An Invitation to Join the Club

As the dawn sheds light on a new day, I find myself reflecting on yesterday’s celebration of Canada’s birthday.

Canada is many things, including a beautiful land of diversity, both in landscape and people. We’re far from perfect and face our own struggles, but overall, we are blessed.

However, Canada is but one country, and sparsely populated in relation to land mass.  At just over 37 million, we’re a drop in the bucket.

What about this club thing in the title, Bierman? And what’s with the handshake photo? Don’t you know it’s dangerous nowadays? I’ll get to that, soon, I promise. First, I’m going to give you a quick bio about myself, so that you have a gist about who’s extending this invitation.

Here goes: I’m a white, middle class, Christian man, with a nuclear family. I have over twenty years’ experience as a Correctional Officer. I’m the son of immigrants who arrived as children, from Holland. I am proud of who I am, my heritage, my country, and my family.

I hope you are proud of who you are too. You have every right to be.

You see, this club is not exclusive, it’s open to everyone, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, political leanings, and occupation.

There are some rules, however:

  1. You must have a pulse.
  2. You agree to behave in a respectful manner to all. Do not mock or belittle anyone because you think their ideas, religion, beliefs, interests, what have you, are foolish.
  3. You agree to disagree, refrain from assigning unfair labels to someone, simply because their opinions do not coincide with your own.
  4. You agree to inform yourself and question what you see and hear on the news. That goes for social media, too. You are intelligent and have free will. Please do your research before you make assumptions. I’m sorry, I know real issues exist, but this particular item is gasoline on an inferno. Blue Lives Murder T Shirt on Amazon . So every police officer is a murderer? I don’t think so. I’m using this one because it hits a bit close to home. I don’t know what you do for a living but think about possible stereotypes for your profession. Are they true for all who work in that field?
  5. Honest questions are encouraged and even polite debate, but do not expect a conversion to your way of thinking. Oh, by the way, might be wise to leave the thesaurus at home. Sophisticated or uncommon words that are meant to demonstrate superior “intelligence” often do the opposite. More importantly, they do not foster amicable relations.
  6. We all have trauma and scars from the past. Yes, even the rich and famous. So many things shape us into what we are today. I think it’s important to remember that we are all one footstep away from being someone else.

So, what is this club? Well, I guess I’ll call it, The Club of Humanity. The invitation has no expiry date. All that is required is to follow these simple rules and check any bitterness, anger, and prejudice at the door. If you’d like, I can leave a bin of glasses at the entrance to wear, so that members can see others through a new lens.

Thank you for reading this. I hope to see you there!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Thirst for Gold, Part Three and Conclusion.

“You don’t just walk out on the Boss, Stromgren. Stay a spell and enjoy some of the best hospitality you’ll find north of a Texas barbecue on Uncle Sam’s birthday.” Ace sneered and pulled the gun another inch from the holster. To decline the “invitation” meant a permanent numbing of the taste buds.

Albin’s mind squirmed with the vigor of a snake in an eagle’s claws. The little freak wouldn’t dare, not in here, would he? Surely the bark of a gun would be heard, and the Mounties summoned. Then again, perhaps this place was a vault, able to ricochet sound in an endless cycle, until expiration. To devil with the noise, there’d be a body to dispose of! Speak up, man! State your reasoning and save your life! But for the second time that night, Albin was mute, crippled by a chalk tongue dissolved in heavy rains.

It was just as well, a creature like this couldn’t be bargained with, for the troll craved blood, not gold. A body could be incinerated, given the proper tools and knowledge. “Just having a Texas barbecue, Constable. Want some long pork?”

Jackson was the key . . . the only one who could muzzle Ace.

But why would he? Why spare a mad drifter, who’s life had the worth of a fruit fly’s? The “King” and his musketeers probably believed Albin wouldn’t be missed, and therefore no report would be filed with the Mounties. Time to gather the backbone and reveal his true identity.

“I came here by boat!” Albin yelled. “The Seraphin carried us from Seattle to Saint Michael and the ill-fated Wilton brought us downriver, that is, until that drunkard Beckett ran her onto a shoal! Miles of travel on foot accounts for my current appearance! I am a man of means and of connections! I carry my tickets, sewn into my jacket, as proof. If you do this, my people will cry for justice and the Law will have no choice but to investigate!”

A mirthless belly laugh emanated from the office and the wiry killer added his own brand.

“Stromgren, you are by far the best entertainment for today! Bring him back here, Ace. We’ll hammer out a deal.”

Entertainment? Albin was conflicted between relief and anger, as he stepped back into the one room palace.

The despot hefted his bulk off the chair and plodded towards an ornately carved bar hutch, from which he retrieved a bottle of whiskey.

“Thirsty?”

Albin shook his head but thanked him.

Jackson shrugged. “Suit yourself.” He filled a crystal goblet to the brim, took a sip, and sauntered back to the desk, with bottle and goblet in hand.

“So, Mister Stromgren, you are a man of means, I see.” The half-full bottle landed hard against the green leather desk cover. Jackson remained standing as he swept his beverage free hand around the room. “I’ve noticed you admiring my décor. I like it too. As a man of your standing can appreciate, most of these pieces are from the early part of this century and older.” He gave a dismissive wave, then continued. “I don’t care much for anything newer than the twenties.” Thus, an in-depth sermon was launched about each article, with a heavy emphasis on value and acquisition. The deviant was a library about the finer things.

Fascinated, Albin was fully engaged, and flicked away the guilt that tugged at his ear. He would beg the Father’s forgiveness when he crossed paths with the starving. Lucifer’s lair was beguiling.

“And here, this right here, is the soul of this place. You understand, Stromgrem?” Jackson caressed the top of a Regency-Era mahogany card table. “You like games, Stromgren?”

“I-I,” Albin was at a loss. Gambling was a sin and he wasn’t a card player, at least not anymore. As a boy, he’d enjoyed Skitgubbe at the kitchen table with his brothers and cousins, but this table had seen far less innocence. The whole tour was bait to get him to this point. Albin was a pawn in a game, an object of amusement for a bored monarch.

Stone grey eyes deadpanned Albin in demand for the inevitable response. Albin’s tongue was lashed by fear and morals ingrained since early childhood.

“Simple question, Stromgren.”

Albin cleared his throat. “Is this for sport, or is there a reward?”

The granite mouth bent into a smile. “We each have something the other wants. I want the gold, I always do, but what is it you want? Food? New clothes? A bath?” He winked at Albin. “The company of one of my girls? Of course, you’ll need the last two before any of them will ‘accompany’ you.”

“A claim of my own. What I came to Dawson for. It seems they’ve all been spoken for.”

Jackson snapped his thick fingers, bent over his desk, and retrieved a large scroll from the top drawer. He unfurled it across the desktop, revealing a map of every creek and river surrounding Dawson.

Albin’s heart palpitated at the sight of numbered claims.

Jackson fingered a spot at the juncture of the Bonanza and Eldorado creeks. “There’s your claim. Well, not yet. Only if you win.”

Albin moved in to get a closer look. “Gold Hill?”

The boulder-sized head shook. “Nope. Those are taken. French Hill, just next to it, on the other side of Irish Gulch.”

Albin used the scale at the bottom of the map to determine that French Hill was about fifteen miles from Dawson. Not a bad trek, considering how far he’d already come. Bonanza and Eldorado were renowned for their yields, so why not try French Hill? The proverbial fly in the ointment was that claim eleven sat on a hill above Eldorado Creek rather than along the creek itself.

Jackson read his mind. “It’s a bench claim, and they’ve gotten a bad rap. Everyone wants the creeks but,” he pointed to his temple. “The smart folks think differently. Besides, that’s all that’s left. Take it or leave it.”

Albin sighed. He’d never heard of a bench claim, but the Klondike King waited for an answer.

“What kind of game?”

“Name it. I’ve got cards and dice, even a roulette wheel.” He looked at the clock. “I haven’t got all night.”

“Can I just purchase the claim? With this gold?”

Jackson burst into laughter. The man’s temperament was unnerving. “I like your humor. Stromgren, you barely have enough dust to buy a pickaxe, at least by Dawson prices. I don’t really need your gold, though I’d be happy to keep it. What I want is some fun. Oh, but I do like to help the less fortunate, such as yourself. Have you dozed through my entire presentation? I have it all, Stromgren! So how about it? Allow me to choose. We’ll play Devil’s Dice. The rules are simple. Number one is that the one who rolls the highest total out of three rolls each, wins.”

He opened a small drawer in the card table and grabbed a pair of ivory dice. “Rule number two, we use these. You can examine them, Stromgren. You’ll find them to be of standard weight. I’m not a cheat. I’ve come by my wealth with old fashioned hard work.” He gave the dice to Albin. “See for yourself.”

Albin examined them and found nothing out of sorts. He dropped them on the table.

“Rule three, the dice must remain on this table after the toss, anything that falls will be disqualified. They must bounce at least once. We shake on this before any dice are cast. A gentleman’s blood oath if you will. Now pay close attention to this one, Stromgren.” The stones narrowed to pebbles. “I’m honest and will always honor the contract. What about you? What kind of man are you? I’ve placed my trust in you, but I hope it’s not misplaced. If that trust is broken, you’ll meet a bad end. Dawson is a viper’s nest full of no-accounts, and I’ll not be victimized.”

After the threat had been delivered, Jackson’s countenance shifted like the tides. He extended his right hand and grinned. “What about it? Do we have an accord?”

Albin gulped but inquired about the obvious. “So, if I win, I keep the gold and the claim is mine?”

Jackson chuckled, “Well, yes, but I’ll require a thirty percent royalty.”

Albin was initially stunned, but quickly grew indignant. Of course, the royalty. Anyone who dubbed himself a king could demand such. But “King” Jackson wasn’t omniscient. He couldn’t possibly account for every ounce.

“I suppose that if you win, I hand over my gold and leave with nothing. Is that the way of it?”

“Why, you’re a weasel impossible to catch asleep! I suspect that a man of your wits will take my generous offer.” The hand moved closer.

Albin took it. “You have yourself an accord.”

The massive hand swallowed Albin’s, the way a snake ate a mouse. “Trekking miles through an Alaskan winter, and now wagering with the King of Dawson. I admire your moxie.” He pointed to the dice. “You first.”

Albin took a breath deep breath and rolled. The ivory pair skittered halfway across the table and stopped on a total of five. Way too low.

“My turn,” Jackson snatched the dice and tossed them. They bounced and rolled for a lifetime, before producing a devastating sum of nine.

Ace whooped and clapped.

Jackson smirked, and handed the dice to Albin. “One down.”

This time he managed twelve. Unless Jackson tied, the round was his.

The crime boss clucked his tongue. The pair shot from his hand and landed on ten.

The score was nineteen to seventeen in Jackson’s favor. The challenger rattled the dice in his hand and began the Lord’s prayer. “Our Father—” but nerves weakened his grip and he watched helplessly as the pair tumbled to the floor.

“Pleading to the Almighty, huh? Getting nervous, Cheechako?” Ace said.

“Ah, give the poor fella a chance, will ya?” Jackson grabbed the dice and handed them to his rival. “Try again. Last chance.”

A white-knuckled cast earned a seven. This put him five points ahead. Better than a couple, but too close to the firing line for comfort.

“Well, partner, this is it. Though I believe you have more to lose than I,” he gloated. The release appeared nonchalant, but the mouth twitch spoke volumes about Jackson’s attitude towards losing.

Both dice performed a series of lackadaisical pirouettes before coming to rest on snake eyes.

The room spun, and Albin squeezed his head to stop it. He’d won! Exuberance changed to fright. What now?

“You lucky swine!” Jackson was a locomotive boiler about to blow. He flung the dice into Albin’s chest. “Get out of here, before I kill you!”

Albin raced for the door, but the muzzle of Ace’s revolver stopped him cold.

“Leaving so soon? Don’t you want to collect your prize?” Ace giggled like an entity that dwelled beneath the cellar stairs.

“Go ahead and shoot, if you must. If I leave here empty handed, I have nothing left on earth.” How was it possible to hear his own voice above the blood rushing in his ears?

Laughter bellowed from behind Albin. Ace cut loose with another hellish peal and he lowered the gun.

“Stromgren, you should have seen yourself, just now! Did you really think we were going to send you to the Maker after you’d won fair and square?”

The blood drained from Albin’s face and pooled at his feet. What was all of this? What kind of sick minds threatened death for amusement?

Enough of this! I’ll take my gold and flee. Albin had moved one step towards the hall when a document was thrust into his hand.

“Take it and go, Stromgren, your antics are worth every ounce! Don’t worry about registering your claim, I’ll see to it. But don’t forget about my thirty.”

The exit was a blur. Albin collected his boots and jacket, then left the building with his feet on fire. The pace was maintained for several blocks before the realization of the victory struck him. Life had changed with the roll of a dice! Literally! A mitt full of gold AND a claim to boot! Hallelujah! He leapt from the boardwalk and click both heels together. He couldn’t wait to tell Isabella that he was officially a prospector!

 

***

“Is he gone?” Jackson took a sip from the whiskey glass.

“Yes, thinks he’s all that, now that he’s defeated the legend of Dawson. How’d you want this one done? Accidental trampling by a horse? Drowning in the river? Or a mining mishap?”

Jackson yawned. “Too many drownings, pick another method. I don’t care which, long as the Mounties stay out of it and you remember to nab the gold and fake claim document. Have fun. I’m going to take a nap.”

“Sure thing, Boss.” Ace closed nodded and closed the door behind him.

 

A Few Inspirational Quotes

Good morning, afternoon, evening, or midnight . . . or whatever time you are reading this. As I post this, it’s 9:30am an Tuesday, June 9. May blew past like smoke in a hurricane!

The kiddos will soon  finish Quaranschool, and are getting antsy. I have to keep an eye on them so they stay focused and away Minecraft. I honestly can’t say I blame them. 🙂

Today, I’ve decided to share a few of my instagram posts that I’ve written.  They contain, well, you decide. Have a great day, evening, night!

Everyone has their story.

bridgesmall

The sign reads. “Tamworth has it!” We should put that to the test.

Dr.suess

Choose your perspective.

darklightchoose

What most authors/bloggers hope for.

Story

Remain grateful.

Soar

Have some fun!

color

 

Vanished, A novel by Mark Bierman

 

Today I wish to take some time to promote my novel, Vanished. Now, I must be honest with you, I never thought I’d write a story about human trafficking

How it all began and why:

My father was a building contractor and had been to the impoverished nation of Haiti a number of times. He would assist with the construction of homes, churches, and a few other projects. His return meant amazing stories and disturbing photos of tiny shanties where families lived, in cramped quarters, without running water or electricity.  In fact, often, there were open streams of raw sewage that ran close to these squalid huts.

In October of 2010, my brother-in-law accompanied my father to decimated post-earthquake Haiti. Yes, you guessed it, another construction project.

“Oh, take a journal with you and write in it every day,” I instructed them. “I want to write an article for a magazine about your experiences.”

The pair dutifully completed their “assignments” and I was blessed with a plethora of information and colorful stories. That’s when the idea came for a book. Yes, but why Human Trafficking? Well, I have spent years working as a Correctional Officer and my mind instinctively wandered to the criminal element, I also enjoy reading action novels. I really believe, too, that this book was a therapy for me, to cleanse my mind of the negative experiences of working in a prison.

Please be aware that the book contains NO graphic violence or sexual deviance. I DO NOT create rape scenes, nor describe grotesque injuries or deaths.

A quick summary of Vanished:

Tyler Montgomery loses his wife to cancer and is grieved beyond consoling. His father-in-law, John Webster, cannot bear the loss of his daughter, both men are headed for self-destruction. When the opportunity for the mission trip arises, Trudy, John’s wife, convinces the pair to go. Though she grieves herself, she puts their needs first and believes this Good Samaritan experience will be a distraction.

They arrive in Port-de-Paix, Haiti, which is relatively untouched by the earthquake and find their host, a missionary named Steve Tracey. He drives them to Rescue Haiti Mission, their home for the next month. At dinner that night, they meet a lovely young woman named Mahalia, who takes in the Mission’s laundry, and her sweet seven-year-old daughter, Chantale.

All goes well for the first while, until Mahalia bursts into the cafeteria during dinner, proclaiming that Chantale has been taken, her cherished doll found abandoned on the road. A local search leads nowhere, and the police are unwilling to help. Even Steve tells them to accept that little Chantale is lost forever. The earthquake has created too many problems and these children are never found.

Unaccustomed to such atrocities, and reeling with the pain of their own loss, the two Americans develop a strong desire to do the right thing. Steve resists, at first, citing the dangers and fallibility of the undertaking.

One day, in a fit of frustration, Steve declares that Chantale is as good as dead. Mahalia overhears this and reacts strongly. She ignores Steve and approaches Tyler, the look of sorrow in her eyes is what he sees in the mirror daily.

Mahalia shoves a photo of her daughter, and the doll into Tyler’s hands. She locks eyes with him and utters the words that begin a terrifying journey into the underbelly of Haitian society.

“Don’t listen to him. He has given up hope for many things. You are a good man. I know you can do this. Please find her! Please find my baby!”

Yes, John and Tyler are loosely based on my kin, and yes, there are some facts and experiences they had that are incorporated into the story. However, the majority of it is fiction.

This book was written mainly for the purpose of drawing attention to the world-wide issue of Human Trafficking that is prevalent in EVERY country.

Fifty percent of the profits made from Vanished, are donated to a charity that helps victims of human trafficking.

I’ve composed a poem that speaks about Mahalia’s thoughts as she deals with her grief:

Chantale, little angel, my barren arms embrace the ghost of you; they’ve squeezed the shards of my shattered heart, since the day you were snatched away.

Blurred by the rain of constant grief, my soul’s eyes search this decimated land; baby girl, where’d you go to?

Pointed fingers accused me, for surely, I fed you to the mongrels; pay no heed, my precious child, to the evil lies they say.

Come back Chantale, the flowers you picked crumble in the vase; my will to live falls with each petal, fresh ones will die quickly, unless touched by you.

In feverish madness, I’ve commissioned strangers to the rescue, placed faith in two men, pure of heart but naïve to the ways of monsters; forgive me Chantale, for my options were few.

If to the cruelty you succumb, please climb on the Father’s lap, whisper your plea; a hug from Heaven in a rainbow’s hue.

Please check out the book trailer:

I wish to thank the professionals at 4WillsPublishing for creating such a wonderful trailer!

Vanished made the top ten list! Jan Sikes is a very talented author. Please visit her website.

Thank you so much for taking the time to learn about Vanished.

If you wish to purchase a copy, available in ebook and print format:

Amazon.com       Amazon.ca      iBooks

Connect with Mark:

Website      Facebook    Twitter    Instagram

I am also a member of  Rave Reviews Book Club a wonderful community of authors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life Lessons I Took from Books, by Patricia Furstenberg

Hello, welcome to my blog, or, if you are a regular, welcome back. My friends to the south are observing Memorial Day, a time to remember and honor those who gave their lives defending the United States.

My guest, Patricia Furstenberg,  is the author of Silent Heroes , an action-packed adventure about the U.S. Marines in Afghanistan. Please click on the link above to see my review.  Today, she discusses how books can teach us valuable life-lessons. I’ll let her take it from here.  

A good book can take us through a multitude of experiences and can bring us that little ray of light during troubled times, when we are dealing with a moral dilemma. A great book can also rekindle a blissful moment of pure happiness we once experienced, only to discard into a dusty corner of our minds. No book is useless from this point of view, any volume can become a true manna if read at the right time. We learn quicker from books, but books also help us clarify an experience we are currently dealing with. It can happen that a paragraph in a book is so enlightening that we see it as a life experience, allowing us to finally put into words a past even we went through, yet not fully dealt with.

telephonebooth

Like any life lesson from sources other than personal, those took from books cannot really be assimilated unless they overlap, at least partially, over our individual experiences. For example, it can be difficult to understand that you deserve love and that you are able to receive it if life has taught you differently. However, you do feel when you come across a wise word in a book that love might indeed suit you, so your soul becomes more prepared to accept the truth of those words.

Probably one of the most valuable lessons we learn very quickly from books is that things are rarely just white or black. Life comes in all shades and colours, no matter wat chromatic preferences we have; we cannot really categorize people, relationships, feelings, or visions.

When you feel lost, it’s almost a consolation to read Agatha Christie’s  An Autobiography and find out the trouble she faced and how she figuring out how to deal with them, so life can go on. Moreover, Austen’s Pride and Prejudice whispers that we shouldn’t be afraid if we don’t have all the answers when we need them, because it is the experience that shows us the path towards happiness. In addition, it is important not to wait for the definition of happiness to be given to us by other people because only we are the masters of our hearts.

Dumas’ Count of Monte Cristo is a motivational classic read, showing us that it is never too late to make a radical change and even one single day can be extremely important in one’s life. Time is precious. From Oscar Wild’s Picture of Dorian Gray we learn that the present is probably the most important step along the winding road that life is, and that it is best to give up the past, yet never pretend that it did not happen. One way or another, each experience we go through has a meaning and a role in shaping us and thus our subsequent choices and future existence. Along the same lines J.R.R. Tolkien The Hobbit teaches us not to deny ourselves any experience just because it might become uncomfortable; for it each one has the capacity to become a defining moment of our existence.

Larsson’s Girl with a Dragon Tattoo delivers a message similar to the one found in The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Larsson’s book shows us that anyone can become a hero, and that heroes can even be those who do not consider themselves as such; Tolkien’s trilogy tells us that sometimes even the most insignificant being can change the destiny of humanity. Any individual can play an equally important role.

Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl is a powerful life lesson through the words of a 15-year-old child. If you show imagination even in the darkest moments, this will shine a light on many qualities you never knew you possessed.

It may be that the people who have the greatest impact on our lives are not around us for a very long time. That is why is important to learn from them, about them, before they pass on. Those people, writes Mitch Albom in Tuesdays with Morrie, are the ones who help us become what we are meant to be.

For those with a love for words, Zusak’s Book Thief comes with a warning: words are valuable, don’t waste them; words are extraordinarily powerful tools. They can be used towards good or evil, so measure them carefully.

I love books for the lessons I actively learn from them and for the lessons I picked up without realizing. How not to try to do everything at once; how not to you try to change others, but to accept them as they are; how not to believe everything I’m told; how to go on an adventure, but also remember where I came from and that returning home can be even more pleasant; or how to give life purpose by helping others and how not to let those around me set their limits on what I am capable of achieving.

About Patricia:

Patsmall

Patricia Furstenberg writes with passion about history that blends with fiction, about war heroes, human or canine, and she also pens humorous poetry & haiku about nature and dogs. With a medical degree behind her, Patricia is passionate about mind, brain and education and the psychology behind it. She also loves coffee and she loves to travel.

Her latest book, Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for, is a highly emotional read, action-packed, a vivid story of enormous sacrifice and bravery. Silent Heroes is a narrative about the value of life. Whose are the spoils-of-war? A new look at the War in Afghanistan, at the MWD, Military Working Dogs and the brave Marines fighting it, but also at the Afghans caught in it.

One of her first books, Joyful Trouble, was an Amazon Bestseller in Historical Fiction, Africa.
Her book of poems “As Good As Gold” became a #1 New Release the day it was published.

Patricia’s writing is filled with “creativity and vivid imagery” and she knows how to “capture the reader’s imagination.”
Her words penned in her children’s books “truly make the world a happier and more beautiful place!”

Patricia Furstenberg came to writing though reading, her passion for books being something she inherited from her parents. As a winner of the Write Your Own Christie Competition, the Judges “were impressed by her thorough investigation and admired the strength of her narrative; they were impressed by her style”. The judges thought Patricia’s writing style is “well structured, with a great sense of tension and suspense”, “confident and intriguing”. The Judges were Mathew Prichard, David Brawn from Harper Collins UK and Daniel Mallory from Harper Collins US.

An avid reader, Patricia Furstenberg enjoys historical fiction, especially the Late Middle Ages, and war stories that are a blend of facts, folklore, mystery and include a dog or two. She also loves contemporary fiction, especially mystery and crime, classical poetry and haiku. Some of her favorite authors include, without being limited to, Agatha Christie, Kathy Reichs, Elizabeth Kostova, Dan Brown, Ionel Teodoreanu, Camil Petrescu.

‘I love to explore the human imagination. I am a tourist of history, a permanent guest in the labyrinth of books, a student in the world of art.’

Patricia blogs extensively and has articles & interviews published by Huffington Post UK, Biz Community, Books by Women.

Connect with Patricia and purchase a book: 

Website / Twitter / Facebook / Pintrest / Follow Blog on Email / Linked in / LovelyBooksDE / Goodreads / BookBub  / Amazon.com / Amazon.UK