Mystery We Write Blog Tour: Pat Browning, Absinthe of Malice and What's Next
In 1998 the newspaper where I worked decided a weekly book review would dress up the community page. I agreed, and went to the library to pick books for review. Those that looked most interesting were mysteries.
It was as simple as that. After reading and reviewing a few mysteries I announced that I was going to write one. I actually said, “How hard can it be?” That was more than ten years ago, the beginning of a long, hard and fascinating period of learning how to write—and re-write—a book.
My first book is titled ABSINTHE OF MALICE, but that’s its second incarnation. Originally I self-published it in 2001 as FULL CIRCLE. Writing what I knew turned out to feature a small-town newspaper reporter named Penny Mackenzie, and the setting was a fictional composite of several small towns in the Fresno, California area.
I lived in one—Hanford—for almost 50 years and apparently I got the setting right. One reviewer said, “I have rarely read a mystery with such a profound sense of place. A beautifully crafted mystery intertwined with life in a small town as it really is.” Score one for me.
But writing a book and selling it are two different things, and mine languished until 2008, when the publisher of a small, start-up press read it, liked it, and made me an offer: new title, new cover, some revisions, a contract and an advance. A couple of months later ABSINTHE OF MALICE burst upon an unsuspecting world.
In addition, my new publisher had the foresight to format it as an e-book and put it in Amazon’s Kindle Store. Cutting edge stuff three years ago, all the rage now. The book isn’t doing much as a print book but it’s doing very well as an e-book. Whatever works, I say, as I cash my royalty check.
I’m halfway through my second book, working title METAPHOR FOR MURDER. It should have been finished some time ago but life interfered. My husband died, I had surgery for breast cancer, and I moved from California to Oklahoma, my home state. All of those events hit 100 on the stress scale—bam, bam, bam—but I’m still here, and so is METAPHOR FOR MURDER.
I have a story board leaning up against a wall. I marked it off in squares for chapters and put yellow sticky notes in each square, plus magazine cutouts of models who look like my characters. I did something else right, without fully realizing it at the time. Before I left California I went around town snapping photos of places I wanted to use as models for scene settings in my second book.
All I really need to do now is put the pieces of the puzzle together, and I’m working on it. But while you’re waiting for me to finish Book #2, which takes place during a foggy week before Christmas, you really should read Book #1, which takes place on the Labor Day weekend.
Here’s the logline for ABSINTHE OF MALICE:
It’s just another Labor Day weekend in a small California town until discovery of a skeleton in a cotton field leads to murder—and romance.
And here’s the log line for METAPHOR FOR MURDER
Small town reporter Penny Mackenzie tracks an offbeat Christmas story and finds herself in the middle of a murder and the mysterious desecration of an old Chinese cemetery.
I’ll share some of my photos with you. One is a shot of Hanford’s China Alley, the inspiration for my fictional “Shanghai Street.” Another is of an old house, which I used as a model for my fictional “China John’s House.” The character of China John is a long-dead recluse who came to Shanghai Street about 1900. His presence hovers over the story and his identity is key to the book’s mystery.
Another shot is of a Hanford street during one of the Central Valley’s infamous tule fogs. Since METAPHOR FOR MURDER takes place during a week of dense fog, I only have to look at that snapshot and it all comes back to me. Another snapshot, and one I have hanging on my wall, is of Hanford’s picturesque Irwin Street Inn. I use it as a model for the residence of one of my characters, and quite a lot of action takes place in my beautiful imaginary house.
My thanks to Marilyn for letting me share some of my writings. I hope it whets a few appetites for reading my first book and my book-on-the-way. Stay tuned!
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 TravelAge 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. Slowly. Slowly.
http://patbrowning.weebly.com (under construction)
From Marilyn: Pat Browning is an old friend. She is the first reporter who ever interviewed me many eons ago when I did a book signing in the Hanford Mall with other authors. We were promoting e-books, way ahead of our time. When Pat got published, we did several book appearances together and always had a great time. I miss seeing her in person--so I'm very glad to have her visiting my blog today. Great way to celebrate the Fourth of July! Also appropriate since both of her books center around holidays.