Wednesday, May 17, 2023

The Happy Place

by Janis Patterson

Every writer should have a happy place... not that it has to be a distinct physical location, just a place where your mind can be free and your well of creativity unconfined. 

My happy place is in the hot tub early in the morning; now that’s not quite as sybaritically self indulgent as it sounds. Sometimes the hot tub (prescribed by my rheumatologist, no less) is the only thing that keeps my arthritis at bay. On inclement or cold mornings or when we’re traveling I have to make do with a very hot shower, and believe me, that isn’t the same at all!

Anyway, when I’m sitting out there doing the extremely boring exercises I must do every morning my mind takes off on various flights of fancy. I let it free to roam as it will. Sometimes that results in a new twist on a work in process, a plan for a new project, some plans for home projects I’ll probably never do, or just some occasionally weird daydreaming. Sometimes it is little more than a nap for my mind.

While I realize how fortunate I am to have such a cushy set-up, that is merely the physical part. Happy places can be as varied as the writers that use them. A few minutes in the early morning before the family arises and the work begins when you can sit at the kitchen table and sip a cup of your favorite coffee. A quiet time in the bus on the way to work when you can just sit and look out the window. A comfortable seat in your local coffee shop where you can either people-watch or write as you will - and even better if you have a barista trained to bring you your favorite beverage at regular intervals! Or perhaps it’s just a few quiet moments between folding the laundry and unloading the dishwasher.

Whatever or wherever your happy place is, don’t forget just how important it is. It’s not selfish indulgence or an abrogation of your daily responsibilities... it is part of the recharge you owe yourself. It can be as luxurious or as practical as you can manage. It can be as long as you can make it - several hours (heaven!) or just a handspan of minutes.

Writers are special people in that we live two lives - one in real life, where we cook and work and do laundry, and the other in worlds that we create in our heads. We owe both our support and attention. Just as you wouldn’t deliberately starve your body, you shouldn’t starve your mind/imagination. Find and cherish your happy place.

For those of you who are interested in my publishing blitz, #10 THE LETTER/Janis Susan May released on 10 May, and #11 EXERCISE IS MURDER/Janis Patterson is due to release 24 May. I’m still on schedule! And... my first audio book THE HOUSE IN THE PINES is out and doing well!

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

How To Drive Yourself Absolutely Mad

by Janis Patterson

Okay, the title of this is a little misleading... if you’re a writer you’re already at least partially mad. Even though we don’t have to keep proving it, that’s just what I have done. 

So what have I done? Well, it’s not totally my fault. People have always been telling me that I should be more businesslike about my writing, that there’s more to it than just sitting at my desk (or on the patio, or...) and making up stories. And there is.

Back during the years of the covid crazies I got very lazy. I was aware that reverted rights from some of my trad-pubbed books were showing up in my email, but having better things to do (namely hot tub and ice cream) I blithely tucked them away on my hard drive. In January of this year one of my resolutions (being a hopeful fool I still make them...) was to be more businesslike about my writing, so I started digging through the computer to find and do something about the reversions.

Imagine my shock when I found there were twenty six of the little beasties. TWENTY SIX! A quick glance through them decided me that four were going under the bed forever - either not to my current standards or requiring too much time/work to make them acceptable. Which still left twenty two. (To say nothing of the two new works for which I am currently contracted...)

I was raised in advertising, where deadlines are sacrosanct, so I decided that to get all these stories out and about again in a timely manner I needed a plan with firm deadlines. So... every one of those novels will be freshly edited and freshly formatted (ebooks only at the moment, though some of the will eventually go into hard copy) and if I don’t own the rights to the cover I will have to make a new one so I can rerelease a book every other Wednesday. 

Every other Wednesday.

This experiment began the last week of January. If I can hold to it, and so far I have, the last one of this batch will be released mid-October. 

This doesn’t really make me crazy, does it? Just ambitious.

What probably does push me over the line into crazy is that in the middle of this an absolutely splendid opportunity arose to enter the audio book market. As I have done audio narrations in the past for other authors and was a voice actress for a while I cherished the idea of doing my narrations myself, but there were two things in the way of that happy eventuality. First of all, I barely have time to do laundry let alone narrate even one book, and second of all, I don’t have the money to rent a half-way decent studio. (Yes, I know some people do their recording in their homes, but I have an extremely vocal little dog, and my next door neighbor - while a wonderful and upstanding man - owns every piece of gasoline powered lawn equipment ever manufactured and seemingly uses every single one of them every day. His showpiece of a lawn proves it. It is especially noticeable next to our scraggly property, where we cherish our weeds because at least they are green.) No, home recording was most definitely out.

However, due to a happy confluence of the universe and the intervention of a dear friend, I came into contact with a marvelous narrator - whose voice you might recognize if you heard it - who agreed to go into partnership with me. We hope to have at least fifteen books out in audio by the end of summer. Admittedly I have much less to do with the process - edit the books to make sure they’re ready to record and then do an editorial check on the final tape or whatever it’s called.

And sometime in the few interstices of time, I do frivolous things like cook dinner, do laundry and sleep. Oh, and write. Remember, I have those two new books contracted. Sigh.

Maybe there’s a reason writers are regarded as crazy?

Tuesday, April 11, 2023



This is the lastest and last in the Tempe Crabtree mystery series.

Available for Kindle and in paperback.

It is difficult to say goodbye to Bear Creek and all those who live there, especially Tempe and her husband, Hutch. They've been a part of my life for many years. This is #20 in this series.

Some of the regulars also make their final appearance, such as Tempe's friend, Miqui Sherwood. Miqui has some romantic excitement going on in her life, when two handsome men pursue her with marriage in mind.

Nick Two John, Tempe's long time Indian friend, and his wife Claudia have prominent roles in this final tale. 

When Tempe lets her curiosity get the best of her and starts poking around in the mystery surrounding the discovery of a body in a neighbor's pond, hers and Hutch's lives are threatened.

Hopefully, readers will find this final mystery satisfying.


Tuesday, March 21, 2023

A Bargain is Coming

I  usually drop the price on older books, but this time it's for a fairly new one. THE TRASH HAREM. 

Beginning March 20 and until Marh 27, the price for the Kindle editon is only .99 cents.


Now retired from her job as a sheriff’s deputy, she receives a message from friends who once lived in Bear Creek and attended her husband’s, Pastor Hutch, church. The friend, Jonathan, is a suspect in a murder of one of the residents in a retirement community in Temecula where he and his wife now live. The retirement community includes many quirky individuals who might have had a better motive than Jonathan While attempting to solve the mystery; Tempe has several visitations by Earle Stanley Gardner, the famous mystery writer who gives her some suggestions. A bit of history of the Pechanga Indians is woven in including the revered Pechanga Old Oak. You’ll have to read the book to find out what a trash harem is. 

The cover photo depicts the ancient Pechanga Oak revered by the Pechanga Indians.


Wednesday, March 15, 2023

The Horrors of Homophonic Mayhem

by Janis Patterson

Their going to brooch the door, and it will phase them awl if they find the diamond pen.

Nonsense, right? Definitely, though apparently not a growing number of ‘writers.’ I put writers in quote marks, because an alarmingly growing number of scribblers are putting such egregious mistakes all through their books. How can you expect a reader to stay in a story when clangers like this have to throw them out?

To elucidate using the example above - their (possessive which should modify/define something as in their boxes or their time) versus they’re (contraction of they are, a plural with a verb).

Or - brooch (a decorative piece of jewelry, usually large, and pinned onto a piece of clothing) versus broach (to open, as in door or cask or subject).

Or - phase (a measurement of time or behavior) versus faze (disconcert or disturb or sometimes startle).

Or - awl (a tool for piercing something, usually leather or wood) versus all (the whole quantity).

Or - pen (a writing implement) versus pin (a pointed piece of metal used to fasten things, or a piece of jewelry fastened to a garment with such a thing). 

Though to be fair, though, in the last example one could have a pen (writing instrument) decorated with diamonds, though I expect it would be most uncomfortable to use. Another reason one must be careful in delineating exactly what one is talking about.

As the first sentence proves, depending on the usage of words and spelling a sentence can have a totally different meaning from what the writer intended or even become completely incomprehensible. No one should ever expect their reader to translate their work!

For example, I read not long ago about a character that was trying to describe a crime scene as ‘grizzly,’ which jerked me right out of the story. What on earth, I wondered, was a bear doing in there? I even looked back a few pages to see if I had missed the inclusion of an ursine character. Of course, it finally dawned on me that the writer was so disrespectful of her readers she didn’t bother to differentiate between ‘grizzly’ - a large brown bear native to North America - and ‘grisly’ - which describes something of horror or disgust.

Now some may say that I am being too pedantic, that such nicety of meaning is meaningless. Once on a romance critique eloop I made a suggestion after reading a sample that to make the book better the writer might wish to pay more attention to her grammar and word choice. I was astonished at the vituperation such a truthful - and practical! - comment engendered. One which I remember to this day castigated me as a bitter failed writer (I had published over 30 books at that particular moment in time) and that this (incorrect) writer’s emotion and honesty would touch more people than I ever could.

Well, maybe, but only if they could translate the writer’s gibberish into sensible prose. And they didn’t specify which emotion - heartfelt romantic resonance or disgust at such a mangling of the English language.

As writers our job is to communicate, and that can only be done when there is a common, understandable language. One of the difficulties in translating a work of either prose or poetry into another language is that of nuance; differing definitions render such a task impossible. On a less literary note, I can testify to this. For reasons I won’t go into now I read a Belgian newspaper daily; it is written in Dutch (it’s complicated) a language which I do not speak, so I use the automatic translator on the internet. The results are usually pretty good, but sometimes almost incomprehensible and others downright hilarious.

We shouldn’t have to face the same difficulties in our own language.

There are lists of words of homophones (sound alike but different meanings) and homonyms (spelled alike but with different meanings and pronunciations) and they are impressively long. I’m not suggesting we as writers should have to memorize them, but it would be better for our readers and for our own image as communicators if we at least learned to use the correct word with the correct meaning in the correct place.

After all,  when we brooch a knew subject we don’t want to create a grizzly mess and brake our readers’ trust!

Tuesday, February 21, 2023


 I've been so busy, now it's my husband that I'm having to tend to. He's 92 and does less and less for himself. We've been togehter for nearly 72 years. 

I squeeze in time at my computer in the early morning and hours and sometimes like now when he's watching his favorite NCIS--over and over. Fortunately, it's a very long running series.

Because I do work for people wanting to open licensed care homes for the developmentally disabled, I'm oftne busy writing their program designs--and checking out various regulations. I've been doing it for years. Interstingly, the requirements continue to change, so I have to keep up on those.

Last Saturday I went to my first in-person writing group meeting since the beginning of COVD. It was great seeing old friends, but not sure I'll go again. Planning for my husband made it a bit difficult. I need to accept that I'm in a different stage in life.

I'm still working on the last book in my Tempe Crabtree series, and since I have a break in other jobs, maybe I can actually get this first draft done.

My life has always been full of some kind of writing, and I don't see a change as yet.

What I do miss i going to in-person events and seeing prople and talking about my books.

Enjoy your life and your family and friends. 


Wednesday, February 15, 2023

The Terror of the Blank Page

by Janis Patterson

If there is anything that delineates the professional writer from the hobbyist scribbler, it is the respect of a deadline.

I will say here that there is nothing wrong with being a hobbyist, unless you misrepresent yourself as being a professional writer. While both professionals and hobbyists work at building things with words, there is a vast difference. The hobbyist either waits until his Muse (Calliope for epic stories/poetry or Erato for things pertaining to love, or even Sheshat, if you prefer the Ancient Egyptian pantheon) deigns to grace him with driblets of what the writer will doubtless regard as deathless prose. (It is odd that the hobbyist almost always regards his output as deathless and perfect, in contrast to the professional who more often than not never believes that his results are as good as they should be.)

By contrast, the professional knows that by a certain time he has to produce a certain number of words of a certain quality on a certain subject no matter if his Muse is standing over his shoulder or is on vacation in Barbados.

And that involves staring at a blank page, which sometimes resembles nothing so much as a hungry maw demanding to be filled. You stare at the page (or screen) and it stares back at you. It can be terrifying. Behind that blank page stands an editor waiting for the agreed-upon copy, or fans, or even enemies, all ready to pounce on your work and express their opinions. Even worse, they are all - metaphorically, one must hope - breathing down the neck of the poor writer.

Deadlines have variable beginnings - imposed by an editor, or in the case of the self-published or those writing on spec, by oneself, by long-standing contract or to be honest by just about anything. Their one constant is that by a particular time, market, circumstance and/or contract, or Heaven-only-knows what else, they are demanding taskmasters which must be fulfilled.

Oh, there can be certain exceptions where a deadline is either extended or vacated, but the time gained is hardly worth the bother. My own personal periods of grace have been granted because of severe illness in the family, a near-fatal car wreck, the death of a dear one, and other but similar disasters... Like I said, not worth it. I would rather fulfill a deadline no matter what the cost than face those horrors again.

So what is the poor professional to do? If you are worth your salt, you sit in the chair, put your hands on the keyboard and start churning out the words without regard to what siren call is trying to distract you. It doesn’t matter if the first few hundred words are total dreck. There truly is a reason the ‘delete’ key was invented! I regard this as sort of like priming the pump. (Do today’s people even know what that means? Putting water down an old-fashioned lever pump in order to create a sort of suction so pumping the lever will raise the water. TMI? But we gotta fill that word count however we can!) Remember the prolific Nora Roberts said, (paraphrasing) write, even if it’s garbage - you can fix garbage but you can’t fix a blank page. (Told you those blank pages could be terrifying!)

Once primed, the writer’s training and practice and determined professionalism should kick in and the words start to coalesce into a sensible form that fulfills the parameters of your project. And eventually - hopefully! - you will finish it to your satisfaction. A goal you must reach whatever it takes.

The resultant feeling of satisfied euphoria usually lasts until the next time, the next deadline, so always remember that terrifyingly empty blank screen will be waiting for you - but you can master it, with or without the assistance of your Muse. You are a professional.