Thursday, December 3, 2020

Reflecting on NaNo

 There were no questions for O'Abby today, so I thought I'd use this space today to go through some of the things that worked for me during this year's NaNo, and things that didn't.  Hopefully this will be useful for those of you who may not have ever attempted NaNo before, as well as those seasoned veterans.

Let's start with the things that did work...

1. Starting with a bang.  It was great that this year November 1 was a Sunday, because it meant I didn't have to try and fit writing in around the day job and all the other commitments we all juggle on weekdays.  I dedicated a few hours of the day to writing and managed to blitz just over 4,000 words on the first day. Having some extra words in the bank gave me some peace of mind on days when I only managed 500 or so words because of outside pressures.

2. Dedicated writing days.  I took one day off work each week during NaNo (and two days the first week) to dedicate to writing.  This was fantastic and I managed around 6K on each of these dedicated writing days, and because they were usually Friday, it was a great inspiration leading into the weekends where I had a few spare hours and generally managed to add another 4-5K.

3. A loose outline. Any of you who know me, know I don't tend to outline my books before I write them.  This time, because I was basing the book on Shakespeare, I had a basic structure to work from even without writing an outline.  I found this tremendously helpful with the fast drafting because I had a guide for where I needed to go next.

4. Music. This is something that works for some books and not for others.  Some books (like The Sidewalks Regrets) have a very specific soundtrack that I refer to and use throughout the writing process to get myself into the right mood and mindset to write individual scenes.  My NaNo book this year had a very distinct soundtrack that helped me find the mood and motivation and emotional tone for various parts of the story.

5. Writing forward and not stopping. This is a must when fast drafting.  Don't go back and rewrite anything, even when you know you took a wrong turn somewhere further back.  Leave yourself a note and move on.  You can fix those things later.  I made a whole lot of mistakes in the early part of my book this year, but I'll fix them later.  As I got to know my characters better through the writing process, things I wrote early on will no longer fit or make sense.  But that's okay.  That's what revision is for!

And things that didn't work...

1. Writing every day.  I wanted to, but there were days where I only managed 400 words because there just wasn't time to do anything more.  I tried not to beat myself up about it because I knew I had words in the bank to make up for those days, but it's hard not to.

2. Writing at home. My most productive writing days were at the library.  There are too many distractions at home, even when I turn off the internet to keep them to a minimum.  There's always cleaning that needs to be done, gardening, laundry and other chores that suddenly seem super urgent whenever I sit down to write.  Leaving the house and going somewhere else means that while the chores don't go away, I'm not so aware of them.

3. Two days off in a row. The first week of NaNo I took two days off to write.  They were both productive, but I found the second day much more of a struggle and wrote considerably less than on the first.  Possibly because my back was sore from sitting in the same chair for so many hours when I'm not used to sitting for long periods.  If I take two days off in a week again next year, I will try not to have them consecutive.

Hopefully these reflections are of use to you.  Do let us know how you got on with NaNo.  Did you 'win'?  Do you have anything that worked well for you while you were writing this month?

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Stella Oni

Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author posted by @JLenniDorner of @OpAwesome6


Deadly Sacrifice by Stella Oni


1- As a cake enthusiast and foodie, would you please share a holiday cake recipe, perhaps with pictures?

Jamaican Rum Cake is the best one but it is not straightforward baking. I tend to try different recipes. Chef Ricardo’s below is a good one.



Jamaican Christmas Fruit Cake (©2014)


  • Butter
  • 1 Lb Sugar
  • 1 Lb Flour
  • 1 lb Breadcrumbs
  • 1 lb Baking Powder
  • 2 tsp Eggs-
  • ½ Cup Browning
  • Mixed Spice- 1 Tsp
  • 1 tsp Rose Water
  • 6 Raisins
  • half cup Prunes
  • half cup Currant
  • half cup Mixed Peel
  • ½ Lb Orange Juice
  • 2 Tbsp Wine & Rum to flavor (red label wine or over proof rum)
  • 2 tsp Vanilla
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon Powder

Place fruit in a large jar at least a day (longer if possible) in advance, pour wine and rum over fruit, so that it is completely covered. Cover jar and leave fruit to soak.
Cream butter and sugar in a very large mixing bowl. Add browning. Add 1 and a half cups of soaked fruit, stirring in with a large wooden spoon. Beat eggs until light and frothy (10 to 15 minutes). Add rose water, vanilla mixed spice and cinnamon powder. Add egg mixture and orange juice to butter mixture, fold in well.
Fold soaked fruit into this mixture. (Any leftover fruit can be left to soak until the next time you bake!) Gradually fold in flour mixture. Test to see if the wooden spoon can stand upright in middle of the mixture. If not, add some more flour until the mixture can support the spoon. Grease baking pans and line with grease paper. Grease and flour lined pans.
Pour mixture into tins and bake for 2 hours in a slow oven, 300-350 F. Place a pan of water in the bottom of the oven to ensure cakes do not dry out. Check cakes from time to time, as baking times may vary. Cakes are ready when a toothpick or skewer inserted in centre comes out clean, or almost clean. To store the cake for a few weeks, keep moist by pouring Red Label wine and Jamaican white rum on the top, and wrapping.

2- Would you please, in 160 characters or less, give a #WriteTip ?

Create a secret space in your mind for your writing and don’t let anything that is not improving or honing your craft get near it.

3- What is the best piece of writing advice you've received?

Keep writing. Never give up.

4- What might people be most surprised to learn about human trafficking?

It happens worldwide and we are only at the tip of the iceberg.

5- Would you share a picture with us of your book with something colorful and shiny?
Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Stella Oni Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Stella Oni

6- What are six things that most people probably don't know about Nigeria?

  1. The Film industry in Nigeria is known as Nollywood and is bigger than Hollywood
  2. Argungu fishing festival in Kebbi state Northern Nigeria is one of the most interesting ones in the world and is about to be revived
  3. Nigeria is the largest importer of stock fish in the world. They eat tons of them each year and make a lot of Norwegians very wealthy from it.
  4. More than half of the population use social media and nearly all have mobile phones.
  5. A lot of top world African achievers have Nigerian heritage
  6. Aliko Dangote - The richest man in Africa is Nigerian


7- What's your Twitter handle, and do you have two or three writer friends on there to shout-out to for #WriterWednesday ?

My handle is @sonithewriter . Shout out to @KKareemBello @rashedaashanti

8- Do you have a favorite #bookstagram image or account/ profile?

@reads.and.reveries I love how she arranges the books on her profile and have had many tips from her.

9- What most motivates you to read a new book?

I am always drawn by subject matter that show adventure, settings, and so I read widely. I also love a well written story that will allow me to inhabit that world for as long as I can.

10- It's our tenth anniversary! How far has your writing come in the past ten years and where do you see your writing career ten years from now?

Happy Anniversary! I used the past ten years to hone and improve my writing and will use the next ten years to hone my writing, explore my creativity and produce many books.

11- What is your favorite book by someone else, what's the author's Twitter handle, and what do you love most about that book? #FridayReads book recommendation time!

Author name: Lola Shoneyin @lolashoneyin
Title: The Secret Lives of the Four Wives
Love because: The story was gripping and the secret mind blowing!


12- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader?

I want my reader to be immersed in my story and to see the character, place and location. I also hope that they enjoy reading it.

13- What kind of impact do you hope your book will have?

To enable the reader to be open to diverse viewpoints, be interested, gripped and think on many complex levels.

14- What is the best writing tool, program, or reference book you've ever bought?

I love the writing tool - Scrivener

15- In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? diversebooks.org #WeNeedDiverseBooks

I have diverse characters in the book and they have normal life issues.
Detective Toks Ade - British Nigerian, Coretta Davis- Biracial, Detective Philip Dean is white British

#TwentyIn2020 is Jacaranda Books' historical, groundbreaking initiative to publish 20 Black British writers in one year. The works include fiction, nonfiction and poetry, with the aim of normalising the presence of diverse literature by talented Black writers in the UK.

16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

I will cheat and instead pick a podcaster - Sarah Ozo-Irabor of Books and Rhymes

17- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?

I went for Jacaranda’s Twenty in 2020 initiative. An independent publisher willing to publish 20 black writers in 2020 and did it to a high standard. It has been great.

18- Which author, past or present, do you feel most resembles your work?

It is difficult to say as there has not been a police procedural in the UK with a black main character. Perhaps Leye Adenle, he is a brilliant writer.
Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Stella Oni

19- Would you please ask our audience a question to answer in the comments?

What would you do love to do once the pandemic is over?

20- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?

I started a a new cozy series, THE LONDON HOUSE MYSTERIES the prequel, THE STRANGER IN THE HOUSE appears in Festive Mayhem – an anthology.

More about Deadly Sacrifice


They arrived at a clearing surrounded by bright lights that cast huge shadows on the police officers standing by a small taped off area. Her eyes were drawn to the shrub in the middle of the scene. A police woman joined them and she recognised Mary Clark from her old unit.
‘Hello Mary! What’s going on here?’ she asked.
Toks remembered Mary as a big Irish brunette who liked to be in the thick of the action. Mary tried to smile and failed. Toks noted the shock in her eyes and the paleness of her face.
‘Toks! I heard you abandoned uniform.’ Her jocular tone sounded false as she glanced at Philip. She gestured at the shrub. ‘You must take a look for yourself. Here. You need these.’
She passed both of them some protective clothing.
Philip said nothing but his eyes, like Toks, were glued to the shrub. He turned to Mary. ‘Has the pathologist been yet?’
‘No. We’re waiting for her. SOCO have been working for a while now, though.’
Philip joined the officers and began talking to them.
She lingered by Mary. ‘Is it very bad?’ The woman nodded as her eyes filled with tears.
Toks went to join Philip. He pulled up the tape and they both went under it. Her heart beat so loudly that all other sounds became muffled. She was right to feel as she did. They were now standing by the patch. It had close-clustered leaves with thin, scraggly branches. The earth around it was dark and wet and just by one of the low branches sat a black clay pot. She bent down beside Philip and it took a while for her brain to register what she was seeing. Then she found herself choking back bile.
Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Stella Oni

Short Bio


Stella is a cake enthusiast who makes exquisite cakes and writes about it on her cake blog. She is also an avid foodie who writes about Food, Culture and Tech on her blog African Britishness and on Medium. Her dream is to travel around the world to taste and experience food from different cultures. Her debut fiction Deadly Sacrifice was published in September 2020.

Social Media Links


Website: http://Stellaonithewriter.com
Instagram: @stellaonithewriter
Facebook: @sonithewriter
Twitter: @sonithewriter


Deadly Sacrifice by Stella Oni

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Reflection and Insights into the Writing Process

 Wow, I can't believe National Novel Writing Month is over. 

It's time for your rewards, to bask in the glory of writing words during November, no matter the specific number. You wrote. That's what important. Trying counts.

I have recently made connections between my writing process and my art making process. It is curious to me, though rather obvious, that I had not made certain connections sooner.

For example. I took a bookbinding class and loved the idea of my project.

Execution was not great.

But I finished it. Now that is my prototype phase. Better yet, my NaNo phase. I just put work and time in and see what happens.

Then I can try again and apply what I learned.

The editing phase.

I make the project again. An improved version.

So I encourage you, no matter where you are in your current project(s), to take a moment to reflect on your writing and editing process. Has it evolved over time? What changed? What stayed the same?  What metaphor or image captures your process?

Share in the comments your metaphor or image.

Mine is throwing pots on the pottery wheel. Keep going until I want to fire it in the kiln. Or put it back in the clay bag to become something else in the future.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Last chance to let us know your opinion for 2021

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Has it snowed where you live yet?

This will be our last blog post on this topic.  Is there something about writing/publishing that you'd like the OA team to write about in 2021?  Contests you enjoy?  Opportunities you want to take advantage of?

Please let us know!

Below are the examples we posted last Monday.  We received ONE comment on last Monday's blog post from an awesome OA blog reader who had suggestions.  We are already discussing what we'll do in 2021 in response to that comment.  We want YOUR suggestions too.

Where do you get your ideas?
What's your writing process like?
Should I self-publish or go traditional?
What do I do about social media?
Is it better to be a plotter or pantser?
What should I do about writer's block?
How do I find [and work with] a beta reader or critique partner?
I'd like to see a weekly series on _________________________
Can all 5 of you OA folks give your individual experience or opinion on __________________

What do YOU want to see on the OA blog in 2021?  Last chance!  Please let us know in the comments!



Friday, November 27, 2020

#QueryFriday

 

It's time for #QueryFriday! Enter for a chance to win a query critique by yours truly! Here's how to participate:

1. Comment on this post and at least one other post from this week by SUNDAY 11/29 at 12 pm EDT.

2. Leave your email address in the comment or have it available on your Blogger profile. (If I can't find you, I can't get in touch with you!)

The winner will be chosen via random draw and will be announced in the comment section of this post on Sunday.

See this post for additional rules. Good luck!

-Amren

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Dear O'Abby: What next?

 Dear O'Abby,

I have just about finished the book I started writing for NaNo and was wondering what I do next.  This is the first time I've attempted NaNo and I was pretty surprised at myself for being able to do it.  Not only did I write the 50,000 words, but I've almost finished my book.  I think I'll be done by the end of next week.

I want to get it published now, so was wondering if you had any advice about what to do next.

Thanks,

First-timer

Dear First-Timer,

Let me congratulate you on both finishing NaNo and completing your book.  Both are fantastic achievements and you should be very proud of yourself.  I'm proud of you too!

But talking about publishing right now is jumping the gun a little bit...  There are a lot of steps that need to be taken before you even start thinking about that.

What you've written this month is a first draft, not a finished novel.  In fact, I don't even call my NaNo drafts a first draft; I call them zero-drafts or vomit drafts.  They're a basic idea of a novel which may have moments of beauty and insight, but are definitely not ready for anyone, even my closest critique partners, to read.

The first thing you should do is leave the book alone for a few weeks.  Write something else, or take a nice holiday break from your story.  In three or four weeks you can go back to it with fresh eyes and a level of perspective you won't have right now.

Then the hard work of revising begins.  You will probably find there are parts of the story you need to fill in, character details you figured out as you wrote that need to be woven into the characters earlier in the story, plot points that might not make a lot of sense where they happen in the story and myriad other things.  You will probably find you spend far longer revising and re-writing than you did writing your initial draft.  I usually find it takes me around 6-9 months to get a NaNo draft polished up enough to send out to readers.

Which is the next step.  You need to find people to read for you, people who can give you constructive feedback that you can use.  You might want to join a critique group online (or in person if we're ever allowed to do that again) or you might know some other writers in your area who might be willing to read for you.

You need to be prepared for critique at this stage.  Sometimes feedback from readers is harsh and not at all what you were expecting.  Readers might hate your favorite character or think the plot point you believed was cleverly crafted falls flat.  They might have issues with your character arcs, with the pacing.

Take some time to digest the feedback you get.  Some may resonate while some may not.  But it's important to consider it all and implement what you feel will help make your story stronger.

Then rinse and repeat...  Maybe then you can start thinking about publishing and the steps you can take toward it.

Hope this helps and doesn't discourage you too much. It's a lot of work, but it really is worthwhile and your book will be so much better for it.

X O'Abby



Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Sophia Minetos

Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author posted by @JLenniDorner of @OpAwesome6


Graves for Drifters and Thieves by Sophia Minetos


1- Goodreads shows you have given 225 ratings, but only 7 reviews. Do you feel that ratings are more valuable than reviews when it comes to books?

As an author, I’d certainly prefer reviews to ratings, especially because ratings mean different things to different people. I know a lot of people who aren’t as generous with their five star ratings as some other readers, haha. I would love to write more reviews, but in all honesty, I get REALLY gushy when I talk about stories that I love. It’s not exactly coherent. Anywho who has listened to me talk about “Firefly” for five minutes can attest to that.

2- Would you please, in 160 characters or less, give a #WriteTip ?

Fall in love with what you write. Write something that you would want to read. Life is far too short not to make art crafted from anything but love.

3- What is the best piece of writing advice you've received?

I was reading John Green’s writing blog once, and one of his posts said something to the degree of “Give yourself permission to suck.” When I’m drafting, I just go for it. I let it stream. There are times when I know I’m going to have to go back and polish a paragraph within an inch of its life, and that’s okay. Sometimes you’ve got to sift through a lot of dirt and rubble to get to the gold.

4- Do you, in fact, paint birdhouses and other such crafty goodness?

I do! I paint very occasionally, but I love crafts! I love to sew, bake, and doodle. I knit almost every day. I make lots of socks, afghans, and sweaters. I’ve been working on a beekeeper’s quilt for about two years now. Basically, you knit hundreds of little hexagons and stuff them and stitch them together. I’m up to about eight-hundred now, and my family always teases me about it because I seem to leave hexipuffs wherever I go. They’re like soft, squishy little calling cards.

5- Would you share a picture with us of your book in a fun setting?

Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Sophia Minetos. Releasing on December 15, 2020.


6- What is the "Hespyrian West"?

Hespyria is the large country where my story takes place. The east is made up of provinces, while most of the west consists of scattered territories. It’s full of wide-open spaces, ghost towns, and uncharted outlands. The Banderra Rangers help protect the land from outlaws and all of the mysterious, ethereal forces who reside in the Outlands. Any Ranger can tell you about all of the strange happenstances he’s seen in his time. Eastern folks often doubt the validity of their claims, but anyone in the Hespyrian West can tell you that they can’t always afford to be so skeptical.

7- What's your Twitter handle, and do you have two or three writer friends on there to shout-out to for #WriterWednesday ?

My twitter handle is @MinetosSophia . I’d love to give a shout out to @quarter_castle and @InteruptdReader !

8- Do you have a favorite #bookstagram image or account/ profile?

@booksandstethoscopes and @bambamreads! It’s been an honor working with these lovely ladies.

9- What most motivates you to read a new book?

I’m drawn to rich worlds and found families. I’ve noticed that books really tend to stick with me if I leave it either A. Wanting to visit the setting myself, or B. Feeling like I’m never going to see the friends I just made ever again. And if I get both out of it, well… just go ahead and take my five stars, pal.

10- It's our tenth anniversary! How far has your writing come in the past ten years and where do you see your writing career ten years from now?

Ten years ago, when I was thirteen, I would sit with my paper tablets on the picnic tables at lunch and scribble fantasy stories down. The margins were full of drawings of dragons, gnomes, and elves. One of my projects from a decade ago is still actually in the works. I mean, it’s evolved past the point of recognition, but I still work on it from time to time. I write mostly YA now, but I think it’s always going to be a middle-grade project, kind of a present to my thirteen-year-old self. Something I would have wanted to read back then.

I’m terribly impatient about my ideas, and whenever I get an idea for something, I have to start sowing the seeds for it immediately. So I have about four or five projects in all sitting on the back burner. I’ve got my middle-grade fantasy inspired by Celtic mythology, a 1920s urban fantasy, a comedy-mystery-romance novel about an illegal theater, and a fantasy space-opera. I hope that the Drifters’ Saga is complete, and that at least a generous handful of those side projects are also afloat in ten years. It’s really crazy to think about.

11- What is your favorite book by someone else, what's the author's Twitter handle, and what do you love most about that book? #FridayReads book recommendation time!

Author name: Madeline Miller @MillerMadeline
Title: CIRCE
Love because: Truly one of the most intimate books I’ve ever read. You set it down really feeling like you just passed through someone else’s life. I’ve always been fascinated with women in Greek mythology, and the prose in the novel is absolutely divine.


12- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader?

I hope it inspires a sense of adventure in them. That was certainly the emotion that made up my take-off point for the novel. I didn’t just want to paint a picture of all the places I’d seen growing up in the West, I wanted to bring all the places I know I’ll never see to life. Not necessarily places on Earth, but places beyond that. Things I envisioned while listening to a song or after waking from a dream. I wanted to bring those to life. And I hope my readers enjoy catching a glimpse of them.

13- What kind of impact do you hope your book will have?

If it can serve as a source of inspiration, comfort, or escape for even one person, I’ll know that it’s done its job. Heaven knows that my favorite books did that for me, and I hope that I can do the same for somebody else.

14- What is the best writing tool, program, or reference book you've ever bought?

“Anatomy of Story” by John Truby! It breaks down the elements of a compelling story in an easily digestible format. It really helped me survive my self-edits for “Graves”.


15- In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? diversebooks.org #WeNeedDiverseBooks

I drew a lot of inspiration from my book from the American Old West, which was a lot more diverse than a lot of older media seemed to think it was. I got many of my ideas for the setting in “Graves” from northern New Mexico, which is home to a lot of indigenous tribes. One of my characters, Tsashin, is an indigenous young woman. The Harney brothers, Halston and Hodge, are biracial. Halston struggles with anxiety. I have generalized anxiety as well, so sometimes, writing through his struggles was a touch close-to-home for me. Lastly, my character Lorelin is a lesbian. As for her love interest… well, you guys will see. :)

16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

I LOVE Read With Cindy. Her content never fails to make me laugh out loud.
Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Sophia Minetos. Releasing on December 15, 2020.

17- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?

“Graves for Drifters and Thieves” was very much a labor of love. It was my passion project, and because of that, I wanted to have complete creative control over it. I may pursue traditional publishing for another project in the future, but I had a very specific vision for “Graves”. I knew that self-publishing would allow me to stay completely true to that vision in its purest form.

18- Which author, past or present, do you feel most resembles your work?

I’d say Louis L’amour. A lot of his books really do feel like odes to the American wilderness, which is a big part of what I wanted “Graves” to be.

19- Would you please ask our audience a question to answer in the comments?

If you could visit any national park, which one would you pick and why?

20- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?
Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Sophia Minetos. Releasing on December 15, 2020.

More about “Graves for Drifters and Thieves”:

The Hespyrian West is a place for legends and lawless men. Here, Jae Oldridge works as a bounty hunter, getting by with her wits, her magic map, and not much else. At seventeen, she hunts not for money or glory, but to find her missing father-kidnapped by ghost riders three years back.
When a saloon brawl brings Jae to the enigmatic Harney gang, she feigns interest in assisting them, hoping to turn them in later on. Survivors of the Arrowwood War, the gang pillages silver, without interest in much else... and no one knows why. The gang is led by two brothers: the stern, commanding Halston and headstrong, fiery Hodge. Joining them is an aristocrat-turned-outlaw, a rugged, snake-skinned Azmarian, and a young storyteller with a mysterious past.
Trekking across the wilderness, the group encounters warlocks, monsters, and gunfights in the service of Sterling Byrd: the gang's crooked boss. Jae learns that the gang is not what they seem. They also stand on a razor's edge; not just with the law, but with Sterling himself. Jae finds herself growing closer to the Harneys... especially Halston.
Staying with the gang could lead Jae to a noose's end, but Halston harbors a secret that could change her life forever. It is then Jae learns that her loyalties-wherever they may lie-do not come without a price.

My bio:



I am a young adult author residing in Albuquerque, New Mexico. My debut novel, "Graves for Drifters and Thieves", will be available in fall 2020. When I'm not writing, you can find me knitting, trying new recipes, reading, or watching campy old Western movies. ​

Links:



https://linktr.ee/authorsophiaminetos


Graves for Drifters and Thieves by Sophia Minetos

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Week 4 of NaNo

Wow, it is day 24 of National Novel Writing Month (NaNo)! And it is the last Tuesday in November. The word count total for today is 40,008 for the traditional 1,667 words a day.

I can't believe that NaNo is almost over. With Day 30 coming, I'm already beginning to think about my editing process and how I can improve this NaNo project.

But first, I'll take a break in December. Put the novel in a drawer, and let it sit. Maybe start planning a new project. But I will not think about the current project until I open that drawer and read it. Hopefully by then, I will forget that I wrote it and I can see the novel with fresh eyes.

While the length of time varies for me when I can forget that I wrote a novel from a few months to years, it is a necessary part of the writing process for me. If I can remember where I was when I wrote a scene, or how I reacted to a surprise twist or character reveal, then the novel needs to go back in the drawer. I need to approach reading the novel like I've never encountered it before.

There are still 6 days left in the challenge. Every word is one more than you had in October, each one a victory. 

Save your work and back it up. How are you doing with your NaNo goals? How long do you wait between writing "the end" and beginning to edit?

Happy writing!

Monday, November 23, 2020

Your opinion wanted for 2021

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What do you think?

Including today,there are 6 Mondays left in 2020.

Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!! Time is flying by so fast!

Or conversely – thank you God that this year is finally over!

Let's talk about 2021.

We here at Operation Awesome want to know what YOU, our blog readers, want to see on the blog in 2021.  Below are some examples but PLEASE don't limit your responses to these examples.

Where do you get your ideas?
What's your writing process like?
Should I self-publish or go traditional?
What do I do about social media?
Is it better to be a plotter or pantser?
What should I do about writer's block?
How do I find [and work with] a beta reader or critique partner?
I'd like to see a weekly series on _________________________
Can all 5 of you OA folks give your individual experience or opinion on __________________

Okay those were just a few examples.  What do YOU want to see on the OA blog in 2021?  Please let us know in the comments!


Saturday, November 21, 2020

Flash Fiction Friday 53 #FlashFiction

It's Flash Fiction Friday! November is a little more than halfway over, and a lot of places are starting to get snow and ice. What that means is that it's time to get cozy!

Prompt: Cozy
Length: 1000 words
Deadline: Sunday, November 22, 2020, 2am Central Standard Time

Leave your entry in the comments, please. As always, the winner will get a badge and bragging rights!

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Dear O'Abby, Help Me! I'm Stuck.

 Dear O'Abby,

I'm in the middle of NaNo like so many other writers this month, and I'm completely stuck.  The first 30K went really smoothly, but I reached a point where I just can't seem to get my characters to move toward the next major plot point.

To further complicate matters, I had another truly compelling idea for a book last week, and it's clamouring at my brain for attention. 

A part of me wants to stop writing the book I started at the beginning of November and work on my new shiny idea, but another part of me tells me to finish what I started.

Any advice?

Best,

Conflicted.


Dear Conflicted,

To be honest, I think you could do either.  There's absolutely nothing wrong with dropping the project you started and picking up another one if the other one is really banging at your head to get out.  Just add your word count on the new novel to what you already have on the one you've started, and you can still win NaNo.

I've done that before.  More than once, in fact.  You don't end up with a finished draft by the end of November, but you're still a lot further into both books than you were at the start.

But if you feel like you need to finish the book you started in November, you should do that.  Just ignore the place you're stuck and move on.  Leave a note for yourself or a big swathe of blank space so you remember there's stuff that needs filling in and move on to the next point in the story you're excited to write.  Often once you've written the stuff that comes after the place you're stuck, you find a way to move through it.

That's one of the reasons I rarely start writing a book at the beginning.  I almost always start with one scene that really demands to be written, one event which is the core of the story I'm trying to write.  So I write that and figure out from there where the story goes next, or how it got to that point.  Usually both..

The most important thing to do is keep writing.  You've made it through 19 days of this madness, so don't give up now.


X O'Abby

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Joel Shulkin MD

Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author posted by @JLenniDorner of @OpAwesome6


Adverse Effects (The Memory Thieves Book 1) by Joel Shulkin, MD


1- Has being a full-time physician helped you write your book, and in what ways?

Running a full-time clinic makes it tough to find time to keep writing but keeping up on trends and discoveries in medicine as part of my Continuing Medical Education both helps me ensure my medical scenes are accurate and fuels ideas for new storylines and premises. I make a point to never base characters on patients or their families, but when I start to see common themes, like teens suffering from depression or cyberbullying, for example, I can better understand my characters when they face similar challenges.

2- Would you please, in 160 characters or less, give a #WriteTip ?

Show why your hero can’t walk away, even when facing Hell. A loved one at risk, a sworn duty, physical constraints, fear of failure, death—whatever is worse than Hell.
Photo of audiobook with stethoscope and Bookstagram photo with pills. Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Joel Shulkin MD

3- What is the best piece of writing advice you've received?

Tess Gerritsen (@tessgerritsen ) once told me not to write ONLY what you know, because how boring would that be? Instead, she said to write what you WANT to know, or what you like to read. It would’ve been extremely challenging to turn my day job into an exciting story, but by taking my experience with medical investigation and learning about criminal investigation, I was able to create a story that I would want to read if I saw it on the shelves.

4- November 11 was Veterans day, and there was a "Vet Thriller Authors Giveaway." How did you get involved in that, and how might other Vets join in such activities in the future?

Fellow thriller author and former military surgeon Jeffrey Wilson ( @JWilsonWarTorn ) retweeted an announcement for the giveaway. I contacted the sponsor and offered to participate. There are a few other military/veteran author groups out there. I recently joined the Military Writers Society of America ( @MWSA34274016 ), which presents annual awards to Active Duty and veteran authors or those who write military stories. There is also The Veterans Writing Project run by The Writers Guild Foundation, offering mentoring programs for emerging military authors.

5- Would you share a picture with us of your book with something medical?

Photo of audiobook with stethoscope and Bookstagram photo with pills. Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Joel Shulkin MD Photo of audiobook with stethoscope and Bookstagram photo with pills. Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Joel Shulkin MD


6- Elephant in the room- we're in a global pandemic. Can you weigh in with any tips for people concerned with the Covid-19 situation?

I’m not an epidemiologist or an infectious disease specialist, but they’re the ones we should heed, not politicians, pundits, and self-proclaimed “medical experts”. The only way we will get through this is by working together. Safety measures like masks and limiting large gatherings may seem inconvenient, but if everyone followed them, we wouldn’t need more restrictive measures and more of us could resume a semblance of normalcy.

7- What's your Twitter handle, and do you have two or three writer friends on there to shout-out to for #WriterWednesday ?

@drjoelshulkin
Shoutout to @vazanzai , who’s been a great Twitter bud, and to my supportive agency-mates and beta readers @ralphwalker and @cdclemetson !

8- Do you have a favorite #bookstagram image or account/ profile?

@mynovelmenagerie provides honest and thoughtful reviews and posts some great photos of the books she reads. @bonechillingbooks also creates some awesome #bookstacks and detailed reviews.

9- What most motivates you to read a new book?

A good comparison will hook me right away. Right now, I’m reading One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus @writerkmc and the tag of “Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars” drew me right in. But while the plot/premise is what grabs me, it’s the characters that keep me engaged. If the characters seem poorly developed or inconsistent, even the most incredibly unique and enthralling plot isn’t enough.


10- It's our tenth anniversary! How far has your writing come in the past ten years and where do you see your writing career ten years from now?

I started writing Adverse Effects roughly ten years ago. Since then, I’ve learned through working with editors and beta readers, as well as dabbling in other genres like fantasy and young adult, how important the first few pages are to hook the reader. I struggled back then to make the character as important, if not more than, the plot, whereas now I understand how to engage the reader in the character’s inner world and to give each character a unique voice. In ten years, I hope to have established a solid franchise with characters crossing over into each other’s stories, weaving a web of thrills and intrigue for readers.

11- What is your favorite book by someone else, what's the author's Twitter handle, and what do you love most about that book? #FridayReads book recommendation time!

Author name: Lou Berney @Lou_Berney
Title: November Road
Love because: The characters and story sucked me right in and didn’t let go until the end.


12- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader?

By making readers feel the horror of what it’s like to lose control over one’s own mind, I want them to gain a better understanding of individuals with psychiatric disorders.

13- What kind of impact do you hope your book will have?

I want the reader to experience fear and concern over the possible misuse of pharmacologic advances like memory drugs, especially when testing is done on vulnerable populations or with limited oversight. I also want them to consider whether identity is rooted in one’s thoughts or experiences.

14- What is the best writing tool, program, or reference book you've ever bought?

I read a lot of reference books before writing Adverse Effects, including the Write Great Fiction series, but the most useful for me was probably The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman. It helped me with both stylistic and creative matters and with formatting and understanding the query process.
Photo of audiobook with stethoscope and Bookstagram photo with pills. Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Joel Shulkin MD

15- In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? diversebooks.org #WeNeedDiverseBooks

While I am not myself “diverse” as a white cis/hetero male, my wife is from Brazil, which inspired me to make Adverse Effect’s protagonist, Dr. Cristina Silva, have Brazilian roots. My wife has always been my first editor, so she advised me on how a woman would think and react, as well as ensure everything Brazil-related was accurate. The cast includes several other characters who are Black or Hispanic. The sequel, Toxic Effects, to be released in 2021, will be even more diverse, including LGBTQIA characters and ones from other ethnic and racial backgrounds.

16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

I really enjoy Crime by the Book’s reviews ( @crimebythebook ). Her website is well-organized and easy to read, and her Instagram reviews are eye-catching and sincere.

17- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?

I went traditional because as a full-time physician, I don’t have the time or investment capital to commit to self-publishing. Of course, I’ve ended up doing a lot of my own marketing anyway, contacting bloggers and working through social media, but having @Blackstoneaudio and my agent @lynnette_novak supporting me, helping make my writing the best it can be, and doing most of the heavy lifting for promotion has been a gamechanger for me.
Photo of audiobook with stethoscope and Bookstagram photo with pills. Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Joel Shulkin MD

18- Which author, past or present, do you feel most resembles your work?

My writing style is probably most like Michael Palmer, who mentored me during the early stages of writing Adverse Effects, including setting the book in a firm medical foundation. The story, however, is quite different than his books or those by other medical thriller authors, as in many ways it reads more like a Robert Ludlum espionage thriller, with dual identities and multiple twists.

19- Would you please ask our audience a question to answer in the comments?

What medical themes would you like to see in future books? Or, alternatively, what themes are you sick of seeing (e.g. pandemics)?

20- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?

Photo of audiobook with stethoscope and Bookstagram photo with pills. Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Joel Shulkin MD
Adverse Effects is not a straightforward medical thriller. As I mentioned above, it’s a twisty, mind-bending thriller full of characters who are not what they seem. Think Bourne Identity meets Total Recall. If you like books that make you want to go back and look at all the earlier clues you missed because you’re still sorting out the puzzles long after you finish reading, then this is the book for you.

Blurb:

Determined to help her amnesiac patients recover their lives, Boston psychiatrist Cristina Silva is achieving near-miraculous results by prescribing Recognate, a revolutionary new memory-recovery drug now in trials. She understands her patients' suffering better than most, because she's lost her memories, too. Desperate to become herself again, she pops the same experimental drug she prescribes to her patients. And, like them, she remembers a little more each day.
Until one of her patients, a successful accountant, jumps from an eight-story window to his death. And as Cristina's memories return, with them come violent visions and an incessant voice in her head. Maybe the drug isn't safe after all. But discontinuing it would mean forgetting everything she's recalled and losing herself.
Then an enigmatic, possibly dangerous man appears at Cristina's bus stop. He seems to know more about her life than she does and says she holds a secret that puts her life in danger. Perilously balanced between an unknown past and a terrifying future, if she wants to survive, Cristina must stay on the medication and unlock those memories before it's too late -- even if the adverse effects of the drug could destroy her.

Photo of audiobook with stethoscope and Bookstagram photo with pills. Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Joel Shulkin MD

Bio:

Joel Shulkin, MD, is a developmental-behavioral pediatrician and United States Air Force veteran with a master’s in public health. Having been lucky enough to be mentored by the legendary Michael Palmer, his short stories have appeared in various print and online journals, and he has won several national and local writing awards for fiction and poetry. He lives in Florida with his wife and twin daughters.

Facebook: https://facebook.com/drjoelshulkin
Twitter: @drjoelshulkin
Instagram: https://instagram.com/drjoelshulkin
Website: https://authorjoelshulkin.com
Goodreads: https://goodreads.com/author/show/3450152.Joel_Shulkin


Adverse Effects (The Memory Thieves Book 1) by Joel Shulkin, MD

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Week 3 of NaNo

Wow, it is day 17 of National Novel Writing Month (NaNo)! The word count total for today is 28,339 for the traditional 1,667 words a day.

I am shocked that I broke my record of 50,000 words in 11 days. My previous record was 12 days. I still have some scenes to write to reach the end, and I'm already thinking about potential revisions.

This is the fun part of the writing process for me. My idea is working, I have more to write, and I have an idea of how I'm going to make my story better. But this does not happen often, so I treasure these moments. And I take notes so I can begin the revision process with my insight. I like to take a break after writing before editing because editing is a different headspace for me.

What is your favorote part of the process? Generating ideas for characters and plots? Developing new worlds? Writing? Editing?

So if you are stuck or searching for the lightbulb of inspiration, think of how you can incorporate your favorite part of the writing process into your next writing session.

There are still 13 days left in the challenge. Every word is one more than you had in October, each one a victory. 

Save your work and back it up. How are you doing with your NaNo goals? What is your favorite part of the writing process?

 

Happy writing!

Monday, November 16, 2020

Today begins the second half of November

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Woman-typing-on-laptop2.jpg
The dreaded blue screen of death

Today is the first day of the second half of November.  Have you written 25,000 words this month?  If so, congrats!  Tell us in the comments!  If not, it's not too late to catch up.  Here are a few informational and/or motivational links for you:

Writer's Digest – Finishing NaNoWriMo Strong

Writing Cooperative – Halfway is a Good Way

Publishing Crawl – Five Tips for the Halfway Point of NaNoWriMo

We're rooting for you and you've got this!


Friday, November 13, 2020

#QueryFriday



It's time for #QueryFriday! Enter for a chance to win a query critique by yours truly! Here's how to participate:

1. Comment on this post and at least one other post from this week by SUNDAY 11/15 at 12 pm EDT.

2. Leave your email address in the comment or have it available on your Blogger profile. (If I can't find you, I can't get in touch with you!)

The winner will be chosen via random draw and will be announced in the comment section of this post on Sunday.

See this post for additional rules. Good luck!

-Amren

Thursday, November 12, 2020

O'Abby's ways to push your story forward

 There were no questions for O’Abby this week.  I guess everyone is busy doing #NaNo!  Like I am…

We’re well into week two now, and if you’re working at the pace to finish your 50K by 30 November you should be hitting the 20K mark around now.  But don’t worry if you’re not there yet.  There’s still time to catch up.  Personally, I don’t get a lot of writing time during the week, so I tend to blitz my word count during the weekends.  I have also been taking one day off work per week to write, and that’s definite motivation to crank out those words.

Just do whatever works for you and make the most of whatever time you can scratch together.

Around about this time is where I often feel like my story is stagnating so I thought I’d give you a few ideas for ways to shake things up a little in your story.  Ideas for how to push your characters into doing something new that might move things along in a significant way.

  •  Someone from the past shows up unexpectedly
  • A character close to your protagonist dies
  • A potentially life-altering secret is revealed
  • Your protagonist loses something valuable
  • Some kind of natural disaster occurs
  • Someone has an accident
  • Someone moves to a new city/country/house
  • A monster – human or otherwise – enters your protagonist’s world
  • A random act of kindness
  • A crime is committed

These are just some ideas that might help push your characters.  They don’t need to happen to your protagonist directly – sometimes something dramatic happening to one of your secondary characters will motivate your MC more than if it happened to them directly.

The point is to shake things up to propel your MC into some kind of action.  And whatever obstacle you put in their way, whatever challenge, make sure it isn’t easy to overcome.  Your characters need to struggle.  They need to make the wrong decisions more often than the right ones.  Every choice they make needs to make things more difficult for them, throw up more challenges for them to face.

Hopefully this will be helpful if you reach a point where you feel flummoxed and can’t move on.  If there are no questions for O’Abby next week, I’ll share some more tips for getting past potential roadblocks to finishing.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Aimee L. Morgan

Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author posted by @JLenniDorner of @OpAwesome6


The Chaos Antidote: A Fable About Mindfulness by Aimee L. Morgan


1- What is your favorite quote?

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Victor Frankl

2- Would you please, in 160 characters or less, give a #WriteTip ?

Write 1-3 pages of stream of consciousness daily. It tills the soil of your creative essence. You might be surprised what surfaces during … and afterward.

3- What is the best piece of writing advice you've received?

Write daily. Make it a habit. If you want to be a pro soccer player, you practice daily. If you want to be a pro writer, you write daily. Simple as that.

4- What is mindfulness and why is it important to practice it?

To me mindfulness is paying attention to what’s going on inside (thoughts, emotions, body sensations) and around me (surroundings, weather, sights and sounds). I find that practicing mindfulness regularly helps me be a more present human in my day-to-day engagements – both simple and profound.

5- Would you share a picture with us of your book with a delicious meal?

Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Aimee L. Morgan


6- November 3 was the US Presidential election. Any calming tips for people still stressed out by that event?

Like many other events during 2020, the U.S. Presidential election has been full of emotions. If you find yourself still stressed by the elections (and, let’s be honest, #2020), try sitting quietly for a while—I find even three to five minutes can be amazing. Just notice what thoughts are running through your head. Don’t try to chase them down and belabor them, just notice them floating by like thought bubbles. Remember to breathe deeply. Sometimes just by noticing our emotions we can feel more calm through the simple act of acknowledging what’s going through our minds.

7- What's your Twitter handle, and do you have two or three writer friends on there to shout-out to for #WriterWednesday ?

My Twitter handle is @theaimeemorgan I enjoy @thecreativepenn . While she’s not a personal friend (yet!), I appreciate her significant body of helpful work in regard to writing and publishing.

8- Do you have a favorite #bookstagram image or account/ profile?

My Instagram handle is @theaimeemorgan I love me some @brenebrown . I consider her my wise adopted auntie.

9- What most motivates you to read a new book?

I’m motivated to read a book if it promises to bring me along for a multi-faceted adventure. Or if it will enrich my life through equipping me with valuable lessons or inspiring my creativity.

10- It's our tenth anniversary! How far has your writing come in the past ten years and where do you see your writing career ten years from now?

Kudos!

My writing has come quite a ways. I’ve become more brave in my writing (like publishing my first book!) Writing has been a sacred, personal practice for me my whole life, so publishing was a very vulnerable thing for me to do, and something I’m glad I did. In ten years I see myself with several books, journals, workbooks and more available. And an amazing circle of readers and writer friends along for the journey.

11- What is your favorite book by someone else, and what do you love most about that book? #FridayReads book recommendation time!

Author name: Samantha Hunt samanthahunt.net
Title: The Seas
Love because: This book cast a magical spell on me. It lulled me with its language and engrossed me with its story of being drawn back in—again and again—to the sea, which takes so many forms. Plus, the hardcover is absolutely one of the most gorgeous books I’ve ever owned.


12- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader?

Ultimately I hope my book evokes the emotions my readers want to feel. As an author I hope my writing evokes inspiration, joyfulness, curiosity, surprise and encouragement.
Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Aimee L. Morgan


13- What kind of impact do you hope your book will have?

I hope my book, “The Chaos Antidote: A Fable About Mindfulness” will have a positive impact on my readers by providing an opportunity to see how normal people learn about and are enriched by mindful activities. I hope this inspires my readers to try mindful practices on their own—or through my six-week mindfulness guide, available for free with the purchase of “The Chaos Antidote”.

14- What is the best writing tool, program, or reference book you've ever bought?

“The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. I believe it’s divinely inspired. I completed the 12-week program and it helped my creative process immensely.


15- In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? diversebooks.org #WeNeedDiverseBooks

“The Chaos Antidote” features women of a variety of cultural and racial backgrounds, as well as various ages, careers and life views. Meghan is a married, middle-aged white woman freelance writing and raising twin girls. Simone is a single Black parent with a strong background in nonprofit leadership. Lucia is a young Hispanic engineer facing a health crisis. And their inspirational leader, Veda, is an older woman with a wellspring of wisdom. Their rich friendship—and diversity—gives life to the story and brings tears of joy to my eyes.

16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

Sam Thomas Davies: https://samuelthomasdavies.com. He summarizes some of the best non-fiction books of all time. His work is crucial to a nonfiction/self-help junkie like me!

17- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?

I spent an incredible amount of time and energy making this decision. I met with a number of advisors, authors and publishing-related professionals. I attended AWP in Portland to weigh my publishing options. I then met with a large publisher about my book, “The Chaos Antidote”. He said this is exactly the type of book they were looking for. BUT I’d need to quit the company I founded in 2012, Good Aim Communications, and work full-time promoting my book. And I’d need to be OK with letting their editors direct my book; I’d be giving up my control of the story line, characters, etc.

As a long-time entrepreneur (and someone who comes from a long line of entrepreneurs), it didn’t sit well with me for this particular project. I decided I wanted to keep my company and direct my story. It’s be an incredibly enriching adventure—personally, creatively and professionally. I look forward to writing many more books!
Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Aimee L. Morgan
Me recording my audiobook (coming soon!)


18- Which author, past or present, do you feel most resembles your work?

I look up to so many authors, as I’ve been super bookish since I was a young child. In “The Chaos Antidote” I channel my fable-writing skills, inspired by the likes of Paulo Coelho (“The Alchemist”) and Robin Sharma (“The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari”).

19- Would you please ask our audience a question to answer in the comments?

What’s one thing you’ve always wanted to know about mindfulness?

20- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?

Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Aimee L. Morgan
I’ve spent years studying, practicing and discussing the value of mindfulness, self-care and healthful ways of living. I truly believe in the transformative power of mindfulness, which I’ve experienced in my own life. I’m currently an MFA candidate at Butler University, studying creative writing. I live in Indianapolis with my husband, Jeff, and our two children. “The Chaos Antidote: A Fable About Mindfulness” is my first book.
I am the owner of Good Aim Communications—http://goodaimcommunications.com—a strategic marketing communications company that specializes in website development, content creation and digital marketing. I’ve spent over 15 years in the marketing field honing my craft.
My award-winning work includes a regional Emmy for a video ad series that I co-wrote, and a Public Relations Society of America Pinnacle Award for the Spirit & Place Festival marketing campaign.

Author website: http://aimeemorgan.com
Where to buy my book:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Walmart
Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Aimee L. Morgan

Facebook: https://facebook.com/theaimeemorgan
Instagram: https://instagram.com/theaimeemorgan/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/theaimeemorgan
LinkedIn: https://linkedin.com/showcase/theaimeemorgan/about/
Amazon profile: https://amazon.com/Aimee-L.-Morgan/e/B08BG6KN3Q
Goodreads: https://goodreads.com/author/show/20421531.Aimee_L_Morgan

"The Chaos Antidote" was a No. 1 new release in Health & Spirituality.
I'm also getting ready to publish "The Chaos Antidote Workbook", the six-week companion guide to "The Chaos Antidote: A Fable About Mindfulness". It's scheduled to be available on Amazon yet this month.


The Chaos Antidote: A Fable About Mindfulness by Aimee L. Morgan