A Day Off From Writing: the Characters’ Relief

Tolquhon Castle

Every so often I take a day off from writing. Not because I want to. I resist and avoid and cling to my desk in a desperate fashion. Friends persuade and entice me outside. And it is always good, always nourishing and refreshing. There’s a planned outing later this week, and I can just picture my characters’ reactions when they realise I’m not there at the keyboard…

Sharp-witted Justin notices first. He looks up, listens and checks again. “She’s gone out!”

Every character sags with relief. They go back to bed and sleep in till lunchtime. Later, they shuffle downstairs to get tea and food, and they sit in silence in the great hall of the castle.

People who usually snipe and gripe at each other, pass the sugar without word. Two of them exchange a wry smile, for without my omniscient presence to keep them busy, they can sense what’s coming; not the details, but the shadow of something bad ahead, something they would avoid if they could. But like my day out, it cannot be avoided. It has to happen.

Quote from TENDU by Ailish Sinclair. A day off from writing.

They head to bed early, exhausted by the hours of doing nothing, tired from the rest and relaxation.

No arguments. No sex. No laughter.

How boring! These people need me. Maybe I shouldn’t take a day off from writing after all…

The desk of Scottish author Ailish Sinclair when she's not having a day off from writing.

They didn’t get left alone for long, those poor characters. I soon pulled them all back into the drama and the story.

And that story will be out later in 2023, in the form of a contemporary three-book series called A Dancer’s Journey. As you can see from my editor’s comment below, Justin and the others were completely justified in being relieved that I was gone.

Diabolical - a day off from writing

More on the series:

My Historical Novels

I put the characters through the proverbial wringer in these too!

Historical Fiction from Ailish Sinclair. Witches, kidnapping, Romans and romance.
  • SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD opens on a snowy winter solstice in 1st century Scotland. The main character is neurodivergent, 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 is set in both Scotland and Colonial Pennsylvania.

All novels are available in paperback, kindle and on kindle unlimited.

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Newsletter and Updates

Sign up to the mailing list for news about my life and writing, and some exclusive photos. If you would rather just hear about new books and offers, you can follow my Amazon author page.

My About Page

Ailish's feet

Read all about little old me here!

Writer’s Tip Jar

Share Those First Lines with Me!

First lines of books. "It was the best of times..." Quote from Charles Dickens

First lines. They’re important, right? I know they are. When I click on the ‘look inside’ facility on Amazon, I’m already judging the quality of the writing from those initial words.


The full line from A Tale of Two Cities, quoted above, is actually much longer than just those first dramatic words. In full:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

It breaks a few modern writing rules, but I really like it 🙂

Show Me Your First Lines

The last sharing post I did was quite a success, with people buying and discussing the books. Feel free to add to it too if you like. These posts will be brought to the front of the blog every so often, and shared on social media now and again, so they won’t just vanish into oblivion.

But for today, here, let’s see those first lines. They can be lines from your published books, or works in progress, or from a book that you love. I think it would be fun to not say much more about the book other than the title and author. Feel free to add buy or information links too, though, so we can click through if we like what we read.

I’ll share the first line of THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR.

“The first time the sea killed me, my brother brought me back to life.”

Book info page


The Mermaid and the Bear by Ailish Sinclair

Your Turn!

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


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 neurodivergent main character and some rather complicated romance!

“Ethereal and spellbinding….” Historical Novel Society

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

See the press release here

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


See my About Page here


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.

Writer’s Tip Jar

%d bloggers like this: