Following are various links - some of them regarding my creative activities, others for organizations that are near and dear to me, or that I hope might be useful for my readers.

Since this is my blog site, I’ll exercise my right to shameless self-promotion by making the first link a link to more bumpf about me at

If you need someone to make you look handsome and/or luverly (as he hopefully has succeeded in doing with me in the photo above), contact my friend Jim Panou, a very talented commercial and art photographer in Toronto. Click here to visit his website.

The upcoming release of my debut novel, STAR Academy, is very much on my mind at the moment, so will be the main focus of this site for the next few months. Links to more info about the book and the characters will be added as the publication date of September 15, 2009, draws nearer, so keep checking in.

For a brief synopsis of the novel, click here to go to the Random House/Doubleday site.

Better yet, they’ve just posted the first chapter online, so you can get a sneak preview by clicking here.

If you want to beat the rush that I desperately hope develops for the book, and not have to worry about taking an elbow to the head or a knee to the spleen as you wrestle for your own copy of STAR Academy down at your local bookstore, you can pre-order it from chapters.indigo by clicking here.

As for the story itself, now that Random House/Doubleday has published the synopsis online, I’m feeling a little freer to leak some details about the characters. You can find out some of their interests and explore some fascinating subjects by exploring the links below. And to find out more about Amanda, the other characters, and the Superior Thinking and Advanced Research Academy, just click here.

Amanda Forsythe, the heroine of STAR Academy, has a particular interest in what awaits us out there beyond the Kármán line, so she’s naturally excited that the release of the book coincides with the United Nations having declared 2009 the International Year of Astronomy.

Derek Murphy is one of Amanda’s closest and bravest friends, and a fellow hero of STAR Academy. His scientific focus, so to speak, is optics and satellites. Given his interests, as well as Amanda’s fascination with astronomy and space travel, it’s not surprising that they are both frequent visitors to the NASA website. Amanda says that she spent quite a bit of time there while researching her photon-sail project for the Downview Public School fall science fair. Besides the site’s info about space travel, which she found quite helpful and inspiring for her exhibit (regardless of what Principal Murkly and Mrs. Wheedlbum thought of it), she loves its photo gallery, such as the one depicting Galactic Dust Bunnies. Amanda also enjoys the NASA Kids’ Club section. Amanda has entered a name into the “Name NASA’s Next Mars Rover” poll. She has suggested it be named “George”, after her favourite science teacher and mentor at the Academy, a kind and true-blue friend (not to mention a staggeringly intelligent one also), if ever there was one.

Amanda also visits the National Research Council Canada site, which she says has some interesting information and activities for kids. Her favourite page, of course, is Astronomy and Space. But there is also another project that caught her eye, Canadian National Marsville. That said, Amanda has grander plans and bigger ambitions than settling Mars. She expects to make it well beyond our solar system in her own lifetime.

When on the West Coast, visiting her friend Evelyn Chiu in San Francisco, Amanda likes to fit in a side trip to the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre in Vancouver. If you live in a place like Downview and have no view of the night sky, you’ll enjoy the MacMillan Centre’s planetarium star theatre. It uses a Zeiss projector to create a 360-degree view of the heavens seen from Vancouver (”during the several nights of the year when it’s not overcast and raining,” as Amanda’s friend Derek would add, cheekily).

Meanwhile in Ontario, Amanda has a few other favourites.

Royal Ontario Museum ROM Kids Programs.

And of course, the Ontario Science Centre.

Another very cool astronomy site, especially for kids (of either the small or large persuasion) who are new to the study of the cosmos and want an introduction, is the Canadian Junior Astronomer Program. Click here to go there right now, virtually at the speed of light (unless you have a dial-up server, that is).

Although Amanda’s favourite field of study is space and space travel, she is very much aware, along with her friends Derek, Evelyn Chiu and Sanjay Dosanjh, that it is especially crucial to preserve the environment of the “space ship” on which we all reside: planet Earth. So they like the following organizations and their websites.

The David Suzuki Foundation, of which I am a proud supporter too (call it enlightened self interest, if you will). George became aware of their activities thanks to Amanda, and is impressed by their commitment to preserving the environment for future generations, and their many practical ideas for doing so. He thinks that David and the other dedicated people at the Foundation are exemplary individuals; “There should be more Earthlings like them,” he says.

My personal friend, Johnny Osmosus, has created the Osmosus website, which seeks to act as a sort of central meeting place for ideas about sustainability, environmentalism and climate change. The Kidz Gone Green section of the site details some of the inspiring ways that kids, on their own initiative, have taken action to help protect the environment.

Toronto and Region Conservation Authority,which has educational programs that allow city kids to get a fascinating close-up view of the natural ecosystems all around us. You can find out about their programs here.

Greenpeace Canada

As a brilliant young woman whose highly imaginative ideas tend to be misunderstood, Amanda has had her share of problems, and even the occasional run-in with bullies. A link that she highly recommends for other kids is this one, for the Kids Help Phone website. 1-800-668-6868
Amanda would like to point out to francophone readers that the service is also available en français.
Jeuneusse, J’ecoute. 1-800-668-6868

If you live in the U.K., like Amanda’s very close friend, Derek, you can get help from Childline, which, like Kids Help Phone, offers free anonymous counselling both by phone and online. If you’re in Australia, click here for help.