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Publication day for Antlers of Water!..
06 August 2020

'Lunar Cycling' published in Antlers of Water

In early 2019 Kathleen Jamie invited me to contribute an essay to a new nature writing anthology she was editing. She and the publisher Canongate had decided such an anthology was timely as, although Scottish crime writing is established as a phenomenon, the indigenous nature-and-environment writing movement is yet to be properly acknowledged. So here is the book that fills the gap, with the title Antlers of Water drawn from a Norman MacCaig poem. I'm very proud that my piece Lunar Cycling appears alongside an impressive roll-call of other writers from Scotland:   
   
‘The first ever collection of contemporary Scottish writing on nature and landscape, Antlers of Water showcases the diversity and radicalism of new Scottish nature writing today.’ Read more about the book here.

The invitation gave me the opportunity to draw on my month’s activity walking the intertidal zone of Rosneath peninsula when I was at Cove Park Artists Residency in summer 2017. Having decided to live with greater tidal awareness whilst surrounded by the sea, I observed on my low tide walk each day shells, pebbles, ceramics reshaped by the sea, tampon applicators, a single mangetout, a railway ticket, a doll’s head, Victorian boots, and so on. Noting how human artefacts were often strangely transformed by their sea-journeys, I gradually collected quite a museum of objects.

My essay focuses on the object pictured, a plastic bicycle pedal which had run away to sea. I had never before thought to explore the fascinating life cycle of the barnacles which have colonised it and what they could teach me about living with the rhythm of tides.

Antlers of Water is published today, 6th August and available from your favourite indie bookshop, or from Waterstones at £20.

Black Lives Matter in the far north of Scotland..
03 August 2020

When I was researching Call of the Undertow, I endlessly explored the setting at Dunnet Bay, not so far from John o’Groats. Much of the novel is set on the wild shore and cliffs but a few notable buildings presented themselves including this handsome church at Dunnet which was where Timothy Pont, Scotland’s earliest mapmaker, was Minister from 1601 to 1610. Inside, I was shown up a rickety ladder into the high tower to examine the large inscribed bell which had been presented to the church by Mary Oswald in 1778. Curious about her, I later discovered this portrait of her in The National Gallery, together with some history.

She grew up in Jamaica, daughter of an extremely rich planter, Alexander Ramsay. In 1750 she married Richard Oswald, whose father had also been a minister at Dunnet and who built a trading empire and made his fortune through the transatlantic slave trade. His company owned a slave fort on Bance Island on the Sierra Leone River, through which more than 10,000 enslaved Africans probably passed. The couple enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle with a stately home in Ayrshire and an impressive art collection. We might think it unlikely that the far North of Scotland has connections to the slave trade, but here is one physical legacy.

In my novel, the young mapmaker, Trothan, with his nose for injustice, finds ways of depicting such stories on his local map. He draws Dunnet Church with its huge bell swinging in the tower, but being rung from below by a group of shackled black slaves. Later on, it’s the more recent history revealed by his map that pitches both characters into trouble. 



Call of the Undertow is ON OFFER for Non-Kindle e-readers for only £1 (reduced from £2.99), and the special edition hardback for only £12 (reduced from £15) inc. P+P in UK only from NOW until 7th August from here.
 
‘Linda Cracknell’s Caithness rises up off the page and takes form around us… Its light and skies, rocky shores and wheeling, screaming gulls, huddled villages and craggy beaches, its grave, austere beauty… Reading this book is like being there.’
Kirsty Gunn
Seaside-Season-Sale on Call of the Undertow..
26 July 2020

If you are missing the sea as I have been, and want to feel yourself there through fiction, Call of the Undertow is ON OFFER for Non-Kindle e-readers for only £1 (reduced from £2.99), and the special edition hardback for only £12 (reduced from £15) inc. P+P in UK only from NOW until 7th August from here.

Confluence of Years..
14 July 2020
It's exciting to know that various reading groups around Scotland will be discussing my story, 'Confluence of Years', this week. It was commissioned by Open Book, a fabulous organisation that runs weekly shared reading sessions for a diverse range of community and public participants.
 
The story came about because I wanted to visit an estuary area of North Devon where my grandmother grew up this spring, for another writing project (non-fiction) and for obvious reasons couldn't travel. So the story was my way of travelling there, taking what I call a 'dream-walk'!
 
I also suggested some accompanying discussion and writing exercises, and some poetry that feels related about walking and the sea. Read on here and you can also hear the story read aloud and discussed by the commissioners on their podcast here.
Camel Cadence - a poem on patience..
10 July 2020

My poem 'Camel Cadence', inspired by February in the Sahara at Cafe Tissardmine, is published in Scottish PEN's PENning journal (page 33) this month on the theme of Patience. Read the whole magazine here. I'm particularly happy about this as years ago I helped to found PENning.

New short story collected in Homeless World Cup anthology..
05 July 2020

As Lee Child says, “You don't have to like football (or be homeless) to love this book – it's an all-star squad of amazing talent, and all in a great cause, so read it now!” Published TODAY, When the Homeless World Cup would have been played in Finland, HOME FIXTURES brings together writers as diverse as Ian Rankin, Denise Mina, and Jackie Kay. The two dozen contributions focus on football and/or homelessness and the aim is to raise funds and awareness for the Homeless World Cup Foundation.

I'm always delighted to be asked to write a new story, and for 'The Give and Take' to appear in such company is very exciting. Nick Hornby, of 'Fever Pitch' fame, is one of the stars of the squad.

In 2011 Anthony Clavane wrote in The Guardian about how rarely football features in fiction. He listed 10 writers who had done so, including that gloriously painful match in Barry Hines' 'Kestrel for a Knave'. At number 10, and the only place for females on the list, came in an anthology of Scottish football short fiction In which he picked out my story 'The Match' for special attention. "Truly she is the anti-Hornby", Clavane says of me!

So here you have it, Hornby and anti-Hornby in the same volume and just £1.99 for a great cause.

 

Talking to Christopher Brookmyre ..
02 July 2020

I'll be in conversation with crime and thriller writer Chris Brookmyre for the online Birnam Book Festival tonight at 8pm. It's going out live on the Festival's Facebook Page but the recording will remain here afterwards. We'll discuss his latest novel 'Fallen Angel', described as 'gloriously dark, deliciously twisty', and much more. 

Free audio short stories with my newsletter..
19 June 2020

I'm currently recording a selection of my short stories to issue with my monthly newsletter. Please sign up here if you would like to receive them. And there's a special offer if you introduce someone else!

Virtual short story writing course with Birnam Book Festival..
22 May 2020

Like many other book festivals, my local one at Birnam has had to put plans on hold. However as their Writer in Residence I will be running a virtual short story writing course over four weeks from Wednesday 10th June. You'll find all the details here. Sign up quick!

Lockdown poem for a strange Easter..
15 April 2020

Knowing

So you're wondering exactly
where it went. Whipped
from a pocket by the western wind
on your weekly trip to town?
Or tangling in a cupboard corner
with the Christmas lights,
the jigsaw that’s lost two pieces, the mice?
Or has all your knowing fled where slaters scuttle,
to the garden shed?
 
So now you've ditched the dates:
The trip to Oban, holidays,
a visit from your sister. Still,
there’s other trusted things you miss:
The boy who comes to mow your lawn;
chums chit-chatting in the fish-van line;
tinned tomatoes always in the shops;
Doig’s, for your new Spring socks.
And Easter Sunday should always spill
families onto Kenmore Beach
with sandwiches, beer, no fear
amidst the hooting geese.
 
So where now will you find your certainties?
Listen! The blackbird still stands
on the roof at dusk, trilling notes
that drift towards your door.
Primroses spring up; Peewits
soar and tumble on the moor;
bluebells will soon spread
sky-carpets between trees.
Open the window. Isn't that the scent
of ramsons rising in the wood again?
Fiction workshop Garsdale Retreat July 2020..
23 March 2020

We'll have to see how Covid-19 develops, but all being well by July, I will be teaching a fiction writing course from 27th July at the stunning Garsdale Retreat. More here.

The Rainbow by DH Lawrence..
07 March 2020

Sixteen years  ago I did my first abridgement for BBC Radio 4 of 'The Rainbow', a text I'd loved when I took A-level English. Lovely to hear it again currently in ten epiodes on Radio 4 Extra (listen at the link below).

Take a listen to Radio 4's Book of the Week next week..
30 January 2020

I abridged Kathleen Jamie's 'Surfacing' for next week's 'Book of the Week' on BBC Radio 4. More.

Autumn 2019 news of writing, workshops and more literary escapades..
06 November 2019

Please read on here.

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