The Whole Story Behind my book, Vanished

Last night, I was reading over some of the newer reviews and comments of my novel Vanished. I noticed some understandable trepidation among a few of those who hadn’t read the book. In response, I’ve decided to write this post, explaining the origins of the book, and why I wrote it.

First, though, I wish to thank all of those who took a chance on me, readers who cracked the pages, in spite of the subject matter. I really appreciate you, and I know it couldn’t have been easy to start.

I want to clarify what is NOT in this book; rape, gore, excessive violence (yes, there is violence, but no more than any other action/thriller), injury or death to animals, pedophilia. You only need to ask someone who’s read the book, I’m confident they will attest to this.

If you asked me, ten years ago, to write a book about human trafficking, I would have declared you insane. Times, and people, change.

The truth is, initially, there was no intention of broaching the subject. I wanted to write about Haiti.

You see, my father, upon whom one of the main characters, John Webster, is loosely based, would volunteer to help build homes, churches, and other projects. I remember well, the photos showing the difficult living conditions. There were also the stories, none of which included human trafficking. There are bits and pieces in the novel that were gleaned from his experiences.

The second main character, Tyler Montgomery,  is loosely based on my brother-in-law. The pair actually did make a trip to post-earthquake Haiti, back in October of 2010. I asked if they’d be willing to make a journal of their experiences.

So, here we come to the reasons behind Vanished. Over the years, I’ve been understandably and justifiably questioned as to my choice of topic. In the early days, I always delivered a simple and pat answer about a desire promote awareness. If a problem is ignored, what hope is there to solve it?  At the time, I truly believed my answer to be complete. Cut and dried, no further explanation needed.  

I often mention that 50% of the proceeds are donated to help victims of human trafficking, which they are, and I hope I don’t sound like I’m touting my own horn. That is not my intent.

Yes, all of this is true. However, and this may sound strange, I’ve only recently come to realize it’s not the whole truth. Please let me explain.

Those who are familiar with me, know that I’ve spent the last twenty plus years working as a Correctional Officer in maximum and medium, security prisons.

The last max. was Kingston Penitentiary which opened in 1835 and closed in 2013. It’s now a tourist attraction. I was one of the last to work there. Shortly afterwards, I was transferred to a medium level prison.  

This blog is not evolving into a prison tale. My career was mentioned  because I want to help you understand where I’m coming from.  I also want to emphasize, that Hollywood, and the news, are entities that thrive on sensationalism, because it sells.  

I’ve encountered many traumatic experiences and looked into the midnight eyes of those who looked through, rather than at you. We called them dead eyes.

Fortunately, these are not the majority of inmates. There are some who’ve lead normal lives until something triggered them to act in uncharacteristic ways. What you also had, were many cases of psychological and drug addiction issues.  Oh, and yes, plenty of the inhabitants  had committed unspeakable acts of evil. I’ll spare you the details.

Of course, it wasn’t all bad. I’ve worked with some great staff and have had my share of laughs. I appreciated the strong bonds that developed between my peers. It’s inevitable when you place your life in someone’s hands, and they put theirs in yours.

I apologize if I’m rambling, but it was necessary to give some background into what made my brain tick, when I wrote this book.

It took a diagnosis of PTSD, months of treatment, support, and deep reflection, to unravel the ‘other’ reasons for the birth of Vanished.

I have come to grasp the fact that it was also a product of a mind that sought to survive and heal. To find a state of homeostasis and make sense of the tragic and unfathomable.

The famous line from the movie, Saving Private Ryan, often comes to mind. Captain Millar and the Sergeant are discussing the personal cost of getting Ryan home. One of them says: “Someday, we might look back on this, and decide that saving Private Ryan was the once decent thing we were able to pull out of this whole Godawful, shitty mess.”

I’m not comparing myself to these brave warriors, but these are my sentiments, exactly.

The brain is extremely powerful, and I believe that it sensed something was wrong all those years ago, though my conscious mind was oblivious. It’s the frog in a boiling pot analogy. I was being cooked alive, and I didn’t even realize.               

The characters do represent, superficially, my family members. At a deeper level, they are avatars of my hope. Hope for something better, for this world, myself, and my loved ones.

Spoiler alert, Tyler struggles with mental health issues. The issue was  approached from a Stephen King angle because I grew up reading his work.

At the time, I thought it was just a nod to the famous writer, but it’s become clear that my subconscious had put out a 911 call for help. In some ways, I’m Tyler.

Right now, more than ever, the world is hurting. I don’t know your personal stories, but I can sense from many of the comments, that anxiety and a sense of hopelessness rule the day.

Let me tell, there is always hope. I want to assure you that you are not alone. I, along with many others, have been where you are. I’m on the mend, and my family is getting there, too. I cannot reiterate this enough: there is always hope.

Whenever a crisis arises, there are always those who step up and perform selfless acts. I refer to those as helpers, look around, you’ll find them, everywhere. You know what? Look in the mirror and you’ll see one up close.          

Don’t believe me? Listen, if you’ve ever retweeted a post, shared a kind word on a blog, shared a blog, hosted, bought a book, read, and reviewed, made someone laugh or provided information, beta read . . . you get the picture, then you are a helper.  

Yes, those dedicated people who work in the healthcare industry certainly fall into this category. There are so many others, unsung, and unnoticed. They go about the business of helping.

John and Tyler are much more than characters in a book, and the plot is deeper and broader than human trafficking. There is an ugly side to it, just as there is in life, but there is also a positive message. It’s about becoming a helper, doing whatever is within your capacity to  make a positive impact, even if it’s just one person.

This is the true spirit of Vanished.

At the bottom of this post, you will find two links to interviews I conducted with a couple of wonderful helpers, who stood with victims of human trafficking.

On a side note:

I am not downplaying the recent events with law enforcement that have occurred, nor am I saying that problems with racism do not exist, as they do in every environment.

I wish to point out that there are a few rotten apples among the ranks; you’ll find them in every profession; and they should be dealt with accordingly. However, it is very distressing, unfair, and illogical to paint an entire profession based on the actions of a few. Most people involved in law enforcement are decent and ordinary people. They have families and emotions, too.

I was saddened and angered, when I discovered that a certain retailer was selling tee-shirts with the detestable slogan, Blue Lives Murder. Ouch!!  

This is not only disrespectful and generally untrue, but downright inflammatory. These are the things that contribute to PTSD and suicides.

I give my readers the benefit of the doubt, as I am sure that most of you realize this. I still feel compelled to say the following: Amidst all the cries for defunding the police, please try to imagine a world where the dead eyed roam free and amok.

Sends shivers up my spine.

More about me:

Born and raised on a farm near Brockville, Ontario, Mark Bierman’s childhood consisted of chores, riding horses, snowmobile races across open fields, fishing trips to a local lake, and many other outdoor adventures. He was also an avid reader of both fiction and non.

Transitioning towards adulthood also meant moving from the farm and into large urban areas that introduced this “country boy” to life in the big cities.

Drawing on his many experiences as a private investigator and later a Correctional Officer, Mark combines his unique experiences and imagination to create his stories and characters.

Purchase:

Amazon.ca Amazon.com LuLu.com iBooks

I’d love to connect with you:

Website Twitter Facebook Instagram Goodreads

Interview Links:

A Call To Mission Work. An Interview With Madison Wicklam.

They Fight For Freedom

HIIT your writing and watch it improve!

The story line isn’t written on the wall. Unlike the Biblical account, no matter how hard I stare, no hand appears to write Dan out of the tar pit he’s gotten himself trapped in, again. Sheesh!

This is for those of you, if you’re like me, who struggle, at times, to get collect the right words from that pile of scrabble tiles tumbling inside your cranium.

You type, think, type, backspace, type, stare at the wall; time slips past and the hands of the clock have suddenly moved alarmingly close to quitting time. For me, that’s when the rest of the household gets up. It’s that dreadful wormhole again! Sucking time and productivity into an eternal vacuum. There’s no fix for it, no way to simply remove a filter and shake it out. It’s lost, forever.

Those who know me, are aware that physical fitness is a huge part of my life. I devote a great deal of time to developing the three key physical fitness elements: strength, cardio, and flexibility.

Recently, an idea came to me, as I waited for that magic hand to reveal the ‘golden nugget’.

I decided to incorporate a technique I’ve often used in my workouts, into my writing. Some of you may be familiar with HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). Simply put, the idea is to go hard for a brief period of time, and then continue exercising, but at a slower pace. This has proven, and I’ve benefited personally, to be a more effective and time efficient way of exercising than traditional forms. The ratio of time spent going hard to slowing down, are dependent upon fitness levels and goals.

I thought you were talking about writing, not running, Bierman. I am, well now I am.  I’ve discovered, for me, at least, that the same principles can be used in writing life.

No more staring at walls or scratching my head, trying to squeeze out the next sentence. These days, I write and read, in intervals. I’ll work on my WIP for fifteen minutes to half an hour, and then switch to reading blogs for about ten to fifteen minutes, before writing again.

I find reading the excellent work of others, and their different approaches to wordsmithing, very stimulating. It gives me a chance to ‘let someone else take the wheel.’  

No matter how much you love to write, and I do, creating something out of nothing can be mentally draining. This method allows for a break, while keeping your creative side working in the background.

I read blogs because they are short, and I can finish them within the allotted time frame. Blogs also give you the chance to read material from different authors, thus stimulating your brain to a greater extent.

You may have your own preference, such as Twitter, Facebook, or some other social media platform.  I would advise against reading a book, as it can get intertwined with your work, and it should be something you can finish within the timeframe.

I hope you’ve found this post helpful. If you have any techniques that you use, please share them here.

Happy writing!  

Photos with Captions, To Make You Smile and Think

Time for another round of captioned photos. I hope some will make you chuckle, while others encourage you. Take care of yourselves!

Then I realize that I wasted the morning shopping . . . wait, do I hate shopping? Um . . . yes, I think. Now I’m sad again. 🙂

Welcome to the BLOOD/CRIMSON Blog Tour! @OverbeckRandy @4WillsPub @4WP11 @RRBC_Org

Meet Randy:

Dr. Randy Overbeck is a veteran educator who has served children as a teacher and school leader. For more than three decades, his educational experiences have included responsibilities ranging from coach and yearbook advisor to principal and superintendent and he’s lived the roles of many of the characters in his stories. An accomplished writer, he has been published in trade journals, professional texts and newspapers as well as in fiction, with his third published novel. As a member of the Mystery Writers of America, Dr. Overbeck is an active member of the literary community, contributing to a writers’ critique group, serving as a mentor to emerging writers and participating in writing conferences such as Sleuthfest, Killer Nashville and the Midwest Writers Workshop. When he’s not writing or researching his next exciting novel or sharing his presentation “Things That Go Bump in the Night,” he’s spending time with his incredible family of wife, three children (and their spouses) and seven wonderful grandchildren.

Connect with him:

Twitter Facebook Website

Purchase your copy:

Crimson At Cape May-Amazon.com

Crimson At Cape May-Barnes&Noble

Crimson At Cape May-BookBub

Your chance to Win!

(1) e-book copy of BLOOD ON THE CHESAPEAKE or CRIMSON AT CAPE MAY (Winner’s choice)

(1) $10 Amazon gift card

For your chance at winning one of the awesome giveaways above, simply leave a comment below!

Nonfiction is about reality; fiction is about truth.”

Bestselling mystery author, S. J. Rozan, shared these words at a writing conference a few years ago, and this insight struck me. As an author, I argue that one important purpose of memorable fiction is to share the truths about life, love and sometimes even death.

I’m not naïve. I realize readers don’t choose a mystery or a thriller or even a romance because they are searching for insight or revelation. James Patterson is not a bestselling author because of his philosophical outlook on life.

Fiction lovers are not browsing bookshelves in bookstores—okay, checking out Amazon or BookBub listings during the pandemic—because they are searching for the meaning of life. They want to be entertained, to be scared to death, to be drawn in and forget their world, or maybe to fall in love inside the pages of their newest discovery.

But I also believe authors have an important responsibility. First, we need to assemble the essential ingredients to capture readers’ attention—a plausible story line (mostly), credible characters, a setting readers can enjoy, and most important, a compelling narrative. But I also believe if we, as authors, are fortunate enough to command our readers’ attention for hours of their precious time, they should come away with more than just solving the mystery, seeing the bad guy captured or even making their heart race. Fiction should convey a truth, sometimes even a truth that can’t be conveyed via nonfiction—at least not as well.

That’s why, when I wrote each of the ghost stories/mysteries in my Haunted Shores Mysteries series, I attended to the truth part of my novel as diligently as the ghost or mystery part.

For my new release, CRIMSON AT CAPE MAY, the second in the series, I placed my fictional murder at the center of an even greater, very real-world problem. As readers navigate through the mystery and try to solve the whodunit, they also come face to face with the disturbing reality of human trafficking, as the murder and the trafficking become intertwined in the narrative.

On this issue, a few details may illustrate why I felt compelled to center my tale in the ugly world of sex slavery, prostitution, and human trafficking.

  • Officials estimate somewhere near 4.5 million people are caught in the web of human trafficking worldwide.  While most of those sex trafficked in the U. S. come from other countries—principally Eastern Europe, Central America, and the Far East—a great many girls, teens and even younger, from the U.S.  go missing and end up in the sex trade.
  • Based on the best estimates, one out of five female runaways in the U.S. ends up being trafficked, upward from 3000 to 5000 a year or a new teen trapped every 100 minutes!
  • As recent news reports have revealed, manipulation and abuse of trafficked girls is not limited to low level pimps. Notables such as Jeffrey Epstein, Harvey Weinstein, Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, and even Prince Phillip of England have been implicated in human trafficking scandals. 
  • Experts believe an astounding one million children are victims of sex trafficking worldwide.
  • Taken together, there are more people trapped in human trafficking today than at any time in history.

Her is a link to a brief article with some astonishing—and depressing statistics:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/investigations/2019/07/29/12-trafficking-statistics-enormity-global-sex-trade/1755192001/

My hope is that when readers finish CRIMSON AT CAPE MAY,  besides encountering a new, engaging mystery, exploring an interesting and unusual resort location, indulging their romantic impulses, and perhaps even straying a bit into the spirit world, they have a better grasp of the “truth” I’m trying to capture…and maybe a better understanding of the world around them and themselves.

To follow along with the rest of the tour, please visit the authors’ tour page on the 4WillsPublishing site.  If you’d like to book your own blog tour and have your book promoted in similar grand fashion, please click HEREThanks for supporting this author and his work!

Review of Victoria’s War, by Catherine A. Hamilton

Well, the sun has sunk its fiery head below the horizon to close a wintry Sunday. The weekend is almost history, but I want to spin the time dial back into this past weekend, for a moment.

i want to talk about an excellent book I had the opportunity to read these last few days. As you’ve “guessed” from the title, the book in question is Victoria’s War, by Catherine A. Hamilton.

Here’s what Amazon says:

In Victoria’s War, Hamilton gives voice to the courageous Polish women who were kidnapped into the real-life Nazi slave labor operation during WWII. Inspired by true stories, this lost chapter of history won’t soon be forgotten.POLAND, 1939: Nineteen-year-old Victoria Darski is eager to move away to college: her bags are packed and her train ticket is in hand. But instead of boarding a train to the University of Warsaw, she finds her world turned upside down when World War II breaks out. Victoria’s father is sent to a raging battlefront, and the Darski women face the cruelty of the invaders alone. After the unthinkable happens, Victoria is ordered to work in a Nazi sewing factory. When she decides to go to a resistance meeting with her best friend, Sylvia, they are captured by human traffickers targeting Polish teenagers. Sylvia is singled out and sent to work in brothels, and Victoria is transported in a cattle car to Berlin, where she is auctioned off as a slave.GERMANY, 1941: Twenty-year-old Etta Tod is at Mercy Hospital, where she’s about to undergo involuntary sterilization because of the Fuhrer’s mandate to eliminate hereditary deafness. Etta, an artist, silently critiques the propaganda poster on the waiting room wall while her mother tries to convince her she should be glad to get rid of her monthlies. Etta is the daughter of the German shopkeepers who buy Victoria at auction in Berlin.The stories of Victoria and Etta intertwine in the bakery’s attic where Victoria is held the same place where Etta has hidden her anti-Nazi paintings. The two women form a quick and enduring bond. But when they’re caught stealing bread from the bakery and smuggling it to a nearby work camp, everything changes.

My Turn:

Now, I have to admit, I like reading just about everything WWII, but this book was so well crafted and researched, that it had my full attention and left a lasting impression.

Catherine does a fantastic job of creating realistic characters and scenarios. I couldn’t help but feel a range of emotions towards both the prisoners, and some of the helpful Germans, alike. The fate of one character, I won’t spoil it, caused a lump in my throat.

This is not a shoot-em-up, we’re the greatest heroes ever, type of story. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of suspense and action, too.

Victoria’s War is exactly what the title suggests. It’s about the tragic experiences of a young and innocent woman who was forced to grow in self-confidence and courage. I believe that Victoria represents so many that went through those horrific trials.

If you’re queasy, rest easy. The descriptions of the prisoner camps and victims is sprinkled throughout, but just enough to give you an impression of the conditions. There are no excessively gory details.

What I came away with is a new respect for the courage and resilience of the brave men and women who fought against tyranny, in the face of extreme danger and nearly insurmountable odds. Many selfless and self-sacrificing acts of kindness are carried out and warm the heart against the chill of the Nazi regime.

Five Stars!

Meet Catherine:

A native Oregonian of Polish descent, Catherine A. Hamilton spent several years as a freelance writer. Her articles and poems have appeared in The Sarasota Herald Tribune, The Oregonian, The Catholic Sentinel, and The Polish American Journal. She is the author of a chapter, “Katherine Graczyk”; in Forgotten Survivors: Polish Christians Remember the Nazi Occupation. Edited by Richard C. Lukas, pp.31-37, (University Press of Kansas, 2004). Her debut novel, Victoria’s War, is now available: Plain View Press (2020).
Hamilton lives in the Northwest with her husband.

Connect with her and purchase your copy:

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Pinterest

Instagram

Amazon