Tag Archives: Teacher

New Mannie and Saj scene in Screenplay format

So, the formatting didn’t come through from the word processor, but here’s a little scene I wrote from a writing prompt I gave my Creative Writing students for dialogue practice. Then they put it into screenplay format. Not sure if it will make it into Book III, but it captures some of the essence of Mannie and Saj!





Saj is putting his green beans in the toy truck.

Saj, what are you doing?

Not doing.

Why are you putting the beans in the Tonka truck? You’re supposed to eat the beans.

Not beans. Logs.

Okay, Saj. Why are you putting the logs in the truck?

Take home. Put in fire.

Those are your dinner.

They green. Not like green.

(Sigh.) I understand.

(Hopeful.) You eat?

I’ll eat mine later.

Put you logs in my truck. Don’t eat.

(Trying to be patient.) Eat. Your. Beans.

Don’t eat logs.

We don’t waste food in my house. (Stern.) You need to eat your beans.

You eat yours.

I will.

Show me.


He eats one.

I ate one. Now you.


He eats one.

I ate one. Now you.





The doorbell rings.

I’ll be back. You eat more beans. Four.

Mannie goes to the door. Saj puts two beans on Mannie’s plate.

(Quiet.) Two. (Loud.) Four.


Who is at the door? I don’t know… Lizzie? Zach? Jess?

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.



Book Clubs and Classrooms – Study Questions on All Is Silence

Now that ALL IS SILENCE has been out for a while, folks have started doing bookclub readings of it. In order to help out, I have created discussion questions for ALL IS SILENCE.  I found questions written for Mindy McGinnis’ awesome book, NOT A DROP TO DRINK and adapted them.

I would be very excited to visit your book club in real life if you are within Western Washington or virtually if you are not. We can meet online via Skype or Google Hangouts. If there is another venue you would like to meet virtually on, please let me know.

If you are interested in doing a book club or class study of ALL IS SILENCE or STRAIGHT INTO DARKNESS, please contact me about special prices for larger quantities of the book. Every 10 books will get you a free book and free shipping. Smaller quantities will get a graduated discount.

Here are the questions. If you have questions that go deeper into the meanings of the ALL IS SILENCE or the rest of the Deserted Lands Universe, please share them below.

AIS Half-Title BastardDISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Download as word or pdf.

  1. In what ways is Lizzie forced to mature and take on adult roles? Provide examples of this.
  1. Lizzie notes that she’s always breaking promises as she decides to go outside. Does she always break her promises in the book? What are the exceptions?
  1. Lizzie’s relationships with adults are rarely positive. What about her life sets this up?
  1. Lizzie cares deeply about many things. What is important to Lizzie and why?
  1. How far in the future do you think the novel is supposed to take place? What makes you think that?
  1. What do you think is the theme of ALL IS SILENCE? Trace the theme throughout the book and provide examples.
  1. How do the teen-agers face the end of the world differently than the adults and why? How do they differ from each other? Why?
  1. One of the aspects of ALL IS SILENCE readers have questioned is the continuation of electrical based services. Talk to someone in your local area about power sources, cell towers and how long would it take to lose what services and why?
  1. The title of the novel is a reference to a rock and roll song. Which song does it reference? If you are unfamiliar with the song, once you locate it, read it. What do you think the novel has in common with the song that would cause the author to choose this title? Think critically and creatively.
  1. Each of the sections also has a rock song title. How do they connect to what happens in that third.
  1. This novel has been described as both dystopian, post-apocalyptic and apocalyptic. Which is the better definition and why?
  1. Outside of the human equation what will the effect be on other animals, domesticated and wild, as time goes by?
  1. If 95-98% of the human population dies, how long will the food last? Most apocalypses immediately assume that people will be fighting over food and valuables. This author takes the opposite approach—there is suddenly plenty of everything.
  1. What is the role of parenting in this novel, and who plays the role of parent and in what ways?
  1. Different communities have responded very differently to the crisis, from hippy-peaceful-sharing to martial law. Which way do think things would be likely to go in your local community.
  1. The author has created a subset of survivor who has been impacted, losing many of their higher reasoning skills. They are variously referred to as drones, dog-people and the simple ones. Which of these terms is most appropriate and why? What would be the best way to help these people?
  1. Are there clichéd characters or plot elements in this novel that either escape the cliché or are sunk by it?
  1. Many people consider the level of profanity excessive in ALL IS SILENCE. Do you think it is excessive, why or why not? Would it work as well if the language was tidied up?
  1. The writer who wrote ALL IS SILENCE is a forty-something male? Are there moments where the character of Lizzie does not seem to be a teen girl? Does it matter what the gender of the author is?
  1. According the American Library Association, Young Adult Literature is a term that refers to literature written for an audience of 12-25 year olds, with a median age of 18-19. Though some disparage literature labeled such, in fact much of classical literature taught in high schools and colleges has been designated for youth or even children, including books by Dickens, Twain, Austen, and even Shakespeare. Given that the target audience of books such as this novel seems to be this age group, discuss why it might especially appeal to the young adult audience or be especially relevant for your generation. Why might you also want adults of an older generation to read and consider this work?

Adapted and inspired by questions on
Mindy McGinnis’ Not a Drop to Drink.

Figuring things out for August and everything after.

As I sit, still slightly befuddled by the week just passed, I ponder the long term. In the wake of the deaths of two of my students and two more greviously injured, I don’t know what my summer will look like.

I still have big goals: finishing STRAIGHT INTO DARKNESS is the biggest.  The book release party is scheduled for August 28th at Village Books. It’s up for pre-sale on Amazon. PLEASE don’t buy it yet! I need to have the final electronic mobi ebook file uploaded by the 9 pm PST, August 8th deadline in order to meet my pre-sale release date of August 18th.

I may not make it. There is much to do.  This weekend I did have a  breakthrough on why the climax and conclusion were not working for me. The bad guys weren’t actually bad enough, nor active enough to carry the weight as protagonists. I think I have figured out how to fix that in this third draft. My deadline for that? Seven days from now.

So, I am planning on laying low on the social media. Probably popping up to talk about word, scene and chapter counts in the revision.  Send me positive thoughts and word karma!!




New Frequently Asked Questions thanks to Wattpad.

As ALL IS SILENCE has climbed the WATTPAD Science Fiction charts to #1, I have started to get a few questions over and over. I can only assume [be careful you know what that means, Rob.] that other folks might have the same questions.

If you have any other questions you think other readers might like answered, let me know. Eventually, I’ll get a new page up on the website for these! Thanks. Rob

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Do you have any Writing Advice/Publishing Tips?
A. Publishing tips? Here are a dozen blog posts on My Path to Indie Publication.
A. Writing advice? Roberts’ Rules of (w)riting
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Q. How long is ALL IS SILENCE/is it done yet?
A. All Is Silence is finished and has 35 chapters. I will be uploading a chapter a week in three parts until early April 2015, then I’ll upload the first several chapters of its sequel. If you can’t wait, you can go to www.desertedlands.com and purchase an e-book or print copy.
–        –        –        –        –        –        –        –        –
Q. Can you help me with my grammar/critique my story/help me format my e-book/etc.
A. I completely appreciate the desire to have someone read and offer a critique. One kind writer give me a verbal critique of the beginning of my first novel. Unfortunately, I am a school teacher by day, parent by night and have to squeeze in the times that I get to write and edit. I teach English so I get to edit papers daily. My son is applying for colleges and has an A.P. Literature class, so I offer suggestions and edits for him. In addition, I am in a writer’s group because I still need advice on my writing and I offer edits and critiques for that. So unless you go to my high school, join my writer’s group, or become my kid, I’m afraid I’m going to have to say no. If you join my newsletter at www.desertedlands.com you will hear about any conventions I might be attending and I will be doing writing workshops at some of them.
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Q. Are there more books about Lizzie? How many books are in the Deserted Lands series?
A. Lizzie will be in at least three more books, her trilogy and then one several years down the road. I currently have nine novel ideas for the series and about that many short story ideas. I will be releasing the novella [short novel about 111 pages] TOILS AND SNARES, a parallelequel to AIS, in the next month. It has different characters, but take place at the same time. It explains a bit more about how the pandemic happened. If you want to know more sign up for my newletter [yadda, yadda, yadda].

Teaching Creative Writing to Teens.

This advice goes to 11!

I love to work with students on their writing. Poetry, fiction, screenplays, essays… I love their ideas, their growth over time, but not so much their ability to self-reflect. But I was a young writer once, too. Nothing is ever as brilliant as the thing you just finished five minutes ago. This is a rule.

What do I teach them in room #11?

#1. You can’t fix a blank page. Get words on paper [even if it’s virtual paper now.].

#2. Write everyday. When you miss a day, start over.

#3. Don’t put yourself or your fellow writers down.

#4. Everything can be improved with rewriting.

#5. Read. Read a lot. Read some more. Reread a favorite. See what the author does.

#6. Don’t worry if its been done before. It has but everyone is doing it again anyway.

#7. Stop. Look. Listen. Just like you’re going to cross the street. What do people do? What do they sound like?

#8. Make notes, you think you won’t forget it, but you might. You might even forget it if you do write it down. There are lots of random scraps of paper with phrases on them in my files. Some don’t make sense.

#9. Write for yourself. Then share it with others as soon as you’re ready.

#10. Keep going. Persevere. Rewrite. Reread. Rework. Eventually it will lead to reward.

#11. Find people who you can trust to tell you what your bad habits are, tell you when you’re shouting your message when you should be whispering.

What advice would you give young writers?

Write on,


One Tin Soldier pre-order and other updates…

I’ve released another short story, One Tin Soldier final microOne Tin Soldier on Amazon as a pre-release. I’m experimenting with the marketing tools available to KDP select so I can decide what to use for my next novel. Here’s the cover art for One Tin Soldier. I created the art work with Canva for $1 and many hours of work and feedback from friends, family and fans. I highly recommend trying it out if you are planning on releasing any e-books.

Just Desert Cover Art

It’s my second self-made cover. I also designed the cover for my first short story on Amazon, Just Desert. Both are available for free through Kindle Unlimited.

In addition to this work on cover art I have also finished the design brief for Straight Into Darkness and will be running a PubSlush crowdfunding campaign in order to compensate my editors and cover designer at the professional levels they deserve. You can become a fan of the PubSlush here.

The rewards for the campaign are closely related to the amount pledged. For example, you’ll receive a Signed Paperback copy of All Is Silence & All Is Silence T-Shirt pubslush-logofor your $20 pledge. In some ways, my idea for crowd-sourced fundraising is to pre-sell and resell items at near regular price so that people pledging funds get a good return on their money along with my greatest thanks and some good parking karma!

Now, I’m off to finish up some trainings for my day job teaching high school English. Then I need to grade papers. In anticipation of tomorrow nights Open House. Thank you for your support. Page 2.

Goals, Humility and Reality…

Well, what have I accomplished as I wind down toward going back to my day job as a high school English teacher?  I’ve written more than 25 words all but 3 of the last 70 days. I’ve averaged 546 words. I only hit 2000 words of fiction on one of those days, though I had two more days where the combo of fiction and blog posts exceeded 2K. I’ve mostly finished a rough draft of a novella currently titled Toils and Snares.

I’ve reformatted Outward Bound for some special promotions in conjunction with the novella’s release. I’ve created a cover for the magical realism short story Just Desert and intend to have it posted as an ebook early in September.

What I haven’t managed was to break my 6000 words in a day goal. Nor have I hit the 75,000 words I had hoped for. Well, I still got a lot done. I had a 54 day writing streak.

More later about humility and reality! I gotta go to bed, as I have a work day at school tomorrow!

Ladies and Gentlemen, Class of 2014. Sunscreen. Really!

Notes from a Commencement Address to Windward High School’s Class of 2014.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Class of 2014. Sunscreen. Really

What is Rob known for? Not throwing things away? Recycling? So the best way to offer advice? Recycle it. Borrow from the best. So, I’ve got advice from Shakespeare to Suess, Anne Frank to Ani Difranco, Heinlein to Hemingway, Mother Teresa to Twisted Sister, Spider, My Aunt and the Beatles, Tolkein to Rowling, and Socrates to Slater [cough].

Dr. Seuss: Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.

Ernest Hemingway: The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them

Accept, embrace, seek out diverse ideas, people, experiences.

Ani DiFranco: There is strength in the differences between us. there is comfort where we overlap.

Mary Schmich from Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen. “Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.” or your family’s. If they are, tell them “We’re not gonna take it.”

Don’t try to save anyone who is not already trying to save themselves.

Find at least one friend to tell your secrets to. Be a good shoulder to cry on and find a good shoulder to cry on when you need it.

Follow your instincts! If someone makes you nervous there are reasons, even if you can’t put your finger on them. Don’t be paranoid, but do be careful. Travel with friends. Maya Angelou: Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”

Accept chivalrous actions, but don’t be blinded by love, roses and repeated apologies. Be wary of promises. If you ever hear, “You would do this if you love me,” run. Run fast. Run far. If you’re interested in dating, watch how the person treats their parents. Watch how the parents treat each other. This is not infallible, but is a strong predictor.

Spider Robinson: “Shared pain is lessened. Shared joy is increased.”


Beatles: “Can’t Buy Me Love.” You won’t have to worry about money problems if you follow these rules.

  1. Pay yourself first – Out of your very first paycheck, [out of your graduation gifts] take 10% for you to spend on yourself right now, put 10% away for long-term [retirement], 10% for emergencies.
  2. Pay bills on time – If you can’t make a due date call them before the date and tell them. Ask them if they can be flexible. Most of the time they can and will with reasonable people.
  3. Don’t run up loans, credit cards, for anything less than your house, your education, or your car. (And not for the car if you can help it.

Socrates: Wisdom begins in wonder. Read, Read, Read!

Don’t be a pirate. If you find a book, a movie, a song that touches you enough that you want to experience it again. Try to pay the person who gifted the world with their art. Share it with friends.

Dance! Sing! Laugh!

Be responsible to yourself. Take chances on new friends, and on new experiences, but not in a car! 6% of Drivers are under the age of 21, but are involved in 11% of accidents.

Learn to say “I’m sorry.” Even if you don’t mean it, it begins a healing process. Nothing else will soothe your soul and other’s souls as quickly.

Forgive quickly and try not to hold grudges. Get angry and let it go.
Be generous with your thanks. As Mother Teresa: “We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.” Notice all the beauty that is around you and swim in it.

Abraham Lincoln, who suffered from depression, said, “Most people area as happy as they make their minds up to be.” Make your mind up to be happy. Ask for help. Depression is real. Sometimes being unhappy can be cured by a little exercise, especially outside in the fresh air. Get some sun, but not too much. Sunscreen. Remember.

Relax. Learn exercises to help you focus your mind and body like Tae Kwondo, Tai Chi or Yoga. Learn to recognize when your body is tense. Then learn to relax it.

Robert A. Heinlein: “Always listen to the experts. They’ll tell you what can’t be done, and why. Then do it.” Make lists of things you want to do today, tomorrow, next year and the rest of your life. Mark each one off when you do it so you will feel accomplishment and progress. You can even add things that you have already done to the lists. Give yourself credit. Give others credit.

You are at the beginning of the most freedom you will have in your life. Choose to enjoy it. Soon enough you will have lots of responsibilities. Let them come in their own time.

Anne Frank: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” Improve the world a little at a time by being a good friend, by smiling, by cleaning up after yourself wherever you go. And that recycling thing? No aluminum in the paper and no paper in the bottles and cans or garbage!

Ralph Waldo Emerson: appreciate beauty, find the best in others; leave the world a bit better, whether by a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.

Stand out. Weird is not necessarily a bad word. Be outstanding in your field, even if it’s a real field full of muddy pigs! Work hard at something you enjoy. Expect to have to work for everything you want, then when things come easier you will really appreciate them.

Keep a journal to help you remember now, this time, today. You think you’ll never forget, but as you get older things fade. Write in it your lists of things to do. Write the things you want to say to people, but can’t. Someday you’ll be able to. Write a song, a poem. Write when you’re angry. Then burn it. In a safe place and then make sure the fire is out.

In a commencement speech Jim Carrey said that fear will be a player in life, but you get to decide how much. You can spend your life imagining ghosts, worrying about the future, but all you have is this moment. Many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really would love to do seems impossible, out of reach and ridiculous. So we never dare to ask the universe for it. Ask for it. You can fail at something you don’t like, why not try to succeed at something you Love? Love or Fear? Your choice.

And last, for now anyway, but certainly not least: Love! Keep falling in love. With life, the sun, the stars, the rain, a person, a song, a thought, an ideal, a book, a movie, a food, or a flower. Be good to each other. Dream a little. And This above all: to thine own self be true.

[Then I played Get Real. Here are the lyrics. Here’s the song.]