Book Spotlight/Guest Post by Robert Eggleton

It isn’t very often that I receive review/spotlight request for a book with such a unique premise – its contents addressing child abuse and mental health against a backdrop of     SciFi/Fantasy cross-genre. I am so pleased to feature Rarity from the Hollow on my blog today.

Rarity from the Hollow

Synopsis2Lacy Dawn’s father relives the Gulf War, her mother’s teeth are rotting out, and her best friend is murdered by the meanest daddy on Earth. Life in the hollow is hard. She has one advantage — an android was inserted into her life and is working with her to cure her parents. But, he wants something in exchange. It’s up to her to save the Universe. Lacy Dawn doesn’t mind saving the universe, but her family and friends come first.

Rarity from the Hollow is adult literary science fiction filled with tragedy, comedy and satire. The second edition was released on November 3, 2016.

praises

“The most enjoyable science fiction novel I have read in years.” Temple Emmet Williams, Author, former editor for Reader’s Digest

“Quirky, profane, disturbing… In the space between a few lines we go from hardscrabble realism to pure sci-fi/fantasy. It’s quite a trip.”  – Evelyn Somers, The Missouri Review

. “…a hillbilly version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy…what I would have thought impossible; taken serious subjects like poverty, ignorance, abuse…tongue-in-cheek humor without trivializing them…profound…a funny book that most sci-fi fans will thoroughly enjoy.” — Awesome Indies (Gold Medal)

“…sneaks up you and, before you know it, you are either laughing like crazy or crying in despair, but the one thing you won’t be is unmoved…a brilliant writer.” —Readers’ Favorite (Gold Medal)

“Rarity from the Hollow is an original and interesting story of a backwoods girl who saves the Universe in her fashion. Not for the prudish.” —Piers Anthony, New York Times bestselling author

“…Good satire is hard to find and science fiction satire is even harder to find.” — The Baryon Review

About the Author:

Robert Eggleton

Robert Eggleton has served as a children’s advocate in an impoverished state for over forty years. He is best known for his investigative reports about children’s programs, most of which were published by the West Virginia Supreme Court where he worked from 1982 through 1997, and which also included publication of models of serving disadvantaged and homeless children in the community instead of in large institutions, research into foster care drift involving children bouncing from one home to the next — never finding a permanent loving family, and statistical reports on the occurrence and correlates of child abuse and delinquency.

Today, he is a recently retired children’s psychotherapist from the mental health center in Charleston, West Virginia, where he specialized in helping victims cope with and overcome physical and sexual abuse, and other mental health concerns. Rarity from the Hollow is his debut novel. Its release followed publication of three short Lacy Dawn Adventures in magazines: Wingspan Quarterly, Beyond Centauri, and Atomjack Science Fiction. The second edition of Rarity from the Hollow was release on November 3, 2016. Author proceeds have been donated to a child abuse prevention program operated by Children’s Home Society of West Virginia. http://www.childhswv.org/ Robert continues to write fiction with new adventures based on a protagonist that is a composite character of children that he met when delivering group therapy services. The overall theme of his stories remains victimization to empowerment.

Buy Links : 

Amazon     Lulu    Dog Horn Publishing

Connect with Robert:

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Here’s a guest post from the author about writing books with emotional triggers.

courage-n-spirit

Do you cry during sad or uplifting scenes in books or movies? Some people are so sensitive that they weep during fund-raising infomercials for Save the Children or another heart-felt cause.  

Good fiction, unless you are a total narcissist and unable to feel empathy, does trigger emotions on some level. Since adolescence is often a period of strong egocentrism, and since empathy is an acquired skill that develops as we mature, young adult content often prompts basic feelings – romance, excitement, or anger using plot and action. Whereas, literary fiction tends to be more complex and prompt contemplations about emotionally charged issues long exposures to the content, such as the book/movie Precious or The Color Purple.

People who avoid triggers of strong and complex emotions may be considered by some to be “faint hearted.” Some individuals are so faint hearted that they faint when there is no medical explanation, such as at the sight of blood, a condition that may have neurological roots: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/broadcast/read/838. They avoid, for example, horror movies or books because the content causes them to feel so uncomfortable that it could even cause nightmares.

Other people appreciate and pursue the powerful emotions triggered by some fiction. We each have individualized comfort zones, often reflected in our entertainment choices. In general, however, some psychologists believe that people should strive to break out of their comfort zones: http://lifehacker.com/the-science-of-breaking-out-of-your-comfort-zone-and-w-656426705.  

Rarity from the Hollow is an adult literary social science fiction novel full of tragedy, comedy and satire. Here’s what one book reviewer concluded after reading it, the second of two Gold Medals: “… Full of cranky characters and crazy situations, Rarity from the Hollow sneaks up you and, before you know it, you are either laughing like crazy or crying in despair, but the one thing you won’t be is unmoved….” —  https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/rarity-from-the-hollow

Emotional triggers prompted by fiction may also be related to warm or harsh personal memories. Memories of very bad experiences, such as rape, car accidents, war, child maltreatment, can traumatize a person. For example, one of the characters in Rarity from the Hollow begins the story as a war damaged Vet having returned from the Gulf War with PTSD. There is also one violent scene in the story, a flashback of domestic violence. And, there are references to child maltreatment and puns about sex (no actual scenes).

Perhaps more important than parental guidance advisories meant to define adult content appropriate to youthful consumers, book and movie reviews play an important role in helping people scarred by trauma, not merely the faint hearted, from unpleasant experiences in entertainment. We each take one step at a time in putting our bad memories to rest.  

While some degree of cautionary statement is appropriate to advise potential readers of Rarity from the Hollow, the early tragedy amplifies subsequent comedy and satire: “a hillbilly version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, only instead of the earth being destroyed to make way for a hyperspace bypass, Lacy Dawn must…The author has managed to do what I would have thought impossible; taken serious subjects like poverty, ignorance, abuse, and written about them with tongue-in-cheek humor without trivializing them…Eggleton sucks you into the Hollow, dunks you in the creek, rolls you in the mud, and splays you in the sun to dry off. Tucked between the folds of humor are some profound observations on human nature and modern society that you have to read to appreciate…it’s a funny book that most sci-fi fans will thoroughly enjoy.http://awesomeindies.net/ai-approved-review-of-rarity-from-the-holly-by-robert-eggleton/

As a retired children’s psychotherapist, the novel was written to be a fictionalized road map from victimization to empowerment, especially for those victims still symptomatic after having been involved in mental health treatment or currently involved in treatment. This story is pure fiction, based on people that I’ve met during over forty years as a child advocate. It is not a self-help manual. It is a genre bender that uses science fiction as a backdrop.

To readers who have PTSD and who decide to check out Rarity from the Hollow, I do recommend please reading beyond the third chapter. Several book reviewers privately disclosed to me that they had experienced emotional trauma, and one publicly disclosed for the first time that she was a survivor of rape: “…As a rape survivor… found myself relating easily to Lacy Dawn… style of writing which I would describe as beautifully honest. Rarity from the Hollow is different from anything I have ever read, and in today’s world of cookie-cutter cloned books, that’s pretty refreshing…taking you on a wild ride you won’t soon forget….http://kyliejude.com/2015/11/book-review-rarity-from-the-hollow/

If you decide to read Rarity from the Hollow, yes, I hope that your emotions will be triggered. Its mission is to sensitize readers to the huge, world-wide, social problem of child maltreatment through a comical and satiric science fiction adventure. Author proceeds have been donated to child abuse prevention. “If I could, I would give it all the stars in the universe…I was hesitant to accept. I usually do not read or review books that discuss child abuse or domestic violence; however, I was intrigued by the excerpt and decided to give it a shot. I am glad that I took a risk; otherwise, I would have missed out on a fantastic story with a bright, resourceful, and strong protagonist that grabbed my heart and did not let go….”  http://www.onmykindle.net/2015/11/rarity-from-hollow.html
If you decide not to read Rarity from the Hollow but want to help maltreated children, there are several ways to contribute. There are hundreds of under-funded emergency children’s shelters all over the U.S. Google to find one, and then send an unwrapped anonymous gift to a kid, any size will do because maltreatment comes in all shapes and sizes. It is the Holiday Season. Furthermore, some community-based providers of social and mental health services are likely to be concerned that there could be cuts in federal funding of their programs under the new administration. Your help may be needed more than ever before.

 

The Rising Sun – By Michael Crichton

 Rating:

Peter Smith, a Special Services officer and Connor, a senior semi-retired officer are called in to assist the murder investigation of a young woman. With a high profile grand opening celebration party of the Nakamoto Industries offices in its 45th floor, the Japanese would like the matter of a dead body found one floor below handled as discreetly as possible. As the political pressure mounts on them, so does the realization that nothing about this case is routine…

Sigh, I seem to end up picking books that either suffer from the “curse of the second half” or start off promisingly but just don’t hold my interest at the same level for the rest of the book.

I started this book just before a week-long vacation. Even after coming back home, I took too many breaks instead of reading it at a stretch. I wonder whether that might be a reason for me to get so disinterested after some time.  Maybe… but what I am sure of is that, the investigative process in this book is something I didn’t enjoy reading. Anyone who is into crime procedural shows would be familiar with the term “profiling”. Connor solves the case by profiling, not “people” but the “Japanese ways”. By their silences, body language, corporate politics et al. Now I don’t know much about the country, nor do I know anyone from Japan, but I just didn’t buy it completely. I mean, I just couldn’t figure out where the accuracies end, stereotypes begin and where they blur together.

Oh no, that’s not even my main problem with the book. Fiction sometimes does require willing suspension of disbelief and to just go with the flow, which I did. And it was actually interesting to read about it for a while. What I found really tiresome to read and re-read was one major aspect in this book crucial to solving the case (oh don’t worry, It isn’t a spoiler as such.. as it is something made clear pretty early on in the book..) : video recording tapes from the CCTV cameras in the hotel during the party. There was a lot of technical information on imaging, pixilation, lighting, time lapses, shadows etc. to determine the authenticity and clarity of the tapes. Now, it isn’t something new to encounter detailed explanations about certain technology in Crichton’s novels. But here, it is much harder to understand and visualize what is happening when a lab tech talks about color shifts and transparent edges in a video frame because unlike Connor and Peter, we don’t have the benefit of seeing on the video monitor. So yea, that’s what I meant when I said I didn’t enjoy the investigative process much. Because some major breakthroughs in the case involved these tapes and whenever the characters had their “Eureka!” moments, I always felt like I was two steps behind rather than being with them.

Now you must have noticed that I have mentioned Connor more than Peter, though Peter is the narrator and the officer officially assigned to the case. Well, I found him to be inconsequential and clueless, with Connor telling him what to say, where to go, how to react. It is explained away as him being new to the liaison job and Connor as the one with years of experience of dealing with the Japanese. But I wish he had more of a voice in the case. The only thing I remember him doing is carrying the tapes from one agency to another in order to make copies.

The crux of this book revolves around corporate tussles and a strong commentary on American free trade versus closed markets of Japan. How well does Crichton tie that in to the murder mystery is a moot point, but I really liked that he tries to present a balanced view. No policies or practices in any country are perfect and everything has its own pros and cons.  But as the famous goes, “The first step in solving a problem is recognizing there is one” and that is the biggest takeaway from this book.

You can buy the paperback at: Rising Sun – Paperback

Buy the kindle edition at: Rising Sun: Kindle

Congo – By Michael Crichton

Rating:

A young geotechnical field supervisor, a primatologist and a mercenary undertake a journey of a lifetime, one that they might end up paying with their lives.

An expedition to find Type II blue diamonds amidst the ruins of the ancient city of Zinj in the Congo rainforest meets a gruesome end with the camp destroyed and the geologists killed. Back in Houston, Karen Ross, the project supervisor along with the rest of her technical team watch the video transmission relaying the remnants of the camp, crushed bodies, and curiously, an unexplainable blurry moving image of what appears to be a large bulky man-shaped entity with an awkward gait. Further analysis throws up the image of a gorilla as the most likely match. This prompts her to reach out to Peter Elliot, a primatologist for help.

Peter Elliot’s most talked about work in research circles is his breakthrough with Amy, a gorilla capable of communicating with humans by means of sign language, combining signs for 620 words effectively. When Amy starts acting moody because of disturbing dreams, “Project Amy” is put in jeopardy. The project team coax her to communicate her dreams to them by finger painting. Amy produces an image bearing a resemblance to the Zinj architecture.

Peter and Karen, accompanied by Amy and led by Munro, a Congo mercenary and his team of porters, set out to seek answers deep in the Congo wilderness.

In Congo, Crichton does an amazing job of describing the unforgiving nature of its vast and unexplored forest terrains.  The obstacles faced by the team takes turns that are both real and fantastical, and even absurd – encountering pygmies, dodging the war between cannibals and the army, hailstorms and volcanic eruptions, climbing steep mountains, navigating through narrow gorges,  ducking wild hippos and finally arming themselves against an unknown threat that took the lives of the previous team. They are also racing against time to beat a consortium of Japanese and other countries that are after the same diamond deposits. With so much happening at every turn, after a point I stopped thinking about whether the outcome of their expedition is going to be successful or not and just sat back and enjoyed reading about their journey.

This story is set in 1970s when there were huge inventions and advancements made in the field of remote sensing and image and data processing. The terms used and their meaning is pretty familiar now and don’t really need detailed explanations. But this book is filled with nuggets about technology which some might find unnecessary. I didn’t mind it much, but I preferred reading the other bits of ancient history related to Congo, and also primate history related to their habits and behaviour. It is easy to see that Crichton relished the research work needed to explain them in this book. Reading about all that was interesting, but at times I was irritated with some old piece of history or explanation brought up suddenly. I mean, it is kind of weird when one moment you are describing about facing or fighting.. say gorges or cannibals.. and then suddenly you have to read long explanations about their origins.

Coming to the characters, Crichton doesn’t really invest much in making their interpersonal interactions stand out as such. Their conversations are pretty dry and most of it about their work. Sometimes it feels like, it is for us readers’ benefit, to explain everything to us. I guess what I am trying to say is, it doesn’t have much humour or witty repartees. The author does marginally better in establishing their individual personalities though. Ross is driven to the point of being obsessed. Elliot is your “typical” academic, comfortable in a lab setup but a bit out of sorts in the real world. Munro is this tough guide who doesn’t get flustered much by anything.  However, my favourite one has to be Amy who really livened up the pages a lot of times. The relationship between Elliot and Amy was just so sweet! Almost like a parent and child.

After all the thrills throughout the book, I probably expected a lot more in the end.  It felt like Crichton packed in everything he could think of that could go wrong, but ran out of steam in the end. And couldn’t pull out a rabbit from the hat.  Yet it was a great read. He does a good job of mixing facts with fiction and nothing really seems completely implausible. The world that he describes lingers on in your mind even after your have finished the book.