Month: June 2017

Breaking Up With Characters

Breaking Up With Characters

Like many authors, life experiences inspire me. I draw from these experiences and write them into my work as a way of trying to understand them. Many of the characters you find in my work are similar to people I’ve met in real life. These are people that have influenced or affected me…just not consistently in a positive way.

Recently, I was scrolling through Facebook and I saw that a guy I once had feelings for was getting married. To be honest, I wasn’t shocked. Marriage and living a clean, wholesome life were on his to-do list. I expected this. More importantly, I’m in my own relationship. Still, I had to stop and stare at the photo of him and his fiance. Like we all do when Facebook stalking someone (he and I actually never dated, mind you), I put most of my eyeball focus on the new, lucky lady. Immediately, I begin to analyze her for her secret. How did she get him to fall in love with her, even start liking her? This was a task I could never achieve.

No matter how much I listened to him, sought him out for advice, tried to alter my views to fit his world perspective, we just never clicked. Some would say I should have told him about my feelings and maybe I should have. But we were working at a religious summer camp and he was “reborn.” If memory serves me correctly, he wasn’t even open to dating and was on some sort of cleanse which, of course, was his own right.

When the camp ended, months passed before I decided to check in on him to see how his new life was going. I had wanted to wait, hoped he would check in on me and the conversation could go from there with us eventually messaging one another constantly. Of course, that didn’t happen. What made it worse is that after I messaged him and we chatted for a bit, he never messaged me again. Like it was a one-time deal that I had initiated and he had no interest in reciprocating.

Now, I think it should be mentioned that this guy is the nicest person ever. Don’t let this post fool you. He’s not some stuck up jerk who played me which makes it even harder admitting this. The truth is that whatever I was, am, no matter how much I tried to mesh into his world, well, I didn’t fit and he saw that. Honestly, he was probably aware of it from the beginning. I was the dummy walking around in a fantasy.


So, yes, I was delusional but not blind. Looking at him now, I see that even after we stopped talking, he made an appearance in some of my writing. Sometimes he was the unachievable nice guy, other times the misunderstood bad boy that I had to work hard for and he even made an appearance as my boyfriend a few times. It blows my mind how after all this time he’s popping into my work. I didn’t even realize it at first. And he’s definitely not alone.

Family and friends I love or hate have made their appearances, as well. If anyone thinks using writing as a therapy is bull, just read some of my stuff and you’ll see it isn’t. The fact is what I live is what I write and what I write is what I’ve lived. And there’s no way of denying that. 🙂

Write Your Way Through Life???

Write Your Way Through Life???

When I was trying to come up with a slogan for my author platform I wracked my brain for days. I wanted something that was easily remembered, unique, and representative of me, as well as my writing. However, my first few attempts either felt forced or were too dramatic. I don’t even want to list them here because that’s how embarrassing they are. Let’s just say my early slogans came off like something from a bad self-help book you find in the dollar store–catchy, corny and questionable.

Anyway, at some point, I eventually reverted to the basics. I’m talking about the five w’s: who, what, when, where, why, and how. I started asking myself the following questions:

Who did I want to reach?
Readers and aspiring writers.

What was I going to reach them with?
My writing, fingers crossed.

When was I going to do this?
ASAP!!!!!

Where was I going to do this?
Since it’s 2017, online, of course.

How was I going to do this?
Through my writing with an organized online platform.

Why was I doing this?
Many reasons! The two biggest ones being I want to entertain and inspire people. The same way so many authors are responsible for kindling the fire inside of me, I wanted to do that for others, too. And if in the process of sparking all these soul fires, a few people chose the path of writing with the same goal as mine at their forefront, well the more the merrier!

What I believe is the more writers we have the more souls we can spark. Writing isn’t simply a job or a chore. It’s an art form and art breathes life into those who aren’t sure if they have any left.

Now don’t get me wrong. I dream of the day I can live off my writing. However, I am sure if that day never comes, I’ll still be writing because writing has always been there. Just like books, it’s a constant companion, a never-moving shoulder for me to cry on, and an always-open-ear for me to blab into. Here’s an example.


Once, when I was still a naive preteen, my oh-so-perfect cousin questioned my decision to wear leggings. According to her, my thighs weren’t the right size for them. I remember feeling kind of like an emptying shock at her words. The words came from her mouth but I didn’t understand their purpose. Did she really think my thighs were that big? Was she just trying to be mean?

I didn’t know and don’t know the answer to either of those questions. What I do know is that after her words, I went in my room and sat quietly on my bed. After some time, that numb shocking feeling dissolved and was replaced by a tsunami of anger. I gritted my teeth, clenched my fists and oh, damn, I wanted to hit her! I wanted to knock all her teeth out of her perfect little face but that was sure to get me a smack from my grandmother.

Still, I needed to get it out. I needed to let the storm rage or it was going to tear me up inside. So, I turned to the best medium I had: writing, specifically blogging. I logged into my crappy Blogspot account and wrote a raw, fiery condemnation of her and the world’s lopsided beauty standards. I was pissed! I’m not sure how long I wrote. I only know I wrote until I wasn’t angry anymore, until I felt I had proven my point and could nod happily at the stretch of text I had created. In addition to that simple gratification, a few people even commented on the post backing me up.

I wasn’t alone in my fight.

Of course, this wasn’t the only time I puked my feelings onto the page or screen. Often, I would create characters much braver than me who could do the things I couldn’t. After a few years, I realized I had become these characters, at least a little bit.

So, when I say write your way through  life, I mean it. Write your way through the pain, the tears, the fears and yes,the smiles, too, because where there is the bad, there is the good. Writing is a healthy expression of the self, a way to inspire others and a great way to deal with, sometimes, uncontrollable emotions.

It’s also way more fun than prison. So that’s a perk! 😉

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Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition Offers Overdose Training Workshops to the Community

Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition Offers Overdose Training Workshops to the Community

Once labeled “Murder City”, the last few years in Baltimore and the state in general have seen a rise in a different type of violence that has exceeded the others. In 2016, there were a total of three-hundred-eighteen homicides in the city compared to the over two-thousand intoxication related deaths in Maryland, 89% of which were opioid related. Though some may only call for harsher sentencing, organizations like the Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition(BHRC) are taking a more reductive approach.

Formed in January 2011, BHRC uses harm reduction principles to fight the rising intoxication-death toll in the city, as well as the ripple effects of drug overdose.

According to their website, harm reduction is defined as “a range of policies and practices designed to reduce the harmful consequences associated with drug use, sex work, and other activities that may contribute to poor health outcomes. Harm reduction is an alternative and, in some cases, a complement to the more conventional approaches of demand and supply reduction.”

Executive Director Harriet Smith presented the benefits of harm reduction practices in an Overdose Response Training workshop at the Greenmount Coffee Lab on June 17th. Below is an outline of the workshop and information on how to get involved.

Overdose Response Training:

1) Recognize the signs of an overdose
If an individual has taken any sort of drug and is experiencing these signs there is a high chance they are overdosing. Some of the common signs of overdose include trouble breathing, trouble sitting up, change in lip color, confusion or unconsciousness.

2) Check for unconsciousness
Place a hand or ear by the individual’s mouth to listen/feel for breathing. If they are not breathing, try reviving them by taking a fist and placing it down knuckles first on the individual’s breast plate, before rubbing up and down. This action, called the sternal rub, is very uncomfortable and the individual will react if they are conscious.

3) Call 911
Whether the individual wakes up or not, it is advised to call 911 in case they still need medical attention. When calling 911 it is the caller’s choice whether or not to inform the operator the call is for an overdose.

If the operator is informed an overdose is the reason for the call, police will be sent ahead of the ambulance for questioning and investigation.

Additionally, if the caller is afraid of arrest, note that the Good Samaritan Law protects them if they “have a misdemeanor amount of illegal substances, paraphernalia or alcohol belonging to a minor” according to Smith. This law does not protect those who “have active warrants or lack citizenship.”

4) Administer the Naloxone
Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is a non-addictive prescription medicine that can

restore breathing and consciousness during an opioid related overdose. The drug lasts thirty to ninety minutes and can be inserted with a needle at a 90 degree angle into the thigh, arm or butt.

If there is no response in one to three minutes, giving a second dose is recommended. Once the second dose is administered, if the individual is still not breathing continue on with the steps described below.

*Naloxone only works for opioid overdoses.

5) Give Rescue Breath
Tilt their head back and breathe regularly into their mouth. A t-shirt or mouth cover can be used to prevent mouth-to-mouth contact.

6) Place in Recovery Position
Place the individual on their side with their mouth titled downward toward the ground in case of vomiting. The chin should be moved up to allow air to easily move through the windpipe. Finally, arms and legs should be positioned to maintain the placement.

7) Explain what happened
If the individual regains consciousness, explain what happened to them and the withdrawal symptoms they may experience as a result of the Naloxone. Make sure they are aware their desire to use again will be strong because of the withdrawal symptoms.

Once the ambulance arrives, allow the EMTs to take over.

What else should you know?

  • Carrying Naloxone is completely legal
  • Training is not necessary to purchase Naloxone
  • Naloxone can be purchases at any local pharmacy. If they don’t stock, it submit a request they do so.
  • Naloxone is usually covered by insurance.
  • Naloxone is light sensitive and should be stored at room temperature.

To find out more about the BHRC and how to get involved in harm reduction, contact

Harriet Smith at bmorehrc@gmail.com or visit their website at baltimoreharmreduction.org.

Sources:
Baltimore Harm Reduction Website
The Baltimore Sun Homicide Index
Baltimore City Health Department
MD Dept. Health & Mental Hygiene Overdose Prevention Document

Have a story you want to tell? Reach out to me at natashalanewrites@gmail.com

Author Highlights: Rachel Rawlings-How to Talk About Your Books

Author Highlights: Rachel Rawlings-How to Talk About Your Books


The Extroverted-Introvert:
Taking Your Brand On the Road. How to Talk About Your Books & Brand With Readers & Peers When the Last Thing You Want to Do Is Talk About Yourself!

My name is Rachel Rawlings, author of urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance, and founder of HallowRead Book Festival. Over the last four and a half years, I’ve had the privilege to work with some of the brightest authors in our industry. Some are more outgoing than others. As an author, I have a unique perspective into the psyche of an extroverted-introvert because I am one. Once I get to know you, the extrovert comes out, but how does an introvert get to know other people? Ahh, therein lies the problem. Let’s delve a little deeper and help ease those meet and greet fears with a few helpful tips.

1)Do Introduce Yourself to Your Tablemate or Neighbor.
Some of the best relationships start with a simple “Hello, my name is…”

2)Don’t Stack Your Books High Enough to Shield You From The Oncoming Horde of Hungry Readers.
A friendly smile is the best lure to hook a new reader.

3)Don’t Get Distracted With Social Media.
Uncomfortable silences or awkward social situations make it easy to reach for the comfort of social media, grabbing our phones and swiping away at the small screen of familiar yet isolated interaction.

4)Do Have A Bowl of Candy.
No greater ice-breaker out there at an author’s table than a bowl of sweet confection! Chocolate, caramel, sweet tart? It doesn’t matter. People can’t help themselves and many a book have been sold over a bowl over Hershey’s Kisses.

5)Don’t Be Afraid.
Easier said than done, right? Trust me, I feel your pain. When I first began taking my brand on the road, I hated talking about myself. Still do, in fact. But, with each one it gets a little easier and I have made long lasting friendships and connections that are far too invaluable in our industry to stay comfortably hidden in my corner.

6)Do Use Your Brand Or Pen Name As A Persona.
Sometimes, when we are most uncomfortable putting ourselves out there, our pen names or author persona offers us an opportunity to pretend we’re the confident kick-ass heroine we write about. Your books are your brand and your brand is your books – no one is going to sell them like you are.


7)Do Have An Elevator Pitch.
At any event or the moment someone discovers you’re an author, they’ll ask you what your books are about. This was something I learned at an event I attended earlier this year for Indie Author Day. That’s right, I’m still learning too. I didn’t really think I had a pitch and even today I feel myself freeze up when someone asks me what my books are about.

My brain seizes, leaving me with little more than a response of “it has words in it”. When we began talking about ad copy, someone shouted out “Hey, you do have an elevator pitch!” And then it hit me, this was the answer I should have been giving! Short and to the point that represented my brand and my books. After all, they’re asking you to plug your work to market yourself. They want to know!

8)Do Attend The Other Panels And Workshops Whenever Possible At A Festival Or Convention.
You never know who you’ll meet in the crowd and being in the audience can often make it easier to connect with readers or other authors without feeling the heat of the spotlight.

9)Don’t Listen to The Little Voice Talking You Out of Things.
Okay, if the little voice is talking you out of a bank robbery, you should probably listen. But, if your little voice is anything like my little voice it’s probably talking you out of attending a convention or talking about who you are and what you do for fear someone will think you’re a hack. Guess what? They won’t.

Our community is filled with an amazing group of individuals writing their own story, quelled with the same fears you and I have. We’re all introverts by nature. It’s probably why we write. But, put us all in one place together and it’s a lot easier to be extroverted. You’re among your people. Enjoy it.

Author Bio:
Rachel Rawlings was born and raised in the Baltimore Metropolitan area. Her family, originally from Rhode Island, spent summers in New England sparking her fascination with Salem, MA. She has been writing fictional stories and poems since middle school, but it wasn’t until 2009 that she found the inspiration to create her heroine Maurin Kincaide and complete her first full length novel, The Morrigna.

When she isn’t writing paranormal romance, psychic romance suspense or about her psychic detective, Rachel can often be found with her nose buried in a good book. An avid reader of Paranormal/Urban Fantasy, Horror and Steampunk herself, Rachel founded HallowRead- a non-profit interactive convention for both authors and fans of those genres which raises funds for literacy and the literary arts. More information on HallowRead, its schedule of events and participating authors can be found at www.hallowread.com and www.facebook.com/Hallowread. She still lives in Maryland with her husband and three children. 

Contacts:
www.rachelrawlings.com
www.facebook.com/rachelrawlingsauthor
Twiiter: @rachelsbooks
Instagram: @rachelsbooks
www.hallowread.com
www.facebook.com/hallowread