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Five Things You Need to Know About Utah

Sylvia Wilcox is hitting the road in Fracture! A missing persons case leads Sylvia to the Utah, a state that has recently become a destination for those looking for a fresh start, the best snow on earth, or a safe, comfortable neighborhood full of friendly faces.

I moved to Utah in 2010 because the economy was strong, and Michigan’s economy had been in dire straits for years. The best part of my story about relocating across country is that I never planned to stay. I mean, think about it. Utah. Who lives there? It seemed like a strange  Well, it turns out that my decision to remain in Utah might not have been so strange. As I look around the state, I see people pouring into the Salt Lake Valley from around the country. Before you move to the Beehive State, here are five things you should know.

Today, I’m going to go through five things people should know before they move to Utah.

5. It’s Not As Religious As It Used To Be, But It’s still Pretty Religious

In the 1840s, Mormon pioneers made the trek across the the country to Utah. While several Native American tribes, fur trappers, and the occasional Catholic priest were already traversing the area, the Mormons moved in and made the place a state. It took over fifty years for statehood to be established due to the faith’s practice of polygamy. But, there have always been people in Utah that are other religions, or don’t have a faith at all. With that said, in 2020, Utah is the “most religiously homogenous state” in the country. Recent statistics show that the population of active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is declining, especially in the state’s largest county. Even so, 60.68% of the state is on the rolls at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints(Salt Lake Tribune). But this number is deceptive. Non-practicing members of the LDS church are counted as members, even if they haven’t attended church in decades. In order to not be counted, members have to ask to have their names removed from church records. This is a bit cumbersome and can cause trouble with family members and friends, so many inactive and non-believing members leave their names on the roll. In reality, I’d say the number of active members falls below 50%, but that’s just a guess.

Even with the decline of active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Utah is still largely Mormon. Some areas are more heavily populated with Mormons, and while those will still be decent areas to live,  communities that are overwhelming Mormon will be difficult places to live for non-Mormons. People will probably speak to you and occasionally make small talk, but it will be very hard to make lasting connections unless you join the LDS church.

So, where is the best place to move in the state? Salt Lake County is going to be the best place for transplant, non-LDS people that move to Utah. Utah County is arguably going to be worst place for a non-LDS transplant, but there are also a few rural counties that are isolated, have poor job prospects and high suicide rates. In northern and central Utah you will find what some call Jack Mormons, people who have some belief in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but do not adhere to the Word of Wisdom-which forbids alcohol, coffee, and for some, tea. You will also find transplants that have moved to Utah for the mountains and trails, and many of them are not part of the dominant faith, so no matter where you move, as long as it isn’t a ranch in the middle of nowhere, or on the edge of the desert, you should be able to make friends.

4. People Are Friendly, But It’s Hard To Make Friends

Utah is one of the friendliest places I’ve ever been, but building lasting friendships is hard. The one exception to this rule is if you have a ready-made community waiting for you. For example, if you’re into Crossfit, you love to hike, have a religion, or already know people, you’ll be fine. But if you’re moving in for a job opportunity, and you don’t know anyone, be prepared for a little isolation.

The good news is that most of the people you encounter are going to be nice and happy to make your acquaintance. Smiles and friendly nods will greet you on the streets of Salt Lake City, and a few people will make small talk, but that might be all it is. The best way to make friends is to have a thing. Any thing that you like to do. Strike up conversations over coffee, or during walks through Liberty Park, and make as many connections as you can because there is a good chance that most of them aren’t going to turn into close friendships.

3. Utah’s Government Is A Bit Controlling…But Only On Specific Issues

When I moved to Utah I thought the government would be a small dot in the rearview mirror of my car. Uber republican state means less government, right? Well, that’s true for some issues. For example, if you want to homeschool your child, Utah takes a very hands-off approach that allows parents to have complete autonomy when it comes to educating their children. Also, guns are readily available for anyone to buy and open carry is legal for anyone 18 and up, but if you want a bottle of wine…Well, you can only get that from a state run liquor store. Pornography websites might have a warning label on them by the time you get here, but that hasn’t become an official law just yet. Polygamy will probably be an infraction, something akin to a traffic ticket, after the currently legislative session, but that is where the freedom ends. Provo, where Brigham Young University is located, recently voted to allow brewpubs in the city. This is the first time Provo, Utah has allowed beer to be brewed in its downtown since Prohibition, but there is currently a referendum underway to overturn this law. As a new resident of Utah, you can expect what most would call social issues to be heavily legislated.

2. The Economy-Jobs EVERYWHERE!

Jobs are plentiful in Utah.  If you want to find a job, you’ll probably be able to find one within a week of starting your search. Salaries are historically low in Utah, but you can always find a job. Now it might not be the job you want, and you might need two or three jobs if you want to buy a house, but you’ll be able to find employment.

Some of the major employers might have decent salaries are eBay, Amazon, and Adobe. There is a section of the state called Silicon Slopes, and that is where you will find tech companies that pay well and have good benefits. Hill Air Force Base is another great place to work in Utah because the salaries are not based on the state’s low pay rates. Instead, you will enjoy salaries based on the cost of living set by the federal government.

4. Safe and Comfortable Neighborhoods…But It’s Going to Cost 

Utah is a great place to live, but the price of housing in some areas may cause a bit of stress. No, in order to move into an affordable area, you will have to be open to living away from the best place, in terms of building your social life, in the state. Salt Lake City is the best place to live in the Salt Lake Valley, and I absolutely loved being in the city, but over time, the price tag was too much. I live in the hip and happy 9th and 9th neighborhood where I was paying 850 for rent in 2012, and that’s before utilities and a required media package. When the rent was raised to 910, I decided it was time to move. Eventually, I was priced out of the market and moved to West Jordan.  And that was in 2012.

If you’re interested in living in Salt Lake City, you will probably end up paying about 1500 in rent. If you want to buy a house…All I can say is that you better bring a hunk of cash with you. My advice, bite the bullet and move north. Not to Davis County, but Weber County. You could move to one of the small cities in the Ogden-Clearfield area and find a place that costs a bit less. Utah County is also going to be cheaper than Salt Lake County, but remember, Utah County is uber religious, so if you’re not into that, choose another county.

1. Downtown SLC, Historic 25th Street in Ogden, and Everything In-between

Historic 25th Street is a wonderful place to visit if you make your way to Ogden. It’s a great place to swing by after a visit to Antelope Island, but there isn’t much to see in the city, which is more of a town for me. There are plenty of restaurants and little shops to stop by while you’re in town, and classical turn of the century homes you can stroll through.

Downtown SLC is a world class city that contains plenty of things to see and do. Visit Temple Square and take a tour of the tabernacle.  After that, you can spend some time in at City Creek Mall, a massive luxury shopping center full of eateries and top notch stores where you can buy a souvenir for family members back home.

One of my favorite things about liing in

Utah has nice cities but, it is nature that people come to visit. Moab, Canyonlands National Park, Zion National Park, really you need to visit all the national parks, and as many of the state parks, but there are also just beautiful natural areas in your backyard you must visit.

Stay tune for Fracture, the third book in the Sylvia Wilcox series. You will be able to purchase the book on my website in April and other platforms, such as Amazon, Kobo, Apple, and other book publishing platforms as well.

Resources

A Brief History of Fry Sauce, Utah’s Favorite Condiment

https://www.eater.com/2016/8/6/12054512/fry-sauce-ketchup-mayo-utah-condiment

Explaining Polygamy and It’s History of the Mormon Church

https://theconversation.com/explaining-polygamy-and-its-history-in-the-mormon-church-81384

10 Things To Know About Utah

https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/articles/2019-01-04/10-things-to-know-about-utah

Like many U.S. cities, Salt Lake finds it ‘can’t build way out’ of affordable housing shortage

https://www.deseret.com/utah/2019/9/22/20870741/utah-salt-lake-apartment-rent-prices

National Park Service

https://www.nps.gov/zion/index.htm

Discover Moab

https://www.discovermoab.com/

 

 

 

 

 

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Fracture: How Fundamentalism Causes Us To Ignore Logic

Hello everyone! Today is January 17, 2020 and I am recording a brief update on Fracture, my current fiction project. It’s cold and snowy here today which makes it the perfect day to sit down and reflect a bit on what I’ve been writing. As mentioned before, I have decided to change the name of the next book in the Sylvia Wilcox series to Fracture and the change of the title has helped spur some new ideas, which is great. Along with those new ideas, I’ve spent some time thinking about some of the underlying themes of the book.

The idea that there is one singular Truth is dangerous. Humanity has had varied experiences throughout existence and every culture has its stories, myths, and histories that shape the way they live. When we come to the conclusion that we have the Truth about something, and feel that we don’t need to hear other opinions or stories of different experiences, we become fundamentalists. And when we become fundamentalists, we lose sight of logic. During the course of writing this novel, I’ve done a some research into the fundamentalism of different groups.  Some of those groups are religious, others are political, and still others start off as social groups. I was searching for more information on groups that isolate from the rest of the world, and have insulated themselves with the idea that leaving the group will bring about social rejection or damnation. Secular groups employ similar tactics as religious groups, but the losses might not be as severe as losing salvation. Instead, distancing one’s self from a secular group may mean the loss of money, power, and social connections. Here’s an example: Anyone can run for political office, but the higher the office, the less chance they have of being elected unless they align themselves with a specific political party. Once elected, the person may feel like they can’t truly govern if they are beholden to the party, but leaving the party usually means their political career is over. But the stakes are higher when a person is tightly weaved into a belief system that requires complete and total dedication, and discourages questions.

Faith And Truth Are NOT The Same

Religion is related to philosophy, and the idea that one religion is more true than another is a foreign concept to me. Not to mention, if you “know” that something is true, you don’t need faith to believe it. More importantly, how do you know something is true? Because someone told you? Because your grandma tells faith promoting stories about your family during the holidays? None of theses things can be proven to be absolute truths.

That brings me to Fracture. I live in Utah and I must admit, this place is incredibly fascinating and foreign to my senses. My parents never pushed religion on me, but we did go to a Methodist Church on Sundays, and I attended parochial school. I never thought the other faiths were less true than mine. In fact, I wanted to learn about other traditions, and I’ve been to a mosque, Jewish temple, Buddhist temple, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the majority of Protestant churches, and a couple of different branches of Orthodox churches. I never thought one or another was “true” or “false” or anything along those lines. Instead, I thought, it’s wonderful that the diversity of humanity is represented by all these different faith traditions, and the plethora of traditions made sense to me because humans are so diverse. We’re all just trying to understand why we’re here, why we exist, and what we should be doing with ourselves. So, I’ve always been comfortable with faiths that were completely different from my own. I mean, everyone must find their own path, right? Well, in 2010 when I moved to Utah, I encountered people who were absolutely sure that they had the truth. I mean, absolutely sure-truth with a capital T. Now, most of the people I know that are in the Mormon Church do not flaunt this ideology much, but that attitude is weaved into the culture. And for some, those who might have a touch of narcissism, may take the ideology to another level. Most will just be arrogant, but what happens when one of the “chosen one” decides that they are a little more chosen than the rest of the people in their faith? What happens when someone becomes more and more chosen, and they become a self proclaimed prophet? This is where fundamentalism comes into play.

Fracture is about a woman who is searching for truth. She takes a look at her life and starts to wonder if she indeed has the absolute, bonafide truth about everything. At this point I’m sure you are scratching your head and thinking, “How can anyone have the truth about everything?” The answer to that question is at the heart of the third book of Sylvia Wilcox series.

 

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Happy New Year!


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2020 is upon us! I LOVE New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day because they provide transition from one year to the next. This year is also special because it is the beginning of a new decade, and the last decade was phenomenal for me, I am elated to discover what the next ten years has in store for me.

A New Decade (Well, Kind Of…)

Okay, so I know that technically the new decade doesn’t start until 2021, and 2011 is when the last decade began. BUT, that’s not how my brain works. It likes even number and for me, the decade started today, January 1, 2020.

Yesterday, I took some time to reflect on December 31, 2009. I remember it vividly because it was the last New Year’s Eve spent in Michigan. I had a sinus infection the week of Christmas, and I was still feeling sick on New Year’s Eve. In addition to being physically sick, I felt like my life was stagnant. I was living in Ypsilanti, Michigan, tucked away in an apartment my friend owned, and my career prospects were dismal. After completing six years of college, and earning two degrees, I was working a part-time job and picking up other part-time jobs when possible, because the economy in Michigan had slowed to a standstill. Of course, I would have gladly taken a full-time job, but the endless applications I submitted never resulted in a job with sustainable income. In 2009, I’d contemplating moving to a new state, but I was nervous about leaving everything and everyone I knew behind. That night, something shifted in my life.

I got off work around nine that evening and headed home. I declined a friend’s invitation to ring in the New Year at his place, and spent the evening I read the last chapters of my 80,000-word literary fiction novel. My heart was heavy as I ran through the usual questions and self-doubt. Was my book good enough to publish? Would anyone want to read it? I was terrified to find out the answers to those questions.

At midnight that evening, I had a cup of tea and contemplated my life. What was I doing? Where was my life going? While those questions swirled around in my head, I realized that I didn’t have any answers. Sad and confused I muttered to myself, “Do something big in 2010.”

I needed to shake things up and that’s exactly what I did. In September of 2010, I bought a one-way train ticket to Salt Lake City, Utah. My goal was to head to the mountains and spend time writing and querying agents, to see if I could get my book picked up by a publishing company. I didn’t set a time limit or the rest of the itinerary because I had no idea what I should do next. It helped that I had a good friend that lived in Salt Lake City. He said I was more than welcome to crash with him if I wanted to come and check the place out. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that there were opportunities in Utah that simply weren’t present in Michigan. So, I decided to rebuild my life from scratch in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Looking back on the past ten years, the person I was on New Year’s Day 2010, couldn’t have ever imagined the person that woke up this morning, New Year’s Day, 2020. During the last decade, I’ve taken two solo cross-country road trips, met the man of my dreams and got married, moved to a new state, wrote and published three books (two in 2019), got back in touch with spirituality and faith, and moved deeper into the Mormon Mecca that is Utah. Those are just some of the highlights. There were many more, as well as low times that caused me to question where I was going in life, but all in all, it was a fantastic decade.
My goal is to do something big this year, just as it was in 2010. What is that thing? I don’t rightfully know at this moment, but I’m open to big, life shifting changes.

So, that’s how I’m starting 2020. The Success Principles audiobook by Jack Canfield is playing in the background as I write this, and I am ready for a positive and prosperous year. How are you feeling on this first day of 2020? What goals have you set for the year? Drop me a line and let me know what you have in store for 2020!

The Writing Life

The title of the next book in the Sylvia Wilcox series had been changed from Remnant to Fracture. Why? Well, it turns out that there is a splinter group of the LDS church that is called the “Remnant”. Since Fracture does have a Mormon splinter group, I don’t want anyone to think I am referring to the actual group that exists. Fracture is fiction and I don’t want anyone to think otherwise, so I’m changing the name. Also, there are a few other books with that title Remnant, so I think it is best to just change the title of the book.

Stay tuned for the prologue of Fracture! A sneak peek of the novel will be available later this month. If you haven’t signed up for my newsletter, please do so. Newsletter subscribers get goodies and information before anyone else.

Hope January 1, 2020 was a wonderful day for you!

Cheers!

Braylee Parkinson

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Mistakes Were Made

Have you ever looked back on something you’ve done-perhaps you took a risk, and thought, “I could have done that better?” Releasing my latest novel, Displacement, is one of those things. I wish, I wish, I wish… BUT, instead of dwelling in the past, I’ve decided to learn from my mistakes and make sure that the release of Remnant is much better.

A kind reader has pointed out some issues with the digital copy of Displacement she received. I can’t thank her enough for relaying this information! I probably shouldn’t have tried to publish the book during one of the busiest times of the year, but I was very excited about the story and wanted to get it out. With that in mind, I want to replace copies of the book readers already have on their Kindles. Also, I am adding an epilogue to the end of the novel that gives more information on what happened to Derek. If you would like to receive a new copy, (which includes bonus content!), click on the link below and add your email. It will be a one-time email with a copy of the book, NOT a sign up for my newsletter. You won’t receive any other emails from me (unless you sign up for the newsletter).  You can expect a fresh new copy of Displacement, along with the epilogue in your inbox before Christmas. Simply click the link below.

Send me my new copy of Displacement!

Advanced Reader Team

Would you like to receive Remnant, the next installment in the Sylvia Wilcox series, before it is released? Join the Advanced Reader Team and you will receive a free copy of my next novel in exchange for an honest review. Nothing is more important to a writer than a fair and honest review! Since you have already taken the plunge into Sylvia Wilcox’s world, I figure, why not let you have a sneak peek before everyone else??

Advanced Reader Team Sign-Up

Next Release: Remnant

Remnant will be Sylvia Wilcox’s first missing person case. Over the years, she’s avoided missing person cases because of the abduction of her brother, Simon. But this case is different because the missing woman doesn’t seem to truly be missing.

I am currently working on Remnant and while I plan to finish it before the end of the year, it won’t be released until 2020. I will share the prologue some time in the next few weeks. With that said, if you signed up to be on the Advanced Reader Team, you’ll be able to read Remnant before it is officially released.

Stay tuned for the cover reveal!

Cheers!

 

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Mysteries That Will Keep You Up At Night!

Hello Readers,

December is upon us and while I love this time of year, I always find myself a little burnt from the endless social events, shopping, cooking, and creating merriment. After a long day of participating in non-introvert activities, all I want to do is get lost in a good story. Mysteries, as you may have noticed, are my thing.

I have teamed up with a few fellow mystery writers for a free promotion. There is nothing like a good mystery to get my heart racing, so I too have loaded my Kindle with books from these great authors. There are fifty-three authors (minus myself) to choose from. Click the link below to find your next favorite mystery now!

https://books.bookfunnel.com/mysteryforchristmas/tyc7u03dkm

Cheers!

Braylee

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Displacement Has Arrived!

Hello Readers! Displacement is finally complete! This book took me places I didn’t think I wanted to go, but I let the characters take the wheel and guide me through the process. I am absolutely exhausted, but Remnant, the next book in the series is already in the works. I have about 50,000 words completed and my goal is to have the book complete in the next month. Stay tuned for more! In the meantime, check out Displacement.

Displacement

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Enjoy Writers From Around The World!

Hello Friends!

I’ve been working diligently on edits for Displacement. The good news is that the novel will be live within the next few weeks! I also may have a surprise coming before the end of the year. Stay tuned!

In the meanwhile, why not dive into the fiction from authors around the world! Who She Was has been included in a promotion with 21 other best selling books. Looking for a good read or two? Check out the following link and discover multi-cultural literature that takes places in cultures around the world.

World Literature

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Sylvia Wilcox Series: Ypsilanti, Michigan

This is a short audio click about the town where Sylvia Wilcox lives, and why I chose to that town as the setting for the first two novels in the Sylvia Wilcox series. The audio is not super polished, but here’s the thing…If I don’t put it out now, I probably won’t put it out. This will get better as I go along. The transcript is below but it is not an exact copy. Transcription will be completed for the longer episodes.

Cheers!

Braylee Parkinson

Storytime is a short, relaxing stroll through memories from author Braylee Parkinson’s life, the lives of others, or the world of her characters. Everything is a story. There’s the story of your day, the story of the first time you met your beloved, the first time you drove a car, and the first time you lost someone you loved. Stories are used for entertainment and education. What we’ll do in these short sessions may be one or both.

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Let’s get on with the show.

Today we are going to talk about the town where Sylvia Wilcox, the main character of my mystery series lives. Ypsilanti, Michigan, which is a small city in southeastern Michigan. There are around 21,000 give or take, residents, and it is about 30 miles from downtown Detroit. If you were to hop on Interstate 94, you could probably get there in about 25 minutes. It is also about 10 minutes from Ann Arbor, and there are several other small townships and cities in the area. In the past, Ypsilanti was surrounded by fields of crops, and unpaved roads were plentiful. Things have changed over the past twenty years, but there is still a hint of rural living in the area.

Ypsilanti is named after Demetrios Ypsilantis, who was a hero in the Greek War for independence. I lived in Ypsilanti from 2001 to 2010. Eastern Michigan University is located there, and that is where I completed my graduate studies. One of the reasons I went to EMU is because my eighth-grade teacher took our class there for a weekend, so that we could experience college life. She is one of the most influential teachers I’ve had in my life, and that experience really endeared me to Ypsilanti and EMU.

It was a very special trip. We got to stay in a dorm room with two students, and my good friend Tanya was in that room as well, so we got to experience dorm life together, which was great because we’ve known each other since first grade, and were very close at the time. I’ll never forget that trip because we got to do all these fun things that you can do on a college campus. So, when I graduated from the University of Detroit Mercy, the economy was not good in Michigan, and I decided to go to graduate school. I decided to go to EMU, and that is how I ended up in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Surprisingly, I ended up loving Ypsi. I fell in love with the quaintness of the town. Historic marker houses, small businesses running up and down Michigan Avenue and friendly neighbors-I just loved it. Some of the historic marker homes have been turned into frat houses or multi-room housing, but you can’t really tell that when you walk down the street, so there is a certain quaintness to a stroll in Ypsilanti.

The first place I lived in Ypsi was this old boarding house. My friends called it the Freddy Kruger house, and it had this terrifying bad wallpaper from the 1970s, and there were about six other people that lived there. We shared the kitchen and the bathroom, which was not great. It was interesting, but I loved walking around the city, it has a small-town feel. Riverside Park and Frog Island Parks are right off of Michigan Avenue, and the Huron River runs through the parks, so I would walk down there and sit by the water and write, and it was wonderful. It was just really a nice place to be. There’s kind of like a southern swagger there, which makes sense because a lot of people migrated to the area from the south because there were high paying jobs that didn’t require a high school diploma. This is true for a good chunk of lower Michigan. Henry Ford paid a wage that southerners couldn’t find in their areas, so they moved north. Of course, there were other factors as well, but that is one of the major reasons many people from the south came north.

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I ended up moving because I couldn’t find any full-time employment there. So, I moved to Utah. Ypsilanti holds a special place in my heart. I dealt with some demons from my past; I grew up, I became the person who was strong enough just to turn her back and say a prayer, selling everything, and buy a one-way train ticket to Ypsilanti. So, I am very thankful for the experiences I had in Ypsilanti because I think if I’d stayed closer to my family and friends, I might not have evolved into the person I am today. They weren’t that far, but the aloneness of living in Ypsi taught me to reach for other forms of development, such as meditating, doing yoga, and figuring out my life, and I have to credit Ypsi with the person I am today, because I couldn’t have grown the way I did without it so, I choose Ypsilanti for the setting for my story because I was living there when I started the story, but also because I have a connection with the place.

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At the time I started Who She Was, I was also writing a literary fiction novel that took place in Michigan and Ontario, Canada, but something was missing. There was this disconnect, and initially, I couldn’t figure out why, but eventually, I realized that I wasn’t in those places I was writing about, and I needed to write about the places where I was at. I was so connected to Ypsilanti, and that is why I started to think about writing about the town where I lived. That was when I started thinking, “I’ll write a detective story that takes place in Ypsi. So, I started thinking about the characters and plot, and all that good stuff. At that time, I was living in a ground apartment in a complex where a series of break-ins and rapes took place. And that was the first time I’d felt like Ypsi might be a dangerous place. Of course, all places have their dark sides, but I started to think about how I could use the events in my story. Then, a strange and disturbing crime took place in Superior Township, My apartment was on the edge of Ypsi, close to where the crime took place. That was when I started to think,”What if this turns into something more sinister?” It didn’t, but my imagination was already running wild.

Displacement is the story that I started writing, but I switched to Who She Was because I was stuck and couldn’t get Displacement into the order I wanted. I also was having trouble with the literary fiction novel, so I gave myself over to Who She Was. I spent time wandering around Ypsilanti, soaking in all the place had to offer. Even though it was 2009, I had no plans of moving away at that point. Little did I know, but I would be on a train to my new home in less than a year from that time.

I still miss Ypsilanti. There is not a day that I don’t close my eyes and remember those leisurely walks down to the Huron River. The sound of the rushing water soothing my soul, and that special aloneness that made me strong. I live in Utah, and it’s beautiful here, but it doesn’t have anything on my home place. I love Michigan, and miss it every day, so I am so excited that Sylvia allows me to accompany her through the streets of Ypsilanti.