Just Do It! The Journeys of Writing and Traveling

I am a nature gal, and so the mysteries I write often take place in the great outdoors, where I spend as much time as I can. But getting started is often difficult for me.

Often, before I go hiking, snowshoeing, kayaking, or scuba diving, I ask myself whether the activity will be worth the effort of preparing. The weather might be windy, snowing or raining. I might need to get started on my journey before dawn. I try to be careful and plan for the unexpected, taking a first aid kit, all the appropriate gear for the environment, food and water, a light. And duct tape, an essential for every outdoor expedition. Every year the preparation seems more difficult than the last. Despite all this, I always find that the effort expended is worth it.

Nature has an indescribable majesty and beauty. Even the same place can be experienced differently at different times: a hike might take me through a flower meadow one time and a frosty autumn scene the next, the creeks might be rushing streams or mere trickles. The snow might be mush that will soak my clothes or sparkling icy crystals that will scour my skin if I slide over it.

Watching the sun rise or set over water or mountain peaks, seeing a mountain goat or a weasel or an octopus in its natural habitat is always a deeply moving experience. Underwater, I often meet creatures I can only identify later from a reference book or website.

In the North Cascades, I’ve witnessed avalanches that I used in my most recent novel, Cascade. The slot canyons and natural bridges and rocky trails I explored in Utah became the setting for Endangered. At Mount Rainier, I nearly collided with a bear cub on an overgrown trail. That ended up in my novel, Bear Bait. The underwater antics of sea lions in the Galapagos were featured in several scenes in Undercurrents. Physical challenges and encountering unexpected difficulties, well, those are character development, for both myself and my characters. All good stories have conflict. Ultimately, nature brings us closer to ourselves in ways we sometimes don’t expect it to. So when I’m thinking it might be nice to just stay home and drink my coffee and pet my cats, I tell myself “Get a grip, Pam. Start packing, load that kayak, find all your scuba gear. You don’t know what might happen.”

I have similar feelings about writing the next book. It too will be a journey. So, just as I prepare for my outdoor adventures, I do the research, I prepare, and then I sit down at my computer and expect the unexpected. In both instances, I tell myself, “Just do it; you’ll be glad you did.”

And so far, I’ve always been proud that I made the effort.

Why I Love Writing Mysteries

I’m feeling pretty good right now. I had set goals to publish four books this year. Granted the one that was published in February was mostly written last year, but I have another one coming out April 5th. 

It feels good after several years of always feeling behind to be ahead of schedule this year. The Squeeze, book 4 in the Spotted Pony Casino Mystery series was easy to write because I had been thinking about it for a while. I think that is what made it easier for me to finish the book so quickly. 

When I have time to think about a story or premise for a while before I actually write the story, my mind has already figured out the intricate details of the story. All I have to do is add in the red herrings and misdirections. 

That and this series has an ongoing subplot that started in the first book with my main character and her best friend/boyfriend having something in their past in common. His past, finding out who and where his father lived, has been dealt with. Now my main character is dealing with: is her father really dead as her mother said and was he really Cisco Alvaro? 

This subplot has added more emotion, backstory, and interesting curves to this series. I’m not sure how long I’ll keep this mystery going but I like that it gives me a little more filler in the books between their searching for the murder victim.

I also like that it gives more depth and shows why my character, Dela, is unwilling to take the next step in her relationship with her boyfriend. He is ready to marry and settle down. She can’t until she knows who her father really was and why he was a secret. Add to that she just found out her mom has been seeing a man since Dela went into the Army and now they are planning to get married. She always thought her father ruined her mom for any other man. And why had she never met her mom’s fiancé before if they had been seeing one another for that long?

Soooo many mysteries besides the murder. Oh, I love writing this genre! I wish I had found the courage to continue with it back when I wrote my first mystery, instead of being sidelined from it for twenty years. But I’m writing it now and loving every gruesome, gut-wrenching, and inspiring word I write.

Ready to pre-order, releasing on April 5th. My hubby’s birthday!

The Squeeze

Book 4 in the Spotted Pony Casino Mystery series

Lies, deceit, blackmail.

Murder ends it all.

Or does it?

When an employee at the Spotted Pony Casino is caught leaving early, Dela Alvaro, head of security confronts the woman. The lies the woman tells only piques Dela’s curiosity. After witnessing the employee threatening a man, she is found murdered in her car parked in the driveway of her home.

Upon learning the woman used her job at the casino to blackmail men, Dela feels compelled to solve the woman’s murder and teams up with Tribal Officer Heath Seaver. Not only does the duo have a death to solve, but there is also a mystery behind Dela’s dead father. Not to mention, her mom just announced she’s marrying a man Dela has never met.

UBL: https://books2read.com/u/4X0WY9

The Subdivided Writer – A Different Look at Self-Publishing

by Janis Patterson

There is an old saw which says, Money should always flow to the writer, not away from the writer. This is largely true and was created long ago in an attempt to protect innocent and gullible little newbies from paying large sums of money to at best dicey companies who promise them fame and fortune by ‘publishing’ their books. (Unfortunately, even in this information-saturated day such ‘publishing companies’ still proliferate and flourish, which is an irrefutable indictment against starry-eyed suckers.) Sadly, this advice was coined long before the advent of self-publishing and has confused any number of people, newbies and seasoned authors alike.

One of the draws of self-publishing is the control it gives the writer, and to be honest, this is like pure catnip to a control-freak like me. What is not stressed enough is that with complete control comes complete responsibility, and that is not always easy.

The first thing is that the writer must become two opposing people – the author (WriterYou) who has created a thing of lasting beauty which is perfect in every way and should live because of its artistic merit, and the publisher (PublisherYou) who must see everything through a purely business-like lens of dollars and cents. If one isn’t very careful it could be a recipe for madness.

WriterYou is responsible for creating the best book possible – a work of fiction (I suppose, though the same criteria hold true for non-fiction, just in different forms) that is as good as he can possibly make it.

PublisherYou is responsible for everything business-oriented – and paying for it as needed, just as a true traditional publisher would be. This includes professional editor(s) as needed, formatters, covers, uploading, publicity (which sadly many traditional publishers now push off 99% of onto the author) and just about everything else.

Warning : the two of you will not always agree in spite of the fact they’re in the same body (yours), and sometimes your disagreements can become epic. This is where self-publishing has the risk of becoming a quagmire, especially when it concerns the content of the book itself. When a professional editor (and I stress the professional part, someone who does this for a living, not your mother or your Aunt Edna who think you are the cleverest thing for having written a book of any kind) says you need to do something, that is something you really need to consider doing, especially the newer you are as a writer. The older you are as a writer, the more credits you have under your belt, the more credibility you have in questioning an editor. A rank newbie should listen! Wasn’t it Maugham – some famous writer, anyway – who said about editing “Kill your darlings…”? No matter how experienced you are as a writer, somehow there is always some part of our story that we just fall in love with, even if it’s not very good, even if it doesn’t forward the story, even if… whatever. That part needs to go, no matter how much it makes you resonate. It’s hard, but if it will make the book stronger, better, more saleable, it has to be done. It is the unenviable job of PublisherYou to insure that WriterYou goes along and does the edits.

Even now, after all my years of self-publishing, when my talented and beloved professional editor says something I really don’t want to hear or do, I think back to a hard-nosed and even harder-hearted editor I had in my New York trad-pubbed days. When I protested something she would listen very politely, then tell me to go ahead and make the changes. And in every instance but I believe two (out of many books) she was exactly right. Make your PublisherYou that strong… and listen to him!

And make no mistake, I don’t care where you are in your writing career, YOU NEED A PROFESSIONAL EDITOR. Although WriterYou should edit the manuscript to the best of his ability before turning loose of it, only a fool will try to do the final edit himself. Also be ready to accept that even after you have several professional passes on a manuscript some – usually tiny – mistakes will slip through. The only perfection comes from God, and I’m quite willing to accept that He is too busy for me to expect Him to proofread a novel.

True self-publishing, with all the responsibility ultimately resting on the writer’s shoulders, is just one way of getting published. The traditional “New York” or “Big 5” (or “Big 4” or how many of them there are this week) is pretty familiar; it’s been around more or less for centuries and is notorious both for taking all of the control and most of the money. And I do mean most of the money! Even though PublisherYou has to pay for everything, contrast the 6-10% of cover price that the author receives in traditional publishing versus the 60-80% the self-publisher earns.

On the other hand there is most definitely a cachet about being published by a major publisher which some authors find so attractive they refuse to consider anything else. And that is their right. Some are very successful; some aren’t, but that’s true everywhere in the industry.

If you decide to go the traditional route and are offered a contract, you need to be very careful and examine everything – and I mean everything! – before accepting it. Nowadays it is not only common but almost necessary to have any proferred contract vetted by an entertainment law attorney before acceptance.

Always remember, publishing houses are not in business for your good; to them you are just a tool to increase their bottom line and most of them will get away with whatever they can get away with, which means everything they can get you to accept. Remember back when they tried to demean authors by relegating them to the category of ‘content providers’? Authors who are not part of the fabled few superstars pretty much earn the least of the publishing world’s hierarchy even though without them there would not be a publishing business at all. And no, that is not fair!

Then there’s also the fabled and sometimes justly reviled Vanity Press, and the newer and occasionally trustworthy hybrid ‘Assisted Publishing Organizations,’ both of which I’ll talk about next month.

Just remember that if you self-publish, you must split into WriterYou and PublisherYou and be diligent in both sides. Otherwise you have probably spent a lot of money and time without much hope of success.

The Things We Keep

It began with a house.

On a sunny Saturday morning, I headed to the Farmers Market in Alameda’s West End. I found a parking spot about a block away, in a residential neighborhood.

The house on the corner was an old Victorian. That’s a term describing those houses built in the era from 1880 to the early 20th century. These houses are common in Alameda. This one was a Queen Anne, a style that often features bay windows and turrets.

This particular house hadn’t been painted in a long time and a number of the window panes were cracked and dirty. Abandoned, I thought. But no, there was a car in the driveway, on that day and on several other Saturdays. Someone was living in the house, despite the state of disrepair.

It made me wonder about the stories hidden within those walls. As writers do, I made up my own story, asking myself, “What if?”

What if my Oakland PI Jeri Howard found a footlocker full of old bones in that house?

As Jeri says in Chapter 1, “I had a feeling this old house had secrets, lots of them.”

The title was always The Things We Keep. Because in life, as in fiction, the things people keep often reveal a lot about them, and the past.

As Jeri investigates any of the cases put to her, she sifts through the tangibles and intangibles that accompany people through life. In Bit Player, an earlier book in the series, Jeri found clues by reading letters that her grandmother wrote.

Now, in The Things We Keep, the bones that Jeri finds are tangibles, along with other items inside the footlocker. DNA and dental records may provide answers, but those are the purview of the police and Jeri has no control over if and when. But discovers clues in other ways. Old newspaper articles accessed online add flesh to the bones. Jeri also finds resources in property records, as well as internet archives and databases.

At one point she searches the California Department of Justice Missing Persons database:

The faces of the missing stared back at me. So many people, their lives and those of their families interrupted. Birthdays and anniversaries uncelebrated, questions unanswered.

The photographs were displayed on the web page – children, teenagers, young adults, older people, male and female, of all ethnic groups. In some cases there were multiple photos, some of those computer-generated to show what the person would look like now.

Photographs are indeed an important element of Jeri’s investigation. She talks with a woman who has a box of photos, hoping that the images will provide clues:

“I keep telling myself I should have this stuff digitized, but I haven’t yet. It was a long time ago. A lot of these snapshots are so faded you can barely see who’s in them.”

She removed the lid and took out several smaller envelopes that held photos and negatives, the kind you’d receive when you had a roll of film developed, back before the digital age.

Those are the tangibles. The intangibles are peoples’ memories, which are often selective and incomplete, colored by their own experiences.

There are many versions of the truth and Jeri must determine which story has the most veracity. The things that people have kept over the years will ultimately lead her to the resolution of this case that stretches back decades.

Guest Blogger ~ M. R. Dimond

 I had the first three books of the Black Orchid Enterprises mysteries planned when I spied this cover at a premade cover event. I hadn’t ever considered buying a premade cover. How could the artist possibly know the story I would write or had written? I knew of one author who had her covers made and posted them where she could see them as she wrote. How could I take such a risk? 

Reader, I could and I did. It was meant to be. One of my main characters is a cat veterinarian who runs the town’s overflow animal shelter, meaning he provides a home for any homeless cat he comes across.

Book 1 of the series starts with Black Orchid Enterprises throwing a holiday open house to celebrate their new business in Beauchamp, TX. Some townspeople bring food; others bring unwanted kittens. Of course this glorious Sphynx cat could find his way there! And the gingerbread house? For their second year’s open house, our heroes host a gingerbread house display and contest. You can see how the invading cat earns the name Godzilla. I swept aside my plans to tell his story.

I’ve loved cats all my life, but I confess I warmed up to the Sphynx breed slowly. A hairless cat? Doesn’t everybody love soft, silky cat fur (except for those allergic to it)? But when two sets of naturally mutated hairless cats showed up in the 1970s, people did their best to produce more. Cat lovers with allergies appreciated them, but I wasn’t sold. The naked, wrinkly skin, big ears, and demonic expressions were the stuff of nightmares. I thought they looked closer to horror movie vampire bats than cats.

But years in cat rescue taught me that not every cat is pretty, healthy, or even friendly. But they’re all worth rescuing, even the ones that send you to the emergency room, and I’ve made friends with just about every cat I’ve met. Some want to cuddle; some keep their distance. It’s just a matter of getting to know them and honoring how they want to live.

The more Sphynx I met, the more I appreciated them. Despite their expressions, they tend to be affectionate and happy. For instance, the Sphynx on National Geographic’s October 2022 cover is said to be alert and relaxed. I’ll take their word for it.


To write this book, I drew heavily on my cat rescue experience, both funny and sad. I had friends with Sphynx cats who were always ready to tell me more stories about their pets. The internet, as usual, had a wealth of information about Sphynx and their special needs. They need to be bathed and oiled regularly. Their lack of fur means they feel the weather more. You often see them in sweaters and onesies in the winter. Some enjoy their styling little outfits. Others rip their clothes to shreds and prefer heating pads and blankets. 

The only problem with writing a cat mystery was knowing when to stop. I comforted myself with the reminder that there’s always the next book. Spoiler: Godzilla just might be back.

Cover by Mariah Sinclair
Cover by Mariah Sinclair

Book 2 of the Black Orchid Enterprises Mystery series finds Johnny Ly, Dianne Cortez, and JD Thompson trying to celebrate their first year in business in a small Central Texas town. The weather outside is frightful, and indoors isn’t looking too good either, not when a crazed hairless cat invades their Christmas party and leaves a trail of destruction in his wake.

The murder in the backyard doesn’t help, but Johnny and Dianne are more worried about the cat. After the police reduce the suspect list from the entire town of Beauchamp, Texas, to just the Black Orchids’ friends and family, Attorney JD Thompson springs into action to clear them all, preferably before Monday night’s concert. Life’s hard for a veterinarian, accountant, lawyer, and ABBA tribute band.


Author photo courtesy of Marjorie Farrell

After stints in professional orchestras, law firms, cat rescue, bookkeeping, and technical communication, M. R. Dimond returned to a childhood dream of writing fiction, which has turned out to be about musicians, lawyers, veterinarians, accountants, and cats. Watch for the next Black Orchid Enterprises mystery, Family Matters.

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