Turning Leaves and other lovely things

Just got back from Writescape’s Turning Leaves retreat at Fern Resort. What a gift to spend a weekend with old friends and new, writers all, concentrating on projects and the writer’s craft. I learned valuable lessons in characterization, especially the Sunday morning session with Gwynn Scheltema and Ruth E. Walker.

Back home, it’s Monday, snow is falling and the carryover from the weekend had me spending it on my work-in-progress. The voices of my characters are  distinct and clear in my head, less so on paper(or the computer screen).

I just started reading Russ King’s Defiant Spirits: The Modernist Revolution of the Group of Seven. A giant Black Willow at the river’s edge, the black water, dotted with a gaggle of Canada Geese who seem to be practicing take-off and landing this morning while working on their group harmony, ice forming, and in the distance a row of white—seagulls resting on a half-submerged log— turn the view from my kitchen window into a Group of Seven landscape.

I’ve started “pinning” to a few boards on Pinterest, a process I didn’t understand until recently. Several writers I know are using it as a sort of giant white board, pinning portions of their wip or research or clippings, to private boards. I am using one for clippings, but the rest to collect and share books and paintings and photographs that I especially like. http://pinterest.com/virginiawinters.

A true tragedy this: the mayor brought down by his fatal flaw, his apparent inability to understand that the rules apply to him.

Devestation

The shattered homes, the broken lives, the deaths, all of it seen through the eyes of CNN or CBC, all of it, because of the media, through no fault of its own, seeming more like a movie than reality. Ot at least it did until the pictures and interviews from the destroyed neighbourhoods, where one woman, whose home was inundated, whose son who lived in her basement lost everything, talked about her neighbours on the streets to the south being so much worse off than she was. Two small children found today, I understand. The water ripped them from their mother’s arms. A heart-wrenching tragedy among so many.

I heard today that the Hydro crews from Ontario and Quebec and the Maritimes were arriving in the areas without power. A brotherhood seems to prevail amongst the electrical workers, the firemen who fight the forest fires, the carpenters who rebuild the homes. I’m glad the workers went south. The Americans are generous in other people’s disaster. Time to help them out.

I hope the Americans elect a man with a heart on Tuesday, not the man whose only interest is in the bottom line

Press Release for No Motive for Murder

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Third novel in Virginia Winters’ Dangerous Journeys series released by Write Words Inc., publisher.

Lindsay— Dr. Virginia Winters’ new book, “No Motive for Murder”, just released by Write Words Inc., available online at http://www.writewordsinc.com

Anne McPhail is on holiday in Bermuda, visiting her sister. She stumbles upon a murder in progress and this time, she is more than just a witness, she is a suspect, dealing with a police officer who decides Anne is guilty, and sticks to it in face of the evidence or lack of it. But more is going on than a random murder. Anne is caught in the middle an assassination plot. When she inadvertently upsets the killer’s plan, he turns his attention to her. The risk spreads to her family and friends and then Thomas Beauchamp arrives on Bermuda. When his role is revealed, Anne’s life takes a dangerous turn.

“I’m so pleased to have this novel published by Write Words Inc. of Cambridge, Maryland. Anne’s travels have become a series, Dangerous Journeys.”
“We are very proud to have published No Motive for Murder by Virginia Winters said Arline Chase, publisher.
“We are a small company and choose our books carefully. We only publish work from writers we feel are talented and have a lot to offer.”

Dr. Winters’ two previous novels are:
Murderous Roots
The Facepainter Murders

Both published by Write Words Inc. Arline Chase, publisher, and available at:
Write Words Inc.
Barnes&Noble
Kent Bookstore, Lindsay, Ontario
Amazon
Other works have appeared online at Pine Tree Mysteries, Six Sentences and the Camroc Press Review, as well as in the Gumshoe Review, and The Other Herald.

She enjoys meeting readers at book-signings, speaking to local groups (at the library, community college, clubs, etc.) about her work, and may be contacted through her website at http://www.virginiawinters.ca or by e-mail at mailto:vwinters@bell.net

Happenstance and Science

Quest for a wonder drug started with shrew bait – The Globe and Mail.

An article in this morning’s Globe and Mail tells the story of a researcher, Dr. Jack Stewart who started to look at the pain-killing possibilities in shrew saliva. Sounds unlikely doesn’t it? But that is the nature of science. It was known, the article tells us that shrew saliva had paralytic properties. Dr. Irwin G. Martin had published a paper on the subject in the Journal of Mammalogy in 1981. Dr. Stewart’s research into the chemical that caused the paralysis led him to his recent discovery. A typical chain in science: primary research in an area as unlikely as shrew saliva at one end and a potential treatment for not one but three major cancers— ovarian, breast and prostate— at the other.

This is the chain that politicians, businessmen and other non-scientists don’t seem to understand. Much of medical discovery comes by happenstance. Vincristine and Vinblastine are potent anti-cancer agents derived from the periwinkle plant, common now in many of our gardens. The plant searchers, funded by amateur botanists and Royal Societies, brought plants and seeds from all over the globe, often to London. From there the seeds were shared, first to Paris, according to Michael F. Brown, writing in Who Owns Native Culture, 2003. Folk medicine revealed that many plants were in common use as treatments for disease. Anthropology, botany, chemistry, medicine, all studying these plants, often a considerable remove from any thought of practical application, but all leading through the cross-pollination of publication, to the drug that brought hope at last to childhood victims of acute leukaemia. I first met the drug while I was working as a resident at the Hospital for Sick Children in 1972, treating those children, mostly under five years, who now had a chance, not just for survival, but for a cure.

This won’t happen, can’t happen without the funding of primary research,  research without a known outcome. How can you predict that shrew saliva might cure human cancers? But you can fund the inquiring minds, let them talk to one another, and wonderful things can happen from that cross-pollination.

We deny funding to universities and basic science at our peril.

Publishing and still more waiting.

The printer finally shipped a book to me. A book, not my book, so I’m back to waiting. Strange business, publishing.
While I’ve been waiting, I’m polishing another novel, and have it almost ready to go. It is set in Toronto, with side trips to Rome, Venice, Florence and Dubrovnik. A lot of fun to write. It’s working title is HIDDEN.
I’ve started planning another, which occupies my thoughts much of the day. This one will require more research, especially into the world of art restoration.

Sakineh Ashtiani still sits in that Iranian jail, awaiting her stoning sentence to be carried out. Latest news is at this link:
http://preview.tinyurl.com/d5bpwvs

Shameful decision

Clock ticking down for renowned environmental research station – The Globe and Mail.

A line in a “budget” and a world-renowned research facility, the one that taught us about phosphates and acid rain and would have taught us how to deal with the oil sands is closing because of some politician’s scientific illiteracy and inability to face hard facts. Not everything in this world of ours can be reduced to a line in a profit and loss statement, but the members of the Harper government seem to think it can. But even it that was the way it worked, the knowledge produced by the experiments at the Experiment Lakes is far more valuable than any minimal decrease in budgetary expense.

Even if other sectors could pick up the cost, the time line imposed by the Omnibus bill is too short. I suppose the Harperites like to see people who are so much smarter than they are twisting in the wind.

It is shameful decision and a disgrace to this country.

Heavy Urban Search and Rescue

Budget cuts put rescue teams in peril long before Elliot Lake – The Globe and Mail

Teams such as these cost a great deal of money. The Harper government, which is cancelling the funding, claims that 90% of disasters are handled locally. Whether or not that is true, and who knows about statistics released by this government, the 10% are those such as the disaster at Elliott Lake or future terrorist attacks, or crumbling urban infrastructure collapses that take heroic effort by well-trained teams with advanced equipment to save lives. Without funding, Public Safety Canada said that some or all of the teams would not survive.

The funding cut was another of those buried in the Omnibus Bill, just passed with much high-fiving and cheering by the Harper party stalwarts. Perhaps they will come to dig out the survivors when the next building collapses.

What so these guys think federal governments are meant to do? Oh, I remember. Build bridges for the Americans.

Tragic loss to Science

Save the Experimental Lakes Area petition | Ontario Chapter.

Please go to this website, download a petition and send it to join your voice to the many others from many countries who feel this priceless resource must not be lost.

It is difficult to understand why this project, after 50 years of productive scientific experimentation was chosen by the federal government to be closed. I don’t believe it was a financial decision, but rather one to discourage voices from the environmental community who deliver unpalatable facts to the politicians.

The lakes, the land, are irreplaceable and only ours for a short time. We don’t own them, we are charged with caring for them. We need the information the scientists bring from the ELA in order to do that.

The decision to stop funding is narrow-minded and damaging and should be reversed.

Jun Lin

Vigil announced for Jun Lin as family talks about devastating loss – 680News.

The family remembers the victims, Jun Lin and the others who have fallen to serial killers and rapists. What about the rest of us? The headlines, most of them, trumpet the name of the killer, not his victim. It’s the Magnotta case, not the Jun Lin case, the Russell Williams, not Jessica Lloyd. The names of the victims, their stories are a temporary aspect of the news, not the news.

This time, I want to remember Jun Lin, a son and a brother, whose joyful face suggested the hope with which he came from China to study here. I’ll try to forget his killer, under either of his names, and the revolting pictures of himself he plastered over the internet.

Jun Lin and his family deserve our memories.

The Harper Government and Statscan

Ottawa set to announce major overhaul of EI | CTV News.

At the end of this story from the Canadian Press is the following:

Human Resources Minister Diane Finley’s department has stopped sending Statistics Canada key and current information about how much federal money is flowing to each of the provinces for EI claimants.ndrew Jackson, the Canadian Labour Congress’s chief economist says the loss of data will make it much more difficult to analyse the impacts of changes to the EI rules.

So they are changing the rules, but don’t bother them with the facts about the consequences of their actions. If there were ever the hallmark of the ideologue, this has got to be it. This government has the same approach to science– the Conservatives have fixed ideas, based on some political theory, and not rigorous scientific investigation, and are making decisions in that fashion. I wonder how they would react to a physician who made decisions about treatment based on a belief, not investigative studies. Their decisions, based only on belief, may alter our country beyond recognition. Who voted for that?