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'

If Candlemas Day is clear and bright…

This Candlemas post was originally published in 2014.

Hot

I just sat in the hot place. It was good, it was sunny and bright, though it offered only a vague warmth today.

The ‘hot place’ is a point on our property that is sheltered from both North and East winds by walls and situated next to large windows that reflect the sunlight and bestow a sort of ‘double sunning’. It is rather like a portal to another country, a warmer clime or different season. In summer it can reach unbearable temperatures. In the deepest months of winter the sun doesn’t touch it at all. This was the first time it lit up this year, fitting then that it’s Groundhog Day (wiki), Candlemas (wiki) and Imbolc (wiki).

Feeling the sun on my face, without the usual buffeting wind, was a good reminder that the Earth is turning and Spring is on its way. More good reminders, brave little snowdrops:

snowdrops on Candlemas

Cold

It’s been an odd winter, very dark but with none of the usual bright and dramatic snow of Scotland. The continual rain, mud and roof leakages have made the season seem long and arduous. Grey. Dull. No enchanted snowy moonlit walks where surprised owls fly low overhead, no snow angels or sledging. I almost miss having to dig my way into the woodshed (almost, not really; it was fairly tortuous, nasty when ice dripped down your neck too). Solstice 2010:

wood shed in the snow

The wind has been notably fierce, bringing an ancient beech tree crashing to the ground one night. I heard it from my bed half a mile away, three loud cracks as its branches broke. How disorienting to stand among high boughs and look through to what was the ground, upended like the tree:

a tree fallen on Candlemas

The world on its side. An oliphaunt fallen.

So winter: snow properly, or let Spring through. The sun is nice today; I’d like more of that please, I’m ready to laze in the hot place with a book. But if this saying be true, so be it:

If Candlemas Day is clear and bright, winter will have another bite.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain, winter is gone and won’t come again.

snowdrops on Candlemas

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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 Editor’s Pick

Beach Sunrises and Thoughts on Publishing

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!

My (traditionally published so far) 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

  • 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

The Witch Stone in Winter

Frosty hill leading up to the Witch Stone. Ailish Sinclair | Writer

The ground is solid, all the ruts and bumps hard and crunchy under my feet as I climb the hill. And there on the top, small from this angle, is the Witch Stone.

It’s said that witches were burned there in the past.

It’s quiet now. Cold. Peaceful.

Ladybirds are hibernating on the Witch Stone today! I hope they survive the season.

Ladybirds hibernate on the Witch Stone. Ailish Sinclair | Writer

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

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

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

The Castles of My Life

Brodie Castle and fire engines, one of the best castles

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.

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

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!

Watched Shakespeare at Fyvie:

fyvie castle

Attended educational events at Huntly:

huntly castle

Admired the 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

The scariest has to be Slains Castle, not actually very old, 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 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:

slains1

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:

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

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

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

The Rocking Stones of Auchmaliddie

The rocking stones of Auchmaliddie

The Rocking Stones of Auchmaliddie are situated near the village of New Deer in Aberdeenshire and thought to be the remnants of a recumbent stone circle. Only the large recumbent and one flanker remain. They are made of white quartz which lights up under the moon and sparkles in the sunlight. What an impressive circle it would have been when whole! Most recumbent circles in the Grampian region are aligned to moon cycles so moonlight quite possibly featured in their use.

They are still beautiful, I think. Even in driving hail, as they were when I visited recently.

close up of the quartz of the rocking stones of auchmaliddie
The quartz.

The black line there is comprised of straw bales wrapped in plastic. The stones are located at the edge of a field.

The rocking stones of Auchmaliddie.

Folklore of the Rocking Stones

Local folklore suggests that the stones, also known as the Muckle (huge) Stanes of Auchmaliddie, were once placed on top of one another. It is said that if a person were to stand on them and tell a lie the top stone would tip.

The rocking stones of Auchmaliddie

The rocking stones have fared better than the stone circle that stood on the hill, just a mile or so away, at the other side of the village. In the 18th century it was smashed up and used in the foundations of the new manse. Bad luck is said to befall anyone who lives on the surrounding lands. The nearby farm is called Standing Stones. Below is the hillside where the circle would have been, Culsh Monument to the right.

The Culsh Monument, New Deer, Aberdeenshire

In other news, I did a wee interview over on Relationships are Complicated.com here.

Quote from interview: My next historical novel explores the relationship between two chosen sisters who flee abuse together as young children. They are as close as two people can be and I am still working on conveying that closeness and the deep understanding that exists between these young women as they negotiate their own romantic liaisons with men, both approved and unapproved by their community, and as their Bronze Age society marches into war.

If you liked this article on the Rocking Stones of Auchmaliddie, you might like to explore my other stone circle posts here.

Or maybe my books, both of which feature a circle…

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

Peely Wally Level 17

Posted January 2020.

It’s actually an improvement. I think I was level 25 last week. But then I’m not the best when it comes to self assessment. In my last post I stated that I was ‘recovering from flu.’ Three days later I was admitted to hospital with pneumonia and a collapsed lung. And there I stayed for three weeks, receiving the most incredible care. Wow, NHS. Wow, nurses.

The picture is an old one, but it is my first post-pneumonia ambition. I will walk onto a beach sometime soon.

So, normal service will be resumed as the Peely Wally levels reduce. I hope you all had a good holiday time, if you celebrate, and that 2020 is a wonderful year!

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

Drinnie’s Wood: a Tower and a Stone Circle

tower in Drinnie's Wood

The Tower in Drinnie’s Wood

Rapunzel’s Tower appears over the trees in Drinnie’s Wood, dark and mysterious, a fairytale setting at the top of a hill. No hair is let down in answer to my call. Maybe the newly installed CCTV reveals me to be neither prince nor abusive mother figure so I am ignored? Or maybe the words on the council sign are true and the Drinnie’s Wood Observatory really is only open May-September.

Onwards and upwards. And downwards. Up the wrong path and back again. Up another, almost identical, path and ta-da!

The Elusive Loudon Wood Stone Circle

Loudon Wood Stone Circle by Drinnie's Wood

It evaded me for years, this place. The entry to the narrow path is hidden by low hanging pine branches, and it wasn’t until the advent of Google Earth that I finally pinpointed its exact location.

I do like the white tree that stands opposite the large recumbent stone:

Loudon Wood by Drinnie's Wood

Most stone circles in Aberdeenshire are imbued with a  deep peacefulness. This one seems alive somehow, buzzing with an undercurrent of ancient energy, like a radio still tuned to the past. Carved stone:

stones in Drinnie's Wood

Back to the present and a newly planted wind turbine, another tower I would like to look inside; see the inviting steps and door at the bottom? Surprisingly large up close – diagonal was the only way to get the whole thing in shot – and surprisingly quiet, whoosh-whooshing us gently into the future.

a modern tower by Drinnie's Wood

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

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

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

Some Eighteenth Century Letter Seals

Eighteenth Century Letter Seals

Post from 2021.

Those are the 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.

Excerpt from FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE featuring letter seals.

The seals were shown to me by a direct descendant of Lord Pitsligo. I got to hold them and turn them on their hinges, which was wonderfully informative (and exciting!).

Label on Lord Pitsligo's letter seals

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE will be out now!

Amazon: kindle or paperback 

Waterstones 

Barnes and Noble

Goodreads

Blurb:

Fireflies and Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair, out April 2021

Elizabeth craves adventure… excitement… love…

For now though, she has to settle for a trip from her family’s castle, to the port in Aberdeen, where her father has promised she’ll be permitted to buy a horse… all of her own.

Little does she suspect this simple journey will change her life, forever. And as she dreams of riding her new mount through the forests and glens of the Manteith estate, she can have no idea that she might never see them again.

For what lies ahead is danger, unimagined… and the fearful realities of kidnap and slavery.

But even when everything seems lost, most especially the chance of ever getting home again, Elizabeth finds friendship, comfort… and that much prized love, just where she least expected it.

Set in the mid eighteenth century, Fireflies and Chocolate is a story of strength, courage and tolerance, in a time filled with far too many prejudices.


It’s all getting a bit too exciting for me again… I need a nice calming walk in the woods below the witch’s brooms (growth abnormalities caused by a fungus in the trees)!

woodland walk

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

The Mermaid and the Bear

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