Tuesday, May 20, 2014

SPOTLIGHT ON AN INCREDIBLY TALENTED AUTHOR CHRISTOPH FISCHER

Today I am extremely delighted to bring back into my blog this so awesome and so gifted author 

CHRISTOPH FISCHER



Christoph Fischer was born in Germany, near the Austrian border, as the son of a Sudeten-German father and a Bavarian mother. Not a full local in the eyes and ears of his peers he developed an ambiguous sense of belonging and home in Bavaria. He moved to Hamburg in pursuit of his studies and to lead a life of literary indulgence. After a few years he moved on to the UK where he is still resident today. ‘The Luck of The Weissensteiners’ was published in November 2012; 'Sebastian' in May 2013 and The Black Eagle Inn in October 2013. He has written several other novels which are in the later stages of editing and finalisation.


Christoph has a new release!!

 " TIME TO LET GO "



THIS is a heart-wrenching, heartwarming and very compelling story. 





THIS BOOK IS A MUST READ!! 

Sit back and take a look at a few excerpts that will capture you interest, your curiosity and your heart, but they will not spoil the story. 




Excerpt One


Hanna looked around the room for inspiration, but all she could think of was the tried and trusted: “Is there anything interesting in the newspaper?”

      “Yes. Let me have a look,” her mother said, as she folded the newspaper back to the front page and scanned the article in front of her with intense concentration.
      “Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg…” Biddy began, and read the entire article remarkably well, without any errors.
        After finishing Biddy asked: “What is the Taliban?”
Walter shot his daughter a warning look and shook his head.
       “Oh, they are politicians,” Hanna said vaguely. “A lot of people do not like them.”
        “Ah, politics,” she replied. She hesitated for a moment then she went back to the paper.
        “Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg …”
        “Is everything ok with you?” Walter asked his daughter whispering so as not to disturb his wife’s reading.
       “Oh yes, all good,” she nodded enthusiastically.
Walter turned away from the stove and looked at her intently.
       “There’s something you’re not telling me. I’m not stupid!”
       “There is nothing going on that you should be concerned about,” Hanna said, shifting in her seat.        “You are doing a fantastic job looking after mother. Stick to that as your family duty. I can manage my life. I am 40 years old, for crying out loud.”
      “Who is the Taliban?” Biddy interrupted.
      “They are politicians,” Hanna repeated.
      “What kind of politicians?”
      “Not very nice ones,” Hanna replied. “A lot of people don’t like them.”
      “Ah,” Biddy nodded, looking at the paper. Then she turned back to Hanna and asked “Who is it that the people don’t like?”
     “The Taliban, Biddy.”
     “Who is the Taliban?”
     “They are politicians.”
     “Hanna save yourself the effort, you are hardly going to teach her about world politics now,” Walter said, but Hanna ignored him.
    “What kind of politicians?” Biddy asked again.
     “You don’t need to worry about them,” Hanna put her comforting hand on her mother’s shoulder.        “The government is dealing with them. They have no relevance to you or me.”
      “Are you sure?” Biddy was shifting uncomfortably in her seat.
Hanna pressed harder on her mother’s shoulder.
    “Quite sure.”
    “Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg…”
    “I admire your endurance,” Walter said, blatantly talking over his wife now from the stove. “If I were you I would just steer the conversation to something else. Why should she concern herself with the Taliban?”
     “Why should she concern herself with anything these days?” Hanna shot back. “It doesn’t really matter what she engages with. As long as she interacts and asks questions I am glad for her.”
     “You can only confuse her by talking about abstract things like that. Keep it simple.”
      “I am not going to discourage her if she shows interest in something. I just want her to feel valued, surely that is worth a few repetitive moments.”
     “We’ll see how you feel when you have done this for a week, or a month,” Walter said. “Don’t get me wrong, I love your patience. Just don’t burn yourself out.”




Excerpt Two


For the next half hour he watched his wife as she was talking to and feeding the ducks in a pond in a nearby park. This was a very quiet time of day for the birds. School children were at class and mothers with young ones seemed to come out here a little later than this: the pond was all hers. It amazed him how much joy and entertainment his wife could gain from such a simple thing as feeding the ducks.
Her zest for life still showed frequently and sometimes even seemed completely unbroken by the disease. When she was first diagnosed with Alzheimers she had desperately tried to fight it and in the process she had suffered a lot. She had read all the books there were, taken supplements and tried to train her brain with exercises.
“Come to bed,” Walter had said to her one evening when she had spent several hours in the study with her brain teasers.
“But I must solve this puzzle,” Biddy shot back at him. “I can’t finish unless I get this right.”
“Do it tomorrow, love.”
“No,” Biddy hissed. “I need to do it now.”
“You are probably too tired to solve it tonight. You need sleep more than this exercise,” Walter tried again.
“Mind your own business,” she yelled and slammed her fist on the table.
Walter was so surprised at this uncharacteristic outburst; he stood frozen and had no reply ready. While he struggled to come up with a response to this unprecedented shouting over nothing Biddy doubled over on the desk and started to sob.
“I can’t do it, Walter,” she cried. “I just can’t do it.”
“You don’t need to do everything today. Do it tomorrow.”
“That’s not just it, Walter. I’ve forgotten something else but I can’t remember what it is. I know it is something really important that I must do. I should have written it down.”
Walter walked up to her and tried to hug her.
“Get off me,” she screamed and yanked his hand away. “You don’t know what it is like. Don’t patronise me!”
Walter wanted to shout back at her, to make her snap out of her mood, but he was just too surprised to think of what he could possibly say. His wife had never pushed him away before.
He left her in the study and went to bed. Biddy stayed up for hours turning the house upside down for clues as to what she had forgotten. He did not sleep a wink that night and many more to follow when his wife was on a mission to locate a misplaced item.
Fortunately, they eventually passed that very awkward period of her life and these days she no longer seemed to care and no longer wasted her time in agony over the spilled beans of her mind. He wondered if that was part of her complex drug regime. He suspected that the doctors had slipped her an anti-depressant or a sedative of sorts into her cocktail of daily pills. He would rather not know and so he never asked about it and only ever read the dosage instructions on the prescription sheet.
Biddy’s manners these days were innocent and childlike, just the way she had always been. Her optimism and her famous positive attitude had been the core of her character and she had helped many of her friends and family to overcome crisis after crisis with her unbreakable spirit.
Watching her being happy and joyful while feeding the stupid ducks he felt that for a moment everything was just as it always had been. He could see the young woman he had married underneath the wrinkles, the white hair and behind the blank stare she often had these days when she got confused.
Right now the bright light of her essence was visible and it warmed Walter on the inside. Such moments gave him the necessary strength to accept the things he was missing from his married life of late.





Excerpt Three


He decided not to wait for Hanna’s return. She was supposed to have been gone for only a few hours but had not showed up yet. Knowing his daughter, anything was possible. He was eager to move the day along so that he and Biddy could watch an entire film before his wife would get tired and fall asleep. He had shortlisted several films which he thought his wife might enjoy but he could not make up his mind. After the last few evenings where Hanna had entertained her mother with silly musical movies he felt inclined to make a similar choice, but was not confident that he was the right company for Biddy to watch those films with. Would another musical like ‘Chicago’ be of any use, without Hanna there to cheer Biddy on?
In the end he settled for ‘The Philadelphia Story’, a classic screw ball comedy that Biddy had always loved, not least for its leading actors. The story line might intellectually be a little too demanding for his wife but it had enough slap stick moments to promise a pleasant evening.
Unfortunately Hanna came home early, before her parents had managed to settle into the film. Instantly distracted and excited by her daughter’s arrival, Biddy got up and paid no more attention to the TV.
Walter tried to set his wife up for telling the story about the swans and the dogs, but that memory was gone.
“Swans? You are talking a lot of nonsense today,” she said to Walter. “There are no swans here.”
“Not now,” Walter tried, unwilling to give up without further efforts to regain a memory for his wife. “We just went to the lake. The same as yesterday when you went to the lake with Hanna. The dog that chased the swans? That happened only two hours ago!”
“Daddy, you are upsetting her now. Leave her be,” Hanna said,
“Pumpkin, I can’t just sit back and let the disease take everything away from our life without a fight,” Walter said forcefully. “Sometimes you need to fight back. Biddy still has moments of clarity, she needs to try and remember. We need to challenge her. That swan and dog thing happened twice, that should stick somewhere in her grey matter.”
Biddy said nothing now and just stared sheepishly at the floor.
“What did you see at the lake?” Walter probed his wife.
“A lake? Oh my. But it is dark now!” Biddy protested.
“We are not going to a lake,” Walter said impatiently. “We already went this afternoon. The swans? The dog chasing them? Remember?”
“Swans,” Biddy said, nonsensical. “Swans, ha!”
“This afternoon I took you to the lake, Biddy. There was a dog chasing the swans,” Walter repeated, a bit more patient and encouraging.
“Dog. Hmmn.”
“Yes, Biddy. A swan and a dog. By the lake.”
“No, no, no,” Biddy said confused and shook her head. Her eyes looked fearful.
Hanna was quite shocked at the extreme disorientation her mother so suddenly displayed.
“I think you need to leave her alone,” she said quietly to her father. “You are getting her all worked up.”
“Dammit!” Walter hissed. “Why can’t she simply remember?”
He slammed his fist on the table and paced around the room.
“I told you many times,” he said pointedly. “You had a run of very lucky days as far as her illness is concerned. Since you got here she has been in great shape, but there are phases where it is really bad, just like this. She makes no sense at all now, does she?”
“If you know that, why are you pushing her? You are just aggravating her instead of reassuring.”
“As I said, I am trying to get a rise out of her,” Walter explained. “Yes you are right, she has withdrawn now. But I owe it to her as her partner to try, maybe once snap her back to reality, at least give it a good shot. Look at her, she doesn’t seem there, I can’t always watch and accept it, that would be giving up.”



Excerpt Four

He heard Biddy stir on the sofa and his thoughts returned to the here and now. Biddy was all love and happiness when he went in to the living room to wake her with a cup of tea.
“Oh, you are so nice. Thank you, thank you so much. I love hot tea,” she said and she snuggled up to her husband. These moments of closeness had become rare between the couple and he cherished them. Sometimes he felt he had lost his wife for good with the disappearance of her memory, but then she was suddenly back for brief moments like this. They sat together on the sofa for a while without saying anything. Biddy took sips from her tea and Walter for a moment could live the dream that she was with him, as if she remembered exactly who he was and why he was here. Biddy leaned on him and he could choose to believe that it was a sign of their unbroken connection to each other. Dead brain cells, grey matter, synapses and shortage of chemicals – all the medical explanations did not matter. This moment did: him and his wife, Walter and Biddy Korhonen, and their unity on the sofa.
“You will make someone a good husband.” Biddy broke the silence all of a sudden, shattering the happy illusion, but she smiled at him with the utmost care and affection.
“Yes, I think one day I will!” he said smiling back, accepting that the brief, heavenly visit to the past was over and the new reality had returned.
“Now, let’s get you dressed and go outside for a walk. How about that my sweetheart?” he asked.


The author has generously provided additional information about the key stages in the plot
"The Real Biddy Korhone", "Alzheimers' ", "The Family", "The Airlines" and "The Memory"

Biddy Korhone


I grew up with only a few friends and with two older siblings who were miles ahead of me in their lives. My mother was a busy woman and so I spent a lot of time at my aunt’s house. She had always wanted to have four children but lost one child at birth. Her other three children were much older and didn’t need her much anymore, so my visits to her house filled a gap for her, in the same way as her attention to me filled a need in me. A match made in heaven. Philomena, or Minna, as we called her, remained a source of happiness and encouragement throughout my life. I was always welcome and treated like a precious gift. She smoked, but she outlived both of her sisters (taken in their 40s  by cancer). In her late 70s  Minna was diagnosed with Alzheimers’ disease. Well, I thought, at least she lives, belittling her misfortune without much awareness.The next time I saw her, her trademark happiness however seemed far away. She was crying bitterly because she had lost her hearing aid, a very expensive one, too. Suddenly her life seemed to revolve around retrieving things. She was spared the physical pain of her sisters, but she suffered severe mental torture.She fortunately reached a happier stage as medication and care helped reduce the misery in her life, but the attention she needed was a huge toll to the family. Despite her memory loss, she seemed to vaguely recognise me; me, the ‘child’ that lived abroad and who rarely came to visit. She had not lost her warmth and happiness, or maybe she had just regained it after the bad patch I mentioned earlier.Very recently I saw her again, almost unrecognisable: withdrawn, very unresponsive and almost reduced to basic functioning. Surprisingly, she could still read and when I came to see her for a second time her eyes shone as if she did recognise me. I spoke an emotional goodbye to her and her hand was shaky and excited as she listened to my speech. She even responded by talking, using words that didn’t fit exactly but which expressed an emotion similar to what one would expect from a loving aunt in such a situation. With her loving kindness in mind I created Biddy, the mother in “Time to let Go”, a selfless, giving woman, who even in her illness manages to show her innate kindness.  I know it would be wrong to praise her for a gift that many other patients do not have, through no fault of their own. Losing one’s memory and control of one’s life is a terrible thing that you can only understand when it happens to you. 
“Time to Let Go” is partly meant as a tribute to my brave aunt and to the wonderful people who help making her life dignified and as happy as is possible.
I grew up with only a few friends and with two older siblings who were miles ahead of me in their lives. My mother was a busy woman and so I spent a lot of time at my aunt’s house. She had always wanted to have four children but lost one child at birth. Her other three children were much older and didn’t need her much anymore, so my visits to her house filled a gap for her, in the same way as her attention to me filled a need in me. A match made in heaven.
Philomena, or Minna, as we called her, remained a source of happiness and encouragement throughout my life. I was always welcome and treated like a precious gift. She smoked, but she outlived both of her sisters (taken in their 40s  by cancer).
In her late 70s  Minna was diagnosed with Alzheimers’ disease. Well, I thought, at least she lives, belittling her misfortune without much awareness.
The next time I saw her, her trademark happiness however seemed far away. She was crying bitterly because she had lost her hearing aid, a very expensive one, too. Suddenly her life seemed to revolve around retrieving things. She was spared the physical pain of her sisters, but she suffered severe mental torture.
She fortunately reached a happier stage as medication and care helped reduce the misery in her life, but the attention she needed was a huge toll to the family. Despite her memory loss, she seemed to vaguely recognise me; me, the ‘child’ that lived abroad and who rarely came to visit. She had not lost her warmth and happiness, or maybe she had just regained it after the bad patch I mentioned earlier.
Very recently I saw her again, almost unrecognisable: withdrawn, very unresponsive and almost reduced to basic functioning. Surprisingly, she could still read and when I came to see her for a second time her eyes shone as if she did recognise me. I spoke an emotional goodbye to her and her hand was shaky and excited as she listened to my speech. She even responded by talking, using words that didn’t fit exactly but which expressed an emotion similar to what one would expect from a loving aunt in such a situation.
With her loving kindness in mind I created Biddy, the mother in “Time to let Go”, a selfless, giving woman, who even in her illness manages to show her innate kindness.  I know it would be wrong to praise her for a gift that many other patients do not have, through no fault of their own. Losing one’s memory and control of one’s life is a terrible thing that you can only understand when it happens to you.
“Time to Let Go” is partly meant as a tribute to my brave aunt and to the wonderful people who help making her life dignified and as happy as is possible.



Alzheimerts

My book is inspired by personal experiences with sufferers from the disease. Nowadays, almost everyone knows someone who has relatives with Alzheimers’ and gradually stories and anecdotes about these patients have entered the social dinner party circuit and become common knowledge.
Alzheimers is a dreadful disease that cannot be easily understood in its gravity and the complex, frustrating and far reaching consequences for the victims and their families. There are different stages of the disease as it progresses and patients can move through them at different paces and in varying intensity. My book does not attempt to be a complete representation or a manual of how to deal with the disease. The illness affects every patient differently and there are many stories to tell and many aspects to cover. I hope that I can bring some of those issues to the surface and help to make the gravity of the disease more prominent. I did, however, decide to stay firmly in fiction and family drama territory, and not to write a dramatized documentary on the subject.
I have witnessed several different approaches to handling the disease by both individuals and entire families, and I have learned that the people involved in every case needs to work out what is best for them.  In my book, a family work out their particular approach, which is right for them. They have different ideas about it and need to battle it out. These clashes fascinated me and I felt they were worth exploring.

Issues of caring at home, mobile care assistance or institutionalising patients are personal and, depending on where in the world you are, every family has very different options or limitations. The ending in my book must be seen in that context: as an individual ‘best’ solution that uniquely fits the Korhonen

Family 

As point of first reference and for a more comprehensive and scientific overview of information and help available I recommend: http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/ in the UK, and http://www.alz.org/ in the US.
There are support groups, helplines and many other sources available in most countries. These will be able to advise specifically for each  individual situation.

I can also recommend “Because We Care” by Fran Lewis. This fantastic book has a comprehensive appendix with more or less everything you need to know about the disease: Its stages, personal advice on caring, information, tools and help available in the US.

For consistency, I exclusively used material relating to a medium advanced stage of the disease. To protect the privacy and dignity of the patients that inspired the story I have altered all of the events and used both first and second hand experiences and anecdotes. Nothing in this book has actually happened in that way. Apart from some outer parallels between my characters and patients I witnessed, any similarities with real people, alive or dead, are coincidental and unintended.

The Airlines

The airline plot is not based on any real incident but is inspired by my own imagination. I used to work for an airline and so naturally, much of Hanna’s life is based on my own experience of 15 years flying. I lived with the awareness that every time a call bell goes off on a plane this could be a matter of life and death. What happens to Hanna in the book has never happened to me or anyone close to me. My flying life was not that extraordinary. Fortunately.
But every year airline crew are retrained in emergency procedures and aviation medicine, and at least during those intense yearly re-training sessions your mind cannot help considering the possibilities of such events.
The modern trend of the ‘suing- and compensation-culture’ and the extent of it in some cases worries me a little, which is why some of that concern found its way into the book.
The lifestyle of cabin crew and pilots is often falsely glorified as a glamorous string of free holidays and leisure. A recent crew strike in the UK has brought the profession into disrepute in the media, as fat cats and lazy bones. My book aims to shed a bit of light on the realities of flying. I enjoyed the life and would not want to miss the experience but it is a tough life that demands huge personal sacrifices and flexibility, sleep deprivation on a massive scale and exposure to aggressive and abusive behaviour by a consumerist clientele. In the global trend of cost cutting, salaries are going down and what used to be a career is at risk of becoming a minimum wage job handed to people who have no experience and who have no incentive to give it their all.
My book is a tribute to my former colleagues in the airline industry, who, in my opinion, are unsung heroes and a bunch of wonderful, hard-working and very caring people.

Memory

What makes Alzheimers’ so terrible? What is it that makes a memory so important to one’s life that people compare its horrors to pain-inflicting diseases like cancer? You are alive and physically well, you eat and function as a human, but as an Alzheimer patient you are bound to be suffering, frustrated, depressed and unhappy.
Of course it is ridiculous to compare the two diseases, but while a cancer patient has still their awareness and choices, the Alzheimer sufferer is losing the core of their being, everything they ever were.
How can you define yourself if you cannot remember? You have had children, but you won’t recognise them. You won awards, had a successful career, made people happy, but you don’t know any of it. Who are you and what are you doing on the planet? Who are the people around you? As the disease progresses, these things become more intense and you can live in a mental prison of fear and disorientation. Your brain won’t do as you want it to. The fear of losing ‘it’ altogether, for some is impossible to bear. You are about to lose everything that was ever precious to you.

That thought is frightening to all of us. It can happen to all of us. The worst 



I hope that you have all enjoyed the spotlight on this wonderful author that I am proud to call a friend, Christoph Fischer. I urge you to read his book. I read it, loved it, and will read it again. 
Thank you Christoph for allowing me to present your amazing work on my blog, and thanks to my followers for stopping to visit and read all about this remarkable author and his new book.

"TIME TO LET GO"