Sunday, April 29, 2012

"Memoirs Aren't Fairytales: A Story of Addiction", and Guest Author Marni Mann Interview

A couple weeks ago, I came upon a book on amazon that caught my eye. The cover is lovely, and the reviews were glowing, but that wasn't what peaked my interest.

My career thus far has been as an Addictions Therapist. I've worked with children as young as 14, adults as old as 79, and every age or socio-economic status in between. One thing that remains a constant is the manner in which addiction can bring a person to the very depths of a living hell. Many don't make it through alive.

“I could feel my chin falling towards my chest, my back hunching forward. My body was acting on its own, and my mind was empty, like all my memories had been erased. There was scenery behind my lids. Aqua colored water and powdery sand that extended for miles. I was never going back to coke. I wanted more heroin. And I wanted it now.”
Leaving behind a nightmarish college experience, nineteen-year-old Nicole and her best friend Eric escape their home of Bangor, Maine to start a new life in Boston. Fragile and scared, Nicole desperately seeks a new beginning to help erase her past. But there is something besides freedom waiting for her in the shadows–a drug that will make every day a nightmare.
With one taste, the love that once flowed through Nicole’s veins turns into cravings. Tracks mark the passing of time, and heroin’s grip gets tighter. It holds her hand through deaths and prostitution, but her addiction keeps her in the darkness. When her family tries to strike a match to help light her way, Nicole must choose between a life she can hardly remember, or a love for heroin she’ll never forget.

I decided that I had to read this book, not only because the subject matter was of personal interest to me, but because I wanted to see if the author knew what she was talking about...

I started reading. I kept reading. I got sucked in, and couldn't put it down. The whole time I was reading, one part of my brain was engaged in how gruesomely entertaining Nicole's story was, and the other was how gruesomely accurate the depiction of addiction was. My first thought after finishing the very last sentence was, "Wow."

My second thought was that every single Addictions Therapist or Counselor who has not experienced an addiction of their own should be mandated to read Nicole's story. Here's the catch. This is a work of fiction, technically. "Nicole" doesn't exist. But the reality is that there are thousands and thousands of men and women like Nicole.

I engaged the author, Marni Mann, in a discussion, because I was fascinated by how she managed to write such a "true story". I asked if she would be willing to do an interview for this blog, and she very graciously agreed to discuss the creation of "Memoirs Aren't Fairytales: A Story of Addiction."

Me: What made you want to write about heroin addiction?

Marni Mann: I have several addicts in my life. I‘ve lost track of how many times I’ve been affected by their disease, and my pain turned into a novel. I chose heroin because it was a drug I didn’t know much about. I wanted this novel to be a challenge, meaning the descriptions of being high would require a lot of research. I chose a first person narrative for the same reason. It not only allowed the readers to get close to the main character, but it required me to become that character, feel her pain, exhale her breath, carry the weight of her past and future.

Me: Tell us about the research you conducted in order to write with such
accuracy and really explore the nitty, gritty details of where this lifestyle
brings people?

Marni Mann: I read books, watched documentaries, and spoke to professionals. Those really helped when writing the technical aspects of the novel. The personal touches came from listening to real voices of addiction. I met with addicts and recovering addicts, paying close attention to the lingo they used and the descriptions of being high after they shot up heroin. I wasn’t just surprised by their candor, but how they welcomed me into their world and trusted me with their stories.

Me: Was it emotionally challenging to write Nicole's story?

Marni Mann: Nicole kept me awake at night. Her story would swirl around my head like a talking bubble and her pain would tear through me. Like I said before, in order for me to write this story I had to become her; her addiction sat in my stomach, her experiences caused knots in my throat, her tears filled my eyes. Nicole’s baggage wasn’t the size of my purse. I carried an 18-wheeler on my shoulders for two and a half years because that’s how long it took me to write and edit this novel.

Me: Why do you think drug use is often glamorized in the media?

Marni Mann: Most of us live boring lives. We stay home on Saturday nights because we’re too tired to change out of our sweatpants. Our 9-5 jobs suck the life out of us, we care for our kids, animals, family, responsibilities, and it’s a lot to handle. We want excitement. We want what we can’t have. Celebrities provide that escape; they have fame and fortune and most of us will never experience that. In my opinion, the media is giving us exactly what we’re asking for. We want the thrill, a taste of something we’ll never have, and drinking and drug use is a part of that. With shows like Intervention, Celebrity Rehab, and Sober House, I hope people realize it’s not all private jets and trips to the Playboy mansion. It’s darkness, isolation, poverty, and death. We thought Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston, and Michael Jackson had it all, didn’t we?

Me: Most stories about addiction mention self-help groups (such as AA/NA). Was there a reason why you chose not to include these resources as part of Nicole's journey?

Marni Mann: This is a hard question to answer because I don’t want to give away too much information. Memoirs Aren’t Fairytales is a story about addiction. Scars from a Memoir, the sequel, addresses the different aspects of recovery, including NA and rehab.

Me: What would be some advice you might give to someone who themself is struggling with an addiction, or who loves someone who is active in an addiction?

Marni Mann: To the friends and family of an addict: Remember, an addict has to want sobriety as much as you want it for them. I encourage you to attend Al-Anon or Nar-Anon meetings. You need support because you can’t do this alone. Both groups are extremely beneficial; they teach you how to stop enabling the addict, the effective ways to stage an intervention, and they’re the ears you need during this difficult time.
To anyone struggling with an addiction: You can do this. There’s a will inside you that’s stronger than your addiction. That will is to get clean. To live. To wake up each morning and the first voice you hear isn’t your addiction. It’s from the people who love and support you, and who are proud of your success and accomplishments. Find that will. Utilize the resources that are available such as 12-Step meetings, counseling, or rehab.

Some people will avoid this book because it will make them uncomfortable. That's ok. But if you want to know what addiction really is like, if you want to understand how someone smart, talented, and seeming to have it all ends up living on the streets, then you must read it. If you want to hear the story of thousands of young people in the U.S., read this book. If you want to know the faces of the hundreds of people I have worked with over the past 11+ years, read this book. If you know and love someone who has an addiction, read this book. Marni Mann has created a masterpiece, and I dedicate this blog to everyone whose life has ever been touched by addiction in some way. I'm grateful to her for her participation and for the lives that will be touched by her work!

                                                                          Marni Mann

If you are interested in purchasing this book, you can find it at the following links:




Monday, April 23, 2012

Beauty, and Where (Or How) We Behold It

As some of you know, but most of you don't, I like to run in the cemetery near my house. Several times a week I take my dog, Herschel, and he races around like a lunatic while I huff and puff and dream of fitting into the pants I wore my senior year of high school.

I recently told a friend where I like to do my jogging, and the response was, "That's kind of creepy!" It was said in jest, and in context, it was a compliment, but it got me thinking about my choice to do cardio in such a location. Are cemeteries "creepy?"

Dying is creepy. Dying can be terrifying, and often painful, and the majority of people experiencing it wish they had more time. More time to Live, that is. The death of a loved one can also be terrifying and painful for those left behind. Do cemeteries only represent Death? We are buried in them. A stone or tablet is erected to commemorate our passing. Flowers and memorabilia are placed as signs that the ones who are buried have not been forgotten. But can cemeteries also represent Life?

Today, I was in a particular kind of mood. You know, the one where you move slowly, and take the time to really see the world around you. The kind of mood that makes you contemplate the deeper meanings of ordinary "things", not in a sad or heavy-hearted way, but in an acknowledging manner that indicates you have recognized things are not always what they seem at first glance.

The particular cemetery where I go is beautiful. It's quiet. It's very large, and I've never walked (much less jogged!) the entire grid in one session. There are hardly ever any visitors, but when there are, I go in the opposite direction so that we may each have the privacy and contemplation we have come for. Today, I brought my camera with me to the cemetery. I decided to share with you some of the reasons why I choose a place of death to be the place I celebrate my life.

 There is something magical about a time-worn path, the broken stones bordered with moss, and not knowing where it may lead. This is a path of mysterious journeys and gallant quests undertaken by otherwordly creatures, heros, and fair maidens. Where would YOU end up if you were to place one foot in front of the other, slowly, so slowly moving forward...

A few months ago, two young teens were playing in the cemetery at the same time I was jogging through. A boy and a girl, whose flirtatious exchanges could be heard echoing through the stones. They were old enough to feel the thrill of attraction for someone who makes your spine tingle, while young enough to still play like innocent children. They managed to climb inside these two trees and mostly conceal themselves amongst the branches. As I started approaching the trees, they became very silent. I knew they thought they were invisible, and being me, I decided to foil whatever plot they were drumming up. I called out, "I know you're in there!" At first, silence, then giggles erupted. The girl called back, "How did you know?" I laughed, thinking of a toddler who plays peek-a-boo with her blankie, and thinks that because she can't see anyone, no one can see her, either. I called to the teens, "Because I can see your sweatshirt!" One of them was wearing a bright red hooded sweatshirt that stuck out like a cardinal on a snow covered deck. They giggled some more, and I giggled too, and we shared a childish moment that the planter of the trees probably never envisioned.

When I was little, I liked to pretend that moss patches were actually tiny forests, inhabited by miniscule Fae. I imagined whole lives for these creatures, and would softly stroke the moss tops, wondering what the Faeries would think of my gigantic shadow passing so near their homes. Personally, I prefer very green moss, but perhaps this particular Fae Forest is experiencing fall foliage...

It may not be true for many cemeteries, but this particular one has the most stunning wildflowers that grow all over the grounds. Last summer, I photographed over a dozen varieties, and there were at least half that many I didn't!

On the southeast corner of the cemetery, the ground drops off steeply, and a small stream meanders its way through turns and curves. It forms a small swamp, and there is a flock of geese that have made it, and the rest of the lowlands, their home. They frequently scold me, and the dog, as we invade their kingdom on our way through to higher ground. The rains have been heavy for the past 48 hours, and the stream has swollen to triple its normal size, as has the swamp.

Am I imagining the beauty of this place? Am I neglecting to see death all around me? Or have I discovered something different...

~The above is a video of Herschel playing games :)~

It is not my intent that you should run to your nearest cemetery and frolic about madcap, although you might find yourself having much more fun that you expected should you decide to do so. What IS my intent is that you allow yourself to experience your surroundings in a way that is beautiful and meaningful to you. Don't allow stereotypes and preconceived notions of beauty prevent you from finding the places that bring you peace, and joy, and the feeling that you are celebrating your life. Keep your eyes open, and you will find your own "Cemetery."

Monday, April 16, 2012

Review of "Whisper Walker", Book One of the Whisper Walker Series

By now, you should all know that I love the YA genre. Long before I started my own work, I read YA books voraciously, and that hasn't changed a bit (Even though I can no longer even remotely be considered a YA myself!)

Recently, I was allowed to read a very exciting book before it even hit the "shelves," a term we must now apply metaphorically to all discussion of published works. Up and coming author London Cole has created the start of a series of dystopian adventure novels that I think you, your teenagers, and their friends should read. The synopsis of Book One has been provided here:

After turning seventeen, orphan Drake Adair discovers he can see ghosts when he falls into a pit of human remains while running for his life. What he doesn't realize is that he's stumbled onto his destiny. Kelsie Blake, Drake's roommate and closest friend since she fled her filicidal father, has secrets. Secrets she keeps even from Drake. Sneaking outside the Gates into the wild, she risks everything for a little excitement. Her lies now threaten everything she cares about most in her life.
Drake unearths a plot by an enemy Guild to tear apart life as he knows it. The very people closest to him may be pawns in the grisly scheme, leaving Kelsie and Drake with no one to turn to as they struggle to find answers before it's too late.

Set eighty years after World War III, Kelsie and Drake pair up to protect the only life they know in a harsh and unforgiving world. They must each come to grips with his abilities, her secrets, and their mixed feelings for each other. Will they make it? Or will the very foundations of their lives be ripped from beneath them.

So now that you are thinking, "Hmm. Maybe I should check this out..." Allow me to further sway you. I have a mini-interview with the author himself!

Me: What is your favorite part of Whisper Walker?

London Cole: Hmm. Favorite part, ehh? I would have to say the first fight scene Kelsie is in. Though {the scene} when the ghost Samantha showed up was fun to write.

Me: If you could hang out with Drake and Kelsie for 24 hours, what would you most want to do with them?

London Cole: Gah, this is a toughie. I personally would rather hang out with Kelsie. I kinda think Drake is a stuck up goody-two-shoes. But, if I had to hang out with both of them, I'd take them paint-balling. That would be pretty awesome as I got my ass handed to me by Kelsie and Drake. Of course, I might be able to convince Kelsie to join me and go double against Drake.

Me: Is there a "teaser" you'd like to share with us for Book 2 of the series?

London Cole: I just decided that I might start the book from an earlier point than I have it already. I can also say that I introduce two new and important characters, as well as new paranormal creatures. It's going to be a hell of a ride and will probably end up being  longer than WHISPER WALKER.

My review of the book, overall, is as follows~

In a post-apocalyptic world, Kelsie and Drake are forced to unite at a very young age and depend on each other for survival. As the years pass, they are presented with an ever growing list of challenges. This story is so much more than a fantasy adventure, as it explores what it means to discover first love, and confront the terrifying history of your own family.
The story gathers speed as it goes along, and I found my finger clicking the "next page" button of its own volition. There is something for everyone- good action scenes, a blossoming romance, secrets and lies, a mystery to be solved, and the very real possibility of death at the hands of an evil plotter!

I enjoyed the point of view delineation of each chapter as the author skillfully gives us insight into both Drake and Kelsie.

This is a fantastic adventure suitable for teens and the young at heart. I am looking forward to seeing what debut author London Cole has in store for us next!

Many thanks to London for sharing his book with me and the rest of the world, and taking the time to give us his thoughts on his creation! You can visit his website here:

The links to purchase Whisper Walker at or can also be found on his website.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ode To...

There has been a request that I post the most dubious love poem I have ever created so that the whole world may read it. And so, with out further ado~

Smooth white skin
Always cool to the touch

Sweat beads off your back
Like the dew of a morning flower

You require so little, yet
The support you give me
Is incomparable

My animals adore you
Which means I must trust you

Through sickness and health
Like a marriage vow

My gratitude knows no bounds
My love, my Toilet.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Title Reveal!


 I have selected the final (unless they make me change it) titles for my work in progress trilogy of fantasy adventure novels.
 The series will be called "The Neverearth Prophecies". Book One will be called "Running On Faith." Book Two will be called "The Edge of Darkness." Finally, Book Three will be called "Change The World."

 Thanks to my favorite musical artist of all time, Eric Clapton, for providing me with song titles that are incredibly apt for the storyline of each book! I struggled for weeks, months even, wobbling back and forth over what to call my precious creations, lo and behold, the answer was in front of me the whole time. Isn't that how life works all too often? (I really hope they let me keep these titles!)
And now, as promised...the Parade of Dancing Girls! Aren't they stunning?!