Posts Tagged ‘murder mysteries’

May 22, 2011

Pat Browning–Success in Slow Motion

This is Pat Browning

Today I’m welcoming author Pat Browning as the first in a 12 week series of author blogs called Murder We Write 2011.  I’ve known Pat for a long time, she’s well known on the Internet and she’s a first-rate author as well as one of the most fascinating women I know.  The book we’re discussing today is her first novel, and it’s very unusual to have a first book as good as this one.  I read and reviewed it myself a while back and I LOVED it, as you will too. But first, Pat’s Bio:

Pat Browning was born and raised in Oklahoma. A longtime resident of California’s San Joaquin Valley before moving back to Oklahoma in 2005, Pat’s professional writing credits go back to the 1960s, when she was a stringer for The Fresno Bee while working full time in a Hanford law office.

She is a veteran traveler. Her globetrotting in the 1970s led her into the travel business, first as a travel agent, then as a correspondent for Travel Age West, a trade journal published in San Francisco. In the 1990s, she signed on fulltime as a newspaper reporter and columnist, first at The Selma Enterprise and then at The Hanford Sentinel.

At the Enterprise, her lifestyle coverage placed first two years in a row in the California Newspaper Publishers Association Better Newspapers Contest. She was also a co-finalist for the 1993 George F. Gruner Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism. The award was for a story she and a colleague wrote about AIDS, which was a recent phenomenon at the time. At the Sentinel, her feature story on the Japanese-American “Yankee Samurais” of World War II, placed second in the CNPA contest.

Pat’s articles on the writing life have appeared in The SouthWest Sage, the monthly journal of SouthWest Writers, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is building a new website. In the meantime she has a page at Author’s Den – www.authorsden.com/patbrowning

 

Absinthe of Malice

 

SUCCESS IN SLOW MOTION

I came late to fame. Actually I’m not famous at all, except by comparison. My mystery novel is doing well but first I had to write it. That was the hard part. As I write this I am halfway through my second mystery, after beginning it 10 years ago. So what happened? Life happened. But that’s nothing compared to my short nostalgic essay that was finally published last year. I spent more than 40 years on that one.

It’s easy to say that writers are born, not made, and there’s some truth to that. But writing, even fiction writing, is a matter of communication. If you can learn to talk, you can learn to write. Otherwise, all those high school and college English classes and online writing classes are a colossal waste of time. I’m a veteran of all of those, and they pushed me forward to where I am today.

Actually, they nudged me forward, like an ant moves a rock, but that’s what it took to keep me at the keyboard. Patience and persistence, not talent, are the first requirements of writing. I grew up assuming I would write The Great American Novel. Of course, I’m not dead yet so there’s still time, but for years I was nudged toward essays/newspaper columns/blogs that I write about looking back on my life and times.

I’ve always loved words. My mother said I learned to read by asking her about the letters on her coffee can. Her favorite brand was Folger’s so maybe I should say Folger’s Coffee taught me to read and write. Maybe, too, that’s why Lipstick Red ties with Lime Green for my favorite color. Red, when I want to stand out in a crowd. Green, when I need to relax. That’s why I loved the cover of my book ABSINTHE OF MALICE the minute I saw it. It flashes red and green, like a traffic signal: STOP. BUY. READ.

Red and green. Everything in my life is a tie. Talk about a split personality. Gemini, the zodiac sign of the Twins, was just scampering toward the horizon when I was born. Cancer was moving up big time, bringing with it a lifelong weight problem. Gemini kept me in designer shoes during my salad days. Cancer put me in walking shoes when I could no longer trust high heels.

My father called me his “talking daughter” because I just never shut up. Now you know why I’m a writer. But let’s get back to the essay that spent 40 years on the road to publication and its connection to my first mystery.

In the 1960s, as a stringer for The Fresno Bee, I met and interviewed Dorothy Baker. She was well-known in academic and literary circles, but her claim to popular fame rested on her novel YOUNG MAN WITH A HORN. It was a based on the life of famed coronetist Bix Biederbecke, who shot across the 1920s jazz scene like a comet and died in 1931 at the age of 28.

I mentioned to Ms. Baker that I had started writing a book but couldn’t get past Chapter One. She said, “Don’t worry about it. If you have something to say, you’ll say it.”

My Chapter One was a recreation of the old-time Southern Baptist church services of my growing-up years in Oklahoma. I meant to use it in a novel I would call SWEETER DAY, a title inspired by my memory of country preachers who promised a sweet life in Heaven, and a neighbor who talked constantly about going to California, where every yard had a tree decorated with big juicy oranges.

I spent the next 40 years looking for a place to use it. Every few years I dragged it out of my filing cabinet and rewrote it. In 1999 I tried to slip it into my working manuscript of FULL CIRCLE. I thought it was so clever, turning that old memoir into a chapter where a character dredges up her memories for an adult writing class. The chapter stuck out like a sore thumb, so I took it out of the manuscript and filed it away again.

In 2007 I was scrolling through My Documents and there was the old memoir. I retitled it “White Petunias,” rewrote it and entered it in the Nostalgia category of a contest sponsored Panhandle Professional Writers in Amarillo, Texas. It won second place and $50.

Sometimes a piece of writing is like an old house — all it needs is a fresh coat of paint. A year later I completely rewrote “White Petunias” and submitted it to the Red Dirt Book Festival Committee. In the winter of 2009 my memoir appeared in the RED DIRT BOOK FESTIVAL ANTHOLOGY, OKLAHOMA CHARACTER.

I’m satisfied with the final version and happy to see it finally in print. It’s nothing earth-shattering. It’s simply about a summer night in 1939 on the eve of World War II, before the world changed forever. If you are curious, you can read it on my personal blog, Morning’s At Noon: http://tinyurl.com/2ga6hbm .

What I started so long ago finally became a mystery novel, although it bears no resemblance to the story I began with. My mystery novel is set in California’s San Joaquin Valley, modeled after several small towns near Fresno, and features a reporter on a one-horse newspaper. Discovery of an old skeleton in a cotton field leads to revelation of long-buried secrets, murder—and romance.

I finished FULL CIRCLE in 2001 and self-published it through the new print-on-demand company iUniverse. I had some fun with it. I ran up and down the San Joaquin Valley making talks and selling the books I lugged with me. Mostly, though, FULL CIRCLE just sat on Amazon.com looking lonely.

In 2008 the publisher of a new small press read the book, liked it, made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. He changed the cover, changed the title to ABSINTHE OF MALICE, and asked me to make a couple of revisions. Getting that book into print was a trip and it all happened so fast I had barely stopped laughing before I had a brand new book.

Unless you are one of the famous few whose royalties number in the millions, it may take a while for your book to find its audience. About a year after publication of ABSINTHE OF MALICE the Kindle edition suddenly took off like a house afire. Oh, boy. Oh, joy.

I keep quoting The Grateful Dead: “What a long strange trip it’s been.” Another quote I bear in mind comes from mystery author and teacher, Carolyn Wheat. When I first began writing FULL CIRCLE, now ABSINTHE, I sent her my first three chapters to critique. She drew blue lines through almost every page. I got lots of good advice from her and she always ended her e-mails by saying, “Don’t forget to have fun with it.” It’s worth remembering. There may be times when that’s all you get out of it.

But the best quote for a struggling writer or any other artist is by the late Elizabeth Taylor. Her quote from the London Guardian comes via The Week of April 8, 2011: “Success is a great deodorant. It takes away all your past smells.”

So how about it? Let’s have a drawing for a print copy of ABSINTHE OF MALICE. No contest, just a names-in-the-hat drawing. Leave a comment here and if you want to enter the drawing, mention that. Be sure we have a way to contact you in case you win. Also, if by some miracle my sequel (working title METAPHOR FOR MURDER) is ready, I’ll include an ARC or finished print copy of that, too.

There are extensive excerpts from ABSINTHE OF MALICE at Google Books, http://tinyurl.com/23pojdm .  Thanks for listening, and thanks to Beth for letting me sound off.

Pat Browning

http://patbrowning.weebly.com (under construction)

http://authorsden.com/patbrowning

http://pbrowning.blogspot.com/

See what I mean, folks?  She really is a fascinating person, a great writer.  It’s a pleasure to showcase her here on my blog.  Thank you so much, Pat!

This week I’ll be featured in the first of my 12 spots in MURDER WE WRITE 2011 at Anne K. Albert’s blog – http://www.anne-k-albert.blogspot.com .  Come on over to Anne’s blog and see me after you’ve finished looking up more on Pat Browning, and you should because she’s an author heading for the top.

Bye for now, see you soon, and come back later on toward the end of this week when I’ll be telling y’all what all is going on with my book.  I’ll leave the porch light on for ya!

Love y’all, you know I do!  Beth Anderson, sometimes known as Hotclue. 😉

The Writing World | 29 Comments  

Books

Newsletter

Feeds

Search

Categories

Archives

Copyright © 2006-2022 Beth Anderson. All Rights Reserved.
Web Design and Hosting by Swank Web Design | Powered by Wordpress | Log in