Some thoughts, about a quote, from a guy, from the second century, involving philosophy.

“Treat with the utmost respect your power of forming opinions, for this power alone guards you against making assumptions that are contrary to nature and judgements that overthrow the rule of reason. It enables you to learn from experience, to live in harmony with others, and to walk in the way of the gods.” (taken from The Emperor’s Handbook -Marcus Aurelius- , A new translation of The Meditations by Scot Hicks and David V. Hicks)

Please note the above quote does not say guard your opinions, but the power of forming opinions. The authors of the translation go on to talk about what controls this power and how The Meditations helps guard against foreign powers from taking over how I get my opinions. These powers can be anything, drink, love, lust, or an actual foreign power influencing you.

Again it is not our own prejudices we are guarding, although they are a real threat to living a better life, or so I believe. If we can’t with confidence evaluate how we live our lives and change as a result, we are in far deeper trouble than being manipulated.

Not that reason is the be all end all, indeed, the current modern expression of the scientific method has been co-oped by research grants controlled not by the search for reasons, but by the search for funding. Scientists can only research when there is funding. And funding rarely, if ever, rewards innovative unproven hypothesis to test. Our investigation is derivative. It must be built on something previously proven.

But I digress, the quote is about the individual guarding their own process for coming to a conclusion and forming an opinion. I doubt there is a single course of study providing guidance in this matter. Critical thinking, you say? Critical thinking is by enlarge about thinking, not protecting.

What are your defenses for guarding your process? When you write do you jump on the latest bandwagon, magic bullet for writing? I sadly don’t have an answer other than I try to:

  1. Record what works for me to write and then practise that process.
  2. Avoid ‘triggers’ that put me out of the writing flow.
  3. A space to write in.
  4. Music

Somedays I wish I could wrap myself in bubble wrap. How about you?

Today’s diatribe has been brought to you by the word ‘Trigger’ and I don’t mean the horse.

Be Well…dcd

[Interlude] WEM, Apple, Microsoft and Victoria’s secret…

Like most people in this age, I work overtime. In exchange for the overtime I take time off. I try to arrange my time off for Fridays. This Friday I had some errands to run for work.

I made it to WEM, the largest mall in the world. At least I think it still is. If not, it is one of them. Once in the mall, I needed to negotiate the sprawling temple to consumerize to one of the King’s or should I say “Princesses” of today’s modern age, the Apple Store. Let me be clear, I am not anti-Apple. In fact I have recommended people to use Apples. They aren’t for me. The reason why, shouldn’t allow us to be distracted from the title of our mini-blog.

I arrived at the shrine to Steve Jobs early. Inside the troops were gathered in their muted blue and gray shirts listening to the evangelist, strengthening them for the incoming horde of heathens, who for some reason had been not been properly vetted, and therefore had purchased an apple product and now needed the help of genius priests to solve their spiritual needs of staying connected to this world. With the glass freshly cleaned, and yes, I mean the glass front to the store was professionally window washed directly before opening, the doors to the house of worship were opened. I waited for the all the other believers to enter before I dared enter. I had said my goodbyes to my family, carefully hid my Chinese knock-off android device and cross the threshold.

And was not struck down by lighting…

With a deep breath, carefully stood to the side looking overwhelmed, not sure what to do. In less time then it took Ben Johnson to run the 100 meters an acolyte arrived at my side.

I explained I was here to pick up an iPad, it was in the back and correctly gave him the name of my dial a prayer partner. He mystically disappeared. And now that I think about it, I don’t remember actually seeing him walk to the back. He just silently apparated and reapparted.

When he apparated I made a mistake. I took out my phone. A simple Redmi phone. Popular the world over.  Security started working towards me, carefully positioning themselves so I couldn’t penetrate deeper into the sanctum and taint the holy of holies without clearance. How do I know they were security? They smiled at everyone, but me.

With care I turned to the wall and pretended to look at the pictures on the stained class of the church. Ok, not stained glass, but they are truly amazing, crystal sharp images. Stunningly beautiful. Seriously, go into an Apple store and look closely at the pictures, not the TV displays, the pictures. They are amazing and detailed. (Don’t worry, I’ll get to Victoria’s secret)

The re-apparition of my personal acolyte mildly startled me from the revere I was experiencing. Thankfully, my credentials and spiritual ranking was affirmed through my offering and I received the iPAD. I left the store dazed and proceeded to get out of the mall as fast as I could. This took me past other stores, of course.

One of them was the Microsoft store.

Why ,Oh why, couldn’t I have remembered to walk on the other side of the mall? They smelt me, and as their visual acuity for the Dark Prince Jobs avatar is unrivalled, their heads turned and then their bodies turned as perfect and precise as a mia michaels modern dance piece to me. With laser focus they locked on the bag I carried and their eyes travelled with slow purpose up my body to look me in the eyes. They knew I had betrayed King Gates by entering the apocalypse of apple. I darted with a speed I hadn’t known since my youth into the nearest store.

“Are you looking for something for yourself, or someone else?” A voice said from somewhere behind me. I was still making sure I wasn’t being followed. Fortunately it was a windowless store.

Idiotically, I replied with a plea for help, “I just needs some support right now.” The exhaustion taking me.

“Certainly sir, just this way to the fitting rooms.” The voice continued.

$125.65 with GST later I had secured my Apple bag inside a Victoria secrets bag. On the upside, my moobs have never felt better.

Be Well…dcd


Waiting for…

Writing is similar to  other jobs, and other times, bears no relationship to regular jobs.

Waiting has been fundamentally different in every job I have had.

  • Busing tables meant waiting for people to finish eating.
  • Lighting tv sets meant waiting for staging to finish setting up.
  • IT means waiting for something to break.
  • Writing means waiting for rejection or acceptance.

The fundamental difference in waiting as a writer is that you can still write.


I quibble with myself about how all jobs have overlapping roles and responsibilities, but for writing, it’s different and longer. I’m not used to such long turnaround times.

In the restaurant business, at least at the one I worked at, turnover time on tables was about 45 minutes. This was lunch rush. Which was chaos most days. The initial part of the shift was preparing for the day, the calm before the storm. Then non-stop for about 2 hours. I knew when the people would arrive. It was regular as clockwork.

In TV, you’d look at a set, discuss the treatment with the director, and know how long it would take. When all the sets were lit, you went home. Again, no waiting.

Working support in IT, I wait for a call or an email, fix the problem  and then wait for the next one. When your shift is over, you’re done.

When you finish writing, you submit the story or novel or flash fiction and wait.

There is no clock to watch, or set to light or table to cleanup. You wait. There is no feedback, the piece of fiction goes out and then you wait. This varies from 30 days, to a year or more. During this time, I am learning to work on other pieces and the get them submitted. It’s not making you money on your computer.

Most authors, that talk about their process have multiple novels underway. This novel is out for submission, that novel is in revisions, here’s one being released. These processes are going on at the same time.

What this produces is fragmentation.  The outlining process differs from the writing , which differs from editing. And submission and query letters are an art form to themselves. I joyfully wait for the time when I get to work with an editor because a piece of work is accepted. (Please feel free to quote me when I complain about an editor I am working with…)

I need to learn to write while waiting for whether a piece is accepted or rejected. If I end up selling one of the series first books, the second book better be ready to go PDQ. There is a grind to writing. A methodical repetitive cycle I seek to discover to let me perform as a writer. It’s a struggle for me. No doubt about it. But when I find it, whatever it is,  I suspect that is when I will get an acceptance. Until then, I am looking for groove.

ETA to first rejection is one week if the submission guidelines are accurate.

Be Well…dcd

The corollary of you have to be excited about your writing…

I have to be excited about my outline.

One of the lessons I learned from NaNoWriMo this year was I don’t have enough outline. What got me through was Mary Robinette Kowal’s, “No Prep NaNo” class. When I bogged down I went back to my class notes and followed her advice. The second action I took was to make a note of what bogged me down. More often than not it was the lack of outline, I was missing the “Ok-What happens next?” syndrome. Once I had this the writing was straight forward and oddly exciting.

Before I continue I want to point out something that I have learned over the last while, don’t argue with established bona fide experts. I paid money to take the class. I try not to argue or disagree with experts on writing. I do my homework by checking out the expert. And move forward taking their advice. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, but at least I know that from experience. I find what works for me, but I don’t spend time re-inventing the wheel. But that’s me, it might not be you.


Back to the corollary…

I have discovered that it’s work to write an exciting outline. I am aware of the forms, the three-act structure, the seven point plot, the MACE quotient, etc. What I am learning is the details of outlining. How to get the parts of your outline to weave together? I know I want my main character to have a love interest. But what are the details of that romance and how does it weave through the core of the story? I want my character to fail at succeeding at their main goal. It’s part of any good story. How does that integrate with developing secondary character who is an integral part of the story? And how do all of these elements mesh into a cohesive whole that reinforce the underlying theme of the novel?
I suspect for experienced author’s, this is straight forward process. For someone learning to write, it’s like exercising a muscle you didn’t know you had. It hurts, and it hurts more the next day.

The basic advice still follows, get your butt in a chair and write or outline. But just doing repetitions without examining the exercises you are doing is wasted effort. You can do all the sit-ups you want. But if you do them wrong you end up with neck and back pain with NO abs.

Ok, dcd, what are exercises are you doing? Good ones?

I hope so. But I am following the concept from workouts, High-intensity interval training (HIIT). What in the Sam hell does that mean?

Workouts, exercising these days evolves around working specific muscles very hard and then resting them. The next day you work a different set of muscles, very hard. And you have rest days. You match this with a proper diet and you end up being fit.

Unlike the problems with getting the details into my outlines, I can schedule. I would say  “Project Management” but I just felt eyes roll and glass over, and not in a good way. A simple schedule to work the different parts of my writing muscles with a focus on outlining. Cheese cake. (I’ll be right back, desert is calling)


  • Monday – WWP Writing Group – Outline
  • Tuesday – Solo at home writing
  • Wednesday – Rest Day (Board Game Group)
  • Thursday – Outline (Once a Month WWS Writing Group)
  • Friday – Critiques for Writing Groups
  • Saturday – Writing
  • Sunday – Rest Day or Cardio…

Ok, smart guy, what are you going to consume to help this regime?

Core writing “foods”

  • Writing Excuses Podcast, IMO, the best podcast out there.
  • The Prolific Writer Podcast
  • Monthly Writing Class
  • Monthly Writing Prompt
  • Weekly Writing Group Writing Session
  • Audio Books in genre

Lastly and most importantly, tracking.

All sorts of studies show that if you track what you are doing, if you measure your work, you get better results.(Don’t take my word for it) And so I will build a spreadsheet or Trello Card or add something to a food tracker to measure what gets done. Most likely they will be “ToDo’s” in a calendar. Perhaps the website will contain micro updates…

As I re-read this now, other than all the typo’s, I see way too aggressive goals. But I know it’s OK to fail.

“Failure provides the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently.” ~ Henry Ford

Be Well…dcd


Sometimes I need to stop typing and write with pen on paper. It’s not the words. It’s the sound of nib on paper. TDoorReSizehey rhyme and beat of the pen scrapping paper. Words of the same length come out in staccato beat that resonates with my soul. And then the change from print to cursive. The pen and paper become a different instrument. The sound is just as pleasing. Once I resonant with the sound my eyes come into play I try to focus on clear beautiful script. I fail most often here. Moments become infinity for me and I disconnect from time, there is only pen and paper.


Be Well…dcd


Below is short anecdotal story about my oldest son, pictured below. A little #TBT Enjoy and as always – Be Well d.c.d

2012-10-31 18.57.29

The following story is true; any embarrassment caused by this story is intentional. 

Like most little boys my two-year old son Seth thought it was hilarious to run around outside, naked as the day he arrived on this earth. Knee-locked legs moving like bowling pins attached to a too white torso carried him everywhere at a hectic, almost falling pace. The summer intrigued him. Birds chirping were a wonder. However, watching animals was his favorite summer activity. We lived in Edmonton and it was a short 45-minute drive to Elk Island National Park from our door. The park is home to some of the largest ungulates native to North America. (Yes, I could have said Bison or Buffalo but why give up the opportunity to use such a glorious word as ungulate!) 

“We are going to see buffalo today.” I said

“Buth-a-row?” Seth said

“Yes, buffalo.” (Years later he would correct me and explain that they were bison) 

That first trip to the park was in our green van. It was a comfortable large vehicle with windows at every seat. In the middle row of seats behind the driver was Seth’s spot. The trip to the park was uneventful until about 5 minutes from the entrance gate when we could see the tall elk fences and a few straggling buffaloes walking around. At a distance, they seemed cute, friendly and majestic. 

“Look Seth, buffalo.” I said 

Straining from his car seat, he sought to see the mighty animals. However, he couldn’t quite see out. I felt the thump, thump of too short legs kicking with excitement. 

I paid our fee and entered the park. 

We rounded the corner to the buffalo paddock into two horns and two thousand pounds of male, musk invested buffalo blocking our path. He had escaped. He wasn’t alone; the whole herd was with him. Moving and rooting about, meandering across the road in front of and behind and seemingly on top our now too small vehicle. They seemed unconcerned. I was concerned. In his best outside voice, Seth pointed and called out, “Buth-a-row!” At least someone was happy. 

Surrounded, the realization dawned on me. Massive wild animals that could crumple, crush and cripple our van, just by sitting down were on every side. The vision of a trampling stampede dissuaded me from using the horn. The escaped buffaloes had hostages. I could see the 6:00 PM news headline, “Man and Boy kidnapped by Buffalo herd seeking free range rights.” 

Then everything stopped. Nothing was moving, not man or buffalo. The open windows allowed the waft of buffalo to enter the hot van. Pungent sharp odour cleared out my sinuses. One of the larger beasts stopped beside Seth’s partially opened window. 

Plop, splat, smack, splosh, flap. The sounds were loud. In the rear – view mirror, I saw Seth’s eyes grew larger, and larger as he saw where the sounds originated. One of the noble creatures was making a deposit, right beside Seth. It was an impressive display of excrement, a flow that seemed to go on forever. All the while Seth looked, amazed. Amazed at what I am not sure- and I did not ask. 

The symphony of sound and smell stopped and, as if they had been waiting for the deluge to finish, the buffaloes moved off. I image they were all laughing and pointing at my not green van. Finally, we were able to move on and finished our visit to the park. As we drove home, Seth, like most young boys who had too much excitement, fell asleep, having buffalo dreams. 

The next day I was finishing the lunch dishes and Seth came running in naked as a jaybird. He grabbed my hand and pulled me outside. 

Down the steps around the corner, then he let go of my hand and ran, stood and faced me. Smiling and pointing at his chest like a young Tarzan he announced, “Me buth-a-row.”


I looked down to where his other hand pointed at the sidewalk to find a deposit, piled neatly in the middle.


“Yes son, you are a buth-a-row.”

First Draft – Me Buth-a-row completed

As I mentioned in other posts, I believe in cross-training for writers. To do this you need to write off genre. Today I blasted through a first draft of an anecdotal story that I plan on submitting to a magazine and to a radio program that reads listener’s stories.

This is not a short story, but the story is short, true and personnel. No spaceships, magics,  aliens or advanced maths involved. A simple story of a two-year old boy seeing his first buffalo, which he pronounces “buth-a-row”.


Writing in a shorter format helps me focus on getting the most out of every word. Word choice, I am finding, in larger multi character adventures helps keep my characters from blurring. Each character needs their own voice and with that comes the way speak – or how they communicate to the reader through dialogue in particular. We find examples of this littered throughout modern and near-modern literature and movies. Yoda, Bruce Willis, Sherlock Holmes, Buzz Light Year, Katniss. Some characters are defined entirely by how they speak, Hodor for instance.

With this in mind you may want to identify words your characters would never use. Use it as a guide to help in writing your characters.

As always, Be well – dcd

Part IV – The Short Story, a Stepping Stone to Novel Writing

Great Panel for this discussion: Susan MacGregor, Rhonda Parrish, James Van. Pelt, Ronald Hore

All of the panellists were, once again an engaging talented group of professionals.

The premise is that writing short stories will help bridge the gap to a full length novel easier of the new writer, or the beginner novelist.  Many excellent reason’s why:

More feedback on your writing faster.

You make many mistakes quickly, and hopefully learn from them ;).

Many novelists write in the three act process, which is short story based style.

You can submit more short stories in a year than you can novels.

Below is my stream of random notes – the first one is apparently the single reason first time novelists get rejected.

Most rejections of Novels are a result of the WRITING, not the idea

Practice with feedback –

Use the short story as the feedback

Level of the craft level, do you know your trade?

Need a critique group, that deal with the writing –

Very encouraging – panel people.

Look at attending other conference – maybe world? Its in Portland 2015

Pitch sessions are a necessary part of the process

Its important to do the whole process –

“Little Streams” – analogy – as a new author you can’t fish the big rivers

You need to see the big river as a small river

Read a chapter of the Game Thrones and see how it is a “short story”

You never run out of markets to sell short stories to – 49 times – up for an award, not changed over 10 years

Once again – its about passion, in the author

NOTE: Learn the short story form – story market info

It is interesting to note that one of the authors at the conference, Brandon Sanderson believes that you should write the novel length, if that is what your passion is, otherwise you will not learn all the skills of the novelist, which are much different than the short story writer.

Be Well – dcd