Thursday, January 29, 2009

Guest Author: Pat Browning

Author Pat Browning is stopping by Straight From Hel today to talk about piles of paper and timelines. She knows a lot about both. She's an ex-teacher, ex-reporter, ex-travel writer and current author.

In the 1990s, Browning signed on fulltime as a newspaper reporter and columnist, first at The Selma Enterprise and then at The Hanford Sentinel. While 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 finalist for the 1993 George F. Gruner Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism. At the Sentinel, her feature story on the Japanese-American "Yankee Samurais" of World War II, placed second in the CNPA contest.

Now, she pens the Penny Mackenzie mystery series. The first book, FULL CIRCLE, came out in 2001. Last month, it was re-released as ABSINTHE OF MALICE. While working on the next in the series, she writes non-fiction articles for The SouthWest Sage, the monthly journal of Southwest Writers. In addition, her memoir, WHITE PETUNIAS, will appear this winter in the Red Dirt Book Festival Anthology -- Oklahoma Character.

In her blog, Morning's at Noon, Pat talks about writing, her books, marketing, and her life. She also contributes to a co-op blog called Murderous Musings. You can read the first three chapters of ABSINTHE OF MALICE at her website: Order the book through any bookstore, or buy at,, or (free shipping).

I know Pat will be open to questions about her work as a reporter, travel writer, and author. She'll especially be ready to answer any questions about keeping up with all your piles of paper and what she went through to get FULL CIRCLE re-released.

Welcome, Pat Browning.

“This incredible pile of paper”

The piece of advice I got most often when I decided to write a mystery was “Don’t give up your day job.” To that I would add, “Never throw away anything.”

ITEM: March 2007

Reuters report in the Gulf Times Newspaper:
AMSTERDAM: An 89-year-old Dutch novelist has stumbled on a pot-boiler she wrote that had been lost for decades, and plans to publish it later this year. Hella Haasse’s Sterrenjacht (Hunt for the Stars) was published as a serial in a newspaper in 1950, but the manuscript was lost. However, Haasse, often called the “grand old lady of Dutch literature”, cut out and kept all the installments.

“I have this incredible pile of paper at home – and by chance I came across a stack of yellowed newspaper,” she told yesterday’s edition of the newspaper De Stentor. She showed the work to her editor as a joke, but the company decided to publish it.
ITEM: Dec. 5, 2008

From the New York Times top 20 sellers in Paperback Mass-Market Fiction
Of the 20 top titles, three are reissues:

THE MANNING GROOMS, by Debbie Macomber. (Mira, $7.99.) A reissue of two novels: “Bride on the Loose” and “Same Time, Next Year.”

FOUL PLAY, by Janet Evanovich. (Harper, $7.99.) A veterinarian hires a woman who has lost her TV job to a dancing chicken, then helps her prove her innocence when the chicken disappears; a reissue of a 1989 book.

LOVE BY DESIGN, by Nora Roberts. (Silhouette, $7.99.) A reissue of two novels from 1989: “Loving Jack” and “Best Laid Plans.”

ITEM: December 2008

FULL CIRCLE by Pat Browning, revised and reissued by Krill Press as ABSINTHE OF MALICE.

That came out of the blue. It was a three-month ride on a Tilt-A-Whirl, and I’m still dizzy. Krill Press is a small, start-up micropress in Oregon, with a multi-tasking publisher who puts the pedal to the metal. As in:

SEPT. 1 -- Krill Press was formed, more or less in the mind of said publisher, after the idea was kicked around in an Internet group we both belong to.

First bump in the road: He asked for a Synopsis of FULL CIRCLE, which I self-published in 2001, and also one for my half-finished second book, working title SOLSTICE. I started to sweat out that horror of horrors, the synopsis, for not one but two books.

SEPT. 6 -- Publisher said forget the synopses. He was reading FULL CIRCLE and liked it. He had already read the first three chapters of SOLSTICE on my web site.

SEPT. 14 -- Publisher loved FULL CIRCLE, suggested bringing out an “updated, refreshed 2nd edition” with a new title and new cover. Offered me an advance.

I fell over laughing when I read the proposed new title, ABSINTHE OF MALICE, and saw the jazzy, sexy new cover proposed. But the more I thought about it, the better I liked it. We jumped right into proposed changes and details of a business relationship.

SEPT. 17 – We signed a two-year contract for publication in trade paperback, E-book and other electronic download formats, and Amazon’s Kindle.

SEPT. 24 – Advance check. I printed out a copy suitable for framing.

Second bump in the road: Publisher wanted manuscript by E-mail, in Word. I couldn’t find my computer file anywhere. I did have a printout of my iUniverse proof sheet from 2001. Nothing to do but make a new Word file by scanning in that proof sheet, one page at a time. More than 200 pages, one – page – at – a – time.

OCT. 26 – Publisher finished book block and e-mailed it to me for proofing. Last minute updating of cover blurbs and reviews for Krill Press web site, which was still under construction.

NOV. 3 – Book uploaded to printer (Lightning Source). Publisher signed contracts with Lightning Source and Ingram Book Group to have book distributed in Canada, the UK and Europe.

NOV. 6 – Lightning Source sent proof copy to publisher via UPS 2 nd Day Air. Publisher made plans for virtual launch party on NETDRAG podcast.

NOV. 7 – Pursuant to my notice of cancellation of contract, iUniverse gave me written acknowledgment and washed their hands of it. It’s no longer listed on their web site.

Ongoing blip: FULL CIRCLE is still listed for sale by online booksellers and will be until they get rid of their last copy. If I could afford it, I would buy them all up.

DEC. 4 – I had copies of my brand new book on hand for a book signing at the local library.

Krill Press is promoting ABSINTHE OF MALICE in every known market. It’s displayed on Google Books, as far afield as an Italian library. has it displayed for sale in the UK, Germany, France, China, Japan … It’s print-on-demand but the publisher, bowing to marketplace realities, offers a heavy discount to bookstores and makes it returnable. He’s sending sell sheets and queries to Internet book review sites.

The publisher is doing his share and then some. I’m more of a hand-seller: “Pssst! Wanna buy a good book?”

It’s an ill wind, as the saying goes. Having to scan the book a page at a time gave me a chance to polish it up, tighten it up, and generally shape it up. It also gave me a chance to rewrite a couple of key scenes.

One has to do with my protagonist, Penny Mackenzie, a baby boomer whose first love shows up after a long absence. I had written her as a bit of a schlump, in a rut. The publisher picked up on a short scene where she whacks off her hair and throws her dowdy duds into a wastebasket. He took it a step further, seeing her as a woman whose long-suppressed vanity reappears when her old flame shows up. I rewrote the scene to fit the sassy, sexy new book cover.

The other has to do with DNA testing of an old bone. When I wrote the book in 1999-2001, DNA testing was fairly new. I misinterpreted a news article I read about a portable DNA machine developed by the military for battlefield use. Since then, of course, I’ve learned that DNA from old bones is mitochondrial DNA, passed down only through female ancestors. The test destroys the bone, making it impossible for a character to run it through a portable machine and then replace it in the police department’s evidence room. I feel a lot better for having rewritten the scene to reflect the differences in DNA, keeping a character from subjecting an old bone to the wrong kind of testing.

While all this was going on, my work-in-progress was shoved to one side. Now I’m picking up where I left off four months ago. Touching base this week with a friend, I mentioned that finishing the second book is essential to the success of the first one. His e-mail reply is taped to my computer monitor.

He wrote: “And if I were you I'd finish that second book. There's only so much promotion you can do without turning into a used-car salesman, and there's hardly anything worse than a used-car salesman who only has one car to sell.”

Words to live by!

Thank you Pat.

Be sure you visit the Comments Section here on Straight From Hel. You can ask Pat questions or just let her know you came by. Pat and I will both be around all day.


  1. Never throw away anything.

    Wow. I've got it made!

    That's quite a timeline - I gasped for air at the end. I discovered I had been holding my breath!

    Glad you got off the Tilt-a-Whirl in one piece. What's next? The roller coaster or the fun house?

  2. Pat - I've enjoyed this!! I can't wait for the next Penny book and hope we'll be seeing it pretty soon.

    And - would you keep me posted, please on the Red Dirt Book Festival Anthology -- Oklahoma Character. I had no idea you had done a memoir and THAT'S what I really want to read!

  3. Steve, I disagree.

    The ultimate use of the Internet has been, from the very beginning, the free exchange of information. In the early days, commercial use was forbidden. That it has been adapted and co-opted for business use is incidental, but a strong indication that the original concept was and is correct. Any human interaction, whether in business or relationships, require exchange of information and ideas. In this there is no real/virtual dichotomy.

    But this is not the appropriate venue for this discussion, nor the appropriate venue for marketing services unrelated to the original article.

  4. Pat, nice article and I am so glad that your book has found a new home. It is amazing how circumstance can push us and twist us, but in the end we come out better for the experiences.

  5. Was fun to read the story of the book's rerelease, Pat. Loved FULL CIRLE. :-)

  6. Oh, Pat, you know I'm thrilled for you. Wish we were closer so we could do events together!


  7. Hi, Pat!

    Great story on how "Absinthe Of Malice" came into being. So great, in fact, I am entering it into the official Krill Press Archives. And, Mr. Steve? Were it not for the formidable distance between Publisher and Author in this particular relationship, (Oregon and Oklahoma) I would have wined and dined Pat in person with cocktails and a steak dinner, in order to get her to sign the contract to publish her book. However, if it makes you feel better, please know that we have talked on the phone with each other before. Several times.

  8. Reading this was almsot like deja vu for me, Pat, because I went through something very similar with my last book and I'm still not back to work on novel #3 in the series. You can only do so much promoting and it's time to kick the baby bird out of the nest and concentrate on the next one.

    I enjoyed FULL CIRCLE and look forward to the next Penny Mckenzie mystery.

  9. Kaye, I agree. I hope Pat will let us know more about the anthology. I, for one, would like that!

  10. Maryann & Pauline - I think the path that her book took on its way to re-release is so interesting. As someone who's never been through that process, I'm glad she shared her experience.

  11. Now, Marilyn, you and Pat signing together? That would be something to go to! Maybe you'll hook up at a conference or something.

  12. Gee, who was that Mr. Steve person? Must have been a troll.


  13. Ooh, Kent, I like you. Don't know you personally, but I like you. Although I can't complain. My publisher has treated me to lunch twice. I'm off to a meeting (no food) with him today.

  14. Jean, you could write a post (here or on your own blog) about how to know when that moment comes -- when it's time to kick the baby out and put your time toward the next one.

  15. Hi, Jonathan:

    I almost fell off the roller coaster. Back to the fun house for me!

    Seriously, I hope you're backing up all your writings on a CD. Never know when you might need them. (-:


  16. Kaye,
    I don't know what's happening with the anthology. I hope it's not a victim of the recession. A librarian is in charge of it so it should be moving along smartly, right? (-:

  17. Hi Pat. Glad to see you!

    I deleted the Steve rant since it clearly wasn't someone visiting with Pat today. My apologies to Jonathan. After I deleted, I realized he had answered Steve.

    Jonathan most definitely is a real person. I'm not sure "Steve" was.

  18. Hi, Maryann:

    Life is full of surprises, but my second chance at a book really took me by surprise. Put a smile on my face, too. (-:

    Thanks for stopping by!

  19. Pauline,

    You're one of the busiest persons I know. Thanks for stopping by!

    I've kept an eye on your career through the years. You and Marilyn Meredith are such inspirations -- you keep on keeping on, and getting those books out, while I'm still goofing around with my first one.

    There must be a lesson there somewhere. (-:


  20. Marilyn,

    Thanks for stopping by. I miss you and Hap -- two of my favorite people in the whole world.

    Hugs from here to there --


  21. Hi, Helen:

    Jonathan is indeed a real person, and a talented wordsmith, and a great humorist.


  22. Helen,

    Marilyn (F.M.)Meredith and I lived about 60 miles apart in the Central Valley. Both belonged to the San Joaquin Sisters in Crime.

    We had some good booksignings together.I really miss Marilyn and those days.


  23. Kent Lucas,

    You rascal you. Nice of you to check in and read the good things I said about you.

    I must say, you made the publishing process almost easy for me, and did all the hard work yourself.

    My grateful thanks, sir!

    Pat Browning

  24. Jean,

    The great thing about dealing with a small press is that you can turn on a dime,discuss things,make changes as you go,and you feel in control all the way.

    This was a great experience all around. Thanks for stopping by!


  25. My apologies to Steve. I deleted his message because, to me, it sounded like an automated spam post, but Pat says you are indeed a real person. I'm going to try to re-post his comment here:
    steve ( has left a new comment on your post "Guest Author: Pat Browning":

    ultimate use of the Internet is to balance the virual and real life aspect of business relationship

    The internet needs to be re-invented or must be used as an interactive tool that becomes part of a transaction but not the transaction. I am not sure that I am making myself clear on that one, but let's face it if you automate the process of relationship, then...where is the relationship?

    Food for thoughts...
    more (


    Again, my apologies.

  26. I think this is yet another great story about the various ways authors can get their book out today.

    So many start out with the notion that the only route is to publish with the big guys. This story shows the little guys may not have as wide an influence, but they can still sell books and it can be a wonderful starting point.

    Thanks Pat for agreeing to be interviewed and sharing your story.

    Good Writing & God Bless,
    Cheryl Pickett

  27. Pat, as another author who saw his book published a second time, I relate to your story. Mine took a little longer, though, because I didn't have Kent Lucas ramrodding it. You just gotta know the right people, I spoze.

    Good luck with your third, fourth, fifth and sixth Penny books.

  28. Helen,
    NO NO NO! You misread my post! JONATHAN is a real person. "STEVE" IS A SPAMMER! Please don't post his rant again!

  29. If being a pack rat is a key to success, then I've got it made. :)

    Thanks for telling us the story behind the story.

    And that cover would make a great art print.

  30. Earl,

    Maybe we could start a club -- the Second Time Around Club. (-:

    Who has more fun than writers? Nobody I know.

    Promotion is keeping you busy,I know. Thanks for stopping by!


  31. What a wonderful post! And you had me rooting for you all the way..I can't wait to read 'Absinthe', and I must say the new cover is fantastic.

    So--are your treating 'Absinthe' as if it were a brand new book? I wondered--when I saw those other re-issues you mentioned on the best seller list--how the promotion works.

    COngratulations! And now I don't have to clean out my closet.


  32. Hi, Pat, I enjoyed Full Circle, so I'm curious about how you made changes. Do you just ignore the earlier book? New copyright? Footnotes? Does anyone have to consent? Do you run workshops in how to achieve all this? Thanks!

  33. Hi, Hank:

    Great of you to stop by. I took a quick gander at your web site and will have to go back later -- LOTS to read there! Given your schedule I don't know when you sleep, much less write. (-:

    I am treating ABSINTHE as a brand-new book,although in the interest of fairness I do say it's a reprint when that info might matter to someone.

    The thing is, FULL CIRCLE came out 7 or 8 years ago, was self-published and had a small (but loyal!) readership. There's a whole new generation of readers out there who never heard of it. I only want to head off the original readers so they don't buy the same book twice, except on purpose. Believe it or not, some people have bought both books.

    That said, it really is a different book, and a better book. One more sweep-through-and-polish never hurts a book!

    The cover is a knockout, isn't it? Kent Lucas at Krill Press moves faster than the speed of light. He had the cover in mind before he even finished reading the book.
    I love those art deco covers showing up everywhere. They grab my attention and make me want to open the book.

    Again, I appreciate your comments!


  34. Meredith,

    The copyright was always in my name, so both copyright dates (2001 and 2008) are listed on the copyright page for ABSINTHE.

    Making changes was easy. Time consuming, going page by page, but easy. I know the characters so well that I could rewrite a scene without breaking a sweat.

    No,I didn't ignore the first book. I made the new manuscript FROM the first book.

    My contract with iUniverse was cancellable by either party on written notice. I wrote them a letter of cancellation. They replied accepting the cancellation and removing the book from their bookstore. No other consent from anyone needed,since the copyright was in my name and I had written cancellation of the contract for FULL CIRCLE.

    I made the changes in the book the same way you would edit any manuscript. The publisher requested certain changes. We exchanged ideas. I sent him the edited manuscript, plus extra pages of the changes so he could compare them.

    I could have saved a month of time if I had found my original floppy disk for FULL CIRCLE. Instead, I had to scan it in a page at a time from my original hard copy proof sheet, to make the Word file requested by the publisher.

    The upside was that scanning in a page at a time forced me to re-read the book and see places for improvement.

    No, no footnotes. It is simply a book on its own, an updated version of a previous book. Authors and publishers do this all the time. No big deal, if there are no copyright problems.

    There's not enough to it for a workshop. It boils down to finding the right publisher, then re-editing the book and letting the publisher take care of all the details of getting the book into print.

    But you'd better believe that from now on, any manuscript I write is safely tucked away on a CD. That scanning project was for the birds! LOL

    Thanks for coming by. Any more questions, I'll be happy to answer them.


  35. Cheryl Pickett,

    I would choose a small press every time. You have some control over your work because you can actually talk to a real person about the whole project instead of going through an outside reader, a marketing committee, etc. etc. etc.

    Thanks a million for stopping by!

    Pat Browning

  36. RhondaL,

    Being a pack rat has advantages for writers!

    Yes, that is a great cover, isn't it? Art deco covers are showing up again in mysteries. I love 'em!

    Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment.

    Pat B.

  37. What an interesting turn of events. Great interview!

    Jane Kennedy Sutton

  38. Wow - now THAT was an interview to copy and paste into a file for reference. Great info and interview! Thanks Pat and Helen!

  39. Marvin,

    Glad you thought it was worth keeping. (-:

    I tried checking the link to your web page but it is no longer valid.

    Thanks for stopping by!

    Pat Browning

  40. Jane,
    Thanks so much for stopping by. It was indeed an interesting turn of events. My life has been filled with them. Thus my mantra, "Life is full of surprises." (-:
    Pat Browning

  41. Dear Folks: Not only has Pat been very gracious in her telling of the publication tale...she's also been quite modest. Her cooperation in working with me on the requested changes (for which there were some very good reasons) so quickly and efficiently, was really the key to getting this book to print so quickly. That, and burning the morning, noon, and midnight oil on more than one occasion! Pat had asked me if there was any possible way "Absinthe Of Malice" could be published before Christmas and my answer was, "Yes. If WE work our asses off." And we did. It was important to have Pat get out of her contract with iUniverse ASAP; then it was just a matter of assigning the "new" book a brand new ISBN (required) and making the obligatory citation inside the book (per Bowker) that "Absinthe" was-is a Second Edition and listing the original title, year of publication, and ISBN for "Full Circle." The Kindle edition was a separate enterprise and was produced solely through Amazon. Kindle books do not have ISBN's assigned to them but are assigned instead a special Amazon product code number. Working with Pat was both fun, and a breeze, and I hope we can do it again soon!


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