Tag Archives: Ian

2015: Waiting to get off the roller coaster…

2015 had its highs and lows. Unfortunately the low spots were way lower than the highs were high.

For the lows, I lost two students in June and had two more suffer significant injuries. Then this month I lost my new grandson, Nolan Luther. You can read my posts about these here. Scroll through the few personal blog posts that I wrote this year. The two most significant start with the word Sad.

It is through this haze of sadness that I write today. Because that’s what I do. Working through my grief, building shelves, cooking food for family and writing. I don’t have it in me to write fiction and I’ve wrote most of what I can for now. I’ll finish with some of the things that went right in 2015.

A stand-alone parallelequel to ALL IS SILENCE.
A stand-alone parallelequel to ALL IS SILENCE.

My birthday, February 15th, marked twenty years as an professional educator. I released the first o f two books: The short Deserted Lands novel, TOILS AND SNARES, on my oldest brother’s birthday, February 28th.

Following the sad end of the school year, Elena and I took my youngest son, Ian to Italy for his high school trip, a tradition started by my parents with all his older siblings and cousins. We saw great art, opera, a street cellist, and many wonderful places: Rome, Florence, Venice, Verona and the foothills of the Dolomites. Other than intense heat, some allergies for Ian and my phone left behind in Vancouver, B.C., the trip was splendid.

After sending Ian to England for some time with his mom, aunt and grandmother (and a lot more chilly weather) Elena and I headed to Torino to visit her cousin. We loved Torino, the museums, the lower heat and the food. Then we headed south through Genoa to Cinque Terra for a night and then back to Rome and home.

At home, I headed to the finish line to STRAIGHT INTO DARKNESS, the sequel to my debut novel ALL IS SILENCE. I was pushing hard, but it was going hard. My deadline was a release party at Village Books on August 28th. I went to Worldcon, the Science Fiction and Fantasy convention, in Spokane. We arrived to an apocalyptic red sun from all the forest fires. I spent most of my time in the room trying to finish book II. But, alas, my computer died. The fan stopped working and I could not even get it to start for long enough to back up. My backups to the cloud had inexplicably stopped a few days before we left for Spokane. I took the last day to see people. Greg Bear remembering me was the highlight. He accepted a personally inscribed copy of my debut novel, and signed a copy of his new novel, WAR DOGS.

I came back to Bellingham, we managed to print 25 Advanced Reader Copies for the release party, which was well attended, and sold quite a few books, a shirt and some download cards for Village Books and me. I spent that next week before school started turning out a better copy and printed 25 more copies. After I printed the next 25 I realized there was no identifying that STRAIGHT INTO DARKNESS was Book II. So if you have a copy of it that doesn’t say Book II, you have one of the first 75 printed! Hopefully, that will mean something someday.

Our school year started really well, despite a bunch of changes in staffing and less students than we had hoped–a building year in both senses. Part of my building has been working with another wonderful student teacher who has become a friend and a writing critique partner, Tegan Shelton. You can check out her first book here.

Having such a capable student teacher enabled me to begin building a school library. With two student book drives and a bunch of help from the last years worth of TAs, and Ro, a Windward parent and librarian at Whatcom Community College, it is coming together.

Then third quarter started at the end of November 30th, (a date that marks six years together with Elena! Yeah!) and I am teaching English 11/12, Drama AND Spanish I (for the third time in 20 years.) I have found myself challenged and overwhelmed, but exciting to be teaching again.

The year has ended not well, but with another outpouring of love. Please keep my family in your thoughts in the days ahead. Pay it forward with some Random Acts of Kindness, please.

Wishing you a Happy New Year and much peace and joy.

rob-sign-Trans-blue

 

Why write a book for an audience that doesn’t read?

From 1999 to 2012 I taught at small alternative schools. One of the challenges as an English teacher is finding books that can hook students who did not grow up reading. Most students have one book that they read and loved: The Giver, Of Mice and Men, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Witch of Blackbird Pond, My Side of the Mountain, Island of Blue Dolphins,Hunger Games. I wanted to write a book for the kids who have gotten to high school without finding that book that they couldn’t put down.

I worked with a lot of young women who had lives that continually interceded with every attempt to connect with school: boyfriends, fathers, mothers, siblings, girlfriends, jobs, pregnancy, illness, drugs, boredom… Many of these young women eventually graduated from high school. Many did not. Most are doing well. They come and bring their kids, or their partners, show me pictures of their kids, their cars, etc.

I had the idea for the Deserted Lands Universe about 20 years ago right after finishing Lord of the Flies. The book made me very angry. How depressing can you be? Take the best of the best and strand them on an island and within weeks they will have degenerated into savages? Not the kind of stories I wanted to write. So I wrote a short story originally called Jailbreak 2000 or something like that. By the time I finished the first draft I had a new title: Nor Iron Bars a Cage.

The setup was that in a prison for the most violent convicts in the near future, inmates would spend half their time hooked up to a M.I.L.D. [Mescaline Induced Lucid Dreaming] System. When a plague hit killing 90% of humanity, these men and women were not afflicted by the disease due to the medicinal qualities of the Mescaline. They would start over and I wanted to show that for the most part these worst of the worst would make good. The short story grew in size and never did reach a satisfactory end.

My time for writing was limited over the next few years. I got a full-time job, had two more kids, got married, became president of Shakespeare NorthWest, got my Masters Degree and my National Board certification and released a CD, Some of the Parts. For more specifics on the writing path, you can read, Path to Indie Publication: Parts 1-10. My life took a couple left turns in there and I found myself drawn back to writing fiction.

So, 15 years after the first spark,  I had an idea. What if this plague hit and we followed the story of an At-Risk teen girl, someone who had a rough life so far? That was in 2011. The idea lay in my subconscious other than a few notes. I wrote an intro scene, Lizzie eating the last frozen pizza with a shotgun in her lap with a dead guy out in the street she’d killed while protecting herself. Oh, and the dripping can of Lima beans pierced by the buck shot. 😉 A few paragraphs actually made it into All Is Silence.

When I began writing I shared the WIP [work in progress] with two 15 year old girls. They asked for more, demanding it at times. Eventually,  I got to the point where it slow ed way down. Then the first two attempts at an ending came up short. I would have to wait quite a while to see if my novel appealed to the target audience.  My first most passionate responses came from older folks, retired Senior citizens.

When the book came out,  students started reading and responding. My fellow teachers told me they were having to tell kids to stop reading my book. My first reviews from teens came in. And most demanded more. I got my first OMG tweet exchange between two teens I didn’t know. “I just got All Is Silence.” “OMG, it’s that book!” That sounded like success to me.

Vikingcon, Novella Cover Art, and other news…

VIkingcon 2014 was awesome. 17 newsletter signups, panel with Greg Bear, Jason Andrew, Susan Matthews, met Alma Alexander, Jennifer Brozek, and John Patrick Lowrie. Hung out with daughters & grand. Sold 9 novels and donated one for the WWU Associated Students Raffle. Had some cool conversations about books, apocalyptic fiction and music. I love small cons! Looking forward to next year.

I have now sold 200 of the first 500 hundred books I ordered and had delivered to my house! Also, have sold an additional 200 in ebook, through distant bookstores, and to libraries, none of which touched my hands! Would love to sell out of the first printing before the end of the year.

Hardcover faced additional delays. The proof copy is on the way, but I already know I need to resubmit the interior text. I didn’t click the right boxes in Scrivener. So, all the extra font work I did for the print version disappeared and that first proof copy will essentially look like the mobi file on a Kindle. Grr… Also, somehow, added an ‘s’ to my dad’s first name in the credits!

toils&snares3

Sneak preview of a possible cover for Toils and Snares, a Deserted Lands novella, I plan to release in the fall. It’s set a month or so before All Is Silence in Portland, OR and the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. The story will be a prologue of sorts for a later book set 15 or so years in the series future.

This is the first cover art I’ve ever created that I begins to approach saleability. Mostly due to the work of Pintado. Now, back to writing.

Photo by Ian R. Q. Slater
Cover design by Robert L. Slater