August 30, 2021

Since the beginning here at Writers in the Storm, we've been all about spreading the love. And every so often, we throw the doors open for some shameless self-promotion opportunities for our readers. Our only requirement for those glorious days -- formerly called "Pimp & Promote" -- is that they double the love and promote someone else's work alongside their own.

New Name - Same Awesomeness

As of now, we're officially changing the name of this event from "Pimp & Promote" to "Double The Love." First of all, it has a nice ring. Also, the world could use a whole lot more love these days so why not rebrand one of our favorite things here at WITS?

Today's event will give us all the opportunity to share great resources and celebrate our own successes. So get ready to double the love!

How DO you "Double the Love?"

For many in the States, school is back in session. In that same spirit, let's get out our pom-poms and cheer for ourselves and other writers! Down in the comments section, we ask that you:

  • Heap love on somebody else’s work – a favorite author, blogger, post or book you’ve read, a wonderful teacher or just someone who had profound influence on you as a writer or a person. Please limit your comments to one work.
    AND
  • Promote one of your projects that you’re excited about – a hobby, a blog, a book, or a new direction your writing is taking you. You decide. Just tell us about it in the comments! (Please restrain your enthusiasm to just one of your WIPs.)

The rest of us will shake those pom-poms, and “ooooh and ahh” (with a side of rah-rah). Full disclosure: our to-be-read piles and our resource lists double in size on days like these, which is always a cause for both celebration and nail-biting.

We'll lead off the love fest with some of the WITS Team!

Ellen Buikema

New Love:

Thomas Davis has written a fantastic, epic poem in blank verse, The Weirding Storm. The story contains magic, dragons, witches, dire wolves, malicious spirits, community unrest, and some interesting transformations, all woven into a dance of words.

A wonderful Young Adult Fantasy.


Self-love:

If you are looking for a young readers chapter book series, take a look at The Adventures of Charlie Chameleon. I wrote these stories to help encourage empathy and cultivate insight into children’s lives.

These multicultural stories cover situations children typically encounter like getting lost, moving, starting a new school, making friends, family vacations, working in a team, and dealing with bullies using positive methods. Each chapter ends with one or more activities for children and parents or teachers to do together, related to the actions in the stories. These books are filled with humor to make the stories more engaging for children (and more fun for parents to read to their kids).

The first three chapter books in The Adventures of Charlie Chameleon Series are New BeginningsSchool Days, and Summertime.

Jenny Hansen

New Love:

If you've been around WITS for a while, you've seen some of the gorgeous posts by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, the co-authors of the Emotion Thesaurus series of books. Perhaps you know about the labor of love they created called "One Stop" for writers.

They've kicked it up a notch recently with the Storyteller's Roadmap. Frankly, I love it. I love that it meets you where you are as a writer, and that there are three different paths you can take, based on your own writing challenges. For example, I have friends who get hives at the thought of plotting so they happily write away like the pantsers they are. Then they get stuck or get lost in revisions. There are roadmaps for all these scenarios!

Below is a screen capture of the main page.

And here is a snippet of the Planning Roadmap:

So, to summarize, if you haven't checked out One Stop for Writers with their thesaurus cheat-sheets, character builders, checklists, timelines, and now, their Storyteller's Roadmap...why not?

Self-love:

Writers in the Storm is looking for new blog hosts and contributors. We like to change it up every few years and hear from some new voices and viewpoints. And we like to spread out the hosting over 4-6 people so no one has to do more than a dozen hours of work throughout the year.

Let us know in the comments if that's something you'd be interested in or send an email to writersinthestorm(at)gmail(dot)com!

Okay, now it's your turn!

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What do you think of "Double the Love?" Do you like the new name? Spread the love all around the comment section, and we'll chime in and cheer you on!

Top Photo by Frantisek Duris on Unsplash

August 27, 2021

by Laurie Schnebly Campbell

What is it about trios that works so well?

For starters, three creates a pattern which isn’t feasible with just one or two.

Books that feature only two people are enjoyable, sure. But when you add a third character, like a loyal sidekick or a rival or a mysterious neighbor, the trio is all the more entertaining.

Two stories -- say, an original and its sequel -- are perfectly all right. But when you add a third book and make it a trilogy, sales rise far higher.

A two-act play can be pleasurable to watch. But a three-act play, which forms the essence of most story structures, feels more integrated…more complete.

The Romans had a saying, “Omne trium perfectum,” meaning essentially “whatever comes in threes is perfect.”

That might explain popular groupings like:

  • Good, better, best
  • Past, present, future
  • Gold, silver, bronze
  • Small, medium, large
  • Oldest, middle, youngest
  • Mind, body, spirit

Triads feel natural. Triads feel satisfying.

We see that in stories from our earliest years of childhood: 

  • Three blind mice
  • The three little pigs
  • Goldilocks and the three bears

Such storytelling continues into adulthood with stories (turned into movies) like:

  • The Three Musketeers
  • Three Coins in the Fountain
  • Three Men and a Baby
  • The Three Faces of Eve, and so many more

You see the rule of three in other art forms, as well. Photographers divide their image into three horizontal or three vertical segments. Comedians talk about how an X, a Y and a Z walk into a bar. Orators treasure the power of phrases like “Friends, Romans, countrymen” and “blood, sweat and tears” and “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

So, it makes perfect sense that:

Three is a valuable number for writers.

Right off the bat, we have the beginning and middle and end. And we have narrative, dialogue and description. And we have thesis, antithesis and synthesis.

All of which can be useful in storytelling.

But even more useful than any of those trios, as far as I’m concerned, is something incredibly simple:  the basic braid.

I’ll bet you know already what the first two strands of that braid are. (No, you romance writers, they’re not Hero and Heroine. No, you mystery writers, they’re not Cop and Criminal. No, you literary writers, they’re not Protagonist and Antagonist.)

They’re the good old timeless classics of any story...Plot and Character.

In theory you could probably get a pretty decent book out of just those two strands, but adding the third is what gives you a really strong strand. Or a really strong story, as the case may be.

And the third strand is...Genre.

Now of course, some writers prefer to avoid what booksellers refer to as genre fiction. Instead, they’re busy writing what might be called mainstream, or literary, or philosophical novels.

But even so, their readers have certain expectations -- same as other readers have certain expectations of what constitutes a great crime, dystopian, fantasy, historical, horror, inspirational, mystery, paranormal, scifi, suspense/thriller, Western or women’s fiction novel.

EVERY reader expects certain things of a book. Even if they picked up a title at random, vowing not to look at the cover or blurb or reviews but to just dive in and start reading, within the first few chapters they’ll have an idea about what kind of story they’re in for.

And while surprises along the way are just fine, your reader doesn’t want to feel confused throughout the entire book. They want you to deliver the kind of experience they feel like they’ve been promised.

So it’s important to know what these readers expect when they pick up your book -- and THAT’s why genre is the third strand of your braid.

Do all three strands need to be equal?

Absolutely not. We’ve all seen decorative braids with two similar strands plus a more sparkly one adding some extra glitz.

Some books direct far more time and attention to the plot than the characters or the genre, and that works just fine. Some devote most of their attention to character development, which also works fine. And some focus primarily on the genre highlights that draw readers to this particular type of story, which also...yep.

Each of those blends can result in a fabulous book.

But a book that weaves all three strands together from beginning to end, regardless of how big each strand is, will likely be a more complete, more natural, more satisfying read.

That’s the magic of braiding.

We’ll go into more detail on what shapes your particular book during the September 6-30 class on “Your Plot-Character-Story Braid,” but while you’re thinking about tremendous, terrible and triumphant threesomes, I’ve got a question for you:

What trio comes to mind when you think of a story you loved?

It might be people, it might be settings, it might be titles, it might be something not even mentioned here. Just recall some story you’d happily read (or view, or listen to) again, and what triad in it you especially like.

And that’s our prize-drawing question.

If at least 25 people post an answer, one of ‘em will win free registration to the Braid class coming up a week from Monday. So I can’t wait to see what comes in before this weekend’s drawing.

In fact, I’m getting more and more eager…more excited…more enthusiastic…by the minute. By the hour. By the day. (Okay, enough with the trios.)

Somebody stop me. Call a halt. Cue the band.

Quickly. Right away. Lickety-split — Aaaaack!

* * * * * *

About Laurie

Laurie Schnebly Campbell (BookLaurie.com) always loves creating a class, so when a writer asked about “braiding” she was delighted at the chance to explore an untouched subject. Although she enjoyed braiding her own books, including one that beat out Nora Roberts for “Best Special Edition of the Year,” she enjoys teaching even more. That’s why she now has 51 first-sale novels on her bookshelf from authors inspired by her classes.

Top Image by Mabel Amber, who will one day from Pixabay

August 25, 2021

by Tasha Seegmiller

This is my last post for Writers in the Storm. I can’t say forever, because forever is a long time, but I am stepping back as a regular contributor. I want to thank everyone who has commented on my posts in the past and those who have shared great insights. <3

I was recently in an online discussion concerning a new presenter in the MasterClass series. There were several people who were excited about the new presenter but wondered if the curriculum they would have access to would be too fundamental for their current level. It’s a valid question, in particular when it comes to a class that will require a $90.00 commitment.

About the same time, I attended a training where a psychology professor talked about progression, improvement, and learning. He discussed three areas that have to work in harmony with each other for learning to really have an impact: cognitive, behavioral, and affective.

While I could try and explain what each of those mean, it is easier to simply ask the questions he asked us:

  • What do I know about ________?
  • What do I do about ________?
  • How do I feel about ________?

How this applies to writing...

Let’s break those down with some writing ideas. Ask the same three questions and substitute one of the following:

  • Character development
  • A particular character (especially if feedback indicates that character is weak)
  • Pacing
  • Sentence structure
  • Setting/World Building
  • Internal Arcs
  • Emotional Arcs
  • Fill in the blank with the ominous part of writing that you love to hate.

Doing this practice will give us a baseline of things to consider. I don’t recommend focusing on this too deeply while in the midst of drafting – deep analysis and intentional creation can make a brain go nuts. But, if you are an outliner, this kind of practice could work well before starting.

If you lean more in the “write as I go” or the “figure it out later” camp, this is the kind of consideration that works well before launching into an edit.

And in the interim? Well, ask the next series of questions.

  • What do I want to know about ________?
  • What do I want to do about ________?
  • How do I want to feel about _______?

The nature of some of these questions may also take you into the authorial parts of being a writer accompanying the ideas about craft.

In addition to the writing ideas listed above, consider the following:

  • Book swag
  • Marketing
  • Building an author website
  • Pitching a conference class/panel
  • Entering contests
  • Writing a synopsis/pitch/query letter/blurb
  • Guest posting
  • Book events

At this point, most writers are able to break down where they are strong and where they need some help. Essentially, we are able to place our knowledge and awareness on various places within the four stages of developing a skill.

(Image credit: Noel Burch & GWS Media graphic redesign.)

And this brings me back to the original paragraph in this post. Are we ever at the point where taking a class wherein basic writing skills are taught wouldn’t be beneficial?

Well, that depends on individual answers to the following questions:

  • Relative to what I knew about ________, what do I know now?
  • Relative to what I was doing, how do I do/create/engage with ______________ now?
  • Relative to what I felt about __________, how do I feel now?

Sometimes, the value of taking a class that might be basic presents a new way to think about something that has eluded us for a while. And sometimes, the value of taking a class that might be basic is that we get to really see how we have grown. Word count is great for lots of things, but taking time to reflect and understand what we have learned needs to have its place as well.

Final Thoughts

There are several ways writers can continue to learn, whether through reading blogs like this one, books about craft and creativity, online courses like MasterClass, or workshops. The key is to keep learning and to continue reaching.

Because, as we have heard, just because a writer figures out how to write one book doesn’t mean the knowledge transfers seamlessly to subsequent efforts.

What have you done to continue to grow as a writer? How do you like to recognize your growth? Please share your story with us down in the comments!

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About Tasha

Tasha Seegmiller writes about womanhood, families, mental wellness, and faith. She is a graduate of Pacific University’s MFA program and teaches composition at a regional university in the high mountain desert where her husband and three kids live.

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

August 23, 2021

by Tiffany Yates Martin

I want to tell you about a writing tool that will generate infinite story ideas; that will almost unfailingly allow you to accrue steady word counts; that can help you solve literally any problem in your manuscript.

I know it sounds too good to be true, but this tool works—nearly infallibly—as long as you are using it.

If I promised you a tool like that for your writing, I’m guessing most authors would snatch it up and be eager to start wielding it—but you already own this tool. And I’m betting it often sits neglected in your author toolbox.

It’s your unbroken focus.

Hold on—I know it’s trite to talk about how hard it is to write in a distracted world, but for just one moment, try an exercise with me. For the rest of the day, just pay attention. Make a note—mental or actual—of every time you let your focus on whatever you’re doing or working on slip, even slightly, into something else.

Look at the following:

  • Is your phone the first thing you reach for?

What do you do on it? How long does that take? Actually time it. As you’re getting ready or exercising or walking your dogs, are you reading email, scrolling social media, surfing the internet, texting or talking, reading, listening to a podcast? If you commute, do you listen to books on tape or podcasts or news or music? Talk on the phone?

  • While you’re writing (or working), time your chunks of completely uninterrupted concentration on a task.

Do you get pulled away after a time to “real quick” look at email, or answer a text, or “just check this one thing” you have to know right that moment? Notice how long your distraction lasts. Notice how long it takes when you refocus on your task before your focus starts to slip again. Notice how many times you pick up your phone in an hour, in a day.

  • What if you’re stuck waiting in line or for an appointment—do you immediately reach for your phone?

While you’re watching TV, are you also on the phone or your computer? While reading, do you stop to look things up or take a quick look at social media?

Just notice your behavior for a day—simply pay attention to your uninterrupted attention: where it goes, how often, for how long.

Good writing happens as a result of—at the risk of going Jack Handey on you—deep thoughts. Scattered, shallow thoughts result in underdeveloped, shallow stories. That’s not the kind most of us want to create, but rather the stories that draw readers deeply into their world, that present characters who feel fully fleshed and real, that move readers or make them think or make them see the world in a new way.

And yet most of us are constantly denying our brains that state of full concentration that allows us to fully develop stories like that.

So How Do We Focus?

There’s a Cherokee parable you may be familiar with that I’ll sum up: An elder tells his grandson there are two wolves battling inside each of us, one that is our evil impulses and one that is our good ones.

“Which one wins?” the boy asks.

The grandfather says, “The one you feed.”

Think of your focus as those two wolves: one that allows you to think deeply, concentrate fully, give yourself wholly to your writing—or any pursuit—and one that wants to take you down an internet search rabbit hole or suck you into social media or texts or emails or any other distractions.

If you want to do what computer science professor Cal Newport calls “deep work” in his bestselling book by the same title, feed the first wolf.

Here are a few simple ways you can do that:

  • Pay attention: It sounds like a tautology—you pay attention by paying attention—but simply doing the exercise above as often as you can, noticing where your focus goes, can be a powerful first step in reclaiming it.

When I first did this, I realized that I was flipping between something I was working on and email or the internet about every five or ten minutes. A recent UC-Irvine study found that after your focus is broken it can take 23 minutes to regain it, so in most cases I never actually fully got my focus back before I broke it again.

How can we solve thorny plot problems, deeply develop character, or even stay oriented to the world of our stories if we are constantly fragmenting our thoughts?

  • Focus on what you’re focusing on. Another seeming tautology, this one helps me keep my attention where I want it. Staying focused is like strength training—you can’t phone it in or slack off; you have to maintain the proper form and sustain the action for the full number of reps or you won’t build those muscles. And just as in weight training, the more consistently you do it, the stronger those muscles get.

It will be hard at first.

Even with the intention of concentrating on a certain thing for a period of time, I’m startled at how often I notice a powerful, insidious pull to “fact check” something really quickly, or bop into email, or just take a quick peek at social media for a brain break, or go grab a snack—especially if what I’m working on is hard or I don’t want to do it.

You can look up that perfect word or obscure research detail later. I make a quick note in brackets when I’m stuck on something to remind me to come back and fix it, e.g., “[something funny here]” or “[research time it takes to refocus].” And then I keep writing. Remember every time you stop to look something up, it will take you 23 minutes to get that deep focus back.

Strategies for Success

Multitasking is a myth, as countless studies have proven. Human brains cannot effectively focus on more than one task at a time. What you’re actually doing is breaking your form. Set blocks of time—whatever works best for you (I like 30 to 90 minutes at a pop)—where you resolve not to allow your truculent brain to wander anywhere else, at all, and rigidly stick to it.

  • Put away your phone: Don’t just silence the ringer—keep your phone in another room while you’re writing. A University of Texas study found that simply having a phone nearby interferes with your brain function—even if it’s off, a stunning effect. We existed for many years without being able to be contacted instantly, and the chances of there being a true emergency that requires specifically and only you in the time block you set aside for writing are small.
  • Take breaks. Your brain works on problems subconsciously as well as consciously, so trying to bulldoze your concentration for too long could undermine this essential aspect of deep thinking.

Having an off switch is good—your brain needs the rest, and often the problems you’ve been focusing on will keep perking in the background while you give it one. The trick is to make sure you’re doing it intentionally, rather than your focus being hijacked, and that it’s true downtime, not more of that same kind of distraction, leaping from thought to random thought like a capuchin monkey trained by our habitual lack of focus.

Stand up, take a walk, do jumping jacks, play with your kids or pets, even scroll social media if you must. (Though be aware it’s literally designed to suck your brain and be addictive.) Just be sure to keep the break to a defined period of time so it doesn’t leak into the rest of your focus blocks for the day.

You might also work on something else that requires less focus or a different part of your brain. I often switch from deep editing, for instance, to a brief break of something like working on my website redesign, or writing a blog post, or interviewing an author for my How Writers Revise feature.

  • Let yourself be “bored.” Too often we reach for distraction the moment we aren’t “doing something,” like in the enforced downtime of waiting in line or for an appointment, traveling, exercising, etc. Instead, try using this time for specific focused thought: Keep your mind on task unraveling an issue you’re struggling with in your story, for instance, or work through your plot or character development. Make sure you do it in a concrete way, not idle flitting thoughts loosely related to the topic.

Give yourself that quiet, focused downtime for deep thinking where ideas are born, where story knots are worked out. You may find you’re never bored.

And stay present in those moments where you are gathering information for your storytelling (in other words, life), rather than burying your head—and your focus—in your computer or your phone. Don’t lose the present moment by “leaving” it with your distracted attention. Everyday experiences—both your own and those you observe—are rich fodder for story. Let yourself fully live them.

  • Practice…again and again. Just as in meditation, when we learn to bring our wayward thoughts back over and over and over, you may have to do the same with your wandering concentration. It’s hard, as I’m learning daily each time I think I’m focusing and I notice my concentration has drifted. That’s okay. Don’t judge or get upset with yourself—simply bring your focus back to the task at hand as soon as you notice it wandered. Like any habit, it will take time to really internalize it.

How about you, authors--do you find your focus to be slippery when you’re writing? How often? What distractions fracture your attention? What techniques do you have to combat them? Please share your story down in the comments!

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About Tiffany

Tiffany Yates Martin has spent nearly thirty years as an editor in the publishing industry, working with major publishers and New York TimesWashington Post, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling and award-winning authors as well as indie and newer writers, and is the founder of FoxPrint Editorial and author of the bestseller Intuitive Editing: A Creative and Practical Guide to Revising Your Writing Under the pen name Phoebe Fox, she's the author of six novels, including the upcoming The Way We Weren't (Nov., Berkley/PRH). Visit her at www.foxprinteditorial.com or www.phoebefoxauthor.com.

Image by Thomas B. from Pixabay

August 20, 2021

By Miffie Seideman

The other day I found three little blue pills strewn on the ground at my local gas station. As soon as I saw them, my heart skipped. As a pharmacist, I can spot oxycodone tablets a mile away -- little round blue tablets with an “M” imprinted on one side, and “30” on the other.

But the coloring on these were off…just enough.

These were lethal fentanyl-laced counterfeit oxycodone, the pills causing fatal overdoses in high schools and showing up in national headlines. Just one can kill an adult, so imagine what these three could do to a passing kid or dog.

The police confirmed my fears and came to scour the area for more.

Sure, we’re all authors looking for great new plot twists, and this would surely count. But we also need to know the facts about fentanyl for the safety of ourselves and our loved ones.

Important Questions and Answers

Would you know how to save your loved one’s life, if they overdosed on fentanyl?

If not, keep reading. It no longer matters if that person would never touch fentanyl or street oxycodone. Finding those tablets so close to home highlighted that real and present danger for me.

Here are 3 things you need to do regarding fentanyl and opioid overdose dangers:

  • Arm yourself with knowledge
  • Arm your family with an open door to discussion
  • Arm yourself with the antidote

1. Arm Yourself With Knowledge

I asked several authors what they wanted to know most about fentanyl. The top seven answers are below.

What is fentanyl?

  • Medical fentanyl is an opioid painkiller 100 times more potent than morphine. It is completely synthetic (made in a lab).
  • Illegal ‘street’ versions of fentanyl (and some of its cousins) are even more potent than medical fentanyl and are being laced into street drugs. One cousin is carfentanil(a large animal veterinary tranquilizer) 100 times stronger than fentanyl.

Yes, that should scare you. Elephant tranquilizers are ending up in street drugs.

Fentanyl and its cousins are now responsible for the majority of opioid-related overdose deaths:

  • At least 50% of all opioid deaths in 2018 involved fentanyl(s)
  • 36,000 US overdose deaths in 2019 involved ‘synthetic opioids’, such as fentanyl
  • Overdoses soared by 38% during covid, heavily boosted by fentanyl-related deaths

What does fentanyl look like?

Well, that’s a tough one. Fentanyl comes in several forms: injection, skin patch, nasal spray, and a lozenge. Illegal fentanyl also comes as a powder.

The real question isn’t what does fentanyl look like, but what are street fentanyl(s) laced into?

It’s a long list, including marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine (‘meth’), heroin, fake Xanax, fake Vicodin, and fake Adderall* (the ADHD drug), among other drugs. Fentanyl powder has been colored, pressed, and imprinted to look almost identical to real oxycodone (OxyContin). This so-called “Mexican Oxy” is what I found at the gas station. (*Fake Adderall has also contained lethal amounts of methamphetamine).

Why is fentanyl so dangerous?

  • Used the right way, medical fentanyl isn’t.

It’s great for severe pain, during surgery, and some cancer pain. But it does need to be measured carefully, since just 2 mg can be fatal to an adult.

  • The true danger comes from street fentanyl(s).

Drug traffickers aren’t exactly worried about careful measuring- they get paid all the same. Some street doses have very little fentanyl. Some have been found with 5 mg of fentanyl in a single tablet- more than twice a lethal dose. With carfentanil, a dose the size of a grain of salt can be lethal. How are they going to measure that safely?

  • Toxic doses of fentanyl(s) make the body stop breathing. If breathing isn’t restarted rapidly with naloxone (Narcan), the brain dies from lack of oxygen. It has taken 4-5 doses of Narcan to save some victims of these potent street drugs. In some cases, even that hasn’t been enough.

Why would a lethal drug get added to street drugs?

It’s all marketing and profit. If traffickers add the right amount, the fentanyl gives the drugs a bigger kick, a bigger high, and it’s cheap to add. A bigger high also raises demand. Users just hope they get a great high. Some are willing to buy it knowing the risk of a poorly measured batch. In some cases, fentanyl leftover from a previous counterfeit batch contaminates a new batch made in the same container.

How are people getting it?

  • Most abused fentanyl is from street drug supplies.

In the US, most of these supplies come across the Southern border. Some comes from China. From there, supplies flow to other markets in the US.  

  • Some users actually seek out fentanyl-laced batches!

Buyers and sellers can even connect via social media apps and subgroups, using special emojis.

  • But most people getting fentanyl don’t even know until it is too late. By then they could be dead or addicted.

It could be in the heroin they bought. It could be in the pain pill the football player bums from a friend so he can make it through the game. It could be in the weed at a weekend party.

Or little Timmy could pick up a little blue-grey tablet off the ground at the gas station while Mom is turned away for a second or two.

So…how much is actually getting into the US?

Much more than is being stopped. If you have a strong countenance (or a good glass of scotch), do a quick google search of your own state. I did that for Arizona and the data was pretty sobering:

  • 170,000 fatal fentanyl doses found in one drug bust (Jan 2020)
  • 22 pounds of fentanyl found (enough for 4 million lethal doses) on one traffic stop (June 2021
  • Another 22 pounds of fentanyl powder captured just last month

What do I look for in my kid, friend, spouse?

  • Similar to other abused drugs, the basic recommendations include (see full check list here):
    • Changes in mood (depression, mood swings, anger, hostility)
    • Changes in behavior/ sleep patterns
    • Drop in school grades/school attendance
    • Changes in friend circle
    • Missing money/ increased need for money
    • Odd smells in room or clothing (or sudden use of scents to mask smells)
    • Secretive conversations

2. Arm Your Family With an Open Door to Discussion

  • It’s never too soon to talk to kids about drugs

The National Institute for Drug Addiction has sobering statistics for 8th graders (Yes, that’s 8th grade – 13 year-olds!):

  • 15% admit to having used illicit drugs in 2020
    • Almost 3% have used Adderall when not prescribed
    • 2% have used hallucinogens

ANY of these drugs could have been fentanyl-laced.

  • Open a door to safe communication

Share the dangers of drug use. Let them know they can talk with you openly about drugs, what they see at school, and ask their questions without judgment. Let them know that door is open, even if they make a mistake and try drugs. They need to know you will be there to help them.

If that door is closed, they will go somewhere else.

My family and friends know they can call if they are in or near this kind of danger or have had too much to drink. We will come get them any time of day or night. We won’t judge. We just want them alive. If you offer this, make sure you follow through. Or that door will slam.

  • Educate yourself about drugs

The best way to talk to your loved ones is by having at least some basic information. What is going on in your neighborhood? Your local schools? What do those drugs look like and what are the dangers? It’s a bit scary to read at first, but it’s better to know and be prepared.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed. So, pick just a few drugs to get started. I might suggest: oxycodone, fentanyl, Adderall, marijuana, and methamphetamine.

These sites can get you started:

3. Arm Yourself With the Antidote

  • Get Narcan (naloxone) AND learn how to use it!
  • Narcan is available at many pharmacies without a prescription. State programs or insurance often cover the full cost and some drug manufacturers offer free naloxone.
  • Have the pharmacist show you how to use it or watch an online instruction video. You do not want to start figuring it out when someone you love has stopped breathing.

Plotting with Fentanyl

While I am passionate about the drug overdose problem, I’m still a writer at heart!

After the initial shock of finding street oxy (literally on the street) at my regular gas station, I started plotting the incident into a scene.

How authors can weave a few basics into plots:

1. Use your imagination to decide how your character gets exposed to fentanyl.

Is he smoking tainted marijuana? Did he bum some tainted Adderall off another student? Inject fentanyl-laced heroin?

2. Give your character some basic quick symptoms.

Your character can develop some basic symptoms that evolve over several minutes, including feeling that euphoric ‘high’, difficulty concentrating, and feeling very drowsy. Are you putting the character into lethal peril? Does the reader know the batch was tainted?

This is where you can have you character progress to unconsciousness and more toxic symptoms, with your reader at the edge of their seat.

3. Use current news headlines.

For additional scene ideas, contemporary news headlines are unfortunately full of drug busts and local cases to pick from. In my own town, street oxy was recently handed out at a teen party. No one knew it was fentanyl-laced until 4 teens died.

4. Research historical drug use.

Historical searches may also be useful, such as the famous Moscow Theater attack by Chechen rebels in 2002, ultimately resulting in Russian forces releasing carfentanil into air vents, killing about 129 hostages and 33 rebels.

Have you seen this growing fentanyl danger where you live? Have you addressed it in conversation or in the pages of your story? Please share your experiences with us down in the comments!

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About Miffie

Miffie Seideman has been a pharmacist for over 30 years, with a passion for helping others. As a published non-fiction author, her articles have appeared in several professional pharmacy journals. When not training for a race, her writing projects include a (soon to be announced) writer’s handbook and a fantasy adventure that started as “What if Romeo and Juliet didn’t live happily ever after they died?” An avid triathlete, she spends countless hours training in the arid deserts of Arizona, devising new plots.

Miffie can be found hanging around her blog onwemerrilystumble.com examining the intersection of triathlon and writing and on Twitter @MiffieSeideman…you know…tweeting.


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