Scottish Historical Fiction from Aberdeenshire

Scottish Historical Fiction

I write Scottish historical fiction, often set in the area of Scotland where I live, Aberdeenshire. I also take a LOT of photos, as is evidenced throughout the blog.

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The Mermaid and the Bear

The Mermaid and the Bear cover

My debut novel was published by GWL Publishing in October 2019, and is available in paperback and on Kindle.

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Aspects of the book:

  • It’s mainly set in a fictional castle in Aberdeenshire.
  • It incorporates the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic.
  • There’s a stone circle.
  • There’s 6 chapters of medieval Christmas.
  • And there’s a love story.

Review on Terry Tyler Book Reviews

See The Mermaid and the Bear page for full details including blurb and quotes and links to more reviews.

Fireflies and Chocolate

Fireflies and Chocolate, out April 2021

My second novel, also published by GWL Publishing, was released on April 1st 2021 and is available in paperback and on Kindle.

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Barnes and Noble

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Aspects of the book:

  • Set in both Aberdeenshire and Colonial Pennsylvania.
  • It includes the Aberdeen child kidnappings of the 1740s.
  • There’s derring-dos on the high seas.
  • There’s chocolate!
  • And there’s love.

Review from the Historical Novel Society

See the Fireflies and Chocolate page for full details including blurb and quotes and links to more reviews.

Further insight into my writing and research:

Scottish Historical Fiction by Ailish Sinclair

A Winter Wonderland, Stones and a Monster

winter wonderland

A beautiful winter wonderland. Sparkling. Fresh. Perfect.

And then there’s the monster. Me. Again. Yes, I have succumbed to some of my old monstrous ways. But it’s not as bad as before. I’m not in hospital this time. I’m in a winter wonderland!

trees fall in a winter wonderland

Storm Arwen pulled down some of our old pines and left us with no electricity for a couple of days. But we were cosy and well fed. We played board games and stoked the fire. We listened to audio books in the dark till the iPad ran out of power.

Before that, when I could feel the beginnings of monstrosity happening, I ran round doing things I knew I might not be able to do for long. I bought festive food in the shops. I visited Berrybrae Stone Circle.

The trees around the circle looked dark and forbidding.

trees at Berrybrae

I found it hard to climb up onto the wee wall around it with my gammy leg. But I made it…

Berrybrae Stone Circle

It was still autumnal then. Unlike now.

autumn at Berrybrae Recumbent Stone Circle

The Historical Novel Society published a very nice review of FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE here which cheered me up.

Quote:

Like Elizabeth wrapped in a plaid, savor the pages of Fireflies and Chocolate and wait for that “bonny” feeling, “I’ve come home.”

Dorothy, the reviewer, also put the review up on her website here with some lovely Scottish photos.

So, for now, I’m content to read blogs and reviews and take short hobbles through the beautiful snow, feeling glad to be able to return to electricity and the cosy fire… and maybe even a bit of writing.

pink bench in a winter wonderland

Aberdeen’s 1597 witchcraft panic (mermaid) and 18th century kidnappings (fireflies) combine with love and hope in THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR & FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE. Christmas features in both books !

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

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books by Ailish Sinclair

an t-Eilean Dubh (The Black Isle)

The Black Isle is a peninsula near Inverness in The Highlands of Scotland. The towns and villages of the ‘Isle’ boast many excellent museums, hotels and shops, there’s castles too, making a quick drive over the Kessock Bridge well worthwhile. Dismantled oil rigs can be seen on the Cromarty Firth side, as can dolphins sometimes.

Cromarty

Inland there are older places, prettier places. We took a wrong turn while searching for The Clootie Well, an ancient, possibly Celtic, shrine and then spent some time wandering among trees.

Continue reading “an t-Eilean Dubh (The Black Isle)”

On Monsters: being one, writing one…

witch, not quite a monster
Arriving at a Halloween party in the past…

Originally posted 2020.

I don’t need a Halloween costume this year. I already look like a monster. The medication I’m on to stop my body killing me (condition lamented here) has made my face swell up. Like a moon. It is a well documented side effect actually referred to as ‘moonface’. The same drug is also causing insomnia so I have massive eye bags that extend to what feels like halfway down my face. There’s quite a lot of bandage action across my body too, which adds an air of mummification fun to the whole ensemble.

Continue reading “On Monsters: being one, writing one…”

Writerly Roundup: interview, reviews, group

writerly places, a cobbled street with flowers
A rather distracting cobbled street in Aberdeen. It features here and here.

I get easily distracted by the places and things that I write about here and forget to mention other writerly bits and pieces of note in some posts. So here goes!

Interview

I recently did an interview with the lovely Tonya Ulynn Brown on her blog The Rose and the Thistle here. Tonya’s review of THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR came out while I was in hospital last year and it really cheered me up. I tweeted about it from my bed very early in the morning, having finally worked out how to use the WiFi. I remember the scene so clearly: the dimmed light in the ward, the wall clock with its strange night and day depiction, the quiet padding about of nurses, and the prick of the blood sugar checking device. At least I had performed some worthwhile task from my bed. I was almost working! A man instantly tweeted back to me that I was being too ‘self congratulatory’ in mentioning the review. And that only encouraged me…

In the interview I ask such questions as: Is it really good enough? Is it, in fact, bilge? Or nonsense? Or the worst thing that has ever been written in the whole history of the world? 

And dispense advice like: Don’t let other people tear you down and tell you you’re doing it wrong. People have strange agendas when it comes to the writing of others. Do your own thing. Go your own way.

See the whole interview here.

writerly times: sunlight by a mausoleum
Sunlight peers round the corner of the Duff House Mausoleum

The second writerly thing: reviews

There’s been quite a few. Two of the most recent for FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE are from Elisabeth on the writer’s tip jar site Kofi here. I found her mention of language very interesting.

And then over on Goodreads, this one from Alex came in yesterday. “I was moved and shocked by what I read but also took solace from the portrayal of genuine historic figures in the book such as the vile Alexander Young and the decent Benjamin Lay, Peter Williamson and Benjamin Franklin whose kindness and determination make a difference to those reduced to the status of chattels.”

cobbles or cassies
Ah, those cobbles, or cassies as they are up here. See yet more of them.

And the last writerly mention: the group

I’ve started a wee Facebook Group to promote Scottish books. Your own or those you’ve read, fiction or non-fiction, about or set in Scotland or written by a Scottish author. If you’re interested feel free to join here.

writery things: stone circles
Possibly the biggest distraction of all, stone circles. See this one here.

For more cobbled streets and old stones, sign up to the mailing list.

Cover of Ailish Sinclair's 'The Mermaid and the Bear'

Set in a fictional castle in Aberdeenshire, Ailish Sinclair’s debut novel, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR, blends an often overlooked period of history, the Scottish witchcraft accusations, in particular the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic, with a love story.

Amazon

Waterstones

GoodReads

Fireflies and Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair, out 2021

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE was inspired by the kidnapped children and young people of Aberdeen. The story follows the adventures of Elizabeth Manteith from the castle and her determined efforts to get back home. There’s love. There’s derring-dos on the high seas… And there’s chocolate!

See the publisher’s Press Release here

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Goodreads

Duff House Mausoleum in Autumnal Aberdeenshire

steps of Duff House Mausoleum

I wandered through the woods to the 18th century Duff House Mausoleum.

It’s about a mile away from the majestic Duff House, now an art gallery, and about two miles from the Bridge of Alvah. When I was a child the house was in quite a rough state but still open to the public. A lot of the furniture was covered in sheets, paint peeled off the walls and spooky music floated up from the lower levels.

I loved it.

I still do.

Duff House

The front of Duff House Mausoleum:

Duff House mausoleum

And round the back…

knight at Duff House Mausoleum

To an effigy of a knight. Sadly it is not Robert the Bruce as once purported by the Earl who built the mausoleum. The skulls, crossbones and wheat are quite common on older graves in Aberdeenshire.

Below: the interior of the mausoleum taken through the metal door.

inside Duff House Mausoleum

During autumn in Scotland the days seem to be either golden or grey, sunny or dreich. It didn’t get properly light at all on this day, but autumn added its gold regardless.

The River Deveron:

River Deveron

I came upon an old dog grave in the lower parts of Wrack Wood. The dogs had lovely Dickensian sounding names.

dog grave

Grey and golden, the colours of the day:

grey and golden leaf

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Sometimes books like to dress up and have their photo taken. Sometimes writers have to work very hard to resist a wafting scent of chocolate (medical condition/special diet. 8 months in people, 8 months).

Paperbacks and Kindle: http://author.to/mermaid

Scottish author Ailish Sinclair's historical  novels

And a wee quote from Mermaid:

excerpt from THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR by Ailish Sinclair

A Swashbuckling Adventure, Through Hospital Windows

St Nicolas Kirk through a hospital window

Originally posted 2020.

The start of the title is a bit of a lie. In fact it’s a total fabrication. There’s no derring-dos on the high seas recounted here. I do have crutches, so am a bit peg-legged and I like to think there’s an (imaginary) parrot on my shoulder. I have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, so my body has basically been trying to kill me. I’m now on medication to stop those efforts, but I have to be checked once a week in case the drug makes its own attempts to kill me. So there are elements of a thriller genre at work in my life.

During my month of cannulas, needles, tests and scary procedures I sought beauty where I could find it. Through the hospital windows. I woke the first morning to a beautiful pink sunrise and a rather wonderful view of St Nicholas Kirk steeple, the church that features in THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR. Despite the fact that I wrote of truly terrible events involving that steeple, I found it somewhat comforting to see it there. I felt a connection to the place. It lit up in the evening sun too.

hospital windows

But I was soon moved. This was something that was being done due to Covid. Constant rearranging of patients between wards. Decisions made by ‘bed managers’, not medics. It didn’t make any sense to me, and the medical staff were pretty unimpressed by it too.

However, I saw through many different windows. This next ward had the worst view, just a small box of buildings, but the best bed. Air mattresses are magical things; lying in them is a little bit like being hugged as they inflate and deflate to maximise your comfort.

hospital windows 2

I was soon off to sparkling chimney sunrises and sunsets:

shiny chimneys through the hospital windows
chimneys

Then, finally, the last of the hospital windows. At first I was quite annoyed about this move. Diagnosed and treated, just awaiting final tests, I was shunted away to what felt like a far flung area of the hospital, and I no longer had my own room. I posted a somewhat morose quote from Lord of the Rings about the sunrise that morning on Instagram.

red sky

But, it really worked out very well. The other three ladies I was with were lovely. There was kindness and understanding between us all and we shared frequent laughing conversations, our room being referred to as the party room by the nurses.

And it had a swashbuckling sea view… just.

sea view from the hospital window

While I was in, a rather wonderful review went up on The Rose and the Thistle blog. Reading the opening line cheered me up instantly! “Before I go any further, I just have to say, this is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read. Yes, it is written in one of my favorite time periods, and yes it takes place in one of my favorite places in all the world, but when you combine that with the almost poetic style of Sinclair’s writing—sigh!” See the whole review here.

Set in a fictional castle in Aberdeenshire, Ailish Sinclair’s debut novel, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR, features an often overlooked event in history, the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic, and a love story.

Amazon

Waterstones

Barnes and Noble

GoodReads

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A Map of Witches and some Autumn Beauty

Map of Witches

The Map of Witches is a brand new resource from the University of Edinburgh, utilising the extensive data collected in their Survey of Scottish Witchcraft Database. See it here. It’s a visual and clickable map of over 3000 people accused of witchcraft in Scotland, and is both fascinating and terrible, as this subject always is. My three quines from THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR are included (see Isobell’s entry above) as are a disturbing Witch Pricker’s Journey and various other stories. You can choose to view a modern map or a historical one, the latter suiting it better, I think.

After peering back into the dark like that, I need to look at beauty, so here’s some from recent days:

Continue reading “A Map of Witches and some Autumn Beauty”