I was recently contacted by an author whose science fiction novel, Rarity from the Hollow, had a unique premise. I knew it would be some time before I’d be able to read and review this book, but the author, Robert Eggleton, has written a guest post for us to tell everyone a little more about the book, and why he chose to write it. Be sure to keep reading past the author bio for an excerpt.
SciFi Novel Helps Prevent Child Abuse
Rarity from the Hollow by Robert Eggleton
Rarity from the Hollow by Robert Eggleton is an adult literary science fiction novel, not for the prudish, faint of heart, or easily offended. This article presents a personal account by the author about the how and why a satiric and comical adventure, one that includes some very harsh and tragic scenes, enough food for thought to last a long time, helps to prevent child abuse.
I’ve worked in the field of child advocacy for over forty years. A few months ago, I retired from my job as a children’s psychotherapist for an intensive mental health, day treatment program. Many of the kids in the program had been abused, some sexually. Part of my job was to facilitate group therapy sessions.
One day in 2006 during a group therapy session, I was sitting around a table used for written therapeutic exercises, and a little girl with stringy, brown hair sat a few feet away. Instead of just disclosing the horrors of her abuse at the hands of the meanest daddy on Earth, she also spoke of her hopes and dreams for the future: finding a loving family who would protect her.
This girl was inspiring. She got me thinking again about my own hopes and dreams of writing fiction, an aspiration that I’d held in since I was twelve years old. My protagonist was born that day – an empowered victim who takes on the evils of the universe: Lacy Dawn. I began to write fiction in the evenings and sometimes went to work the next day without enough sleep. Every time that I would feel discouraged, when I felt like giving up, I would imagine Lacy Dawn speaking honestly about the barriers that she faced in pursuit of her dream of finding a permanent and loving home.
I got to the point where I needed more to sustain my drive. My wife and I talked it over. That’s when the idea of donating proceeds to the prevention of child abuse became a commitment that has sustained my discouragement to this day. Three short Lacy Dawn Adventures were subsequently published in magazines. Rarity from the Hollow is my debut novel.
At least half of author proceeds have been donated to Children’s Home Society of West Virginia, a nonprofit child welfare agency where I worked in the early ‘80s. It was established in 1893 and now serves over 13,000 families and children each year in an impoverished state with inadequate funding to protect child welfare. childhswv.org.
During my career, many emotionally charged situations have tugged my heart strings so hard that child welfare became more than my job, more than a cause. It became a calling. Rarity from the Hollow fictionalized some of my true-life experiences and includes elements of poverty, domestic violence, child maltreatment, substance abuse and mental health problems. I wrote what I know best. My characters are more real than not, even though the backdrop of the story is science fiction.
I modeled the flow of the story after a mental health treatment episode involving a traumatized child: harsh and difficult to read scenes in the beginning of the story are similar to how, in treatment, therapeutic relationships must first be established before very difficult disclosures are made; cathartic and more relaxed scenes in middle chapters as detailed disclosures are less painful; and, increasingly satiric and comical toward the end through an understanding that it is “silly” to live in the past, that demons, no matter how scary, can be evicted, and that nothing controls our lives more so than the decisions that we make ourselves.
I know that it sounds weird, but I imagined victims benefiting from having read a science fiction story. Maybe I was trying to rationalize a balance between these two competing interests – writing fiction and my interests in child welfare. Even though I’d paid into the U.S. Social Security fund for over fifty-two years, I felt a little guilty about retiring from work. The decision to donate author proceeds to child abuse prevention helped resolve some of my guilty feelings.
In hindsight, maybe my idea that victims of childhood mistreatment could benefit from reading Rarity from the Hollow wasn’t so off-base after all. Four book reviewers have privately disclosed to me that they were victims of childhood maltreatment, like me, and that they had benefited having read the story. Three of them wrote glowing book reviews of the novel, one of whom publicly disclosed that she had been a rape victim as part of her review http://mistralkdawn.blogspot.com/2015/12/interview-with-robert-eggleton.html?zx=b438ff3b4e310b53 , and the fourth reviewer promoted the novel on her blog and on a radio show broadcast from the U.K. This book reviewer wants to interview Lacy Dawn, the protagonist.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a parent could read a book and actually become a better parent? In my experience, we typically parent the way that we were parented, even, sometimes, when we strive to do better. Unfortunately, there is a correlation between experiencing abuse in childhood and inflicting abuse as a parent.
Nevertheless, Rarity from the Hollow is a tribute to the concept of victimization to empowerment. Many abused kids demonstrate resilience that, for me, is amazing. Especially when abuse is related to the mental illness or substance abuse of or by the parent, guilt, in my opinion, rather than functioning as a motivator to address the problem can actually be detrimental. Parents who read my story may achieve insight that their children, more than anything in the world, want to love them, and that, while the damage done may not be forgotten or forgiven, that their children are strong and can not only survive, but can become empowered.
Also, especially with increasing awareness of PTSD, such as that experienced by Lacy Dawn’s father in the story, “Rarity from the Hollow” provides hope to spouses that the condition is treatable. By exemplifying the impact of treatment, this story may encourage readers with PTSD, such as Vets returning from the war in the Middle East, to seek treatment. I certainly hope so. In my experience, PTSD and anger management concerns are related, and can potentially result in sudden anger at anything, including a defenseless child.
If you or one of your readers has experienced childhood violence and your emotions are easily triggered, please exercise caution before deciding whether or not to read Rarity from the Hollow. While there is only one violent scene, the third, it is intense and there are mature references in the story. Subsequent chapters become increasingly satiric and comical and the novel won a Gold Medal from Awesome Indies as a “…hillbilly version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” – a science fiction comedy. http://awesomeindies.net/ai-approved-review-of-rarity-from-the-holly-by-robert-eggleton/ My intent was for the early tragedy to amplify the comedy that follows, so I do also recommend that readers who have been victimized to stick with the story beyond the early chapter in order to witness the empowerment.
The intent of Rarity from the Hollow was to take its readers who have also been affected by past horrors from their tragedy into empowerment. The flow of the story is modeled after a mental health treatment episode: horror that is difficult to face and to disclose about in beginning chapters leading toward empowerment with subsequent disclosures as one acknowledges that the past is the past, and that nothing controls or lives more than the decisions that we make in the present. As in real life, however, I did not insert an artificial resolution of the complex issues presented in the story. Sometimes, we just have to move on.
Rarity from the Hollow recently won a second Gold Medal and an excerpt from that review is apt to the prevention of child abuse: “…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 The intent of this novel is to sensitize people to the issue of maltreated children the way that Charles Dickens’ Tiny Tim worked his way into the hearts of millions of fans.
More recently, a book reviewer from Bulgaria named Rarity from the Hollow as one of the five best reads of 2015. http://codices.info/2015/12/top-5-for-2015-ventsi/
One finding about which I am especially proud, however, was:
“…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. In fact, the rustic humor and often graphic language employed by Lacy Dawn and her compatriots only serve to highlight their desperate lives, and their essential toughness and resilience….” http://awesomeindies.net/ai-approved-review-of-rarity-from-the-holly-by-robert-eggleton/ “…it’s a funny book that most sci-fi fans will thoroughly enjoy.”
Rarity from the Hollow has now appeared on over eighty blogs or magazines worldwide, in nineteen different countries including all over the U.S. and the U.K., Finland, Mexico, Bulgaria, Belgium, South Africa, Croatia, Uruguay, India, Taiwan, Australia, Nigeria, Egypt, Malaysia, Canada, Vietnam, Portugal, and Sweden. The project has grown into a world-wide movement to sensitize people about child maltreatment through a satiric and comical science fiction adventure.
“…It is funny and irreverent but beneath the hallucinatory story of visits to shopping planets and interstellar shopping games, there is a profound critique of social problems, substance abuse, child sexual abuse and child murder that is quite eye opening… Rarity from the Hollow is very, very good…I’d recommend Rarity From the Hollow to anybody who likes a side helping of the lunatic with their science fiction and fantasy.” http://www.addictedtomedia.net/2016/03/rarity-from-hollow-robert-eggleton.html
About the author:
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 and its release followed publication of three short Lacy Dawn Adventures in magazines: Wingspan Quarterly, Beyond Centauri, and Atomjack Science Fiction. 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.
From chapter 13, Mom I’d Like to Introduce You to My Fiancé:
…..…Jenny (the mother) walked up the hill to Roundabend. She called Lacy Dawn’s name every few yards. Her muddy tennis shoes slipped and slid.
I hear her voice. Why won’t she answer me?
“Sounds like she’s talking to someone,” Jenny said to the Woods.
Nobody responded. The trees weren’t supposed to since Jenny was no longer a child. Her former best friends had made no long-term commitment beyond childhood victimization. They had not agreed to help her deal with domestic violence in adulthood. She hugged the closest tree.
I will always love you guys.
Jenny quickened her pace, stopped, and listened for human voices. A few yards later, she stopped again.
Now it sounds like she’s behind me instead of in front.
Jenny looked to the left of the path.
There ain’t no cave Roundabend, but there it is.
She walked toward the entrance. The voices grew louder and she looked inside. Lacy Dawn sat on a bright orange recliner. Tears streamed down her face. Jenny ran to her daughter through a cave that didn’t exit and into a blue light that did.
“All right, you mother f**ker!”
“Mom!” Lacy Dawn yelled. “You didn’t say, ‘It’s me’ like you’re supposed to (a traditional announcement mentioned earlier in the story).”
DotCom (the android) sat naked in a lotus position on the floor in front of the recliner. Jenny covered Lacy Dawn with her body and glared at him.
“Grrrrr,” emanated from Jenny. It was a sound similar to the one that Brownie (Lacy Dawn’s dog) made the entire time the food stamp woman was at their house. It was a sound that filled the atmosphere with hate. No one moved. The spaceship’s door slid shut.
“Mommmmmy, I can’t breathe. Get up.”
“You make one move you sonofabitch and I’ll tear your heart out,” Jenny repositioned to take her weight off Lacy Dawn.
Stay between them.
“Mommy, he’s my friend. More than my friend, we’re going to get married when I’m old enough — like when I turn fourteen. He’s my boyfriend — what you call it — my fiancé.”
“You been messin’ with my little girl you pervert!” Jenny readied to pounce.
“MOM! Take a chill pill! He ain’t been messing with me. He’s a good person, or whatever. Anyway, he’s not a pervert. You need to just calm down and get off me.”
Jenny stood up. DotCom stood up. Jenny’s jaw dropped.
He ain’t got no private parts, not even a little bump.
“DotCom, I’d like to introduce you to my mommy, Mrs. Jenny Hickman. Mommy, I’d like to introduce you to my fiancé, DotCom.”
Jenny sat down on the recliner. Her face was less than a foot from DotCom’s crotch and she stared straight at it. It was smooth, hairless, and odor free.
“Mrs. Hickman, I apologize for any inconvenience that this misunderstanding has caused. It is very nice to meet you after having heard so much. You arrived earlier than expected. I did not have time to properly prepare and receive. Again, I apologize.”
I will need much more training if I’m ever assigned to a more formal setting than a cave, such as to the United Nations.
“Come on, Mommy. Give him a hug or something.”
Jenny’s left eye twitched.
DotCom put on clothing that Lacy Dawn had bought him at Goodwill. It hung a little loose until he modified his body. Lacy Dawn hugged her mother…
…(scene of Dwayne, the father, overheard by those in the spaceship while talking to himself)… “Besides, the transmitter was part of Daddy’s treatment. There’re a lot of other things that he did to help fix Daddy. DotCom is like a doctor. You can see that Daddy has gotten better every day. And no, there ain’t no transmitter in you. DotCom figured you out like a good doctor and the only things wrong are a lack of opportunity and rotten teeth that poison your body. You don’t need no transmitter. He just gave you a few shots of ego boost. I don’t know what medicine that is, but I trust him. You ain’t complained since the shots started — not even with an upset stomach.”
“He’s a doctor?” Jenny asked.
“What’s your problem anyway?” Lacy Dawn asked. “I know. You’re prejudiced. You told me that people have much more in common than they do that’s different — even if someone is a different color or religion, or from a different state than us. You told me to try to become friends because sometimes that person may need a good friend. Now, here you are acting like a butt hole about my boyfriend. You’re prejudiced because he’s different than us.”
“Honey, he’s not even a person – that’s about as different as a boyfriend can get,” Jenny said.
Mommy’s right. Maybe I need a different argument.
A fast clicking sound, a blur of motion, and a familiar smell assaulted them.
“What’s that?” Jenny asked.
She moved to protect her daughter from whatever threat loomed. Brownie, who had been granted 27 / 7 access to the ship, bounded over the orange recliner, knocked DotCom to the floor, licked DotCom’s face, and rubbed his head on Jenny’s leg. He then jumped onto the recliner and lay down. His tail wagged throughout. Jenny sat down on the recliner beside Brownie and looked at Lacy Dawn.
“But, you were crying when I first came in. That thing was hurting you.” Jenny shook her finger at DotCom to emphasize a different argument against him.
“Mommy, I’m so happy that I couldn’t help but cry. My man just came home from an out-of-state job. I didn’t talk to him for a whole year. Before he left, he told me that he wasn’t even sure if he’d be able to come home. I still don’t know what happened while he was gone. We ain’t had no chance to talk. All I know is that he’s home and I’m sooooo happy.”
“Your man came home from an out-of-state job?” Jenny patted Brownie on his head, some more and some more….
It’s unusual for a man to promise to come back home and ever be seen again. Brownie likes him and that’s a good sign. Maybe she’s right about him helping Dwayne. Something sure did and it wasn’t me. It is a nice living room. They’ve been together for a while and I ain’t seen a mark on her. That’s unusual too. He ain’t got no private parts and that’s another good thing. Hell, if I get in the middle, she’d just run off with him anyway. I‘d better play it smart. I don’t want to lose my baby.
“What about his stupid name?” Jenny asked.
“I’ve got a stupid name, too. All the kids at school call me hick because my last name is Hickman.”
“My name was given to me by my manager a very long time ago. It represents a respected tradition — the persistent marketing of that which is not necessarily the most needed. I spam…,” DotCom said.
They both glared at him.
“Dwayne is sure to be home. I don’t want him to worry. Let’s go,” Jenny said.
“I love you, DotCom,” Lacy Dawn stepped out the ship’s door, which had slid open. Brownie and Jenny were right behind her.
“I love you too,” DotCom said.
Lacy Dawn and Jenny held hands and walked down the path toward home. The trees didn’t smile — at least not so Jenny would notice. On the other hand, no living thing obstructed, intruded, or interfered with the rite.
Jenny sang to the Woods, “My little girl’s going to marry a doctor when she grows up, marry a doctor when she grows up, when she grows up. My little girl’s going to marry a doctor when she grows up, marry a doctor when she grows up, when she grows up….”