7 impertinent questions for Ailish Sinclair

Set in the the late sixteenth century, at the height of the Scottish witchcraft accusations, The Mermaid and the Bear , by Scottish Author Ailish Sinclair – out now in paperback and Kindle – is a story of triumph over evil, hope through adversity, faith in humankind and – above all – love.

Now I know what you’re thinking – well that sounds terrific Wee Lassie, I would really like to read that! But why are you talking about it? Well, never fear my Wee Readers , I shall explain all. Recently I’ve received some very exciting news – fellow Author, Ailish Sinclair, has had her book – The Mermaid and the Bear – published. I was very excited anyway, as I am when any fellow writing Lassie gets her book published – especially when they mention me in the acknowledgements ( buy it and check it out, I’m mentioned under my birth name Charlotte) – and then something occurred to me. Ho, ho, I said, this is something my Wee Readers should know about, after all by your very nature you are readers. So thus, with the idea in place I approached Ailish herself, and formed a plan.

The basic idea for this post was an interview, which is kind of what we ended up with, but with a bit of twist. As we already knew each other, the questions didn’t have to be quite so formal, they could be…down right impertinent even. Okay, let’s start with a Wee Introduction: Ailish Sinclair is an author from the north of Scotland – like yours truly – who was trained as a dancer in London; before returning back up North, where she taught ballet and met her husband. She now lives beside a loch with said husband and two children, surrounded by castles and stone circles, where she writes and dances (yes, still) and apparently eats a lot of cake.

Ailish loves Stone Circles

Her book is refreshingly also set up North in the region of Aberdeenshire, in the late sixteenth century – during a period of our history that’s not often talked about by the wider world, or indeed Scotland itself: the Aberdeen Witchcraft panic of 1597. There’s a real feeling of authenticity when it comes to Sinclair’s writing: from the clear amount of research that has gone into every aspect of late sixteenth century life, right down to the accurate Scottish dialect that many of the characters speak in. I’m not going to harp on too long about this, since it’s neither the focus of the book nor this post , but it’s very rare to find Doric in a modern book – which if you’re like me and live in a place where that’s just how people talk , it’s nice to not be left out for once. Another inclusive detail in Ailish’s novel is the fact that her heroine – Isobell – is a plus sized women, 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!

Alright, enough with the introductions already, on with the impertinent questions.

7. As a fellow Writing Lassie from up here in Scotland, would you say your book has something more, or deeper, to say about Scottish culture than can be found in other books?

I live in Aberdeenshire, where the book is set, and have done so for most of my life. I hope my deep love for the countryside comes across in the narrative, and that I’ve captured the way people speak and behave towards one another here. I had to tone down the local language somewhat to make it easier to understand. ‘Ken fit like?’

6. You’ve mentioned before in other interviews that you become quite intense with your research when you’re writing a Historical Novel. So, my question is, what’s the maddest thing you’ve ever done in the name of research?

Eating primroses? Sliding down dangerous cliff sides in bare feet? Cross examining the poor wardens in St Nicholas Kirk? I’m not really sure about the maddest. The hardest part was knowing when to stop. When is enough information enough? Research could go on forever, but once the story has formed firmly round it, and you know what sort of underwear everyone was wearing, it’s probably time to write the book.

5. Now that you’re getting published, and you can look back on your career with a clinical eye – what would you say was the first moment you felt like a real writer?

I actually think the most precious writing time is well before publication is even being considered. It’s that first draft. Anything is possible then. Fall in love with your story and your characters and they will lead you to all sorts of places you never imagined possible. So, to answer your question: when I was working on the first draft, and wanting to write it ALL the time, rushing home to get back to it, thinking about it ALL the time… that’s when I felt like a real writer.

4. As a confessed recovering Chocoholic, was it terribly difficult to leave the substance out of The Mermaid and the Bear?

Well, I felt deeply sorry for my poor characters that they couldn’t have any chocolate of course, but not so sorry that I withheld it from myself. I have to confess that I am, in fact, not in recovery, and have no intention of ever being so!

3. Your new novel – The Mermaid and the Bear – deals with the long-forgotten Aberdeen witchcraft panic of 1597. By choosing this subject you have brought the voices of women unjustly forgotten by history into the public eye again. What I want to ask is, is there a feminist undertone to your choice of subject matter; and if not, is there some other reason you were drawn to that particular area of Scottish history?

Given that 85% of those accused of witchcraft in Scotland were women, yes, there is definitely a feminist side to the novel. Women supporting each other, standing strong against misogyny, and believing they have the right to aspects of life that were the dominion of men at the time, and even now, do come into the story.

2.Okay, let’s dig a little deeper. If you were put on the spot, like I’m doing to you now, and you were forced to choose a person or persons (plural), that you really admired in that part of history. Who would it be?

Anyone who stood up to oppression and abuse. These people rarely make it into the recorded history of the time, so historical fiction provides scope to write about bravery, love and heroic acts as they might have happened. When bad events occur there are always those who stand strong and true, often among those who are persecuted themselves.

1. Alright final question, and then I’ll let you go. Would you say that the romantic hero of The Mermaid and the Bear – The Laird – resembles anyone you know in real life?

While aspects of his character were inspired by a local historical Laird, my fictional Laird is a little bit like my own husband. I am lucky to be married to a man who accepts people as they are, doesn’t judge anyone on outward appearance, and has an open heart and mind, just like Thomas Manteith!

Ailish Sinclair and Husband
Ailish and Husband house shopping

I love that final answer, it always make me well up – especially if you’ve read her mention of him in the acknowledgments.

If you’ve enjoyed these impertinent questions to the emerging Author Ailish Sinclair, remember to follow my wee blog if you haven’t already, and check me out on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and my Tumblr account – or sign up to the Wee Mailing List. However if you’ve also enjoyed the long suffering answers of Ailish herself, remember to follow her wee blog here and sign up to her Mailing List here. Also check her out on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest , Facebook and Goodreads. And don’t forget to check out the The Mermaid and the Bear, now out on Kindle and Paperback where all decent books are sold. Until next time my Wee Readers, have a bonny day.

Moving Round the North: or the eight places in Aberdeenshire you should see before the world ends

What ho, Wee Readers both old and new. My last post was let’s face it, interesting but a bit of downer all round – so I resolved to write about something a bit more cheerful. But that left the question, what exactly? I have things to say about, many different topics and no doubt you’ll hear about all of them in time – but they often tend to descend into a bit of a rant. And I didn’t really feel like doing that so soon after my last epic one. And then like a shining light descended from on high, it came to me. Scotland, specifically the North of Scotland. What on Earth am I talking about? Well, sit down and I shall explain.

If it wasn’t clear from my chosen pseudonym, I am a Scottish Lass – or Quine as we say in the North – and have always been very proud of that fact. I love Scotland, I love everything about it and judging by the fact that you are currently reading a blog called The Wee Writing Lassie – you probably have a slight fondness for it too. I am particularly fond, as you might expect, of my home county of Aberdeenshire. Though sadly sometimes it feels like we’re often forgotten by the world at large ; indeed even our own country men and women, struggle to understand the Doric accent of Aberdeenshire. So, I say enough is enough, people should know what we have to offer and so here we are, moving round the North of Scotland – and the eight places in Aberdeenshire / Aberdeen city you really should visit before global warming turns this planet into nothing more than a husked out shell. What? Too dramatic?

8. Tyrebagger Stone Circle

Tyrebagger Stone Circle
Behold the Standing Stones of Tyrebagger
Recumbent Standing Stones
A Bonny standing stones

Situated just outside of Aberdeen, Tyrebagger Stone Circle is a very hard place to find. You can’t find it by typing a name into Google maps and following the road layed out for you dilagently right into the thing’s car park. There is no car park at Tyrebagger Stone Circle, just a country lane, and a small patch of dirt beside a qaurry and a field. And even then you have to get out and walk a bit up another small country path, until you get to another field where you should see the tall standing stones of Tyrebagger just visable over the horizion. I’m not trying to put anyone off going, really, once you finaly reach it – this beutiful Neol/ Bronze Age Recumbant Stone Circle is more than worth the effort it will have taken to find the blasted thing. But I’m a firm beliver of going into something with your eyes wide open, so I’ll be honest, if all you’re looking for is a fun day out seeing round the sights of the North of Scotland, Tyrebagger may not be for you. However if you’re determined, and don’t mind a few tears on the road while you scream at your stupid Satnav, because it contuines to insiste you’ve arrived even though you’re still on the highway – then all the more power to you. You won’t be dissapointed with what you find at the end of your long, long journey.

7. Broomend of Circhiy Stone Circle

Broomend of Circhiy Stone Circle
Broomend of Circhiy

Situated near the Scotish town of Inverurie, The Broomend of Circhie Stone circle is a lot easier to find than the last entry on this list, it’s even got a car park. Technically speaking it’s a Henge – yeah like that one – with three standing stones placed in the middle, at least one of which is a Class 1 Pictish stone. That particular stone was placed there in the ninetieth century and bears the symbols of the Pictish Beast, and the Crescent and V-road. Now, is that the stone pictured in the photo above? Well, honestly I’m not sure, that was just the best picture I personaly have of the Circle so we’ll just have to live with that.

6. Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar Castle
Dunnottar castle on the cliff
Challenge Accepted
The Lion's Den
The Lion’s Den

Dunnottar Castle ( Scottish Gaelic Name: Dun Fhoithear, “fort on the shelving slope”) is a particularly large ruin up here in the north of Scotland. So large in fact that I couldn’t even finsih walking round it, before becoming tooo exhusted to contuine. Tough perhaps that had more to do with the mass amount of stairs you have to climb down to get to the bloody thing. And don’t even get me started on the ones you have to climb up to leave – they’re the same stairs, its just a lot harder coming back up. So the moral of our story, don’t attempt Dunnottar Castle if you’re in anyway, sick, tierd, or just started you’re period. But in all seriosness this is a fantastic piece of Scottish History. Sometimes it seems like it never ended for the densions of Dunnottar Castle – if they weren’t hiding the Scottish crown jewels from Oliver Cromwell’s invading army in the 17th century; they were forfiting their titles by taking part in the Jacobite rising of 1715. I think I even heard somewhere that the Vikings attack Dunnottar, though possibly before there was a castle there.

All in all, this ruin is well worth the price of admission, though I would advise packing some energy bars and bottled water before setting off down that hill.

5. The Bass of Inverurie

The Bass of Inverurie

Behold the hill you see before you is all that remains of Inverurie Castle more commonly referred to as the Bass of Inverurie. No one is quite sure who first raised the Bass or when – but by the time of 1176 it was held by the Leslie family and remained in use until the fourteenth century. Now the only sign of that castle are the two hills left in a middle of a graveyard. If you happen to come across it, it’s really a sight to behold once you reach the top of one of those hills where once a mighty, or at least fairly impressive castle sat. But be careful not to slip, it’s a nasty fall.

4. East Aquhorthies Stone Circle

East Aquhorthies Stone Circle
Long live the Old Gods of Scotland

Dating from the Neolithic / Bronze Age the Easter Aquhorthies Stone circle is one of the most well preserved exambles of a recumbent stone circles or so says wikapiedia anyway. Being one of the few to still have all of it’s stones intacked and unmoved. Yeah, the Scottish people – and by that I mean it’s churches – had a habit of stealling standing stones and building them into their churchs. The part of me that wants to see the good in people, might say that this was done mearly for practiclatity. The Scotish church builders had no idea what these circle of stones were for – in fact even to this day that knowledge still remains lost to us – and they needed stones to build their churches, why shouldn’t they take them? However the other part of me, which is far more scepticle in nature, thinks that at least partly this was a symbolic act. The new religion – the Christ God – concouring the old – who ever came before – by litraly using the stones from their places of power to build their own. Though I will admit that this theory relies on the notion that stone circles were places of worship, or even relgious significance. It’s higly likely they were, but unless someone builds a time-machine to go back and litrally ask the bronze age people what they were doing, we may never know that for certain. However, whatever the case, the fact still remains that a lot of our stone circles were dismantled to be built into churches, and houses, and heck even farmer’s fences – with no thought to the history they were destroying, or the damage they were doing to future genrations that will never get to experience many of these circles in their entirety. *gasp* Oh my God I didn’t know that rant was in me.

Okay…so East Aquhorthies Stone circle , a full stone circle, and a great place to stop and eat a picnic at. Moving on now, before something else sets me off.

3. Our Beaches

Fraserburgh Beach
Fraserburgh Beach

Beaches, yes! I love Beaches! And the one fetured above is a particular favourite of mine. Located in the town – or at least near the borders of the town – of Fraserburgh, this particular beach is well known for its sandy dunes. Look in the distance of the picture and you’ll see one particular sandy hill, known as Tiger Hill – so named for the tiger that apparently once got loose and went wondering on it. What’s most intresting about these particular sand dunes is that they’re not natural at all, they are man made. Turn your clock back to World War II and there were no sand dunes on Fraserburgh Beach at all; but rather mounds and mounds of barbed wire. They were meant to protect the town, and by extension Great Britian itself, from Nazi invasion. And before you start saying that’s completly ridiculous – why would the Nazies want to attack a small-ish town in Scotland; just remember that Fraserburgh actualy was bombed during WWII. Granted it wasn’t so much a planned attack as it was, just dropping all the bombs they had left on the nearest availbe settlement while they fled back home, but still the people on the ground didn’t know that.

Wow…that…eh…that got kind of dark didn’t it, Wee Readers? Okay…well…moving on.

2. Daviot Stone Circle

Daviot Stone Circle
The Circle
Daviot Circle meditation
Sitting in the Circle
Standing Stones
Standing Stones

Ah here we are now, Lonehead of Daviot, hands down my faviourte Stone Circle. Dating from the 3rd millennium BC, Daviot’s stone circle is considered one of the earliest structuures in Gordon, erected nearly 5000 years ago and best of all, it has a car park. You might have to walk through a bit of a forest path to get to it, and pass the huts for the Boy Scouts – yes, we have those here too – though it’s a short and well maintained path. And then wow, you’ve reached the stones and they are amazing. You’ve got you’re usual large standing stones, including the always exciting recumbent stone – but what really makes Lonehead fasinating are the smaller stones cituated in the middle of the outter circle. Spirealed into a ring shape and covering most of the inner ring, until all that’s left in the centre is a small circle filled with gravel. This Circle is less good to take a picnic in than say something like East Aquhorthies Stone Circle, but it’s more than worth a spot on your Scottish Bucket List.

1. Las Iguanas

Olives and Guacamole
Holy Guacamole Batman
Mushroom Fajita Stacks
Yum..Mushrooms
Wraps
I’m Hungry

And now we reach the final slot in our list; I struggled for some time with what I should put here. There are many stone circles I’ve yet to mention, but then there are so many up here that it would take all year to list them all. So not a circle, or a castle either, we’ve had enough of them for just now I think. Something new, something different – and then inspiration struck. Earlier this month my family took my Mum out for a Birthday trip round Aberdeen, which included lunch at our favorite vegan restaurant: the Latin American Restaurant & Bar Las Iguanas.

I could spend hours waxing poetically about this wonderful, wonderful place but that would literally take all day to read and nobody has that kind of time anymore. So instead I’ll just tell you what we had, and let Las Iguanas wax poetically for itself.

My Brother and I had: Fajita Stacks – Portobella Mushroom or the Las Iguanas website described it : ‘Cooked to order in our special mix of spices, onions & peppers. With guacamole, grated cheese, jalapenos, roasted tomato salsa & soft wheat tortillas.’

My Dad had : a Burrito Bowl – Pulled Jack-fruit or as described by Las Iguanas website: ‘All the flavors of a burrito without the tortilla. A loaded bowl of salad, spring onion rice, black beans, fresh sliced avocado, grated cheese, slaw & pico de gallo.

And finally my Mum had a gorgeous Coconut curry that for some reason is no longer on Las Iguanas menu on their website, so make of that what you will.

And we all had the very starter dishes of Holy Guacamole : ‘Make your own & season as you choose, with spice-dusted corn chips ; and Peruvian Botija Olives: ‘Olives in a herby marinade’.

And thus with a grumble in our stomachs, our journey through the North comes to an end.

If you’ve enjoyed this foray into the best and most visit-able sights up here in the cold North tip of Scotland, remember to follow the wee blog if you haven’t already. Or check me out on twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and my brand new Tumblr blog. Also for new, rants and pictures alike sign up to the Wee Mailing List. Until next time My Wee Readers, have a bonny day.

The Top 4 Adventures I had on my Holiday

Great now that we have measured and ranked the food – now it is time to move on to the rest of the Holiday. And by that I mean of course, the rest of the holiday that I took pictures of – because you know the old saying, if there’s no photo it didn’t happen. We will begin our tale of Adventure up the cold roads of Scotland with a bowl of chili.

1: The First Adventure

The Prodigal Chili Returns

If you’ve read my previous post you already know how much I loved the Chili at Kristie’s Garden Centre – which was our first stop on our elustrius road trip towards the highlands of Scotland – so I won’t wax poetical about it here. I’ll just say that it was the best chili I’ve ever had at a restaurant…of any kind.

Teapots Galore!!!

Before we move on, my wee readers, I would just like to draw your attention up to the walls of Kristie’s Garden Center’s Restaurant. You may find yourself asking if what you are seeing is real. And yes, yes you are indeed seeing more novelty teapots than any person – not possessed of some kind of magical power – could count. So, want to show off you magic chops? Then comment down below with your guesses. Winner gets a Scottish Macaroon.

And now, my wee Readers, we take our first tentative steps into the Highlands of Scotland. Well, technically I didn’t step into the Highlands, I sat in a car and listened to awesome music. But…the view’s pretty spectacular never the less.

Finally a quick stop off at Logie Steading for tea and a look round the second hand bookshop. Before we reach our country lodge/ timeshare and our journey comes to an end.

2. The Highland Wildlife Park

Not a hop, skip and a jump from our timeshare stands The Highland Wildlife Park. Containing what was sure to be some of the most exciting animals ever to be seen on Scottish shores -or at least they had better be considering how much we payed to get in.

Look a bear

Behold, the majestic horse I captured (in picture form at least) in front of our car’s window. Yet, to truly be amazed look beyond that, up on the hill to the left of the big rock in front of the fence – it’s a bear. A freaking polar bear!!

Run!!

Behold the mighty Buffalo – one of the few clear photos I managed to take while driving round the Wildlife preserve. I’m just glad he didn’t charge 😁

Long Live the Tiger King

This Tiger was a showoff – always prowling in front of us lowly humans as if to say ‘yes, I could eat you. But I won’t because I like the attention. So come on, where’s my close up maggots?’ Wow that kind of got intense…moving on.

3: Cairngorms

This statute is to comenarate twenty years of the Cairngorm ski slopes – I think. To be honest I got so distracted by the statue that I forgot to look at the information underneath.

I’m especially proud of this photo – I took it just outside of the Cairngorm’s restaurant, where we had a particular nice bowl of chips and lentil soup.

Look at this one – can you even tell it was taken in modern day? Okay, you probably can but just turn off your brain for a second and pretend.

4: The Fun Garden at Brodie Castle

The Fun Garden at Brodie Castle is a strange experience. It’s made up like Alice in Wonderland – although I don’t remember any unicorns in Wonderland. But correct me if I’m wrong, I’ve never read the books.

We start by going down the rabbit hole

Marked by its very own GIANT BUNNY – there are no words for how awesome that is 😂

Our first stop in the Fun Garden is the miniature of Brodie Castle, which can make you feel like a giant when you stand inside it.

Then a step round the black and white spinning Teacups.

Then we take a turn near the giant’s table and chair. If you close your eyes and listen you can just hear his voice in the distance: ‘Fe Five For Fun, I smell the blood of a Scottish man.’ Joke’s on him, I’m not a man

Finally, our journey comes to an end with a glimpse of Brodie castle, leaving us feeling very small indeed.

Well, that’s the end of it my Wee Readers – thank you for your patience during the many days, weeks, years it took to complete this post. If you enjoyed this parade of holiday memories check me out on Instagram or follow me on Twitter. Until next time my wee readers, have a bonny day.