Slugs in Real Life

When real life starts to resemble the books you write, well…

leopard print slug pale highway nicholas conley

… Pale Highway fans will understand my amusement.

No, this little guy didn’t start talking to me, and definitely didn’t mention anything about a “Sky Amoeba,” but when I happened upon him in the backyard, I couldn’t help but take notice.

Hope you’re all doing well!

Special Deal: Get Pale Highway Today for Only $.99 Cents!

From today through Saturday, Red Adept Publishing will be running a special deal on the e-book edition of Pale Highway, and it’s a good one. If you get in fast, you can pick up Pale Highway for as little as $.99 cents.

A killer deal, if I do say so — and as the coffee obsessive that I am, I can’t help but point out that $.99 cents is less than a cup of coffee.

So, if there was ever a time to feed your Kindle with Pale Highway, now is it. Pick it up on Amazon today, get a coffee to go with it, and then enter the Alzheimer’s-afflicted world of Gabriel Schist, Victor, Bright New Day, and all of those weird little talking slugs that everyone keeps mentioning.

Pale Highway - Nicholas Conley

Gabriel Schist is spending his remaining years at Bright New Day, a nursing home. He once won the Nobel Prize for inventing a vaccine for AIDS. But now, he has Alzheimer’s, and his mind is slowly slipping away.

When one of the residents comes down with a horrific virus, Gabriel realizes that he is the only one who can find a cure. Encouraged by Victor, an odd stranger, he convinces the administrator to allow him to study the virus. Soon, reality begins to shift, and Gabriel’s hallucinations interfere with his work.

As the death count mounts, Gabriel is in a race against the clock and his own mind. Can he find a cure before his brain deteriorates past the point of no return?

Cameron Village Library: 5 Author Event

Tomorrow I’ll be taking a pit stop down in Raleigh, North Carolina for a five author panel signing, courtesy of Red Adept Publishing!

I’ll be joined by fellow authors Karissa Laurel (Midnight Burning), Erica Lucke Dean (Ashes of Life), Jessica Dall (Raining Embers), Jason Parent (Seeing Evil), and Lynn McNamee, the owner extraordinaire of Red Adept Publishing. There will be a question-and-answer panel at 1pm, followed by a book signing. No admission charge!

Any North Carolinians in the area are welcome to stop in. For more information, check out this site.

Favorite 12 Posts of 2015

It’s crazy to realize that I’ve been writing blogs for Writings, Readings, and Coffee Addictions for a few years now, and to look back on how much has changed in that time. Every year is a new adventure, a new saga of highs and lows, and 2015 was the biggest year yet.

Last year saw not only the release of Pale Highway, my proudest achievement to date, but also publications on Vox, Alzheimers.net, SFFWorld, and more. This blog gained more followers in the second half of 2015 than it did in all of the preceding years combined. Of course, I also wrote quite a few blog posts, and in order to look back on the last year, I’d like to look back on the ones that meant the most to me.

I originally meant to make this a top ten list, but why limit oneself to artificial rules? After straining to narrow them down, I decided to settle on twelve instead.

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12. Why Superheroes Matter

To start with, a disclaimer: the only reason that this doesn’t rank higher is that I actually wrote it toward the end of 2014, not 2015 as I originally thought. Still, I wanted to give it an honorable mention.

Why? Because this is one of the most personal blogs I’ve ever written. It’s not just an analysis of why superheroes have become such a huge part of popular culture, but also a personal tale of the impact that characters like Spider-Man had on my childhood, and how they helped me to become who I am today.

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Nicholas Conley – Morocco – Sahara

11. Morocco

Travelogues are challenging to write, because it’s such a struggle to isolate the moments that most define these experiences, to pinpoint what one takes away from a new culture. Going to Morocco last winter, experiencing the Sahara Desert on camelback, was a mind blowing experience that I won’t ever forget.

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10. Echoes of Leaving

The single most defining moment of my post-high school young adulthood was when I first hit the road, exploring the country on my own terms, going from state to state on a daily basis. Echoes of Leaving, a blog post named after one of my first flash fiction publications, is a nostalgic look back at a time that truly defined so much of the rest of my life.

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9. Pharmaceutical Nightmare

Now, onto a blog that tackled a recent news story. The one good thing about recent Turing Pharmaceuticals controversy was that it raised awareness about a very real problem facing the United States, where drug companies can exploit the sick to reap huge profits. It’s something that we need to keep talking about until real change happens.

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8. Five Things More Important than the Color of a Starbucks Coffee Cup

Seriously. Stemming from what was undoubtedly the most ridiculous “controversy” of the last year, the best thing we can learn from the #StarbucksRedCup nonsense is that arguing for the sake of arguing does nothing to improve society, and that we have real concerns that we should work to find common ground on.

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7. Cover Reveal: Pale Highway

After years of hints and suggestions, this was the moment where I finally got to spill the beans and show Pale Highway to the world for the first time. It was all new then, and I remember how my heart was pounding as I finally posted the cover image. It’s insane looking back, realizing how long ago this already feels!

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6. Thank You, Lane

It’s amazing how much the simple kindness of a stranger can impact a person. Though I might never see Lane again, I can’t thank him enough for helping me out of a tough spot.

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5. Hogewey: A Better Kind of Nursing Home

Working in Alzheimer’s care, one of the greatest tragedies that I’ve seen is the system itself, and how it doesn’t give proper attention to the individual. As I mentioned during my radio interview last week, Hogewey is a “dementia village” in the Netherlands, and it represents a potential beacon of hope for the future. Let’s hope that someday, there will be many more Hogeweys all over the world.

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Nicholas Conley – Pale Highway

 

4. The Proof Has Arrived

Wow. Wow. That moment where Pale Highway came in the mailbox for the first time, that first experience holding it… there are few forms of happiness that are as deeply personal as seeing one’s dream realized in physical form, holding it, knowing that all of the work paid off.

Alzheimer's - Vox - Nicholas Conley

Alzheimer’s – Vox – Nicholas Conley

3. I’m on Vox!

Okay, so this is really more of a tribute to the Vox essay than it is to my blog post that links to it. But the reason I’m listing it here is that this was really the first time I ever publicly wrote about my experience with Alzheimer’s patients, and the outpouring of responses I received was truly transformative, as I got my first true look at how so many, many people connect to this issue. This is one of the pieces I’m most proud of in my writing career so far, and I hope that I’ve done my small part to raise awareness about the reality of Alzheimer’s disease.

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2. Top Five Coffee Moments  

Okay, so I have to admit, while this post was fun to write, the real reason that it’s here is because of you. And by that, I mean everyone who replied to the prompt. While it was enjoyable to think back on my top five Coffee Moments , it was an absolute blast reading all of the Coffee Moments that you guys came up with.

Cheers, all!

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Pale Highway – Nicholas Conley

 

1. Release Day: Pale Highway

Of course, you knew this had to be number one. Out of everything that occurred over the course of 2015, this was the achievement I was most proud of. I’ll just finish this off with a quote from the blog itself, as the Nicholas of that day can explain the feeling better than I can:

What I’m feeling right now is so surreal that I can’t quite put my finger on the right word to describe it. I wrote Pale Highway because I believe that people with Alzheimer’s—people who suffer from a neurodegenerative disease that cannot be prevented, cured or slowed down—deserve recognition. It’s crazy to look back on that first day I began typing this story, or the first day that I set foot in a nursing home and met the many residents who lived there, amazing human beings would have such an unexpected impact on my life. Pale Highway is a book inspired by my connection with these courageous people, conceived during my experiences in healthcare, and finally born here, now, today, in the form of this book that I’ve spent the last few years pouring my heart into. And so now, here it is, and I hope you all enjoy the read.
Admittedly, now that we’re in April, 2016 isn’t quite a “new year” anymore. But still, happy new year to all of you, and I hope to continue seeing all of your icons and text for years to come!

 

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Understanding Gabriel Schist

Pale Highway is a novel that talks about such diverse themes as Alzheimer’s, nursing homes, the nature of the immune system, autopoiesis, and what it means to be human. But it’s also a novel that centers around the mind of one particularly strange human being, an introverted scientist by the name of Gabriel Schist.

In Gabriel, we find a man with enormous personal strengths — but many equally enormous flaws that existed even before the day he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Without Gabriel Schist, there is no Pale Highway. And one of the things we quickly learn, as we embark on this journey with Gabriel, is that he’s not a narrator we can particularly trust: the state of his dementia is in constant decline. As the story progresses, becomes less and less clear what is reality, and what is imagined.

To that end, in assessing his person, our only hope is to connect the dots, and hope that we’re getting them right.

Beach_GabrielSchist

When we first meet Gabriel at the start of the book, we witness a man whose greatest achievements appear to be long behind him.

Gabriel is the Nobel Prize-winning inventor of a vaccine that changed the world. But Alzheimer’s disease has stripped him of his dignity, and he is spending his last few years in a nursing home known as Bright New Day, where he is constantly treated with sympathy, condescension, and amusement. His once-brilliant mind is tearing itself to pieces, as all of the memories in his life—all of the achievements that he used to define himself—are fading from him, leaving him as little more than a confused old man with a cane.

He struggles to button shirts. He wets the bed. He’s not the same man he once was, and he knows it. Even worse, he knows that it’s only going to get worse from here on out.

Pale Highway - Nicholas Conley

Pale Highway – Nicholas Conley

This would be tragic enough, but as we delve deeper into Gabriel’s past, an even muddier truth reveals itself: even before Alzheimer’s stole his memories, Gabriel was a man who failed at many things in his life — things he never quite forgave himself for.

On the surface, Gabriel Schist would seem to be a success story. A child prodigy who predicted HIV decades before it existed, Gabriel was a gifted, brilliant figure fueled a stubborn drive for results, who spent his entire life creating a vaccine that saved countless lives, and rightfully won the Nobel Prize for his efforts. Gabriel’s inspirational life story is one that would go on to inspire countless youth, including his future caregiver Harry Brenton.

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But Gabriel’s greatest gift, his brilliant mind, was also his greatest weakness.

Gabriel was indeed a child prodigy, but he faced the same struggles that many young geniuses face: a profound sense of isolation. Introverted, studious, and focused only on his passion for the immune system to the exclusion of schoolwork and games, Gabriel always felt like an outcast. Gabriel’s well-meaning parents struggled to connect with him, Gabriel didn’t connect to his classmates, and all of these ingredients brewed the perfect concoction for a future alcoholic.

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And sure enough, an alcoholic is what Gabriel became. His studies were mocked by the scientific community, and shut down at every turn. His drinking increased, until it destroyed everything he loved. And this struggle against his own demons defined much of Gabriel’s life, until somehow he was able to turn it around.

Somehow.

And then, right as he sailed over the horizon line and finally found happiness, the Alzheimer’s fairy sprinkled her magic fairy dust on his brain, burning away all of the achievements he’d fought so hard for.

 

“Somewhere in the distance, the Crooner’s never-ending singsong echoed through the halls. Looking to his%2

Pale Highway – Nicholas Conley

At the beginning of Pale Highway, Gabriel faces his greatest challenge yet: insignificance. He faces the stark reality of the nursing home system, a place where over a hundred people have been packed into tiny rooms, their every need taken care of, but knowing that the only escape will be the hand of death. For a man whose entire life revolved around his brain’s ability to perform complicated tasks, Bright New Day is the worst fate that Gabriel could ever have imagined.

But then on one bizarre night, just when Gabriel is at his lowest point, a slug crawls up to him—and it speaks.

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As Bright New Day faces the advent of a terrifying new superbug referred to in whispers as “the Black Virus,” Gabriel will be forced to reckon with his flaws in one last ditch chance at saving the world again.

His past will come to haunt him. His future, and the future of everyone around him, will depend on his ability to beat the impossible odds stacked against him, as he faces a virus far more complex than anything he’s ever seen — a threat that is being covered up by the government, and leaving its victims paralyzed with black eyes and throbbing black veins. He stopped a virus before. Can he do it again?

Let’s hope so.

Pale Highway

Available on Amazon.com in Kindle and Paperback

Pale Highway - Nicholas Conley

Pale Highway – Nicholas Conley –

 

 

 

New Pale Highway Updates

Good morning everyone!

So for all you radio listeners out here, I’ll be speaking on the February 23rd show of Portsmouth’s True Tales Radio, brought to the New Hampshire seacoast by Portsmouth Community Radio WSCA-LP 106.1 FM.

Six storytellers, including myself, will tell their real life stories related to Februrary’s theme of “Frontiers.” On February 23rd, I’ll be speaking sometime between 6 and 8pm, ET. For those of you who aren’t in New Hampshire, no worries! You can also listen online through Portsmouth Community Radio’s official website.

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Some great new reviews of Pale Highway have popped up in the last few weeks, and I don’t want to miss the chance to share them with all of you here. First of all, we have this wonderful review by Thomas S. Flowers, who begins by embracing the glorious ways of the coffee bean:

Before I dive into this review, I had to brew myself a fresh cup of joe, to put myself in tune, hopefully, with the ways of Nicholas Conley. The ground bean vapors, I pray, will act as my spiritual guide in writing this review.

…and then delves deeply into the book’s subject matter.

In fact, the “plague” acted as nothing more than to keep the momentum of the story, to keep motivations rolling towards its ultimate conclusion. The real story is in the tired, tragic life of one Gabriel Schist. In that story, we find so much more than the arc of one man’s life, we also find perhaps a “highway,” if you will, pointing us toward deeper, more meaningful questions, not about what we’ll wear this weekend on a date, but rather, questions of what we’re doing with our lives, how we’re treating those we love and strangers alike, who we are spending time with. In the immortal words of Henry David Thoreau, “It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”

As if that wasn’t enough to have me smiling for weeks, Catherine Rose Putsche had this to say:

It is not often that my own words escape me as I try to recount the beauty, the true understanding of such a devoted man who struggles to hold off his own real-life manifestations to save everyone around him. Conley, has created a memorable, life-like and loveable protagonist who will stay with me for a long time and I have no doubt that this story will have an impact and raise awareness to each and every reader out there who has lost, or is losing someone in their lives’ to this despicable disease, as I and so many others have.

Finally, we’ll stop here with a review from Ms.Nose in a Book:

I absolutely loved it and enjoyed it and look forward to reading more from this author as I really loved his writing. I give this book five out of five stars. If you are a fan of Science Fiction or this book sounds interesting to you, definitely check it out. I know you won’t be disappointed!

I really can’t even begin to emphasize how amazing it is to see how deeply people have connected with this book, to know that something I spent years picturing in my head, working on, and agonizing over has finally found its roots in the world, and is growing.

Hope you’re all having a great weekend, and drinking lots of coffee.

P.S., though I didn’t think that any video footage had been taken from my Dover Library visit, it appears that at least one clip came out of it, which is a nice surprise:

Back Home

I’m home!

And after finishing my trip to Morocco, spending a couple of days in Barcelona, and finally making it back to Boston after a 24-hour period that included two stopovers, I’m both tired and happy to be back in the USA.

Of course, my mind is still trapped in a different time zone, but my body is now sitting in my office in New Hampshire, sipping on some coffee and catching up on everything that’s happened since I left.

hassilabied

Hassilabied

I have many pages of notes that summarize all of the amazing events that occurred in Morocco, but I’m going to need a few days to process everything before I write it out.

Camels, souks, snakes, desert landscapes…I don’t even know where to start! I could probably write three or four books about this whole trip.

I should have something written up by this weekend, which I’ll share with all of you then.  Needless to say, going to Morocco was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it.

In the meantime, as I play catch up, one of the more exciting parts of my return was coming back to see all of the new reviews for Pale Highway that have been popping up. In closing out this post, I’ll share a few of my favorite quotes so far.

It’s good to be back, and I appreciate the many comments that you all left in my absence!  I look forward to catching up with everyone.

Pale Highway - Nicholas Conley

Pale Highway – Nicholas Conley

First off, I’m excited to present this wonderful review by Ann Werner, the writer/actress who once played Eliana on Days of Our Lives.  Ann calls Pale Highway “a thoughtful journey into what it means to be human,” and says the following:

In the best tradition of writers like Stephen King, Conley stretches the imagination, provides thoughtful insight into what it means to grow old and lose parts of what once defined us and, in the end, takes us on a fantastical ride into the very nature of what it means to be human.

I loved this book!

Marian Thorpe of Wind and Silence also has great things to say:

Conley has worked in care homes with Alzheimer’s patients, and this is clear not only from his descriptions of the environment, procedures, and organization of these homes, but from his accurate, compassionate depiction of the residents. Pale Highway is a science-fiction story, but it is also speculative fiction, speculative in terms of what reality is and might be in the mind of a man with Alzheimer’s.

And to finish up this post, I’ll also share this review by my fellow coffee enthusiast J.D. Thompson:

Let me say this: Pale Highway is like nothing I’ve ever read before. At once a sci-fi, it remains at its core an intimate look at a man’s struggle with a devastating disease. Conley’s style of writing is solid but his greatest talent lies in his character development. The journey of getting to know Gabriel was absolutely touching. Conley has openly said that his work in a nursing home was a huge inspiration for Pale Highway and his connection to the patients shines through in his writing.

 

Travel Update

Hello, fellow book readers and coffee fans!  Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving!

 

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I’m updating you today to announce that I’ll be out of the country for the next few weeks, as I embark on a voyage to the Kingdom of Morocco in Northern Africa.

 

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Along the way, I’ll be stopping in the Netherlands. Looking forward to the trip, and if I get a chance to access some wifi I’ll update you guys with pictures.

In the meantime, before I head out, let me update you on the latest Pale Highway happenings:

I was lucky enough to be interviewed by Michael S. Fedison of The Eye-Dancers, who asked me several fascinating questions about the book’s title, the inspiration behind it, and how much research went into its science fiction themes.  Thanks for the great questions, Mike!

 

5. The novel is wonderfully written and beautifully layered. It flows so well. How long did it take to write, from beginning (first-draft stage) to end (ready for publication)?

Thank you, it’s amazing to hear that. After putting so much work into it for such a long time, that sort of comment makes my day!

I started coming up with the story ideas that would lead to Pale Highway back in 2012, even before The Cage Legacy came out. These concepts went through a lot of transformation after that point, but as a whole, Pale Highway was something that I worked on for the better part of three years. I’ve been anticipating its entry into the world for a long, long time.

Pale Highway was reviewed by Stalking Shelves, where Shelley says the following:

The storytelling is done in a manner to slowly show the reader both the sad and joyous sides of life. To take this journey with Gabriel felt like living portions of his life. Gabriel Schist and all the residents of the Bright New Day facility left me with a profound desire to call my aging family members and remind them how much I love them and to sit and listen to as many stories of their youth as they care to tell.

 

BigAl’s Books & Pals also offered their 5-star review of Pale Highway, and said the following:
 

As Gabriel’s condition worsened, I often found myself uncertain what was hallucination and what was science fiction.
That’s all for now.  In the meantime, I have a flight to catch. I’m going to finish packing and head to Boston.  Talk to you all soon!
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Pale Highway is Now Available on Paperback!

Big news for all of you who have been waiting patiently for this day: the wait is over, and I’m excited to announce that the official paperback edition of Pale Highway is finally available on Amazon!

It’s here!

 

pale_books

In the midst of this exciting news, the Pale Highway blog tour has been rolling on successfully! I have a new interview with BookView, where I talk some more about the writing of Pale Highway.  In addition, some new reviews have popped up, including this incredible analysis of the book by Don Sloan:

This brilliant sci-fi work is a tour-de-force of great writing and meticulous research, all wrapped in a scientific thriller that will have you hoping that Gabriel can solve the life-threatening dilemma before it’s too late — both for him, and for mankind.

Five stars-plus for Pale Highway. It is a striking example of what can be achieved when imaginative writers tackle socially significant themes. We’re all the beneficiaries.

I’ve also been honored by a review by LuAnn Braley of Backporchervations.  Be warned, it’s a very spoiler heavy review, with lots of spoilers from the later sections of the novel, but right at the beginning of the review she writes what is now one of my new favorite quotes of all time:

To have written Pale Highway, Nicholas Conley either really IS a unique alien creature or I want some of what he puts in his coffee!

And let’s not forget the review by Michael S. Fedison,  writer of The Eye-Dancers, who says:

Pale Highway by Nicholas Conley is at once a tautly written sci-fi/fantasy novel, a probing character study, a medical thriller, and a literary gem that explores the complexities and nuances of the human condition.

More reviews to come! I salute all of you with a cup of coffee, and for those of you who’ve been waiting for this paperback announcement, I thank you for your patience. Cheers!

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Pictures from the Dover Public Library Event

A big thanks to everyone who made it to Pale Highway event on Monday night. It was an amazing time! Hope to have many more like it in the near future.

Check out some images down below!