First off I want to start out by saying we had crazy weather last evening. I’m talking a major snowstorm and a thunderstorm at the same time! It’s called ‘Thundersnow’ and this is the first time I’ve personally witnessed it. Nothing like the sight of a blizzard backdropped by flashes of lightning, let me tell you.
But now I’m moving on to discuss a place that never sees snow, and a story that will nest in your heart forever.
Interested? Please read on!
Here’s the Gist:
In this commercial fiction novel with an historical backdrop, The Sons and Daughters of Toussaint, Isaac Breda seeks to renew the revolution of his famous forefather, Toussaint Louverture. He is depressed that a revolution which had so much potential, and which had cost so much, seemed to have so little to show for it. He resolves to start a non-violent revolution to make their freedom real. In the first half of the novel, the story is told by alternating chapters between historical sections, telling the story of Toussaint and his compatriots, and contemporary sections, where Isaac seeks to renew Toussaint’s spirit in his people. Isaac’s story intersects with that of his best friend’s beautiful sister, Marie-Noëlle. At first she is mainly focused on moving to the United States and making her fame and fortune in modeling. But her character develops into a powerful agent of change herself. When Isaac dies at the hands of entrenched interests in Haiti, the revolution falls on her shoulders. The immense challenge transforms both her and her country.
When I was a kid, my dad went to Haiti several times to help with a number of construction projects. While he often told me stories about his experiences, two things stick out in my memory. The photos of treeless and eroding mountainsides, with small shanties built at their bases, and the resilience of the people.
This is exactly what I found on the pages of this inspiring novel. A nation that has struggled to gain a foothold in the climb towards democracy, despite being under constant assault by dictators, gangs, and natural disasters.
Madsen paints a vivid and accurate picture of the trials and triumphs of a land under constant pressure, and it starts with the historical revolution led by Toussaint Louverture. As a student of history, I appreciated the switching perspectives between Toussaint’s day and the twenty-first century revolution led by Isaac. Bravery in the face of tremendous danger is realistically tempered with the protagonist’s bouts of self doubt and discouragement.
Buoyed by the courageous support of the people, his closest allies, and the love of his life, Marie-Noelle, Isaac finds the strength to face the monsters. With an eye towards changing the national political landscape and Haiti’s global reputation, Isaac learns to savour the smaller victories. One scene depicts him standing beside a litter free river that had once been choked with garbage. The locals had banded together for the clean up. He smiles even though his ultimate goal remains distant.
But this is about more than just one man, and the hearts of the people continue to beat strongly long after he’s gone. Marie continues what Isaac began as she lives up to the bold statement, “Nou pa pè!”
I am a retired minister, living in East Wenatchee, Wa., who teaches chess to children, works for AmeriCorps, teaching about the Opioid Pandemic, AND writing fiction!
Happy Friday! I hope everyone’s week has gone well, but if it’s been a long one, may your weekend be longer, and way more fun!
Today I just wanted to post a couple of reviews for, Vanished. For those of you who have already read and reviewed it, my most heartfelt, “Thank you!”
I hope some of you will consider grabbing your copy . . . purchase links are posted below (available in paperback and ebook). Fifty percent of the proceeds from the sales of my book are donated to help victims of human trafficking.
So what’s it about, Bierman?
How about a quick teaser?
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.
It would seem that on the most basic level of humanity children should be protected, nurtured and loved. It’s a concept most find little to no argument with. But this isn’t always the case. Vanished a debut novel by Mark Bierman is the story of John and Tyler (father and son-in-law) who travel to Haiti to help build an orphanage, and in turn find solace after the recent loss of their wife/daughter.
Things take a turn when the daughter of a friend is kidnapped. The two missionaries from America find themselves quickly learning a harsh reality, children in this poverty stricken part of the world are not safe. Child trafficking is a huge issue. One in which, sadly, the local authorities seem indifferent to. Despite the obvious disadvantages of being in a foreign country and a language barrier, John and Tyler take it upon themselves to find her. They embark on a very exasperating journey with great opposition.
Mark Bierman is very good at creating multiple storylines which read as separate but come together to tell a very well crafted story. One which delves into the scourge of humanity from all angles. I was instantly drawn in (especially with the plight of Janjak). Vanished is fast paced, and heart-wrenching. A very well written journey into the lengths mankind will take to preserve what is right and good in the world, against those who fight just as hard to maintain the evil.
I really love this book, it is an eye opener. It makes one contemplate what they would be willing to do in order to keep their loved ones and society safe. I highly recommend it.
Mark Bierman’s Vanished is a work of fiction, but the story propels us to the scene of the violent 2010 earthquake in Haiti. John, and his son-in-law, Tyler, volunteer to assist with an orphanage months later following the devastation. Their relationship is strongly convincing as they cope with the passing of Tyler’s wife, Joy (John’s daughter). They hope to channel their grief by aiding others, which will help them through the various stages.
Little do they know what lies ahead on their journey. When a little girl disappears out of the blue, John and Tyler are transported into the horrific world of human trafficking and child slavery. Her mother spirals into a frenzy of fear, imagining her daughter’s possible impending plight. These appalling crimes are so common, though, that no effort is enforced to finding this little girl, but morally, John and Tyler can’t just look the other way. They embark on a quest riddled with danger lurking around each corner.
In addition to John and Tyler, supporting characters seize the spotlight, and their stories and struggles are just as intense and page-turning. I was really impressed with the manner in which Mark’s clever writing intertwines all roles. Sympathizing with the abused while loathing the abusers comes effortlessly. Most importantly, holding onto hope with a strong grip is significant as the rescue mission continues. At first, I was reluctant to read this book because of the unthinkable topics. Mark’s novel may be a work of fiction, but the subject matter is not only horrifying and heartbreaking, it’s very real. There are moments in the book where I held my breath, and one scene especially had me feeling a little claustrophobic. Regardless, I couldn’t put this book down because of Mark’s excellent writing and delivery. The story is fast-paced and gripping, an edge-of-your-seat read. I give this book 5 stars. Highly recommended!
5.0 out of 5 stars Tense heart rending thought provoking thriller! – Itssandrini
Wow!! Edge of your seat dramatically exciting dark read. While the book is completely fiction the subject matter of human trafficking is a very real occurrence. He really brings the plight of these unfortunate people of which most are children to light. Quite a challenging read as he tells the story of children being snatched up from the streets never to be seen again. The author takes us to the underbelly of Haiti in The Dominican Republic. This complex plot takes us on a roller coaster of a ride as the story progresses. Tyler & John have gone on a mission trip, to Haiti, to help with construction work, on a children’s orphanage. They put themselves in extreme danger as they get embroiled in a rescue operation for one of the children. They have no idea what they have got themselves into as they face violence & danger on a whole new other level. They are principled men & cannot walk away no matter how hard it gets. This fast paced thrilling read although upsetting & heart rending is a real page turner. A thought provoking read. 📖 The author also donates 50% of his sales from the book to help agencies that help the victims of human trafficking.
Have I caught your interest?
Website – Read a few sample chapters and grab one!
Day two of the kiddos being home for another round of online learning. I must admit, this particular round has not been as difficult as the others. Perhaps we are just all getting more adroit at this thing, as time goes on.
Today, I am reviewing Ronald L. Powell, Missing in Action, by Shirley H. Slaughter
What Amazon says:
My brother dropped out of school and joined the Marines around 1963. By the time our Mother found him (he enlisted without telling anyone) he had been through basic training and was preparing to go to war. He told her in a letter, “Mom, I don’t think I’m going to make it …” This is a memoir of my brave brother, Ronald Louis Powell, who died under mysterious circumstances along with 57 of his comrades. Nothing was ever said or written about this tragedy. This is my way of keeping his story alive and bringing some closure.
A heartbreaking account of a beloved brother lost to war and the author’s struggle to come to terms with a brother who never came home. The lack of transparency shown by the government adds more pain and prevents closure for the family.
Deep and personal, this short story draws sympathy for the family and in the end, left me feeling great admiration for the brave men and women who put their lives on the line, in service. I was also discouraged by the lack of concern on behalf of the government to be forthcoming in the facts of his death. A wonderful tribute to Ronald. Three Stars.
Shirley Harris-Slaughter’s first book highlights her passion for history which led to her first published work, Our Lady of Victory, the Saga of an African American Catholic Community. But she wouldn’t have been able to write that book had she not had the presence of mind to conquer the health crisis she found herself in. She is an advocate for natural health and healing. Any problem that she had to face, she found her way out of it through sheer determination.
This led to her second book CRAZY! HOT! AND LIVING ON THE EDGE!! She has written a couple of short stories including contributing essays in her Book Club’s Rave Soups Series.
She spends most of her time these days watching movies and episodes of “Suits.”
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.