tales of the zeppelin artwork by frazer irving
 

The Boy in Winter's Grasp
Available now  - click here

It is Christmas 1914. As Europe descends further into the Great War, Christopher Flyte is sent home in disgrace from his school. He returns to the sleepy English village of Alton. It is there that he meets the mysterious traveller, Bailey - a master storyteller who fills the boy's head with stories of King Arthur's time. The more Christopher hears, the more he suspects that Bailey's stories are more than just simple myths.

Soon, Christoper is a pawn in a game that has been playing out for centuries....

Published by Fantastic Books

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Why I have chosen 'Mind' as my charity

Posted on Nov 29, 2015 by John Scotcher
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Six months ago, I was lucky enough to get a publisher.  The book has been relaunched as a published (rather than self-published) book, with a frankly amazing publisher/author split.  Fantastic Books, based in Hull, are an ethical bunch.  Their deal with all their authors is simple; an equal split of the operating profit with ten percent going to a charity of the author’s choice.

Obviously any author would be delighted by this and I was.  However it did present me with something of an issue – what charity should I give my ten percent to?  Of course, in the short term it didn’t matter – the book wasn’t to be launched until October and it would be a while before profits came in after that.  Now though, October has passed, the book has launched and people are buying.  Suddenly it’s become a little more pressing.

I have given this a lot of thought in the last few months.  A few charities (or at least their causes) have resonated with me.  The first were the many cancer charities (though exactly which, I don’t know).  We have all been touched by cancer.  I’ve lost friends and family, most recently my wonderful, giggly, Auntie Francis, who brought a huge joy to all that knew her.  I was truly tempted to try and give something to one of the many charities that deal with aspects of cancer.  I have raised money for cancer before – never enough, of course – yet something was making me hesitate.

My father is an old soldier.  He’s a thousand other things as well (at least three quarters of them don’t wind me up), but the stories of his experiences in World War Two were a formative memory for me.  Any boy growing up in the seventies cannot help but have been touched by the memories of the war.  Our comics, our films, our grandfathers and in some cases like mine, our fathers.  My dad was out in Burma for much of the war and he has, to this day, a connection with the Kohima Educational Trust, a charity that helps to educate the children of the Naga tribes, so instrumental helping the allies against the Japanese.  I wondered whether I could take on that legacy, if you will.  But that’s dad’s story, not mine.  I don’t feel it enough.

I’m not a great charity giver.  I’ve a few DDs that I do.  Hand on heart, they’ll be because I happened to be attracted to whichever uni student it was that stopped me in the street with the right smile and gave me her rehearsed spiel.   Charity aside, I am a sucker for a pretty face.  Sorry Crisis, World Vision and WWF – I’m still going to carry on, but if you could send those pretty twenty-somethings over to give me an update now and again, I’d be open to upping the amounts.

As it turned out, a charity presented itself to me through circumstance.  Once I had realised it, I was amazed I hadn’t thought of it before.  The charity is ‘Mind’. 

A fortnight before the book was to be relaunched, someone I love had a big, explosive, nervous breakdown.  Her story isn’t mine to tell, so I won’t go into details here (save to say that she is on the road to resolution, if not recovery).  However, being a bit player in her story, helping in the small ways I could, whilst going through my own pain at having to watch but not being able to save her, focused thoughts on my own encounters with mental health.

Mental health issues don’t get talked about.  People have a fear of ‘madness’.  In fact, (and this is why I can’t understand why I didn’t think of it before) one of the central struggles that Christopher, my lead character, goes through in the novel is the fear that he might be 'going mad'.  For many, the fear is so strong that those with mental health issues are often seen as dangerous, infectious even.  An ailment of the body is one thing, but one of the mind?  Something that makes you think, act or be different?  For many, the very idea of it is best avoided as a form of protection.  Sadly, that means that those in real need can struggle to get the help they need. 

I have spent time in the past month considering at what point the emotions your brain, memories and day to day experiences create change from simply being a stress to being what we would think of as mental illness.  I’ve wondered at the difference between a brain that has bi-polar disorder and a brain that started ‘free’ and developed post-traumatic stress.  I’ve spent years listening to books about brain science (again – see why I was amazed this hadn’t occurred to me before).  My honest conclusion – most people have some form of mental illness.  Yet it’s only those where it reigns unchecked for a while that we actively recognise it. 

As I sit here and consider the people I know and have known, among just those who I class as very close to me, there are at least four with BPD, a further two with anxiety issues, others with eating disorders and my friend I mentioned earlier. I’ve also got a couple of others that if actually examined would definitely be diagnosed with addition (to our old buddy alcohol).  In short, a large fraction of my close friends and previous partners have suffered or are suffering.  It has been pointed out to me (particularly by lovers) that I might just be a magnet for nutters!

Joking apart, my personal opinion is that much of the support that was available in the past through community and in particular through religion (and I say this as an atheist) is missing in our society.  The National Health, a fantastic institution we should all be proud of, does lack the facilities to adequately help those that really need it.  The remaining options for those that are suffering are family, friends, fellow sufferers’ groups, and private treatment –often a combination of all. 

And, running as a central core to all the above are those charities that aim to help.  Providing access to support groups, treatment and advice on treatment, support for the carers – whether friends or family – on the side lines and just being there for the dark times.  They also provide training for volunteers, individuals and workplaces to better help those in need.  There are a few charities that do this, but the one I thought of immediately was ‘Mind’. 

So, as I sit writing the second book, as I talk to my publisher about sales, as I hang out on social media banging on about ‘The Boy In Winter’s Grasp’, it’s starting to feel that it’s not an entirely self-indulgent activity.  I don’t for a second think that the percentage that gets passed to Mind will make a huge difference, but I hope it will do something to help.  And of course, I am perhaps lessoning the chances that all my future girlfriends will be complete fruitloops!

Visit the Mind website.

 

 

Comments

This is a very real problem and I'm glad to hear they have a charity to help others. What a nice idea from the publisher! I send contributions from each book sell to PAALS.org, a service dog org., that freely gives dogs to Vets, or any person harmed while working a service related job.
What a lovely, kind and touching blog John. Thank you so much for your kind words. MIND is a charity we have worked with in the past and they do sterling work helping to protect the dignity and independence of those of us unfortunate to be suffering from an 'invisible' illness. In many cases a medical condition, when sustained for many years, can cause problems such as clinical depression, substance abuse and even suicidal tendencies. I have a lot of friends in the forces and so can understand completely the effect of taking part in military action on both those brave souls who do so and for their family and friends too. Thank you John. It's a real privilege to be helping to get 'The Boy In Winter's Grasp' out to the world. Dan. Fantastic Books.

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