Things I Stole From Castles

Earthen floor at Drum Castle

A Stolen Floor

That’s the earthen floor of the medieval great hall at Drum Castle.

I love it.

So I took it!

From Chapter 3 of THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR:

Bessie had shown me the great hall, a huge room that put one in mind of a church. Sunlight fell through twelve windows, making narrow shapes on the earthen floor of that place…

I did rather fill up my writer’s swag bag at Drum.

Below is a beautiful bedpost…

oaken leaves on a bedpost at Drum

Chapter 34:

“It’s beautiful, Thomas,” I said, walking into the room and running my hands up and down the dark smooth wood of the bedposts which were swirled with infinite oak leaves.

I don’t have a good picture of the dungeon there, though I pilfered that too. It’s a terrible place with a narrow stairway leading down, down, down into the dank. However, bats were roosting in it the last couple of times I visited the castle, and they’re a protected species so it was absolutely forbidden to disturb them. Which was quite a relief really… but here is a pictorial quote from the book:

castle dungeon quote

And into the swagbag goes…

A forest view from a high window at Crathes Castle

forest view from Crathes Castle window

From Chapter 38:

I sat up on my seat by the three thin windows and watched the first golden shafts of morning light creep over the tops of the trees in the forest.

A Secret Stairway

From beautiful Craigievar I took the secret stairway that runs from top to bottom of the castle, strictly no photos allowed inside…

Craigievar Castle

From Chapter 28:

We were in another passage, small and stony and grey, and after a short way it led to a narrow stairwell that was not lit by torches and sconces like the big one, but dark and shadowy and hidden. Secret. Indeed safe. For now.

The Laird’s Lug

Castle Fraser gave me it’s triangular peep-hole and ‘Laird’s Lug’.

Castle Fraser

From Chapter 28:

I told the Laird, and he took his turn at the peephole and gave the scene a long assessing look. “It is a pity there is so much noise tonight; we could have made out their words otherwise, the walls of the lug are thinned in places and shaped to augment speech made in the hall.”

I think that’s enough of my rampant thievery for one post – there may be others – so I’ll leave you with this recent review of the book from Terry Tyler, a brilliant writer herself. Actually – I can’t help myself – I’ll just steal a quote from that too:

Ailish Sinclair’s portrayal of 16th century, wild rural Scotland is quite magical.  On one recent evening I was curled up in bed, head on cushions and lights dimmed, and I found that I was revelling in every description of the countryside, the day-to-day life at the castle (particularly the Christmas revellry; this made me long to be in the book myself!), the suggestion of ancient spirituality, and the hopes and dreams of the characters.  Suddenly I realised that I’d gone from thinking ‘yes, this is a pleasant enough, easy-read’ to ‘I’m loving this’.  

And here’s a wee picture of my author copies, or swag bags, if you will. Buy your own here on Amazon in paperback or on Kindle.

author copies

From the Press and Journal: New book by Fraserburgh author highlights horrific extent of witch trials in Scotland 

Newsletter

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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.

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

Review from the Historical Novel Society

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.

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!

Blue Skies, Crashing Waves and Ballet Terms

crashing waves and ballet terms

Writing

I took a little walk on St Combs beach. It was beautiful and blustery and entirely free from ballet terms. I needed to get away from them for a bit. There’s too many in TENDU, and in the current edit I am removing, changing or explaining them, so as not to confuse the reader. It’s not the most fun. It feels a little like dumbing down, though I know it’s not really. I just have to be less technically specific, and more generally descriptive. I’d much rather be working on all the relationship nuances, but of course, I am doing that too.

The Beach

St Combs beach

It was great to just stand and stare across the ocean and breathe in all that fresh sea air.

blue skies and ballet terms

I made a little TikTok of the sea too, if you would like to hear the waves and see the movement.

Ballet Terms

So goodbye port de bras and grand jeté. Arabesque penchée, I have tried to save (describe) you:

We worked on arabesque penchée. Standing on one leg, the other high behind, fingertips almost touching the floor, the world seemed to stand still around me in a perfect moment of balance and extension.

But back to the beach. Away from the ballet terms. And breathe.

Read my books for free

Back in the world of books, 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.

kindle unlimited

I swear, I’m not a mermaid…

I'm not a mermaid...

Article

I’m not a mermaid, nor do I have a pet bear as is suggested in this article: 8 Strange things I saw while I was definitely not stalking Ailish Sinclair 😀

Calm

SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD has been out for three days now and I think it’s going quite well. I’m staying calm and mellow anyway…

Reviews

Review from Lizanne Lost in a Good Book: “This is a complex mystical tale of bloody conflict between two disparate civilisations, but also about sisterhood, romantic love and dramatic choices. Morragh is not like most of us. Her actions are instinctive and passionate, but her certainty is persuasive.” See the whole review here.

And here’s the book being read in France.

A wee flip-through on TikTik:

@ailishsinclair

Out today! Paperback & kindle on Amazon. 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. #historicalfiction #booktok #romance #ancientworld #neurodiversity

♬ original sound – Alisa
SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD with a misty mountain view

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 neurodiverse main character and some rather complicated romance!

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

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

Go here to sign up for my (roughly monthly) newsletter. It’s a more intimate space than the blog and always includes some exclusive photos.

Rowan Berries on the Path

rowan berries on a woodland path

There were rowan berries on the path this morning in the woods. I take this to mean that it’s really autumn now. When the rowans are all shiny and new on the trees, you know that the end of summer approaches. There’s just the tiniest hint of the next season in the air.

rowan berries

But once they’re on the ground? Autumn. Autumn all the way.

Rowan Berry Jam

I recall a time when I used to make jam out of rowan berries. They are poisonous raw, but after a vigorous boiling with sugar, they’re edible, though rather bitter.

rowan berry jam

I liked the bitter sweet flavour. It was fruity and earthy and somehow tasted ancient. However, I was the only one. The rest of my family screwed up their faces at the bitterness. I no longer eat refined sugar, due to medical conditions, so my rowan jam making days are over. Nothing is wasted in nature though. The birds love those little waxy berries.

And I love autumn with its mix of misty mornings and hot sunny afternoons. It’s breezy and blustery here today. The air is warm, though it rained overnight. No need to water the pots. No need to light the fire. Rowan berries pop under my feet as I walk, and the trees grow more colourful every day.

Recent Reviews

Fireflies and Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair

Sally Cronin featured a review of FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE on her wonderful Smorgasbord Bookshelf last week.

Elizabeth is gutsy, vulnerable, rash and caring, and her quick wittedness and bravery had me cheering her on from the sidelines. Like her, we are confronted by the harsh realities of life as a slave or indentured labourer and she experiences danger and brutality as she wades in to protect her new-found friends.

See the whole review here.

Cover of Ailish Sinclair's 'The Mermaid and the Bear'

A review of THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR was included in the reading round up on the lovely Smelly Socks and Garden Peas blog.

“I really loved the rich variety this novel brought – it’s not all danger and torture, there’s peace and contentment, a feeling of having found one’s place, delight, fun, celebration and true happiness too. Each phase of Isobell’s experiences are brought to life, they’re evocative and have real depth. I’ll definitely be picking up Ailish’s other books in future too.”

See the review here.

Talking of those books in the future…

Well, one of them anyway.

That’s misty Bennachie in the background of the image below, and stones from Aikey Brae on the cover. Both places feature in the novel.

SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD with a misty mountain view

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, a neurodiverse main character, and some rather complicated romance.

The book releases in paperback and kindle on September 21st 2022. 

Out now!

Quote from SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD

See all my books here on the site or on my Amazon author page.

Newsletter

Go here to sign up for the (roughly monthly) newsletter. It’s a more intimate space than the blog and always includes some exclusive photos.

Tip Jar

Iron Age, Jurassic, and Back to the Future

cave at Cullykhan: iron age fort nearby
Cave at Cullykhan

Iron Age

For this small time travelling post, we start at beautiful Cullykhan Bay, once the site of an Iron Age Fort. The fort features in SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, as does a slightly adjusted version of the cave above. The Iron Age is generally thought to have ended in 43 CE in Britain when the Romans arrived. That happened a little later up here. The book is set in 83 CE.

Back to the Future

And there’s now a release date, in the future, the 21st of September to be precise.

Edit: the book is out now!

Sisters at the Edge of the World by Ailish Sinclair set in the Iron Age

The Jurassic

I went looking for squirrels in Aden Park recently.

I found dinosaurs.

dinosaur
Behind a yew tree.

They were only there for three days.

dinosaur in a window
In the mansion house window.

The dinosaur explorer event was clearly aimed at children, but I had rather a lot of fun looking for the creatures.

Jurassic Park
Jurassic Park

And now, refreshed, I return to my desk and the Iron Age, where I’m very happy to be.

Out now!

new novel from Ailish Sinclair set in the Iron Age
ballet novel, TENDU, by Ailish Sinclair

See my About Page here

Newsletter

Go here to sign up for my (roughly monthly) newsletter. It’s a more intimate space than the blog and always includes some exclusive photos.

Tip Jar

Share Your Books and Writing with Me!

share your books with me

Share your books with me!

And any other writing, such as poems, blogs and excerpts from your work in progress. I want to see it. My readers want to see it. Show us those heartfelt creative efforts.

Share your books!
In local bookshop Better Read Books in Ellon

No-nos

There’s so many no-nos in the online world of writing today. Review swaps are against the terms and conditions of Amazon and other places. ‘Buy my book!’ DMs on social media are just annoying and unprofessional, and thankfully much rarer than they used to be. This week a writer (big 5 publisher, famous agent) posted a ‘buy my book’ comment on one of my Instagram posts. We don’t follow each other. The book had nothing to do with the subject of my post, so it seemed a bit desperate and, again, unprofessional. It did not make me want to buy the book; in fact, it was off-putting. An invasion of space even.

But it got me thinking about spaces where it is good to share, and here we have this post.

Share you books! Witchy books.
Witchy books…

Share Your Books!

There’s no no-nos here today. The comment section of this post is a free for all sharing space. Post your own work and peruse that of others too. You’re also welcome to add links 🙂

And talking of adding links, if you have a book and a blog, it’s a good idea to post some way to see those books in the posts. I’ve quite often been impressed with writing on a blog and looked for a mentioned book to no avail.

I have a Facebook group for sharing any books that have a Scottish connection. See it here.

I want to see your books and writing, people! So post away…

And, of course, here’s mine:

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 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 

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

feet

See my About Page here

Newsletter

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

Writer’s Tip Jar

Byronic Heroes and the Bad Boys of Ballet

Quote from TENDO by Ailish Sinclair, a book with a Byronic hero.

I’m still deep in the TENDU manuscript, though the end of this edit approaches and I’ll soon be returning to SISTERS (edit – Sisters at the Edge of the World is out now).

Between chapters, I’m watching things like this:

Byronic Heroes

Sergei Polunin, known as the bad boy of ballet, was born in the Ukraine, as was my own ballet bad boy from TENDU.

Unlike the mainly perfect men from MERMAID and FIREFLIES, Aleks is a Byronic hero. What’s that, you ask?

From Dictionary.com:

A Byronic hero is a type of fictional character who is a moody, brooding rebel, often one haunted by a dark secret from his past. The term describes the type of main character found in many fictional works by Lord Byron, who is said to have had this type of personality.

I love Byronic heroes. I love reading them. And I love writing them. He is very naughty though, and I will have to punish him for the rest of his life. Oh, the FUN!

Side note: see my post on Gight Castle, the ancestral home of Lord Byron.

Interview

Ailish Sinclair

I was recently featured over on Instagram in a Fast Facts type interview. Read about my obsessions, fears and atrociously bad singing here.

Books

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. There’s a neurodiverse main character and some rather complicated romance.

Set in a castle, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR features the Scottish witchcraft accusations 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 Editor’s Pick (Fireflies)

ballet feet of Ailish Sinclair

My About Page

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

Writer’s Tip Jar

Down the Rabbit Hole… to a Book Cover!

huge white rabbit
white rabbit leading to a book cover

At first it doesn’t feel quite real… where is the white rabbit leading? To a book cover? That seems odd…

This Alice in Wonderland style post dates from the build up to the release of THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR in 2019.

The rabbit leads us down or, as is more accurate, through, a giant rabbit hole!

down the rabbit hole to a book cover

Things get stranger yet as we pass between a huge fork and knife…

a giant fork and knife at Brodie Castle

We come to a place of unicorns.

unicorns and a book cover

We want to stay here with the unicorns, but we have to move on, to see…

miniature castle

A miniature castle! We go inside, and peer out like giants.

view from castle window, almost at the book cover now

We hear sweet music, percussion. Everything feels dreamy and lovely.

music to a book cover

And then, finally, this is where the rabbit has been taking us… to the book cover!

The Mermaid and the Bear cover

Set in a castle in Aberdeenshire, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR features a fictional account of three real women who were accused of witchcraft in 1597. It’s also a love story. And the cover makes it all very real now to Ailish (the Gaelic form of Alice)…

She needs to have a nice lie down like the huge white rabbit (6.5 metres long) in the Playful Garden at Brodie Castle, featured in this post.

huge white rabbit

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The Mermaid and the Bear is out now in both paperback and Kindle. 

Mermaid blurb