Happy Friday! Though the clouds have rolled in and threaten rain, nothing can dampen my spirits as I read the latest review of my novel. The fact that this was written by a very gifted author named, Yvette M Calleiro, makes this even sweeter!
She’s authored some fantastic novels and I’ve included links to her sites at the end of this blog. Thanks, Yvette, you’ve made my day!
I would also like to mention that 50% of the proceeds from book sales are donated to organizations that help victims of human trafficking.
Here’s the details, if you’re unfamiliar with the story:
Tragedy… heartache… how much more can Tyler Montgomery and John Webster take? This missions trip, the “healing” one, has only added fresh layers of pain. Construction of an orphanage in Haiti’s northwest… yes. But a doomed rescue operation, human traffickers, human anomalies, extreme personal danger… risk of death? They hadn’t signed up for those.
Turning their backs on the crisis, however, is unthinkable, it’s just not who they are.
What an AMAZING story! Not only does this book focus on the real and serious topic of child trafficking, but it also shows the human spirit, both the good and the evil. The author does a wonderful job creating unique characters who push the story along. The pace of the story is thrilling – every page takes you on a crazy roller coaster of a ride through heart-breaking dangers. And as much as I hated seeing certain characters die, I felt the author did right by the realities of these situations.
There were a few typos that I’ve brought to the author’s attention, but it never took me out of enjoying the story. Normally, I would deduct one star for those, but this story was so engaging, so powerful, and so purposeful that I chose to keep it at five stars. I look forward to reading more from this author. 🙂
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.
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 4WillsPublishingfor 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:
Today I have the privilege of hosting Madison Wicklam. A few months ago, she embarked on a journey that would take her on a worldwide mission of mercy that was made possible by an organization called YWAM (Youth With A Mission). I have included a link to YWAM at the bottom of this blog, for those interested in learning more.
The experiences this young woman had were unforgettable. While serving others, she gained valuable personal growth and close friendships.
What places have you traveled to, and served in, while involved with YWAM? Which one was most memorable?
The first place on my long journey with YWAM was Las Vegas. The actual school part of my discipleship training school was held in Las Vegas, Nevada. While in this school, we were involved in a diverse community where we all grew closer to God and served Him there. Ministry in Las Vegas involved handing out self care packages and talking to and praying for women on the most popular prostitution “track” in Vegas, working with Nevada Child Seekers to bring missing, young women and men home and simply going to the most tourist populated areas to raise awareness about human trafficking. These are just some of the many ministry aspects that YWAM Las Vegas is involved with.
The one part of YWAM Las Vegas is that they have a mini outreach (mission trip) to Mexico halfway through their school. In Ensenada, we worked with boys and girls rehab centres, we delivered coats and prayer to women and men in the red light district of Tijuana, and we spent time at a migrant camp playing with children and encouraging the women who were in less than ideal circumstances.
On our two month outreach, we stayed in Kathmandu, Nepal for a month doing slum ministry, teaching English, dance bar ministry, cabin bar ministry, and lots of prayer/intercession over the city. For the second month, my team split up and my half of the team went to Thailand while our other half went to Uganda. In Thailand, we spent most of our time in a village where young girls are taken into the city of Bangkok to be put into slavery and being human trafficked. Our ministry consisted of loving on young kids and showing them that Jesus gives them hope. We also had the opportunity to minister to some of the young children’s parents which was very important in saving these children from being sent into turmoil. The most memorable place for me was Nepal. I fell in love with the children and all of the ministry we did with them. Their need for love was so apparent and me being a carrier of the love of the Father, I wanted to love on every single one of those precious children. Working with these children will always be my most memorable part of my outreach. They will always be in the back of my mind and I hope to go back to visit these kids who really changed my heart.
Any particular life-changing experience(s) you want to share?
Pretty much my entire time in Nepal was life changing. During our time there, I experienced God in so many new ways and I really had to rely on Him daily to get me through some pretty hard times there. Every morning we would go to the slums which was a small community of little shacks and tents right off of a busy highway. We took our team to a little shed and as the children saw us come in, they would join, and we would sing songs about Jesus, share a bible story, and teach English to them. In this group of kids there were about three or four girls around the age of twelve to fourteen that expressed they did not have parents. I do not know the circumstances in which caused them to have to raise their siblings, but my heart absolutely broke for these strong young women. They are also very much at risk for being taken out of this slum and put directly into a dance bar, cabin bar, or brothel where they will be sexually exploited for money. In a situation like this it is hard to see God’s hand but He has surely protected them this far and I have so much faith that He will continue to shield them. These girls really influenced me in how their lives were less than ideal but they found so much joy in praising God and taking care of their families. I really grew during these difficult days in Nepal as God significantly grew my faith in Him. There were multiple times where I could have lost hope or been discouraged in a situation where He did not give me the answer I was makes all things work together for my good in HIS timing and not mine. Having Him reveal this to me, really made the rest of my outreach a lot easier and I completely leaned on Him when I felt overwhelmed or discouraged.
Why should other youth consider joining YWAM? Or become involved in the fight against human trafficking?
Other youth should consider joining YWAM for so many reasons. The major reasons I can think of are to grow their relationship with Jesus, fight for a cause they are passionate about, learn more about the word and God’s calling on their life, travel the world, meet new people, get introduced to new cultures/ways of life, build life long friendships and set a fire in their own life to see their lives transformed. Through YWAM youth have an amazing opportunity to follow and work for a passion that they have including human trafficking. YWAM Las Vegas offers young people a chance to explore the harsh realities of human trafficking by bringing in special speakers who were once trafficked themselves, parents of trafficking victims, police officers working on the front lines and others in the community working tirelessly to prevent human trafficking. During the school, my team and I would go out into the most high risk areas for human trafficking to pray for women, hand out care packages and ask them some key questions in indicating if they are involved in human trafficking or not. This was a hard task but so rewarding when we were able to help out one of these young women. I believe youth who have a passion for anti-human trafficking should definitely check out YWAM Las Vegas.
Have you made lifetime friends?
I definitely have made lifelong friends. During the course of the discipleship training school I became very close with a lot of people. When living in community, being open and vulnerable with the people around you is necessary because during the course of the school, you go trough a lot personally and spiritually. It is essential to talk things through with people and the small community around you can understand what is going on and it makes it easy to confide in them. Living with the same group of people for 5 months has its ups and downs but it is definitely a life-changing experience and I believe it will better prepare me for life at post secondary and even for when I have my own family some day.
Has this experience influenced your career decision?
This experience has influenced my career choice indefinitely. I never would have thought I would want to be the type of person to pursue missions but I can definitely see myself continuing with intercultural ministry. I am also hoping to continue in social work/human services at post secondary in attempts to eventually work with young women involved in human trafficking in a professional setting. My heart has broken for missions and helping victims of this modern day slavery so I am excited to see how God uses me in these areas. I am ready to go where He sends me and I know He has big plans for my walk with Him.
Madison Wicklam is an 18-year-old from a small town hoping to reach the nations. She has a passion for children living in less than ideal situations and those enslaved by human trafficking. Madison has recently come back from a five-month missions trip that she describes as life changing. She now thrives to spread the love of God that she has experienced so deeply in her own life.
This is a Guest Blog Post about my novel, Vanished, that was kindly hosted by author Karen Ingalls.
I am grateful to Karen for this opportunity! Please click on the following link to view and purchase Karen’s novels: Amazon.com
Here is the Guest Post:
Author, Mark Bierman
I am pleased to have Rave Reviews Book Club Member, Mark Bierman, as my guest this week. Drawing on his work as a private investigator and a correctional officer, Mark combinesunique experiences and imagination to create stories and characters.
His novel, Vanished, is a remarkable story about Human Trafficking.
When a shared tragedy strikes the lives of John Webster an his son-in-law, Tyler Montgomery, they seek healing by embarking on a good will mission to earthquake-ravaged Haiti.
The mission quickly changes from benign to perilous after a young girl is kidnapped by human traffickers, and the pair make a promise to the child’s mother that may cost them everything.
The two ordinary men undertake the extraordinary, forming unholy alliances with the seedy underbelly of an impoverished land, as they struggle to keep their moral fiber from unravelling.
Giving Back: Fifty percent of the proceeds from the sales of Vanished are donated to organizations that help victims of human trafficking.
Coincidence? A few months after publishing Vanished, Mark befriended a missionary family that was actively helping victims in Cambodia. He continues to support their amazing work.
Change of plans: The idea for Vanished came about when Mark decided to write a magazine article about an actual mission trip to post-earthquake Haiti. The trip had been undertaken by his father and brother-in-law. The main characters are loosely based on them. They each kept a journal about their experiences, and though neither encountered human traffickers, a percentage of the facts and experiences they logged were used in the novel.
“The subject of human trafficking is a painful subject to read about, but it is something that we all need to be aware of in hopes of bringing an end to this horrible part of most societies. Mr. Bierman does an excellent job of bringing the subject to the forefront through a fictional story. The actions of two Americans in a foreign country to bring one little girl safely home is the story line.
I had to give it four stars because there was too much detailed description of their hunt through the forest and the mine. All in all, this is a book I would recommend to anyone.
By Karen Ingalls
“Really great book about the hidden world of human trafficking. A friend referred to this author, and I’m glad he did! The story is based in Haiti and is not only a good read, but is also thought provoking and well written.
I highly recommend it and look forward to other books by this author. Great job!
By Gail M.
Born and raised on a farm near Brockville, Ontario, Mark Bierman’s childhood consisted of of chores, horseback riding, fishing trips to a local lake, snowmobile races, and many other outdoor adventures.
Transitioning to adulthood also meant moving from the farm into large urban centers that introduced this ‘country boy’ to life in the ‘big city’.
Please follow these links to see what Mark is up to: