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.


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.


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.


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.


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.





Braylee Parkinson-An Introduction


Who is Braylee Parkinson?? Here is a brief introduction!

Major points below, but if you want the narrative, listen to the audio above.

Hi there! This is Braylee Parkinson, author of Who She Was and Displacement.

My pen name is Braylee Parkinson.

My birth name is Melanie Watson, and I became Melanie Parkinson in 2017 when I got married.

Between December 2018 and July 2019-worked to complete Who She Was. Started the novel in 2009, so YAY!!! I finally finished it!

Worked at Red Lobster for eighteen years.

One-way train ticket to Salt Lake City in September 2010.

Warm and kind people welcomed me to Salt Lake City and I was able to start over from scratch.

Became an English Teacher-totally burnt out over time.

Met my “Prince Charming” in 2016, married in 2017.

Who She Was is my first novel and it was published in July 2019. Displacement, the second book in the series will be published in November 2019.

Stay tuned!!!

Braylee Parkinson

Displacement: A Sylvia Wilcox Mystery-Stay Tuned!!


Displacement: A Sylvia Wilcox Mystery book 2 is headed into the second round of editing! This book has taken me on such a wonderful journey that I am actually enjoying reading and re-reading the content over and over again. This book will take readers a bit into the past and explore the events that led up to Sylvia becoming a private detective. It will also reveal information surrounding Derek’s death.

As I mentioned before, The Remnant was going to be the next book in the series, but I’ve decided to release Displacement first, and follow with The Remnant in late November, or early December. The Remnant will be Sylvia’s first out of state adventure. Stay tuned!

The preorder for Displacement is up and available on various ebook platforms. The cover has drawn a lot of attention on social media, and newsletter subscribers said they enjoyed the prologue. The book will not be released until November 18, 2019. Want to read the prologue now? Sign up for the newsletter and you will get a sneak peek!


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Haven’t read Who She Was yet? It’s currently free. Download and read it before the next book hits the scene.

Displacement: A Sylvia Wilcox Mystery, Book 2- Cover Reveal!!!

I didn’t think I would have the cover for Displacement until September, but my extremely talented cover artist delivered early! Here is the cover for Displacement! Available for pre-order at Kobo, Amazon, Apple Books, and Barnes and Noble.

Displacement 001

When Sylvia Wilcox takes a leave of absence from the police force to investigate the untimely death of her husband, another mystery-the murder of several students from the local colleges grabs her attention. The murder of the young men indicates that a serial killer may be roaming the backwoods of southeastern Michigan. Amid Sylvia’s grief and search for answers surrounding the loss of her husband, she finds herself simultaneously involved in a dangerous case that threatens to reveal the college town’s dark secrets.

Blood Lines

When I heard there was a family reunion planned for this summer, I knew I had to be there. Back in the mid-1980s, my family and I embarked on this spectacular road trip that took us through several states in the Midwest and the southern United States. With my dad at the wheel, we traveled to see both sides of our family, stopped to see a few sights, and created a narrative that would forever echo in my heart. Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Arkansas are the stand out states-there could have been a few more, but this trip is the one that made me fall in love with the road.

On that trip, we went to a family reunion-the only one I can recall attending during my childhood-but those memories, fresh and eager to be remembered, were starting to wane into mythology. Was it really as pleasant as I remembered? There were times when I wasn’t sure those few days we spent in Blytheville, Arkansas, had been as sweet as the memories seemed. Other days, days when I thought, “They couldn’t have been that sweet, because I never saw most of those people again.”

My grandfather, Norman Thigpen, died last year. I was unable to make it to the funeral, and when my mom sent me an obituary in the mail, I couldn’t open it. I didn’t make it to the funeral because I was pregnant, and already planning on making a trip to Michigan for my sister’s wedding, a few months later. Sadly, Lillie Elizabeth would never take a breath.

After the loss of my daughter, I wanted nothing more than to go home. Not the home I share with my husband in North Ogden, Utah. Utah, regardless of how long I live here, will never be home. I was longing for the home that is in the bosom of my family. My parents, niece, sister, and brother-in-law came to Utah for the funeral, and it was refreshing to have them near, but they had to go back to Michigan. After they left, I needed the comfort of a familiar, familial face, and that is when I opened the envelope and took out my grandfather’s obituary.

My grandfather’s obituary was comforting, and I longed for more. I wanted to be surrounded by the laughter and joy I remembered from my childhood. But I was hesitant, and I missed the registration deadline for the family reunion. My husband kept asking for the dates so he could take time off. I hesitated and procrastinated because I didn’t know how it would be to see all those people again-my people. My family. One Saturday morning, I woke up and called my cousin Bud to ask if it was too late for me to pay for the family reunion.

The first thing that struck me about him was that he sounded like my grandfather. He had that slight hint of a southern accent, underlined with a Midwestern cadence. His voice was warm and familiar, even though I could not remember the last time we had any contact. The blood we shared, the warmth of our connection was automatically activated as if it had never been interrupted. We talked for a while, sharing details about our lives, and all of a sudden, I was SO excited for the family reunion. This is your chance, I told myself, to rekindle the family flame. It is all up to you.

When I arrived at the meeting room for the reunion, I found Bud, and he told me that my grandfather had been the glue. That he had been the one to hold the family together.

“I want you to know that we’re all here for you. Uncle Norman really held the family together. We want to know you.”

So, the legendary family reunion back in the 1980s was real. It was as beautiful as I remember it, and the next reunion will be just as sweet. I returned home with the same spirit of hope and love that I had when I made it back to Detroit after the trip to Blytheville. The difference is that I am older now, and it is entirely up to me to keep the bonds secure.

The family reunion we had in the mid-1980s is legendary. I can recall the big street party, the hot, heavy Arkansas air that somehow did not deter me from wearing long sleeve shirts and pants. The invisible strings that tied me to the multitude of people that attended-all my kin-folk. Sometimes, I wonder what it would have been like if we’d nurtured those bonds better. What if we had dived deeper into that connection of blood, shared history, and familial love? What would it have been like?

My life has been excellent. Sure, there are stumbles and falls along the way, but overall, I can’t complain. BUT…What if I had been more heavily aligned with my family? The family reunion reminded me of the one thing that I know for sure when I think of the maternal side of my family-it’s going to be fun. There is always laughter, jokes, and warmth. So when I heard that there was a family reunion, I knew I had to be there. Not just because I wanted to go, but because I needed the love and warmth that only my family could give me.

The book was already planned, and in the final stages, before we went to the family reunion. But the strength to actually publish the book, and feel great about it, came from attending the reunion. As I stood next to successful and joyous cousins, I realized that I wanted to be in that number. I wanted to take my rightful place next to the people who are doing what they love and feeling good about life.

When we returned from our trip, I sat down and wrote out my writing goals. By the time we have the next family reunion, I will be able to stand next to my successful and joyous cousins and tell my happy story of becoming an independent author.

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Becoming Braylee

Someone asked me why I chose a pen name. Well, there are several reasons. I thought it was a catchy name, the URL was available, and while I love detective fiction, I also write literary fiction-a much different genre-so I wanted to use a pen name for my detective fiction. All those things are correct, but there is one more fundamental reason.

Last November, my husband and I experienced the shock of our lives. Our baby girl, Lillie, was born too early. Unfortunately, the hospital we went to had no interest in trying to stop my labor when I arrived or delivering our baby. In fact, they thought my labor was nothing more than gastrointestinal issues and were discharging me when my water broke. After that, the nurses wheeled me into a room where I labored, without help from any medical professional, and our daughter, who was breech, died in my womb. They also didn’t think I needed help delivering the baby, so by the time the doctor arrived, the baby was halfway out-literally. The doctor was only there for the final push. My husband and I begged for help, but no one came. A doctor didn’t show up for an hour and fifty-five minutes. It was unbelievable. The whole thing seemed surreal, and I wanted answers.

The answers were horrifying because the death of our daughter was preventable. Unfortunately, there was nothing we could do the change what had happened, and the state we live in has a lower standard of care than others, so the hospital and the doctor won’t be held accountable for any wrongdoing. It was a terrible, unexpected tragedy, and there was a chance that both my husband and I were going to slip into absolute despair. But there was another choice. The other option was to make sure that Lillie’s life, and her untimely death, left our world forever changed. The death of our daughter could only be a beginning or an ending. We decided that Lillie’s birth was going to be a beginning.

I have always wanted to be a writer. I remember reading a Puff the Magic Dragon book, and falling in love with the idea that there was a story, a whole world, in the “crack in the stucco.” At that point, I knew I never wanted to leave the crack in the stucco. I wanted to live in a world of stories. Over the years, teachers, friends, and classmates praised my writing, but I doubted what they were saying. Even now, as people tell me, “Hey, your book is good,” I find the doubt threatening to emerge, but something has changed. I promised Lillie that her existence would change everything about my life, and I meant it. But after we lost Lillie, I was devastated. So, I needed someone else to step in and make it happen. That’s when Braylee arrived.

I had already chosen the pen name a week before I went into labor. At that time, I just wanted to see if writing under a pseudonym would make a difference. Would I actually finish books, get them edited and published if I was writing under a different name? I wasn’t sure, but I wanted to find out. So I pulled out a story I’d started in 2009, and began working on it. A week later, Lillie passed away.

Needless to say, I was in no state to write. Feverish from an infection, and fighting off depression, I decided to quit my job and focus on writing. To do that, I needed more than a pen name. I needed a persona, an alter-ego if you will, to come out when Melanie was unavailable, and write. When Melanie was catatonic, Braylee would sit down at the computer and complete a chapter. She took a manuscript I began working on in 2009 and decided that it was going to be done in a month. While Melanie met with lawyers, went through several rounds of antibiotics to fight an infection her OBGYN had failed to diagnose, and combed through medical records for answers, Braylee was writing 2,000 words a day.

Of course, the journey would not have been completed without the unwavering support of my husband. When he noticed that I was sitting on the couch, staring off into space, not doing anything, he would encourage me to get on the computer and write. He celebrated my decision to quit the part-time teaching job that was sucking every ounce of my mental energy, and when I started looking for an editor, he told me to find a good one, and we would make the investment. He was not only supportive, but he was also sure that I would be successful. No doubt. Not an ounce. And that was something I didn’t have. I had concerns, but the more he told me how there was no way I was going to fail, the more I started to believe that it was possible. Maybe I could do this…

Braylee had to take over at times. There were still moments, even after the manuscript went through a few rounds of edits, and others had read it, that I would have doubts. But Braylee Parkinson was publishing this book-not Melanie. Melanie was still healing, and even now, she is still going to the doctor to make sure that all of the symptoms of the undiagnosed preeclampsia she had during pregnancy are gone. So the pen name allowed me to step outside of myself and write when my mind was blank, or throbbing with the pain of the loss of my daughter. I promised Lillie that I would publish the book in July, and I’ve done that. The book is not perfect, but it is good enough, and it is only the first in a long line of books to come. So, why did I use a pen name? Because I needed one to step outside of Doubting Melanie and make my dreams come true.

Click to order: Who She Was: A Sylvia Wilcox Mystery!
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