, “Why did you walk across the RFK Bridge?” or “Why are you taking so many damn pictures?”

The answer to all the questions is the same, isn’t it Walt?

We’re humans.  It’s what we do.


Gertrude (Christensen) (Larson) Dagrud, My Grandmother

This is something new for me, since it is very personal.  My Grandmother Dagrud’s birthday was July 30 and I wanted to do something to put in one place some of my memories of her.  The best way to do that, I thought, was to publish an autobiography that she wrote at the age of 80 or so years after she had suffered a stroke and was living in a nursing home in Wisconsin near my aunt and uncle.  Every time I read it I regret that I didn’t take the time to ask her more about her life.  She was very shy, so she would never have volunteered it.  She was also one of the sweetest people I have ever met with a smile that I can summon up any time.  Since I can’t do footnotes, I am going to interrupt her writing from time to time with an editor’s note.  Otherwise, it is all her writing.


I was born in Galveston, Texas, of Norwegian parents on July 30th, 1889. There were two children of this marriage. When my mother died I was eighteen months old and my brother two years older.  [Ed. I found the death certificate foer her mother.  She died of exhaustion.]

Gertrude and Charles[Ed. This picture must have been from around the time her mother died.  Gertrude is on the left; her brother, Charles, is on the right.]

My father remarried and there were three children of that marriage. I was eight years old and my brother ten when my father was killed in an accident at work.  [Ed. His death certificate states that he was crushed by a bale of cotton.]  After our father’s death my brother and I went to live with our uncle and aunt who had no children of their own.  [Ed. In other words, her stepmother did not want to take care of them.]

A few years later, in 1900, [Ed. September 8, 1900] a hurricane and tidal wave struck the city and the Texas coast. All bridges were washed away and the wind so strong even steamers were driven ashore. We were completely cut off from any help. I don’t remember how many feet the water rose but it was over a man’s head and real rough because of the storm. [Ed. The tidal surge was estimated at 20 feet.] Nobody could survive unless, they were able to hang on to some wreckage floating by. Some did save themselves in that way. The noise of thunder and falling bricks is still in my memory. The water rose so fast people did not have time to save any of their possessions. Thousands of lives were lost. Just to show how fast the water rose, when my uncle left [for] their friend’s home the water was waist high but when they reached their friend home, which was on-higher-ground-and they-didn’t realize how serious the storm had .become. It was not long before they found, out. The water came gushing in so all decided to go to a church nearby and there spend the night. Others were already there. Thousands of live were lost and, there were piles of wreckage, which had to be removed in order that bodies could be found. [Ed. Over 6000 was one contemporaneous estimate.] The weather was so hot in September that bodies had to be disposed of quickly and after other methods failed, they decided to burn them. How terrible it was. The stench was awful.

The dead[Ed. This is a picture from the internet.]

Although members of our family lived in different parts of the city, all were safe. All churches and other large buildings were either so badly damaged or totally destroyed, they had to be rebuilt.

galveston_-_1900_wreckage_thegreathurricane[Another striking image.]

The city was under martial law for some time and nobody was allowed on the streets without a permit. Uncle’s house was completely gone and we lived in a tent furnished by the National Guard. Uncle built a small lean-to on the tent and put a woodstove in so we could have some heat on cold days.


In the Spring we left for Norway on a part passenger and part freight steamer. Passenger ships could not dock because of the storm damage. The Gulf of Mexico was a little rough so I got seasick, but as soon as we got on the Atlantic Ocean it was calm and that was the way it was all the way across. It took us three weeks to get to Germany. We passed through the English Channel and saw the white cliffs of Dover. [What a great memory!  She would have been eleven years old, standing on the deck watching this!] When we got off the boat at. Bremen, we took a train to Hamburg where we waited three days for a boat to take us to Christiana and Norway. There I got my first look of Norway and its high mountains covered with trees green with the new spring foliage. [Ed. This is a line I always loved.]  The final stop was Kalvesund, the place my father came from. There was no place to dock the freighter we were on so my grandfather rowed out to meet us. There, my brother Charles and I met for the first time an aunt and cousins. An aunt that we were supposed to live with died a year or so before we came.

The following spring my brother was sent to sea. Uncle and Aunt returned to America. I had spent the summer getting acquainted with the girls I would be going to school with. Neither my brother nor I could speak Norwegian, but with my schoolmate’s help it wasn’t too difficult. Charles was confirmed before we came to Norway. I spent the school year with my Grandfather and a relative of the aunt I came to Norway with. After a year or so at sea my brother came back to America. He lived in Brooklyn where we had some relatives. He remained then until he died at 26 years of age.

After two years I received a graduation certificate from Grammar School. My mother had lived on the same island as my father and they had attended the same school and the same church. I was confirmed in the same church. [Ed. I was able to locate a microfilm of this book through the LDS Library.] The next four years I worked at various jobs until I could get back to the U.S.

While in Norway there was a change in government. King Oscar was a kind man and consented to the separation from Sweden so there was no war. A Danish prince and an English princess were chosen to be King and Queen of Norway. The new King was named Haaken and the new Queen was named Maud. They had a son about two years old. He became Crown Prince Olaf. It is not often the people get a chance to see royalty in person, but on their way to Tronhjem to be crowned they stopped at various towns. Arendal was the closest to where my relatives lived. A royal yacht brought them ashore where people were waiting to see them. As we were getting ready to go home, a carriage in which the Royal couple were riding came down the road close to where we were anchored and we got a good look at them. They smiled and waved to us. I also visited my mother’s home and met my maternal Grandfather. Both grandfathers had been captains of sailing ships. Both grandmothers had died years ago.

I was glad that I had the chance to see where my parents came from and to see some of the country;. but was glad when I could get back in America. I came by way of New York, and when told that I was a citizen of this country he said; “We can’t keep you from entering.” [This is another line that has stuck in my mind.  I imagine she was a pretty youg woman and the inspector was probably flirting with her.]  I had not forgotten the language. After working two years and getting acquainted with relatives who lived in Brooklyn, I wanted to get back to Galveston but my brother decided to stay in Brooklyn.

I wrote to my stepmother, and she said to come. It was good to see the place again and meet old. friends. There I took a course in shorthand and typing and worked at that for a while. Then I met the man who later to become my husband. He had come to visit his aunt and uncle who were good friends of my family. He came from Chicago where his parents and sisters and brother lived.

When I came back a seawall in Galveston was under construction and later finished. But since then other sections have been added. In the late thirties my husband and I visited Galveston and by then so many changes had been made I felt like a stranger. A channel had been dug, all the way to Houston allowing steamers to dock there. Thus little shipping is done at Galveston. It is nothing like the old days. A causeway has also been built connecting the city with the mainland, making it easier to get away in case of storm warnings.

After our marriage we settled in Port Huron, Michigan. It was a pretty on the St. Clair River and I would have liked to settle there. [Ed. Another memorable turn of phrase, at least to me.] Our four children were born there. Just across the river was Sarnia, Canada.

Mom and Gmom[Ed. I believe this is a picture of my mother and grandmother from those days in Port Huron.] We lived there until work became scarce, then moved to Chicago where my husband’s folks lived.

GPs with Bob[Ed. This is my grandmother and grandfather with my brother Bob in 1947 in Chicago.  I was a mere hint of a possibility at that point.]

Mom and Fran[Ed. This is a picture of my mother, Dorothy (left) and my Aunt Fran (right) when they were young women.  It has nothing to do with this post, but I love it.]

My husband died in 1959 and I came to Como to live with my daughter, Mrs. Wallace Christen. I also have a daughter living in Pennsylvania and one son who is now living in La Crosse with his wife and their two children. One of our children died when we were in Michigan. I have five grandchildren, two of whom are married.

by Gertrude Dagrud, 2nd floor West

My grandmother, as well as being sweet, was also very smart and very talented.  She crocheted a tablecloth for my mother that was on her dining room table for as long as he had one.  By the time my mother died, it was tattered and beyond repair.  However, I cut out a piece for my brother and for me.  Here is mine.  I keep it on a shelf in our bedroom.

CrochetAfter my grandfather died, my grandmother mostly stayed with my Aunt Fran, Uncle Wally and cousin Joan in Wisconsin.  But once a year she would stay with us for a few months.  While with us, she took the scraps of material that my mother had left over from making her dresses (a post about my mother will have to come at another time) and made it into quilts for me and my brother.

I used that quilt until it was also in tatters, but I did not want to throw it out.  Finally, before it fell apart completely,  I cut out a piece that was intact and put it in a frame.

QuiltAt one time, I could visualize everyone of the dresses my mother made by looking at this quilt.  I still remember some.

So there it is.  My grandmother, whose mother’s name was Christensen, whose father’s name was Larson, and whose married name was Dagrud.  She lives on in my memory and, in a way, in our novels, since the name of one of our main characters is Jane Larson.

And now she and her biography  have joined the digital universe.

Welcome Author Susan Bernhardt

We are very happy to welcome Susan Bernhardt to our blog today, all the way from Wisconsin! Ken had an uncle, aunt and cousin from the Lake Como area of Wisconsin and has many wonderful memories of summer trips  — swimming and fishing in the lakes, playing golf, and generally having a great time. 🙂

Susan is the author of The Ginseng Conspiracy and Murder Under The Tree, two excellent cozy mysteries involving the amateur sleuth, Kay Driscoll, in the fictional town of Sudbury Falls, Wisconsin.  Her third Kay Driscoll mystery, Murder By Fireworks, is due out in the fall of this year.  Susan enjoys many activities.  Among other things, she rides her bike (on twenty mile jaunts) and hikes, sometimes to considerable heights, as witnessed by the following photo.

Susa Pic 2

She also enjoys some more modest climbs that are no less rewarding.

with corbin

Along with her writing skills, Susan is an artist.   This is one of her mosaics.  Beautiful!

mosaicAnd here is a photo she took of her front yard.

poster edges

We have sent her a picture of the goddess Diana and will see if she can replicate it for the floor of her kitchen! We’re guessing she can.


In any event, it is now time for our interview.

Please share with us a memory of visiting the library or of reading, preferably as a young child. The public library has played an important part in my life, from childhood as you will read below to high school where I would visit the downtown library obsessed with my book topic of the month, to college where I studied for tests until 2 a.m. I took my children to story hour and knew all the best children’s authors. It was a place to escape to at times, a place that I worked at for a short period and where I volunteered. I still visit the library each week. When I was old enough as a child, I would walk to the library throughout the summer, which was about a mile away and would choose books to read for that week. Then I’d return the next week and tell the librarian what each book was about and then bring home another ten or twelve. I belonged to the reading club.

(This answer has evoked such nice memories of all the libraries we have enjoyed over the years. They have a spiritual quality.)

Which book have you read and has stayed with you and made you reread it in whole or in part? What about the book created this attraction? I met two friends in a writing group who literally changed my life by introducing me to an entirely new world of literature. I had mostly read mysteries books and even though my new interests were still mostly mysteries, they were vastly different. The first book was The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. To this day, it is my favorite book. And to sum it up in one sentence, it is a novel about the love of literature. I read other books by this author, and went on to Gabriel García Márquez, Arturo Pérez-Reverte, Donna Leon, and many others.

(This looks like a book we will want to read!  It is now on hold for us at the public library.  Yes, we use and enjoy the library!)

Which book would you like to leave to future generations? Why? (NOT one of the books you’ve written). Since the rules are that I can’t choose to leave The Ginseng Conspiracy…lol…I would say Anne of Green Gables. The book was sweet and delightful. It told of a more simple life and had great lessons about love, friendship, and family.

(Another book worth reading again as an adult.)

 Green Gables

Take a photograph of one of your bookshelves. If a stranger were to enter your room and see it, what would it tell that person about you. That I’m not OCD about how I arrange the subject of my books. Lol. We have several bookcases in our home. My husband made the bookcase shown from a piece of furniture I wanted to get rid of. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Our bookshelves would show that I am interested in a broad range of books: mysteries, fantasy, science fiction, poetry, political books, etc.


Bookshelf II Bookshelf(Beautiful selection.  And well done to your husband!)


We have read and enjoyed The Ginseng Conspiracy and Murder Under the Tree is already on our TBR pile – can you tell about your murder mystery set in New York City? Right now the story is all over the place. I’m still writing the first draft, so I don’t know where I’ll all go with it. The main story is about Irina, a retired ballet dancer living in Manhattan who runs a ballet studio for young children. A normally healthy neighbor becomes ill over time, dies, and Irina sets out to prove it wasn’t from natural causes. There’s a bit about Lithuania in the Cold War, subplots include a lover from the Irina’s college years at NYU who suddenly reenters her life, a stranger obsessed with Irina who moves into her neighborhood on the Upper West Side.

(Sounds great. Hurry up and finish it!)

Are there any genres that you have never written in that you would like to try? Why or why not? I wrote a middle grade short story that was published in an ezine in the style of Ray Bradbury, who I admire and consider a creative genius. The story was part mystery, part fantasy and sci-fi, part horror. I would like to some day expand this short story into a full sized novel. At this time those are the only genres besides mysteries that I would be interested in writing.

Attach a photo of you (preferably one that we have not seen before!) It is always nice to have a photo of you doing something you enjoy like hiking or travelling. A short description would be great. We moved to Wisconsin from Boulder County in Colorado. A couple of years ago my husband and I went on a road trip with our youngest son and his wife to Colorado. I wrote part of The Ginseng Conspiracy while travelling. In this photo I’m hiking/climbing in the Flatirons at Chautauqua Park in Boulder.

(This was a great photo, but we stole it and printed it above!)

This is where you can buy Susan’s novels:

The Ginseng Conspiracy(A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 1) :

On her way to attend a Halloween Ball, Kay Driscoll, a newcomer to town, witnesses the murder of a local professor. When the official coroner’s report rules the cause of death to be accidental and the community accepts the judgement, Kay decides to uncover the truth for herself. Through her personal investigations, Kay exposes a complex conspiracy, woven deep within the thriving local ginseng industry, that involves some of the more prominent figures and families of Sudbury Falls.

With her new friends, the free-spirited herbalist Deirdre and the untamed modern woman Elizabeth, Kay discusses new clues over tea and pastries at Sweet Marissa’s Patisserie, their crime-fighting headquarters. As Kay gets closer to the heart of the conspiracy, additional murders happen in quick succession. Before long, Kay learns that the villains are gunning for her, too. Phil, her musically talented but preoccupied husband, determined to keep her safe, withholds from her the one thing she needs most: the truth.

the Ginseng Conspiracy-largeBUY The Ginseng Conspiracy here:

Murder Under the Tree (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 2)

While Kay attends a Christmas tea at Hawthorne Hills Retirement Home, a beloved caretaker dies from an allergic reaction to peanuts. When the official coroner’s report rules the cause of death to be accidental, a small group of residents suspect foul play and call upon Kay to investigate.

Kay uncovers sinister plots of fraud, revenge, and corruption at the Home. During this season of peace on earth, good will to men, additional murders occur. Despite multiple attempts on her life, and with the support once again of her best friends, Elizabeth and Deirdre, Kay continues her quest for bringing justice for the victims. Kay’s first Christmas in Sudbury Falls is an unforgettable one, with equal amounts of celebration and danger. ‘Tis the season to be sleuthing!

MurderUndertheTree_1600x2400__LargeDullBUY Murder Under the Tree  –

Murder by Fireworks (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 3)will be published this Fall.  
Wedding bells are in the air, and so is murder.

Kay Driscoll’s son’s wedding reception for two hundred guests is in her backyard. As if that wasn’t enough stress, a precocious and troubled twelve year old is foisted on her two days before the wedding. When the happy day arrives, one of the guests obnoxiously disrupts the event and is asked to leave: a womanizing member of Kay’s book club.

A few days later, after a Fourth of July fireworks show, he is found dead on the beach. Kay and her ever-present friends, Elizabeth and Deirdre, investigate the
death, which at first is declared a suicide. They believe this is a cover-up and go about to prove their theory, an arduous task because the potential suspects are many, and few (if any) will regret the victim’s death. 


And this is where you can find Susan:


Author FB page:



Twitter: @SusanBernhardt1



A Walk in June Through Central Park

Brendan and I took a walk on Sunday.  We started at the Pulitzer Fountain in the Grand Army Plaza at 59th Street and Fifth Avenue on the southeastern corner of Central Park. The centerpiece of the fountain is the statue of Pomona, the Roman Goddess of fruit trees, gardens and orchards.  (There was no Greek equivalent goddess with such a specific bailiwick).   It is fitting that Pomona presides over New York’s great garden.  She carries a basket of fruit.Pomona            We entered the Park and walked by the Pond, which was very still yesterday morning. The reflection you see is of the two-towered building that replaced the old New York Coliseum. No one misses the old Coliseum, but lots of people miss the sunlight that is now blocked by this humongous structure. The original construction plan was amended to provide for two towers to assuage the critics who prefer sun to shadow in Central Park, especially in the winter. Gee, thanks!

Over the Pond

We went by Gapstow Bridge and who can resist a photo.  Stone, ivy, water.  And all those movies!

Gapstow bridge           We skirted the Sheep’s Meadow where New Yorkers were spreading out and enjoying the sunshine.  Then we followed Poet’s Walk and the Mall to Bethesda Fountain, and along the way we saw a bride and groom having their pictures taken through soap bubbles! Excellent idea. A heart!  That has to be a good sign. Happiness to you both!


There was a crowd at the Bethesda Fountain with another wonderful sculpture, The Angel of the Waters.  This is a reference to the Gospel of John in which he describes a pool in Jerusalem (near the Sheep Market, no less) that an angel stirred periodically.  The first into the pool after the angel did his (or her) work was healed.   A man who complained to Jesus that he was not fast enough to be first into the pool, was told to take up his bed and walk.  He did.  The fountain and the statue are meant to celebrate the creation of the Croton water system that brought fresh water to the City in 1842, allowing the city to free itself of the water borne diseases that had ravaged it periodically up to that time.  God helps those who help themselves.

Bethesda FountainThe Bow Bridge is being renovated so we took the long route around the lake and noticed a little plaque set into the ground on the path from the Bethesda Fountain up to the 72nd Street transverse road.  It dates from 1947, shortly after World War II, and commemorates the major sea battles of that war.  I wish it were larger.

Naval battlesOn to Strawberry Fields and the Imagine Mosaic, which was created by an artist from Naples, Italy.  As crowed as it gets there, people generally do not walk over it.  Sitting for a photograph is another thing.

ImagineMoving north again, we passed the lake along its west side.

Lake and rockAnd waved to the boaters, who were busy taking selfies, of course.  And finished our walk by passing by the Great Lawn where New Yorkers were enjoying the sun and the grass.  Lots of spots still available.  Prime real estate.

Great lawn Sun

Nice day!