Butt In Chair

Rambling string of conscious blog done at high speed…

The singular most important action you can take as a writer, is to get your butt in the chair and write as often as possible. Good, Bad, Ugly, rambling, off topic, anything.

The habit of writing is an elusive lover, once found, you will cherish and safeguard. But like smoke, will escape in a careless moment, leaving the faint smell of missed opportunity and regret. I

If I had only written every day this week I’d be finished this chapter, story book.

Many people treat writing like a one night stand, fun, mysterious, dangerous…but not a commitment. Commitment, a foreign concept in today’s world sordid social media where many want to spread their hate as fast at the STD rate.

The dirty secret about commitment is it involves accountability. And is anyone accountable for anything today? We have excuses for everything. No one owns their mistakes, and if they do, they are considered weak.

All relationships go through struggles, the ups and downs not involving pleasure. Writing is no different for me.

Like a recovering alcoholic all writer’s need a support group. Find one.

Be Well…dcd

Thank-you #wwcyyc17

Trying hard to understand how charmed my life is right now. When Words Collide 2017 being yet another event that brought joy to me. A big thank-you to the volunteers, organizers and guests for this amazing event. Below is the list from the program for the volunteers and organizers. Send your thank-you’s to info@whenwordscollide.org

These people are the wonderful group who worked hard all year to bring you the best festival they could. Please take a little time to shake their hands.
The One to Blame (Chairman) Randy McCharles
Who We Begged for Money (Finance) Cheryl Cottreau, Mahrie G. Reid, Cliff Samuels
The Person Who Organizes Our Agenda (Secretary) Michele Lisiecki
She Who Reached Out (Affiliates Liaisons) Val King and Kyera Lea
The Person Who Wrangles Authors (Guest Liaison) Cliff Samuels
The Man Who Makes Things Beautiful (Artist) Steve Swanson
The People Most In Need of Rest (Programming) Randy McCharles, Susan Forest. Suzy Vadori, Susan Calder, Sarah Kades, Mahrie G. Reid, and Darlene Louka
The One Who Arranged For Things to Purchase (Merchants’ Corner).Marzena Czarnecka
The Person Who Found Us A Place to Gather (Hotel Liaison) Randy McCharles
Pre-Festival Workshops Susan Forest
The People Who Managed Our Saturday Night
Banquet Randy McCharles, Nola Sarina, and Darlene Louka
Mass Autograph Session Kim Greyson
The Ladies Keeping Track of Everybody (Registration)
Pre-festival Sandy Fitzpatrick
At Festival Kyera Lea

The People Who Kept You Informed
Web Site Gary Renshaw
News & Notes, E-Mail Monitor, Statistician Randy McCharles
Podcasts  Tony King
Program Book  Cliff Samuels
Restaurant and Area guide Cliff Samuels
Promotions Distributor, Calgary Public Library Liaison Stacey Kondla
Facebook Ron S. Friedman
Twitter Suzy Vadori
Media Relations Tony King
The Person Who Cracked the Whip (Volunteer Wrangler) Kim Greyson
The Person Who Remembers Who We Were (Archivist) Val King
The People Who Deal with Government – Grants  Catherine Saykaly-Stevens
Siona Gunn-Graham, and Susan Forest
Those We Have Insufficient Space to List And Many Others
There are many volunteers to thank

The biggest moment for me was meeting my literary hero Guy Gavriel Kay. Not only meeting him and getting a selfie but listening to him talk about writing and his writing process. I will share more on that in a coming blog.(HINT:There is no magic bullet) But here is the fan boi picture. It’s hard to explain the impact this had on me. At 57 years old I held little hope for meeting people I respect as heroes. I doubted the chance that it would happen. This year I have met two, one Andy Mckee the finger style guitar player and now Guy Kay. And yes you do get goose bumps at my age. You check to see if it’s rash first, but you still get them. When the first example he used was your favorite scene, it gave the word ‘surreal’ new meaning. This can’t be happening. It is not possible. Transcending.

“In this world, where we find ourselves, we need compassion more than anything, I think, or we are all alone.”― Guy Gavriel Kay, Tigana

Be Well – dcd


One week or so from now I will be at When Words Collide 2017. A tremendous opportunity for me to learn more about the craft of writing, to get inspired about my writing and lastly, face the music. (A little melodrama never hurt anyone)


You may wonder what ‘face the music’ means. This past year one of the writing groups I participate in committed to submitting to the editors, publishers and other authors offering free critiquing sessions. These people do this with little or no chance of gaining from the sessions. It’s part of what makes this conference great, people giving of their time and expertise. Like a fool, I thought, sign me up. To that end I requested three slots at the conference to give an editor samples of my work and receive feedback. I have no aspirations other than to learn from people on how to improve my writing.  Depending on the slot(s) I will be submitting different pieces. Having requested the waiting is underway.  And winner winner, chicken dinner – three slots!

Anticipating a busy three days, I am trying to prepare better for the grind of the conference. What does that mean? For me it means healthy snacks, regular meals and letting myself enjoy the conference. I will try and not worry if I am at the “BEST SESSION”, but rather enjoy where I am. If it is horrible, I will not worry if I offend anyone and get up and leave. More than ever this year I want to seek the opinion of others. What sessions did they enjoy?

One session I have put my name in for is a 50 minute sit down with Guy Gavriel Kay. There are 12 spots to be determined by a draw. The exquisite beauty and personal pain he can give to a reader through his characters is magical.  Hence the excitement. What does one ask of a literary hero?

Until then



Be well…dcd



The Mighty WWC

When Words Collide is just around the corner and its time to start preparing for the trip/event/happening.

First, a disappointment, from the pre-release program I can’t seem to find when Robery J. Sawyer is speaking. I was looking forward to hearing talk about his recent experiences. Most recently he was at StarMas 2016 with a veritable who’s who of the Space and Science world. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Chris Hadfield and that guy – STEVEN FRICKIN’ HAWKING!

I follow Robert on Facebook and twitter. You should too.

As I did last year, I am helping out on the “AV” team. Projectors, microphones and mayhem. The conference is well organized and this mainly making sure the presenter is comfortable and has what they need.

Usually I get stressed out going to conferences, I don’t deal with crowds well. This produces a lot of anxiety for me. This year I am feeling far more relaxed. I wonder why? A sense of belonging? Whatever the reason, its a great feeling.
Be Well…


Ebb and Flow

I was fortunate enough to attend the Rocky Mountain Writer’s Retreat  3 full days of writing, two  and half days of writing and two 5 hour drives (Listening to Writing Excuses) This will probably be two blogs. Lots to comment on. It will also be choppy and not edited.

The retreat is run by Randy McCharles, who also organizes When Words Collide. The retreat is open to authors, writers, and want-to-be writers, like me, from around the world to attend. There is not a specific genre focus. The focus is on you the writer coming to get work done, without distractions, in a community of writers.

Oh, the setting is pretty inspiring. The Rocky Mountains do that to a person.


Did I mention the food? Three Words, Sticky Toffee Pudding. Uh-Uh, that’s what I be talk’in about. There is no reliable internet. So if you back up to the cloud be sure to bring something else to save your work.

Good News 16,187 first draft new words for the Mystery Novel being written for some colleagues. Once of the concepts I have learned in the last several months is that Sci-Fi and Fantasy contain other elements; like mystery, adventure and thriller elements. Writing Excuses describes these as “elemental genres”.  You can have a romance that contains a mystery. A mystery that contains thriller as part of the story. But I digress.

I learned some valuable lessons at the retreat. Writers, in general, want other writers to succeed. Even if you are in the same genre. Ask question to a write about how they write and you will get honest straight-forward answers. You will almost always get as many different ways to do something as there people responding. Here is an example:

How do you plot? (if you are a pantser this doesn’t apply)

  • Sticky Notes
  • Word Document Outline
  • The outliner in Scrivener
  • Excel
  • Recipe cards

I have been using Scrivener for some time. It has helped me tremendously. I have found that it is important for me to try out different ways of outlining. Maybe something will work better. Another person described her process as quilting. An apt analogy.

This kind of advice was offered throughout the retreat. I commented to several people on how writers as a group, openly share their secrets. I have been in other groups who don’t openly share their secrets or tricks. This is quite refreshing. There is no silver bullet. As I have mentioned before, there is no easy path to being a writer and author. You don’t decide to write because it’s easy.

Side Bar – Robert J Sawyer – Dean of Canadian Science Fiction, Author, Speaker, Teacher and as it turns gentleman, friend to the n00bie. I checked in the afternoon went to my cabin, went down wrote a little and visited ‘Cabin 13’.  (Cabin 13 is the lunch, break, chill cabin) Walked through the door, and there he was. A little bit of fanboi set in and I don’t know what to say. He proceeds to introduce himself and everyone else in the room, including what they write – ‘YA’ nominated for an aurora, Fantasy – working with Adrienne Kerr (editor extraordinaire)’. All I could spit out was, ‘Doug, noobie writer’. WOW – so articulate. Said, ‘Hi’ to everyone, chatted briefly, and went out had a nap and then went for dinner

The bistro restaurant that is part of the Baker Creek Mountain Resort  was wonderful. I grabbed a table for two hidden around the corner and started looking at the menu. Several minutes later, Mr.Sawyer and others walked in.

“What are you doing! No one eats alone, get over here.” Robert says.

I shuffled over to the table and was chastised by the rest of the writers. I suppose I could have hidden? But why? A meal with humor, insight and that warm sense that someone else understands the struggles you face as a writer. Plus! I got have sticky toffee pudding. Fortunately, another one of the writers helped me with it,  otherwise, all of that sugar could have turned me into giddy 8 years old. No one needs to see that…


My thoughts on preparing for conferences

A Quick Stream of Consciousness blog on conference prep

Read this list one bullet at a time – SLOWLY – in place of the bullet say your name

  • schedule a time within 7 days AFTER the conference to go over you notes to correct and organize – schedule one hour of every day you attend – you may need less – for this conference I have schedule 3 hours over two days the Tuesday and Wednesday I get back
  • Define Goals – Don’t be vague. Example – One of my goals this year is to send out 3 tweets a day. (I almost never tweet, like one a month)
  • Get an early copy of the program and  have a plan, but don’t force yourself to rigidly stick to it
  • bring a Tide to Go Stick
  • Hydrate – AC is a conference attenders biggest enemy. Rooms are cooled by removing moisture from the air…you do the math
  • Carry snacks – my go to snacks are apples, almonds and good granola bars (not chocolate bars)
  • Eat breakfast, I don’t care if you never eat breakfast, eat breakfast, Oatmeal or Fruit/yogurt/granola
  • Water, or a sports drink – not pop
  • Dental floss or dental picks
  • Try and limit your coffee consumption. This is VERY HARD, dare i SAY  IMFRICKINPOssible for me.
  • Deodorant
  • No aftershave
  • Antacid – I take Gavscon – that’s what I like
  • Power outlets are your friend
  • Don’t be afraid to say hello to a stranger, it may be Brandon Sanderson
  • Ask questions
  • Thank people, especially the volunteers
  • Take notes, there is no way you can remember everything you want to remember at the conference, find out if there are notes available for sessions.
  • Find the nearest local grocery store and stock your fridge
  • Napping is fine, use the alarm on your phone to wake you up
  • Laugh – enjoy the humor
  • There are two sides to writing – creative and editing – feed both sides of your writing at the conference – you will thank me later
  • Buy Books – bring cash – small publishers get more money in their pockets – get recommendations from the small publishers.
  • Take the free stuff, go over it when you get home
  • Expect to be super-saturated – there is nothing wrong with being overloaded with information, it will stretch your little grey cells

/End of the list

My goals: 3 tweets a day (already mentioned), volunteer at the conference (3 x 2 hour sessions booked), Eat healthy, Blog every day about the sessions I attend every day, thank Randy McCharles (Done!)

When Words Collide – Part Seven

Grammar – Call them Guru’s, not the other word.

I shudder at the thought of this blog. Grammar, you see, is not my forte. If you have read any of my other blogs you will see exactly what I mean.


With hesitation I entered the room holding this panel. Hesitation and I are old friends. I was late, from my fear of what I would be told. A chair in the back, against the wall, on both sides, it was a trap. Four passionate, articulate, erudite panellists follow me with their eyes as I crept into the room. The lady beside me smiled as I sat. Perhaps she was happy not to be alone at the back. As with most panel discussions the front seats were packed.

The Guru’s were in the midst of a discussion on split infinities – I wondered if this was a Star Trek panel by mistake. Things were dangling and unmodified, I was scared maybe I was a participle, I tend to think that I am unmodified. Then they launched into a discussion on the application of Latin rules on Germanic words, I just wanted to know about english, Danke!

From there we lept into a discussion of reference books, and websites and and and ALWAYS ASK! Trust some grammar “GURU” will tell you.

All in all I had a wonderful time in the grammar workshop – Thanks – Andrea Howe, Constantine Kaoukakis, Ian Alexander Martin, Nola Sarina

I have one observation to make about this discussion on grammar, no one went over what the “rules” were. The discussion was primarily about “exceptions” to the rule. When you are as weak in grammar as I am, just starting out, a review of the “rules” would have been great.

The discussion of grammar and the language surrounding this discussion is something that I am just learning. Last year I don’t think I knew about active and passive voice. I still don’t understand it all the time, but at least I know they exist now! And who knew that adverbs were bad! I absolutely, positively, completely did not know they were so evil!

I will attend another session on grammar; I always enjoy when someone speaks passionately and intelligently about a subject. I will still sit in the back, but I will be early.

Here are my stream of consciousness notes.

You must have good grammar – lee-way depending on voice

First Person view gets away with more grammar –

Query letter and writing should be at the same level

The pronoun “I” between you and me – don’t end a sentence in a preposition?? Is no longer incorrect –

Don’t split – an infinite is ok –

The Latin rules were applied to Germanic words – “To Boldly Go” is fine –

English is a living language – Webster’s 11 edition otherwise we would still be on Webster’s first –

Don’t use “LITERALLY” –

Are you done your sandwich – is it western sandwich – regionalism –

BBQ – verging nouns…intercoursing creating a verb. –

Grammar people are passionate about grammar – more so than other parts of writing –

Is it a hard or soft “H” – h gets the “an” – depends how old you are…

Diagramming sentences —

Inviting new words – how we write –

Switch the pronouns he and him –

Lay is for objects – lie is for yourself

More concerned about being nice –

Grammar people are very ADD –

Present perfect tense…???

If I don’t use, I lose it…

Where do I learn it now…

Good Grammar Books – Gregg reference manual –

Primary form of communication

Humor gets in the way of everything done –

Inundated with wrong grammar – the impact of visual –

Reference book

What are the rules –

Great discussion and passion –

Quotations must be

Subject and predicate on both sides of the semi-colon.

Grammatically correct but not style correct

Grammar podcast –

Fowler’s book for example’s Fowler’s use of English – 11?9?

Be consistent –

Writing about communicate and get to a wider audience – is the author voice correct …losing immersion by using

Grammar girl – GRAMMARLY – promote literacy

Strive to talk English good –

Don’t know something – ask – find out

When Words Collide Part Six – RPG Storytelling (Role Playing Game)

I have been a fan of RPG‘s or Role Playing Games for a long time.

Three Stand Out Quotes from this session:

“Like knitting a parachute while falling from a plane”

“Never get to the YOU HAD TO BE THERE moment” 

“Take notes on the game – Brent – naked and in chains – “That level of bad dice rolling is epic in some players”

For those of you that aren’t familiar with role playing games (you should be!), a brief overview.


A group of 4-6 people gather together, preferably in person rather than online. The online/physically together debate is a matter for a different blog. One of the people functions as the Game Master – GM for short. This person leads the rest through an adventure, plays the role of bad guys, neutral characters, allies and the setting. They prepare in advance.Must be able to think fast and be inventive, after all characters like people don’t always do what you expect them to do.

The other people each have a “character” to play. They “Role Play” or act out through words and description how their character behaves.. Traditionally played with various sided dice, pen and paper. The dice are used to determine a variety of outcomes, damage, did you see through the assassin’s stealth, does the bar maid love you. Each character has attributes that help define how to play the character. Some are bruising tanks with low intellect – THORG SMASH, clever wizard’s or dumb wizard’s as the case may be. Some may be rangers or dragons or giants, elves etc and oh and dwarves.  It tends to be much like the Lord of Rings Characters and Races. Some role playing games are set in the future – some are set in alternative universes – Star Wars Universes – You get the idea. There is much more to role playing and developing your own character.

Over the course of several hours your merry band of adventurers go on a journey, encounters trouble, solves problems, defeats the enemy(not always via combat). In the process a story is created, unique to that night of playing. And as the panel discussed VIRTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO RETELL!.

Our panellists for this session were Brandon Sanderson, Chadwick Ginther, Ron Bender and Dave Gross. Most if not all of these folk function as the game master for their group or groups. The story telling is rich and varied with laughter intrigue and generally a good time is had by all. To recreate this into a story that you put into print is difficult if not impossible as the speakers outlined.

Context, quite often how a person talks or how they gesture adds or helps define the meaning of what they are saying.

Point of View – our old friend PoV haunts what we try to put on paper after an excellent night of gaming. The best advice is to try and tell each scene or vignette from one character’s point of view

How do you integrate the dice rolling into the story? You must be inventive.

People have tried transcribing adventures and it just doesn’t work, if you don’t believe me, try it, – I HAVE! What a nightmare to decipher.

If you have never role played an adventure game with pen and paper – I highly recommend it. If you are looking of an example of excellent narrative role players, please watch:


Be Well – dcd

When Words Collide – Part VI – Story-boarding the Short Story

This session was put on by Nina Munteanu


I realized that I was learning more about writing for the first time in this session. I recognized that I knew the basics, but I picked up more of the detail. Before I was doing a “Paint By Numbers” painting, now I felt I understood most of the basics and could see the steps in becoming a real painter.

What is story-boarding?  From our friends at Wiki


Storyboards are now becoming more popular with novelists. Because most novelists write their stories by scenes rather than chapters, storyboards are useful for plotting the story in a sequence of events and rearranging the scenes accordingly..

Nina provided a tremendous amount of information in a very short period of time. Clearly she needed a 2 hour block of time. For some people who have been writing for while it may have seemed to be repetitious. However for the new writer, or an author who wanted to go over the basics and key concepts this was the session for you.

My problem was that I did not expect to have to work as much as I did. Close attention was needed on my part to keep up. My recommendation is to visit Nina’s site linked above for greater detail.

Part of the discussion was the “Hero’s Journey” which is summarized here:


Many of you will be aware of this or have read Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero With A Thousand Faces”; it is much different to hear it discussed from a writer’s perspective with examples from modern books and current films. Nina did a nice job of weaving these in without being sidelined by the books or films.

My stream of conscious notes are below – Be Well dcd

  • One Scene at a time
  • Nina Munteanu  U of T
  • Think of Building a House
  • Blueprint
  • excavation and foundation
  • Framing
  • Plumbing heating and electricit
  • Wallboard
  • Plaster and Paint
  • Blueprint
  • Idea> Premise and Theme – outline/synopsis
  • Excavation and Fountain – Setting is a Character
  • Character and setting go together
  • Framing – Conflict-plots
  • Plumbing heating and Electricity – revise process – Foreshadowing, is it done?
  • Volunteering helps you control the session
  • First draft is the bigger story
  • Wallboard – editing – second revision – third pass through story
  • Scene and Sequel and Scene
  • Scene is the action – movement –
  • Sequel is the reaction to the action
  • Goal-conflict-disaster=scene
  • The 3 act plot structure
  • Beginning – Promise – Separation
  • Middle – movement – Initiation and transformation
  • End – Fulfillment – Return with a gift
  • Promise and atonement
  •  Core dramatic issue – example – to be loved, to control’s ones fate etc
  • Movement = Transformation – the hero’s journey – fear to courage, hate to love and mercy
  • Fulfillment – resolution of the promise – Act 3 mirrors Act 1
  • Shift tin thinking, Epiphany,  power
  • Journey of transformation – all stories have this it is genre neutral
  • 12 steps in the hero’s journey – Campbell’s list
  • ACT One
  • Ordinary world
  • Call to adventure
  • Refusal of call
  • Meeting of the mentor
  • Crossing the threshold
  • Act two

  • Tests, allies, enemies
  • Approach to the innermost cave
  • Ordeal (the abyss)
  • Reward – transformation and revelation
  • Act three

  • There road block
  • Resurrection
  • Return with the “gift”
  • The seven archetypes
  • Hero
  • Mentor
  • Herald –
  • Threshold guardian – help or hinder
  • Shapeshifter – not who they seem – the bad guys
  • Shadow – against the hero’s quest
  • Trickster – distraction –
  • Premise-Promise-Plot=Theme – all about a character on a journey
  • If the theme is empowerment then the journey is about coming into power
  • Story people are made to order for do a specific job
  • A Character’s Tragic Flaw is tied to the Story’s theme
  • Premise + Theme = Promise
  • Explain setting as character – the characters interact with the setting

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

Raylin.com – 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