PAT BROWNING

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 globe-trotting 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 inSan 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.

Her first mystery, FULL CIRCLE, was set in a fictional version of Hanford, and published through iUniverse in 2001. It was revised and reissued as ABSINTHE 0F MALICE by Krill Press in 2008. An extensive excerpt can be read at Google Books — 

 http://tinyurl.com/23pojdm.

 The second book in the series, METAPHOR FOR MURDER, is a work in progress.

 WHITE PETUNIAS, Pat’s nostalgic essay about growing up in Oklahoma, appeared last winter in the RED DIRT BOOK FESTIVAL ANTHOLOGY. An earlier version won second place in its category in Frontiers in Writing 2007, sponsored by Panhandle Professional Writers, Amarillo, Texas. WHITE PETUNIAS can be read on her blog, Morning’s At Noon – http://pbrowning.blogspot.com/2009_04_01_archive.html.

 When you click on the URL, the first thing to appear is Pat’s review of the late Kirk Bjornsgaard’s novel, CONFESSIONS OF A FORMER ROCK QUEEN. Take a minute to read it. This stunning novel revisits the 1960s in the beguiling story of a young farm girl who wants more than anything to get out of Oklahoma and make it big in the New York music world. WHITE PETUNIAS follows, so scroll on down.

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 trying to find time to build a new website. In the meantime she has a page at Author’s Den – www.authorsden.com/patbrowning.

***

THE INTERVIEW!!!

HOW HARD CAN IT BE?

About me: I was a reporter, feature writer, columnist, and sometimes all three, part time, full time, off and on for about 40 years. I miss it. It kept me involved with interesting people — and everyone is interesting. You just have to ask the right questions. I’m still fascinated by the way people decide to trust you and then just open up their mouths and tell you the most incredible stories.

I’ve done some news features in the past few years, mostly as favors — not that I would have turned down money. The conversation usually went, “We’d love to have you write (fill in the blank) but we can’t pay you anything.” I was never surprised. Small-town newspapers are notoriously poor and/or stingy. But I love ’em, I really do. As with the Eye of God, not a sparrow falls without their knowing it. I could never have set my first mystery anywhere else except in a very small town, with a middle-aged reporter as the protagonist. All those secrets to ferret out – so lovely!

How hard can it be? That’s what I said when I decided to write a murder mystery. File it under “Famous Last Words.” Here’s my inspirational story — inspirational in that it may inspire someone to take up another line of work.

Seriously, it’s been the experience of a lifetime. I wouldn’t trade it for a bucket of gold dust. Here’s how it all began.

Like half the people on the planet, I grew up planning to write a novel “someday.” That day arrived almost accidentally, except that I don’t believe in accidents.

I was working for The Hanford (California) Sentinel, and the managing editor suggested that I write a book column. I went to the library and walked along the shelves pulling out books that looked interesting. Most of them turned out to be mysteries. After a few weeks I decided to write my own. I actually said, “How hard can it be?”

That was about 1995, and five years later I could have written a book on just how hard it is. Through it all I was taking online writing classes, asking questions in chat rooms, lurking on listservs, trying to learn everything I could in the shortest possible time.

FULL CIRCLE, my first mystery, has had as many lives as a cat, with different titles, different characters, different plots and subplots. I think I ended up with nine or ten “final drafts,” each time thinking that I finally got it right. Eventually I had to say, “Stick a fork in it, it’s done.”

I spent about a year writing a few query letters and talking to a couple of agents and editors, but I’m too long in the tooth to spare that kind of time. I had been checking out the new print-on-demand technology via the Internet, and iUniverse seemed to be the best game in town. Not only that, I could publish for $99. It was quick, and I liked the idea of total control over my book.

I found Ariana Overton on the Internet, and she designed a beautiful cover for $100. I own it. Best $100 I ever spent. So, I formatted and uploaded my book about July of 2001, and by the end of August the finished product was in my hands.

A major factor in my decision to go that route was my husband’s health. I had given up the newspaper job to be at home with him. So there I was, sitting at the computer for hours at a time, days on end. He was patient, interested, supportive. He kept saying, “When are you going to let me read that book?” Once I decided I’d taken it as far as I could, I let him read the manuscript, and then I contacted iUniverse.

He was so proud of that book that he told everybody he met about it. I don’t know whether he generated any sales, but it gave him such a kick to talk about it. I never regretted publishing it myself. It was a gift to both of us.

Even after it was published I couldn’t tell people what it was about because I honestly didn’t know. But after I heard enough questions and did enough presentations to figure out what I had written — well, here’s the log line: “Discovery of a skeleton in a cotton field leads to murder – and romance.” Someone, and I’ve forgotten who, called it “a study in small-town secrets.” I like that.

I had a good start on my second book when my husband died and everything just stopped. It’s such a long, long story. Maybe several long, long stories, fodder for a book or two. It’s a terrible experience to sit in a hospital room and watch someone you love slip away from you, and know there is nothing you can do to hold them here. I’ve done that twice, and the second time was worse than the first. You’d think you’d get used to it. You don’t. Another piece of your heart breaks. You can fall on the floor, or you can get up and go home.

As if that weren’t enough I was diagnosed with breast cancer, had a lumpectomy and went through six weeks of radiation. With no children and no family left in California, I decided to come “home” to Oklahoma, where I have sisters and a brother and many nieces and nephews.

The move would have killed me if I weren’t part mule. I left everything I owned, not to mention almost 50 years of my life, in California. I was so exhausted, physically as well as emotionally, that I walked with a cane my first two weeks here. I was like some old crone straggling out of a cave, leaning on her cane, blinking in the light.

It’s now six years later – six years of cultural (and financial) adjustment and learning to live alone (I hate it) — and I still haven’t finished that second book. The good news is that I have picked it up again. Working title: METAPHOR FOR MURDER.

Even better news is that the original book and I are both coping with a ninth life. Krill Press, a small, new press picked up FULL CIRCLE, changed the title to ABSINTHE OF MALICE, changed the cover and asked for a couple of small revisions. The new book hasn’t done much as a print book but it took off like a house afire as an e-book on Kindle. Sometimes it takes a while for a book to find its audience.

As I write this I have TV on for company. I’m watching the Masters Golf Tournament in Atlanta. I’m watching disaster news on ABC. It’s a reminder that there’s a real world out there, so why get worked up over a piece of fiction?

I keep remembering something Sue Grafton said at Sisters in Crime conference in Boise,Idaho a few years ago. She was listing her 10 standard reactions to a manuscript rejection, but one of them is really useful for more than a rejected manuscript. She said: “The free world does not hang in the balance. You are only writing a book.”

I also remember something the late Kurt Vonnegut (author of SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE) said a few years ago during an interview on PBS. He said that when we’ve destroyed the last living thing on earth, it would be poetic justice if the earth sent up a message: “It’s done. People didn’t like it here.”

And then he added, “We are here on earth to fart around. What the computer people don’t realize is that we are dancing animals.”

Maybe he’s right. Maybe we should spend less time at the computer and more time dancing. Why not? I think I’ll start tomorrow. It might do wonders for my shape, and anything would be an improvement. From the side I look like Alfred Hitchcock.

Meanwhile, there are extensive excerpts from ABSINTHE OF MALICE at Google Books, http://tinyurl.com/23pojdm .

Thanks for listening and thanks to Jennifer for letting me sound off.

Pat Browning

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

http://authorsden.com/patbrowning

http://pbrowning.blogspot.com/

Thanks for dropping in on my blog, Pat. You’re welcome here any time.  I love that cover, too!

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12 Responses to “PAT BROWNING”

  1. Beth Anderson Says:

    Pat, I can’t wait for your next book to be published. I loved the first one from page one and then all the way through. I learn more and more about you with each blog on this strange and enlightenng cruise we’re having. I never knew you had cancer. I did know you lived in California then moved to Oklahoma, and it comforts me to know you have family there, I didn’t know that either and I was wondering just the other night, why Oklahoma? Now I know. Anyhow, very nice blog from a nice author. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

  2. Seniorsleuth@aol.com Says:

    Beautiully written, Pat, and a heartbreaking story. I’m glad I was able to visit you in Yukon where you’re working on METAPHOR for MURDER. I think all writers question whether what they’re devoting their lives to is worthwhile, but you can be secure in the knowledge that your work has brought pleasure and knowledge to a great many readers. I hope you finish your second novel soon.

  3. Vivian Zabel Says:

    Pat, I’ve know for a long time you were a courageous, wonderful person. However, this blog tour has given me the opportunity to know you better.

  4. Anne K. Albert Says:

    Your story, told in your own words, share so much of your personality, your humor, and determination to carry on. Your reference to being a mule made me smile. You’re an inspiration, Pat, both on and off the page.

  5. Marilyn Meredith Says:

    Oh, Pat, that was a great interview. Always glad to read anything you’ve written.

    Marilyn

  6. sharonervin Says:

    Pat, there are worse people to pattern your career after than Alfred Hitchcock. Perhaps the shape is a forecasting of great things to come.

    MALICE is a good base to build on, but you cannot rest on your laurels. You have God-given talent. Share! Move ’em out. So far, you’re Clint Eastwood as Rowdy Yates, who then did spaghetti westerns as “the man with no name,” before he got to Dirty Harry and fame.

    Gee, I just gave myself good advice, writing to you. Guess I’d better get back to work.

    Good blog.

    • jenntherichwriter@centurytel.net Says:

      That is good advice, Sharon. Whether our horses are high, or only shetlands, we should get on e’m and ride ’em for all their worth. LOL ~Jennifer

  7. Jackie King Says:

    Wonderful post! You touched my heart in so many ways. I loved ABSINTHE OF MALICE, and highly recomend it to everyone.

    I was another woman who hated living alone–for years–but after a very long time I’ve learned to love it. I hope that you are able to do this, too.

    Love,
    Jackie

  8. alice@aliceduncan.net Says:

    Oh, my, Pat, I had no idea what you’ve gone through during the past years. Good for you for toughing it out. If only life weren’t so painful. Then again, maybe that’s what makes for good stories. I dunno. Fascinating, though.

  9. Jenny Milchman Says:

    Persistence pays off–so glad it did for you.

    My (cringe-worthy) famous last words: I think this will happen fast.

  10. Pat Browning Says:

    Jean, Vivian, Marilyn, Anne, Sharon — you are all so encouraging! Thanks for dropping by. Now, Sharon, I don’t mind at all being compared to Clint Eastwood. That guy has staying power!

  11. Alice Duncan Says:

    Great blog, Pat! And when is your next book coming out? I loved ABSINTHE OF MALICE.

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