Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for August: (8/3) Dianne Freeman (8/10) Daryl Wood Gerber (8/17) E. B. Davis's Review of Granite Oath, James M. Jackson's new novel (8/24) Rose Kerr (8/31) V. M. Burns.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

An Interview with M. E. Browning by E. B. Davis


Squint’s eyebrow shot up, and Dr. Ingerslebgen’s brows scrunched. Funny how one piece of anatomy could go in two different directions and still convey the same WTF expression.

M. E. Browning, Shadow Ridge, Kindle Loc. 3835


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.



Micki Browning, former president of the SinC Guppy chapter and retired police captain after serving twenty-two years, writes under the name M. E. Browning. Shadow Ridge, the first Jo Wyatt mystery, was released yesterday. Jo is a police detective who was recently passed over for promotion. Her successful competitor? Her husband, soon-to-be—ex.


In Shadow Ridge, Micki shows how Jo’s personal and professional relationships impact each other, and sometimes in surprising ways. As a female professional in a male-dominated field, the presumptions of her peers and superiors get in the way of doing her job, which she does extremely well, catching clues others have missed. And it’s not because she is female, it’s because of her persistence, her loyalty to the victims, and her vow to serve and protect, even when those very people tick her off and display attitude.


Shadow Ridge is a page-turner, and the first in what I think will be a very long series. Please welcome Micki Browning back to WWK.                                  E. B. Davis


I admit it. I’ve never heard of mood DVDs. They really are real? Really? What types of moods do they evoke?

They are real! Imagine reclining in your living room and basking in the snap and pop of burning wood as your television instantly becomes the fireplace you don’t have—or if you’re outdoorsy, consider a campfire.  In the doldrums of summer, you can swap fire for aquarium fish. Just want to chill? Your screen can morph into that lava lamp you threw away about five decades ago.


When I looked up RP, the acronym stood for Receive Pronunciation. Is that right? Are those who call in the crime referred to as RPs?

RP stands for reporting party. Radio transmissions should always be as brief as possible and to accomplish that, cops draw upon a whole host of acronyms. Radio 10-codes, however, are falling out of favor as agencies move towards “plainspeak” (which is exactly what it sounds like). Plainspeak reduces confusion in situations involving more than one agency as not everyone uses the same codes. Regardless, airtime is valuable.


Student Quinn is the RP. Why is she evasive with Jo?

Quinn hasn’t always been on the right side of the law. She has trust issues.


On your website, you said that Echo Valley isn’t a real town in Colorado. Have you lived somewhere similar?

I have! I lived in Durango, which is an amazing place that’s tucked in the southwest corner of the state and is the inspiration for Echo Valley. I like to joke if you erase about 50 years, halve the population, and squint, you’ll see Echo Valley.


Jo has only worked on two homicide cases in her twelve years in the force. Is Echo Valley so small that the detectives have to do their own CSI processing? Do small town detectives get training on how to do all that?

Forensics is covered in the police academy and every officer learns how to process a crime scene. How much they actually process as a patrol officer depends on the size and resources of the agency. For example, the agency I served in California had sworn CSI officers who processed crime scenes, plus two lab techs who handled the major calls and processed nearly all the agency’s evidence in their department lab. The Echo Valley Police Department fields about three officers per shift. That requires officers to be fairly self-sufficient. Officers conduct their own basic crime scene investigation—photos and fingerprinting, mostly—and depending on the crime, may not even request a detective for assistance. On more serious calls, detectives will respond. Detectives receive advanced CSI training and have additional equipment that patrol officers don’t carry. Colorado agencies can request assistance from the Colorado Bureau of Investigations for major incidents. As a state agency, it has regional offices and considerably more resources and expertise, plus it operates the state crime lab. Finally, if an agency finds itself dealing with a terrorist or plane crash, the feds will have jurisdiction and the initial local agency will assist.


Why does Jo need a search warrant? Doesn’t the scene of a crime automatically give them authority to search and process?

There are entire books written about search and seizure, so this is going to be a very down and dirty explanation. The 4th Amendment protects people from unreasonable search and seizures. At its most basic, it requires officers to get a warrant from the court before they have the authority to search. That said, there are numerous exceptions: consent searches, vehicle searches, inventory searches, and searches incident to arrest to name a few. Responding to a murder scene gives officers authority to enter the scene, render aid if appropriate, and check for additional victims or suspects. But once it’s obvious that the scene is stable, it’s time to get a warrant. When in doubt it’s always advisable to get a warrant. Without one, a defense attorney may file a motion to suppress and if the challenge prevails, the evidence may be deemed inadmissible. (The court case that covers murder scenes is Mincey v. Arizona.)


Jo’s husband, and soon-to-be ex, Cameron, got promoted to sergeant over Jo. My first thought after Squint MacAllister enters the scene is—why hasn’t he been promoted to sergeant? He was Jo’s training officer, older, more experienced than either Jo or Cameron.

Echo Valley, like most agencies, requires a person to test for a promotional position, and Squint never has. Simply put, he doesn’t want the job and he’s very happy as an investigator. For the record? He’d be a great supervisor.


Dakota Kaplan is Jo’s best friend. She means well when she tells a reporter about how Jo was passed over for promotion, the long-run, is she more of a detriment to Jo than an asset?

One of the things I wanted to do in this story was explore the complexities of relationships: marriages, parental, friendships, and

partners. Dakota meant well, but her actions crossed a line. Jo put her on notice. What happens now is up to Dakota.


Why are prison tattoos always blue?

Prison tattoos usually fall into the greenish-blue hues because of the materials used to make the ink. It is illegal to give or get a tattoo in prison, and the items used to create tattoos are considered contraband.


What does “Bogart it” mean?

It’s a slang term that means to selfishly take or keep something—especially something meant to be shared among people who know each other. 


I was amazed to find out that the whole gaming industry was steeped in sexism. Please explain the history for our readers.

The notion that gaming is an overwhelmingly male pastime isn’t true; nearly half of all gamers are female. Game designers, however, still skew overwhelmingly male. Early in the development of the industry, several gaming tropes evolved in regards to female characters. They were often cast in the role of damsel in distress, garbed in skimpy outfits, and possessed physiques that highlighted sexuality over intelligence. In comparison, women designers were more likely than their male counterparts to focus on creating games that had more cooperative storylines and characters that were more diverse in regards to ethnicity and sexual orientation. In 2014, a controversy erupted over sexism and progressiveness in the industry that resulted in an online harassment campaign targeting women gamers (and to a lesser extent, people of color and members of the LGBTQ community). The viciousness of the hate mobs prompted industry leaders to tackle online harassment, but sadly, that battle has yet to be won.


Who is Aiden? Why isn’t Jo with him?

Aiden and Jo grew up together and have an enduring bond. While they may have come close, they never took that final step to become lovers despite their love for each other. Neither wanted to risk the friendship for a different type of relationship that might not last. Fear? Probably.


How old is Quinn? She seems wise beyond her years.

Quinn has a lot of street smarts. She’s in her last year of college, but she got a late start as she dealt with putting her life back together. She’s just shy of twenty-five.


Are Australian cattle dogs used to help ranch? What is a blue Australian cattle dog?

Australian cattle dogs are medium-sized herding dogs that are tough, muscular, and smart—which makes them popular ranch dogs. They can be pretty territorial, so if you see one in the back of a truck, best walk on by…. Blue refers to the color of their coat which is a moody gray-blue.


Why did Jo agree to pin the sergeant’s badge on Cameron during the ceremony? I really hated that.

That moment was more about Jo than Cameron. She loved the man enough to marry him, and she’s going to continue to work with him on the department. Perhaps it was an olive branch—but who was extending it to whom? After all, Jo agreed to participate in the badge ceremony, but Cameron asked her first.


After the ceremony, Jo ends up choosing the cop bar to have a drink with Dakota. Why didn’t she choose a noncop shop?

There are essentially three watering holes in Echo Valley—four if you count the Elks Lodge. Cowboys drink Coors at the Hitching Post, the bikers slake their thirst at Valhalla, and the cops? They relax at Finnegan’s Irish Pub. And honestly, when one of the choices is an Irish pub, why would you go anywhere else? Or maybe that’s just the author talking.


What is sinsemilla? Is it legal in Colorado?

Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2012 for adults 21 years and older. They can sell, possess, or transport up to an ounce, but consumption still must occur behind closed doors (or specific smoking establishments). You can even have it delivered to your home. Sinsemilla describes buds without seeds—which purportedly makes the marijuana more potent.


Do firefighters often mess up evidence? Can they do better or is it the nature of their job?

Cops and firefighters have a long history of busting each other’s chops. They call us blue canaries; we call them evidence destruction teams. Dragging hoses across a crime scene and dousing it with water destroys a lot of evidence, but letting something burn to the ground isn’t that great of an option either. When prioritizing a response, safety is the primary concern, evidence will always be secondary.


What does a “Jar Jar Binks” of games mean?

Jar Jar Binks was an annoying character in the Star Wars saga. Quinn compares a character in a video game her friend designed to Binks as a way to say the character was not a fan favorite.


What does doxing, trolling, spoofing, and SWATting people mean?

Email spoofing is when the information in the From section in the header is falsified and hides the origin of the person who actually sent it. Spammers do it all the time, but so do harassers who wish to remain anonymous.


Trolling is when a person seeks to become a pest of murder-hornet magnitude. We’ve all heard of internet trolls. This is the person who hijacks a social media thread and starts by playing the role of a devil’s advocate to indicate all the ways a post is wrong, and then quickly escalates into posting racist, sexist, or threatening comments.


Doxing is the acquisition of someone else’s personal information and then making it publicly available. This includes home and email addresses, phone numbers, employment locations, credit card information, and more. It’ a way for an abuser to strip a person of their privacy and provides anyone with a grudge the ability to target the person either online or off.


Armed with doxxed information, a harasser can escalate yet again and initiate a fake emergency requiring a SWAT response. Depending on the trumped-up hoax, officers may respond expecting to be greeted by a heavily armed suspect while the unsuspecting victim is unaware of the dangerous situation unfolding all around her.


Does insulin have an aroma of Band-Aids?

Insulin smells slightly different to everyone, but the most popular description likens it to adhesive bandages, which may stem from a compound called phenol that is used to stabilize and disinfect insulin.


When did suicide become a verb as in suicided? Is that cop-speak?

In the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the entry for suicide shows the word can be used as a noun, adjective, or verb. I first encountered its usage as a verb while in policing. I was a hostage negotiator, and as such I had a lot of behavioral and mental health training. I suspect it is more commonly used as a verb in clinical and medical circles.


Tell me that in one moment of weakness, Jo slept with Cameron, not that she’s still in love with him?

You can rest easy. That ship has sailed.


What’s next for Jo?

Thank you for asking! Jo is called out to investigate a missing child, but as she digs into the fractured family life, she unearths a trove of secrets and half-lies that paints a different picture of the two parents she’s known since high school.



Jim Jackson said...

Congratulations on the successful birthing of a new series, Micki. It sounds like a winner, and I have this one on my TBR list.

Kait said...

Micky is a fabulous writer and a great friend to writers. I'm looking forward to meeting Jo Wyatt. Congratulations on the new series.

Susan said...

I read this book on Netgalley. It is amazing. She handles three points of view like a pro—lots of twists and turns.

Judy Penz Sheluk said...

Great interview and so happy to hear that things are going well in your world, Micki. I can't wait to read this one. You deserve every success and more.

Annette said...

Congratulations on the new book, Micki! It sounds fabulous and I'm buying it as soon as I click send on this comment!

I love Durango! This is the first year I haven't been able to go there since my first visit in 2013 and I miss it horribly.

Micki Browning said...

A huge thank you to E.B. Davis and all the authors at Writers Who Kill!

Jim~ Thank you! This one had a slightly longer gestation period, but I'm really happy with the result!

Kait~ The writing community is so generous and I've benefitted from the advice and assistance of so many authors who have gone before me. It's very important that I do what I can to give back, so your comment just warms my heart, thank you!

Susan ~ This story refused to be told in a single point of view. It was only when I realized all three women needed to have their say that I was able to get the story on the page!

Judy ~ Thank you! This has been such a difficult year. I'm grateful to have a creative outlet to help me keep the world and its troubles in perspective. I hope you enjoy the story!

Micki Browning said...

Thank you, Annette!

Durango is an amazing place and is especially beautiful this time of year when the fall foliage is at its brightest. I was looking forward to visiting it after the Left Coast Crime Conference in Albuquerque next spring, but sadly, that's been put on hold.

And for all the readers, if you ever find yourself in Durango, you must visit Maria's Bookstore--it is charming, well stocked, and staffed by people who know their books and can help you find the perfect read!

Debra H. Goldstein said...

I enjoyed your earlier books (remembering when I first sat at your table when you were a "New Author"), but I am really looking forward to reading this one. Even in the small excerpt at the beginning of the interview, your command of detail and how you work it into each paragraph intrigues me. Good-luck with the new series.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Congrats on your latest release! Looking forward to reading it and nice to catch up with you.

Micki Browning said...

Debra~ You just brought a smile to my face! That was my first Malice and you (and Grace) were so generous--making sure I had someone at my table! Thank you for the kind words!

Margaret~ Truly the pleasure is mine! I hope you enjoy Shadow Ridge!

KM Rockwood said...

It does sound like a real page-turner!

Thanks for sharing with us.

Micki Browning said...

Thank you, KM! It was my pleasure sharing. A huge thank you, again, to all the wonderful authors at Writers Who Kill!

Marilyn Levinson said...

A wonderful intereview! Micki, Congratulations on your new series. It sounds terrific!

Ellen Byron said...

Micki, congratulations! I am in total awe of all you've accomplished. I cannot wait until we're in the same room IRL and I can grill you about your fascinating past. Can't wait to read the new book! LOVED your Mer series.

Micki Browning said...

Thank you, Marilyn! It was a blast to write.

Ellen, I can't tell you how many times you've made me laugh--either because of your books or your emails. I'm looking forward to life returning to a point where we can catch up in person! Thank you for all your support!