the writer is a lonely hunter

writing by Gail Aldwin and other authors

Last few days in Edinburgh

We’re making the most of the little time with have left in Edinburgh with yet another visit to Saughton Park. A walk along the Water of Leith from Stockbridge eventually arrives there. With formal gardens including herbaceous borders as well as neatly-clipped yew hedges, flower and heather beds, what’s not to like? I also admire the renovated bandstand and who can resist a bacon roll from the cafe?

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One month until lift-off

My second contemporary novel for adults This Much Huxley Knows will be released by Black Rose Writing on Thursday 8 July 2021. It’s an absolute delight that this uplifting and humorous book will be available in print and on Kindle. There are so many people to thank for bringing This Much Huxley Knows into the world, so if you fancy reading a copy, do check out the acknowledgements. Of course, if you can’t wait until launch day it’s possible to request an electronic copy from Netgalley.

Later this month, the blog tour begins. I am so impressed with the voluntary workforce of bloggers who do so much to promote books and reading. Here’s the poster:

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A few delights from Edinburgh

We’ve been in Edinburgh for three weeks and are coming to love the city more and more. Previously, we’ve been here during the Edinburgh Book Festival and the Fringe in August, so spending spring in the city is a new experience. Edinburgh seems such a chilled place outside the summer rush. And the real pleasure has been discovering the walkways and paths that crisscross the city. Here are a few of our adventures.

On my sixtieth birthday, we walked to the summit of Arthur’s Seat. (This is the main peak from an ancient volcano that overlooks the city.) It’s very craggy at the top and I had to scamper up like a mountain goat. The views are spectacular. When we were walking down the other side, we met an elderly woman carrying a shopping bag who was on her way up. We stepped aside to let her pass and my husband told her she was nearly at the top. She replied, ‘Och, I know that. I’m taking a short cut home from my Tai Chi class.’ If I’m that fit at her age, I’ll be very happy.

We are renting a flat in Stockbridge which is a few minutes from the walkway of the Water of Leith. From there we can stroll to the sea or go further around the city. The paths are like nature reserves although recently there’s been a distinct pong from the wild garlic. (The figure in the water is by Anthony Gormley.)

Today we walked along the Edinburgh and Glasgow Union Canal then took a turning back to Stockbridge along the Water of Leith.

Who knows what walking joys await us next week.

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Grab a bargain!

You can now pre-order a kindle or paperback copy of This Much Huxley Knows from AmazonUK, AmazonUS, Barnes and Noble or if you want to grab a bargain, order it through the Book Depository with a 10% discount and free postage worldwide.

Lovely reviews continue to be posted on Goodreads about This Much Huxley Knows. Do pop over and take a read – I’m really chuffed with the response to this novel. This Much Huxley Knows will be released on 8 July and I’m planning some social media activity to celebrate the launch.

Meanwhile, I’m continuing to write across genres and I recently had word that a poem I’d written during a workshop offered by Tolu Agbelusi will feature in the first Quay Words anthology to be published by Literature Works.

Onwards and upwards!

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First page pitch at Cork World Book Fest

Librarians based in Cork selected the first five hundred words and a two sentence pitch of my work in progress Little Swot for feedback from literary agent Simon Trewin as part of the Cork World Book Fest. Alongside nine others (including Jean M Roberts and Andrew Wolfendon – both fellow Black Rose Writing authors) I read my pitch an opening to a large Zoom audience. The feedback was as follows:

  • include only the most pertinent information in the pitch
  • think about adding three new paragraphs the at the beginning of the novel to act as a prologue
  • make the dialogue sound less written and more spoken

Here’s my revised elevator pitch for Little Swot, a dual timeline crime novel

Following redundancy in 2010, menopausal journalist Stephanie Brett investigates the earlier disappearance of a teenage, West Country girl in a cold case podcast. Through the 1978 timeline, Carolyn Forster tells her own story of infatuation and exploitation.

I’m still working on the new first three paragraphs and the updated dialogue. Watch this space for further developments!

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Approaching publication

My second contemporary novel for adults This Much Huxley Knows will be released on 8 July 2021. In preparation for the launch, advance reader copies have been sent to fellow authors and I’ve received some lovely early reviews posted on Goodreads.

One of my favourite reviews is from fellow Black Rose Writing author Sasha Lauren:

This book surprised me. It’s an innovative, delightful, and insightful story told in first person by a child. The narrator, Huxley, is an innocent, playful, provocative seven-year-old, an “only lonely,” (no siblings), who is achingly searching for a true friend and pushing those around him to be caring and reasonable. What is so extraordinary is that Gail Aldwin beautifully transports the reader inside Huxley’s head and heart. 

Huxley is a busy guy: he avoids football but longs for his turn on the monkey bars, covets the relationship his best mate Ben has with his wee sister, Juno, (which is both adorable and sightly heartbreaking), and strikes up a sweet friendship with Leonard, an old man in a scooter. All the while, he keeps himself amused, (and captivates or annoys others), with his whimsical words-within-words. 

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Introducing Barbara Conrey

I love writing a blog because I’m never quite sure who my posts will reach. Earlier this year Barbara Conrey got in touch and introduced me to her debut novel Nowhere Near Goodbye. It’s a well-paced, intense and thought-provoking novel which has received many superb reviews. I’d like to welcome Barbara to The Writer is a Lonely Hunter to discuss her book. 

About the author

Barbara Conrey is the USA Today Bestselling author of NOWHERE NEAR GOODBYE, published on August 4th, 2020, by Red Adept Publishing. 

NOWHERE NEAR GOODBYE is Barbara Conrey’s debut novel.

Previously, Barbara worked in the health care industry before opting for an early retirement, which lasted all of three months. She then accepted a finance position, for which she had absolutely no background, and four years later, she decided to write a book. But not about finance.

Travel is her passion, along with reading, writing, hiking, and exploring antique shops. Her greatest love is Miss Molly, her rescue beagle. There are stories to be told about beagles, and Barbara hopes to incorporate some of them into her books.

Barbara lives in Pennsylvania, close to family and friends.

About Nowhere Near Goodbye

A mother’s love vs. a doctor’s oath.

Oncologist Emma Blake has dedicated her life to finding a cure for a rare brain cancer. Twenty-five years ago, Emma’s childhood friend Kate died of glioblastoma, and Emma vowed to annihilate the deadly disease. Now, Kate’s father, Ned, is pushing her to work harder to fulfill that promise.

When Emma discovers she’s pregnant, she’s torn between the needs of her family and the demands of her work. While Ned pressures her to do the unthinkable, her husband, Tim, decorates the nursery. Unwilling to abandon her research, Emma attempts to keep both sides of her life in balance.

Emma knows she needs to reconcile her past with her present and walk the fine line between mother and physician. But Ned has a secret, and when Emma discovers what he’s been hiding, the foundation of her world cracks.

Nowhere Near Goodbye is a story of family, failure, and second chances.

Q&A

Nowhere Near Goodbye is a great title. Were there others in contention? Why did you settle upon this title?

I also love this title (Nowhere Near Goodbye)! My first title was Remembering Kate because the story was originally about the child who died of Glioblastoma, not the doctor who researched the disease and discovered a procedure that would remove the tumor in its entirety without destroying healthy brain tissue.

Nowhere Near Goodbye was really organic: Emma, the pediatric oncologist who discovered the cure, was (first) Kate’s childhood friend. She was nowhere near ready to say goodbye to Kate when Kate died.

The novel has a gorgeous cover. Can you share the thinking behind this design?

I had seen a book cover that portrayed a window, and I loved it for its simplicity. When I explained to the designer who created the cover what I wanted, I ended up describing one of the most poignant scenes in the book. The only surprise was the African violet that sits on the windowsill. That was the designer’s addition. Unbeknownst to him, African violets were part of the table settings in my daughter’s garden wedding reception and have always been a favorite house plant of mine.

There seems to be an absence of grieving in the novel for the early death of Kate. Does this happen off stage or could it account for the ways some of the characters behave?

The absence of grieving was purposeful because the story was not about Kate. Still, Kate was never forgotten, and it was her death that caused so much good to happen: Emma’s determination to become an oncologist and find a cure for Glioblastoma. 

Mother-daughter relationships are put under the microscope in Nowhere Near Goodbye. Was this always your intention?

Yes! I want to put these relationships under the microscope to study what makes us (as both mothers and daughters) do the things we do. Love the way we do. 

I find the subject fascinating, maybe because of my relationship with my own mother, where I never realized she understood me until she was dying, and maybe because of my relationships with my own daughters. Writers can mine a wealth of stories just from studying mothers and daughters and the love/hate emotions they inspire. 

In reading work by the feminist theorist Judith Keegan Gardiner, she proposes that for women writers the hero is her author’s daughter. What is your relationship to the characters you have created? 

I’m part of all of my characters. I’m torn between what I should do and what I want to do, like Emma. I’m irreverent, like Kate. I’m driven, like Ned. I’m feisty, like Miss Maggie.

What’s next for you, Barbara? 

Next is Miss Maggie’s story. I fell in love with her in Nowhere Near Goodbye. She entered the story as a sixty-year-old woman who has her own demons to fight, but she always had Emma’s back – even when Emma thought she was against her, Miss Maggie was only trying to show Emma the difference between what she wanted and what she thought she wanted.

Gail’s review of Nowhere Near Goodbye

A remarkable novel of ambition, heartbreak and redemption, Nowhere Near Goodbye follows the journey of Emma who is inspired to find a cure for a rare cancer that killed her childhood friend. Emma is a driven woman who prioritises research commitments over relationships in order to make amends for the misplaced guilt she shoulders over Kate’s early death. Are her sacrifices worthwhile? Only if the promise of a fresh start comes to fruition. A thoroughly absorbing read.  

Purchase Links for Nowhere Near Goodbye

Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Bookshop.org

Find out more about Barbara through her social media links:

www.facebook.com/baconreywriter

www.Twitter.com/barbaraconrey

www.Instagram.com/barbara

Barbara Conrey Books – BookBub

Website

www.barbaraconreyauthor.com

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Reading outside my comfort zone

I’ve been experimenting with genres of books I wouldn’t normally read. With increasing years, I’m told people are less open to new experiences because we feel more comfortable staying within the predictable. As I have a big birthday approaching, now seems a good time to try some new reading material. Please find below reviews for three books that have taken me beyond the contemporary fiction, women’s fiction and historical fiction that I normally read.

The Future BuildersD N Knox and Colin Payn

Science Fiction/Techno Fiction/ Climate Change Fiction

First it was the compelling cover image then it was the fascinating title that piqued my interest. From the very first page of The Future Brokers, I was intrigued by this ingenious glimpse into the world of 2050. Medical advances mean that following an accident, George’s body is fitted with devices that give him an edge which becomes of particular interest to others. The world in which he lives is oddly recognisable but strangely sinister. From the multiple viewpoints and distinct voices, (I particularly love George’s sense of humour) I was able to understand the motivations of the different characters which became an excellent way to drive the plot forward. As the threads come together, momentum builds to offer a tense and exciting climax.

Amazon UK

The HeronJean M Roberts

Time Travel Fiction 

The rich, sensory writing in The Heron drew me into the story. Jean Roberts introduces the setting of the novel as Pine Tree House, Oyster River, New Hampshire. Using a dual timeline, the story switches from a contemporary narrative to the seventeenth century. Abbey is a feisty protagonist who visits the house and is inducted into paranormal happenings by Jeremiah and Miriam. She navigates the past and the present to identify similarities in experiences. This is a confidently told story, full of detail and description. It’s an impressive, sensory and engaging read. 

Amazon UKAmazon USA

Mother of Floods, Madeleine F White

Science Fiction and Fantasy Art

A patchwork of women’s experiences, Mother of Floods is embroidered with traditional tales to pinpoint key beliefs and values. The rich prose adds rhythm to the story, resonant of the drums that bring about change. In this ambitious debut, White weaves together stories of family struggles in Zimbabwe, Indonesia and Iraq. In Britain, Dave the deceased husband of Martha, slips into the virtual world to keep tabs on his family, discover new insights into their challenges and dilemmas, and intercepts to give the support he was unable to offer while alive. Their story explodes into one of universal significance. The dystopian world that evolves casts light on individual experiences and the golden thread that joins us. A remarkable story.

Amazon UKAmazon USABookshopUK

What do you think are the advantages for writers in reading outside their normal comfort zone? 

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Moving on

We are packing up our house, getting it ready to let it over the spring and summer. This will leave us free to wander about the UK and we’re aiming to spend time in Edinburgh and Cambridge. Meanwhile, we’re making the most of the things Dorset has to offer. At the weekend, we went on a 17km walk through the fields and here are some of the things we saw.

Dorset is a beautiful county. Did you spot the first bluebells? In the next couple of weeks there will be carpets of blue in the woodlands. It almost seems a pity to be leaving…

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Lots to get excited about

With the opportunity to meet up to six other people outside from 29 March (when some of the lockdown restrictions are lifted in England) I find my diary filling up. My mum is visiting from 1 April (she’s in our bubble) and my daughter returns to Dorchester until her new-build house is ready. I haven’t seen either since December when we had a pre-Christmas celebration so I’m really looking forward to catching up. Mum and my son share the same birthday in April so there will be more celebrations before she goes home.

In other news, David and I achieved a long held ambition yesterday. The windows of our house look over water meadows to a ridge with a clump of trees. Setting off at ten o’clock, we stomped beside hedgerows and through fields to reach the trees ninety minutes later. They were not as we expected, with the evergreens hiding two huge water tanks but the deciduous tree with its many trunks and extensive roots was fascinating.

We covered 15km in total and saw other interesting things along the way.

Our plans to visit Scotland depend on further lockdown restrictions being lifted but we will definitely be heading off in the coming months. Arrangements are confirmed that will enable us to spend time in Cambridge over the summer. And now the clocks have changed to British Summer Time, things are definitely looking up.

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