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.

Keep up with all my news by signing up to the mailing list. It’s occasional and always contains some exclusive photos.

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.

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Waterstones

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.

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Waterstones

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

Holiday in a Day: Aberdeenshire and Moray Coast

a holiday in a day: dolphin sculpture
holiday in a day: window by Portsoy Harbour
Window by Portsoy Harbour

I went out for the day. I ended up visiting so many places that it felt like having a whole holiday in a day. It’s been a really long time since I did this. There’s been wee local trips here and there since this latest bout of illness. But it’s been years, literally, since I’ve been out in this way. Other ill times and lockdowns all stopped play for me in this regard.

I didn’t know how far I’d get, so just took one small step of the journey at a time, sharing on Twitter and Instagram as I went.

Holiday in a Day: the Red Well

the Red Well

First was the Red Well by Whitehills. I won’t write about it now as it features in SISTERS and deserves its own post. It was beautiful though and provided a gentle start to the outing.

Portsoy Harbour

A little further up the coast, I came to the wonderfully scenic Portsoy Harbour, its window and dolphin sculpture also pictured above.

Holiday in a day: Portsoy Harbour

Speymouth Forest

The trip was going well, so on I went, and soon reached deep and dark Speymouth Forest.

Trees at Speymouth Forest

I didn’t walk far, but there was so much beauty to be seen everywhere in the old woodland.

holiday in a day: canopy of trees

Lots of little pathways.

pathway in the forest

Biblical Garden

On and on I travelled, still feeling good. I took a walk in the Biblical Garden at Elgin. This garden contains 110 plants that are mentioned in the bible. It’s an interesting and peaceful place to visit, maintained by the horticultural students of Moray College.

Samson:

Samson in the biblical garden

A rainbow:

Holiday in a Day: rainbow of flowers

Then the fear kicked in. Two competing fears actually. One that I might exhaust myself back into being ill, and the other that I might become ill again so should do as much as possible in one day.

I compromised by sitting quietly by the sea at Sandend for a while before heading home.

Holiday in a Day: Sandend
Note the jumping and boating people in the background!

TikTok

I made a short TikTok video of the day. I am new on there and really don’t know what I’m doing yet. Any advice welcome!

Writing Update

Sisters at the Edge of the World has reached the proofreading phase, so it won’t be long now until publication. I should have a date soon.

Published Books

books on pink

Set in an Aberdeenshire castle, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR features the Scottish witchcraft accusations, a handsome Laird, an ancient stone circle and a love story.

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE was inspired by the 18th century kidnapped children of Aberdeen and is set in both Scotland and Colonial Pennsylvania.

Paperbacks and kindle: Amazon UK or Amazon Worldwide

“Filled with excitement and suspense…” Historical Novel Society

ballet novel, TENDU, by Ailish Sinclair

See my About Page here

Newsletter

Go here to sign up for my (roughly monthly) newsletter. It’s a more intimate space than the blog and always includes some exclusive photos.

Tip Jar

Share Your Books and Writing with Me!

Share your books with me!

And any other writing, such as poems, blogs and excerpts from your work in progress. I want to see it. My readers want to see it. Show us those heartfelt creative efforts.

Share your books!
In local bookshop Better Read Books in Ellon

No-nos

There’s so many no-nos in the online world of writing today. Review swaps are against the terms and conditions of Amazon and other places. ‘Buy my book!’ DMs on social media are just annoying and unprofessional, and thankfully much rarer than they used to be. This week a writer (big 5 publisher, famous agent) posted a ‘buy my book’ comment on one of my Instagram posts. We don’t follow each other. The book had nothing to do with the subject of my post, so it seemed a bit desperate and, again, unprofessional. It did not make me want to buy the book; in fact, it was off-putting. An invasion of space even.

But it got me thinking about spaces where it is good to share, and here we have this post.

Share you books! Witchy books.
Witchy books…

Share Your Books!

There’s no no-nos here today. The comment section of this post is a free for all sharing space. Post your own work and peruse that of others too. You’re also welcome to add links 🙂

And talking of adding links, if you have a book and a blog, it’s a good idea to post some way to see those books in the posts. I’ve quite often been impressed with writing on a blog and looked for a mentioned book to no avail.

I have a Facebook group for sharing any books that have a Scottish connection. See it here.

I want to see your books and writing, people! So post away…

And, of course, here’s mine:

the novels of Ailish Sinclair

Set in an Aberdeenshire castle, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR features the Scottish witchcraft accusations, a handsome Laird, an ancient stone circle and a love story.

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE was inspired by the 18th century kidnapped children of Aberdeen and is set in both Scotland and Colonial Pennsylvania.

Paperbacks and kindle: Amazon UK or Amazon Worldwide

“Filled with excitement and suspense…” Historical Novel Society

feet

See my About Page here

Go here to sign up for my occasional emails that always include exclusive photos and news of my writing and life.

Dunnideer Vitrified Hill Fort and Leith Hall Garden

tree at the base of Dunnideer vitrified hill fort

This beautiful tree sits at the foot of Dunnideer vitrified hill fort near Insch in Aberdeenshire. It’s a short but steep climb to the top of the hill. When you see the remains of the medieval castle and prehistoric fort you know you’re nearly there.

The Vitrified Hill Fort

The vitrified forts of Northern Scotland are a bit of a mystery. About 2000 years ago the stones of many of these defensive buildings reached a high enough temperature to melt. Theories as to how this happened are varied. Battles? Ancient building techniques? Aliens? I’ve written a dramatic stone melting event into SISTERS (no aliens involved) but don’t pretend to have the answer to this piece of prehistory.

vitrified hill fort rock and medieval castle

The views from the hill make all exertion of the climb worthwhile. Click the pano for a larger version:

panorama of view from Dunideer vitrified hill fort

View from the other side:

Dunnideer vitrified hill fort

Nestled, and almost completely hidden, under a tree at the bottom of the hill are the remains of Dunnideer Recumbent Stone Circle.

recumbent and flankers of Dunnideer stone circle at the base of the vitrified hill fort
stone under tree
split flanker of Dunnideer stone circle

Leith Hall

A few miles further west is Leith Hall with its wonderful walled garden.

colourful borders of Leith Hall garden

Stone guardian at the gate:

lion at Leith Hall

I love the Moon Gate, and in retrospect wish I had gone through it and taken a photo from the other side too. Oh well, next time…

moongate at Leith Hall

My Books

The Mermaid and the Bear cover

Set in an Aberdeenshire castle, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR features the Scottish witchcraft accusations, a handsome Laird, an ancient stone circle and a love story.

Fireflies and Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair, out 2021

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE was inspired by the 18th century kidnapped children of Aberdeen and is set in both Scotland and Colonial Pennsylvania.

Paperbacks and kindle: Amazon UK or Amazon Worldwide

“Filled with excitement and suspense…” Historical Novel Society

And coming soon…

SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD cover

When Morragh speaks to another person for the very first time, she has no idea that he is an invader in her land. 

What she does next constitutes a huge betrayal of her people, threatening her closest relationships and even her way of life itself.

Set in 1st century Northern Scotland, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD is a story of chosen sisters, fierce warriors, divided loyalties and, ultimately, love.  More…

Writer’s Tip Jar

Cairnbulg and Inverallochy: Come Awa In!

Cairnbulg: come awa in!
Come away in!

I took a wee trip to Cairnbulg. And also Inverallochy, as the two fishing villages are joined together. I drove myself, a major milestone in the healing process (see posts about illness here and here).

Cairnbulg Library

The library had some lovely signs up, written in the Doric, the Scots language as spoken in the northeast of Scotland. They were fairly simple, but I will translate under the pictures.

Cairnbulg library in Aberdeenshire, Scotland
The Counter

My favourite was the one that separated the adult books from the junior section.

Cairnbulg library
Big folks books

There’s a vaguely Pictish feel to the statue outside the library.

Statue outside Cairnbulg Library.
Statue outside Cairnbulg Library

The Beach

After perusing the books and signs, I drove down to the beach.

Cairnbulg: washing lines
Communal washing line

I had forgotten how beautiful the rugged and rocky nature of the coast at the bottom of the village was.

beach
Beach

I just had to walk down onto the beach. Another ‘blue mind‘ moment!

Rocks at Cairnbulg
Rocks at Cairnbulg beach

Memorial

The memorial below commemorates all those who have been lost at sea from the community.

Memorial at Cairnbulg

Haste Ye Back!

And lastly, probably needing no translation, but I will anyway, Haste Ye Back! To the blog as well as the library…

Haste You Back: return soon!

For more Doric sayings see the post Dancing Round Aberdeen in the Rain

My books, also available at the library!

books on pink

Set in an Aberdeenshire castle, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR features the Scottish witchcraft accusations, a handsome Laird, an ancient stone circle and a love story.

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE was inspired by the 18th century kidnapped children of Aberdeen and is set in both Scotland and Colonial Pennsylvania.

Paperbacks and kindle: Amazon UK or Amazon Worldwide

“Filled with excitement and suspense…” Historical Novel Society

Fireflies and Chocolate at the library!
Picture taken at Fraserburgh Library, books on the just returned shelf.

And coming soon…

SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD cover

Set in 1st century Northern Scotland, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD is a tale of chosen sisters, fierce warriors, neurodiversity, divided loyalties and, ultimately, love. More…

ballet novel, TENDU, by Ailish Sinclair

See my About Page here

Writer’s Tip Jar:

Balgorkar Stone Circle and Castle Fraser

Balgorkar Stone Circle
On the way to Balgorkar Stone Circle

This post details a day in 2014 when we set off to find Balgorkar Stone Circle and visited two castles and another circle too.

We headed off to look for the stones. But first, there was a quick stop at Fraserburgh beach where the haar (Scottish word for mist that rolls in off the sea) hung low and filtered the sunlight in a silvery way. A seagull flew by as I took the photo.

Balgorkar Stone Circle

Inland we travelled, to bright sunshine and summer colours and the stones of Castle Fraser.

To the left in the picture below (click to see larger image) are two standing stones and to the right, in the distance by the trees, is Balgorkar Stone Circle (also known as Castle Fraser Stone Circle). The stones were visible from the road, so quite easily found.

standing stones and a Balgorkar stone circle

Up the side of the field we walked.

Balgorkar Stone Circle in Aberdeenshire

I thought we’d have to just view the stones from there, but no, some naughty person had trampled a pathway through the crop, so we did no further damage by walking it.

illicit path to Balgorkar stone circle

The recumbent and flankers, dark against the field:

Balgorkar stone circle

Castle Fraser

Next we visited Castle Fraser, where I was meant to be doing research for writing on heraldry, historic dates and architecture. This took the form of running about taking photos:

Castle Fraser

I loved the rooftop and later wrote about it here.

turrets

Kildrummy Castle

Then, after picnicking, with only half the day gone, we decided to head to ruinous Kildrummy Castle, a few miles further on.

more serendipity at Kildrummy Castle - Ailish Sinclair, author

There in the reception was an old friend who I hadn’t seen for years. There was hugging and much talking. Other people got fed up waiting to be served… We kept saying it was amazing. My friend is currently doing a PhD in history, so some of our conversation became spontaneous research.

We finally moved on to look around:

great hall

I do appreciate the use of the adverb ‘treacherously’ there; without it we might think Osbourne the Blacksmith to have merely made a mistake or had an unfortunate accident such as tripping with a pot of molten metal or dropping a freshly forged sword.

window

Broomend of Crichie Stone Circle

The day ended with a visit to Broomend of Crichie stone circle, Pictish stone placed in the middle.

Broomend of Crichie

This blog post is ending in a rather unrelated way, with some ballet. It’s beautiful and romantic and only two minutes long. It’s Scottish Ballet performing at the opening of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014.

Historical Fiction featuring a castle and a stone circle!

Fireflies and Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair
Fireflies and Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair, out 2021

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE was inspired by the kidnapped children of Aberdeen and is set in both Scotland and Colonial Pennsylvania.

There’s love. There’s derring-dos on the high seas… And there’s chocolate!

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Waterstones

“Filled with excitement and suspense…” Historical Novel Society

ailish's feet

My About Page

Writer’s Begging Tip Jar

Byronic Heroes and the Bad Boys of Ballet

Quote from TENDO by Ailish Sinclair, a book with a Byronic hero.

I’m still deep in the TENDU manuscript, though the end of this edit approaches and I’ll soon be returning to SISTERS.

Between chapters, I’m watching things like this:

Byronic Heroes

Sergei Polunin, known as the bad boy of ballet, was born in the Ukraine, as was my own ballet bad boy from TENDU.

Unlike the mainly perfect men from MERMAID and FIREFLIES, Aleks is a Byronic hero. What’s that, you ask?

From Dictionary.com:

A Byronic hero is a type of fictional character who is a moody, brooding rebel, often one haunted by a dark secret from his past. The term describes the type of main character found in many fictional works by Lord Byron, who is said to have had this type of personality.

I love Byronic heroes. I love reading them. And I love writing them. He is very naughty though, and I will have to punish him for the rest of his life. Oh, the FUN!

Side note: see my post on Gight Castle, the ancestral home of Lord Byron.

Interview

Ailish Sinclair

I was recently featured over on Instagram in a Fast Facts type interview. Read about my obsessions, fears and atrociously bad singing here.

Books

books on pink, not a Byronic hero in sight

Set in a castle, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR features the Scottish witchcraft accusations and a love story.

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE was inspired by the 18th century kidnapped children of Aberdeen and is set in both Scotland and Colonial Pennsylvania.

Paperbacks and kindle: Amazon UK or Amazon Worldwide

“Filled with excitement and suspense…” Historical Novel Society Editor’s Pick

ballet feet of Ailish Sinclair

My About Page

Go here to sign up for my occasional emails that always include exclusive photos and news of my writing and life.

Writer’s Tip Jar

Just a wee description of a castle rooftop today…

castle roof
Photo taken at Castle Fraser

A castle rooftop from my work in progress:

The gable of the great hall rose high to the front, a huge chimney boasted diminutive battlements, and other lower layers of pink castle sprawled out haphazardly in front of me. There were three small turrets, upended cones that had been meticulously finished round and round with ever smaller and smaller lichen dotted tiles. Tiny mismatched windows blinked in the sun: circles, squares and one narrow bent rectangle. Sections of roof ended randomly, some with mossy little steps to nowhere; one jutting brick triangle had been shaped to fit the side of a sloping turret.

Excerpt from TENDU by Ailish Sinclair

And that really is all today. Because: busy writing. Been sucked in to the manuscript and am finding it hard to leave.

Other castle rooftops are available.

As are other thefts from castles.

Other books too

A Ballet Novel and a Tale of Publishing Woes

An aesthetic for TENDU, a ballet novel by Ailish Sinclair
Aesthetic for Tendu

I am now editing my ballet novel, a dark contemporary romance, TENDU, having pulled it from the proverbial drawer where it’s been for the last three years.

I’m LOVING it. I’d forgotten quite how much FUN this book this. It also feels as if I’m connecting to a different version of myself. Me before illness took hold. Me before doctors and medication and pain. It’s doing something to me, current day me. Something good. The book is funny and witty and SO naughty. I am slightly concerned that no one will be able to look me in the face again after reading it. But, hey-ho, life’s too short to worry about things like that, and I intend releasing this novel and the rest of the series in the near future.

It’s had a tumultuous publishing journey though. And I’m sharing that today.

pointe shoes, a ballet novel, TENDU, by Ailish Sinclair
Lovely Porselli Pointe Shoes

Publishers

I sent TENDU out into the world of publishers and quite a large one offered on it quickly. However, they wanted me to change something fundamental about the plot of the series (three titles) as a whole. And I couldn’t. Or, more correctly, I wouldn’t. I am always willing to make changes that will improve a book, but this was just to make it fit the guidelines of a particular romance line. It would have become formulaic. So, much to that publisher’s astonishment, I turned them down.

Time went by.

MERMAID got accepted by a British publisher (not to be confused with the ones I’m writing about here. GWL are very organised and always on the ball), and then along came an offer from a small American press for TENDU. It came with amazingly generous royalties, and no big requested changes, and I accepted it.

And more time went by.

After 18 months (the time, according to the contract, by which the book should have been published) I emailed the publisher and asked when things might get going. There was no reply.

Writers Group

Into the writers group I went. This was an amazing resource. All the writers from that publisher, chatting together and, as it turned out, sharing the same tales of woe. Through the group I learned that the woman who owned the publishing house had become too ill to continue working and she had sold the company. I had huge empathy for that. The new owner had a large backlog of books waiting to be published and it was all taking a very long time. The slowness of publication didn’t really bother me. I was rather busy being ill, after all.

But then the stories began to change. Already published writers were not receiving royalties or statements. Cheques were bouncing. So, three years after signing the contract, I asked for my rights back. And I got them. Very politely. Very apologetically. So there are no hard feelings, and I’m not going to name the publisher. They are still going though…

ballet novel, TENDU, by Ailish Sinclair

And that’s where I am.

SISTERS is back with the editor. I’m working on a press release for it and delving deeply into TENDU. I’m loving being in the castle again, yes the same one from the other books. It’s a dance school in the modern day. I love the characters. I love the stone circle and the dancing and the chocolate and the London bits and the romance. I love the story of this ballet novel, dark as it sometimes is.

And it all feels good.

Books

books on pink

Set in an Aberdeenshire castle, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR features the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic and a love story.

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE was inspired by the 18th century kidnapped children of Aberdeen.

Paperbacks and kindle: Amazon UK or Amazon Worldwide

“Filled with excitement and suspense…” Historical Novel Society Editor’s Pick

My About Page

Mailing List

Down the Rabbit Hole… to a Book Cover!

huge white rabbit
white rabbit leading to a book cover

At first it doesn’t feel quite real… where is the white rabbit leading? To a book cover? That seems odd…

This Alice in Wonderland style post dates from the build up to the release of THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR in 2019.

The rabbit leads us down or, as is more accurate, through, a giant rabbit hole!

down the rabbit hole to a book cover

Things get stranger yet as we pass between a huge fork and knife…

a giant fork and knife at Brodie Castle

We come to a place of unicorns.

unicorns and a book cover

We want to stay here with the unicorns, but we have to move on, to see…

miniature castle

A miniature castle! We go inside, and peer out like giants.

view from castle window, almost at the book cover now

We hear sweet music, percussion. Everything feels dreamy and lovely.

music to a book cover

And then, finally, this is where the rabbit has been taking us… to the book cover!

The Mermaid and the Bear cover

Set in a castle in Aberdeenshire, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR features a fictional account of three real women who were accused of witchcraft in 1597. It’s also a love story. And the cover makes it all very real now to Ailish (the Gaelic form of Alice)…

She needs to have a nice lie down like the huge white rabbit (6.5 metres long) in the Playful Garden at Brodie Castle, featured in this post.

huge white rabbit

Don’t miss any of Ailish in Wonderland’s news; sign up to her mailing list 🙂

The Mermaid and the Bear is out now in both paperback and Kindle. 

Mermaid blurb

Fraserburgh Beach: a good place for #bluemind

Fraserburgh Beach

Fraserburgh beach in Aberdeenshire is sandy and golden and beautiful. It’s usually pretty deserted, especially early in the morning, and I love it.

I’m still very taken with the concept of blue mind (see last post on it here) and have decided to take every opportunity to experience it.

So, here I am.

Fraserburgh beach

Beside the ocean.

The tide is in today, so I only have to take a few steps to be right by the water. Sometimes the North Sea is far far away in Fraserburgh bay.

But this gentle morning, I just sit on a pink granite block and breathe it all in. The sun. The lapping waves. And the blue… the glorious blue.

Fraserburgh beach

Fraserburgh beach also features in these posts:

the novels of Ailish Sinclair

Set in an Aberdeenshire castle, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR features the Scottish witchcraft accusations and a love story.

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE was inspired by the 18th century kidnapped children of Aberdeen and is set in both Scotland and Colonial Pennsylvania.

Paperbacks and kindle: Amazon UK or Amazon Worldwide

“Ailish Sinclair spins this Scottish tale filled with excitement and suspense…” Historical Novel Society

peering through the grasses to the sea

Go here to sign up for my occasional emails that always include some exclusive photos and news of my writing and life.

See my About Page