Guest Chick: M.E. Browning

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.

Alas, no.

More law enforcement books hide behind the cabinet doors

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.

The dictionary weighs over four pounds.

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.

The writer’s trifecta – inspiration, consolation, and chocolate…

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.

Buy Link: 

https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/652789/shadow-ridge-by-m-e-browning/

34 thoughts on “Guest Chick: M.E. Browning

  1. Our bookcases are everywhere and filled with a mish-mash of things. I’m not sure what the most interesting is, but I have some very old Sir Walter Scott (bound in fraying leather) and a first-run edition of Winston Churchill’s WWII history.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Katherine ~ Thank you! There are few things I treasure more than that dictionary. My grandmother had limited formal education, and yet she was the best speller I’ve ever encountered. She lived with us growing up and I don’t know how many times I was sent to this book to look up a word.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I love looking at other people’s bookcases! Thank you for the peek at yours. Sadly, I don’t have a proper bookcase. My books are piled up all over. My organizational skills would not impress anyone!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Liz ~ Your Sir Walter Scott and first-run edition of Churchill’s WWII history sound amazing. There is something so wonderful about old books–almost as if the care we must take to open them reminds us of the value to be found inside.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I SO love this blog post, Micki! Whenever I go into peoples’ houses (not often these days, alas) I love to see what sort of books they have, and sometimes have to be tugged away from peering at their bookshelves. For you can indeed learn so much about a person from what books they choose to have and display.

    As for me, my book cases will quickly tell anyone that I was an English lit major in college and that I kept most all my books from those years. But in my kitchen you’ll find myriad books on food and cooking…

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Your post is a cause for reminiscence, Micki. I have been writing (but not published) for a very long time. Prior to the Internet (anyone remember those days?) I collected reference books on all sorts of subjects so I wouldn’t have to decamp to a library to research something. Everything from AAA guides for various regions, books about poisonous plants, guides to various processes and hobbies that I might need in a story, etc. I find that I consult books much less frequently when I can do a Google search – for example, would you believe that detailed maps of Victorian London that indicate the socioeconomic status of various areas are online? What a boon to help me write my Sherlock Holmes stories! But I sometimes I do miss my books, and those days spent in the University library with a list of topics to research and take notes on.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The beauty of books is that they encourage us to skip down memory lane! I do a fair share of internet research now, but nothing replaces a good ol’ fashioned field guide to remind you of the plant you used to know. One of the most useful books on my shelf is called the Flip Dictionary. On its spine it says “For when you know what you want to say but can’t think of the word.” Thanks for stopping by, Tom. Good luck with your writing!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Micki, we’re so happy to have you on Chicks today, and Shadow Ridge sounds very intriguing. What a great post (loved the violet!). My bookshelves will never be outed on Literary Room Rater because they’re all over the house—except for my “office.” (My husband has my old one now). Our bookcases are built into odd places, so I added foldable, stackable ones. All are filled with kids’ books (my faves, plus those I wrote or edited), mysteries and thrillers, of course, my parents’ books (Our Hearts Were Young and Gay, anyone? Mrs ‘Arris Goes to Paris?), and a ton of editorial reference books. My first battered Chicago Manual of Style (I use the online version now) holds my bedside lamp.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Lisa~ Thank you! I have a couple of books from my own childhood–one of Aesop’s Fables and another that dates back to when copyrights were still rendered in Roman numerals. Some books just deserve a permanent place in the collection!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Everyone talks about all the books behind me when I get on Zoom. The funny thing is, most of the time, what they can see are actually my movies and TV on DVD sets. There are books on those bookselves, but they are on the lower shelves.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Micki, I love your grandmother! By third grade I was nerdily working my way through our big family dictionary because I was dead serious about the school spelling bee! I think my bookcases mostly say I’m disorganized! Thanks for visiting Chicks today!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Vickie, it was truly my pleasure! My grandmother was a kick. The only word we ever stumped her on was hors d’oeuvres–and that was because she forgot the apostrophe. And in the interest of full disclosure, I just had to look it up to make sure I spelled it correctly….

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Micki, I love this post! I have a very, very old – over 100 years old – copy of an Anne Bronte book that my brother pulled from a dump in CT where we used to have a summer cottage. It’s in terrible shape but it has her pseudonym: Acton Bell. (And no, it’s not worth a lot of money. It’s in too crummy shape for that.)

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Hi Micki: So happy that you’re visiting us today! LOVE your bookshelf. Thank you for sharing it with us; I am always intrigued by the titles on other people’s bookshelves. And that four-pound family-treasure dictionary is amazing.

    I don’t know if there’s anything surprising on my bookshelves, but it is interesting how the contents shift. Before we had kids, I was diligent about keeping genres together. After we had kids, not so much–just getting a book TO the shelf was success enough (because: not enough hours in the day). Also we began to display their art projects there–for example, a clay dinosaur family now stands guard over the fiction section.

    Congratulations on your new series!! xoxo

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Micki, thanks for being on the Chicks today! I love the picture of your bookshelf. If only mine were half as organized…

    I tend to have a lot of horizontal stacks because I can’t fit everything on the shelf. That’s not including the scattered boxes of books lying around…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You are welcome, Jennifer, thanks for having me! My bookshelf goes through stages of organization. I suspect every writer has boxes and stacks that can’t quite fit the shelves. I know I do. I recently had to thin the ranks a bit. I donated books I’ve read to the local library to make room for the new adventures waiting to be read.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Micki! I’m so thrilled that you’re here.

    What a beautiful post. That dictionary brought tears to my eyes.

    I love your incredible bookcase and the stories it tells about you, your family, your passions and your heart. My bookcase is an eclectic collection of dear friends’ works, childhood favorites, book club picks, 18th Century English literature, textbooks about how to conjugate irregular French verbs, Garfield comics, poison primers…in short pretty much every book I’ve read and loved. They’re like old friends and I can’t bear to part with them. The result is a messy amalgamation that reflects pieces of who I am.

    Very much looking forward to reading SHADOW RIDGE. (You know I’m a fan of your work!) Hoping to see you whenever we get back to in-person cons. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Kathleen! I treasure that dictionary. In the very back, there are pages of endorsements from honorable men–statesmen, publishing icons, military generals. It’s ironic that it was the women in my family who made the most use of the knowledge pressed between the covers.

      Your bookcases sound wonderful! I had to laugh, right next to mine, sits the Complete Calvin & Hobbes collection, but Garfield would be welcome anytime!

      I am so glad we met at Malice Domestic (for a certain debut nomination)…I’ve been a fan of your writing ever since! xo

      Liked by 2 people

  13. Peering into bookcases behind Zoom speakers is so interesting! Like most of us here, I have multiple bookcases and book shelves, and boxes of books in storage. It’s so hard to part with them. Thanks for the post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have to confess, Gay, sometimes I am more interested in the bookcase than the speaker…which means someone could think the very same thing about me and mine–but it’s a risk I’m willing to take!

      Like

      1. Ha ha! Never thought of that, but it’s probably true. Oh well. . . risk-taking is a big part of being a writer.

        Like

  14. I see Hummels on the top! I wish I had bookcases as neat as yours. I tend to pile and cram my books in. Those shelves are never big enough. Great article!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Kaye! My mother used to collect Hummels and these were purchased in Germany when she was a young woman. Shelves are never big enough, and I’ve certainly had my bouts of book cramming, and two rows of smaller books…. I am loathe to part with them, but at least when I do, they go to either the library or the friends of the library.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There is no room on my shelves for my inherited Hummel collection so I placed them in with the glassware in our kitchen. At least they are safe there.

        Like

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