Daffodils in Snow, and History Lessons

A line of daffodils in snow
Daffodils in snow

Originally published April 2021.

At first I thought there was only a single line of daffodils in the snow. I stopped to take photos. Like I would do on any other day out. A day out just for fun. Not that there have been many of those lately.

I walked along the path and headed down the steps where I was met with this stunning bank of yellow.

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A Tentative Tiptoe Round Duffus Castle

Duffus Castle - Ailish Sinclair, author

Duffus Castle looms, majestic and huge against the skyline as you approach. It’s imposing and impressive… dramatic too…

Duffus Castle silhouetted against the sun

On the day I visited – Easter Sunday – it was busy, really busy, and the air contained a mysterious hint of sulphur. This medieval fortress of the Moray family, one of Scotland’s most beautiful motte and bailey castles, had become a giant playground for the seasonal pastime of ‘egg rolling’.

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Wintry Aberdeenshire: Sparks of Light

Buchan Ness Lighthouse

Buchan Ness Lighthouse in Boddam, Aberdeenshire, shining its light out into the sunrise.

We’ve reached the point in the year, here in Northern Scotland, where light is scarce. It arrives late in the day and leaves early, by about 4pm. But that wintry low sun does some special things, especially at the beach…

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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 !

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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.

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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.

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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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Rocky Shores for Release Day

rocky shores at Broadsea

Originally posted October 2019.

We’ve moved North and round the corner from the golden sands of Fraserburgh beach, and arrived at the rocky shores of Broadsea and a beautiful rock pool, the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses in the background.

rocky shores and clouds

But the book is out! Released! That’s all that’s really on my mind today… though I can be momentarily distracted by shells:

shells

It’s a strange feeling this, like opening a window and letting something precious and secret fly away to where it can now be seen by anyone who wants to see it!

Broadsea house

That’s my favourite little house at Broadsea, right beside the rugged rocky coastline.

rocky shores

So… deep breath…

Set in a fictional castle in Aberdeenshire, 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.

And it has a castle.

And a stone circle.

And medieval Christmas.

Out in paperback and Kindle NOW!

Universal links:

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Mermaid blurb

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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