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My muse fell off the wagon in December and didn’t come back until the Summer Solstice. Call me crazy or weird, but I swear my writing mojo falls off between the Winter and Summer Solstice. Is that strange or what? Anyway, I published The Road to Nowhere back in February and have been working on Awakening, but I did delay the publication date because I feel like the book needs more time. I can whip out a story every for months, but it won’t be the best it could be. So, like a fickle, unpredictable creative, I have postponed the book. I honestly couldn’t help it, but I apologize for the inconvenience.
Okay, things are actually picking up in this department. I am working on a few things right now, with Awakening in the forefront, Deviance in the background and Confessions, the seventh book in the series, percolating in my brain. The serial story is running rather late in going out this month because I wanted to put as much energy as possible into Awakening. I changed the publication date for Awakening to August 28th. The rest of the serial story is coming soon!
I’ve received a lot of emails over the past few months. Unfortunately, many of them went into my spam folder. If you sent me an email and I did not respond, I am VERY sorry! Why does this happen?! I don’t know, but I’ve got an idea. Instead of digging out a bunch of email from the spam box and answering them all, I’m going to start posting on YouTube and maybe (gasp!) I might do a few live sessions. My introvert soul doesn’t like that kind of talk, but I always love interacting with people once I convince myself to reach out and be vulnerable. So, stay tuned for that!
This is has been quite a year and as we near its end, I can’t help but look back at all that has occurred over the past eleven months. Part of me feels like this year has been one or two very long months because I’ve spent the bulk of my time at home. One of the best things to come out of 2020 is that I’ve gotten back to counting my blessings. I wake up in the morning and think about all the good things in my life. At the core, I have all I need and there is no lack.
December is upon us, and I’m wrapping up the very last book of 2020! I’m very excited to be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I spent the first seven months of the year distracted and a bit down about the way things seemed to be unfolding in the world, but in late July, I perked up and got moving. So glad I snapped out of the doldrums!
2021 And A Question…
2021 will bring the resolution of one ongoing mystery and more travels for Sylvia and Martin. I have four books in the Sylvia Wilcox series planned for 2021. You can expect a new mystery in February, May, August, and October. We will see Sylvia come to more realizations about herself and the world.
The third book of the Sylvia Wilcox series, Fracture, is NOT about a murder. This has led to some readers disliking the book because they want to read about a murder. Sylvia Wilcox is a private detective. While P.I.’s take on murder cases at times, they often work non-violent cases because private detectives are private citizens-not police officers. Sure, they will pick up cold case murders, but it is perfectly reasonable to think that a private detective will take on a missing person case.
So, here’s the question I’ve been pondering this week. Is murder a requirement of a mystery book for some readers? Is it okay to write about a missing person case, or financial crimes in a mystery? I think so, but I could be alone in that thought. I recently read an article, “Why The Serial Killer Novel Is The New Feminist Fiction,” and the author presented and interesting idea. She discusses how she enjoys watching the show Snapped, and asks what if a woman kills a man and she doesn’t feel bad about it? My response is that if any person kills another human and doesn’t feel bad about it, I’m not able to frame that as a victory just because the killer is a woman. I’m not on board with thinking that murder is a feminist act in and of itself. I tend to shy away from gruesome crime fiction because I don’t have the ability to completely disconnect from the extreme act of taking a life, even in a fictional context.
I’m not sure if most people think a murder must be included in a mystery, but Sylvia Wilcox will be investigating murders and other situations that may, or may not be crimes. Sylvia will have murders to solve, but there will be deeper, more complex mysteries to examine as well. The mysteries of the heart and human behavior are the things that keep us up at night. Surely, those things deserve investigating as well.
What do you think? Can a mystery series examine more than murder?
Road to Nowhere
Road to Nowhere will be off to the editor in early January. Newsletter subscribers will receive the prologue in January, and the ebook preorder is already available. If all goes well, there will be a preorder for paperback copies in mid-January. I plan to take a few days off after I finish my literary fiction novel, but I’ll be back at it soon after the New Year. Road to Nowhere will be released February 19, 2021 and a description of the book is included below. !
A young man disappears during an impromptu cross-country road trip. Initially, it appears that Anson didn’t have a destination or a reason to drive from Michigan to California, but when Sylvia Wilcox starts to examine the mystery, she finds that Anson had a reason to be driving the backroads and interstates of America.
Autumn was here, but the past few days things have warmed up. We are working hard to wind down the garden before the secondary water is cut off for the winter. There are SO many green tomatoes! I froze a few, made a green tomato pie, and a number of other green things. It’s all great, but I’ll be happy when we get a handle on the green tomato bounty.
Taking on three projects at the end of the year wasn’t the best idea, but it is definitely keeping me on my toes. I’m editing my literary fiction novel, Lives Lived , writing a romance, Frozen Cowboy, and waiting on edits for the fourth book in the Sylvia Wilcox series. I’m having a good, but slightly hectic time.
A Sylvia Wilcox Christmas is with the editor. I had a great time writing this book and I think everyone will enjoy it. The wheels of this story started turning while my husband and I were renting a place in Ogden Canyon. We were in the midst of a rather tumultuous remodeling project that ended up included both of our bathrooms. I won’t bore you with the details. Although…I’d doubt you’d be bored with the story, it is far too long to get into over email. Anyhow, we spent a month in the canyon, not far from Powder Mountain Ski Resort. Since it was a change of scenery, I tried to think of it as a vacation. Unfortunately, my fantasy world was frequently interrupted by my job and pressing needs at the house. But, in the end, nothing terrible happened, and I reminded myself that I should be thankful for that fact. That was when the “what-ifs” started. What if something more dramatic happened while you were tucked away in this mountain paradise? That spawned a bunch of other “what-if” questions that ultimately turned into A Sylvia Wilcox Christmas.
A few things…Who She Was, the first book in the series is free. If you haven’t read it yet and you’d like to pick up A Sylvia Wilcox Christmas, you will enjoy it much more if you read the first book. The Sylvia Wilcox series is not episodic. That means, the books don’t standalone very well. So, read Who She Was. It’s rated 4.5 on Amazon, 4.4 on Apple, and 4.2 on Goodreads. Why not dive into a free mystery?
Before you take off to retrieve that free book, here’s the description for A Sylvia Wilcox Christmas:
Sylvia Wilcox closes her private detective agency for the holidays and heads to Utah for a long, relaxing vacation in the Ogden River Valley’s snow-covered mountains. After enjoying a few days on the slopes, her assistant calls and tells her about a mysterious note delivered to the office that accuses Sylvia of fraud. Disturbed and curious about this note, Sylvia finds it hard to concentrate on vacation and ends up chasing down leads that take her on a painful trip down memory lane. Will Sylvia’s determination to always seek the truth backfire? Or will she end up having a surprisingly pleasant holiday season?
What do you think of the description? I’d love to hear your opinion!
Apple: A Sylvia Wilcox Christmas
Amazon: A Sylvia Wilcox Christmas
Barnes & Noble: A Sylvia Wilcox Christmas
Sylvia Wilcox takes a much-needed vacation for the holidays. While she’s relaxing and enjoy time away from the office, a mysterious note shows up accusing her of fraud. Disturbed by this accusation, Sylvia begins to investigate. Save 50% on this page-turner by preordering now! https://books2read.com/u/31qL0l
*(Posts on this website contain affiliate links. Affiliate links do not cost you anything to use, and I receive a small commission if you use them. This helps pay for the website and editing of the serial story. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)
When crimes don’t get solved within a single book, readers often get mad. This is an interesting conundrum that I think comes from watching television. I don’t really watch television, but I am well acquainted with the police procedurals where a crime occurs and is solved within an hour. While this model works well for television, it is quite far from what actually happens in an investigation. While I don’t watch much television, I am a fan of true crime podcasts and vlogs. My favorites are the ones that don’t sensationalize crime, but work to try to help law enforcement and family members get answers. Sometimes cases are showcased that took place ten or twenty years ago. Occasionally, there is a case that happened fifty or more years ago, and descendants are still searching for answers.
The Sylvia Wilcox Mystery series is about a former cop turned private investigator. Private investigators have limited resources when it comes to solving crimes, and they must follow rules to avoid being in a position where they can be sued or fined. That means solving every single case is just unrealistic. This is also true of police forces. According to the FBI stats for homicide solve rates for 2017was 61.4%. This lines up with Statista.com’s figures for 2019, which show that the rate remained steady at 61.4%. So, if this is the case, close to 40% of homicides are not solved. The crazy thing about that is homicides are solved at a higher rate than other crimes. Likely because police departments want to tackle the worst crimes and get closure for families, but that also means that a lot of other crimes go unsolved. The chart from the FBI website is below:
So, when we take this information into account, it seems that the television shows we watch are making a few adjustments for entertainment. There’s nothing wrong with that method. I love Criminal Minds just as much as the next person, but I also spend far too much time listening to true story to allow the “every case gets solved in an hour” ideology to inform my stories.
Sylvia Wilcox has a few unresolved issues in her past. To be honest, so do I, and I’m going to go out on a limb and say, so do most of us. This is life. Everything is not so cut and dry and easy. There are times when situations become complicated and we find ourselves unable to resolve a serious issue and we have to move on. Later on, we may come back to the situation and bring some closure to what haunts us. Other times, that is not possible. This is the paradigm from which I write and live my life. Realistically, there are some crimes and situations that will not be resolved.
Here are some great true crime podcasts and vlogs that I listen to on a regular basis:
Extensive examination of missing person and cold case murders. He interviews law enforcement and family members to help piece together the mysteries surrounding the cases.
An in-depth look into missing person cases. Marissa does a fantastic job pulling together experts, family members, friends and law enforcement officers to provide and overview of the person who has vanished.
Jerri Williams is a retired FBI agent who is trying to get the word out about what the FBI actually does. She interviews other retired agents and provides a wealth of knowledge about what this often misunderstood agency does on a day-to-day basis.
Why True Crime?
I started listening to more true crime shows once I discovered that there were over 40,000 unidentified deceased persons in the United States. The fact of the matter is that we can’t expect law enforcement to take care of everything that happens in society. We must help them as much as we can. That staggering number of unidentified persons left me feeling cold and helpless, but it turns out there are things an average, everyday citizen can do. Here are a few suggestions:
Share true crime links on your social media.
When Amber Alerts pop up, verify that they are still active and spread the word.
Pay attention to your surroundings-If something looks wrong alert authorities.
If you hear a strange story, and a body shows up later, tell the police the story. Maybe it’s true, maybe not, but without a proper investigation, we’ll never know.
I occasionally try to help identify Jane and John Does on the Namus website. This is not a task for the faint of heart, and I only do that once or twice a year-if I get a hunch. So, these are the reasons why I listen to true crime shows, and it’s also why I try to add a small element of reality to my crime fiction.
*(Posts on this website contain affiliate links. Affiliate links do not cost you anything to use, and I receive a small commission if you use them. This helps pay for the website and editing of the serial story. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)
One of the major themes in my life has been this constant questioning of whether I want to do something out of desire, or because others’ expectations. Identity-who we are and why we become the people we ultimate end up being, is a thread throughout most of my stories. In Who She Was, a woman’s secrets cause her murder investigation to go off the rails. In Displacement, Sylvia has to grapple with the idea that being a cop is a noble and just endeavor, while acknowledging that it does not fit her personality. Fracture deals with a woman who becomes completely consumed with faith and allows it to define the person she thinks she has to be. These are stories, but I think all of us have had experience with questioning identity-our own and others.
Someone told me they couldn’t read Who She Was because there is a Muslim character mentioned in the prologue. I didn’t ask questions. We’re free to choose what we read or don’t read, but in my mind I wondered why that mattered. One of the most wonderful things about books is that they show us we are all the same. I remember reading The Diary Of Anne Frank in fifth grade and thinking…We would have been friends. We’re so much alike. After leaving a rather tumultuous relationship and experiencing the growing pains of early adulthood, I read Wally Lamb’s I Know This Much Is True, and I felt comforted and assured that this-the family strife, the inability to find my place, and the sadness, were all par for the course. Much like Dominick Birdsey, I healed, moved forward, and found happiness. The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison helped me recognize why certain things were and weren’t happening in my life. I took that information and pondered it, searching for a way to reconcile the lack. After a friendship dissolved, I found solace and advice in Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner. It reminded me that amends could be made and eventually; I was reunited with the friend I thought I’d lost forever. This is why I love stories and why I write. The world is much smaller than we think it is, and we are more alike than different.
Some characters in Fracture are from various threads of the Latter-day Saint faith. To me, Latter-day Saints are just people. So much so, that I married one. I don’t see whole groups of people as foreign entities that are so obscure that I can’t make a connection. I think stories are a great way to build bridges. You learn that labels and categories don’t change the DNA or species of a person. It becomes clear in stories that we have the same desires, wants and needs, and we make the same mistakes. Having characters from a particular faith, doesn’t necessarily make the story “a book about Latter-day Saints.” Just as a book written by an African-American writer doesn’t make the book a-and I heard this all throughout high school, “a black book.” I don’t pigeon-hold books because of a character’s race, religion, sexual preference, gender, or any other category we think they belong in. Instead, I always try to read books with an open mind. Fiction is a great way to be introduced to people who are different from you. Yes, it’s a fictional story, but it can open a door to real dialogue and education.
One reason I regret going to graduate school is because there was this push for books to be categorized based on the author’s background. For example, if an author was from a First Nations, they would be expected to write about colonialism or life on reservations. If the writer was African-American, their work would need to focus on racism or slavery. This is a terrible way to look at stories, and at the end of my program of study, I was thoroughly against this idea. The professor I worked with for my final project kept trying to steer me into what I saw as a corner. There was a point where I didn’t think I’d get my degree, which has, so far, has not been useful. The professor and I battled it out over cups of tea in a little cafe in Ypsilanti, Michigan. She was convinced that literature was more of a socio-cultural structure instead of a place where the universalities of humanity blended. I was all for the universality of literature and I continued to force the issue. It turns out that no one wants to fail a student who has completed all coursework in a timely and efficient manner, and paid tens of thousands of dollar in tuition, so I was awarded the degree. Ironically, I didn’t pick it up for two years. The campus was less than five minutes from my apartment, but I felt like that piece of paper stood for everything I was against. So, two years later, I went and got the darn thing and shoved it in a closet.
I write to tell stories, and I think stories are the salve we need to bring us all together. Once you’ve heard a story from a person you think is so different from you, they become recognizable behind all the label and categories you thought made them different. Don’t get caught in the idea that there is one story for many people.
Autumn is upon us! This is my favorite season and since Utah has such an abbreviated version of it, we headed to thee mountains yesterday to check out the beautiful trees. This year has been incredibly dry, so there’s more red than usual. We drove up to Snowbasin Ski Resort to get a good look. We were not disappointed.
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The next book in the series is actually a holiday novella, A Sylvia Wilcox Christmas that brings Sylvia back to the Ogden River Valley for vacation. I’m having so much fun writing this book! It’s going to be a short, action packed, fun read. I wanted to head to the area where part of the story takes place. This was also a great way to see the autumn colors.
The picture was taken near Snowbasin Ski Resort in Ogden Canyon. It’s so beautiful at this time of the year!
Pineview Reservoir has especially vibrant colors this year. As I mentioned earlier, it’s be very dry this summer. There was some haze in the air from the fires in Oregon and California, but it was clearer the closer we got to the valley floor.
So, I had to close my eyes to imagine that there was snow everywhere, but it wasn’t too hard to do. I guess you could call this a bit of research for the book. It really helped me envision some of the scenes from the book, and get a nuanced view of the places I describe in the book. Snow is still a ways off, but you could feel an undercurrent of cool air, masked by the warm temperatures and brilliant sunshine.
A Sylvia Wilcox Christmas will answer the number one question readers email me about. Don’t know what that is? All the better! The book will be even more of a mystery for you!
Okay, okay. I have to give you something, right? Here’s the description and cover. Let your imagination run wild with speculation!
Sylvia Wilcox closes her private detective agency for the holidays and heads to Utah for a long, relaxing vacation in the Ogden River Valley’s snow-covered mountains. After enjoying a few days on the slopes her assistant, Martin, calls and tells her about a mysterious note delivered to the office that accuses Sylvia of fraud. Disturbed and curious about this note, Sylvia finds it hard to concentrate on vacation and ends up chasing down leads that take her on a painful trip down memory lane. Will Sylvia’s determination to always seek the truth backfire? Or will she end up having a surprisingly pleasant holiday season?
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*(Posts on this website contain affiliate links. Affiliate links do not cost you anything to use, and I receive a small commission if you use them. This helps pay for the website and editing of the serial story.)
Ten years ago today I was headed back to Michigan from Utah. I’d just spent four days in Salt Lake City, a place that had never been on my must-see list, and I was SO sad to be leaving. One of my good friends had moved to Utah years before, and I’d taken a trip to visit him, but I never thought I’d fall in love with the place. In all honesty, I wasn’t expecting much from the trip. Just some laughs and good times with an old friend. We did indeed have a blast, but the place turned out to be enchanting and from the moment I touched down in Michigan, I was planning a way to get back to Salt Lake City.
Utah was never on my radar, but I was definitely looking for a place to move. Michigan had been in decline for decades. By 2009 I’d been done with graduate school for four years, and was working three part-time jobs. A full-time job with a decent salary had proved to be elusive, I was thirty-four and I’d never had a meaningful romantic relationship, so I was pretty sure I’d never marry, and my novel, Lives Lived wasn’t being picked up by literary agents. Moving to a new town for a fresh start was constantly on my mind and I was open, but Utah was not one of the destinations I had in mind. As I considered cities I might want to live in, I decided to plan one fun trip to see an old friend in Utah.
From the time I boarded the connecting flight in Denver, to the moment when I stepped off the plane in Salt Lake City, I was showered with kindness. A man stowed my bag in the overhead compartment and removed it when we landed, carrying it off the plane. As I stepped into the airport, people smiled and spoke to me, and as I stepped outside, I was in awe of the mountains that jutted into the sky in every direction. One the flight I’d been mesmerized by the red rock and snow capped peaks. I thought Utah was nothing more than the Great Salt Lake. Why hadn’t anyone told me that it was a hidden gem?
Over the next four days my friend made sure that we packed in as many activities as we could. I was enchanted with the landscape, surprised at the friendliness of the people, and I loved fry sauce. After climbing Ensign Peak I remember thinking, maybe this IS the place…At the end of my trip, I found myself longing to stay. I remember being a bit sad when I returned home. How could I miss a place I barely knew?
In September of 2010, I bought a one-way train ticket, packed a bag, withdrew the last sixty dollars I had in my bank account, and I headed to Salt Lake City. I wasn’t sure if I was going to head to another spot afterwards, or if I would head back to Michigan at some point. By October, I decided that I was going to start over in Utah. It made no sense and plenty of people thought I’d lost my mind for making such a major decision on a whim, but what did I have to lose? As the ten year anniversary roles around, deciding to move to Utah is the best decision I’ve ever made.
Home…Or Is It?
Utah is very nice but even after ten years, it doesn’t feel like home. This is confusing because after a decade, where else would home be for me? When I travel back to Michigan I enjoy my time there, but I’m always ready to get back to Utah after a week or so. This is a strange position to be in and I wonder if the concept of home is even more arbitrary than I thought it was. I wrote the bulk of Who She Was back in 2009, when I was living in Ypsilanti, Michigan. At the time, I thought, “I love Michigan and it’s my home. I’ll set my story right here at home.” Now that I don’t live in Michigan, and I’ve experienced a different type of “home,” I want to write about the desert and this foreign culture I’ve been immersed in for the past decade.
In Fracture, Sylvia Wilcox finds herself in Utah, a place that is intriguing, friendly, and mysterious. A clean wholesome mecca for families, but it’s also a haven for secretive religious zealots. While those things are true, it is possible to simply get caught up in the beauty of the place. I’m not a professional photographer, but Utah’s amazing terrain doesn’t need a professional to spruce things up. Here are a few lovely places to visit in Utah.
Places to Visit in Utah
Antelope Island is one of my favorite places to visit! It is located near Syracuse, Utah and birds from around North America nest on the island. The landscape is much different from the areas surrounding the island, because of the high salinity of the lake. While this is a beautiful place, be prepared for what locals call “no-see-ums“-biting flies, and the brining scents that rise up from the lake. It is also important to make sure that steer clear of the wildlife on the island. Do not approach bison or antelope, or any other wildlife you come across.
Bryce Canyon National Park is a must see for anyone visiting Utah. In fact, you need to find a way to visit the “Mighty Five” before you leave the state. I never get tired of staring at the red rock and exploring the wilderness. This is a photo from a solo trip I took a few years ago.
I live minutes from Ogden Canyon which is full of breathtaking trails, and I mean that both figuratively and literally. I often refer to myself as a flatlander because I grew up in Michigan-at sea level. it doesn’t take much for me to start huffing and puffing on a trail, but it’s so worth it. The Wheeler Canyon trail is especially wonderful in autumn.
Driving the Alpine Loop in another great way to see spectacular autumn colors. A pass to the area will cost you six dollars (as of 2020), but it’s good for three days, so you can spread out the awe over a couple of days.
Ensign Peak is an easy, short hike close to downtown Salt Lake City. Head up around sunset and you will be rewarded with wonderful views of the valley. This is reported to be the place that Brigham Young declared “This is the place” during the Mormon trek west. No matter what your views are, learning about the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints is synonymous with Utah history. You can’t have one without the other, so soak up all the knowledge. I guarantee you’ll be fascinated!
Utah is a religious place, but there’s more to state. If you love the outdoors, kind people, safe environments, and a fantastic economy-this IS the place! Okay, that’s just a bit about how Utah charmed me and stole me away from Michigan.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Salt Lake City
Please forgive my absence. 2020 has been quite a year so far and as I reflected on my own experiences, distraction set in. With that said, I know that writing, adding my voice, even in a fictional setting, matters. As an African-American woman living in Utah, in the United States of America, I have information to add to discussion on race and inequality in the world. Yes, the lives of African-Americans matter. That’s not a way to devalue other lives, it’s just a reminder that the lives of minorities have not always mattered, and even now certain lives don’t receive the care and consideration they deserve.
With that said, many voices are ignored. For example, I listen to a lot of podcasts about missing persons. There are a few podcasters out there that make sure they cover the broad spectrum of missing persons, but there is a need for more coverage of missing persons of color. For example, three weeks ago I heard about Terrance Woods Jr for the first time. He went missing in Orogrande, Idaho October 5, 2018. He is from Maryland and doesn’t have ties in this part of the country. I live in Utah and whenever there is an Amber Alert or missing person case in Idaho, I hear about it. This time, however, I never saw an article on about Terrance Woods Jr. He is reported to have run off into the woods. The sheriff in the area thinks he got a ride out of the area. As a black man, he would stand out in Idaho, if he caught a ride to another location, someone would have noticed him. But if no one knows he’s missing, no one is going to report seeing him. So, in an effort to make sure that we remember as many missing persons as possible, I want to do
Here are two things to look for in July 2020:
Forgotten Lives-a podcast covering missing persons of color. I started this project in 2018 but stopped because I felt like I wasn’t a good podcaster. I’ve come to the conclusion that I will not get better if I don’t keep doing it, so the podcast will return next month. Episodes will resume in July 2020.
Fracture: Book 3 In The Sylvia Wilcox Series
This time around, Sylvia and Martin take on the case of a woman who disappears on during a routine trip to the grocery store. I will post the prologue in the next few days but for now-just in case you have forgotten-here’s the cover again. Stay tuned!