The Land Girls Gate in Clochan, Moray

The Women's Land Army Memorial in Clochan - Ailish Sinclair, author
The Women’s Land Army Memorial in Clochan

The Land Girls Gate in Clochan is a memorial to all those that served in the Women’s Land Army during the world wars. The Army was formed in 1917, and then again in 1939 when WWII broke out. Women as young as 17 signed up for the duration of the war and took on all forms of farming and food production. The Army was eventually disbanded in 1950. There’s lots more information about the Land Girls here.

The memorial at Clochan in Moray is a joyous piece of art, paying tribute to the women who served in the Land Army throughout Scotland. Stones from various farms across the country have been incorporated into the ground around the gate. The fact that the memorial is surrounded by working farmland feels perfectly fitting too.

If you visit the Land Girls Gate on a Sunday morning, as I did, there’s a small car boot sale going on just down the road in Clochan, with pancakes and tea being served in the village hall. It’s rather lovely and feels a bit like stepping back into a simpler time.

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The Land Girls Gate in Clochan, colourful farmland beyond
The Land Girls, farmland beyond

My historical novels:

the novels of Ailish Sinclair

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

Misty Mornings, Signed Paperbacks and Bookmarks

misty mornings

There have been quite a few misty mornings of late and I’ve been out and about to see them. And they’ve all been beautiful. The sunrise above is over the Formartine area of Aberdeenshire. The wee tree below is in Strichen Community Park.

misty mornings

And there was one, quite common for Scotland really, morning in which all seasons seemed to happen at once. That was beautiful, though cold, too.

snow and sun and daffodils
bookmark

I’ll be posting some more photos of these misty mornings in my newsletter next week.

In other, non- weather related, news, I have finally, after many requests, organised a way for people to order signed copies of the books and/or signed bookmarks. See them here in the Ko-fi shop.

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE featured on Sally Cronin’s wonderful bookshelf this week, alongside some great authors, with reviews from Sally herself. See them here

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

Apology for Scotland’s Witchcraft Trials and an Anniversary

Apology for Scotland's Witchcraft Trials - sunrise
sunrise

Apology

Yesterday, on International Women’s Day, the Scottish Government issued a formal apology for Scotland’s witchcraft trials. You can read more about it and watch the First Minister’s address to parliament here.

Apology for Scotland's Witchcraft Trials - chasing the sunrise
Chasing the sunrise…

Anniversary

On this day in 1597, Bessie Thom and Christen Michell were executed in Aberdeen, having been found guilty of witchcraft. I wrote about both women in THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR, and remembered them today as I chased the sunrise round Strichen Lake.

The apology for Scotland's witchcraft trials - sunrise.

Maria Robertson reviewed the performance ‘Witch Hunt’ here, which took place in St Nicolas Kirk in Aberdeen. “It made me think of Ailish Sinclair’s first novel The Mermaid And The Bear as there are a couple of chapters in that based around the treatment of witches in the Mither Kirk back in the days of yore.”

Witch Hunt

And Nelliphant wrote about some Scottish books here, saying this of FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE: “The main character, a many-times-great-granddaughter of the Mermaid and the Bear, is an extremely feisty Doric-speaking young woman whom I liked very much…”

In other news (less dramatic and much less historic than an apology for Scotland’s Witchcraft Trials) the new book is now with the editor. So, progress towards publication is being made. And, apparently, I can now chase sunrises round lakes so health progress is happening too.

There were some lovely spring flowers planted along the path through the woods. They seemed like wreaths to me, today. Purple and white. Beautiful and sombre.

Apology for Scotland's Witchcraft Trials - flowers
For Bessie, Christen and Isobell, and all those persecuted as witches.
Ailish's books

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

New Book: Sisters at the Edge of the World

Sisters at the Edge of the World by Ailish Sinclair
Aesthetic for the new book from Ailish Sinclair: Sisters at the Edge of the World.
Aesthetic for the book

Work on the new book is forging ahead nicely. The aim is for it to be released this summer, but that may be subject to change. Thank you to everyone who shared their thoughts on publishing options. My publisher, too, gave me lots of wonderful advice and information, and while they would have been willing to look at the manuscript, despite its shortness and strangeness, I am choosing to self-publish this novel.

Thanks also to everyone who has donated through Kofi. With traditional publishing there is no cost to the author, but this time I’ll be paying for everything myself, so thank you so much!

Being ill, having chronic conditions and facing my own mortality have made me want to experience things while I can. And if those things can be accomplished sitting at my desk, all the easier. So, it’ll be an adventure! That’s how I’m thinking of it anyway…

Aspects of the book

  • The main characters are fiercely bonded chosen sisters. Can their bond survive betrayal and perhaps even death? (Already attempting to write the blurb here).
  • The story is set in the second century AD and features the battle of Mons Graupius between the Roman invaders and the Caledonian tribes.
  • There’s romance, but it’s rather complicated romance this time.
  • The stone circle is still there in all its glory.
  • The castle is not, obviously, but there is a great round house where it will be one day. And a wee hoosie in the woods.
sunshine and frost in the woods
Sunshine and frost in the woods

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The traditionally published books

Ailish's books

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

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

Paperbacks and kindle: Amazon UK or Amazon Worldwide

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

Walking the Witchy Ways of Aberdeen

cobbles, or cassies, as they are called in Aberdeen
Galllus Quines. Wonderful street art in Aberdeen honouring those persecuted for witchcraft.
Gallus Quines

I ran through St Nicholas Kirkyard, and down and round Correction Wynd, an old medieval lane in Aberdeen, to see this recent street art. I was due to meet people for breakfast, but determined to see the ‘Quine Shrine’ first. The reason being? That first part, on the left, honours those who were persecuted for witchcraft in Aberdeen, and one tile names a few of them, including the three women I chose to write about in The Mermaid and the Bear.

Tile naming some of those accused of being witches in Aberdeen, Scotland

The spellings are different, because spellings weren’t set back then, not like they are today. I chose to go with the way the names are recorded in the Survey Of Scottish Witchcraft from Edinburgh University. It was there that I learned, contrary to popular belief, that only a tiny proportion of those accused were midwives or folk healers; a mere 9 of the 3837 ‘witches’ in Scotland were midwives, and only 141 had some mention of healing in their cases (see the background page of the database).

In my fictional account of these women’s lives, one of them is a midwife and healer, but this is not the reason for the accusations brought against the three quines.

So, with the quine shrine admired and appreciated, on to breakfast:

Turmeric Latte
Turmeric Latte

Now fortified, off to gaol we go! It’s difficult to get good pictures in
the 17th century Tolbooth, what with it being so dark due to having windows like this:

Tiny and narrow window in a 17th century prison
Let the sunshine pour in!
Chain in the Tolbooth Museum, Aberdeen
A chain hangs from the wall

I think I did a better job with photos the last time I was there, blogged here. That was when I first read these words:

text, detailing some history of witchcraft in aberdeen

I remember feeling overcome and distressed by the information, but it was then that I decided I was definitely going to write the book. Here’s that steeple, or its replacement, standing tall against the blue sky:

Steeple and clock of St Nicholas Kirk in Aberdeen

Back in 1597, there were two large bells in the original steeple. Now there’s an impressive carillon, and it started to play while I was eating my lunchtime chocolate ice cream in the kirkyard. This is not as creepy and strange as it sounds; there are benches and lots of people go there for lunch! I took a short video, so you can hear the bells:

Lunchtime bells

I’ve made a Pinterest board for the book, though it does seem to be rather focussed on the cheerier parts of the story.

pinterest board for  the novel, The Mermaid and the Bear, by Ailish Sinclair
Pinterest board

And on another cheery, or perhaps laughable, note, I was recently mentioned in the Evening Standard as an example of a ‘weather obsessed’ Briton.

Ailish Sinclair in the Evening Standard.

I must go now; I have to check on the weather!

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The book that came from it all is out now in paperback and kindle.

Amazon UK and Amazon Worldwide

Other bookshops (and libraries) can get it too!

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

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

Amazon 

Waterstones 

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

serendipity and stones and a little dance

seagull and serendipity

The first serendipitous happening of the day was the haar (Scottish word for mist that rolls in off the sea) and its silvery filtering of the sunlight. Then there was the seagull that flew by as I took the photo.

Inland we travelled, to bright sunshine and summer colours and the stones of Castle Fraser. I’ve made the picture below clickable to a larger version; to the left are two standing stones and to the right, in the distance by the trees, is Balgorkar stone circle.

Continue reading “serendipity and stones and a little dance”