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:

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I’d love to connect with you:

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Interview Links:

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

They Fight For Freedom

Review of Born In A Treacherous Time (Book 1 Of 3), by Jacqui Murray

Well, it’s Valentines’ Day weekend, and also one of the coldest months of the year up here, in Canada. It’s as though Mother Nature is either thumbing her nose, enacting vengeance for a serious jilting, or attempting to fire the flames of romance by freezing the body.

If you ask two, ten, a dozen, or hundreds of Canucks, you’ll get as many opinions, or maybe a shrug, followed by, “Dunno,’ sorry.”    

The story for todays’ review takes place where breath doesn’t freeze scarves rigid, nor are toques a staple, even in winter. We’re traveling to pre-historic Africa.

What Amazon says:

Born in the harsh world of East Africa 1.8 million years ago, where hunger, death, and predation are a normal part of daily life, Lucy and her band of early humans struggle to survive. It is a time in history when they are relentlessly annihilated by predators, nature, their own people, and the next iteration of man. To make it worse, Lucy’s band hates her. She is their leader’s new mate and they don’t understand her odd actions, don’t like her strange looks, and don’t trust her past. To survive, she cobbles together an unusual alliance with an orphaned child, a beleaguered protodog who’s lost his pack, and a man who was supposed to be dead.

My Turn:

Jacqui does a great job of instilling a vivid picture of what most certainly was the red in tooth and claw existence, quite literally, of early humans.

The first in a trilogy, a solid foundation is built for the next two books in this series. There is plenty of action, yet I found there were parts that grew too repetitive, and perhaps could have been left out.

I must be honest about the fact some of my personal beliefs about the ‘coming into existence’ of humanity are in conflict with certain views expressed. I’ll not argue them here, nor anywhere, as they are mine. No amount of debate will sway me, nor will I convince those who disagree. I think it’s best to agree to disagree and leave it at that.

Overall, the information presented in this book has been well-researched and conforms to the mainstream view. The main characters are well constructed and there is growth based on experience.

 I believe this novel achieves what it sets out to do. As part of a trilogy, the entire series will need to be taken into account. As of this moment, I’ll give it Four Stars.  

Meet Jacqui:

Bio

Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years both in a traditional classroom and online. She is the editor of a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and author of over a hundred books to integrate technology into education. She is adjunct professor on tech ed topics for the University of California San Diego, Colorado State University, and others. She is a Master Teacher, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics.  She is the author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days as well as the prehistoric fiction, Man vs. Nature.

She’s best known as Ask a Tech Teacher, curator of the popular blog used by teachers, administrators and homeschoolers around the world. It is the go-to resource for advice, pedagogy, tips and tricks, freebies, help, reviews, and classroom materials in tech ed. She has been quoted in national newspapers such as the Washington Post and appeared in local education-oriented radio programs such as BAM Radio and CoolCat Teacher. Her blog has received many awards from organizations such as Common Sense Media and Ed Anywhere.

Jacqui is the voice behind Structured Learning webinars, providing training to teachers and administrators on tech ed topics like flipped classrooms, digital citizenship, Common Core Standards and tech, how to organize the classroom for tech, and age-appropriate tech to support curriculum and standards.

Her teaching philosophy can be summed up in two words: critical thinking. Start with organic conversations. Make technology authentic and encourage students to take responsibility for their own learning. Instruction is self-paced, differentiated and responsive to student needs. Lessons include Essential Questions, Big Ideas and self-reflection.

Jacqui works with teachers and school districts to integrate technology into their school curriculum and standards, running seminars on using tech tools in the classroom, introducing educators to popular ideas like the flipped classroom, differentiation, setting up the digital classroom, using tech in Common Core and more. She also writes articles and white papers for Districts to be shared on blogs, newsletters, and parent information guides.

Jacqui Murray has a BA in Economics, a BA in Russian, an MBA, and a California teaching credential. Before teaching, she worked in the business world for twenty years. She has a daughter who attended the United States Naval Academy and now serves as an Officer in the Navy doing cybersecurity, and a son who attended UC Irvine and serves as an Army SGT in the Signal Corps. She also has a brilliant Labrador Retriever named Casey—what a character. She spends most of her time teaching, reading, geeking, and writing.

Connect with her and purchase your copy:

My Amazon author page

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My LinkedIn profile

My Ask a Tech Teacher Twitter page

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askatechteacher@gmail.com

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:

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Review Of Sophia Von X, by Victoria Ray

So, Monday morning it is, and it’s review day here at Adventures in Writing. This book comes to you courtesy of Thriller author, Victoria Ray.

In my last review I paired the novel with a wine and there were several requests that I do it again. So, after Googles of extensive research, the best pairing I could deduce was a Cabernet Franc. Sound about right?

What Amazon Says:

“Sophia von X” is a 2020 Readers’ Favorite Silver Medal Winner in the Fiction – Religious Theme genre!

It was supposed to be a vacation, the trip to a newly discovered tomb of Jesus…

When Sabina Ferrara was driving to Bingerbruck, Germany, she was hoping to put a painful marriage behind her. Certain unforeseen events turned against her and during a visit to Christ’s tomb, she is meeting Thomas von Essen – a dangerous thief, who is hiding behind the name of a decent family, pretending that he is a famous archaeologist. Against her will, Sabina is dragged into the middle of the stealing of biblical artifacts, killings, and shootings. She ended up attracting the attention of an unknown enemy from Jerusalem, a wicked man called Papa Zen. A powerful mogul who knows too much about Sabina and her mysterious birthmark. She is the one he was looking for so long…

12 lost pages from the Bible
Car chasing, guns, and fights
Yakuza and Ndrangheta families
Palermo, Istanbul, Jerusalem
Deaths, tears, broken hearts

Sophia von X is a story of violence and obsession, secrets and tragedy, lies, hate, and love.

My Turn:

Sophia Von X is a fast-paced, hard hitting, down a crazy class six rapids, river ride, that you don’t have to don a life preserver for. There’s plenty of thrills and deadly encounters to keep the adrenaline junkie glued to those pages!

The main protagonist experiences a tremendous lifestyle and personality change, that is sparked by a series of tragic events. She grows in confidence and maturity as she struggles to hold on to her religious beliefs and reconcile them with the evil she encounters.  The plot was solid but required a bit more proofreading for spelling, though it was usually the occasional missing ‘s’ at the end of a plural, rather than outright misspelling. The style does occasionally morph into a movie script style of writing, so just be aware of that.  

Overall, an entertaining and well-crafted story. I’ll give Sophia Von X, Four Stars!

Meet Victoria Ray:

Victoria Ray NB lives in Sweden with her family and two dogs: Daisy and Sky. She holds a PhD in Classic Russian Literature.

She is working in genres:
– surreal humor and comedy,
– satire,
– Ero Guro (erotica + grotesque),
– absurdist science-fiction/fantasy,
– thriller.

Connect with her and purchase your copy:

Amazon.com

Amazon Author Page

Website and Blog

Twitter

Review of This Last Chance, by D.L. Finn

Have you had the chance to curl up with a good book this Holiday Season? Something to distract you from this topsy-turvy era of COVIDocalypse? Do you enjoy supernatural battles between good and evil? Are your nails trimmed to the point that you cannot bite them any shorter? Yes? Great!

Please scroll down to see if, This Last Chance, by D.L. Finn, pairs nicely with a warm fire and that glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.

By the way, D.L. is also a fantastic poet.

What Amazon says:

Six months after Amber’s sister is brutally murdered, she’s still looking for answers, and now someone is stalking her and no one believes her. Home alone with a powerful snowstorm approaching, Amber is determined to take control of the investigation by hiring a private detective, but her plans are disrupted when she finds herself snowed in with people she may not be able to trust. Meanwhile, Nester the evildwel, whose entire existence has been feeding on fear and pain, is seeking help from the angel who’s protecting Amber. Nester and Amber need answers. Can Amber figure out what’s going on with some subtle help from an angel? Will Nester find what he needs from his enemies? The worlds of good and evil clash, and the outcome will determine not only Amber’s and Nester’s fate but life as they know it.

My Turn:

Unseen forces battle for the future of earth, while unsuspecting humans go about their daily lives. This novel is a unique spin on the classic tale of good versus evil.  

Amber Dodges is a news reporter on the hunt for the killer of her twin sister, Iris. She unknowingly attracts the attention of the evildwels, the angels, and the killer.

Finn has created a strong female protagonist in Amber, who lives, quite literally, by the motto, “Never say die!”

A view of the supernatural and terrestrial worlds, are constantly interchanged throughout this story, providing a chilling premonition that something terrible is about to happen. You may need a few more sips of that Cabernet to ease the nerves.

As the story unfolds, Amber is threatened and grows leery of all, as she tries to determine who is a ‘friend or foe’. This fact is left for the reader to puzzle over, until the climax is reached.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who desires a peek beyond the veil of the spiritual/mortal realms.  Anyone who relishes a decent thriller, without the gore of a typical slasher story, will be appreciate the strong plot and high stakes drama. I’m giving this one a Four-Star rating!

Meet D.L. Finn:

D.L. Finn is an independent California local who encourages everyone to embrace their inner child. She was born and raised in the foggy Bay Area, but in 1990 relocated with her husband, kids, dogs, and cats to the Sierra foothills in Nevada City, CA. She immersed herself in reading all types of books, but especially loved romance, horror, and fantasy. She always treasured creating her own reality on paper. Finally, being surrounded by towering pines, oaks, and cedars, her creativity was nurtured until it bloomed. Her creations vary from children’s books, young adult fantasy, and adult paranormal romance to an autobiography with poetry. She continues on her adventures with an open invitation for her readers to join her.

Connect with D.L. and purchcase your copy:

Twitter:  @dlfinnauthor

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D.L. is a member of Rave Reviews Book Club.

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