Lunching on the the Cumberland Stone by Culloden Moor

Cumberland Stone, by Culloden in the Scottish Highlands

Lunching on the Stone

The huge Cumberland Stone sits in woodland very close to Culloden Moor. It is said that the Duke of Cumberland (the king’s son and leader of the government troops) ate his lunch, or in some accounts his breakfast, sitting atop the stone on the day of battle in 1746. It’s also said that he watched the fight from there.

Steps

There are steps hammered into the side of the rock, so we can all climb up on it. For fun. Not for battle-watching. And it’s probably not the comfiest place to sit and eat lunch either!

Steps on the Cumberland Stone by Culloden

I can attest to it being quite fun.

Metal rung on the Cumberland Stone near Culloden Moor

Ice Age

The stone is a remnant of the ice age, having been carried by the great ice sheet that covered most of Scotland, and then deposited when the ice melted 16,000 years ago.

The nearby memorial bench, inscription in Gaelic and English:

Memorial bench beside the Cumberland Stone at Culloden.

Research

When researching for Fireflies and Chocolate, it interested me that the kidnappers’ ship, The Planter, sailed just three years before the battle of Culloden. Some local people must have been impacted by both events, surely? So, I gave the main character, Elizabeth, a Jacobite for a father, and she is deeply invested in the rebellion as is shown in this quote from the book:

“I’m buying special treats at the market for us to have at Christmas when I hear it being said and exclaimed about by two wifies: The Jacobites have marched South. I rush to Mr Franklin’s shop, and not just to get chocolate this time. Surely he will know more details. He does, but not many. The Young Pretender, as they’re calling Bonnie Prince Charlie, landed in Scotland in the summer. The Jacobite army has taken Edinburgh and defeated the British troops in a battle at Prestonpans.

They’re winning! They’re actually winning! We could have a new king next year.”

We all know what happened in the end, on that moor. I posted more about it here: Culloden and Clava

Flag on Culloden Moor

Beautiful and Historic Glasses

But let’s finish with a happier image. Some beautiful Jacobean glassware from the visitor centre at Culloden. The white rose was one of their secret symbols.

Jacobite wine glasses at Culloden visitor centre

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FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE

Fireflies and Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE was inspired by the 600 children and young people who were kidnapped from Aberdeen during the 1740s and sold into indentured servitude in the American Colonies. 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

Review from the Historical Novel Society

SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD

Sisters at the Edge of the World by Ailish Sinclair. "Ethereal and spellbinding..." says The Historical Novel Society

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.

THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR

The Mermaid and the Bear by Ailish Sinclair

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. There’s 6 chapters of medieval Christmas too.

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 

Writer’s Tip Jar


Dreich Days and Squelching Feet

Dreich but beautiful: trees

It’s dreich here, as we say in Scotland.

Grey. Rainy. Dull.

trees in the forest

The woods are still beautiful, though.

I like the witches’ brooms in the trees. And the wintry light.

my favourite forest path on a dreich day

The path through the forest is still a favourite place, and while the squelching of my feet is not entirely unpleasing, and I do like using the word dreich, I will welcome the brighter days when they arrive.

A New Review of Mermaid

The Mermaid and the Bear by Ailish Sinclair

I was quite touched by this insightful review on The Book Keep blog recently:

Not only a tribute to Scotland and its history, Ailish Sinclair’s debut novel, The Mermaid and the Bear, further excites, warms, and grips us with a tale about the dichotomies of human nature.

First and foremost, this is achieved by an entrancing blend of evocative literary styles. With mention of witchcraft and the imagery of misty woodlands and a gray, imposing church steeple, Mermaid’s mood is reminiscent of a classic Gothic novel; and yet, here and there, soaked in the colors of bright holiday feasts, pristine snowy landscapes, and a pink stone castle, the air of a Medieval fairytale shimmers with a dreamlike quality.

Mermaid on Amazon

My About Page

Ailish's feet

See my About Page

Newsletter, Updates and ARCs

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Writer’s Tip Jar

Calm and Steadfast like a Tree

steadfast like a tree

That’s how I feel today. Calm. Steadfast. A little like a tree.

I’m back in the place where I’m happy. Writing. Of course, writing.

Steadfast Writing Update

A Dancer’s Journey is basically complete. The third and final title comes out next week, and I’m now working on the connected series. These are gentler books, shorter books, so they can be cheaper books, and they feel peaceful somehow. Easier. There’s no dramatic violence or explicit naughtiness, though the characters are dealing with dark issues from their pasts. I’ll still be adding a wee content warning on them, vague again so as not to cause harm to those who shouldn’t even read certain words.

And then, once that series is out – my autoimmune body will have its say on the timing of that – I can write something new.

There’s another witchy historical beckoning, but I also love writing contemporary. So both may have to happen…

A Witchy Historical

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.

Paperback and kindle on Amazon

View the full book detail page here

“A delight from end to end…” from Undiscovered Scotland

Recent article from Neil Drysdale in the Press and Journal: Should we really have fun at Halloween when the north-east led the great execution of witches? 

About Page

Ailish's feet

See my About Page

Newsletter, Updates and ARCs

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

Serenity and Snowberries

A serene loch: serenity and snowberries

The sun is low as we approach the end of the year; the loch, serene. The snowberries, also known as ghostberries or waxberries, are out in the woods like little lights in the dark.

snowberries in the woods

Skies are dramatic at the beach but, again, somehow serene.

dramatic skies over the beach: snowberries and serenity

And that’s what I wish for us all in December and on into 2024. Serenity. Peace. Joy. The good things. And lots of them.

A New Review of Fireflies and Chocolate

I was quite touched to see this thoughtful review of Fireflies from writer Gemma Brook this morning: “Elizabeth has a lilting Scottish accent, so rich and natural I can hear it easily in my head. She speaks to us directly, and she’s a charming storyteller, though she goes through some troubled times... Dark days and nights lie ahead for Elizabeth, but there is light in the darkness: her own strong spirit, and good people around her (along with some thoroughly despicable characters, sadly quite believable).

Fireflies and Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair

Book on Amazon

The Latest Books

A Dancer's Journey series by Ailish Sinclair

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.

Series on Amazon UK

Series on Amazon worldwide

Series on Goodreads

A Dancer's Journey series by Ailish Sinclair

About Page

Ailish Sinclair

See my About Page

Newsletter, Updates and ARCs

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

Chocolatey Books and Colourful Trees

hot chocolate and chocolatey books

Hot chocolate. Chocolate cake. Chocolatey books. I love these things. I need them. Especially in winter, and we’re nearly there now. This is the last post of the road to winter series; I’ve finally used up all the pictures!

chocolatey books and colourful trees

Some colour clings on, though many trees are bare.

across a wee bridge to chocolatey books

It looks like this wee tree lost all its leaves at once:

Tree with autumn leaves round base

An oak and a beech at Strichen Community Park:

an oak tree and a beech tree

My Most Chocolatey Books

Fireflies and Chocolate: chocolatey books

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE was inspired by the 600 children and young people who were kidnapped from Aberdeen during the 1740s and sold into indentured servitude in the American Colonies. The story follows the adventures of Elizabeth Manteith from the castle and her determined efforts to get back home. There’s love. There’s proper derring-dos on the high seas… And there’s chocolate!

I was really delighted when I learned that the publisher had used an image of a real 18th century chocolate cup on the cover.

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Filled with excitement and suspense…” Historical Novel Society

Tendu by Ailish Sinclair: chocolatey books

Enjoy a kiss on the London tube in TENDU. Eat chocolate cake in Covent Garden and Scotland. Romp up and down the castle stairs! Dance in a stone circle. Attend a Ceilidh in the great hall. Have your brain studied in the dungeon. All fun, I assure you. Well, not quite all…

“If you enjoy mentions of chocolate and lots of cake, this book is for you.” From a recent review.

Amazon UK

Amazon worldwide

excerpt from Tendu by Ailish Sinclair: chocolatey books

Newsletter

Keep up to date with all my news, chocolatey 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.

About Page

hot chocolate

Read all about little old me here!

Writer’s Tip Jar

A Frozen Loch

frozen loch with a sturdy pink and cream cloud above
Frozen loch

I’m up early to light the fire so that the room warms up a bit before writing.

I’m still cold. And still moaning about the temperature (-9 yesterday, -3 today, so slightly better).

But beauty cannot be ignored.

A Fictional Frozen Loch

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. Frozen loch.

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

“Ethereal and spellbinding…” Historical Novel Society Review

The Latest Books

A Dancer's Journey series by Ailish Sinclair

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.

Series on Amazon UK

Series on Amazon worldwide

Series on Goodreads

A Dancer's Journey series by Ailish Sinclair

About Page

Ailish Sinclair

See my About Page

Newsletter, Updates and ARCs

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

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

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 Sinclair goes into the woods

My About Page

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

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

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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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