This photo was taken along the Athabasca River south of Jasper. Once the end of April arrives thoughts of summer trips come to mind. Scenes like the above stir memories of past journeys to the Rockies with family and friends. For me now, it's making the time as I've become quite busy with rewrites, some SF/F short fiction and a new venture of writing a historical article for a magazine. It's a time to keep focused with deadlines approaching. Regular posts will resume shortly as I've found that keeping the mind working creatively assists in keeping my readers interested.
In the April 2012 issue of Vitality Magazine the article Nourishing Mental Health by Helke Ferrie, covers the effects of the lack of proper nutrients that lead to various mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and maniac depression. There are scientific facts outlining how diets that “do not contain the necessary essential nutrients, such as folic acid, omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, vitamin C, minerals, and the amino acid tryptophan.” A pilot study carried out in the UK where mental patients were deprived of various convenience foods, chocolate bars, colas, snacks containing sugar and given essential nutrients. All improved quickly, some quite rapidly.
Dr. Abram Hoffer, MD, PhD, began his work on essential nutrients and cognitive function of the brain in the 1940s at the University of Saskatchewan. His research in nutritional deficiencies causing mental diseases was supported by Tommy Douglas, then Premier of Saskatchewan.
Dr. Hoffer’s case histories revealed may instances of total recovery from end-stage catatonic schizophrenia through vitamin therapy using nicotinic acid and ascorbic acid. Other cases where mega doses of vitamins were used to treat advanced mental health disorders. An excellent article that led me to consider the various foods I eat on a daily basis, and how to eat healthy to keep thinking clearly. Making certain to eat as health conscious as possible might seem to be a stretch, but by avoiding those snack convenience foods we grew up on as children and teenagers makes a big difference.
Over the last couple of years I’ve taken steps to eradicate those foods and replace them with healthy alternatives such as nuts, fruit: dried or fresh, carriots, celery, etc. Though for cognitive function I find that eating sufficient quantities of meat protein help along with vegetables, fruit and grains. Certainly something to consider today in keeping oneself healthy
During my youth my mother told me varying recollections of her childhood: of growing up on a farm in rural Alberta. One of those stories involved “stooking”. Today farmers put their hay up in stacked bales rather than sheaves set up in stooks that stand upright. A farmer would drive a two horse hitch pulling a flatbed wagon to drive between the rows to pick up the stooks to remove them to the barn or shed. Today a tractor is used with a baler attachment which packs the sun dried hay or green feed (oats not yet ripened) into a square bale or a large round bale and attaches twine to it to keep it secure until picked up.
Now, the story my mother told me dealt with her wanting to earn the same “extra” money her three brothers did by doing farm chores that involved heavier work like stooking in the fields when harvest came. She thought she was strong enough with the ability to do the same. Housework held no charm for her.
My grandfather, being a shrewd man, allowed her to stook the front corner field consisting of ten acres. Mother thought she would be working with dried wheat sheaves, but soon learned the task involved heavy green oats that hadn’t quite ripened in time for the harvest. Determined to get the job done she persisted.
Fortune shined on her that day. A grove of trees hid the field from the farm house. After several long back-breaking hours, a harvest work crew, hired to work in gangs for large farming operations, passed by on the road. Several of the men seeing my mother hard at work jumped down from the flatbed wagons and joined her in the field. They made short work of the stooking before running down the road to catch up to their ride.
Afterward my mother went to her father and told him she had completed the stooking in the field. He went out to see for himself, and without questioning her how she managed to get it done paid her the money.
Photo Credit: Ewing Galloway, The Book of Knowledge (1937) ,The Groiler Society, Limited, vol. 7, pp.1414. “corn stooks”
Vital Secrets is the third novel in Don Gutteridge’s historical mystery series. His first novel was Turncoat followed by Solemn Vows. Mr. Gutteridge kindly accepted my invitation for an interview for his readers to learn a little bit more about this talented author.
1. Who is the first person who gets to read your manuscript?
My son and daughter read the manuscript and they are my biggest fans.
2. How do you choose your characters' names?
My characters names come from the primary historical materials I research and from my imagination.
3. What do you have in your writer's drawer?
Pen and paper in my drawer. I hand-write every novel and then put it on the computer.
4. Where is your favourite place to write?
I write in my study.
5. Do you listen to music when you write?
I don’t listen to music when I write. I need silence to hear the words in my head.
6. With an obvious interest in Canadian history, why did you choose this particular time period?
I have always been fascinated by the rebellion period with its fair share of political intrigue.
7. What was the inspiration for the Marc Edwards mysteries?
I was inspired to write the Marc Edwards mysteries by my lifelong love of histoircal mysteries.
8. Do you keep a chart or list of all the things about Marc Edwards or any of the other characters?
I keep brief charts of my characters and their traits.
9. Are there other characters you plan to carry over in future novels of the Marc Edwards mysteries?
I plan to introduce other historical figures into later novels, like Robert Baldwin and Louis Lafontaine.
10. How and why did you become a writer? I started writing storeis in grade five, then poetry and never stopped.
11. What authors do you read?
I read quality Canadian fiction and numerous British, Canadian and American mysteries.
12. Have you written other genres besides historical fiction?
I have written and published eight literary novels and sixteen books of poetry, in addition to nine books in education.
Mr. Gutteridge, I wish you well with your upcoming books in this series. The next novel should prove to be as excellent as the others.
“It’s the fall of 1837, and Lieutenant Marc Edwards of His Majesty’s 24th Regiment of Foot is now an old hand at his post in the colonial backwater of Toronto, Upper Canada. The local population seethes and buckles under the repressive hand of the new government, and Marc expects to see some action very soon. In the meantime, the arrival of a touring American theatrical company promises an enjoyable diversion, and Marc’s friend Rick Hilliard falls hard for a young actress. Events turn deadly when a rival for the ingenue’s affections is murdered, and a disheveled Hilliard is discovered standing over the body holding a bloody sword.
“Marc leaps into action to save his friend, joining forces with the rough-edged Constable Cobb. The two soon discover that the victim was secretly smuggling American rifles across the border and selling them to local radicals. Was this a crime of passion or a criminal transaction gone wrong?
“What Marc doesn’t realize is that both crimes will reveal incredible secrets about his own identity, and the outcome of the investigation will change Marc’s life forever.”
In the third novel of the Marc Edwards mystery series set in early Canadiana, more particularly 1837 during the famous rebellion of that year. With this Mr. Gutteridge aptly “sets the stage” for this mystery series, providing historical detail to give colour and motive for his well rounded characters.
Marc Edwards, Lieutenant of the British army, raised in privilege, continues to court Beth Smallman. Although she is outspoken on the financial situation with the merchants and farmers he finds himself making compromises. While considering a wedding date Edwards has concerns of uprooting her from Upper Canada to some far off country: the British colonies in Van Damien’s Land, India or the Caribbean.
Other returning characters are Rick Hilliard, an ensign, perpetually love struck with each woman he meets, certain “she” is the one; Horatio Cobb, Toronto constable, with personable rough characteristics and loaded dialogue guaranteed to bring chuckles.
Each of the new characters are introduced with enough description to keep the reader interested, especially when one of the actors is discovered murdered. One character in particular that I took a shine to was Dora Cobb, Horatio’s wife, who is a midwife.
As Marc Edwards carries out the investigation rather than the local police due to the victim being an American to avoid political repercussions, the clues begin to surface: some red herrings and others most intriguing. The ending does come as a bit of a surprise but fits in well with the norms of the time.
Vital Secrets follows nicely after Solemn Vows. The next book in the series continues with the 1837 Rebellion in Lower Canada which should be as interesting as this one was. Historical novels provide an excellent way to reintroduce the reader to a time long ago.
Don Gutteridge taught English at the Faculty of Education, University of Western Ontario, before starting the Marc Edwards mystery series.