Ashes and stones cover reveal

The book cover of Ashes and Stones, showing an illustrated hand holding a herb robert flower, surrounded by thistles with a  moon in the corner.

I’m so pleased to share the gorgeous cover design for Ashes and Stones by Natalie Chen. The illustrator is Iain MacArthur.

It’s summer. I stand where perhaps Ellen stood, in this ground thick with new thistle and long grass. She would have ken this coast in all weathers: in the summer when it was as gentle as a lake and in the winter, with the high winds and stinging salt spray.’

Ashes and Stones is a moving and personal journey, along rugged coasts and through remote villages and modern cities, in search of the traces of those accused of witchcraft in seventeenth-century Scotland. We visit modern memorials, roadside shrines and standing stones, and roam among forests and hedge mazes, folk lore and political fantasies. From fairy hills to forgotten caves, we explore a spellbound landscape.


Out 19 January, 2023. Preorder Now:

Available at Watersones

Blackwells (offers free shipping to the USA)

Bookshop.org

Amazon.co.uk

Join my Patreon as a Valiant Witness and receive a signed copy of Ashes & Stones. I ship worldwide.

RIP Elspeth Barker

I just read that Elspeth Barker died last month, and I’m still recovering from the perfection of her only novel, O Caledonia. Heartbreaking and hilarious—why had no one ever told me about it before? I recognise Janet, the ill-fated protagonist, as myself. I see vividly in this book the enchanted, cursed landscape of Northeast Scotland and the steely, unforgiving nature of this place.  I have never read a book that was written with the delicious precision of language—words with the power to summon a place and time as if the reader is living it beside the writer and the people, animals and land of the book. This is no hyperbole—Barker was a sorceress. 

Clearing Space for Subversive imagination

Stefan Eggeler illustration for Gustav Meyrink’s Walpurgisnacht

My newest workshop, Reclaiming Our Monsters, pushes boundaries and clears space for subversive imagination. There are still some spaces left–tickets available at Eventibrite. April 30th, 7pm GMT via Zoom.

This workshop is driven by feminist ideas, reworking the monstrous into new empowering guises. It’s also a way to explore folk horror as a wider genre with space for women and non-binary people.

April 30th is the second Halloween of the witches’ calendar. The veil is thin, the dead walk among us, werewolves are born and all good witches fly to the Brocken. 

In films, TV and books I’ve always had sympathy with the demonised feminine. I drank up the power in these images, and it has served me well. Not that I’m older, I realise this was a kind of crone-medicine. The crone embraces a lived duality: she knows what she is, are even if the dominant culture and history says she’s extraneous, voiceless and grotesque. 

There is a lot going on in the world right now that is truly monstrous. In times of upheaval and uncertainty, what messages do we amplify and share? What realities do we tend? Writing through disaster capitalism and the death throes of patriarchy isn’t a hobby or pastime, it’s a mode of survival and resistance.

How do we know who we are? Write must it—Write it out like the Cailleach on a night raid with her retinue of the dead. Writing it out like a spell, like a draught of blood. 

From where I stand writing may be my only power against the forces of destruction that envelop us. It is the sword I have sharpened over decades in the forge of my own raging intellect, my furious imagination. 

Teaching is my vocation. It’s a devotional work for me and something I’ve done in and outside of hallowed halls of academia and on the streets and in community centres. I’m thrilled that technology, though far from perfect, allows me to teach others online across the world. 

In this two hour workshop we’ll explore the monstrous through an intimate, personal perspective. We’ll embrace the persona of the outsider, the not-quite-human, using subversive world-building, and writing through the eyes of the cursed, the spellbound, the exiled. You’ll need pen, paper and a six sided dice. Join us!