For Preston Pairo III, life can be full of lust, love, money and murder -- when the scenarios are in his head.

In reality, the 33-year-old lawyer seems to be a typical suburbanite, living with his wife, Moira, and their dog, Summer, a German shepherd-Labrador retriever, in a two-story colonial home in Ellicott City.

His favorite pastimes are playing basketball and taking frequent vacation flings to Ocean City and Florida. The locales have triggeredPairo's imagination to write eight mystery novels, five of which have been published.

Pairo's interest in writing began when he was a 15-year-old student at Mount Hebron High, the school he graduated from in 1976.

"I had independent study classes and spent half the dayreading a book," Pairo said. In his readings, he stumbled upon a copy of the Writer's Market guide, which listed $1,000 payments for free-lance stories published in Playboy magazine.

"From that point on,I submitted stories to any place (magazine) that used fiction ... I used to run to the mailbox every day," he said.

But the mailbox brought rejections to the young man who did not realize how difficult it would be to sell fiction. Over the years, the rejections progressedfrom mimeographed slips to comments written by the editor, and, ultimately, to suggestions for rewriting.

Pairo sold his first manuscript to a magazine a decade ago -- two years after he earned a bachelor's degree in fine arts from Loyola College. Under a pseudonym, he has continued to write crime, suspense and thriller stories for little-known publications, as well as Hustler and similar men's magazines "that you can't buy unless you are a certain age." Most of the author'senergies, however, are spent writing novels.

Pairo's first book on the stands, "The Captain Drowns" -- a mystery set in Ocean City -- was self-published five years ago. He says, "It was the 15th best-selling book in Ocean City this past August."

"Beach Money," a sequel, was sold last year to Walker and Co. publishers in New York. It's due out in June in hardback.

"It is my favorite book, so far. Everyone of the characters I know," said Pairo, referring to the people on which he based the novel's personalities.

As a former basketballcoach in the Howard County Youth Program, Pairo spent many hours with a "bunch of 10-year-olds" who have since gone off to college. "I was in law school at the time, and the kids were a big part of my life. I feel like a group of friends has outgrown me. I am not interestedin beer parties or going to "the Block"; I resent them for getting older," he said with a smile.

The fun thing about writing, Pairo admits, is being able to keep alive those friends as he remembers them -- and that's why several of his former team members make cameo appearances in "Beach Money."

Pairo's most recently published novel, "Midnight Razz," just released by Dell Publishing in New York, takes place in another of his favorite spots -- Florida. The writer says the sun and warm weather there seem "more exotic" and provide the perfectsetting for letting his imagination run wild.

Meanwhile, back in his home office -- in a second-floor spare room which overlooks winter's barren trees -- Pairo pounds out steamy plots on his computer keyboard.

"I will picture a beginning scene or a character. I usuallystart a book with a vague premise; I'm not much for outlining. It's like you are planting these subconscious seeds. Later on, you realizeyou can use them," Pairo said.

The writer's schedule usually begins around 10 a.m. when he "writes away" until 2 p.m. After that, Pairo heads for the Ellicott City law firm where he practices with his father, Preston Pairo Jr.

Most of the younger Pairo's legal work is criminal defense and traffic defense cases, including drunken-drivingand speeding tickets. "I don't handle divorce cases. They're too time-consuming," he said.

Pairo says his wife is his best critic, even if she isn't always a willing one. The writer recalled giving Moirathe first 40 pages of a manuscript to read.

"She said it was too slow, that nothing was happening. I was mad at her during the first 30 seconds, then I realized she was right. I was up till 4 a.m. rewriting," he said.

But the author doesn't seem to mind since the joy of writing is what's important to him.

"If I don't write, I am miserable," he says. But if he had to write for a living, the pressure offeeling forced to sell would detract from his creativity.

Pairo says there are two kinds of bad days: the kind when "you can't think of anything to write about" and days when "you don't have time to write." The rest of his time, he says, writing is "so much fun."

Askedabout goals, Pairo replied, "I have none. I'm not a big fan of change. I'd like to maintain the status quo -- though, eventually, I wouldlike to be able to just write."

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