Genre Fiction

My Scottish Fiction

Got asked a couple of times yesterday about my Scottish fiction, so here’s the gen.

A lot of my work, long and short form, has been set in Scotland, and much of it uses the history and folklore. There’s just something about the misty landscapes and old buildings that speaks straight to my soul. Bloody Celts… we get all sentimental at the least wee thing.

I grew up on the West Coast of Scotland in an environment where the supernatural was almost commonplace.

My grannie certainly had a touch of ‘the sight’, always knowing when someone in the family was in trouble. There are numerous stories told of family members meeting other, long dead, family in their dreams, and I myself have had more than a few encounters with dead family, plus meetings with what I can only class as residents of faerie. I have had several precognitive dreams, one of which saved me from a potentially fatal car crash.

So it’s no surprise the landscape and the folklore and the general high weirdness of my homeland come out in my writing. So far I’ve set novels and novellas over a broad swathe of the country

  • Inner Hebrides / Oban area – RAMSKULL
  • Outer Hebrides – ISLAND LIFE
  • North Ayrshire – ELDREN
  • Borders / Hadrian’s Wall – THE WATCHERS TRILOGY
  • Highlands – THE HOUSE ON THE MOOR

…and historically as well as geographically, in many short stories, too numerous to mention, with pastiches from the likes of Stevenson, Doyle and Mrs Oliphant in the Ghost Club collection, along with stories for Carnacki, Sherlock Holmes, Professor Challenger, Derek Adams, Augustus Seton, Alexander Seton and many more.

As ever, details of all the books on my website. Over there ==>

I have a deep love of old places, in particular menhirs and stone circles, and I’ve spent quite a lot of time travelling the UK and Europe just to visit archaeological remains. I also love what is widely known as ‘weird shit’. I’ve spent far too much time surfing and reading Fortean, paranormal and cryptozoological websites. The cryptozoological stuff especially fascinates me, and provides a direct stimulus for a lot of my fiction.

I’ve also been influenced by many Scottish writers. Stevenson in particular is a big influence. He is a master of plotting, and of putting innocents into situations far out of their usual comfort zones while still maintaining a grounding in their previous, calmer, reality. His way with a loveable rogue in Treasure Island and Kidnapped in particular is also a big influence. Other Scottish writers who have influenced me include John Buchan, Iain Banks and, more in my youth than now, Alistair MacLean and Nigel Tranter. From them I learned how to use the scope of both the Scottish landscape and its history while still keeping the characters alive.

But I think it’s the people that influence me most. Everybody in Scotland’s got stories to tell, and once you get them going, you can’t stop them. I love chatting to people, usually in pubs, and finding out the weird shit they’ve experienced. My Glasgow PI, Derek Adams is mainly based on a bloke I met years ago in a bar in Partick, and quite a few of the characters that turn up and talk too much in my books can be found in real life in bars in Glasgow, Edinburgh and St Andrews.

Although I now live in Newfoundland, Scotland is embedded in my heart and soul and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I write a lot of material set over here too now, but the Scottish stories will continue. Always.

The next in the pipeline is another Derek Adams novella, FARSIDE, coming soon in the Occult Detective Quarterly Presents anthology, and Derek is once again tramping the streets of Glasgow, in a case that brings together some threads from my recent writings, in the SIGILS AND TOTEMS myths, the Concordances of the Red Serpent, and the Seton family history.



Musings of an older writer

Been musing here and there on social media about being an older writer. Some of it is ‘all you kids get off my lawn’ stuff, some of it is nostalgia for a different, less frantic time, but mostly, I’m just getting old.

My needs from my writing have changed. When I started, all I wanted was somebody to read it. That bit’s still the same, but now, having had some small measure of success, I have books on the shelves I can look at in my dotage and remember, ‘I did that.’

I’ve never quite reached where I wanted to be of course, but multiple stories in things like Nature Futures and The Mammoth Books of… series,  books with the likes of Dark Regions Press and DarkFuse et al , and passing ten years as a full time writer, would have been deemed a spectacular success for the younger me, so I shall try to think like him a bit more often as time goes on.

I’m also having a bit of a late career success with the Severed Press books, which is nice, and I can see me writing a few more creature features as my sixties roll on. That, and a few short stories will see me through the next few years.

I’m definitely slowing down though, and whether or not I come to a complete halt on the writing remains to be seen.

The ideas bank is running a bit empty. I had plans for a whole cycle of Sigils and Totems works, as I thought I’d hit gold with that idea, but so far the novels and novellas haven’t sparked with many folks. That dented my confidence quite a bit these past few months, but I think I”m slowly coming out of it. Time will tell.

The last time I felt like this was back in 2007, when I didn’t write at all for six months and almost quit entirely. But if I’d done that then, I wouldn’t have had any of those sales I mentioned up top there — almost all of my professional scale success has come after 2010. So I’ll never say never.

But… and it’s a big but… motivating myself at 60 is a different beast from motivating myself at 50. That’s just a fact of life.

Brian Keene mentioned something in his newletter this week that resonated, about finding contentment where we can.

I’ve found a measure of it by being here on the shore in Eastern Newfoundland, doing what I want to do, writing full time and getting old with the one I love. The ups and downs of a writing life makes me cranky though.

I wonder if I’d be be less cranky without it?

I suspect not.




My year in writing so far

Time for stock checking…

Published in 2018

  • THE BOATHOUSE – a short novel in my Sigils and Totems series from Crossroad Press
  • OPERATION: ANTARCTICA – the 2nd S-Squad book from Severed Press
  •  OPERATION: SIBERIA – the 3rd S-Squad book from Severed Press

Coming up from me in the autumn

  • THE GREEN AND THE BLACK – A Newfoundland horror novel from Crossroad Press

On submission

  • THE KEYS TO THE DOOR – a fourth CARNACKI collection

Work In Progress

  • AISHA (Working title) – a historical fantasy trilogy written with Steve Savile that’s coming along nicely
  • OPERATION: AMAZON – a 4th S-Squad book, about 20% done.
  • There’s also audiobooks of RAMSKULL and INFESTATION in production and a German edition of THE INVASION.

Short Stories published

  • The Root of All Things / By the Light of Camelot / EDGE Publishing
  • Leader of the Pack / In Dog We Trust / Black Shuck Books
  • The Keys to the Door / Nightland Quarterly / Nightland (Japan)

Short stories / novellas coming up, all dates to be confirmed

  • Operation Severn / Prehistoric / Severed Press
  • Blacktop / I Am The Abyss / Dark Regions Press
  • Nocturnes and Lacunae / Transmissions From Punktown / Dark Regions Press
  • Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation / Tales from Arkham Asylum / Dark Regions Press
  • The Color From The Deep / Summer of Lovecraft / Dark Regions Press
  • Something for the Weekend? / Voices in the Darkness / Ulthar Press
  • Carnacki: Bats in the Belfry / Tails of Terror / Golden Goblin Press
  • Into the Light / Their Coats All Red / 18th Wall Productions
  • Farside / Occult Detective Quarterly Presents

It’s felt like a quiet year so far, but looking back, I’ve been more productive than I thought.


Audiobook release: ELDREN: THE BOOK OF THE DARK

ELDREN joins the audiobook wall today. This early novel of mine has always been a personal favorite. It contains some of the earliest things I ever wrote, it’s set in a town very like the one I grew up in, and there’s a lot of my own voice in there.

And this audio version is graced with a narrator from the same part of Scotland, so you’re getting another layer of authenticity from Chris Barnes’ great delivery.

Nine hours of nasty vamps, no sparkles, just bloodthirsty bastards and plucky resistance from a band of locals.

Get it HERE.

I’m definitely a classicist when it comes to vampires. Mine are mostly evil blood-sucking bastards with bad breath and little clothes sense. To them teenage girls are food, not objects of desire.

That said, I have sometimes strayed from the lone vamp as predator meme. In my Watchers series for instance, I have a whole army of kilted Highland vampires facing organised bands of slayers.

And in that same series I explored the idea of vampires being a product of an alchemical experiment gone wrong, one of the paths on the Great Journey that is not often taken.

But I rarely stray far. It’s the blood-urge, the need for food, that inspires me to write about vampires, and I can’t see that changing. Gothic lounging and moaning about your condition in life (or undeath) is all well and good, but it bores me to tears, both in fiction and on film, and I find myself shouting: Bite something for god’s sake!

The protagonist of Eldren: The Book of the Dark, Jim Kerr has no supernatural gifts, and he’s no hero, at least not at first. He’s a man who lost a family to vampires, and has been unhinged in the process. Normal people find him more frightening than any threat of a vampire, purely because he’s more visible: to them he’s a wide-eyed psychopath with a crossbow and pockets full of garlic.

Jim’s journey to personal redemption is one of the main themes of the book. To fulfill his goal, he may have to descend to the level of his quarry. The questions that poses, and how he handles them, provide much of the tension for the book’s climax.

I hope I never get accused of over-romanticizing the vampire myth. I work hard at keeping my books grounded in a harsh reality, where bad things happen to good people. Plus there’s the fact that Eldren takes place in a working-class town in the West of Scotland. It’s hard to over-romanticize people’s existence in a place where unemployment is rife and life is hard enough to start with without blood-sucking fiends getting in the way.

In fact, for some of the townspeople, vampirisation is a step up the social scale, allowing them free rein to some base urges that had been bubbling just beneath the surface.

July Update Newsletter

S Squad news, general writing news, and a new giveaway, all in the newsletter this month.

Big beasties fascinate me.

Some of that fascination stems from early film viewing. I remember being taken to the cinema to see The Blob. I couldn’t have been more than seven or eight, and it scared the crap out of me. The original incarnation of Kong has been with me since around the same time.

Similarly, I remember the BBC showing re-runs of classic creature features late on Friday nights, and THEM! in particular left a mark on my psyche.

I’ve also got a Biological Sciences degree, and even while watching said movies, I’m usually trying to figure out how the creature would actually work in nature — what would it eat? How would it procreate? What effect would it have on the environment around it?

On top of that, I have an interest in cryptozoology, of creatures that live just out of sight of humankind, and of the myriad possibilities that nature, and man’s dabbling with it, can throw up.

All of this means I can’t avoid writing about the beasties, from Giant Crabs in CRUSTACEANS, to Yeti in BERSERKER and ABOMINABLE, man-eating seaweed in THE CREEPING KELP, another big blob in THE PLASM, killer shrooms in FUNGOID and Giant Ants in GENERATIONS.

And there’s the tales of the S-Squad, my latest foray in the genre.

The S-Squad series is a tribute to several things – 50s big-bug B movies, Alistair MacLean books and movies, Aliens, and Dog Soldiers are all rattling around in there.

But mostly it’s for the love of big beasties. Mostly.

So far the team’s various members have come up against giant Isopods, revenant Nazis in a UFO base, velociraptors on Lundy Island (in a forthcoming anthology), and a variety of Ice-Age beasties in Siberia.

Unlike the Dog Soldiers team of a mixture of various Brits, my squad, after the first book at least, are all Scots, from Glasgow and Edinburgh, Inverness and the Islands, which gives me tension, patter and a degree of culture clash among them to play with.

I have such plans for them…

As I said, this is an indulgence, not a guilty pleasure, since there is no guilt at all, simply fun, joy and adventure.

This is who I am. This is my playpen.

Come and join me.


I spent much of June finishing off my fourth CARNACKI collection. It’s now off to a potential publisher for review, so keep everything crossed for me. I want to see this one out in the wild as I would then have all of my Carnacki stories published in one of the four collections. It is a dream I have.

I’m now working on the fourth of the S-Squad tales. I’ve taken them to a hotter spot this time, and seeing how they cope with Amazonian jungles and snake gods. Ideas for book 5 are already bubbling under.

The website got a bit of a tart up this month too. I’ve added SSL security, so if you come in via , it’s all nicely locked. I was asked about a Press Pack, realized I didn’t have one, so I’ve added one of them too. There’s also a new NEWS sidebar on the front page, new pages for the new books mentioned in this newsletter, and a few new review blurbs from places like Cemetery Dance and Amazing Stories. Which is nice.

THE BOATHOUSE, the latest novel in my loosely connected Sigils and Totems mythos launched in June in ebook and paperback from Crossroad Press.

In this one you’ll find a hurricane, a scrimshaw chess set, a derelict boatyard, beer, cigarettes, a Newfoundland fishing town, more beer, sigils, totems, a ouija board and an old whaler, going to rot…among other things.

We went through a hurricane here a few years ago, and this story was sparked off by some of the mayhem the force of nature left behind. So there’s that, a lifelong love for interesting chess sets, and a look at another facet of my ongoing Sigils and Totems mythos (see the INFO link under the book cover for more details on my website.)

But it’s mainly about getting older, and friendships lost, and found again in dire circumstances. I’m pretty proud of the way this one turned out, and there’s a lot of me in it, being as I am a small town lad who left home young, and has now ended up in a small town again. In my case I wasn’t returning to my childhood home, but given that my parents are now both elderly back in Scotland, I can relate.

As ever, if you buy it and read it, a wee review anywhere of your choosing is always appreciated, on this, or any of my books.



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Bring on the Monsters

My writing is a mixture of the nearly subtle, and the not at all subtle. At least I think so.

I’ve approached subtlety in my short stories, and my reading passions veer toward the more subtle end of the scale.

But when it comes to actually making money from my writing, the bucks come in fastest from the most unsubtle of my work. THE INVASION is not in the least bit subtle — an apocalyptic alien invasion thing with flesh-eating goop, plucky survivors and nasty, no redeeming qualities aliens. People over the last nine years have lapped it up in their tens of thousands. It’s much the same with other of my more pulpy works, with thousands tuning in for THE VALLEY, ISLAND LIFE and THE HOLE, to name the most popular. And good old Derek Adams still sells regularly.

My recent CARNACKI and GHOST CLUB books, while getting critical praise and good reviews, do sell, but only in the hundreds compared to the thousands of the pulpier books.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time over the last 26 years trying to turn away towards the more subtle, in the hope of making an impression among the weird fiction group, as that’s my own reading passion. But now, the Sigils and Totems stuff, (i.e. the more subtle of my recent work) has fallen off the radar completely, and meanwhile the S-Squad series creature features are taking off, and proving to me, all over again, that the direct, no-nonsense, big beasties and big bangs stuff is what my core readership is after.

So I’m going to chase them for a wee while.

Subtlety be damned.

Bring on the monsters.



The Boathouse launches

THE BOATHOUSE, the latest novel in my loosely connected Sigils and Totems mythos launches today in ebook and paperback from Crossroad Press.

In this one you’ll find a hurricane, a scrimshaw chess set, a derelict boatyard, beer, cigarettes, a Newfoundland fishing town, more beer, sigils, totems, a ouija board and an old whaler, going to rot…among other things.

It’s a simple enough concept.

There are houses like this all over the world. Most people only know of them from whispered stories over campfires; tall tales told to scare the unwary. But some, those who suffer, some know better. They are drawn to the places where what ails them can be eased.

If you have the will, the fortitude, you can peer into another life, where the dead are not gone, where you can see that they thrive and go on, in the dreams that stuff is made of.

We went through a hurricane here a few years ago, and this story was sparked off by some of the mayhem the force of nature left behind. So there’s that, a lifelong love for interesting chess sets, and a look at another facet of my ongoing Sigils and Totems mythos (see the INFO link under the book cover for more details on my website.)

But it’s mainly about getting older, and friendships lost, and found again in dire circumstances.

As ever, if you buy it and read it, a wee review anywhere of your choosing is always appreciated, on this, or any of my books.

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Newsflash – OPERATION: SIBERIA Launches

OPERATION: SIBERIA, the 3rd in my S-Squad series from Severed Press launches today.

OPERATION: SIBERIA follows the survivors of the Scottish Special Forces squad from INFESTATION and OPERATION: ANTARCTICA, to the opposite side of the world this time, and an investigation of a very peculiar zoo in the Northern Russian Tundra

In this one you’ll find more sweary Scotsmen, lots of bullets, big hairy beasties, Mammoths, Dire Wolves, Thunderbirds, more bullets, and more swearing.

I’m still having great fun with this group of my countrymen.

They’ll be back.

What’s left of them.

When Captain John Banks and his squad are sent to investigate a zoo in Siberia, he expects to find tigers, bears, maybe elk But there is something there that is new, yet very, very old.

Beasts that haven’t walked the Earth since the last Ice Age have been cloned, revived, and set loose to roam free

And some of them are very hungry.

Win a Kindle Paperwhite


A Book a Day for May

Regular readers will know I started using the #abookaday tag on Twitter to post a cover of a book that influenced or entertained me over the half a century and more of my reading life. Here’s the list for May.

LEGION – William Peter Blatty
WOLF IN SHADOW – David Gemmell
MORE THAN HUMAN – Theodore Sturgeon
FAREWELL, MY LOVELY – Raymond Chandler
TREASURE ISLAND – Robert Louis Stevenson
DREAMSNAKE – Vonda J McIntyre
THE TRIAL – Franz Kafka
1984 – George Orwell
THE CIRCUS OF DR. LAO – Charles G Finney
THE LOST WORLD – Arthur Conan Doyle
DECLARE – Tim Powers
HAWKSMOOR – Peter Ackroyd
STEPPENWOLF – Herman Hesse
WOLF’S HOUR – Robert McCammon
THE DEAD ZONE – Stephen King
TOADY – Mark Morris
BRIGHTON ROCK – Graham Greene

The list will continue in June, so follow the #abookaday tag for a daily recommendation

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