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

HIIT your writing and watch it improve!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy writing!  

Now, what about that ‘k’?

This past Wednesday, I decided to extend my sincerest wishes to my American friends to the south for a peaceful Inauguration Day.

I fired up my Word Press account and pecked away at the keyboard, like a barnyard chicken. At the completion of the task, I proofread my piece and hit “Publish.”

Pleased that I was able to send mental and digital ‘vibes’ of goodwill, I proceeded to go about my day, when something caught my eye.

I’m sure my sister and her family down in Ohio could have heard my best Homer Simpson impression of, “Doh!”

That would have been accompanied with the echo of my hands smacking my forehead. How could I have missed such a ridiculous typo?

You see, the opening line was supposed to read: I would like to convey my sincerest hope for a peaceful transition of power and healing for the nation of the United States.

 In actuality, the ‘k’ must have decided to take its March Break early, because it read: I would lie to convey my sincerest hope for a peaceful transition of power and healing for the nation of the United States.

A bit frustrated with myself, I was glad that it had, at this point, only received a single view. I quickly grabbed the ‘k’ off the beach chair, and yes, I drank the brat’s mimosa. The AWOL letter was stuffed back in place.

Satisfied, I went into the kitchen where my grade-schoolers were munching on their cereal and contemplating yet another “delightful” day of COVID-style homeschooling.

It was about twenty minutes later that my phone ‘pinged’ an incoming message. It was from Mom and she’d noticed the missing ‘k’ and suggested I change it. Was she that one viewer? No, too early, she would have been doing her Bible reading around that time.

My head ached with another smack when I realized that I’d forgotten that my blog is set to share on Facebook and Twitter once published. She reads my posts on FB. I went to the computer, but of course, the post had been graciously retweeted and was now out in Twitterverse.

I corrected the post on FB and sent out a corrected retweet explaining that it was a typo and that I was sincere in my wishes. Of course, I knew that people are intelligent enough to realize it was a simple mistake, but it was still somewhat embarrassing.

I’ve clacked out the above sentences in the hope of producing a knowing smile on your part. I also wished to demonstrate how easy it is for the eyes and mind to be fooled. I think most of us are so accustomed to reading and writing, that our brains know how most words are spelled, so we read them that way.

You can’t always rely on spellcheck either, because it may not catch the proper context of the word. Hence the need for a second pair of eyes when you are ready to publish.

There are many words in the English language that seem completely illogical in their spelling.

Take the word ‘knife’ for instance. I could see Dalbert, quill in hand, at the dinner table, scratching out his latest poem. He gets  a hankering for a piece of sourdough bread and asks “Ada, can you pass me the nife?”

Ada, being relatively modern, wants to try out an abbreviated form of a new slang word she’s just learned, and responds with, “K.”

Dalbert, who just happened to be writing an ode to his nife collection, scratches the letter ‘k’ onto the parchment. He quickly realizes his mistake, smacks his head, covering it with expensive ink. There’s nothing for it, their ink supplies are low, and he needs to sell another goat before he can buy more.

 He shrugs it all off and mumbles, “There is no ‘butterfly effect’ that will come of this.”

I’ve prattled on long enough, you get my point.

Disclaimer: Any spelling or grammatical errors made in this document are entirely the fault of spell check, Word Press, or the author’s rogue fingers. The author takes no personal responsibility for any unintentional changes to the language of English that may be caused. 🙂

Guest Post by Mae Clair.

Today I’m thrilled to host talented Author Mae Clair! I’ve personally read and enjoyed a number of her books and she comes highly rcommended! She’s here to discuss a new anthology created by seven authors, including herself. They all have something in common,  murder and mystery. You can find out more about purchasing your copy at the end of this blog.

Thank you for visiting! I’ll let Mae take it from here.

BookBrushImage431

Thanks for hosting me today, Mark. I’m delighted to be here sharing news of an anthology in which I have a short story.  Murder They Wrote brings together seven authors writing in various sub genres of whodunits and various time periods.

 

You can see the variety reflected in the blurb: 

Anthology Cover  Murder comes in 7 different genres. By 7 different authors.

Are you a fan of courtroom drama? In the anthology’s first story, Abraham Lincoln defends a friend’s son against a charge of murder.

For lovers of speculative fiction, Jason Fogg dissolves into mist to sneak through open windows and snoop for clues.

How about a cozy? Jazzi, Jerod, and Ansel discover a dead body while renovating a kitchen, dining room, and half bath.

Have a craving for a Regency? Lord Peregrine and his wife, Elizabeth, use their sharp minds and quick wit to solve a murder at a garden party.

Need a bit of literary fiction? A young, lonely widow must deal with the theft of a valuable butterfly collection.

And what about a little psychological horror? Twin sisters discover that their attic is haunted by not one, but two ghosts.

Last, but never least, the anthology concludes with a historical mystery. A young, newly married knight is accused of murdering his obnoxious host at a holiday gathering in his castle.


I am so pleased to be part of this anthology with such an excellent group of authors. My story, A Winter Reckoning, gave me a chance to play outside of my usual supernatural mystery genre. Naturally, the mystery is still there, but this tale lacks for a supernatural presence. No ghosts or creatures.

What you do get is a young knight who accepts a task that would normally fall to his father who has been detained at court. That leaves Richard Essex to escort his mother’s closest friend to a holiday party, in order to protect her from the party’s lecherous host. To complicate matters, the father-in-law who despises him is among the guests.

One of my favorite parts of writing this story was in creating the roster of suspects. It was fun to “stack the deck” with so many potential killers. The pleasure of a mystery rests in trying to piece together the clues and identify the killer before the lead character does. Richard has his hands full with so many suspects. It’s my hope you’ll be guessing, too—trying to discern who has the strongest motive when the host ends up dead. Did I mention Richard is blamed?

My story is just one of seven in which you can do plenty of sleuthing!

Murder They Wrote offers a variety of clever tales in which there are clues to be found, red herrings to avoid, and villains to unmask. And because each short story is a complete mystery, you can engage your detective skills a little at a time, or all at once as your mood dictates.

Thanks again for having me as your guest today, Mark!

Meet Mae Clair and find out more about how to get in touch and purchase her works!

PURCHASE LINK

Connect with Mae Clair at BOOKBUB and the following haunts:

Amazon| BookBub| Newsletter Sign-Up
Website | Blog| Twitter| Goodreads| All Social Media

Bio Box 04-23-19

Worn #writephoto

worn-steps

I wrote this in response to Sue Vincent’s write photo prompt. If you would like to join in the fun, please visit her wonderful blog and have a look around: Sue Vincent

Please suspend your disbelief and picture a convoy of leaf cutter ants crawling across the fourth step from the top, on your right. The ants in this story are all female because worker ants tend to be this gender. The males exist to breed only, surprised? Let’s have a peek into the lives of our six-legged cast, shall we?

“Company halt! Major Amelia, do you have any idea where we are? Why are we crawling into a valley? And a better question is, what are those really tall things sticking up from the ground? They almost reach the sky!”

“Well uh, you see Commander Ava, I, um, was not really, well, you can see, the wind keeps blowing the leaf I’m carrying into my eyes. It’s huge, you know, I am very efficient, as some of us are. The most fungus for the leaf, as they say, or something like that. Hey, you know who might know, because she can’t handle the big stuff? Captain Abigail, of course! Oh, and she’s right here! She’ll know the answer.”

“Very well, Major Amelia, and I’d appreciate a proper antennae salute, or I’ll have you busted down to trash duty? You hear me?”

“Ouch! Yes Commander! Loud and clear. Oh, by the way, did you notice that omeone-say lse-eay idn’t-day altute-say?”

“Enough of that and stop pointing your antennae at the Captain. But yes, you owe me a salute, too, Abigail. And by the way, Major, someone in your position ought to have mastered a simple salute without poking herself in the eye. If your daddy hadn’t taken off after mating with the Queen, I’d swear that he bought your rank for you.”

“But Commander Ava, I don’t even know who my daddy is. None of us do. There’s just too many daddies!”

“Silence! Major Amelia, I’m well aware of how it all works. Now, we have a big problem here and of course, the best way to solve it is first to find out who is to blame.

“Those giants of the Sky Colony that walk up and down these mountains in just eight steps, well, I’ve learned their language. I hear them talk, and that’s what they do.

“We all know that might makes right, and since they are mightier, that means they must be rightier. Isn’t that right?

“No, you imbeciles! What are you, a bunch of dung beetles? Everyone stay in formation! I’m not talking about a direction, just about being right about might. Ah, never mind!

“Captain Abigail, as the lowest rank among the three of us, you are automatically guilty. If you wish to save your precious exoskeleton, you can start by explaining how you created this mess.”

“Me? I mean, Commander Ava, I was third in line, following Major Amelia. I’ve walked in lockstep the entire trip.”

“Hope you like the smell of garbage, because you’ll never forage again.”

“I will take it from here, thank you, Major.”

“Oh, sorry, Commander. But can I just say one thing?”

“Sure, but that’s it.”

“Captain Abigail is lazy. She only carries forty-nine times her bodyweight. She spends most of her time gawking around and smelling the pharaoh moans.”

“And you’re so dumb you can’t even pronounce pheromones.”

“Don’t clack your mandibles at me, Captain. I outrank you, remember?”

“Girls! Can we have order here, please! Now Captain, you’re still guilty and will be punished, but when you mentioned that phero-thingy, came up with a brilliant idea, yet again. You see, the Captain has allowed our route to be sabotaged by the drones of the Sky Colony.”

“No disrespect, Commander, but what are you talking about?”

“Oh, sweet Captain, you have much to learn . . . explains your lowly rank, I suppose. I have personally seen one myself. It was days ago, and it flew over me, on its way up these very mountains. It had black and yellow stripes and made a horrendous buzzing sound.”

“Um, Commander—”

“Do not interrupt me, Captain! Now, as I was saying, the beast flew up these mountains towards that big blue, Sky Portal that the Sky Colony comes from.”

“Um, again, no disrespect, but I don’t think that’s the sky. You see, it’s vertical and the actual sky is— ouch!”

“If the Commander says that it’s the sky, that’s what it is. Now stop rubbing your eye and do not speak until you’re told to.”

“Thank you, Major. I’m ordering everyone to do a smell check. That way we can be sure that no enemy is among us. Look for yellow and black stripes, as well as anyone who buzzes like the gossip mill back at the Hill.

“That’s right! Get those antennae working. Major, get away from me! Ouch! You bit me! That’s it, Captain Abigail is now on permanent trash duty!”

“Me? But that was the Major’s fault.”

“You see me not listening? Yes, that’s what it’s like, but no one cares what you have to say. Alright, halt! It is clear that we have no enemies among us. Now we can resume the blame game. Captain, turn in your badge.”

“But we don’t have badges.”

“That’s it! You’re, hey, what just hit me?”

“Commander! It’s starting to rain! We need to seek shelter before we’re washed down these mountains!”

“Don’t tell me when it is raining, Captain. I’ll tell you, that’s how it works!”

“Um right . . . everyone, we need to get out of here! Move, now!”

“They won’t unless I command it. I say it might be rain, but if it is, then it is only a light rain. It will pass and we shall proceed in determining a new punishment for your insubordination.”

“Everyone, this is your captain speaking! Follow the chain of command but start with me. We’ll pretend the upper ranks do not exist. The rain is getting worse and we’ve no time to reach shelter, get to the base of this mountain and use your leaves to shield yourselves! Yes, that’s it, now hold on. Here comes the downpour!”

“Hey, Not-Captain-Abigail! You are way out of line . . . Major, take that leaf off your head and stand beside me at the edge of this cliff.”

“Y-yes Commander.”

“That’s a good girl, now listen to meee….!”

“They’re gone! I’m glad we listened to you, Captain.”

“All in the chain of command, Sergeant. Now hold steady!”