The Neolithic Stone Balls of Scotland

stone balls
neolithic stone balls from Aberdeenshire
They’re about the size of tennis balls.

The Neolithic stone balls of Scotland are a bit of a mystery. They’re mainly found in Aberdeenshire, sometimes buried beside stone circles. The carvings on them are varied and some of them have knobs. Yes, we could have a lot of fun with the balls and knobs of this post, but let’s not go there 😀

The use of the balls is unknown. There’s not much wear and tear on them, so they’re not generally thought to have been weapons.

The above stones are in the Arbuthnot Museum in Peterhead. I took the picture in 2020, right before lockdown, having just become well enough to go out and about again. I posted on Twitter about including such a stone in my – then – work in progress.

SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD is set well after the date of these balls. They’re thought to be about 5000 years old. But Morragh knows that it’s an old object. She calls it the ancestor stone, and sometimes it travels about with her.

Excerpt

I am before the Calgach and we look into one another’s eyes. It does not hurt too much, this looking, this time. He does not question me or try to interrupt what I am doing. I lay the knife in front of him, still looking into his eyes, and then the stone ball which makes a large hollow echoing sound as it connects with the table, silver sickle encircling it.

Further Reading

You can read more about the Neolithic stone balls on the National Museum of Scotland site here. Below is the stunning Towie ball which is part of their collection.

Neolithic stone balls: the Towie Ball

Recent Reviews

Sisters at the Edge of the World cover

SISTERS is an unusual book with an unconventional narrative voice, as is noted by the following two men in their reviews.

Tom Williams: “Is it a romance? Well, there’s a boy and a girl but, if they’d had Facebook in the Bronze Age, their relationship status would best be described as ‘complicated’.” See whole review here.

Andrew G Lockhart: “Morragh walks in a mystic and magical realm, but one which recaptures the wild simplicity and beliefs of the peoples of pagan Scotland.” See review here.

The Mermaid and the Bear cover

And then MERMAID got a great review from Louisa Blackburn: “I really, really like the way the accents are written. I talked about them enough to where my mom asked me, “Are you reading the story, or are you listening to it?” I read the book, but the accents were written in a way that I knew what everyone sounded like.” See the whole review here.

We’ve had balls and knobs, so why not baubles too?

My historical novels all involve dark events, romance and a little magic…

  • SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD opens on the winter solstice.
  • THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR has 6 chapters of medieval Christmas.
  • FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE features Christmas in Colonial Pennsylvania.

They’re all available in paperback, kindle and on kindle unlimited.

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Signed copies from me

Novels by Ailish Sinclair

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Hunkering Down in the Writing Cave

loch: a walk away from the writing cave

The Writing Cave

The loch continues to inspire awe with its reflected beauty. But the writing cave has me now. I don’t want to leave it. I want to write and write and write. Even when my brain is too tired to do it well anymore, that’s where I want to be.

It’s all the fault of TENDU. This intense and obsessive behavior always happens when I’m working on it. But I’m nearly there now. I’m on the last pages of the final edit. It’ll be off to the proofreader soon. And then I’ll be diving into the second book in the series, CABRIOLE. I suspect it’s going to have the same effect. I can already feel the emotional pull of the first chapters.

Remnants of Autumn

beech tree in its autumn garb. From the writing cave.

There are still some wonderful autumn colours around, in places that are sheltered from the frost. I stare at their brilliance before rushing back home. To the cave. That last sex scene is not going to rewrite itself… These are somewhat naughtier books than my others.

I intend getting all three titles ready and rapid releasing them next year, a month apart. So, the schedule of the writing cave is all set for winter.

Book Recommendations

Terry Tyler, a writer I really admire, has named SISTERS as one of her three book recommendations of 2022 over on the damppebbles book blog. “I loved this book because it so cleverly shows us a picture of life in the times of the Roman Conquest…” See the whole write-up and the other recommended books here.

Mastodon

I’m over on Mastodon here. So far, it seems quite nice. Rather like Twitter was years ago with people sharing interesting things and chatting. No algorithm. Less drama.

A Deer

There was a deer in the frosty field this morning. It’s to the far left of the picture and is small and blurred. You might be able to see it if you click to enlarge.

frosty field near the writing cave

SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD

When Morragh speaks to another person for the very first time, she has no idea that he is an invader in her land.

What she does next constitutes a huge betrayal of her people, threatening her closest relationships and even her way of life itself.

Paperback, Kindle and on Kindle Unlimited:

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Set in 1st century Scotland, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD is a story of chosen sisters, fierce warriors, divided loyalties and love.

SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD by Ailish Sinclair

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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

An Illuminated Path to Winter

illuminated path in the woods

An illuminated path in the woods.

It’s autumn, but with a hint of what’s to come in the air. There’s a chill, a dampness and darkness to mornings and evenings.

Here in Scotland, our clocks just went back an hour. A seasonal change. A portent of winter.

But for just now, there’s still lots of blue and gold beauty to behold in the woods.

I’ll crunch through those leaves for as long as I can!

Sisters at the Edge of the World

Romans + Celts = some rather complicated romance!

Set in 1st century Scotland, the novel features a neurodiverse main character, chosen sisters, fierce warriors and the battle of Mons Graupius between the Romans and the Caledonian tribes.

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

From recent reviews:

  • An extraordinary read.
  • A fabulous story.
  • Eye-opening, heartbreaking and beautiful.

Available in paperback, kindle and on Kindle Unlimited.

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My About Page

Read my bio and see all the social links and articles here.

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Blue Loch at the End of Autumn

blue loch and a book slae

We’ve reached the cusp between autumn and winter. The blue loch reflects dark skies. There’s pumpkins and wind and rain and piles of leaves everywhere. Autumn is almost over.

And yet, we still have brighter days and blue skies. Sometimes.

Sisters at the Edge of the World

Sisters at the Edge of the World cover
  • The main characters are fiercely bonded chosen sisters, one of them neurodiverse.
  • The story is set in 1st century Scotland and features the battle of Mons Graupius between the Roman invaders and the Caledonian tribes.
  • There’s romance, but it’s rather complicated romance this time.
  • The stone circle is still there in all its glory.
  • The castle is not, obviously, but there is a great round house where it will be one day. And a wee hoosie in the woods.

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Sally Cronin recently featured SISTERS as a new book on her shelves here.

Read the article New novel highlights Roman history in North East from Grampian Online.

Excerpt

Quote from SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD

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.

My About Page

Read my bio and see all the social links and articles here.

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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

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. Happily, I am less monstrous now.

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

Sisters at the Edge of the World cover

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 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

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Scottish Fiction from Aberdeenshire

Scottish Fiction from Ailish Sinclair. Quote from contemporary novel TENDU.

I write contemporary and historical Scottish fiction, often set in the area of Scotland where I live, Aberdeenshire. My historical novels combine little known dark events with romance. There’s witches and bears and kidnappers and Romans to be found in them, detailed below. My contemporary writing is a lot naughtier, though still dark and romantic, and coming soon.

I also take a LOT of photos, as is evidenced throughout the site.

Here on the blog I write about castles, stone circles, living with chronic illness and writing. See my about page here.

Newsletter

Go here to sign up for occasional emails that always include some exclusive photos and news of my writing and life. They’re a more intimate space than the blog.

Chosen Sisters, Romans and Romance

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

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.

Witchcraft and a Handsome Laird

The Mermaid and the Bear cover

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

Review from Tonya Ulynn Brown: “Before I go any further, I just have to say, this is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read…

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

Kidnapping, Slavery and Friendship

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 Editor’s Pick

Contemporary Scottish Fiction: Dark Ballet Romance

Quote from TENDU by Ailish Sinclair. Dark and sexy Scottish Fiction.

And coming Spring 2023, a dark and sexy contemporary romance series, starting with TENDU.

Scotland’s all misty lochs and magical forests and perfect boyfriends, right?

The dark of the dungeon soon proves otherwise.

These books are so naughty that I’m worried nobody will be able to look me in the face again after reading them. But not that worried. They’re going to be released anyway 🙂

See the posts A Ballet Novel and a Tale of Publishing Woes and Byronic Heroes and the Bad Boys of Ballet

Pre-order should be available soon.

Further Insight into my Scottish Fiction:

Updates

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Scottish Fiction from Ailish Sinclair

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

Review

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 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. They’re a more intimate space than the blog.

Writer’s Tip Jar