The Neolithic Stone Balls of Scotland

stone balls
neolithic stone balls from Aberdeenshire
They’re about the size of tennis balls.

The Neolithic stone balls of Scotland are a bit of a mystery. They’re mainly found in Aberdeenshire, sometimes buried beside stone circles. The carvings on them are varied and some of them have knobs. Yes, we could have a lot of fun with the balls and knobs of this post, but let’s not go there 😀

The use of the balls is unknown. There’s not much wear and tear on them, so they’re not generally thought to have been weapons.

The above stones are in the Arbuthnot Museum in Peterhead. I took the picture in 2020, right before lockdown, having just become well enough to go out and about again. I posted on Twitter about including such a stone in my – then – work in progress.

SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD is set well after the date of these balls. They’re thought to be about 5000 years old. But Morragh knows that it’s an old object. She calls it the ancestor stone, and sometimes it travels about with her.

Excerpt

I am before the Calgach and we look into one another’s eyes. It does not hurt too much, this looking, this time. He does not question me or try to interrupt what I am doing. I lay the knife in front of him, still looking into his eyes, and then the stone ball which makes a large hollow echoing sound as it connects with the table, silver sickle encircling it.

Further Reading

You can read more about the Neolithic stone balls on the National Museum of Scotland site here. Below is the stunning Towie ball which is part of their collection.

Neolithic stone balls: the Towie Ball

Recent Reviews

Sisters at the Edge of the World cover

SISTERS is an unusual book with an unconventional narrative voice, as is noted by the following two men in their reviews.

Tom Williams: “Is it a romance? Well, there’s a boy and a girl but, if they’d had Facebook in the Bronze Age, their relationship status would best be described as ‘complicated’.” See whole review here.

Andrew G Lockhart: “Morragh walks in a mystic and magical realm, but one which recaptures the wild simplicity and beliefs of the peoples of pagan Scotland.” See review here.

The Mermaid and the Bear cover

And then MERMAID got a great review from Louisa Blackburn: “I really, really like the way the accents are written. I talked about them enough to where my mom asked me, “Are you reading the story, or are you listening to it?” I read the book, but the accents were written in a way that I knew what everyone sounded like.” See the whole review here.

We’ve had balls and knobs, so why not baubles too?

My historical novels all involve dark events, romance and a little magic…

  • SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD opens on the winter solstice.
  • THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR has 6 chapters of medieval Christmas.
  • FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE features Christmas in Colonial Pennsylvania.

They’re all available in paperback, kindle and on kindle unlimited.

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Signed copies from me

Novels by Ailish Sinclair

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Hunkering Down in the Writing Cave

loch: a walk away from the writing cave

The Writing Cave

The loch continues to inspire awe with its reflected beauty. But the writing cave has me now. I don’t want to leave it. I want to write and write and write. Even when my brain is too tired to do it well anymore, that’s where I want to be.

It’s all the fault of TENDU. This intense and obsessive behavior always happens when I’m working on it. But I’m nearly there now. I’m on the last pages of the final edit. It’ll be off to the proofreader soon. And then I’ll be diving into the second book in the series, CABRIOLE. I suspect it’s going to have the same effect. I can already feel the emotional pull of the first chapters.

Remnants of Autumn

beech tree in its autumn garb. From the writing cave.

There are still some wonderful autumn colours around, in places that are sheltered from the frost. I stare at their brilliance before rushing back home. To the cave. That last sex scene is not going to rewrite itself… These are somewhat naughtier books than my others.

I intend getting all three titles ready and rapid releasing them next year, a month apart. So, the schedule of the writing cave is all set for winter.

Book Recommendations

Terry Tyler, a writer I really admire, has named SISTERS as one of her three book recommendations of 2022 over on the damppebbles book blog. “I loved this book because it so cleverly shows us a picture of life in the times of the Roman Conquest…” See the whole write-up and the other recommended books here.

Mastodon

I’m over on Mastodon here. So far, it seems quite nice. Rather like Twitter was years ago with people sharing interesting things and chatting. No algorithm. Less drama.

A Deer

There was a deer in the frosty field this morning. It’s to the far left of the picture and is small and blurred. You might be able to see it if you click to enlarge.

frosty field near the writing cave

SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD

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.

Paperback, Kindle and on Kindle Unlimited:

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

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

SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD by Ailish Sinclair

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The First Frost of Winter

The first frost of winter brings blue skies and cirrus clouds

We’ve had the first frost, that seasonal reminder of what real cold actually is. Many of the trees are bare now and the skies are icy blue.

The first frost at the side of the track, Scotland

It does make for crisp, less muddy walks.

In the older post Walking the Witchy Ways of Aberdeen, I mentioned that I was called ‘weather obsessed’ in the Evening Standard. Recent writings here do suggest that might, in fact, be the case. I’ve certainly been waxing lyrical about autumn all over the blog.

But, you see, I often miss seasonal beauty due to medical condition flare-ups. I remember being sad about missing autumn last year. Seeing it through the windows was no substitute for marching through those crunchy leaves.

So, this year, I march. And I stop to appreciate the sparkle of that first frost.

Frosty morning, Scotland. First frost

Sisters at the Edge of the World

Romans + Celts = some rather complicated romance!

Set in 1st century Scotland, the novel features a neurodiverse main character, chosen sisters, fierce warriors and the battle of Mons Graupius between the Romans and the Caledonian tribes.

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

From recent reviews:

  • An extraordinary read.
  • A fabulous story.
  • Eye-opening, heartbreaking and beautiful.

Available in paperback, kindle and on Kindle Unlimited.

Sisters at the Edge of the World by Ailish Sinclair

Writer’s Tip Jar

Shipwrecks of the Aberdeenshire Coast

Let’s begin by walking barefoot along the sands between St Combs and Scotstown. There do be many shipwrecks to see there. Aye, aye, me hearties! Prepare yersels for the photos.

Shipwrecks

shifting sands uncover a shipwreck

I don’t know the name or date of this first wreck. It’s wooden and relatively small and sometimes entirely covered by the shifting sands that it, no doubt, fell victim to. It’s well bedecked with seaweed.

part of a shipwreck - Ailish Sinclair, author

Close by is a large metallic boat. It’s usually more submerged than this. I *think* it’s the HMS Erne. She ran aground in 1915 and broke her back.

shipwrecks: another victim of the shifting sands

We get to go right up to it.

Barnacles

barnacles on a shipwreck - Ailish Sinclair, author

And touch the barnacles.

shipwrecks in aberdeenshire

And wonder if that’s a treasure chest…

The Excelsior of Laurwig

A bit further on, between Rattray Head and Scotstown, lies a much more well documented ship: the Excelsior of Laurwig, a Norwegian barque that was wrecked in 1881. It’s rather impressive.

Shipwrecks: The Excelsior of Laurwig, a Norwegian barque wrecked in 1881 - Ailish Sinclair, author
shipwrecks
Shipwrecks: Excelsior of Laurwig, wrecked in 1881 - Ailish Sinclair, writer

There is another, somewhat different, wreck on this bit of coastline, sometimes to be seen wedged into the sand:

some wrecks that get stuck in the sand are not boats!

Now, let’s head to Cruden Bay and see if we can find any more shipwrecks.

bridge to shipwrecks?

Trip, trap, trip. trap, across the bridge. To find…

shipwrecks?

Is it a shipwreck? I’m not sure. It may be part of a defense from WW2. Not very boat shaped!

But it’s a great beach on which to finish our walk.

Chosen Sisters, Romans and Romance

Sisters at the Edge of the World cover

Set in 1st century Scotland, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD includes the battle of Mons Graupius between the Romans and the Caledonian tribes. The book features a neurodiverse main character and some rather complicated romance.

See the press release here

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Review from Terry Tyler: “It’s a fabulous story, a real page-turner and so well written. It made me think about the passage and circle of time, of the constancy of the land on which we live and the transient nature of human life. Loved it.

Read the article Roman Aberdeenshire features in author’s new book from Grampian Online.

Witchcraft and a Handsome Laird

The Mermaid and the Bear cover

Taking place mainly in a fictional castle, 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.

See the press release here

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Review from Tonya Ulynn Brown: “Before I go any further, I just have to say, this is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read…

From the Press and Journal: New book by Fraserburgh author highlights horrific extent of witch trials in Scotland 

Kidnapping, Slavery and Friendship

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 UK

Amazon Worldwide

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

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An Illuminated Path to Winter

illuminated path in the woods

An illuminated path in the woods.

It’s autumn, but with a hint of what’s to come in the air. There’s a chill, a dampness and darkness to mornings and evenings.

Here in Scotland, our clocks just went back an hour. A seasonal change. A portent of winter.

But for just now, there’s still lots of blue and gold beauty to behold in the woods.

I’ll crunch through those leaves for as long as I can!

Sisters at the Edge of the World

Romans + Celts = some rather complicated romance!

Set in 1st century Scotland, the novel features a neurodiverse main character, chosen sisters, fierce warriors and the battle of Mons Graupius between the Romans and the Caledonian tribes.

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

From recent reviews:

  • An extraordinary read.
  • A fabulous story.
  • Eye-opening, heartbreaking and beautiful.

Available in paperback, kindle and on Kindle Unlimited.

Newsletter

Go here to sign up for occasional emails that always include exclusive photos and news of my writing and life. They’re a more intimate space than the blog.

My About Page

Read my bio and see all the social links and articles here.

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The Great Tapestry of Scotland

The Great Tapestry of Scotland in Aberdeen Art Gallery
first pioneers to Scotland

The Great Tapestry of Scotland is a beautiful trail through history and, at 143 metres long, the longest tapestry in the world.

My Visit to the Tapestry in 2014

Its soft sewn artworks filled three large rooms of Aberdeen Art Gallery and photography was allowed. Yes. I was happy. May you be too.

Despite the earliness of my visit, the gallery was crowded; I was not quite so happy about the angle of this next pic. Lovely, lovely stone circles though:

stone circles panel of The Great Tapestry of Scotland

Witches

witches panel of The Great Tapestry of Scotland

Some early inspiration for THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR, perhaps?

Glencoe

Glencoe

War

war

Happier Events

14108971062_74b94ae9bc_b (700x700)

‘Fiction is to grown men what play is to the child.’ RLS

Robert Louis Stevenson

and strange ones…

Dolly the Sheep

Calm

There was something calm and nourishing about walking round this exhibition. Whether it was the gentle and warm art of needlework that hung everywhere in the rooms – there was also a lady demonstrating sewing techniques – or the many different styles from the 1000+ stitchers marking the constant change of the world, I don’t know. The overall feeling was reflective yet hopeful: happy.

Learn more about the Great Tapestry of Scotland on the official website here.

Great Tapestry

Chosen Sisters, Romans and Romance

sisters collage

Set in 1st century Scotland, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD includes the battle of Mons Graupius between the Romans and the Caledonian tribes. The book features a neurodiverse main character and some rather complicated romance.

See the press release here

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Review from Terry Tyler: “It’s a fabulous story, a real page-turner and so well written. It made me think about the passage and circle of time, of the constancy of the land on which we live and the transient nature of human life. Loved it.

Read the article Roman Aberdeenshire features in author’s new book from Grampian Online.

ballet feet of Ailish Sinclair

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A Swashbuckling Adventure Through Hospital Windows

St Nicolas Kirk through a hospital window

This hospital windows post was originally written in 2020. I am a lot better now.

Diagnosis and Drugs

The start of the post 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.

Finding Beauty through Hospital Windows

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

Strange Covid Times

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, it meant that I got to see through many different windows. This next ward – oncology – 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

The Party Room

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

Review

While I was in hospital, 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.

Mermaid on Amazon

I later wrote an article on living with chronic illness

Doctors and Deadlines: Writing with Chronic Illness on Women Writers, Women’s Books. 

My Latest Novel

Bullet points about SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD

From the provocative opening scene to the later dramatic and devastating events of the story, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD is a book that will continually surprise, delight, and sometimes shock the reader. The novel features the beautiful hill of Bennachie, and the stone circles of Aberdeenshire, along with the cliffs and caves of Cullykhan Bay.

Review from Terry Tyler: “It’s a fabulous story, a real page-turner and so well written. It made me think about the passage and circle of time, of the constancy of the land on which we live and the transient nature of human life. Loved it.” See the whole review here.

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Read the article Aberdeenshire in Roman times takes centre stage in author’s latest book from AberdeenLive.

ballet novel, TENDU, by Ailish Sinclair

See my About Page here

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castle door

Writer’s Tip Jar

On Monsters: being one, writing one…

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

This monster post was originally posted in 2020. Happily, I am less monstrous now.

Being a Monster

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.

I’m also pale. Pale like a ghost.

Ghost, a monster?

A Historical Monster

However, being a monster on the outside, in appearance, is nothing to being truly monstrous. While researching witch-hunting in preparation for writing THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR, I wanted to find a real monster, a person so enthused for the brutal activity that they could become a focal point for that dark energy in the story. History did not give him up easily. There was no obvious individual in the court documents or confessions. But I hunted him down and finally cornered the rogue in the financial accounts of Aberdeen.

In September 1597 William Dunn, Dean of Guild, was awarded, £47 3s 4d (the equivalent of £6000 in today’s money) for taking ‘extraordinary pains in the burning of a great number of witches’. It was unusual for someone to be given a large lump sum like this. With the exception of some witch prickers and those who sought to escheat their rich relatives, money was not commonly a motivating factor in the witch trials. William Dunn’s job was being in charge of the public money of the town, so he basically gave the cash to himself. I found you Sir, and I made you smell of rotten fish! If you read the historical notes section of the book, you’ll see that I’ve also cast him as the devil.

mummification fun
Bandage action!

So now I’m editing FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE and, 150 years later, there is brief mention of the Dean of Guild again. It does seem to be a role associated with making money from the suffering of others, at least, historically, in Aberdeen.

Mermaid Review

The Mermaid and the Bear cover

There’s a review I forgot to mention earlier, being rather distracted by the task of becoming a monster. It’s from Undiscovered Scotland: “The Mermaid and the Bear is a delight from end to end. There is a superb level of description in the book, that transports the reader back to the sights, sounds and smells of 16th Century life in a Scottish castle.” See the whole review here.

A spooky wee quote for this spooky old season:

dungeon quote from THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR

Chosen Sisters, Romans and Romance

Sisters at the Edge of the World cover

Set in 1st century Scotland, my latest book, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, includes the battle of Mons Graupius between the Romans and the Caledonian tribes. The book features a neurodiverse main character and some rather complicated romance.

See the press release here

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Review from Terry Tyler: “It’s a fabulous story, a real page-turner and so well written. It made me think about the passage and circle of time, of the constancy of the land on which we live and the transient nature of human life. Loved it.

Read the article Roman Aberdeenshire features in author’s new book from Grampian Online.

ballet feet of Ailish Sinclair

See my About Page

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Go here to sign up for occasional emails that always include exclusive photos and news of my writing and life. They’re a more intimate space than the blog.

Writer’s Tip Jar

Autumn in Scotland

Autumn in Scotland - apples

Autumn in Scotland is brief. One day you’re in the midst of the wild and overgrown end of summer, and then – it always feels sudden and surprising – the trees are full of brilliant and bright colours.

There’s also berries. And misty mornings. And apples.

It’s all so beautiful.

I love it.

Autumn in Scotland

And this year I’m not missing it due to illness (see the article Doctors and Deadlines: writing with chronic illness).

I’m walking through that hot afternoon sunshine, between the trees and the toadstools. There’s so many of those this year.

fly agaric toadstool: autumn in Scotland

The end of autumn in Scotland

It all feels rather magical. But it could be over at any moment. When the first hard frost comes, which could happen any time in the next month, the leaves will turn brown and fall off. The dragonflies and butterflies will disappear. And it will be winter. Like the onset of autumn, this always feels sudden, but at the same time sneaky. Like, when did this cold, cold change occur?

So, I treasure sweet autumnal moments for as long as I can. Look at the sunshine shining through those red leaves. Glorious, isn’t it?

autumn in scotland

I’m writing, or editing, autumn at the moment too, as that’s where TENDU (part one of a dark romantic ballet series; all three should be out next spring) begins.

It’s making me think of Covent Garden. And cake.

excerpt from Tendu by Ailish Sinclair

Review

Reviews for SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD continue to appear. This is from the long and thoughtful write up by Olga Núñez Miret:

“Those who are looking for a strong female protagonist, love lyrical and expressive writing styles, and favour stories with a touch of magic and ancient mythology, particularly set in Scotland, should put it on their list. They are bound to discover a new author to follow, and a protagonist they’ll never forget.”

See the whole review here.

Share Your Books

Don’t forget you can share your own books and writing on this post. I always love to see it.

My Books

Sisters at the Edge of the World cover

Set in 1st century Scotland, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD includes the battle of Mons Graupius between the Romans and the Caledonian tribes. The book features a neurodiverse main character and some rather complicated romance!

See the press release here

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Read the article Roman Aberdeenshire features in author’s new book from Grampian Online.

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

Taking place mainly in a fictional castle, 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.

See the press release here

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

From the Press and Journal: New book by Fraserburgh author highlights horrific extent of witch trials in Scotland 

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 UK

Amazon Worldwide

“Filled with excitement and suspense…” Historical Novel Society

feet

See my About Page here

Newsletter

Go here to sign up for my occasional emails that always include exclusive photos and news of my writing and life. They’re a more intimate space than the blog.

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A Map of Witches and some Autumn Beauty

Map of Witches

Map of Witches

The Map of Witches is a 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.

Autumn Beauty

After peering back into the dark like that, I need to look at beauty, so here’s some golden blue autumnal goodness:

Blue and gold after the map of witches

The wonderful gold of the harvest.

rockpool

Pink shimmering rockpools at New Aberdour beach.

New Aberdour Beach and a map of witches

A dark cave, blue reflected within.

a dark cave and a map of witches

And the path up to St Drostan’s well, shining in the sunlight:

St Drostan's well and a map of witches

Newsletter

Keep up to date with all my news, witchy and otherwise, by signing up to the mailing list. It’s a more intimate space than the blog and always contains some exclusive photos.

My Books

Sisters at the Edge of the World cover

Set in 1st century Scotland, my latest novel, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, includes the battle of Mons Graupius between the Romans and the Caledonian tribes. The book features a neurodiverse main character and some rather complicated romance!

See the press release here

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Read the article Roman Aberdeenshire features in author’s new book from Grampian Online.

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

Taking place mainly in a fictional castle, 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.

See the press release here

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

From the Press and Journal: New book by Fraserburgh author highlights horrific extent of witch trials in Scotland 

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 UK

Amazon Worldwide

Review from the Historical Novel Society

Writer’s Tip Jar