Contest Update: Congratulations to reader Leah Rhyne who won a copy of ABSINTHE OF MALICE! Thanks to all of you for entering, and here’s to many more giveaways to come!
I had heard about this slim, elegant mystery for almost a year before finally reading it. Once I did, it amazed me to read the author’s Made It Moment. This was the book Pat Browning decided to write on almost a, “What now?” kind of lark? Praise for this debut mystery abounds, and if you leave a comment today, you’ll be entered to win a print copy. Read it and you just may decide that, “What next?” can lead to great things.
I was a tap-dancing fool. Picture this. I’m about six years old, tap dancing on the front porch just in case a Hollywood talent scout drives by looking for the next Shirley Temple. Doesn’t happen.
Never mind. When I was about nine I appeared in the Junior High School talent show, wearing blue satin shorts and a long sleeved white blouse, tapping like an old pro. The applause was thunderous. I danced off the stage, stood in the wings listening to that wonderful sound and ran back onto the stage for an encore. The rest of the year I spent my lunch hours in the school basement, strutting my stuff before a crowd of classmates. Take THAT, Shirley Temple!
Another year, another schoolyard. I get into a scuffle with some long-forgotten girl over some long-forgotten beef. The teacher, who is also my mother, hauls me inside and gives me a couple of swats on the behind. Furious and embarrassed, I put my head down on my desk. From a couple of rows back, a little boy creeps forward and slips a candy bar into my hand. As Charlie Sheen would say, “Winning!”
Time marches on. Drowsing through summer vacation, I sit under a pear tree in the front yard and write a story about fairies in a tree stump. I put it in an envelope addressed to The Kansas City Star, stick a 3-cent stamp on it and mail it off. The Star prints it and sends me a check for 50 cents. It may be the silliest story ever written but I see my byline for the first time. The best is yet to come.
Time passes. I experiment with decoupage, gourmet cooking, and writing newsletters for local clubs. When The Fresno Bee looks for a local stringer to handle weddings and club meetings I’m standing there with a camera, notebook and pen, ready to go. Before long I’m branching out into feature stories and not looking back.
All this time I’m slogging through my job in a law office, learning more about human misery than I ever dreamed possible. After almost 20 years of listening to divorce and bankruptcy tales of woe I, leave the law office and get a job in a travel agency. The trade journal arriving weekly in our mail is TravelAge West, published in San Francisco. I send the editor a letter telling him I’m a great traveler and a great writer and I’d like to be one of his correspondents.
Abracadabra! I’m cruising through the West Indies, flying the Atlantic in Pan Am’s first class section, walking through the ruins of Pompeii, riding an elephant in India. Can it get much better? Of course it can.
I go to work fulltime for the local newspaper. When I plop down at the desk next to a longtime friend she says, “I keep wondering what you’ll do next.”
What I do next is decide to write a mystery. “How hard can it be?” I ask. I find out just how hard it can be, but my mystery, FULL CIRCLE, is finally self-published in 2001. Krill Press picks it up in 2008 and gives it a new cover and new name, ABSINTHE OF MALICE. Quoting The Grateful Dead, “What a long, strange trip it’s been.”
The point of all this? Life is full of small “made it” moments, but sometimes we are so focused on the big score that we don’t notice. The little moments just keep piling up, adding experience and confidence to a foundation for the big break. When the Success Express comes rolling by, with any luck we can swing aboard and ride it right on down the line.
So what am I’m going to do next? I’m going to finish my second book. Stay tuned….
An award-winning newspaper reporter, Pat Browning set her first mystery, ABSINTHE OF MALICE (original title: FULL CIRCLE) in California’s Central San Joaquin Valley, where she lived for many years before returning to her native Oklahoma. An extensive excerpt can be read at Google Books.
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’s working on her next mysteries.