NaNoWriMo 2017 Winner!

November 30 marks the final day of NaNoWriMo and I think it would be fair to say that I’m quite happy about it!

It has been a month-long struggle paired with caffeine surges and writer’s slumps, but I can truly appreciate what I’ve learned from it all.

Though I am proud to say that I’ve accepted and overcome the challenge, it’s not about the win – it’s about the experience.

To date, I have three first drafts of novels written, not including the one I chose for the NaNoWriMo challenge. Each one has taken me a number of years to actually get finished. NaNoWriMo taught me how to get it done in 30 days.

Was it easy? Of course not. However, I did learn about fast drafting – just writing the story, no matter how bad it sounds. Forget grammar, forget the rule of “show, don’t tell”. None of that is relevant yet. The key is to get the story down so you can go back and polish it later.

Can anyone write 50,000 words in 30 days? Of course! It does take commitment and perseverance, but most of all, it takes inner peace. As writers, we want our written words to be golden right from the start, but NaNoWriMo teaches us that it doesn’t have to be that way.

Just figure out your story and write … the magic will come later.



The 5 Biggest Cliches in YA Romance

This … this says exactly what needs to be said!

A Writer's Path

by Annmarie McQueen

Recently, I’ve spent some time working my way through the bestseller list of YA romance fiction – everything from John Green to hit debuts such as ‘Everything Everything’ by Nicola Yoon, which was recently made into a movie.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the book. But for now I’m done with YA fiction and going back to my usual genre of world lit, classics and general gritty depressing stories that leave me in existential doubt for days afterwards. As charming as it sometimes is to indulge in the idealistic world of manic pixie dream girls (MPDGs), deep conversations under the stars and passionate, obsessive love affairs, it’s all starting to feel a bit fake. Here are the 5 biggest cliches that I think have been way overdone in YA these days:

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Someone asked me why I bother putting on makeup in the morning when I work from home. Who will see you? They wondered. Well. I will. It’s far more important than people might think.
I wasn’t always like this. Less than a decade ago, I was an inspired chef bustling with energy and enthusiasm. I was half the size I am now. Fate had a different life prepared for me.
It began with the headaches. Rather, it was one long headache that lasted two years. Constant crushing discomfort enveloping the whole right side of my head. After so long, it started to feel normal. Did people have days where pain didn’t exist? I endured several trial runs with different medications. They often left me exhausted or in a zombie trance. In time, the headache diminished and we put our confidence in the latest drug. It was an anti-seizure medication, which also ended the grand mal seizures caused by my epilepsy. An MRI revealed a brain hemorrhage. Things made little sense.
Within six months, I found myself admitted to the hospital. At the age of thirty-six, I had a stroke. Doctors scrambled to find a reason for it. As each one stopped by my bedside, they all asked the same questions—are you a smoker? No. I’ve never been. History of stroke? Ah yes—both my grandfathers and my mother had suffered it. I guess that would do.
With some physical therapy and a mobility aid, they sent me home to continue the healing process. I dragged my left leg behind me. I couldn’t work. My life was falling apart around me and I tumbled into a depression. I seldom got off the couch, sometimes going days without showering or even brushing my hair. When I did get up, I struggled to walk. After a year, I could manage short walks to the bathroom but stumbled often on the way. If I had to leave the house, my cane accompanied me. Due to my inactivity, I gained a good deal of weight.
My neurologist said I might never walk properly again. The problem wasn’t muscle tone—my brain had to re-wire itself. I decided things had to change that day. I taught myself to walk once—I could do it again.
And I did.
Almost two years later, I stepped out my door without a cane and walked around the block. I stumbled only once or twice.
Determined to lose the weight I gained, I started low-impact workouts at home. The first few days were difficult, and I didn’t complete the sessions, but it was a start. On day three, I lasted ten minutes.
I recognized indigestion when it happened, and the familiar irritation rested on my stomach like stones. I sat down and took some deep breaths while reaching for an antacid. It got worse. Before long it got so bad I started to vomit. That’s when I realized my distress and an ambulance whisked me away to the hospital. Two handsome pilots met me there and flew me to Sudbury. I felt like royalty. A bed awaited me in the cardiac care unit. The conclusion? I suffered a minor heart attack.
A nurse rolled my bed into the surgery. As I waited my turn to have an angiogram, I noticed the others there. All people at least fifty years old. I know I wasn’t the youngest person to have been in that position, but I was the youngest that day. They judged me with their eyes. I heard the thoughts in their heads. She wouldn’t be in this situation if she wasn’t so fat. They had to be thinking that, because it’s what I was thinking, myself.
I asked the cardiologist for the truth. Did my obesity cause my heart attack? Not exactly, he told me. He did recommend I lose weight. I wanted to yell at him; to make him understand I was trying to do that before I ended up in the hospital. He said it wasn’t the main factor for my heart attack. They didn’t know what caused it. My arteries were clear.
My depression compounded itself when I returned home. My body betrayed me. Afraid to do anything at the risk of bringing on another heart attack, I sat on the couch and more weight piled on. My doctor refused to accept the unknown cause. He ran a few unusual tests of his own. The diagnosis? Fibro-muscular Dysplasia. Usually a condition found in the kidneys, mine presented in the carotid artery—a rare incident. It causes the arteries to bead and become inflamed, cutting off blood flow. We had reason to believe it caused both my heart attack and my earlier stroke.
A year later, to the very month that I had my heart attack, I decided I was safe to try losing weight again. My cardiologist gave me the ‘all clear’, emphasizing that I can work my heart but I shouldn’t stress it. Easy enough. I started taking walks, and I soon ended up in the hospital again. This time it was a pulmonary embolism. According to my tests, I had large clots in both lungs. They told me I was lucky to be alive. For weeks, I slept sitting up. Lying down would cause me to gasp for breath, my lungs burning as I felt like I was drowning. Most of the time, when a pulmonary embolism is present, it traveled from the legs. That wasn’t my case. In fact, doctors were once again puzzled. I saw a hematologist who ran a series of costly medical tests. The results were inconclusive. In a nutshell, he had no idea what the problem was.
By this time I had a new doctor. She resigned my condition to being an anomaly. We would just treat the symptoms. What she was trying not to say is that I’m a walking time bomb. I’m on several medications, but we don’t know if they will be effective for all possibilities. The next heart attack might be my last. When would it happen? In ten years? Ten months? Tomorrow? There’s no way of knowing.
I could regress into depression and wait for death to take me, but instead, I try to enjoy every day like it’s my last. One of these days, it will be. That’s not some bleak outlook on my circumstances—it’s true for us all.
So, every morning, I get up and put some glitter on my cheeks. Because life is uncertain, and every new day is an occasion to sparkle.

The 10-Day Journaling Challenge

I’ve run out of steam…again.

It’s not an uncommon problem in the world of writing—in fact, I believe we all encounter it at one time or another. The question is—what am I going to do about it?

I could sit quietly twiddling my thumbs and beat myself mentally for giving up. This will inevitably lead to aggravation, moodiness, and lots of moping around the house. I owe it to myself (and my family) to do better than that.
Therefore, I have decided to take on the 10-Day Journaling Challenge inspired by Emily Gould (see her class on Skillshare). I encourage everyone to try it out.

Every day for 10 days I will write. It won’t be a long post, nor will it be epic. It will simply be my thoughts for the day written in a 10-minute sprint. The purpose of it all is to keep those creative juices flowing even when I’m feeling like I have nothing to offer the world.

I could easily just write these entries out in my notebook, never allowing them to see the light, but this is a challenge and I need to feel obligated. For that reason, I’ll be posting my entries here each day. I apologize in advance if my innermost thoughts create boredom or controversy…my mind can be a frightening place.

Stay tuned!


“Fly above the storm”,
Eagle whispered in my ear.
“Soar above the anger,
rise against the fear”.

He tucked me in the safety
of a great, extended wing,
He sheltered me from sorrow;
he taught me how to sing.

He settled me to rest
atop a mountain high,
and told me wondrous stories
of the land beyond the sky.

When I woke, I found him gone,
but we were not apart;
hardship can not shadow
the eagle in my heart.

A Note on Relationship Compatibility

Time and again, I overhear people talking about finding their perfect relationship. Almost always, the word “compatibility” comes to the forefront of the conversation. Let me just throw this out here…

You see, people seem to keep mistaking “compatibility” for “similarity”, and that’s simply not the case.
Don’t get me wrong—compatibility is absolutely important in a relationship, but two people don’t have to be the same to be suitable for each other.

It’s no wonder some of us have so much trouble trying to find the perfect mate. We keep searching for that rare specimen who likes all the same things we like, who fits into what we consider our “type”, but the hard truth is that the people we think are perfect for us usually don’t exist, or—if we do happen to find them—they turn out to be completely wrong.

So, what is “compatibility”, exactly?
In a nutshell—it’s acceptance.

To be compatible with another person doesn’t mean you need to enjoy all the same music, or have the same hobbies—it means that you both recognize your differences and allow your contrasting interests to help you grow as individuals. It’s feeling comfortable enough in your relationship to admit that you don’t want to go see a basketball game, but it’s perfectly fine for your partner to go without you…and mean it. You really like Chinese food, but your partner prefers Italian—be willing to take turns choosing what to order in on movie night.

We appear to have reached a state of self-gratification in our society, where everyone else needs to bend to our will, to do what we want them to do, but it’s a perspective that is detrimental to those still searching for their soul mates. Alternatively, we shouldn’t have to pretend to be something other than what we naturally are to gain attraction. The key is to be yourself, but remain open-minded and accommodating to the idea of introducing new possibilities into your life. Stop looking for the person who is just like you—your perfect mate might just be the one you overlooked.

Echo: A Dystopian Science Fiction Novel by Kent Wayne

It has been over a thousand years since humanity has left Earth to settle off-world on Echo. For almost that entire time, an age of darkness and oppression has ensued. Military and police have merged into the Department of Enforcement. Government and corporations have merged into the Regime. Little progress has been made except in the area of weapons technology. Echo’s only hope resides in one man, a bitter and crippled former Enforcer. Before he can break the cycle of ignorance for Echo, he must first do it within himself.

Drop by Dirty Sci-Fi Buddha and read: Chapter 1