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.

Dickens

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 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

Amazon

Share those first lines with me! Image of THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR by Ailish Sinclair.

Your Turn!

The Red Well and a Book 7 Years in the Making

the red well and the sea
the red well near Whitehills in Aberdeenshire, Scotland

The Red Well

The Red Well by Whitehills in Aberdeenshire is protected by an unusual building. On the autumn equinox, at sunrise, a beam of light shines through the doorway and illuminates the well within. This happens on the spring equinox too. The well, and the building, are said to date from Roman times.

the red well by whitehills

Book Release!

So, of course, I took it for SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD. The book releases today, at the time of autumn equinox, and that just seems right. It’s been seven years in the making, this one. Both the novel and I have been through a lot as the story developed: severe editing, hospitalisations, deleting, pain, rewriting, crying and being monstrous. I’m very glad that we’re finally here at a place of relative wellness and publication.

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

Sisters at the Edge of the World by Ailish Sinclair

Paperback and Kindle:

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

It’s on Kindle Unlimited too so can be read for free (there’s a 30 day free trial).

The well is described in the book:

This wee spring is very near the sea, situated on a gentle incline that heads down to the beach. There the land is flat and looks to be walkable for miles. The sand is golden with some stony places. I see grey rocks and pink pebbles. I feel the desire to walk down to the beach, to spend many a day on those sands. It is strange.

Excerpt from SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD by Ailish Sinclair
the red well by Whitehills

A Witch’s Hoosie

I have a bit of personal history with the well. When I was a small child, I lived with my grandparents in Whitehills for a few months. One day, playing with my cousins, I was locked in that building to see if the witch would get me. The place was referred to as the ‘witch’s hoosie’ back then, by children at least. There were scary stories of an old lady witch ghost. I was quite interested to see if she would show up. She didn’t, and I was eventually freed, my lack of fear having disappointed my companions somewhat.

The door is kept locked now.

Since then, I’ve always viewed the well as rather a magical place, and keenly look out for the quick glimpse of it in the landscape that you get when driving along the main Banff to Portsoy road.

thistles by the well
Thistles by the well

It’s in a particularly beautiful spot, the Red Well. The town of Banff can just be seen in the distance below.

the red well by the sea

Out today: SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD.

new novel from Ailish Sinclair

See my About Page here

Newsletter

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Small Blue Ball, Big Golden Orb: cover reveal

sisters
oorange tulip behind barbed wire
Tulip behind barbed wire

I am a small blue ball of pain.

Curled up.

Can’t eat. Can’t sleep. Can’t write.

Life on hold.

Wondering what went wrong. Why I am here again.

bluebells, small blue ball

A pause by the bluebell woods on the way back from hospital. A biopsy may provide answers to the mystery of me and my strange body, who knows?

The flowers smell sweet. I breathe them in.

lilac. small blue ball.

An easing comes. A moving on from the small blue ball. A sort of pinkening. Lilac flowers are taken in from the garden and I sit in a delicately scented cloud of beauty.

Then, a few steps, and I am outside.

Camelia. Small blue ball.

It is glorious. Painful still, but better. I can envision being well again.

pink bench and blossom
Blossom caught in the pink bench.

The sunshine. The breeze. I love it all.

Thoughts of writing come. I left my poor characters in the middle of the battle of Mons Graupius between the Romans and the Caledonian tribes. War. A situation far worse than my own. I must release them from it soon.

Before all this, before I became ill, I got here – to the golden orb – with my ‘fun project‘:

SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD cover

The main character in the book is neuro-diverse.

As am I.

Illness makes me open, bared and true. Pain peels back layers of politeness and hesitancy and doubt. I just say things. I just am.

I still hope for a summer release, a later one obviously, maybe early autumn. My body will have its say in the matter. But it will come 🙂

Update: Sisters at the Edge of the World is out now!

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

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

More books

Ailish's books

Set in an Aberdeenshire castle, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR features the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic, a stone circle, and a love story.

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE was inspired by the 18th century kidnapped children of Aberdeen and is set in both Scotland and Colonial Pennsylvania.

Paperbacks and kindle: Amazon UK or Amazon Worldwide

“Filled with excitement and suspense…” Historical Novel Society

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.

 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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Chasing a Cover Reveal Along Snowy Pathways

snowy path to a cover reveal

This is the cover reveal for FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE!

Other reveals can be seen here for THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR, and more recently, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD.


Last time I had a cover to reveal we journeyed down a rabbit hole to find it… but I haven’t been anywhere exciting like that lately, so we’ll have to stick closer to home, starting on the snowy track into the woods.

Reaching the end of the track, we nip up this narrow path:

narrow path to a cover reveal

Here we are on the loch-side walk now, sunshine to our left.

sunny path in the woods

Wait! What’s that? Something’s moving in the woods, running and leaping through the trees…

The Mermaid and the Bear by Ailish Sinclair in the snow by deer tracks

No, that’s not it. That’s the first book (out now!) and some foot prints left by a deer. We need to retrace our steps, I think…

Snowy track to a cover reveal

And yes – finally we come to it – the cover reveal for FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE, out April 1st 2021!

Fireflies and Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair, out 2021

The cup featured on the cover is an actual chocolate cup from the 1740s when the book is set.

Inspired by the 600 children and young people who were kidnapped from Aberdeen and sold into indentured servitude in the American Colonies, the story follows the adventures of Elizabeth Manteith and her determined efforts to get back home. There’s love. There’s proper derring-dos on the high seas (as opposed to my previous metaphorical ones)! And there’s chocolate…

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

“Filled with excitement and suspense…” Review from the Historical Novel Society

Newsletter

Keep up to date with all my news, from visits to Scottish castles and stone circles, to books and writing and life, by signing up to the mailing list!

My Other 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 

ballet novel, TENDU, by Ailish Sinclair

See my About Page here

Writer’s Tip Jar

Historical Hot Chocolate and 75 Words

Historical Hot Chocolate... not quite.

That’s not historical hot chocolate there; it’s totally modern and topped with ice cream, and was rather delightful on a snowy day.

To see the historical version being made we have to go to one of the YouTube channels I used during the research and immersion phase of writing FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE.

Elizabeth, the main character, uses a slightly simpler method, back in the 18th century, in this quote from the book:

“I shave slivers of chocolate from the block and stir them into hot water over the fire. I add sugar and mix until it is all well blended. Then I pour it all into the pot with the warm milk and whisk and whisk until it’s frothy and perfect.”

Whatever century you’re in… yum!

The first 75 words of the novel were up on Paragraph Planet in 2021. I took a wee screen shot:

Openeing of FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE by Ailish Sinclair
The Mermaid and the Bear cover

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE was inspired by the 18th century kidnapped children of Aberdeen and is choc full of historical hot chocolate!

Not to be forgotten, my debut novel 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

Fireflies and Chocolate teaser

Writerly Roundup: interview, reviews, group

writerly places, a cobbled street with flowers
A rather distracting cobbled street in Aberdeen. It features here and here.

I get easily distracted by the places and things that I write about here and forget to mention other writerly bits and pieces of note in some posts. So here goes!

Interview

I recently did an interview with the lovely Tonya Ulynn Brown on her blog The Rose and the Thistle here. Tonya’s review of THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR came out while I was in hospital last year and it really cheered me up. I tweeted about it from my bed very early in the morning, having finally worked out how to use the WiFi. I remember the scene so clearly: the dimmed light in the ward, the wall clock with its strange night and day depiction, the quiet padding about of nurses, and the prick of the blood sugar checking device. At least I had performed some worthwhile task from my bed. I was almost working! A man instantly tweeted back to me that I was being too ‘self congratulatory’ in mentioning the review. And that only encouraged me…

In the interview I ask such questions as: Is it really good enough? Is it, in fact, bilge? Or nonsense? Or the worst thing that has ever been written in the whole history of the world? 

And dispense advice like: Don’t let other people tear you down and tell you you’re doing it wrong. People have strange agendas when it comes to the writing of others. Do your own thing. Go your own way.

See the whole interview here.

writerly times: sunlight by a mausoleum
Sunlight peers round the corner of the Duff House Mausoleum

The second writerly thing: reviews

There’s been quite a few. Two of the most recent for FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE are from Elisabeth on the writer’s tip jar site Kofi here. I found her mention of language very interesting.

And then over on Goodreads, this one from Alex came in yesterday. “I was moved and shocked by what I read but also took solace from the portrayal of genuine historic figures in the book such as the vile Alexander Young and the decent Benjamin Lay, Peter Williamson and Benjamin Franklin whose kindness and determination make a difference to those reduced to the status of chattels.”

cobbles or cassies
Ah, those cobbles, or cassies as they are up here. See yet more of them.

And the last writerly mention: the group

I’ve started a wee Facebook Group to promote Scottish books. Your own or those you’ve read, fiction or non-fiction, about or set in Scotland or written by a Scottish author. If you’re interested feel free to join here.

writery things: stone circles
Possibly the biggest distraction of all, stone circles. See this one here.

For more cobbled streets and old stones, sign up to the mailing list.

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

A Day Out, A Day Off

Tolquhon Castle
Tolquhon Castle: a good place for a day out

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…

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

Every character, from the main protagonist to the young police officer who only gets mentioned once, sags with relief. They go back to bed and sleep in till lunchtime. Later they shuffle downstairs to get tea and food and sit in silence in the dining hall.

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.

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 go out after all…

***

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

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

Barnes and Noble

GoodReads

The Mermaid and the Bear