Joy at Writing The End

Anyone who writes will appreciate the joy of getting to an end of a piece of work that hooks all the segments together, ties up all the loose ends, and arrives at the right place to stop. 

Gasp! The long slog of completing the first draft of my next crime fiction novel, my 7th, is done.

Anyone who writes will also appreciate that finishing the first draft is far from writing The End.

The beginning is great, the middle probably sags like a hammock, and the end is sketchy, but my joy at writing the end is enormous. I like my characters, the hotshot Bakersfield Sheriff’s detective, and the village patrol officer. They form part of the ensemble of characters who were with me in the first two novels in the series set in the tranquil California mountain town where I so lived happily for 20 years. Writing about living there, the people, all my friends, the local landmarks and the big issues, allowed me to trip down memory lane. My first dog, Lily, and now Lissy,  got to recall the paths in the Los Padres Forest we walked on every day.  

It’s not a nature book, but a story about big city crime brought to a small town. Of course, the unsavory characters come in from “off the mountain.”  Only nice people live in the mythical town of Sierra Mountain Village, based on the real Pine Mountain Club, seventy miles from the northern edge of the Los Angeles sprawl.

The sun seemed to shine every day all those years I lived there. A year or so ago, I moved back home to Canada, the national capital – Ottawa. The sun does not shine every day and it’s bitter cold five months of the year. But making a good life, even being happy, wherever you live is a human survival skill we need to practice.

Especially now with the existential dread of a pandemic hovering over us. The numbers are up in the nation’s capital, though they’re smaller in number compared to what my friends in the US are coping with. In California, fire is an ever-present danger on the existential scale, and nobody is forgetting the inevitable earthquake.

But today, I’m happy.  If I could I jump in the air and click my heels. That’s joy at writing The End.

I hope that when this book hits the stands, you’ll celebrate with me. You can pre-order By Accident – Here

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Mar Preston – Crime Fiction Author

Mar Preston - Mystery Author

Mar Preston - Mystery Author

FJ: When did you decide to become a writer?

Mar: No decision involved. I slid into it. Being a wordsmith had been important in my working life in academia. I thought everybody could write. Widowed after only 4 days in our retirement home, I had a vast sea of empty time. Silly me. I thought writing a mystery would be easy because I was a passionate reader of crime fiction. I laugh now that I know just how hard it is.

FJ: What brought you to write mysteries?

Mar: Sometimes an idea chooses you and it has to be an idea that keeps the flame burning bright for a year or two. I don’t “chase the market” and write about what’s hot now. What’s hot can change next Wednesday, including all the “rules” of writing crime fiction. What made me write a series of 7-EBooks on “Writing Your First Mystery” was that I wanted to share what I’d learned the hard way in writing crime novels with new mystery writers. Maybe I could prevent somebody from making the lunkhead mistakes I’d made.

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Detective Dave Mason’s Santa Monica

Detective Dave Mason's Santa Monica

No Dice, Rip-Off,  On Behalf of the Family, & A Very Private School, and By Accident are a series of crime fiction novels that take place in Santa Monica, California. .Millions of international tourists flood Santa Monica every year. I lived here for a generation, got involved in its turbulent city politics, and loved it

This link will take you to a description of each of the novel in the series on Amazon.

Santa Monica Badge

Santa Monica Beach

Dave Mason’s Work Life

Santa Monica Police Department patrol vehicles are currently black and white Fords replacing the old Crown Victorias.

Santa Monica Police Department

Santa Monica Beach near Venice

Santa Monica Beach near Venice

View of the Pier into Santa Monica Bay

View of the Pier into Santa Monica Bay

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New Life in a New Country – Ottawa, Ontario

Moving back “home” became something new. Surprises at my new life in a new country. 

Surprises?  Canadians like sweet iced tea. Ick.

No pennies in circulation.  They round up to the nickel.

I’m sorry it’s taken so long to post this update for my friends who may have wondered what happened to me. You don’t realize how time and energy-consuming it is to set up the basics of life in a new country, life as we know it in the 21st century. Life for me includes an Internet connection, smartphone, and TV. A bank, credit card, drivers license. 

Here’s my new digs in Ottawa.  Not the downtown high-rise I wanted, but it’s really nice inside. Moving back “home” became something new. Surprises at my new life in a new country. The front is an ordinary suburban street. The back faces an old apple orchard and miles of walking/biking paths in the Britannia Conservation area.

Mayflower
My new digs
A row of two-story townhouses in the leafy suburbs of Ottawa-

Because public transportation is so good here, I decided to try and live without a car. I’m within minutes of a major bus hub and through a field out my back door where there is a community garden.

There’s Lyft and Uber, and a car-sharing service that I’ve subscribed to. Still, I walk a lot. A lot. My dog loves it. Much of the city looks like a city everywhere, but embassies and consulates are located here giving it a ritzy flavor, as it’s Canada’s national capital. (I know I should spell it “flavour” now.)

Here’s a photo of the mighty Ottawa River which drains into the Great Lakes. I know I make it look like a creek. 

Ottawa River
View from the stately Parliament buildings

Did I mention I can’t get Verizon to work here after 3 visits to the phone company? I did get a new account with Rogers, a major Canadian company, and new phone. Steep learning curve on both.

Fireflies in the grassy field full of flowers behind my townhouse. Fireflies at night. Thunder and lightning.

More. Much more to follow. A new novel? Slow progress. My email is now marpreston@gmail.com. Let me know if you want my phone number.

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The Basics of My New Life in Ottawa, Ontario

You don’t realize how time and energy-consuming it is to set up the basics of life, life as we know it in the 21st century. Life, for me, includes an Internet connection, smartphone, and TV, a bank, credit card, driver’s license. I’m sorry it’s taken so long for this update.

Here’s my new digs in Ottawa. Not the downtown high-rise I wanted, but it’s nice inside. The front is an ordinary suburban street. The back faces an old apple orchard and miles of walking/biking paths in the Britania Conservation area.

My new digs
A row of two-story townhouses in the leafy suburbs of Ottawa-

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How could you have a disappointing weekend in Quebec City?

My new life in another country. Quebec City is one of the glories of Canada.

My friend Judith Cassis was visiting. We decided to take the train from Ottawa to Quebec City and hit all the highlights. No research, no guidebooks. We’re smart. We’ll figure it out.

Judith and I made stupid mistakes and as a consequence had some terrible meals. Quebec City is known for its fine restaurants and cuisine. Instead of researching and reserving a time at one of the fine restaurants, we ate when we were hungry and what was nearby. We saved up the Musee de Beaux-Arts for the last day when our feet hurt. We decided we didn’t need to ask the way to the Pier, so we ended up walking miles, and then running to catch the excursion boat. Did I mention Quebec City is all hills? Pretty dumb for two smart women, eh?

Quebec City looms over the St. Lawrence River in the Province of Quebec. From the heights, you can see mile after mile of wooded downtowns and suburbs hundreds of feet below.   Decisive battles took place here on the Plains of Abraham:  sometimes the British/Canadians won, sometimes the French. It’s entirely French now, all public signage and government affairs conducted in French. It’s the only city in North American surrounded by 16th-century fortifications.  The Old City, the tourist quarter that is.

I expected to have to trot out my rusty French, but almost everyone in the tourist industry speaks English, some of them easy in both languages. They know you’re an English speaker in the first few syllables anyway, and step in to save their language from being butchered. Fierce Francophone wars have also been fought here during the days of Separatisme. I suspect the urge to divide off from Canada and form a unique province for French language and culture is still much alive. I’ll be learning more about this.

Judith and I took an excursion boat out into the mighty St. Lawrence Seaway that connects the inland provinces to the Atlantic Ocean. The currents in this deep and swift river make it one of the most dangerous waterways in the world. A pleasant excursion on a sunny day, for me at least, was spoiled by a guide decked out in the fashion on 16th-century costume offering a loud and unavoidable running commentary first in impeccable French and then tortured English. Shut up!

Montreal

Montreal is known for its hot, urban buzz: Quebec City is the provincial capital and administrative center for the province of Quebec. As a new Canadian, I guess it’s somewhat like Ottawa where I’m now living, Ottawa being the national capital and Toronto the city with the hot urban buzz.

I wish I could sound excited about our weekend. Probably we are ready now to go to Quebec, having made all these mistakes.

Hope you’ll stay with me for the publication of my next novel Pre-order it now. By Accident 

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Smart Women:  Bad Choices: A Weekend in Quebec City

Quebec City
Chateau Frontenac and Lower Town

My friend Judith Cassis and I took an excursion boat out into the mighty St. Lawrence Seaway connecting the inland provinces of Canada to the Atlantic Ocean. The currents in this deep and swift river make it one of the most dangerous waterways in the world. A pleasant excursion on a sunny day, for me at least, was spoiled by a guide decked out in a 16th-century costume offering a loud and unavoidable commentary first in impeccable French and then tortured English. Shut up!

Quebec City is known for its fine restaurants and cuisine. Judith and I made stupid mistakes and as a consequence had some terrible meals. Instead of researching and reserving a time at one of the fine restaurants, we ate when we were hungry and whatever was nearby. We saved up the Musee de Beaux-Arts for the last day when our feet hurt. We decided we didn’t need to ask the way to the Pier, so we ended up walking miles, and then running to catch the excursion boat. Did I mention Quebec City is all hills? Pretty dumb for two smart women, eh?

I expected to have to trot out my rusty French, but almost everyone in the tourist industry speaks English, some of them easy in both languages. They know you’re an English speaker in the first few syllables anyway, and step in to save their language from being butchered. Fierce Francophone wars have been fought here during the days of Separatisme. I suspect the urge to divide off from Canada and form a unique province for French language and culture is still much alive. I’ll be learning more about this.

Quebec City looms over the St. Lawrence River at its narrowest point in the Province of Quebec. From the heights, you can see mile after mile of wooded downtowns and suburbs. Decisive battles took place here on the Plains of Abraham:  Sometimes the British/Canadians won, sometimes the French. It’s entirely French now, all public signage and government affairs conducted in French. It’s the only city in North American surrounded by 16th-century fortifications.  The Old City, the tourist quarter, that is.

Montreal

Montreal is known for its hot, urban buzz: Quebec City is the provincial capital and administrative center for the province of Quebec. As a new Canadian, I guess it’s somewhat like Ottawa where I’m now living, Ottawa being the national capital and Toronto the city with the hot urban buzz.

I wish I could sound excited about our weekend. Probably we are ready now to go back to Quebec City, having made all these mistakes. I wish I could import Judith back to see all the things I’ve discovered living in Ottawa.

More about Ottawa later. I’m trying to catch up with myself, having made a transcontinental move last month. I’m struggling with my phone to upload all the photos from our weekend.

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Arrival in a New Country

Arrival
Eager for Adventure

I’m now living my new life in another country.  The basic set up of a new life in Ontario, Canada requires patience and grim determination.  Stamina as well.

A few days have passed since the hellish date of departure, and fortunately, that’s now  past. I’d sprung for Business Class on Air Canada because my friend, celebrated author, Judith Cassis, and my two beloved cats traveled with me. Still, it was a long, tense day.

We stumbled off the plane into the arms of my cousins who whisked us to see my new digs: a two-bedroom, two-story townhouse surrounded by greenery and a few minutes’ walk to the Ottawa River. I now live in the west end of the city of Ottawa,  for those of you in the know.

Basic Life

Basic life nowadays – for me at least – means a bank account and available money, phone, internet, and transportation. All of those basics, I discover, are based on your being able to prove your identity. Honestly, I’m not trying to fund a Canadian Jihad in opening a bank account.

I have a Canadian and American passport, a California picture-ID driver’s license, several American credit cards, and a spotless credit record. In Canada, and perhaps many places in the world, they demand two government-issued forms of ID. I butted my head against the brick wall to no avail. No phone, TV, or internet.

Fortunately, my cousins are my new landlords so my living space came easily at least. I am so grateful to them for supporting me during this very long week of grappling with bureaucracy.

New Situations

New situations, new problems, no solutions are very tiring. Many naps to regroup and get my attitude right. It does no good to scream at bureaucrats.

Judith and I head to Quebec City for the weekend since there’s nothing I can do until next week. This afternoon we will take Via Rail across Ontario into the mostly French-speaking province of Quebec. The old City of Quebec sits on the mighty St. Lawrence River

Quebec City

and features historic stone buildings, and narrow streets lined with boutiques and bistros. It has a distinctly Parisian feeling. The Chateau Frontenac and Citadelle of Quebec form the ramparts that loom over the city.

My friend Kathy Weinstein says it as close to France as you can get in North America.

I miss Kathy already. I miss all my old friends, but I had a photo of Kathy handy.

Me and Kathy

Arrival
Me, the Writer

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Price Has No Relationship to Value

Nostalgia is not your friend. Sentiment is your enemy. You must be ruthless.

Everyone I know has a story about when they moved into their current home. I recognize the dazed look in the eyes of military or corporate families who moved every few years.

It’s the story of people who gave up barbeques, backyard swing sets, antique furniture, and expensive sports equipment. They are the people who gazed around at the pre-moving mess and said, “Where did all this stuff come from?”

You think about what you paid for that outdoor patio furniture that you only used a few times last year. What about your mother’s silver that you’ve never taken out of the box?

Stuff

Your aunt’s dishes? That ugly bedroom set?

What you paid for something, in the end, comes down to what you can shove into the moving van or the U-Haul. What you paid for it has no relationship to what you can sell it for at a yard sale. And it comes as a surprise that no one wants your worn out couch. Even if it’s free.

 

The moving van for me arrives on Wednesday.  My helpers and I will load all those carefully-packed cardboard boxes into a 28-foot empty space. The more of those 28 linear feet you use in the van, the more you pay.

Lately, I’ve just opened my wallet and let it bleed because I’m selling my house at the same time. Moving is expensive.

The upside? With all the useless crap gone, I can see the good bones of the house. This weekend I lay on my couch and looked through the floor-to-ceiling windows as the clouds gathered, first the hail, and then the rain fell.

I’d never had that view before since the couch had to be on the opposite wall to accommodate all the clutter. I’m sad about that. I’m leaving a lush, mountain forest environment for the downtown landscape of Ottawa, Ontario, the nation’s capital.

But I want a new life. I leave behind supportive friendships of twenty years. I know I’ll be lonely.  It’s taken me twenty years to form these friendships, and it’s unlikely I’ll have twenty years to form new ones. People aren’t Legos you can just plug in.

I want a new life and this is the cost.

Please tell me the story of your move and how it turned out.

 

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