The 18th Century Letter Seals of Lord Pitsligo

Eighteenth Century Letter Seals

Those are the beautiful letter seals of Lord Pitsligo, a man I have written about before:

letter seals

His forward thinking ways inspired aspects of the Laird in THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR, and a similar set of letter seals feature in FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE.

Letter Seals Quote from FIREFLIES:

Excerpt from FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE featuring letter seals.

Research

The seals were shown to me by a direct descendant of Lord Pitsligo while I was researching FIREFLIES. I got to hold them and turn them on their hinges, which was wonderfully informative and exciting. It was great to connect to the time of the book like that too.

Label on Lord Pitsligo's letter seals

The Book

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

Jacobite wine glasses at Culloden visitor centre
More research: Jacobite symbolism on wine glasses at Culloden

Newsletter

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

Writer’s Tip Jar

The Castles of My Life and Two Fire Engines

Brodie Castle and fire engines, one of the best castles

Brodie Castle

I took that picture standing in my bunny pyjamas on the castle lawn with three kids, three dogs and a budgie. There was no fire or disaster, just a malfunctioning alarm, or maybe it was the ghost. Yes, let’s blame it on ghosts, ghouls and phantoms; I’m sure they were responsible for continually setting off the motion sensors in the middle of the night during my winter sojourn. But that was summer, Brodie Castle was busy with visitors and altogether less creepy. I stayed in the property manager’s flat several times that year, looking after things for her, most efficiently as you can see.

I am fortunate to live in a place that has so many of these large historic buildings dotted about the countryside. Castles take us out of where we are; some transport us into the decadent, usually bygone, lives of rich families, while others encourage imagination to run amok in the ruins.

Tolquhon

My earliest castle related memory is of ruinous, rambling Tolquhon:

tolquhon, one of Aberdeenshire's ruined castles

For me it is synonymous with life getting a little bit better. Childhood took an upturn after the birth of my brother; gone were the silent Sundays when my parents read the papers and my sister and I had to be very, very quiet in our room. We went places. Fun things happened, and Tolquhon was one of them.

I do like the bee boles or ‘skeps’:

bee boles

Drum

Later, with my own children, just about every castle in Northern Scotland was explored. We ran around the roof of the medieval tower of Drum (safer than it looks):

drum castle, one of the castles where you can go up on the roof!

Fyvie

We watched Shakespeare at Fyvie:

fyvie castle

Huntly

And attended educational events at Huntly:

huntly castle

Ballindalloch

We admired the beautiful gardens at Ballindalloch, before being greeted by Lady Macpherson-Grant and her extended family, including a new grandchild in a pram, in the entrance hall.

ballindalloch castle, one of my favourite castles

New Slains Castle

The scariest of the castles has to be Slains Castle, built to look Gothic, now ruined. It’s very dangerous out there on the cliffs – someone once fell to their death – so I don’t really advise visiting. It inspired Bram Stoker to write Dracula, there are plans to turn it into a theme hotel, and umm, I don’t always heed my own advice:

Castles: Slains near Cruden Bay

Great sea views:

Castles have the best views! Here, from Slains.

In summary: castles, they’re great.

Get out there. Visit them (the safe ones). They’re so very different from our homes (unless you live in a castle), entirely dissimilar to modern office buildings, television screens and city streets. They can be cold and damp and ancient. Sometimes they’re lavish and royal. They smell of the past. They hold stories in their old walls and can unlock them in us.

Eile an Donnan:

eil ean donnan

My books always seem to feature a castle (time period allowing)

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 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 Editor’s Pick

About Page

feet

See the Page here

Newsletter

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

Writer’s Tip Jar

Thoughts on Publishing and Beach Sunrises

beach sunrises: Fraserburgh beach
Tiger Hill, Fraserburgh

Beach sunrises

I’ve been lucky to catch a few beautiful ones lately. And to manage a few short walks upon the sand. I’m back to my usual routine of first thing in the morning writing sessions. It’s good. The writing gets the best of my brain then, I think.

Thinking

I’ve been doing lots of that. Between the beach sunrises.

beach
Waves…

I’ve been very happy being published by a traditional small press. But this next book I’m working on is a bit strange. And short. It does not conform. And I don’t want to change it to make it do so. I like it the way it is. It’s how the story needs to be. So I’m wondering about self publishing.

Maybe.

I think.

I’m indecisive.

I need the process to be as stress-free as possible. My health issues are exacerbated by stress. So, I’m thinking just to Kindle first. For ease. And learning.

Maybe.

I think…

Feel free to share your advice and insights!

beach sunrise
Silvery sands.

Though really, before any of that, I need to focus on the writing and the refining and the rewriting and the relationships in the story and trying not to write run on sentences… and just tap tap tap away at that keyboard.

writing in fingerless gloves
Early morning gloves do make me feel a bit Dickensian!

Update: I published it in both paperback and kindle

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.

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

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

Newsletter

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

Writer’s Tip Jar

Christmas Reading and Gentle Colours

loch, and Christmas reading.

A little lull has been reached at the end of a hectic week. The colours of the loch are gentle, muted now at the darkest point of the year. I’ve seen a few blog posts about Christmas reading, such as this one here from Jacqueline Seewald. People are sharing the books they’re reading, and those that they’ve written, and I thought I’d join in.

So, share away! What books are you reading over the next couple of weeks? And/or, which books of yours should we consider delving into just now?

I’m reading Where There’s Doubt (romantic suspense/psychological thriller) by Terry Tyler and The Essex Serpent (historical fiction) by Sarah Perry. They’re both very good. My own books are down at the end of this post.

Feel free to add to the previous sharing posts too. They will be brought to the front of the blog perennially, so won’t vanish into the abyss. Share Your Books and Writing, and also Share First Lines.

Christmas Reading

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

Christmas reading from Ailish Sinclair
  • SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD opens on a snowy winter solstice in 1st century Scotland. The main character is neurodiverse, and has been non-verbal until that first scene of the book.
  • If you like castles, Scotland, history, witches, stone circles and Christmas done medieval-style, you might like THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR. There’s also a love story.
  • FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE was inspired by the kidnapped children of 18th century Aberdeen, and features Christmas in Colonial Pennsylvania.

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

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Signed copies from me

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.

Writer’s Tip Jar

Walking on Balmedie Beach in my Slippers

Balmedie Beach, walking on the beach

On the way home from a hospital visit in 2020, I stopped at Balmedie beach.

Balmedie Beach

I crossed the boardwalk slowly, being careful not to catch my slippers in the gaps between wood. My foot is a lot better, though I still can’t wear proper shoes or put my heel right down on the ground, but I was determined to walk on the beach.

Continue reading “Walking on Balmedie Beach in my Slippers”

Colour in Thawed Places

colour in the thawed places of the loch

I thought things might get less scenic once the ice and snow started to melt. My walk was a little later yesterday, so the sun was just setting over the hill. And it was the melted places, the thawed places, that reflected the colour of that sunset.

bright colour in thawed places

Today it’s freezing again. The temperature is -8. So, fire and fingerless gloves on, off I go to write. I’m adding a new element to a scene in CABRIOLE, the sequel to TENDU, and it’s going to make everything just so much worse for everyone. The fun!

Romans and Romance

The main character in SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD is neurodiverse, and has been non-verbal until the first scene of the book.

Set in 1st century Scotland, this is a story of chosen sisters, fierce warriors, divided loyalties and, ultimately, love.

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.

Sisters at the Edge of the World

All my books are available in paperback and kindle and can be seen on my Amazon Author Page

Ailish Sinclair

Newsletter

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

Writer’s Tip Jar

A Snowy Loch Today

snowy loch

We have reached the snowy loch milestone of winter, with snow sitting atop a layer of ice over the water. Today is windy, and there may be more snow, but it’s a balmy 1 degree. Will the loch be even snowier tomorrow? I suspect so.

Here endeth the weather report.

Christmas Folklore

crackers on a snowy loch post

The Wee Writing Lassie (of the cheeky questions and assumptions) has been blogging some Christmas folklore. It’s nice, if not quite enough to make me feel festive yet.

I still just want to sit and write. And today I shall.

Book of the Day: Fireflies and Chocolate

Fireflies and Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair

Ailish Sinclair has turned her attention from the terrible subject of witch hunting in sixteenth century Aberdeen, to the equally disturbing events that surrounded child kidnapping and the slave trade in the mid 1700s.

Using the experiences of real characters, she tells the story of Elizabeth Manteith, captured on the docks of Aberdeen and transported on a slave ship to the Colonies, where a fearful and uncertain future awaits.

Friendships forged on the journey are soon shattered, leaving Elizabeth alone and desolate. However, she retains her passionate desire to find the young man who befriended her on board the ship… and to get back home to her beloved Scotland.

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Signed copies

Fireflies and Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair

Updates

If you want to be kept updated about when new books are available, you can sign up for the mailing list (lots of photos there too), or the little newsletter on Twitter, or follow my Amazon author page.

Writer’s Tip Jar

Another frozen loch picture…

frozen loch with a sturdy pink and cream cloud above

I’m up early to light the fire, so that the room warms up a bit before writing. It is not actually my intention to post daily pictures of the frozen loch, but given the current weather, you never know! This was yesterday afternoon.

I’m still cold. I’m still moaning about the temperature (-9 yesterday, -3 today, so slightly better). But the beauty cannot be ignored.

Will another frozen loch appear here tomorrow? Well, it’s meant to snow today, so we’ll see,,,

In SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, Morragh uses the pink of a frozen pool to calm herself.

Excerpt

“I stop now to properly observe and feel the gentle pink shade of the water. I try to breathe it in, to let it take me. All calm. All calm. But pink is not what I sense in the dwelling beyond the water. There’s no calm to be found there at all.”

About SISTERS

Collage of pictures and words about Sisters at the Edge of the World by Ailish Sinclair. Two sisters, two cultures, one love, one war.

Having explored 16th century witch trials in THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR and 18th century child kidnappings in FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE, author Ailish Sinclair has now travelled far back in time to the Iron Age and the Roman invasion of Scotland.

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.

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Signed copies

Updates

If you want to be kept updated about when new books are available, you can sign up for: the mailing list (photos there too), or the little newsletter on Twitter, or follow my Amazon author page.

Writer’s Tip Jar

a little bit of snow

pine cones in snow - Ailish Sinclair, author

How could I have forgotten what proper cold feels like? It pulls you up short as you realise that just breathing in the sub zero air is going to chill you, no matter how well wrapped up you are. And the dark, the days that don’t begin until half way through the morning and seem to end at 3 in the afternoon. This is the truth of December in Scotland. Even when there is only a tiny amount of snow.

Scots Pine in snow - Ailish Sinclair, author

I complain (this was especially evident during the five hour power cut we had last week), but I love it. It’s a time of hibernation, of books and log fires, and writing, writing, writing; no hot sun to distract and lure, only the occasional frosty bright sunrise. And that little bit of snow.

sunrise over the loch - Ailish Sinclair, author

I’m also enjoying all the Christmas cookies and hot chocolate of the season, sparkly tree lights, nostalgia made real.

It’ll all be over soon. The Solstice will herald the lightening of the nights, that’s always noticeable quite quickly. But for now I appreciate the views of winter: the loch is frozen and my neighbour forgot to take in his boat, now also frozen.

boat om a frozen loch - Ailish Sinclair, author

And the field makes me think of chocolate cake dusted with icing sugar…

fields dusted with snow - Ailish Sinclair, author

My books:

Ailish's books

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

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

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

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

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Oh, to wander in the woods…

snowy woods in Scotland

Post from December 2019.

The Woods in Winter

That is my favourite bit of path in the woods by my house. It’s also the most productive. When I get stuck with a storyline or a finicky little plot detail that just won’t iron out, that’s where I go, and solutions become clear. Big epiphanies about characters and back stories happen there too. Maybe it’s because it’s a timeless landscape. Or maybe I just feel relaxed and at peace there.

Just now though, I am recovering from flu and can’t walk in the woods. Soon, I tell myself. Soon. I can sit up and write so I may really need to go there soon! (Edit 2022: it would not be soon. This was the start of a non-woodland path to an auto-immunity diagnosis that would wind its way through hospital stays and many monstrous moments!)

Reviews

I’ve been deeply touched by how much thought people have been putting into their reviews of THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR.

Local Quine Kate the Quiet Knitter’s review “This wonderful magical tale then takes a deviation towards the darkness and from here Sinclair’s research and writing really shines. Her portrayal of 16th century Scotland is entrancing, and the details of the witch-hunts taking place in that time are fascinating.”

On the Mum, Write NOW blog “Overall the characters are lovable, I found it interesting that their lives intertwined slightly with Shakespeare and also touched on LGBT culture and attitudes at that time. It really felt that there was a depth of historical knowledge informing the narrative which I always enjoy.”

An Impertinent Interview

And the Wee Writing Lassie wrote about the book and asked me 7 impertinent questions! “Another inclusive detail in Ailish’s novel is the fact that her heroine – Isobell – is a plus sized woman, and this is never treated like a problem, or something about her that needs to be fixed, by the narrative. All body type inclusion, yeah!”

The Woods in Summer

The same path, though the other end and other direction, in the woods, in summer:

green woods

Newsletter

For updates about my life and writing, sign up to the mailing list. It always includes some exclusive photos and is a more intimate space than the blog.

Read my books for free

All my novels are on Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s lending service, and that has a 30 day free trial, though some people are being offered 3 months for free just now. See all the books here. Also in paperback.

kindle unlimited

Writer’s Tip Jar