“...almost before Anne realized it, spring had come again to Green Gables and all the world was abloom once more.”
Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery
There was a time when I didn't notice whether the trees were in bloom or not. Years and years when I didn't notice, in fact. Even if someone pointed out a tree bursting with lovely pink or white blossoms I would turn towards it, seeming to stare at its gorgeous spring colours but not actually register its full beauty. How is this possible? I have no excuse for my oblivousness; I don't understand it from here myself.
For at least a decade now seeing magnolia, cherry and apple blossom trees in bloom has been a big part of what makes May my favourite month. The period when the trees are at the height of their beauty is short and precious. It's also the time of year when Southern Ontario weather can be at its finest, a period when we can feel grateful for spring's warmth and sunshine without feeling stifled by the humidity which often accompanies full-fledged summer.
So in this, my very favourite month, I wandered down the road to capture a bit of spring. My most favourite tree in all the world is among these pictures: a stunning magnolia that lives not far away. Visiting a tree seems like a very Anne of Green Gables thing to do but I honestly do try to stop by and admire this tree every year when it's a bloom. It's a beauty any day of the year but never finer than in May.


Happy spring!

This is me at seventeen in the summer of 1986. If the photo extended as far as my feet you'd see that not only am I in a Late Night with David Letterman sweatshirt, I'm also wearing the same brand of blue-striped white Adidas running shoes that Dave regularly sported on the show back then. Yeah, that's how much I admired David Letterman, I even had the same pair of running shoes.

I first saw Late Night while sleeping over at a friend's house during ninth grade in '83; her older sister was a fan and that night the three of us tuned in to the 12:30 show. But it wasn't until the following year, when I was fifteen, that a laxer bedtime allowed me to become a more regular viewer. At the time the cultural landscape was markedly different than today and for me—a suburban Canadian teenager—watching Late Night felt like discovering a cool underground club dedicated to pointing out the hilarious meeting point of the mundane and the absurd (Dave’s disdain for NBC owners General Electric, Chris Elliott as the Guy Under the Seats, Larry Bud Melman wandering around in a bear suit trying to get change for a ten, Dave dropping stuff from a 5 story building). In short, Late Night with David Letterman developed my love for comedy.

If I’d had a craptastic day Dave’s 12.30 show was a sensational place to hang out (when there weren't many cool, funny places for someone my age to be) for an hour. And If I’d had a good day, Late Night was the icing on the cake. No matter what was going on in the outside world or my daily life I would always, always feel immeasurably better after watching the show. Elated even. Discovering Late Night felt like finding another member(s) of my tribe, even if Dave and his team of writers were all the way down in New York and I didn't know them personally. The following day my best friend and I often discussed show highlights. Along with fantastic 80s music like Talk Talk, The Thompson Twins and The Smiths, David Letterman and Late Night was our awesome alternate universe. I didn’t care about reading Shakespeare, my upcoming math or science quiz, or clothes shopping at the local mall. I cared about getting good tickets for the upcoming Tears for Fears concert or watching David Letterman flirt with Teri Garr.

Then and now, I am a huge David Letterman fan. I will always be an enormous David Letterman fan and I really don’t want to think about how in five weeks' time Dave won’t be a presence on the late night airwaves anymore, how from May 20th onward there will always be something missing.

David Letterman, The Late Show

When my brother, a fellow diehard Letterman fan of thirty-plus years, sent me a link to a clip of Elvis Costello on the show several months ago and noted how at the very end Elvis says, "it's the last year of our youth, Dave," whoah boy, I felt that something fierce. This is the last year of my youth too. The end of an era.

Some months after my brother forwarded the clip he called and asked whether I I wanted to go see The Late Show with him if he could get tickets. He wasn't positive it could happen but he had a contact that greatly improved the odds.

As it turned out the odds were excellent. His request for Late Show tickets was granted about ten days ago. My brother arranged the entire trip to New York City and made a lifelong dream of mine (and his!) come true. On March 31st we were members of the Late Show studio audience, a wonderfully giddy, surreal experience.

As a writer I have many alternate universes but I can't think of one that means more to me than the one David Letterman introduced me to over thirty years ago, the one he created and cultivated for millions of viewers in stolen hours of the night.

Whatever large or small things happen in the news after May 20th, from the political to the inane to human rights issues, I know I'll find myself wondering what Dave would've had to say about them. I hate the thought of saying goodbye, but I can't allow these final weeks of The Late Show to go by without saying thanks. Thank you, Dave, for the role you played in my life, and endless thanks to my brother for making our Late Show experience happen and for always knowing, just as well as I did, that Late Night and the Late Show were never just T-shows.

Al Franken very eloquently sums up what David Letterman accomplished
in his years as the host of Late Night and The Late Show

A Josh Gad clip from the Late Show recording we were at

New York morning, March 31st

Outside the Ed Sullivan theatre with my brother, March 31st

The prized Late Show tickets, March 31st

You are here! March 31st

Times Square, April 1st

Last view of New York off to the left, April 1st

Now this was a shame. On Friday February 13th Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper assaulted Quebec icon Bonhomme outside Hôtel de Glace near Quebec City. The visit started out promisingly enough.

Yo! How's my fav snowman?

But only minutes later the Prime Minister caught Bonhomme by surprise when he viciously kicked him in the stomach as he accused Bonhomme of being in league with Canadian scientists. It's well known that Canadian scientists have been repeatedly muzzled on the subjects of climate change and other environmental concerns during Harper's time in office.

In 2014 The Climate Change Performance Index (published annually by Germanwatch and Climate Action Network Europe) labelled Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Australian counterpart Tony Abbott the "earth's worst climate villains."

"Think I don't know you're on the scientists' side?

Moments after Friday's unsportman-like attack, Bonhomme, having recovered from his initial surprise, wrestled Harper to the ground and dunked his face in the snow several times. "That's from the polar bears," Bonhomme reportedly declared in French. He was quickly restrained by RCMP who pulled the Prime Minister to safety.
If you haven't already, please sign the Amnesty International petition and Change.org petition asking for blogger Raif Badawi’s unconditional release.

Raif Badawi was imprisoned for 10 years "in May 2014 after starting a website for social and political debate in Saudi Arabia. He was charged with creating the ‘Saudi Arabian Liberals’ website and insulting Islam." His sentence included 1,000 lashes to be administered at the rate of 50 per week.
Raif Badawi with his children
Raif Badawi with his children
On January 9th, Raif Badawi received the first set of 50 lashes in a public flogging. A medical committee deemed him too weak and unwell from his first set of lashes to receive a second set the following week. In short, Raif would have to recover enough to be lashed again and again for an unthinkable 20 weeks.
After an international outcry for Raif, King Abdullah has referred the case to the Saudi Arabian supreme court. On Sunday night 18 Nobel Laureates published an open letter urging Saudi academics to condemn the public flogging.
Today you can also take part in the Stand Up For Raif online protest to help show your support for Raif and keep up the pressure to have him released.
I Am Standing Up For Raif Badawi

You can read excerpts from Raif Badawi's writings at the Guardian.co.uk.
If you know much about my writing you're probably aware that most of my published work has been contemporary YA, very realistic stuff similar to things that might well have happened to you or someone you know. I've also written two sci-fi eco-thrillers, a novel about a twenty-year-old who goes into a state of collapse after the love-of-her-life boyfriend dies, and a book about a ghost girl tethered to a grieving teenage boy.

What you might not guess from all this is that I'm a sucker for a good alien story—a huge fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, The X-Files, Stargate Atlantis, Falling Skies, V (both the 1984 series and 09 remake), Invasion (such an amazing show—can't believe it was cancelled after only a single season!), Doctor Who (more on that here) and Torchwood. Likewise, when a cool alien flick rolls up at the Cineplex, I'm there. Below are some of my personal favourites from over the years.

* Monsters (2010)
Directed and written by Gareth Edwards
Anything but your typical alien invasion picture or boiler plate aliens. "Six years after Earth has suffered an alien invasion a cynical journalist agrees to escort a shaken American tourist through an infected zone in Mexico to the safety of the US border."

* The Abyss (1989)
Directed and written by James Cameron
When a diving team search for a lost nuclear submarine they encounter something more. A terrific cast (Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Michael Biehn) and highly original—-almost whimsical—-alien species make this underwater drama one of a kind.

The Abyss
The Abyss

* Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Directed and written by Steven Spielberg
A group of strangers are inexorably drawn toward an encounter with intelligent alien life in Spielberg's iconic follow-up film to Jaws.

* Starship Troopers (1997)
Directed by Paul Verhoeven; screenplay by Edward Neumeier, based on a book by Robert A. Heinlein
Bug-squishing fun. In the near future humanity battles giant alien insects. One of the noteworthy aspects of the film is the comprehensive gender quality we observe in the military.

* Alien | Aliens (1979/1986)
Alien directed by Ridley Scott; written by Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett Aliens directed and written by James Cameron
The alien(s) of the title are horrific to look at, all endless sets of teeth and seething acid. If possible, they seem even more single-minded than Daleks. Exterminate!

* District 9 (2009)
Directd by Neill Blomkamp; written by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell
That rarity amongst modern action films, one that's as intelligent as it is gripping. Alien refugees are housed in South Africa's District 9, a makeshift ghetto. But when a human government operative begins to mutate into an alien creature, the fragile relationship between the refugees and their hosts explodes.

District 9
District 9

* Signs (2002)
Directed and written by M. Night Shyamalan
The crop circles that appear in the fields of a family farm are just the sinister beginning. In Roger Ebert's review of the film he writes, "M. Night Shyamalan's 'Signs' is the work of a born filmmaker, able to summon apprehension out of thin air."

* Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
Director by Philip Kaufman; screenplay by W.D. Richter, based on a book by Jack Finney
Humans are systematically replaced by aliens who stealthily duplicate them. If you've seen this particular adaptation no doubt Donald Sutherland's other worldly howl is etched in your memory forever like it is in mine.

* Prometheus (2012)
Directed by Ridley Scott; written by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof
I didn't group this with the other Alien movies above because Prometheus is a very different sort of film. For me the creation of the alien wasn't the most interesting element about this one—the glimpses at humanity's creators were.

* War of the Worlds (2005)
Directed by Steven Spielberg; screenplay by Josh Friedman and David Koepp, based on a book by H.G. Wells
Relentless, terrifying and realistic—humanity struggles to survive an alien onslaught.

War of the Worlds
War of the Worlds
At one point, for several months after finishing Come See About Me, I considered writing another book focused on a main character in his or her early adult years. I had a couple of ideas floating around at the time — one centred around an eighteen year old guy recently out of high school and who would've been in university if not for other issues in his life, the other was about a twenty-year-old girl who leaves college to help take care of her older sister's young kids when her sister is struck with cancer. Although I've penned more young adult fiction than anything else, the characters I'm interested in writing about aren't solely ones that fit comfortably in the young adult range and actually extend from twelve to twenty-two or so. That could mean delving into middle grade, young adult or new adult fiction, except that I don't really buy into new adult as a viable category that exists outside of romance fiction anymore.

Nearly all of the new adult books I've seen reviewed or even mentioned fall into a very narrow type — steamy romances between 18 - 25 year olds. I know there surely must be other books dealing with a wider variety of subjects that either aren't garnering anywhere near the same level of interest as the heated romances or perhaps are simply sitting on hard drives because writers don't know quite what to do with them. Then there are novels (not many) that deal with college-age protagonists but have been published as young adult fiction - e.g. Something like Normal (Trish Doller), Just One Year (Gayle Foreman), Love Story (Jennifer Echols).

The Confines of New Adult Fiction

Personally, I'd love to read more books about young people who have left high school behind and are beginning to make their way into the world of adulthood. It's a time of countless possibilities — education, careers, emotional growth to name a few — yet the novels being published as NA for the most part only seem to explore love and sex, and explore them in a very similar manner at that. There's nothing wrong with romance, of course, but currently there doesn't seem to be much room inside NA for stories that don't focus heavily on sex and love, and which seem to see the subject through a very similar lens to one another.

Maybe that wouldn't really matter if the area outside the NA umbrella wasn't largely a dead zone for books about 18 - 25 year olds. If there were ample space for those characters within adult fiction, for example. When I first sent out Come See About Me I considered it an adult book. Then traditional publisher after traditional publisher told my agent Come See About Me's main character, Leah, and the treatment of her situation was too young for adult fiction and too grown for YA, and I figured it must be new adult fiction instead. Where else could the book possibly fit?

Right now it doesn't fit anywhere, as far as I can see — neither in terms of traditional publishers nor the indie publishing scene — and neither would the other novels with slightly older than YA characters I would've written if there were a place for them.

I wish this wasn't the case; I wish NA had been the answer, a space for those characters to comfortably exist. But it isn't. Not the way the genre or whatever you want to term it stands now.

For now, I've stopped thinking of Come See About Me as new adult fiction and, for lack of an approachable market, will leave similar endeavours to writers with either better luck or greater adeptness in carving out a place for stories about 18 - 25 year old characters that don't fall inside the confines of the current new adult mold.
COME SEE ABOUT ME $2.99 at Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | * equivalent prices at other Amazons: £ 1.95 at Amazon.co.uk | Euro Amazons € 2.77 until end of November

Twenty-year-old Leah Fischer's been in a state of collapse since the moment police arrived on her Toronto doorstep to inform her that boyfriend Bastien was killed in a car accident. After flunking out of university and cutting herself off from nearly everyone she knows, Leah's saved by Bastien's aunt who offers her a rent-free place to stay in a nearby suburban town.

Initially Leah keeps to herself, with no energy for anyone or anything else, but it's not long before her nurturing neighbours begin to become fixtures in Leah's life and a much needed part-time job forces her to interact with other members of the community. And when Leah is faced with another earth-shattering event, her perspective on life begins to shift again. Soon Leah's falling into a casual sexual relationship with Irish actor Liam Kellehan, who has troubles of his own, even as she continues to yearn for her dead boyfriend. Clearly she's not the person she thought she was—and maybe Liam isn't either.

Reading level: Adult (mature readers 16+)

TOMORROW (Yesterday Book 2) $2.99 at Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | * equivalent prices at other Amazons: £ 1.95 at Amazon.co.uk | Euro Amazons € 2.77 until end of November

The sci-fi adventure that began with Yesterday continues with a thriller that can also be read as a standalone.

2063, United North America: climate change has rendered great swathes of the country uninhabitable, the rise of robot workers has created mass unemployment, eco-terrorism is a constant threat and a 2059 nuclear exchange between Pakistan and India has torn large holes in the world's ozone layer and pushed humanity's existence towards a cliff.

Nineteen-year-old Garren and seventeen-year-old Freya have managed to escape that nightmare world and lose themselves in 1986 Vancouver. But the future's reach is long, and they're no longer safe there. No one is. Shadowy forces are intent on influencing the past's path. And when Freya is taken, it's up to Garren to save both her, and the future.

Reading level: Young Adult & Up
Sadly, I missed the Toronto International Film Festival this past September because I wasn't capable of standing in line for more than ten minutes (the damn plantar fasciitis and patellofemoral syndrome--—yep, still!). Plus, If you have trouble with your knees you'll know how uncomfortable it can be to sit with them bent for any length of time. But I've still been going to the movies; I just fidget like CRAZY throughout, straightening my legs every fifteen minutes or so. Let me apologize here for anyone I might've driven bonkers (I swear I typically try to pick an otherwise empty row) with my cinema-restlessness!

But what I really want to say is that Australian end of the world flick These Final Hours is exactly the kind of gem I go to the festival to discover, a film you otherwise might miss because it doesn't have a big budget, a wide-release or tons of promotional $ behind it.

Nathan Phillips (James) and Angourie Rice (Rose)  in These Final Hours

What it does have going for it are wonderfully convincing performances from Nathan Phillips (James) and Angourie Rice (Rose) as its central characters and a compelling plotline which begins with the destruction of Western Europe and North America—after the Atlantic is hit by a meteor—and is destined to end with the frying of Australia in twelve hours' time.

Our setting is Perth, Western Australia looking every inch the last outpost of a fast-vanishing civilization. As the film kicks into gear, society rapidly unspooling, James's only plan for the end of the world is to face the moment out of his head so he won't feel the pain of annihilation. But en route to his own personal oblivion, James stumbles upon a situation he can't ignore, rescuing Rose from reprobate abductors.

With the clock ticking down a lifetime shrinks down to hours. As James deals with the hardest questions, we are forced to ponder them ourselves. How do we say goodbye? At the very end, who and what still matters?

If you admired Miracle Mile and Melancholia and are intrigued by the idea of a film that plays like the flipside of On the Beach, These Final Hours is for you, an entirely realistic but not heartless rendering of the end of life on our planet seen through the eyes of one man.

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