the writer is a lonely hunter


What’s in a name?

My maiden name is Chappell. My Dad thought we were descended from those who fled France during the revolution but it is more likely we have Huguenot ancestry. I hated my family name from the first time a classmate shouted, ‘What’s the time, Chappell? Or has your clock gone wrong?’

I was delighted to shed my family name upon marriage. I met my first husband in Tenant Creek, a town in Outback Australia. He persuaded me to travel with him to Cairns where we applied for a twenty-four hour marriage licence. My horrified parents couldn’t understand the urgency but a whirlwind romance is terribly exciting.

Four years later and back in the UK we fell out of love. But, I liked the sound of my name, Gail Marshall, so much I continued to use it for another five years. Upon marrying David, he obviously didn’t want me to carry on using that name, but I was mortified by the prospect of adopting his. I was a primary school teacher by then and anticipating being called Mrs Aldwinckle all day long filled me with dread. So, I chopped off my husband’s ‘winckle’ or rather his ‘ckle’ to become Gail Aldwin.

It is an irony to now find myself back in the Chapel fold. The publisher of Paisley Shirt (my collection of short fiction) is called Chapeltown Books. To reconnect with my family name under these circumstances is a surprise and delight.




Gripping reads

Fantastic feedback from Kim Martins on Paisley Shirt

Up North

For the last month or so, I’ve been reading a fair bit of Gothic Horror. In fact, I’ve become totally obsessed with it. I’ve also been been reading a lot of flash fiction and two collections feature in my reviews in this post. Might be a book or two in this lot for you to read? Enjoy!

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Published in 1902. I know I’ve read this before, perhaps as a teenager. What can I say? This is Sherlock Holmes in top form and it’s a gripping Gothic horror novel. Despite my love of minimalist language with no horrid adverbs, I am drawn to the florid Victorian-era language. And you certainly cop it with this novel.

The plot is well-known so I won’t go into it, other than to say it revolves around the legend of a hell-hound and an ancient…

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White Stuff, Edinburgh


Besides the fringe shows and book festival events I found a wonderful distraction in White Stuff on George Street, Edinburgh. When I went to try on a jumper I found an amazing passage of wardrobes with each door leading into a changing room uniquely decorated.

There was the Havisham room with a discarded wedding dress hanging from a peg.


Behind another wardrobe door was a potting shed complete with equipment.


This is my favourite, a 1950s kitchen.


The changing room entered through the yellow wardrobe door was the last one I visited.


I had to laugh when I saw what was inside.


Following me into the changing room, the assistant warned me that the toilet was not plumbed in. I wonder if they’ve had accidents in the past!

In case you’re wondering, I did buy the jumper.


The man who saved Christmas


David has had a cold for well over two weeks. I thought he’d long since stopped being infectious but just before the holidays, the first signs of my cold appeared. Drowning myself with Echinacea didn’t help nor using oregano oil purchased to kill off germs. By Christmas Eve it was clear I’d end up in a ditch if I attempted driving my mum over to Bude to visit my sister. In spite of collecting his mum the previous day from Taunton, my wonderful husband stepped in. While we had a pub lunch, David found a pasty shop, had a look at the sea and then completed the five-hour round trip. Plans for my 8km run on Christmas Day were abandoned in favour of a trudge through some muddy fields. My only contribution to Christmas lunch was some red cabbage that I’d prepared earlier in the slow cooker so David laid on the full spread. While I joined the Christmas toast with a slurp of hot lemon, he popped champagne corks and organised the family, even managing to win three games of Scrabble. He’s off again at the minute, driving Grandma home (only a 3-4 hour drive today, depending on whether the M5 has reopened after an icy start). I stay at home, steaming my head over a bowl of Olbas oil. In spite of all this, he stills says it’s been a lovely Christmas!

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Story Slam, North Dorst


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Scripted Reading

Scripted readingThere is going to be a scripted reading of screenplays written as part of a Bridport Arts Centre course which was delivered by Hester Schofield. My screenplay titled Love Hearts is included in the programme alongside Bertha’s Legacy by Elizabeth Friend, Bloodlines by Maya Pieris, Second Fiddle by Maria Pruden-Medus and Christmas Haunting by Sarah Scally. Each reading lasts approximately 10 minutes and lines will be delivered by actors from Bridport Arts Centre. As my screenplay is about improving the life chances of an illiterate young homeless man, members of the youth theatre BACStage have been approached to take the parts of the two teenage leads.

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The Beacon, Issue 1

s245645246236175034_p1_i1_w320 This time last year I was regularly travelling to Bournemouth to attend CPD training in workshop facilitation offered by Lit Up! Writing. (You can find a post about the programme here.) The latest Lit Up! initiative sees the publication of poetry and prose by  writers living in Dorset and beyond. The Beacon, Issue 1 is an ingenious anthology compiled to reflect the theme of performance. Act 1 includes work by fellow Wimborne Writing Group members Mary Bevan and Richard Green. My flash fiction ‘Graft’ appears at the end of Act 2, while Kim West (who also attended the Lit Up CPD training) has a poem in Act 3. Biographies for the writers appear under ‘curtain call’. It’s a pleasure to have my work included in such an innovative anthology. Well done to Ben Johnson for putting it together. Copies of the anthology can be purchased here.

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Open Story Slam, Poole



Here are details of an exciting new story slam which is offered by the Dorset Writers’ Network as part of the Poole Festival of Words 2015.




Thrill and surprise the audience with your 500 word story (to be read within 5 minutes).

The finest writer will become Poole Festival of Words’ Story Slam Winner 2015.

Your judges: writers Michael O’Byrne, James Cole and Jennifer Bell.

Your MC: prize-winning poet Ben Johnson


SATURDAY 25 JULY 7.00 – 9.30pm

Tickets £5.00 on the door for readers and audience

Register in advance by emailing to give your name or turn up on the night. Ten names will be selected from a hat to fill the reading slots scheduled for the evening.

This event is of interest to readers and writers alike. You will be able to listen to a range of stories and experience something a little different.

I look forward to seeing you there!



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Days Off

I should’ve known better than to set myself a ridiculous deadline. To meet it, I’m having very few days off from writing but yesterday was one of them. We stayed in London on Saturday night having spent the evening with my husband’s golfing mates. It’s an annual event where the men put on a serve the dinner. My husband’s pumpkin soup had a mixed reception owing to the 3 chillies he put in it (that was in the recipe, he claims). On Sunday we visited my primary school friend for lunch.

I did a lot of talking about my WIP with friends I only see once in a while. I’m hoping all the practice will help when I get to pitch the novel to an agent in the future. In the meantime, it’s back to the one thousand words a day routine. I can’t grumble too much, at least with this target it is possible to plough on through the story. I’m 40,000 into the second draft and I’m really pleased with the way it’s progressing. My deadline to finish is likely to be brought forward if I want my fellow students and tutors at USW to read the whole thing during the next MPhil residency in March.  Ugh! I better get cracking.

Good luck with all your writing projects during 2014.


Ashmolean Dining Room

I enjoyed a delightful lunch in Oxford this week with Carol McGrath and Sue Stephenson (click here and pop over to The Elstead Writers’ Group where Sue has posted fascinating real-time diary entries imaging a time when the lights went out). Our reservation was at the Ashmolean Dining Room, on the top floor of the museum with wonderful views over the Oxford skyline. Sue and I enjoyed a starter of Crispy pancetta, wild mushroom, watercress and balsamic mayonnaise. It was delicious with a lovely crackling crunch to the pancetta. Starter

For the main course, Sue and I chose Guineafowl but Carol was more adventurous choosing pan fried hake, pancetta, moules mariniere sauce. main course

We chatted over our meal and ordered desserts and coffee. Unfortunately, I was too absorbed in eating my  pannacotta, muscovado sugar poached pear that I forgot to take a photo.

Before catching the train home, I went with Carol to the Bodleian Library and registered for membership. When I go to Oxford in December (taking Jonathan for a college interview) I’ll be able to spend the day in the reading room. I am certainly looking forward to that.