I’m very pleased to be able to share a guest post from Robert Eggleton, atuthor of Rarity From The Hollow today. Robert’s book has helped raise awareness of child abuse and funds to help children in need. After Christmas sales are tallied in April, the publisher is going to make the next deposit of author proceeds from the Rarity from the Hollow project into the nonprofit agency’s PayPal account for the prevention of child maltreatment. Millions of American children spent this past holiday in temporary shelters. A lot more world-wide likely spent their respective “holidays” in worse conditions.
Rarity From The Hollow is available to buy here.
Before I share Robert’s guest post with you, here is a little bit about the book.
Lacy 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.
Will Lacy’s predisposition, education, and magic be enough for her to save the Universe, Earth, and, most importantly, protect her own family?
Rarity from the Hollow is adult literary science fiction filled with tragedy, comedy and satire. It is a children’s story for adults, not for the prudish, faint of heart, or easily offended.
The Potential of Fiction to Prevent Child Abuse
by Robert Eggleton
Historically, speculative fiction has fueled social activism, debate, and the adoption of evolving or devolving social policy depending on one’s values. In 380 B.C., Plato envisioned a utopian society in The Republic and that story represented the beginning of a long string of speculations: ecology, economics, politics, religion, technology, feminism….
Charles Dickens may not have been the first novelist to address the evils of child victimization in fiction, but his work has certainly had an impact on the conscientious of us all. Every Christmas, Tiny Tim pulls at our heart strings, now by cable and satellite, and stirs the emotions of masses. In another Dickens novel, after finally getting adopted into a loving home as millions of today’s homeless children also dream about, Oliver eventually made it to Broadway well over a century later. Oliver Twist may be the best example of Dickens’ belief that a novel should do much more than merely entertain, but entertain it did, very well.
Similarly, a 1946 essay by George Orwell self-assessed his writing of Animal Farm as a fusion of artistic and political expressions: Why I Write. Orwell’s subsequent novel, 1984, was also so popular that they both became required reading in high schools. Dickens likely influenced Orwell and many other novelists, such as Aldous Huxley and H.G. Wells, who included social analyses or commentary in their works. These authors were huge influences on me as I conceived my debut novel, Rarity from the Hollow, and its potential to prevent child abuse.
Prior to earning a Master’s Degree in Social Work in 1977, I began a career in child welfare. I’ve worked in the field of child advocacy for over forty years. In 2015, I retired from my job as a children’s psychotherapist from an intensive mental health 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 forever .
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 with inadequate 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 home. I would remind myself that despite the popularity of escapism / recreation as the exclusive function of novels in the mainstream, the road for fiction to influence the world had been paved.
But, the struggles in the world of books were difficult, seemingly impossible to overcome. 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 prevent 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 was released as my debut novel.
Half of author proceeds from sales are donated to Children’s Home Society of West Virginia, a nonprofit child welfare agency where I worked in the early ‘80s. I was the statewide director of emergency children’s shelters. The agency was established in 1893, now serves over 13,000 families and children each year, and is located in an impoverished state in the U.S., a place like so many others with inadequate funding to deliver effective social services. childhswv.org. West Virginia has the poorest economic outlook in the U.S. https://www.cnbc.com/2017/07/11/west-virginia-americas-worst-state-for-business-in-2017.html, and leads the nation on heroin overdose death rate https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/west-virginia/articles/2017-12-23/west-virginia-leads-nation-in-drug-overdose-death-rate — both correlates of child abuse.
As I was writing Rarity from the Hollow, I envisioned childhood maltreatment from victimization to empowerment. I wanted to produce a story that survivors could benefit from having read. Nine book reviewers have privately disclosed to me that they were survivors of childhood maltreatment, like me, and all reported having benefitted from my novel. These book reviewers wrote glowing book reviews, and one of them publicly disclosed for the first time that she had been a rape victim as part of her review https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R3IAA18DVORSV7/ref=cm_cr_getr_d_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B017REIA44 .
Given the high prevalence rate of child maltreatment in the U.S. – one in four adults report having been maltreated as children https://www.childhelp.org/child-abuse-statistics/ — I wasn’t surprised that book reviewers would be a representative sample. Nevertheless, these disclosures were very touching and encouraging as I worked to get Rarity from the Hollow noticed by readers.
“American children are suffering from a hidden epidemic of child abuse and neglect. National child abuse estimates are well known for being under-reported. The latest 2015 Child Maltreatment Report from The Children’s Bureau was published in January 2017. The report shows an increase in child abuse referrals from 3.6 million to 4 million. The number of children involved subsequently increased to 7.2 million from 6.6 million. The report also indicates an increase in child deaths from abuse and neglect to 1,670 in 2015, up from 1,580 in 2014. Some reports estimate child abuse fatalities at 1,740 or even higher.” https://americanspcc.org/child-abuse-statistics/
The realities of child maltreatment, the statistics, are depressing. However, I wasn’t a successful children’s advocate because I got good at peddling sob stories. I took Charles Dickens to heart – “not MERELY to entertain (emphasis added).” Yes, Rarity from the Hollow includes social commentary – child abuse, poverty, drug addiction, domestic violence…– but, I made a concerted effort to not present anything as preachy. Personally, I don’t like to read preachy literature, not even religious pamphlets that one finds on the floors of public toilet stalls. I wanted to produce a novel that speaks to one reader about social issues in one manner, while interpreted very differently by another reader. To raise funds, readers had to be entertained by my story, and not preached to about a depressing topic. This joining of missions caused a little confusion experienced by a couple of book reviewers who didn’t quite get that my novel was not intended to be an exposé or a memoir. The early tragedy feeds subsequent comedy, satire, and political parody, so that reader were sensitized to child maltreatment while remembering the fun that they had by reading Rarity from the Hollow.
With respect to entertainment value and the self-promotions of my novel, I became especially invigorated when Rarity from the Hollow received a Gold Medal from a prominent book review organization that permitted no contact between the publisher or author and the book reviewer:
“…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/
When Rarity form the Hollow received a second Gold Medal, I became increasingly convinced that I had found the balance between social commentary (social policy) and entertainment as promoted by Charles Dickens:
“…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
Then, when I was feeling more confident about the prospects of raising some money to prevent child abuse in my home state, Donald Trump was elected President of the U.S. Rarity from the Hollow was the first, perhaps the only, science fiction adventure to specifically predict the rise of Donald Trump to political power — parody with no political advocacy one side or any other. My mission felt impossible under the new tax law that cut domestic spending. There was no way that my little project could offset a national priority to save our children. Perhaps God Sent, a wonderful book review helped me refocus: https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R2RAXNLSHTUDUF/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=190713395X
And, a wonderful book reviewer donated a great video to the cause: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkbusks811Q&feature=youtu.be. If you and your readers click on this link, it will increase views and likes. More than ever, “I won’t back down” is the theme of my current state of mind: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvlTJrNJ5lA
So, what do you think? Will fiction continue to prompt human thought in a way that drives consideration of social policy in America and the rest of the world, how we go about this crazy thing called life? Or have we all gone down the road named “Escape from Reality” so far that social commentary has become a pothole on our entertainment highways?
Very intriguing post Robert! I certainly hope that books will continue to help spread the message and help solve the problem. I wish you lots of luck with your book.
About The Author:
Robert Eggleton has served as a children s advocate 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. Today, he is a recently retired psychotherapist from the mental health center in Charleston, West Virginia. 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.