The reason I write goes way back to my
childhood. My earliest memories are of my mother reading to me. We had a truck
and camper and I can see my mother reading the Hardy Boys to my sister and I.
There was the Bobbsey Twins before that. When I could read on my own, I
devoured the Hardy Boys series. I could not be without a book.
When I was about ten, when my reading
material was getting low, I’d take the bus from our house to Kensington used
bookstore. That was about a forty-minute bus ride. I rode alone. I’d take a few
books (mine and moms) in and get a credit, then I’d scour the store for novels,
and of course, comic books. On the bus ride home, I’d eat the lunch mom had
packed for me and start reading. I admit, I read the comics first!
I graduated from the Hardy Boys to Ellery
Queen, Earl Stanley Gardner and Agatha Christie.
I know that in my teens I had a basic plot
for a story and the protagonist was “Bryce”. Beyond that, I’m not really sure
what my plot was.
In high school I loved writing reports in
social studies class and in English class I wrote satire. Saturday Night Live
stuff, except this was before SNL! I think the idea came from the 60s comedy
shows like Carol Burnette, Hee-Haw and Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. I wrote a
thriller short story in grade 12, The Deadly Game of Chess. A murder mystery
where people die under suspicious circumstances.
Now I was reading Joseph Wambaugh, Robert Ludlum,
and Frederick Forsyth.
Then career got in the way. As a cop I
wrote lots of reports, and when I look at some of them now, I didn’t write them
very well! As a paramedic, I wrote patient care reports and I think I did an
acceptable job on those.
While I was in paramedic class, I wrote a
satire/National Enquirer one-page paper called the Paramedic Enquirer. It made
fun of my classmates and instructors and the funny things that happened in the
class. If a guy and girl walked in together, then that became a clandestine
romance. No one escaped a column in the
rag and most of the class could hardly wait until I’d finished it, then
circulated around the classroom, which got me in trouble quite a few times.
Murphy’s law ensured the instructor got it on the occasions I had them in it.
Through my career I co-authored four
paramedic textbooks, many research projects and training material. My daughter,
Lauren, decided when she was about thirteen that she should read the
pharmacology text I co-wrote. The next morning, she told me she fell asleep on
the first page.
In 2010, I was going through a major life
change. I was coaching high school football and that kept me busy and my mind
off life. One morning in October, I was showering (I do my best thinking in the
shower) and had enough self-awareness to know that once football ended, so did
the distraction from life events. While the warm water cascaded down my face, I
had the epiphany that I should write. I have no clue where that idea came from.
At work, I Googled writing classes and one started the next week. I signed up.
The first piece I wrote and submitted to
the instructor and classmates was about a significance event in Calgary Police
history where a sergeant dies, and six other police officers were wounded. I was
the only guy in the class, and I was nervous because it was a violent and
To my shock, everyone like the piece. Unfortunately,
they liked the bad guy the best and didn’t like the cops! My instructor
commented that I knew my stuff, but it read like a procedure manual! I had a
lot of work to do.
For the next four years, I took writing
classes pretty much non-stop. I needed to learn to write fiction. I needed to
learn to put the scenes I saw in my head into words. I could visualize every
aspect of the story, but I struggled to get it onto the page. Excellent
instructors helped me on that path.
There was one point where I received
feedback that devastated me. After giving a great pitch, I was asked to submit
the Crisis Point
manuscript. I excitedly opened the email with the review. The primary comment
was, “It’s like a police show is on the TV in the other room, and I don’t
I set the manuscript side for about three
months. Thankfully, I signed up for another writing class and set to improving
In 2015, after five years working on Crisis Point, I decided I would
self publish it. I hired an editor, and we were slogging through the novel.
Earlier, on the advice of another writer, I had submitted Crisis Point to the Crime
Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis awards for the best unpublished novel. I admit I
didn’t really understand what the awards were about. On a Thursday in late
April 2015, I was a guest speaker at the Arthur Ellis finalist announcement.
I’d finished my talk and was glancing at a bottle of Chardonnay and waiting for
the last category to be announced—the Unhanged Arthur for the best unpublished
novel. I admit, my attention was more on the wine than the announcement. Then
my name was called as a finalist. There is no other word. I was Gobsmacked!
Instead of wine, I celebrated with Whisky!
I attended the Crime Writers of Canada
Awards in Toronto the end of May. To me, it was like the Academy Awards of
Writing. I was still in shock. Seated next to me was an agent. She asked about
my novel and my background.
I didn’t win the award, and I was
disappointed. But heck, making the finals was great. As she was leaving, the
agent gave me her card and asked for my manuscript.
After edit suggestions, she sent my
manuscript out. Over the next year and a half, we received thirty-seven
responses—rejections. That was a gut punch. Even worse, was most of the comments
were complimentary on the writing style, the plot and the characters, but
replies like, ‘We aren’t taking crime at this time.’ Or, ‘This doesn’t fit with
our book line, we wish you the best of luck’.
By now I had spent almost seven years on
Crisis Point. I also admit that my biological writing clock was ticking. Not
that I’m ancient, but waiting two years or more for my novels to be published
by traditional publishers didn’t work for me. I went back to my previous
thought, and self-published. In April 2018, Crisis Point was launched and was a best seller in
Calgary. There is immense satisfaction in holding your novel in print for the
In May 2018, I was speaking at a writing
conference in Burnaby, British Columbia. Between my presentations, I attended several
sessions. One in particular, changed my writing life. It was a panel on “The
best writing advice you received.” It was an excellent panel overall, but the
advice of one presenter stuck with me. Essentially, it was that writing a novel
is outstanding, few people to that. Getting a novel into print is fantastic,
few people do that. But in the big scheme of things, a single novel is not
enough. We are in a fast food, binge society and readers, when they find an
author they like, want to read everything they have. If as a writer, you only
have one novel, readers may love it, but if there isn’t another novel, they
will move on to another author. generally w
With one novel launched, I worked on my
The completion of each novel provides the
motivation for the subsequent novel. I hope that my writing has improved. I
rely less on outlines and more on the story I have in my head. With the help of
a new editor, I am learning to describe the scenes, show emotion in my
characters, and keep readers up late at night reading.
launched in March 2019, and Wolfman is Back in November 2019. Speargrass—Opioid launched in
September 2020. Novels five and six are written. 13 Days of Terror launched in November 2020 and
Goddess of Justice in March 2021.
Today, October 13, 2020, I am halfway
through writing my seventh novel and 10,000 words into my eighth.
I admit to being obsessed. I write every day.
When I started writing in 2010, it was a struggle to write 500 words in a day.
Now, 2500-3000 in a day is not unusual, and I have had days of over 6,000
I have a schedule with my editor to the
end of 2023. The deadlines are important to keep me on track.
Listen to Dwayne Clayden's podcast episode here.