Oh, to wander in the woods…

snowy woods in Scotland

Post from December 2019.

The Woods in Winter

That is my favourite bit of path in the woods by my house. It’s also the most productive. When I get stuck with a storyline or a finicky little plot detail that just won’t iron out, that’s where I go, and solutions become clear. Big epiphanies about characters and back stories happen there too. Maybe it’s because it’s a timeless landscape. Or maybe I just feel relaxed and at peace there.

Just now though, I am recovering from flu and can’t walk in the woods. Soon, I tell myself. Soon. I can sit up and write so I may really need to go there soon! (Edit 2022: it would not be soon. This was the start of a non-woodland path to an auto-immunity diagnosis that would wind its way through hospital stays and many monstrous moments!)

Reviews

I’ve been deeply touched by how much thought people have been putting into their reviews of THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR.

Local Quine Kate the Quiet Knitter’s review “This wonderful magical tale then takes a deviation towards the darkness and from here Sinclair’s research and writing really shines. Her portrayal of 16th century Scotland is entrancing, and the details of the witch-hunts taking place in that time are fascinating.”

On the Mum, Write NOW blog “Overall the characters are lovable, I found it interesting that their lives intertwined slightly with Shakespeare and also touched on LGBT culture and attitudes at that time. It really felt that there was a depth of historical knowledge informing the narrative which I always enjoy.”

An Impertinent Interview

And the Wee Writing Lassie wrote about the book and asked me 7 impertinent questions! “Another inclusive detail in Ailish’s novel is the fact that her heroine – Isobell – is a plus sized woman, and this is never treated like a problem, or something about her that needs to be fixed, by the narrative. All body type inclusion, yeah!”

The Woods in Summer

The same path, though the other end and other direction, in the woods, in summer:

green woods

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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

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

Keep up to date with all my news, witchy and otherwise, by signing up to the mailing list. It’s a more intimate space than the blog and always contains some exclusive photos.

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

Looking for Reindeer in the Cairngorms

Cairngorm Skies

There were dramatic skies the last time I went to look for reindeer in the Cairngorms. They were beautiful though. These were skies to stand and stare at.

in the Cairngorms

And mountains to walk around in.

The Funicular Railway

The funicular railway was out of service, due to cracks having been discovered in the cement so, with my autoimmune conditions flaring, I didn’t venture as high into the landscape as I would have liked.

dramatic skies over the Cairngorms

Lentil Soup

It was more of a restful day than an energetic one. A ‘lentil soup in the cavernous restaurant at the base station’ type of day (you will get lentil soup everywhere you go in Scotland).

up in the Cairngorms

Those Reindeer in the Cairngorms

The free-ranging reindeer herd remained elusive on this trip, but here’s an older photo of them. There are much better pictures on their own website!

reindeer herd in Scotland

Chosen Sisters, Romans and Romance

sisters collage

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

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

See my About Page

Newsletter

Go here to sign up for 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

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

Don’t miss any of Ailish in Wonderland’s news; sign up to her mailing list 🙂

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

Mermaid blurb

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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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

The Quine Shrine: witchcraft in Aberdeen

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

Survey of Scottish Witchcraft

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

The Tolbooth

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

Prosecutions for Witchcraft in Aberdeen

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

Pinterest

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

I am Weather Obsessed

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!

The Mermaid and the Bear

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

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!

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

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.

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

ballet novel, TENDU, by Ailish Sinclair

See my About Page here

Rocky Shores for Release Day

rocky shores at Broadsea

Originally posted October 2019.

We’ve moved North and round the corner from the golden sands of Fraserburgh beach, and arrived at the rocky shores of Broadsea and a beautiful rock pool, the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses in the background.

rocky shores and clouds

But the book is out! Released! That’s all that’s really on my mind today… though I can be momentarily distracted by shells:

shells

It’s a strange feeling this, like opening a window and letting something precious and secret fly away to where it can now be seen by anyone who wants to see it!

Broadsea house

That’s my favourite little house at Broadsea, right beside the rugged rocky coastline.

rocky shores

So… deep breath…

Set in a fictional castle in Aberdeenshire, 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.

And it has a castle.

And a stone circle.

And medieval Christmas.

Out in paperback and Kindle NOW!

Universal links:

Kindle

Paperback

Mermaid blurb

A Fairy Scene, an Opening, and an Article

fairy scence: toadstool and wood sorrel

I came across this rather lovely little scene in the woods on a rainy day last week. It made me think of fairies…

Yesterday Paragraph Planet revealed the opening of The Mermaid and the Bear on their site. It’s gone now, but I took a screenshot, below. It was while walking in the same woods pictured above that the first line of the book came to me.

the opening of The Mermaid and the Bear

Women Writers, Women[‘s] Books have published my article Researching Historical Fiction: Immersing Oneself in the Past in which you can read about me setting off smoke alarms and eating primroses (yes, really) in the name of research.

The Mermaid and the Bear cover

Amazon

Waterstones

GoodReads