Ellen here, so happy to welcome my friend, Micki, aka M.E. Browning. Micki’s a fantastic writer and I’m super excited about her new procedural suspense mystery, SHADOW RIDGE. I loved reading about the unique collection of books that populate her bookshelf, and you will too. Welcome, Micki/M.E.!
In Defense of the Incredibility Bookcase
I came to social media kicking and screaming. During my twenty-two years in law enforcement, I’d been taught to rigorously guard my privacy, but after I retired and became an author, social media provided a way for me to interact with my readers and I grew to enjoy the various platforms. Then the year to end all years landed on our collective doorstep. When health concerns put the kibosh on in-person events, the world pivoted to video conferencing.
Last May, I read the New York Times article “The ‘Credibility Bookcase’ Is the Quarantine’s Hottest Accessory” written by Amanda Hess. She goes on to describe carefully curated bookcases popping up behind presidential candidates, celebrities, executives, influencers and anyone else who wanted to lend “a patina of authority to an amateurish video feed.”
At the time, I was concerned about signing up for video conferencing due to myriad security concerns the various platforms were experiencing, but the article got me thinking about my own bookcase and what it would say about me. After all, as an author, I have an abundance of books, so I thought I was pretty well set in the credibility department.
Let’s start with my collection of children’s picture books: Stellaluna, The Canterbury Tales, Brave Margaret, The Mabinogion, and the likes. They are all beautifully illustrated, often with a Celtic flair. Here is where the narrator would interrupt to advise the audience that I have no children.
Then there’s my art section—everything from Arthur Rackham to J.W. Waterhouse with a brief pitstop at Rodin’s Gates of Hell.
Poetry? Immortal Poems, love poems, Billy Collins, Emily Dickinson, Shakespeare, and Kenneth Rexroth’s translations of Women Poets of China, and The Selected Poems of Tu Fu, take up one half of a shelf. The other half showcases classical, Arthurian, Celtic, and Norse mythology.
My collection of history books reveals my education as a medievalist.
My landscape and gardening tomes allude to both my love of all things green and my ironically black thumb.
The law enforcement books I collected during my first career now support my second. Oh, the poison books? Nothing to see here, move along…
I suppose I redeem myself somewhat by having two entire shelves of craft books devoted to writing—although alternatively, that may give the impression that I’m not as skilled as I’d like to imply.
My bookcase is not a static showpiece. Its contents change with every project I write. The research books I had for my Mer Cavallo series are now stored elsewhere. In their stead stand books describing the flora and fauna of Colorado. The bookcase itself is something I’ve carted across the country from California to Colorado, and finally, Florida. It watches over me when I’m at my desk, ever ready to provide inspiration. Within arm’s reach, are copies of The American Heritage Dictionary, Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus, Dreyer’s English (which is hands down the most entertaining treatise on clarity and style ever written) and The Literary Gardener for when I need to escape into a different type of secret garden.
The books we choose to read, keep, and display speak volumes about who we are. Some families have a bible that has been passed down from generation to generation. My family has a dictionary. Saved within its 1200 onionskin pages are milestones—an army discharge document dated 1898, a marriage certificate dated three years later, a pressed violet whose significance is lost to history, but inspires romantic supposition.
Unlike a credibility bookcase that seeks to establish one’s bona fides in a single profession, my bookcase seeks to inspire. As a writer, I draw upon legend, language, and landscapes that spark my imagination. Each of my books speaks to me; every shelf opens a portal into a different world.
The other night, I celebrated the launch of Shadow Ridge with an author event on Zoom. I stood in front of my bookcase. I wasn’t worried about credibility. People can read the books I write and draw their own conclusions. I’d much rather be interesting, and engaging, and informed. That requires a bookcase that isn’t curated to please anyone but it’s owner—and personally, I find my bookcase incredible.
Readers, what’s on your bookcase that may seem surprising?
SYNOPSIS: Death is one click away when a string of murders rocks a small Colorado town in the first mesmerizing novel in M. E. Browning’s A Jo Wyatt Mystery series. Echo Valley, Colorado, is a place where the natural beauty of a stunning river valley meets a budding hipster urbanity. But when an internet stalker is revealed to be a cold-blooded killer in real life the peaceful community is rocked to its core. It should have been an open-and-shut case: the suicide of Tye Horton, the designer of a cutting-edge video game. But Detective Jo Wyatt is immediately suspicious of Quinn Kirkwood, who reported the death. When Quinn reveals an internet stalker is terrorizing her, Jo is skeptical. Doubts aside, she delves into the claim and uncovers a link that ties Quinn to a small group of beta-testers who had worked with Horton. When a second member of the group dies in a car accident, Jo’s investigation leads her to the father of a young man who had killed himself a year earlier. But there’s more to this case than a suicide, and as Jo unearths the layers, a more sinister pattern begins to emerge–one driven by desperation, shame, and a single-minded drive for revenge.
As Jo closes in, she edges ever closer to the shattering truth–and a deadly showdown that will put her to the ultimate test.
BIO: M.E. BROWNING served twenty-two years in law enforcement and retired as a captain before turning to a life of crime fiction. Writing as Micki Browning, she penned the Agatha-nominated and award-winning Mer Cavallo mysteries, and her short stories and nonfiction have appeared in anthologies, magazines, and textbooks. As M.E. Browning, she recently began a new series of Jo Wyatt mysteries with Shadow Ridge. Visit mebrowning.com to learn more.