A Spooky and Serendipitous Week

spooky ballet picture and pumpkins

It always feels a little spooky at this time of year. The shops are full of monsters and items that have been ‘Halloweenified.’ The clocks go back an hour here in the UK, making the nights instantly much darker. I feel a little monstrous again, but I’m boring myself with that, so I won’t detail it here.

An Alternative Halloween Article

spooky article on witch burnings

Should we really have fun at Halloween when the north-east led the great execution of witches?

Excellent piece from @NeilDrysdale. I cite the case of Bessie Thom in the article, a woman who features in THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR, as an example of what happened to one of the more than 3,000 victims of the witch trials.

“Bessie, quite possibly, went into the North Sea before being committed to the flames during a very public execution.”

Less Spooky, More Serendipitous

ballet dancers: spooky

The Wee Writing Lassie asked me this question on her blog last week (about TENDU): Amalphia’s story takes place in the beautiful and cutthroat world of professional ballet – what inspired the decision to set her story in that particular backdrop?

My answer: When I was first considering writing a contemporary romance, I was unsure exactly where to place it. Inspiration struck while I was lying in the bath contemplating the issue. I saw a line of dancers in my mind. They were at the barre performing ronde de jambe, a circular leg exercise, and I knew the ballet world would be the setting for the story. My own dance training and career provided many of the details, and everything grew from there.

The serendipity: the picture above is almost identical to the image that appeared in my mind thirteen years ago. It arrived in my house, totally unexpectedly, in beautiful wall-mounted form, the day before TENDU released. Some lovely people, who I don’t even know that well, thought I might like it. I can see it from my desk now. And it’s a wonderful reminder that, even though bad or spooky things happen in this world, magic happens too.

The Books of this Post

The Mermaid and the Bear by Ailish Sinclair

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 UK

Amazon Worldwide

Scotland’s all misty lochs and magical forests and perfect boyfriends, right?

When dance student Amalphia Treadwell embarks on a secret relationship with her charismatic new teacher, she has no idea of the danger that lurks in his school in Scotland…

Dark, witty, sexy and fun, Tendu is a compelling and seductive story of love, dance and obsession.

“I fell in love with the book from the first page, and the love affair continued to the end.” Review from Lena on Goodreads.

Amazon UK

Amazon worldwide

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About Page

Ailish Sinclair goes into the woods

My About Page

Writer’s Tip Jar

The Publishing Journey of a Ballet Novel

An aesthetic for TENDU, a ballet novel by Ailish Sinclair

Below is a post that was originally written in February 2022 when I started working on my ballet novel TENDU again. It seems fitting to pull this to the front of the blog now as that novel is finally out!

See a recent review here: “Very atmospheric, I could feel what the characters were feeling, feel their pain, it broke my heart and then healed it and made it sing.”

And the Wee Writing Lassie’s 5th pretentious question for me can be seen here: “They deviated far away from my planned plot in CABRIOLE, the second book in the series. I have to admit that what they did has made the story more unusual and interesting. Writing it any other way, as one publisher tried to get me to do, proved utterly impossible.”

Back to the Ballet Novel in 2022

I am now editing TENDU, having pulled it from the proverbial drawer where it’s been for the last three years.

I’m absolutely LOVING it. I’d forgotten quite how much FUN this book is. 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, 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.

Note: You can find out what that notorious plot point was in CABRIOLE, out now.

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 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. And I love the story of this ballet novel, dark as it sometimes is.

And it all feels good.

A Dancer's Journey series by Ailish Sinclair

A Dancer’s Journey

Series on Amazon UK

Series on Amazon worldwide

Series on Goodreads

Page with blurbs and quotes

Diabolical reading

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Ailish Sinclair stares out to sea

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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.

Continue reading “Daffodils in Snow, and History Lessons”

Looking for Reindeer in the Cairngorms

Cairngorm Skies

There were dramatic skies the last time I went to look for reindeer in the Cairngorms. They were beautiful though. These were skies to stand and stare at.

in the Cairngorms

And mountains to walk around in.

The Funicular Railway

The funicular railway was out of service, due to cracks having been discovered in the cement so, with my autoimmune conditions flaring, I didn’t venture as high into the landscape as I would have liked.

dramatic skies over the Cairngorms

Lentil Soup

It was more of a restful day than an energetic one. A ‘lentil soup in the cavernous restaurant at the base station’ type of day (you will get lentil soup everywhere you go in Scotland).

up in the Cairngorms

Those Reindeer in the Cairngorms

The free-ranging reindeer herd remained elusive on this trip, but here’s an older photo of them. There are much better pictures on their own website!

reindeer herd in Scotland

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 neurodivergent main character and some rather complicated romance.

“Ethereal and spellbinding….” Historical Novel Society

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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I’m Ailish and I write Romps

Ailish Sinclair romps in the loch
Ailish Sinclaie romps in the garden

I do. I write romps. I can’t seem to help myself. I try to write a thriller: romp. A sweet romance? Nope. That quickly went dark and rompy.

When THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR was on submission, one publisher told me they felt they were reading ‘a medieval romp’ and that they were looking for something more serious. It was a fair comment, though I assume they didn’t reach the witchcraft accusations of the story. That press has since gone out of business, so it was a lucky escape for me.

Ailish Sinclair romps upside down

The latest of the romps is OUT TODAY!

Tendu by Ailish Sinclair
TENDU: Dancing in the Castle

Scotland’s all misty lochs and magical forests and perfect boyfriends, right?

When dance student Amalphia Treadwell embarks on a secret relationship with her charismatic new teacher, she has no idea of the danger that lurks in his school in Scotland.

She’s soon dealing with her boyfriend’s obsessive ex, the strange research taking place at the castle school and her own ever-evolving relationship issues.

Amalphia works hard to be the best dancer she can be, but as tension builds within the old walls of the castle, she begins to wonder if she will ever escape the dank dark of the dungeon…

Dark, witty, sexy and fun, Tendu is a compelling and seductive story of love, dance and obsession. 

There are no cliffhanger endings in this series; each book completes a story, but then there is more. So much more.

Series on Amazon UK

Series on Amazon worldwide

Series on Goodreads

A Dancer's Journey by Ailish Sinclair

Reviews from ARC readers

  • “This book has so much representation in its characters with autism, dyslexia, medical issues and LGBTQ+ characters…” Emma-Louise on Goodreads and TikTok
  • “Knowing there are two more books in the series made it easier to accept that the tale was coming to an end. It can be so hard to finish a book when you are loving the story so much.” Molly on Amazon.com
  • “So there we have it: mad experiments, paranormal powers, exciting dance sequences and lots and lots of sex. And did I mention the mystical forces in the old stone circle?” Tom Williams on his blog, author of the James Burke historical novels.

Posts about the inspiration behind TENDU

About Page

Ailish's feet

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 bit more intimate than the blog. If you would like to hear about new books and special offers, you can follow my Amazon author page.

Reviewers can apply for Advance Reader Copies of future books here.

Writer’s Tip Jar

Fireflies and Chocolate, my second historical novel

Fireflies and Chocolate, the new historical novel from Ailish Sinclair

Originally posted 2020.

GWL Publishing have accepted my next historical novel, FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE, for publication Spring 2021. I am lucky to have a publisher who is so understanding about my current health issues; all the deadlines for various edits are flexible.

Fireflies and Chocolate, released April 2021

The book was inspired by the 600 children who were kidnapped in Aberdeen during the 1740s and sold into indentured servitude in the American colonies. You will meet the Manteith family again, and see the castle and the stone circle, though the story doesn’t stay there long.

There’s some real historical figures again. There’s a love story again, though it’s quite different from the one in THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR. And, this time, there’s chocolate, in the form of hot chocolate 😀

Article in The Evening Express

Amazon: kindle or paperback 

Waterstones 

See the FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE PAGE for full details.

Fireflies and Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair

I hope you’re all staying safe and well during these strange times of lockdown and isolation. I’m posting photos of #goodthings from my phone archives on Twitter and Instagram each day at the moment.

sunset over the loch
Sunset over the loch, from 2014

THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR is now free to download on Kindle Unlimited here.

The Mermaid and the Bear by Ailish Sinclair

Dance Research in the Dungeon

Tendu: Dancing in the Castle by Ailish Sinclair

In TENDU (out now) some rather strange dance research takes place in the dungeon studio of the castle. Much has changed in the story that I first conceived thirteen years ago, but that part has stayed more or less the same.

Childhood Memories

My late father was a research scientist, and I grew up hearing about how scientific studies can be heavily influenced by those that finance them and how they can be geared to lead to desired results. They can sometimes be unscientific. And unethical. It was all very interesting, and it stuck with me.

  • I should note that Amalphia’s parents are not based on my parents. Lynn and James Treadwell (very minor characters) are an example of the narcissist/enabler dysfunction as described in the book Toxic Parents.
dancer
Photo: David Hofmann on Unsplash – Simone (an antagonist in TENDU) vibes here…

Dance Research and Therapy

I do four grand pliés in fourth and fifth position every morning while I wait for the kettle to boil for tea. It feels like a strong way to start the day. I find it calming and grounding. And I need that just now, with a book release so close. For several years, due to illness, my legs were too weak to manage this exercise, so it’s joyous as well as beneficial.

The benefits of dance for conditions such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease are becoming quite well known, of course, and it’s dancers’ brains that get studied in my books. They have been studied quite a bit in the real world too. Examples below:

The fictional research I created is a bit different from these very serious studies. It had to have some instant and dramatic effects to be interesting as part of a novel. Different characters will believe different things about those effects over the series, and I hope it’s entertaining to read!

Tendu: Dancing in the Castle - dance research in the dungeon

About the books

My dance background and love of history and spicy stories are what inspired this heady mix of contemporary romance and ballet set in a castle. Readers of my historical fiction will recognise the castle and stone circle that feature in these books.

A Dancer’s Journey is available in paperback and Kindle and on Kindle Unlimited.

Series on Amazon UK

Series on Amazon worldwide

Series on Goodreads

Page with blurbs and quotes

Dance and Despair: Writing What You Know on Women Writers, Women[‘s] Books.

A Dancer's Journey by Ailish Sinclair

Newsletter

Keep up to date with all my news by signing up to the mailing list. It’s a more intimate space than the blog and always contains some exclusive photos. If you would like to hear about new books and offers, you can follow my Amazon author page.

About Page

Ailish's feet

Read all about little old me here!

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.

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

Ethereal and spellbinding... says the Historical Novel Society of SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD

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 neurodivergent main character and some rather complicated romance.

“Ethereal and spellbinding….” Historical Novel Society

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.

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A Map of Witches and the Beauty of Autumn

Map of Witches

Map of Witches

The Map of Witches is a wonderful 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. It’s 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.

The Beauty of Autumn

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

Blue and gold after the map of witches

The 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. If you would like to hear about new books and offers, you can follow my Amazon author page.

Contemporary Fiction

A Dancer's Journey Series by Ailish Sinclair

Scotland’s all misty lochs and magical forests and perfect boyfriends, right?

When dance student Amalphia Treadwell embarks on a secret relationship with her charismatic new teacher, she has no idea of the danger that lurks in his school in Scotland…

Series on Amazon UK

Series on Amazon worldwide

My dance background and love of history and spicy stories are what inspired this heady mix of contemporary romance and ballet set in a castle. Readers of my historical fiction will recognise the castle and stone circle that feature in these books.

There are no cliffhanger endings in this series; each book completes a story, but then there is more. So much more. Read all the blurbs here

Historical Fiction

Books by Ailish Sinclair

These novels combine little-known dark events with love stories and a hint of magic.

“Ethereal and spellbinding….” Historical Novel Society

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Writer’s Tip Jar

My Witchy Debut Novel is Published, 2019

The Mermaid and the Bear Christmas

2019 got off to an exciting start for me when I signed a contract with GWL Publishing for my debut novel, The Mermaid and the Bear. It’s out in both paperback and Kindle NOW!

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 16th century Christmas.
  • And there’s a love story.

Cover:

Cover of Ailish Sinclair's debut novel THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR

Blurb:

Isobell needs to escape. She has to. Her life depends on it.

She has a plan and it’s a well thought-out, well observed plan, to flee her privileged life in London and the cruel man who would marry her, and ruin her, and make a fresh start in Scotland.

She dreams of faery castles, surrounded by ancient woodlands and misty lochs… and maybe even romance, in the dark and haunted eyes of a mysterious Laird.

Despite the superstitious nature of the time and place, her dreams seem to be coming true, as she finds friendship and warmth, love and safety. And the chance for a new beginning…

Until the past catches up with her.

Set in the late sixteenth century, at the height of the Scottish witchcraft accusations, The Mermaid and the Bear is a story of triumph over evil, hope through adversity, faith in humankind and – above all – love.

The Mermaid and the Bear by Ailish Sinclair

 Further insight:

I made a wee aesthetic for it, because: oh the fun!

Aesthetic for The Mermaid and the Bear, Ailish Sinclair's debut novel

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