Savor Every Toast

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I learned many things on my recent location-scouting trip to Europe with my wife, sister, daughter, and her boyfriend. But the simple lesson that tops the list came from my Italian cousin Lorenzo. He lives in Marina di Pietrasanta on the Mediterranean coast (which happens to be the location for the opening chapters of my latest book, Beyond Judgment.)

Cousins Lorenzo (left) and Francesco

Cousins Lorenzo (left) and Francesco

Lorenzo embraces the moments of his life with a passion that is truly infectious, and he was dismayed when several of us at the dinner table held our glasses high for a group toast. “Wait!” he exclaimed, when he saw that each of us was focused on the cluster of raised drinks rather than each other. “A toast should connect people…not glasses,” he said, lifting his own glass in my direction and capturing my gaze. “It is an expression of respect between people, be they family, friends, or acquaintances…a chance to push their troubles aside for a moment and acknowledge one another eye to eye—to see beyond the veils of false smiles and witty quips, and instead connect as human beings.” He tipped his glass toward mine, his warm gaze inviting me in, and the gentle nature of my cousin’s spirit was revealed to me like never before. I smiled. He nodded. We drank.

 

“Life is too short to miss such opportunities, si?” he said, smacking his lips.

“I couldn’t agree more,” I said, turning to my wife and raising my glass. Her expression was soft and ready. The world disappeared and the connection we shared in our silent toast was intimate.

Then everyone joined in, each of us toasting one another with true intention. There were a few giggles, and some eyelash-batting as we pointedly locked gazes, but as the dinner continued we got the hang of it, and it transformed our 5-course feast into a heart-felt gathering that I’ll never forget.

While many of you may have learned this lesson long ago, I’m sure there are few who haven’t. If so, why not give it a try the next time you share a table with friends and family? Take a moment to offer up a real toast. You won’t regret it.

Cheers!
Richard

About the author: In 1975, young Air Force pilot Richard Bard was diagnosed with cancer and learned that he had only a few months to live. Thirty-six years later he’s still going strong. He earned a management degree from the University of Notre Dame and after leaving the Air Force he ran three successful companies involving advanced security products and hi-tech displays used by US embassies and government facilities worldwide. He currently resides with his wonderful wife in Redondo Beach, California, where he remains in excellent health.  www.RichardBard.com.

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The Best Book You Will Ever Read is the One You Write Yourself

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They say the cardinal rule to follow when composing a good story is to “write what you know,” and to some extent that’s what I did with the Brainrush thriller series. It’s a story about second chances and embracing each day of your life as though it’s your last. It was a natural first step in my writing since Jake Bronson’s emotional journey—as an Air Force pilot who faces a terminal diagnosis—parallels my own.

I suppose I also followed that same writer’s rule by weaving in a number of colorful international locations—places where I experienced more than my fair share of personal adventures. But as I dove into Jake’s story, and his journey unfolded in my mind, it wasn’t long before I discovered that I was no longer writing about what I “knew,” and instead was writing what I “loved.”

I’ve been an avid reader for most of my life. As an Air Force brat who moved every couple of years from one place to another across Europe and the US, family was the glue that held us together, and bestsellers became my constant friends. Even today you’ll rarely find me without a good book nearby. I love a fast-paced tale that grabs my imagination from the onset and doesn’t let go until the final page—the kind of story that remains with me long after I’ve finished reading it, not because of its literary style or depth of meaning, but because of the emotions it evokes from one heart-pounding chapter to the next, with next-door-neighbor-like characters whose flaws and virtues are revealed in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. What could be better?

For me that’s what the Brainrush series is all about, and I’m thrilled that so many readers have enjoyed it. As for the next installment in Jake’s tumultuous journey, this month I’m excited to have unleashed Beyond Judgment. Here’s a quick synopsis:

Stricken with amnesia after a six-year coma, Jake Bronson is haunted by fleeting ghosts of his former life. When his hidden past finally rushes back, it’s accompanied by assassins, psychopathic world leaders, and an ancient order determined to unlock his dormant talents and use them to trigger the extinction of humankind. Jake reclaims his life, but the reunion is bittersweet, placing long-lost friends and loved ones in harm’s way—as those hunting Jake will stop at nothing to force his participation in their atrocious scheme. As a madman’s vision for the future nears its apocalyptic fruition, Jake and his allies must find a way to overcome impossible odds and unstoppable foes—or watch as the world burns into oblivion.

Now I won’t even begin to suggest that this latest chapter in Jake’s story is going to win any literary style awards, but I can promise you this: I absolutely loved it!

Happy reading,
Richard

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The Mother of All Book Signing Events!

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Hi BRAINRUSH fans! I’ve got some fun things to talk about this time around. First, I’ll explain how YOU could be a guest at a blockbuster thriller event in NYC. Second, I ‘m going to introduce you to a first-of-its-kind Twitter promotion that starts today, where everyone is guaranteed to win. Then we’ll take a look at the reveal of the colorful new covers for the BRAINRUSH series (I love ‘em!), and last but not least, you’ll get a chance to win an Advance Reader’s Copy of BRAINRUSH-3, “Beyond Judgment”. Read on!

Would you like to be my guest in New York City?

Thrillerfest2013How would you like to join me at FanFest, the blockbuster party and book signing at ThrillerFest at the Grand Hyatt in New York City on July 12, 2013? I’ll be hosting the event with over 20 other thriller authors, many of whom are New York Times bestselling favorites like Steve Berry, R.L. Stine, John Lescroat and Michael Palmer, to name just a few. Oh yeah, ITW Co-Presidents Lee Child and Kathleen Antrim will be there too!

As one of the sponsors I get to host five special guests to this bash, each of whom will receive free admission, a swag bag of signed books and other goodies (including one item that you’re going to love!), plus two free drinks and a cool badge. But best of all you’ll get to meet a bunch of other thriller writers and readers. The event begins with a book signing from 6:00-6:30 pm, followed by a cocktail party until 8:00 pm. It’s going to be fun!

To enter, send me an email to Promo@RichardBard.com (put “FanFest” in the subject line) letting me know why you should be one of the lucky five. Include your mailing address so I’ll know where to send the invitation. Please understand that this invite is for FanFest only and doesn’t include other ThrillerFest events. Also, you’ll be responsible for travel, food, lodging and other expenses, which I realize is a big deal if you don’t live nearby. So please enter the contest only if you’re sure you will attend if selected. If you win, you might consider signing up for the 2-day thrillerfest event as well. If you love thrillers, you’ll love ThrillerFest.

A unique Amazon/BRAINRUSH promotion on Twitter

Twitter LogoDo you use Twitter? If so, you’re going to like the groundbreaking Amazon promotion I’m hosting from April 5-12, where everyone is guaranteed to win–that’s right, everyone! It’s the first promo of its kind so I hope you’ll give it a look.

It’s very simple. All you have to do is retweet my tweet that introduces the promo. You will then automatically receive a 50% discount on the promoted book. Plus, every 10th person to retweet will get it FREE. Pretty slick, huh? The goal is to get lots of people retweeting in order to build a buzz. I especially like that it’s an automated process through Amazon. There’s no purchase necessary and it all happens simply by retweeting. If you’d like to try it CLICK HERE, scroll my recent tweets to find one that starts with “Retweet to get 50% off…” and retweet it. That’s it!

Note: For many of you the book offered may be one you’ve already read (It’s either going to be BRAINRUSH 1 or 2 this time around.) However, I’d sincerely appreciate it if you would retweet it anyway to see how the promo works and to fuel the buzz. Thanks!

New look for the BRAINRUSH series

As you may recall, I signed a 3-book publishing deal with Thomas & Mercer, Amazon’s Mystery & Thriller imprint. I’m thrilled with the new relationship. They plan to re-release the first two books of the Brainrush series on April 30, 2013, setting the stage for the launch of “Beyond Judgment” on July 2nd. Check out the new covers!

buscardfront

BRAINRUSH-3 “Beyond Judgment”

It’s finally finished and I can’t wait to hear what you think about it! Here’s the back cover text:

Stricken with amnesia after a six-year coma, Jake Bronson is haunted by fleeting ghosts of his former life. When his hidden past finally rushes back, it’s accompanied by assassins, psychopathic world leaders, and an ancient order determined to unlock his dormant talents and use them to trigger the extinction of humankind. Jake reclaims his life, but the reunion is bittersweet, placing long-lost friends and loved ones in harm’s way-as those hunting Jake will stop at nothing to force his participation in their atrocious scheme. As a madman’s vision for the future nears its apocalyptic fruition, Jake and his allies must find a way to overcome impossible odds and unstoppable foes-or watch as the world burns into oblivion.

From the canals of Venice, to an ancient castle in the Swiss Alps, and finally to a remote volcanic island in the Banda Sea, it’s a wild, heart-pumping ride, I promise! If you’d like to preorder, click HERE.

WIN an Advance Reader’s Copy!

You can win an Advance Reader copy of “Beyond Judgment” in a Goodreads giveaway. Winners will be announced on April 30th, two months before the book is released. If you’d like to get in on the action, here’s the link: Goodreads Giveaway

One final note, the first-ever “Beyond Judgment” review was posted last week by an advance reader. It was a terrific 5-Star review. Whew! You can read it HERE.

Happy reading!
Richard
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From Debut Novel to Film in 10 Lucky Steps

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When I started writing four years ago, the idea that my action/adventure novel, “Brainrush”, might someday be on the big screen was nothing more than a pipe dream. In the last several months, however, I’ve actually come to believe that it might happen.

Of course, it’s still a one in a thousand shot. But something just feels right about it. The other day I imagined myself at the premier. I wondered what I’d say if someone asked how it all came together. The short answer? A lot of luck. I’ve had more than my share of it:

Step 1. (2008-2009) Took classes at UCLA writer’s extension. Learned to write. Found out how bad I was during workshops. Took more classes. Got better. Wrote a chapter. Then 10 chapters. Then 50. Revised. Revised. Revised. Sent the book to 8 friends. They liked it. (At least that’s what they said…)

Step 2. (2010) “Brainrush, a Thriller” was first exposed to the public on a website named Authonomy.com. (Owned by Harper Collins). It’s a site that enables writers to get feedback from readers and other authors—who then “Back” your book if they like it. The more backers, the higher the book climbs on the charts. There were 9,000 unpublished titles on the site when I uploaded the manuscript. Brainrush rose to the #1 slot in four months. I was thrilled, to say the least.

Step 3. (2010-2011) The exposure landed me an agent. Yep, that meant I didn’t have to go through the process of mailing out 100 queries, only to receive 99 rejection letters in the mail. Good thing. Because I’m thin-skinned about that sort of thing. So over the next year, SHE sent out the queries…and got the rejections. She didn’t make me read them. There were some nibbles. And one of the Big Six “really liked it”, but the cross-genre nature of the story meant their marketing team couldn’t pigeon-hole it. They passed. In the meantime, I started writing Book-2 of the series.

Step 4. (August 2011) A year had passed with no sale. I decided to self-publish. Which meant I had to write my own rejection letter…to my agent. (THAT was hard to do. I loved her. Still do.) I uploaded Brainrush on Amazon. Within two months the book was the #1 Bestselling Action/Adventure on the site. It held that spot for many weeks. At one point, the eBook sold at a rate of one per minute. It was later listed in the Wall Street Journal as the #1 Bestselling Action/Adventure in their “Readers Guide to Self-Published Big Sellers” (Dec 9, 2011)

Step 5. (December 2011) Launched “Brainrush-II, The Enemy of My Enemy”. Within three weeks it became the #1 “Top Rated” (best reviewed) Action/Adventure on Amazon. As of today (9 months later), it still holds that slot. By the way, it’s also been the #1 or #2 Top Rated Mystery/Thriller during that same period.

Step 6. (February – August 2012)
• Signed with mainstream literary agent, Scott Miller, EVP of Trident Media Group.
• Landed a three-book publishing contract with Thomas & Mercer.
• Signed with mainstream film agent, Jon Cassir, Creative Artists Agency.
• Landed a film option with Fortune Films, LLC.

Step 7. (Last Week) Finished “Brainrush-III, Final Judgment”. Whew! That feels good. I’ve been writing seven days a week for the past six months. I love the story. It’s a humdinger. I passed it on to the editorial team at T&M. That’s a first for me. In the past, I’ve used a freelance editor that I hired on my own. The concept of having a “team” of people working to help make the story even better is mind-boggling. Next I’ll meet with the marketing team. The fact that they’re part of the largest bookselling conglomerate in the world isn’t lost on me. (Thomas & Mercer is part of Amazon.) They’re going to repackage and re-release Books 1 and 2 in the first quarter of next year, setting the stage for a launch of Book-3 at the beginning of summer. I have high hopes.

Step 8. (Next week) Fortune Films goes to work on the film adaptation, attaching talent, creating a budget, and all the other stuff necessary to package Brainrush for a studio.

Step 9. A zillion other things.

Step 10. Cross my fingers.

It’s a lot to take in for this former USAF pilot, turned businessman, turned writer. But through it all I’ve made a point of enjoying the journey. The best part for me has been the flood of emails, messages and reviews I’ve received from excited readers. They make it all worthwhile.

So, is Brainrush going to end up on the big screen someday? I hope so. Because my wife is already shopping for a red carpet dress.

About the author:In 1975, young Air Force pilot Richard Bard was diagnosed with cancer and learned that he had only a few months to live. Thirty-six years later he’s still going strong. He earned a management degree from the University of Notre Dame and after leaving the Air Force he ran three successful companies involving advanced security products and hi-tech displays used by US embassies and government facilities worldwide. He currently resides with his wonderful wife in Redondo Beach, California. For information on upcoming books visit www.RichardBard.com.

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April 2012 Interview With Richard Bard

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I enjoyed a fun interview with Suzy Welker at BunniesReview.com!

If you could work with any author, who would it be.

I’d love the opportunity to talk shop with Stephen King. Can you imagine a brain-storming session with him? Now that would be a brain-rush!

Who is your favorite author and is your writing style similar to theirs?

I have many favorites, in several genres, including Clive Cussler and Michael Crichton. Several readers have said that my story-telling style is similar to theirs. I’m humbled by the comparison.

What is your favorite part of a book?

As a reader, it’s the part that surprises me that I enjoy the most. If I can predict what’s going to happen, then why bother, right? Give me the twists and turns that keep me guessing.

When naming your characters, do you give any thought to the actual meaning?

In some cases, yes. For example, In BRAINRUSH the antagonist’s first name is “Luciano”, a derivation of Lucifer. Most of the time, however, I pick names that ‘feel’ like the character.

What is your inspiration or who is?

I’ve been an avid reader and movie-goer most of my life. So stories have been my constant companion.  The natural result was a very active imagination and a unique perspective on what works and what doesn’t, at least for me as a reader or viewer. When I create a story, I fashion it into something that I would personally enjoy. That means it better be a page turner.

Do you use real-life facts based on true stories?

While I incorporate factual technology and locations into the stories, the story itself is fiction.

Do you use your OWN experiences?

To one degree or another, I suspect all writers incorporate parts of “self” into their work. In my case, my experiences as an Air Force pilot with serious health issues provided an anchor for Jake’s adventure.

Did you ever think you would ever become an author?

While I’d thought about it from time to time, I never suspected that I’d actually do it. But when I left the business world I found myself with a lot of time on my hands and plenty of stories in my head. So I decided to learn more by attending classes at UCLA. They have a terrific writing program. Most of the instructors are published professionals. With their encouragement, and that of fellow students in many workshops, my writing improved. It wasn’t long before I couldn’t wait to share the next chapter in class, anxious for feedback. Eventually, it became an obsession. Now, I can’t imagine doing anything else.  I’ve loved two ‘jobs’ in my life. The first was flying. The second is writing.

How do you conceive your plot ideas?

I don’t have a formula, that’s for sure. But I keep a notebook around me wherever I go. Ideas come at the strangest times. I’ve learned that if I don’t write them down they vanish quickly. Sometimes scenes come to me when I’m dreaming. I wake up at the end of a heart-pounding chase and write it all down. In the morning, I decipher what I can from my chicken-scratches. The most inopportune place to get an idea is on the freeway, since pulling over and writing it down isn’t always a viable option. The first few times this happened, my solution was to call my home number using the car’s hands-free feature and leave a message on my voicemail. Eventually, I realized that my cell phone had a recording feature (slap in the forehead). ..

Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to publish?

Not yet!

How long did it take you to publish your first book, after you started trying?

I was lucky to have landed an agent shortly after I finished my first book. I’d posted the unpublished manuscript on Authonomy.com. Based on votes from readers and fellow writers, the book rose to the #1 slot above 9,000 others. That attracted the interest of a film producer. When he learned that I was not yet represented, he sent an agent my way. How cool is that?! However, in the months that followed, she was unable to sell the book. Several editors showed an interest, one from one of the big six, but ultimately the cross-genre nature of the book made it difficult to pigeon hole from a marketing standpoint. So they passed. A year later, when I was nearly finished with the sequel, I elected to go the Indie route with Amazon. I said a tearful goodbye to my agent and struck out on my own. Five months later, the book was listed in the Wall Street Journal as the #1 Bestselling Action/Adventure in their “Readers Guide to Self-Published Big Sellers” (Dec 9, 2011). Whew!  By the way, I am once again represented by agents: Scott Miller, EVP of Trident Media Group for literary rights, and Jon Cassir at Creative Artists Agency (CAA) for Film/TV rights. Both of them are superstars!

Tell me about your book. How did you come up with that (story, angle, idea)?

BRAINRUSH is a story about second chances and embracing each day of your life as though it’s your last. It was a natural first step in my writing since the protagonist’s emotional journey—as an ex-Air Force pilot who faced a terminal diagnosis—parallels my own. Here’s the short pitch:

When terminally ill combat pilot Jake Bronson emerges from an MRI with extraordinary cognitive powers, everyone wants a piece of his talent–including Battista, one of the world’s most dangerous terrorists. To save his love and her autistic child, Jake is thrust into a deadly chase that leads from the canals of Venice through Monte Carlo and finally to an ancient cavern in the Hindu Kush Mountains of Afghanistan–where Jake discovers that his newfound talents carry a hidden price that threatens the entire human race.

How did you get interested in writing this particular genre (historical novels, mysteries, sci-fi, children’s books, etc.)?

They say you write what you enjoy reading. I’ve been a fan of Action/Adventure thrillers all my life, so sticking to that genre was natural for me.

What kind of research did you do for this book?

Tons! Besides location scouting (which included a month in Venice, Italy living in a 430-year-old apartment over a canal), weapons details, etc, my research for the series revealed that there are a growing number of accounts of ‘ordinary’ people that develop incredible mental and physical abilities following trauma to the head. In one example, ten-year-old Orlando Serrell was hit in the head by a baseball. A few months later he was able to recall an endless list of license-plate numbers, song lyrics, and weather reports—as if a switch had suddenly been thrown in his brain. That suggests the abilities were resident in his brain in the first place, just waiting to be unlocked, right? This ‘sudden genius’ or ‘acquired savant’ has been the focus of study by Dr. Darold Treffert, a recognized expert in the field. His book, Islands of Genius, is packed full of similar examples.

Other groups, including one led by Dr. Alan Snyder who holds the 150th Anniversary Chair of Science and the Mind at the University of Sydney, are working on methods to unlock these abilities—without the need for a fastball to the noggin. What’s it going to be like, when each and every one of us is able to tap into that well of creative genius?

The world as we know it will cease to exist. BRAINRUSH was born!

What is a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?

While I don’t have a daily word-count goal, it’s important to me that I advance my story each day. I write at a local coffee shop at the beach. I have a favorite spot beside a wall of bookshelves stocked with titles that people borrow on an honor basis. It’s a great atmosphere. I show up around 9:00AM and write till the juices stop flowing, which is usually around 1:00 or 2:00. Six days a week.

What is the hardest part of writing for you?

I spend a lot of time on scene description. In the end the descriptions are short, leaving plenty of room for the reader to fill in the blanks. But deciding on exactly which details to include or exclude doesn’t come naturally to me.

What is the best thing about being an author?

I love connecting with readers from all over the world. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that Jake’s story has provided an entertaining escape to so many.

What are you working on now?

Book-3 of the series. If not, I think BRAINRUSH fans would string me up!

What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Write from the heart. Create something that you would personally enjoy reading over and over again. Once that’s done, learn about promoting your book online. There are hundreds of thousands of books for readers to sift through. It’s imperative that you give them a reason to give yours a try.

Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?

Wow, there are so many that I’ve enjoyed over the years. Here are a few of them, in no particular order: James Patterson, Brad Thor, David Baldacci, Robert Ludlum, Eric Van Lustbader, Clive Cussler, James Rollins, Preston & Child, John Grisham, Terry Goodkind, Robert Jordan, Dale Brown, Robbin Hobb, Steve Berry, Michael Crichton, Terry Brooks, Dan Brown, Tom Clancy, Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Bernard Cornwall, Michael Connelly, and more.

I hope that I end up on your list someday.

What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?

The question: “What makes you the luckiest man in the world?”

The answer:  “My family.”

If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?

“Never Say Die!”

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A new way to celebrate a book launch

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I had my first “Live” author interview on December 18th. Stephen Windwalker joined me. He’s the brains behind KindleNationDaily.com, one of the top ten most-visited sites for kindle and ebook news. The interview was hosted by Doug Noll, a law professor, renown mediator, and outdoor enthusiast. What a mix!

The event was in celebration of the launch of “BRAINRUSH II, The Enemy of My Enemy”. We talked about the book, gave away some VERY cool prizes (including TWO Kindle Fires), and opened the chat lines for Q&A’s. Attendance was terrific–at times the chat scroll zipped up the screen faster than I could read it. I’ve posted the archived video below in case you’d like to check it out.

By the way, in the few short days since the launch, BRAINRUSH II has soared up the charts. It’s currently the #6 bestselling Action/Adventure on Amazon. Peel me off the ceiling!

BookCandyTV Interview with Richard Bard (CLICK)

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A shout-out from David Crosby of CS&N

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Show of hands—How many of you are Crosby, Stills & Nash fans? 

If you’re over 30, you’ve got a hand up, over 55 and you’ve got two hands up.  And you younger folks…you’re fans too, even though you may not know it.  You hum along to their songs every day on the radio, never realizing the artists behind the music are the voice of three generations.

I’m a big fan—always have been—so imagine my elation when I received an email from David Crosby telling me that he read my debut novel, Brainrush, a Thriller, in just two sittings.  He said he, “loved, loved, LOVED it!”  And he wasn’t kidding.  He even gave the book a shout-out at the MUSE benefit concert at the Shoreline Pavilion in San Francisco, with the likes of Jackson Brown, Bonnie Raitt, John Hall, Jason Mraz and a bunch of others on the scene. 

Now that’s a brain-rush!

About the author:In 1975, young Air Force pilot Richard Bard was diagnosed with cancer and learned that he had only a few months to live. Thirty-six years later he’s still going strong. He earned a management degree from the University of Notre Dame and after leaving the Air Force he ran three successful companies involving advanced security products and hi-tech displays used by US embassies and government facilities worldwide. He currently resides with his wonderful wife in Redondo Beach, California.  Brainrush is Book One of a series. For information on upcoming books visit www.RichardBard.com.

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My mommy said I could do anything

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My mother always said, “Ricky, you can do anything you set your mind to.” I believed her.  If I failed at something–and that happened plenty of times–I figured it was simply because I hadn’t done it right.  So I’d try again.  I can’t tell you how many times I sat in church, or class, or the library and stared at the back of someone’s head, focusing my thoughts, willing them to turn around, or sneeze, or twitch—anything!  (Yes, I really did that.)  Of course it never worked.  But I never stopped trying, no matter how impossible it seemed.  I’d hear stories about people with photographic memories, or ESP, or incredible math or artistic skills, and I’d think, “Hey, if they can do it, why can’t I?”

Some people are so gifted that their abilities boggle the mind.  Like Kim Peek, the autistic savant that inspired the movie, Rain Man (1988), whose incredible brain allowed him to recount countless ball-player statistics in exacting detail.  He even memorized a good portion of the phone book, among other things.  Or the legally blind crayon artist, Richard Wayro, whose works sells for up to $10,000 each, one of which resides on the Pope’s wall.  Or what about Stephen Wiltshire?  After only a fifteen minute helicopter ride over London he spent the next five days drawing a highly detailed 12-foot mural depicting seven square miles of the city, right down to every street, building and window.  Incredible.

Remember the movie, The Edge (1997) with Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin?  The two characters find themselves stranded in a dangerous wilderness facing down a murderous bear the size of two Hulk Hogans.  They run; the bear follows.  They’re left with no option but to try and kill the monster.  Hopkins’s billionaire character (who coincidentally has a photographic memory) recalls reading a book that described how the Indians of old would bring down a bear—fashioning twelve-foot spears from thick tree limbs, poking at the bear until he stands to his full-height, and finally bracing the spear against the ground as the bear makes his downward lunge, impaling himself.  Baldwin’s character thought the idea was suicide.  But over and over again his sage billionaire companion insisted, “What one man can do, another can do.”   As you might expect, Hopkins was right.  They killed the bear.   And to this day his mantra echoes my own belief:  What one man can do, another can do.

My research for the BRAINRUSH series revealed that there are a growing number of accounts of ‘ordinary’ people that develop incredible mental and physical abilities following trauma to the head.  In one example, ten-year-old Orlando Serrell was hit in the head by a baseball.  A few months later he was able to recall an endless list of license-plate numbers, song lyrics, and weather reports—as if a switch had suddenly been thrown in his brain. That suggests the abilities were resident in his brain in the first place, just waiting to be unlocked, right? This ‘sudden genius’ or ‘acquired savant’ has been the focus of study by Dr. Darold Treffert, a recognized expert in the field.  His book, Islands of Genius, is packed full of similar examples.

Other groups, including one led by Dr. Alan Snyder who holds the 150th Anniversary Chair of Science and the Mind at the University of Sydney, are working on methods to unlock these abilities—without the need for a fastball to the noggin.  What’s it going to be like, when each and every one of us is able to tap into that well of creative genius?

The world as we know it will cease to exist.

So I guess my mom was right.  Not just about me, but about all of us.  We can do anything we set our minds to.  For me, I’ve decided to write.  Maybe later, after the technology’s been developed to throw that switch in my brain, I’ll become a concert pianist.  In the meantime, if you’re sitting in church or the library someday and you suddenly twitch or feel an unusual tingling at the back of your head, turn around and make my day.

About the author:In 1975, young Air Force pilot Richard Bard was diagnosed with cancer and learned that he had only a few months to live. Thirty-six years later he’s still going strong. He earned a management degree from the University of Notre Dame and after leaving the Air Force he ran three successful companies involving advanced security products and hi-tech displays used by US embassies and government facilities worldwide. He currently resides with his wonderful wife in Redondo Beach, California.  Brainrush is Book One of a series. For information on upcoming books visit www.RichardBard.com.

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Autism – It’s time for the 99% majority to speak up for the 1%

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I don’t have a spectrum disorder; my children aren’t autistic, nor are my siblings. But what if they were? What if I was?

Today I read a guest blog post from Autism Speaks, written by Science Board member John Elder Robison, author of Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s and Be Different: Adventured of a Free-Range Aspergian. He spoke of the accommodations that—in an ideal world—society should make for the disadvantaged 1% of the population who have autism, aspergers or other spectrum disorders. He talked about offering subtle changes in the workplace to make the environment more comfortable, simple things like quieter work cubicles or different lighting. That seems doable. But then he goes on to ask the question whether or not that’s fair to the rest of the employees. What about the boisterous guy one cube over? Is he expected to modify his behavior as an accommodation as well? And what if the accommodation necessary is more substantial than just dimming the lights? Where does the company draw the line? Is there a line?

John argues that such changes have been very slow in coming during his lifetime and he doesn’t expect that to change anytime soon. He says, “We can’t expect the other 99% to change for us.  Laudable as the goal of change may be, they just don’t care.”

“They just don’t care…”

He’s right, isn’t he? At least for the most part. And that’s sad. So sad that it pisses me off, more than a little. But what can I do about it? Sure, I’ll be more careful about judging those around me—whether I’m sitting in my favorite coffee shop as I am right now, or shopping at the mall or waiting in line at the grocery store. Hell, a couple of months ago I even made a donation on behalf of my close friend, Deb, whose two grandchildren had been recently diagnosed. She reached out to her friends on behalf of Walk Now for Autism Speaks. I was happy to help. Maybe I’ll kick it up a bit and send in a few more bucks—you know, to help find a cure. So I ought to be able to sleep better tonight, right?

Wrong. It isn’t enough. Not even close.

At the beginning of this post I mentioned that I don’t have a spectral disorder. That could change. Not just for me, but for you too. Have you ever heard of Sudden Savant Syndrome? It’s pretty mind-boggling, pun intended. Let me tell you about it.

There are a growing number of documented cases where ‘ordinary’ people—those of us in the 99% group—suffer trauma to the head during an accident or seizure and then develop incredible mental abilities overnight. Suddenly you possess an eidetic or photographic memory, or the ability to do complex mental calculations in a matter of seconds, or maybe you’re able to compose a symphony in your mind and then play it beautifully on a piano in a matter of hours. Yes, this can actually happen. Pretty incredible, huh? But—and this is a big BUT—in most cases you’re also likely to suffer debilitating side effects and before you know it, you’ve joined the ranks of the 1%. If that happens to me, I’m going to wish I’d done more…before.

I’m a thriller writer. My debut book, Brainrush, is about a former combat pilot that becomes part of the 1% as a result of a freak accident. In his case, he doesn’t experience any negative side effects. At least not at first… Publisher’s Weekly called the book “a terrifically entertaining thriller”, so that’s pretty cool.

It was in researching Brainrush that I came across the startling statistics about the epidemic that is autism. It prompted me to include two autistic children in the story. As I breathed life into them on the page, I grew to love them, to feel for them and to truly care about the 1.5 million people in the U.S. affected by the disorder. Interestingly, my notes taken three years ago from the Autism Society of America website indicated that autism and other spectral disorders occurred in 1 out 150 births. I checked the website today to discover it has increased to 1 out of 110 births. That’s an almost 30% increase! Something must be done.

This is my first blog ever. It will probably be a while before I write another. When I do, I promise it will be shorter. In the meantime, I offer my thanks to John Elder Robison for his original post. As an Aspergian, he’s lived a lifetime being part of the 1%, experiencing the discrimination, the odd looks, the uncomfortable judgments cast by the rest of us. I haven’t read either of John’s books, but I will now.

Maybe we all should.

Richard

About the author: In 1975, young Air Force pilot Richard Bard was diagnosed with cancer and learned that he had only a few months to live. Thirty-six years later he’s still going strong. He earned a management degree from the University of Notre Dame and after leaving the Air Force he ran three successful companies involving advanced security products and hi-tech displays used by US embassies and government facilities worldwide. He currently resides with his wonderful wife in Redondo Beach, California. Brainrush is Book One of a series. For information on upcoming books visit www.RichardBard.com.

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