Thursday, August 4, 2011

Mystery We Write Blog Tour with Pat Browning


The following article by Pat Browning, gives us an in-depth view of this top-notch storyteller’s struggle to create her books, including ABSINTHE OF MALICE. I found “Two and a Half Books,” fascinating, and I think that you will, too.

Two And A Half Books

by Pat Browning

“My novel was stuck on page 70. I was in a rut, out of juice, badly in need of a change of scenery. I didn’t need a complete break, just a little variation in the routine, something more than a brisk walk around the block, something less than a climb up the Matterhorn.

“The perfect retreat turned out to be the Irwin Street Inn, a bed-and-breakfast across the street from the post office in Hanford, the small Central California town where I lived. The inn had new owners, a new brunch menu and a new cream tea service. I didn’t have to pack a suitcase. I could go home to check my answering machine and read my mail any time I felt the need. The inn was only two miles away from my computer.”

So began my article “White Noise,” published in the SouthWest Sage of June 2007 and reprinted in The Report (OWFI) of September 2007.

Irwin Street Inn
It’s something most writers experience from time to time. Without some kind of break, that weariness can lead to a real burnout. My few days at the Irwin Street Inn not only revived my flagging spirits, but the photos I took are tacked up where I can see them every day. I use the inn as a model in METAPHOR FOR MURDER, the further adventures of a small-town reporter named Penny Mackenzie, and a work still in progress these several years later.

Work in progress. There’s so much history in those words maybe I should write a book about it. Maybe I will, but another time. Right now I have a book and a half, one already in print – twice – and one half-finished, in progress.

What I’m writing is a limited series, three or four books. After all, the setting is a very small town and there’s only so much that can happen in a very small town. I’m even thinking of whisking my main characters off to Santa Fe, New Mexico for Book #3. The only thing standing in my way is Book #2.

Let’s start at the beginning. Here’s the logline for Book #1, originally called
: “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.”

When it comes to that book I always quote The Grateful Dead: “What a long strange trip it’s been.” I self-published it as
in 2001. Sold maybe 100 copies before I got tired of promoting it. In 2008, an online friend started a new press, read my book and made me an offer: a new title, a new cover, a few revisions, a two-year contract and an advance.

After I stopped laughing I thought, why not? And we went to work. A couple of months later I had a brand new book titled ABSINTHE OF MALICE and it’s racking up sales as an e-book in Amazon’s Kindle Store. You can still buy
. It’s lurking around out there, rattling its chains like The Ghost of Christmas Past. If I could afford it I’d buy up all the copies just to get rid of it. I’ve heard of people who have a split personality, but a book?

So now I have two versions of Book #1 and half a version of Book #2, working title METAPHOR FOR MURDER. Here’s the logline for Book #2: “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.”

Which brings us back to “White Noise” and my retreat at the Irwin Street Inn.

From Chapter 3 of my WIP, here’s my description of a fictional version of the inn: “… a pale gray house with a skirted wraparound porch, dark blue trim, second floor balconies, assorted wings and several outbuildings. In the gloom of fog, with Christmas lights twinkling inside and out, the place looked like an old-fashioned snow globe.”

One of the photos I snapped during my retreat became a fictional apartment for Watt, my protagonist’s first and only love. In real life it’s a separate house. In my novel I make it part of the main house, with an inside staircase leading down to the parlor. I also added another window to the bayed window so I could place Watt there, looking down on the street.

That’s the great thing about writing a novel. You can rearrange the facts to suit your fiction. To set a key scene in Chapter 15, I used the photo I call “Watt’s apartment.” In this scene, Penny accidentally learns that Watt paid a visit to an old girl friend while on a business trip. She gives him what-for and ends up throwing her shoe at him, while he looks out the window and wonders how many bones he would break if he jumped.

Every once in a while writing should be fun, and this scene was fun to write. Who has more fun that than writers? Nobody I know.

Several years ago I made a story board. It has been leaning against a wall all this time, with yellow sticky notes stuck in the squares I marked off to represent chapters. Lucky for me, too, because it has kept the story alive while I was doing a million things besides finishing my book.

But the fun’s over for now. It’s time for a close encounter with my story board. Stay tuned!

Jackie, thanks for inviting me to do a guest blog today. I hope your readers enjoy it.
Pat Browning

Pat, I’m sure they did! I certainly found your tale riveting. I’m envious, I want to take a break from writing and visit this wonderful sounding Irwin Street Inn. My mouth is watering to try their cream tea.

Pat Browning

More about Pat, plus some of her websites::

Pat Browning is a native Okie and also a veteran traveler. Her globetrotting led her into the travel business 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. (under construction)

Readers, If you have questions or comments for Pat, I’m sure she would be delighted to respond.

Happy reading to all!



Jackie King said...

Today is Week nunmber 11 in our Mystery We Write blogswap, and I'm delighted to have Pat Browning as my guest!

Thanks Pat.


Marja Mcgraw said...

Pat, Somehow you manage to bring the Writing Life to, well, life, in your blogs. I read Full Circle many years ago, and enjoyed it, but I can see from this blog that I need to read the revised version.

Your blogs are always entertaining. Thank you!

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Get that book done, Pat! For goodness sake, quit messing around.

What a great post. Hubby and I stayed at the Irwin Street inn once. Old fashioned toilet with pull down chair, claw foot tub up on a pedestal, and a still to get into the high bed. I'm sure it must be haunted. I love staying in haunted places--probably because I have yet to really run into a ghost.


Jackie King said...

Hi Marja, Thanks for stopping by. Pat makes us all smile with her blog articles, doesn't she?
Jackie King

Jackie King said...

Meredith and Pat, You're making me want to pack my bags and head to California to stay at the Irwin Street Inn. I could even take it off my income taxes for research.

Jackie King

Anne K. Albert said...

Staying at a local B&B to write is a fantastic idea. A friend and fellow author rents a cottage for one week each June to WRITE. Like you, Pat, she swears it's the way to go. I must try it!

Jackie King said...

Anne, I agree! Sounds like heaven to me. One year my daughter, husband and granddaughter invited me along to share their ocenside condo time in Cabo. For two weeks I lived the writer's dream. I was doing the final edit on THE INCONVENIENT CORPSE and I sat under an umbrella with my manuscrtipt in my lap. Supplies and cold drink sat on a table at my elbow, and I could work and listen to the ocean at the same time.

Didn't make the connection between Pat's article and that trip until your post.
Jackie King