Monday, July 9, 2018

"Hit and Run" by Dr. Bob Rich

Hit and Run
by Dr. Bob Rich

Hit and Run by Dr. Bob Rich

Dr. Bob Rich stops by today for an interview and to share an excerpt from his latest book, Hit and Run. You can also enter our exclusive giveaway for a chance to win a copy of the book.

84-year-old Sylvia barely escapes death when a teenage driver plows down six children and a crossing guard, never looking back. Shaken, Sylvia draws his portrait, creating a connection with this 14-year-old boy that allows the police to locate and arrest him. That night, he appears to her through a supernatural process neither understands. Can one woman's belief in the power of love make a difference in the life of one boy who wants to change?

I'd never heard of such a connection between people, and why should I have a link to a vicious young killer? And, I wondered, are all psychopaths like him: hurting inside, so hitting out at the world because they know no other way to behave? I imagine that inflicting pain and suffering could be addictive, if that's the only way you can feel superior. Maybe I've been given the opportunity to help this boy and his little brother? But how? And why me?
I was no closer to an answer in the morning. I needed some human contact, so picked up the phone to call my daughter-in-law. The stuttering dial tone signalled a message. The robotic female voice said that it had been left at 9:05 a.m. I looked at the clock--I'd slept till after 10! I heard Dr Vlad's calm voice telling me that he would come by at 10:30.
I went through an accelerated morning routine in something of a panic, and was still in a bit of a tizz when the doorbell rang.
We settled with a cup of tea each, and I stumbled my way through the thoughts that had tortured me.
As usual, he listened until I came to a stop, then he surprised me. "Sylvia, what's the meaning of life? Why are we on this planet?"
I'm a practical sort of person, and have never given much thought to such things. After awhile, I said, "Oh... to serve God, I suppose..."
"When my son was in the Scouts, they were taught to leave a camping spot a little better rather than worse than they found it. I suppose that says it."
He smiled at me. "Most people give some version of seeking happiness, and it takes me a while to lead them to what you've said. Congratulations."
I felt my face flush. "I don't think there is much point in looking after number one, unless that doesn't disadvantage anyone else. Anyway, I've been happy until...until this happened."
"Your killer boy would disagree with us, of course."
"He loves his little brother. He's never known anything better than hate, abuse and violence. So, is all evil from that?"
Dr Vlad took my last biscuit. I'd have to bake some more soon. "He did evil. But is he evil? Look, have you ever watched a young cat that's caught a bird? They play with it. The only word for what the cat does is torture. If you were the bird, you'd know that what's done to you is evil, but the cat doesn't know this. It's just having fun. There are humans like that. They're the ones we call psychopaths, sadists, evil. For some reason, they have the same kind of moral colour-blindness that a cat has."
"So, there is no hope of any change?"
"Oh yes, there is! A lot of research has shown that when someone like this boy strongly identifies with a positive role model, the change can be enormous. And I think that's the answer to your second question: why should you have a connection with this young murderer. How? I don't know. If we had good enough science, I believe it could be explained as part of natural law. How come you have this link, and most other people don't? Same answer. But why... I think the reason is that part of your work in this life is to link with him, and lead him toward growth. In part, it's what you were born for. All your life's experiences were there for many reasons, but before you were born, this connection had been arranged, just for this purpose."
I thought about this. "But why me?"
He laughed. "Why not you? You're a thoroughly suitable teacher. You do know that the words 'Doctor', 'Rabbi' and 'Guru' all mean 'teacher'?"
I laughed back at him. "Thank you, Rabbi. But who arranged this connection? Did this Arranger cause the tragedy for the families of those little children?"
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
“An entertaining and cleverly designed learning tool for anyone who may be considering a change in their life. A good read with an ingenious plot. 5 stars.” ~ Bob Selden, author of Don't: How Using the Right Words Will Change Your Life
“It is a book that shows rather than tells: it grips you in the story and explores its themes using the story rather than by taking breaks to preach at you (think War and Peace as the contrast).” ~ Erik Fogg, political writer
“It is indeed a rare event for me to read a book twice in a row ... third time just doesn't happen, but in this case the rule was broken.” ~ Carolyn Harris, historical author
“A fascinating read that keeps you turning one page after the other, and holding your breath when Charlie ‘stuffs up’, as he calls it. This is a great story with a message of hope and inspiration.” ~ Jan Sikes, talented Texan writer
“If you want a great read, this is it. A word of caution though. Make sure you have enough time to read it at the one sitting, because like me, you won't want to put it down until you have devoured every word.” ~ Margaret Tanner, award-winning Australian writer
Hit And Run, a new novel by Dr. Bob Rich, is something quite rare - actually an example of a new genre of novel. Call it EA for Elderly Adult fiction. Call it whatever you will, I call it a brilliantly told story. The protagonist, one Sylvia Kryz, is clever, humane, and gifted as an artist. And one other thing - late in her life, in her mid-eighties, she comes to recognize she has an incredible gift. Her empathetic nature has blossomed into a supernatural talent to connect with a troubled young man in ways both frightening and wonderful. Five Stars, a simply Must Read for mature adults of all ages.” ~ ~ John Klawitter, Hollywood writer/director/producer

Interview With the Author
Dr. Bob Rich joins me today to discuss his new book, Hit and Run.
For what age group do you recommend your book?
What sparked the idea for this book?
As a psychotherapist, you need to keep professional distance. You can’t lead people out of their emotions by joining them. For example, a young woman came to me. She was suffering intractable pain from three incurable chronic diseases. She said, “I don’t want to live in this body for maybe the next 70 years!” I thought, “If it was my body, I wouldn’t either,” and that was it. I had to refer her on. I used the excuse that a female therapist would be more appropriate for her since I didn’t want her to feel rejected.
Well, I had a client: a blind old gentleman a bunch of teenagers bashed up. They even hurt his old seeing-eye dog. This pushed all my buttons, and I was furious after hearing his story during the first session. Either I needed to achieve professional distance or refer him on. And I was strongly motivated to be of service to him.
So, I used the standard technique of displacement. An example is doing a vigorous physical workout instead of punching that fellow in the nose.
To displace my outrage, that evening I invented 14-year-old Chuck, who did something far more terrible. I needed a narrator for the story, so put 84-year-old Sylvia in there, and gave her artistic ability so she could draw him in order to assist the police. I thought this would be a story of justice and retribution.
Sylvia, however, had other ideas. She reformed the boy instead and has stayed on as my teacher.
Which comes first? The character's story or the idea for the novel?
I once wanted to enter a short story in a contest, so I looked up the judge. She wrote detective stories for teenagers. When I went to bed, I placed my order: “I need a teenage detective.” In the morning, I woke to “Nobody notices an ugly little girl with glasses.” Within an hour, I had the first draft of “The Scarlet Pimple Gives a Nudge,” one of the 26 stories in my anthology Striking Back from Down Under.
In early 2015, two teenagers introduced themselves to me. I was looking for examples of characterization for a book on writing I add to from time to time, and there they were. They wouldn’t leave me alone but kept telling me their story, so I was forced to put the writing book away and recorded what they had to say. The result is a 5-volume science fiction series, so far only within my computer, but it’ll be next in line after the book I’m almost ready to send to my publisher.
The historical fiction book I published last year, Guardian Angel, started with a wish. I was working as counselor at an Australian Aboriginal health service and got to love and admire these people, who are survivors of genocide. I wanted to honor them. Over 2000 years ago, a Person came, who chose to be born into a despised colony of Rome. So, I thought, if a similar Person wanted to learn how to be a human, being an Aborigine in the mid-19th century would be the most suitable. So, I enjoyed doing some months of research, and Maraglindi was born: child of the land, fruit of an evil deed, and instrument of Love.
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
Um ... nothing. One of my clichés is, “writing is the chocolate icing on the cake of life.”
One of the major tools of positive psychology is what its major researcher, Mihály Csikszentmihályi, calls “Flow.” He defines it like this: “The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”
Writing is like that for me. I am truly alive when it’s going well, and motivated to rise to the challenge when it isn’t.
How do you hope this book affects its readers?
First and most important, I want you to be entertained. Margaret Goodman started her review with “Dr. Bob Rich's novel, Hit and Run was so interesting that I could not put it down. I started reading it late in the evening, and, throwing common sense to the winds, stayed up all the night reading it.” Carolyn Harris: “It is indeed a rare event for me to read a book twice in a row ... third time just doesn't happen, but in this case, the rule was broken.”
Second, I want the story to stay with you. Most books, however entertaining they may be, soon merge into the crowd. I think books that are stayers challenge your preconceptions, lead you out of the commonplace, and help you to see the world differently.
Third, we live in a horrible world, and the media focus in on all the bad. I offer relief from that. Without glossing over the negatives, I want to lead my readers to realize that they, all of us, are Apprentice Buddhas. We are on this planet in order to become better people. As I said, Sylvia has become one of my teachers and helps me to become a better person. She’ll do the same for you.
How long did it take you to write this book?
I don’t know!
I started it in about 2008 or 2009 and finished it in mid-2016. Writers Exchange accepted it, but we’ve had multiple delays, so it’s only come out recently.
You see, I typically work on half a dozen projects at a time, switching as the inspiration leads me. So, I have no idea how much time I devoted to Hit and Run during this period.
The quickest book for me took three months of solid effort. This was the one that’s won the highest number of awards: Anikó: The stranger who loved me. It is the biography of a woman who survived the unsurvivable, and achieved the impossible, more than once.
What is your writing routine?
Not routine.
Actually pecking at my computer is not writing, but recording. I listen to my characters and obediently do as they tell me.
Writing is when I am digging in the garden, riding my bike, going for a run, talking with people, attending meetings, doing housework ... the myriad details of everyday life. While I do whatever I am doing, my current projects are cooking in my mind behind it. When one is ready, it grabs me by the scruff and plonks me down at my computer.
Anyone can use this way of living. It just takes practice. When I was a distance runner, I spent the endless miles writing the next assignment while I was a student, or designing that experiment, or later, solving the next building problem, by thinking of nothing, immersed in the “flow” or running.
How did you get your book published?
This is my 17th published title, although the first one just went out of print. (It came out in 1986 and went through 4 editions and has been described as “the Australian owner-builder’s bible.”) I’ve used a variety of publishing routes, mostly through reputable, small, independent publishers. Some of them are also regular clients for my editing service.
I’ve had many years of association with Sandy Cumming, the publisher at Writers Exchange. I knew this story would appeal to her. I submitted it - and I was right.
I hasten to add that she has rejected books from me in the past. Nothing is guaranteed in publishing.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
Nowadays, self-publishing is easy, and anyone can do it. The result is a lot of trash out there. People have sent me books for review that I stopped reading after the first page. I gave helpful suggestions for improvement, but, you see, I refuse to trample on another person’s baby. If it doesn’t deserve at least 4 stars, I won’t provide a public review.
So, whether you submit to a publisher or do it yourself, you need to do the following:
1. Learn the tools of the trade. Would you go to a surgeon who doesn’t know scalpel from forceps? Would you let some bunny fix the brakes of your car without mechanic’s training? For writers, our tool is language. What you write needs to be grammatical. You need to use words with their correct meanings (e.g., “lay” is putting something down onto a surface; when you are on a bed, you “lie” there). Dangling participles are forbidden (e.g., “Getting into the bus, it drove along the bumpy road.”; this claims that the bus got into itself).
2. Know what you’re writing about. I was a judge in a contest in which an entrant chose to write about something I happen to have specialist knowledge in. It was completely and utterly incorrect. He should have done his research. And, actually, research is a joy.
Even if your setting is in your hometown, the characters like your friends, you still need to get the details right. Hit and Run has several court scenes (courts of law, not royalty). I consulted four lawyers to ensure the details are correct.
3. Bring the characters to life within your mind. If they’re not alive to you, but just chess pieces to move about, they will be two-dimensional cardboard cutouts for your readers.
4. Understand the tool “point of view,” and use it correctly. I have a little essay about it on my blog.
5. Write with purpose. This little essay will help.
This’ll do for a start. You can get a lot more instruction from the archives of my newsletter (2001-2014 and 2014-2018).
The most important thing is that fiction is about EMOTION. Characterization, action, dialogue, description are merely tools for inducing emotion in your reader.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
You don’t have enough space to list a fair sample. They say you get busier after retirement. Remember, I’ve retired five times!
I am a passionate and active campaigner on humanitarian and environmental issues. This includes political action. In Australia, the two major political parties are dinosaurs, and beholden to big business (I know that sounds familiar to Americans as well). I am a member of the Australian Greens, who refuse donations from corporations, have science-based, compassionate, equalitarian policies, and make all decisions according to the wishes of their membership.
Staying fit is important to me, so I do a fair bit of exercise. It’s nothing like what I could do ten years ago, but not bad for an old fellow.
I still offer a professional editing service and get a steady run of manuscripts sent by several small publishers and by authors pre-submission. In this role, I consider myself as much a teacher as an editor.
As I said, I stay in email contact with a great many people and do my best to be of service to them.
And I enjoy fun with two-legged human puppies.
What does your family think of your writing?
My kids are my firmest critics - when they can fit reading my current work into their busy schedules.
My wife puts up with my grumpiness when I’m in the grip of the creative urge.
They love me anyway.
Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
I was born into a Jewish family during the Second World War, in a Nazi-occupied country, while the bombs were falling. At five years of age, I acquired my mortal enemy: my creativity and intelligence were fully engaged in making my stepfather’s life miserable. I won every battle, but he won the war. I was separated from my family, sent to a strange land where I couldn’t even read the street signs.
Until I was 21, I suffered from depression and PTSD. I didn’t know this, just knew I was ugly, and stupid, and couldn’t do anything right, and no one could love me. Then, without realizing it, I did two years of therapy on myself.
All this is described in two books: Anikó: The stranger who loved me and Ascending Spiral.
Did you like to read when you were a child?
My two antidepressants were studying/reading and running.
Fiction took me out of my world, out of my life, into excitement, adventure, the ways of thinking and being of other people. I lived in places I was sure I’d never visit in real life, became the people I was reading about, and while entertaining myself, I unknowingly started my apprenticeship as a psychotherapist.
In a way, nonfiction was even more satisfying. Laugh if you like, but I loved to read encyclopedias, starting at A and working right through. History, geography, geology, astronomy, if it taught me something, I was hooked. While my mind was fully invested in all this fount of knowledge, I could forget about being an unlovable, ugly stuffup. Hours passed without me realizing it, and sometimes I accidentally missed a meal because I was caught up in, say, theories about the formation of the universe, or the way differential calculus works.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I fell into it, literally. It wasn’t a matter of wanting.
In 1980, I was building my adobe house, when the children kidnapped me. They needed one more male in a boys versus girls soccer game. I didn’t bother to take off my muddy boots. While in hospital for my knee operation, I wrote an article about building for Earth Garden magazine. Thirty-eight years later, I am still writing from them.
Fiction started when I was a student nurse, living in a nurses’ home. I needed to do something creative in my spare time, while away from home, surrounded by gorgeous 18-year-olds, so wrote short stories. This grew.
Did your childhood experiences influence your writing?
Everything that’s ever happened to me influences my writing.
Suffering gives you a choice. It can be the spur to growth, or the deadweight of poor-me resentment. Thanks to a succession of wonderful people in my youth, I chose the first. They are my “angels,” and I describe them in Ascending Spiral. Sylvia, and several other people in Hit and Run, including her son and daughter-in-law, a girl my teenage killer falls in love with, and a boy who mentors him, are modeled on these “angels, although this was not deliberate. As I said, a story cooks behind my consciousness, and I have no control over the recipe or the ingredients.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
Way too many to mention. By the time I was 17, I’d read every book in both the public library, and the one at the school, and I’ve been a keen reader since. A few random names: Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, David Eddings, Tolkien, Dick Francis. In nonfiction, Viktor Frankl, Anne Frank, Malala, Tim Flannery.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
It’s one of my joys. I feel honored that many people consider me their friend, although we’ve never met. Some have become emotionally and intellectually close friends. They feel free to criticize something I’ve done or not done, including my writing, and I welcome this.
A nice young man in Sweden has been suffering from depression. I sent him the draft copy of my coming book, From Depression to Contentment: A self-therapy guide. He has emailed that he has it with him all the time and is using it to improve his life.
Many of my fans blow my trumpet for me, since it’s something I don’t like doing.
This exercise of doing interviews and guest blogs and begging for reviews is something I’d love to subcontract to a 16-year-old kid, who could do it a lot better!
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
As I’ve just said, my next book is nonfiction. It’s complete, and I am waiting for more responses from beta readers before sending it off to Loving Healing Press.
About 12,000 words of the sequel to Guardian Angel are written.
I play around with the 4th and 5th volume of my science fiction series, The Doom Healer. I want to finish the lot before submitting the first volume, so they can come out in fairly quick succession.
I also write monthly essays related to writing, have a monthly newsletter, and irregular blog posts in between. They are all at my blog, Bobbing Around.
There is a draft book on writing, but I haven’t looked at that for a while, and I often fight off concepts that want to hijack me. If one succeeds, there’ll be a new project.
Anything else you would like to add?
Thank you for having me here.
I’d like your readers to know, I have a policy of giving a free book to anyone who emails me proof of purchase of any of my books. Sending me a review qualifies as proof of purchase.
Also, I am offering a free copy of Hit and Run to one randomly drawn person who leaves a comment. (Well, I am not drawing the person, randomly or otherwise. Unlike Sylvia, I am not an artist. But I’ll randomly draw one of the names.) Because the next issue of my newsletter is on 1 August, I’d like to make the deadline 6 August to give all my friends a chance to have a go.
And I wish you, and all your readers, a good life.
Thanks so much for stopping by today, Bob! It’s been a pleasure having you visit.

About the Author
Bob has retired five times so far, from five different occupations. The most important remaining is as a Professional Grandfather. People, mostly young, send him emails of desperation, and his words often make a difference, and in many cases, the loving contact goes on for years.
Because he cares for them, he wants to transform the world into one that can survive, and be worth surviving in. This means changing the global culture that encourages and rewards the worst - greed and aggression - into one that encourages and rewards compassion, cooperation, decency.
However, he hates being preached at, so won't do it to others. Instead, he writes exciting, page-turning fiction that shows the way to a better life.

Enter our exclusive giveaway for a chance to win an ebook copy of Hit and Run by Dr. Bob Rich. As mentioned in the interview above, simply leave a comment below about the interview, and Dr. Bob Rich will randomly select one winner. Giveaway ends 6 August.