Friday, November 16, 2007


Am beginning to feel like a travelling prophet of doom.

It began the very week that Exodus was published - my home city, Glasgow, which I had fictionally drowned in sea 100 years in the future, was engulfed in floodwaters. Orkney was the fictional model for Mara’s sinking island, Wing, and last winter my cousin Carol, who lives in Orkney, emailed me photos of its streets turned to rivers of sea. Last summer, I was no sooner off the train after speaking about Exodus and Zenith in middle England than the entire region was submerged in catastrophic floods. This month, as my publishers mapped out a promotional tour of East Anglia, the entire east coast was threatened by a tidal surge (yes, that's it above).

Just off the train from a few author talks in various places but no bad news as yet....

Off to Luxembourg next week, taking my 'Apocalyptic Powerpoint' to British Council school pupils (the slideshow has been going down very powerfully, and there is hope amid the apocalyptic images, I promise). Fortunately Luxembourg has no sea coast so I can’t see what damage I can possibly do there. I keep thinking of a film I saw as a child, starring Richard Burton, who dreams of disasters that come true. Maybe I should stay home quietly and write happy, pink, glittery tales.

But seriously, because obviously it is serious, I'm getting together an EARTHSPACE page ( It will grow as time goes on but it already has some fantastic links and inspirational info - and even eco-games - for anyone with an inclination to join the planet's gathering army of eco-warriors: the single necessary world war we really should all be joining up to fight.

On a much happier note, ZENITH (above) has been nominated for the 2008 Cilip Carnegie Medal. The Carnegie is awarded by the UK’s librarians to an outstanding novel for young readers. All five of my older books have now been nominated so I know not to hold my breath for the shortlist - it's just great to be chosen out of the 10,000 or so novels for young readers that are published in the UK each year.

The Carnegie Award is brilliant for readers and writers as many schools read and judge the books, 'shadowing' the official awards process - but even if you are not part of the shadowing process, the nominations list is a great guide to a good read out of this year’s crop of books.

As a Scot, I’m especially proud as the award is named after fellow Scot, Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919). Pictured above, he looks a bit like Santa Claus, and maybe that's no coincidence. Carnegie rose from rags to being one of the richest men in the world after making his fortune in steel in the USA and his memory of using a library as a child made him vow 'if ever wealth came to me it should be used to establish free libraries.' And he did - he gifted almost 3000 of them in the UK and all across the world. Quite some Santa.

Wouldn't it be good to see much more of that bygone grace of 'giving back' in today's privileged and super-wealthy? The amazing legacy of philanthropists like Andrew Carnegie lives on.


Thursday, November 8, 2007


One of my books, SOUNDTRACK, is about a catastrophe that befalls Lagandall, a fictional village by the sea. A comet hangs in the sky over the sea, where the disaster happens, like a portent of doom. The uncanny fictional event mirrored a shocking real one that occurred off the coast of Scotland: the Antares disaster. The comet was real too. I would look out of my window and see the Hale-Bop comet flaring like a ghost or an angel above the rooftops as I wrote. And I discovered all kinds of superstitions and fears and fascinations trail in a comet's wake. In ancient times, when a comet appeared in the sky, the world held its breath and wondered what might follow.

So on this sparkling, cold and clear November night I will stand at the top of the hill where I live and search the skies for the exploding Comet Holmes: 'the strangest comet to burst onto the celestial scene in our lifetime'.

Wikipedia entry.