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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 relief 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 then Lissy,  got to recall the paths in the Los Padres Forest we walked on every day.  

Oh, 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 practise.

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.

I hope that when this book hits the stands, you’ll celebrate with me.

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Mar Preston – Mystery 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

No Dice, Rip-Off,  On Behalf of the Family, & A Very Private School take place in Santa Monica, California. I lived here for a generation and loved it.

Santa Monica Badge

Santa Monica Beach

Dave Mason’s Work Life

Santa Monica Police Department patrol vehicles are black and white 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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Who are you? Prove it!

That Canadian/American border has looked like Donald Trump’s Wall to me many times as I establish my new life in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

You think the border is seamless. We speak the same language: we look the same. Increasingly, I’m seeing the differences.

You want your bits and scraps of money to follow you across that border.  Criminals seem to be able to wire money from one country to another with ease. Not me. I had to establish a Canadian/American bank account that is just set up for Snowbirds. (Banks are in the business of making money.) I had to be interviewed by a bank offer to get a credit card.

Driver’s license in Ontario? I was born Margaret Gail.  But in the 70s when I moved to California from Toronto, I used a family nickname:  Mar. I filled out a notary-stamped declaration to renew my Canadian passport in 1983 stating I had used Mar all the time I’d been in California.  Not good enough. I’ll spare you the details of many visits.  Finally, they photographed me 3x and I filled out the application 3x:  Margaret Preston, aka Mar Preston, and aka Mar Margaret Preston. Then they snatched my California driver’s license, currently my only picture ID. Now you know someone with an alias.

You take your identity for granted. Flash your driver’s license and maybe a credit card and that’s it. We all know identity theft is lucrative for thieves, a misery for the victim.  Does this sweet old face look like it’s laundering drug money?

You spend years trying to figure out who you are and what you’re all about. Then it’s up to you to prove it.

I’m using a new email now if you’d like to contact me. marpreston@gmail.com Write to me if you’d like my phone number.

Check out my books as well.  I’m still a good read.

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Who are you? Prove it!

Who are you? Prove it!

That Canadian/American border has looked like Donald Trump’s Wall to me many times as I establish my new life in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

You think the border is seamless. We speak the same language: we look the same. Increasingly, I see the differences.

(more…)

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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, drivers 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 really 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-

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 here’s my walk through a field out my back door where there is a community garden.

The walking paths

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. Just imagine what Mel Weinstein could do with a panorama like this?

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

Surprises?  Canadians like sweet iced tea. Ick.

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

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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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-

(more…)

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Weekend in Quebec City

My new life in another country. 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 down 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.

My friend Judith Cassis 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!

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 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?

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.

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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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