8 Strange things I saw while I was definitely not stalking Ailish Sinclair

What Ho, Wee Readers, well it’s certainly been a while now, hasn’t it? I know, I know. I did put up a small post last month crowing about the social media platform I just joined; but as far as long haul, involved posts go this is the first in a while.

Don’t worry, I promise, it was worth the wait.

Now I’m sure you all remember my good friend Ailish Sinclair – the fellow writing lassie I first interviewed here, when she published her first book back in 2019. And then again here, when she published her second book.

And if you don’t remember those posts, you should certainly remember her books:

The Mermaid and the Bear

Set in a fictional castle in Aberdeenshire, Ailish’s debut novel, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR, blends an often overlooked period of history, the Scottish witchcraft accusations, in particular the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic, with a love story.

Fireflies and Chocolate

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

Available where all good books can be found.

But plugging aside, the point is Ailish and I are good friends, and I admire her greatly as a writer – I wouldn’t have interviewed her, not once but twice, if I didn’t. So you see I am not stalking her, because I don’t need to stalk her. I know this is a strange thing to focus on, but I feel this is an important fact to establish before we start our story. Despite what any authorities may try to tell you, I was not stalking her.

Right now that that’s settled, sit back and enjoy as I recount the strange tale of  “The 8 strange things I saw while I was definitely not stalking Ailish Sinclair”.

8. Chocolate

Look the whole thing sort of spiralled out of control. When I saw her in that shop a week ago I never intended to follow her at all, let alone well…well I suppose if I’m to explain myself, I should really start at the beginning.

And the beginning, I have to say, is really quite mundane. You see I didn’t start out that day knowing I’d see her at all. In fact, all I’d intended to do that day was go for my weekly food shop. So, there I was doing my own shopping, minding my own business, thank you so very much. And who do you think I suddenly saw in the next isle over – that’s right, Ailish Sinclair. After having told me she was out of the country that week.

I thought about going up to her. Saying hello, you know normal not creepy stuff.

But I stopped in shock when I saw what was in her trolley…

Chocolate.

Bars and Bars of Chocolate.

Big Bars, small bars – a whole trolley full of bars of Chocolate.

No judgement or anything.

But…

Really…

That’s weird, right?

I mean that is seriously…not normal.

But whatever, not judging.

But I decided not to go up to her; she seemed annoyed – almost bothered by something. Maybe nervous, she does have a new book recently out. Sisters at the Edge of the World, available at Amazon now.

It’s her first self-published title.

Maybe that was it.

Whatever the case, I finished my own shopping, and decided to put the weird occurrence behind me.

7. Crazy Driving

As I was loading my shopping into my car, I saw Ailish Sinclair again. Just by chance you understand.

She was shoving her bags and bags of Chocolate into her own boot, nibbling on one of the smaller ones as she did so. And she looked so upset, my heart went out to her. I almost went over too, but she suddenly darted into her car – her massive, massive car and skidded out of that car park like she was suddenly on fire.

Or maybe she’d seen a ghost.

It couldn’t be me, could it?

Nah, I’m a nice person. Why would anyone run away from me? In fact, I’m such a nice person that in my concern, I hopped in my own car and went after her.

I followed her calmly down the highway, keeping back just enough so that she probably couldn’t see me in her rear windows – but not so far back that I couldn’t still watch as she…well it’s kind of hard to explain.

It was technically driving I suppose – she was moving her car down the highway. But I was certain that it was no form of driving that would have passed a driving test, of any kind.

To say the whole thing looked erratic at best was like saying a hurricane was just a bit of wind.

Back and forth she skittered across the road, from one lane to the next, as if she couldn’t make up her mind which way she wanted to go. And then with a skidding shriek she suddenly made her choice and shot down a side road.

I followed at a more sedate pace – which meant that from the safe advantage of several car widths away, I could see her shooting down that road. It wasn’t a particularly narrow road, as side country roads go, but because her car is just that big she took up the whole god damn thing.

Thank Goodness we didn’t meet anyone coming the other way, otherwise this wild driving would be significantly less funny and more, well tragic. And I have to tell you Wee Reader, I don’t feel like writing one of those today.

For the next, oh let’s say an hour and a half we drove like that, her metres in front of me taking up the entire width of the road, and me just following like any decent person would when they see a friend, or at least someone they know, start driving like a maniac. We drove like that so long I was lulled into compliancy, so I didn’t really notice where we were driving …that is until we passed the sign.

Welcome to Brodie Castle.

6. Staring at Castles

Followed her up the drive.

Parked behind a tree so she wouldn’t see me, and waited for her to get out of her own car.

Nothing creepy there, I was just concerned is all – besides I like a good castle myself and Brodie is certainly one of the best ones in my oppion.

Maybe I wouldn’t even mind going on one of those guided tours, they’re informative and I haven’t been on one in a while.

I just had to make sure Ailish was okay first. And I’d only know that, when she let go of her steering wheel and got out of the car.

Which, she did, after about twenty minutes.

She got out of her car, and she stood there in front of that castle and stared at it.

Just stood there, still as a ramrod, and stared up at that castle.

And she did that for the next three hours.

Perhaps even longer than that, for I set my car in reverse, turned and drove away when it started to get dark.

Look I’m all for helping, but I think this is just a bit beyond my capabilities.

I mean, I’ve never seen a writer that took what they said on their bio so seriously.

5. Swimming in the Ocean

Thoroughly creeped out, I decided to go to the beach to clear my head.

You know get a bit of blue mind going.

Clear my thoughts.

Maybe I shouldn’t have left her there, just staring at that castle – but come on, that was weird.

Maybe I should have just gone up to her and asked what she was doing but to be completely honest Wee reader, I was afraid to. Afraid of what she might tell me, or maybe I was just afraid of what she might accuse me of.

I’m not a stalker.

I’m not.

It didn’t take me long to find a beach

We’re in the north of Scotland, there’s at least one all the way up the coast.

So it had only taken me about ten minutes to drive away from that castle, and reach that beach.

I tell you this now, because it’s highly relevant to what I say next.

You see when I stepped up to the blue water and gazed out onto its shinning surface, I realised that there was someone already standing on the beach.

I think you can guess who by this point in the post.

That’s right, it was Ailish Sinclair

She’d beaten me to the beach.

The woman who I’d left staring at a castle, had beaten me to a beach that was a ten minute drive away.

And the strangest thing of all Wee Reader, I couldn’t see any sign of her car.

She’d apparently beaten me here without a car.

And if you can believe it Wee Reader, that wasn’t even the strangest thing about the whole situation.

Oh no, that happened when I turned back from trying to catch a glimpse of her car.

Turned back round to the sound of a splash.

She’d jumped into the sea Wee readers, with all her clothes on.

For a moment I could see her there, her arms caught for a brief moment in that over head stroke people get so good at when they’re learning to swim.

And then another splash, and something like a flick of a tail, the flick of a mermaid’s tail and she was gone

Okay…what the fuck?

4. No one lives here – this is a wild Forest

Look…I ran then, I’m not afraid or ashamed to admit it.

I mean wouldn’t you do the same thing?

She had a freaking mermaid tail.

I mean I knew she loved them, but like…whatever I saw then, that was a bit excessive.

Okay maybe I was a little ashamed of myself.

I mean I see one, okay a couple of weird things while I was certainly not stalking my good friend Ailish Sinclair, and all I can do is run away?

I mean I’m not crazy, I certainly saw something. But I’m still not one hundred percent sure what I did see.

All I know is something odd was happening with Ailish.

And so racked with guilt, I drove to her house the next day. I found it on the internet, I’m not a stalker I’m just a very concerned friend. Although I have to say, I thought I’d gone up the wrong road. Because this place…no one could live here, it was in the middle of the freaking woods.

Seriously the track was broken, and pot-holey but I didn’t find one house at the end it. 

Sure I found something that looked a little like a garden, but only because it had a lawn of cut grass and a giant pink bench. 

There was no house, not anymore.

It was almost as if someone was hiding it from me.

So I left the garden, abandoning my car behind a hedge of wild rhododendrons.

And made my way further into the woods, hoping to find some sort of life there.

I didn’t find any life, but I found a lot of flowers.

Got lost for hours trying to find that house, but to be honest I think all I found was myself deeper in a pine plantation than any sane person should go.

I think the house may have been somewhere in the garden, but there was no finding it now.

I was lost.

Lost my car.

Lost my way. 

Possibly even lost my mind.

And that dear reader is when I heard it.

The roar, no the growl, no the scream, of a wild animal.

Oh Christ, I thought to myself, I’m going to die.

All because I was not stalking Ailish Sinclair.



3. Bears…wait no foxes

Look, that noise I heard – it was a growl, I was 99% sure of that. Or at least it was a noise I had never really heard before.

It was a bear.

I was certain of it.

Because Ailish Sinclair loves bears and after what I’d seen her do at the beach, and the castle for that matter, I would have believed her capable of anything.

Certainly releasing a bear…a wild bear back into the forests of Scotland. Sure, why not? Good promotion for her newest book, Sisters at the Edge of the World.

I swear I’m not crazy – I heard a bear growl at me then.

Bears are all over her books – you should see what they get up to in newest one.

I’m not crazy.

I swear I heard a bear.

I just didn’t see one.

And the thing that jumped out of the bush by my feet…wasn’t a bear.

It was a fox.

And a line of her adorable cubs.

I know… I know I heard something in those woods.

Something, that didn’t sound natural. Maybe it wasn’t a bear, but it wasn’t something that belonged in this world either.

And as I stood there, waiting for the large line of fox cubs to finish crossing that forest path, I thought back to all I had seen, to all I had witnessed while I had been innocently not stalking someone. I couldn’t stop the thin sliver of fear crawling up my spine.

I can’t even understand it, after all, nothing I’d seen had been threatening, just weird….and really, who I am I to judge someone for being weird.

And that dear reader is when I heard the voice.

2. Wild Singing

At first, I didn’t know what I was hearing. It sounded a bit like a bird song, but then bird songs don’t have words to them.

I can’t begin to tell you, word for word the song I heard then – for as I turned and followed it up that hilled forest path, the thing kept fading in and out. Not as if the singer kept stopping and starting, but as if their voice and the notes they sang kept getting mixed up with the noises of nature. One second I was listening to a clear line of how much the singer loved nature, and the next it was just the twittering of little birds.

It was almost like, instead of her voice fading in and out, it was the singer herself.

Which is mad right?

I mean, people don’t do that.

Surely, I was just dehydrated from all the not stalking I’d been doing.

Yeah that was it.

And surely once I’d reached the top of the hill, all would be answered. And for the first time in weeks Ailish and I would be able to sit down and have a real conversation about all this madness.

Right?

Right?!

1.    Magic and Witch Stones

It had been sunny when I’d first started up that hill, one of the sunniest days in an already sunny year. I’d been sweating. But I have to say, Wee Reader, it wasn’t like that when I reached the top of the hill.

A thick fog coated everything, trees, rocks, creatures, the sky – it was so thick it almost hid the sun itself. And the song that I’d followed up here, well that had melted into the sound of a cloud over head. Yet still I marched on.

Because I knew where this path lead.

And do you know why?

Because I’ve been here before.

And if you follow Ailish Sinclair’s blog – which you should, check it out here – you should know where we are too.

It’s called the Witch Stone – though I don’t believe it’s actually marking anything to do with witches. Well… historical witches anyway.

Look I’m not saying that Ailish Sinclair is a witch, she’s never said she is. And despite some of the odd things I’ve heard and seen over the course of this little adventure of mine, I’ve seen no evidence of that. At least I don’t think so.

And yet as I clear the top of the small flat hill the stone sits on, I can’t help but notice that this whole place looks like it’s the site of some kind of ritual.

The whole place is covered in the petals of flowers, none the sort that grow here naturally. The stone itself is wearing a crown of the strange flowers 🌸. The air feels smoky as if someone’s lit a fire 🔥 but there’s no smoke, or in fact any sign of a fire at all. And at the centre of the place sits a blue and purple cloth, made of a kind of scratchy, shimmery fabric that feels strange in my fingers when I try and pick it up.

I can still hear the song, but it’s more in the distance now as if it was never really here at all. And as I stand there, holding that strange cloth I can almost swear that I can see Ailish. Just over there by the Witch Stone, I can see her walk towards the stone, and then she’s gone. It’s almost….and I admit that this is really gonna sound crazy. But it’s almost like she’s just walked into the stone.

And I think to myself…. why would she do that?

Now how.

Why?

Why would she step into a stone, standing or otherwise?

I mean maybe she’s using the witch stone as a means to travel to a distance point in the past, probably to the battle of Mons Graupius – that’s where her latest book is set anyways – but it could be anywhere. Anytime. Maybe to Culloden, or back even farther to the trials of the Aberdeen witches, maybe even to a place not yet written about.

It would explain why all her historical fiction is so eerily accurate.

Heavy research, my arse.

She’s using Time Travel Magic!

Which is what we in the buiz call… cheating.

I must be going mad surely, a time traveling author who writes historical fiction about the times she travels back to.

I mean it’s not even a reference to a book she’s written.

What do you think, a crazy reality, or just a mad story? If you’ve enjoyed this strange little trip of mine, don’t forget to follow the Wee Blog if you haven’t already. And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook, Goodreads and TikTok. Also why not subscribe to the Wee Mailing List by October 14th to find out exactly what happened on that hill top from Ailish herself. Also if you’re concerned that she basically vanishes into thin air at the end of my story, why not pop on over to her blog and give it a wee follow. Also check her out on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Goodreads , LinkedIn , Facebook ,Kofi, and TikTok as well. Why not subscribe to her newsletter while you’re at it. And remember, Ailish Sinclair’s latest book ‘Sister’s at the Edge of the World‘ is available now on Amazon. Why not buy a copy, maybe she’ll come out of the stone if you do 😁

7 Intrusive Questions for Ailish Sinclair

What ho Wee Readers, today there’s a wee flash from the past for the Wee Writing Lassie. Those of you who have been following my blog for a while now may remember a wee post I called ‘7 impertinent questions for Ailish Sinclair’– where I interviewed my good friend Ailish Sinclair, about her then recently published book ‘The Mermaid and the Bear’. Which was a historic romance taking place at the height of the Witch Trial craze in the North of Scotland. Well flip forward to 2021, and the sequel to The Mermaid and the Bear, ‘Fireflies and Chocolate’ hits the shelves.

Which is where I come in.

Now obviously I was beyond excited for this, I mean not only was The Mermaid and the Bear fantastic, but I got to personally interview the author which was a really good post for my blog. I know, I know, a selfish motivation for being excited for another’s success, but still the fact remains, I was damned excited to read this book.

Which I can tell you now was absolutely warranted; it is a fantastic book. But first before we go any further, let me just give you a brief (spoiler free) description of Ailish Sinclair’s new book: ‘Fireflies and Chocolate’.

Set in the 1740s ‘Fireflies and Chocolate’ tells the story of Elizabeth Manteith of the Castle, who dreams of adventure, excitement and quite possibly true love. Well, she just might get all three when after a run in with some ruffians in the Aberdeen port, she finds herself kidnapped and sold as an indentured servant all away across the sea to America. After her indentures are sold to a plantation owner, she’s confronted with the hard realities of the world beyond her castle walls. And that’s all I’ll say – you’ll just have to buy the book to find out the rest.

Anyway, I knew that this would be an excellent time to do the follow up interview we always talked about. So off to her house I went. It was easy enough to break in I mean let myself in legally, with a key I did not steal the last time I was willingly let in her house. And just a reminder to all you wee Readers, I did not break in to Ailish Sinclair’s house, no matter what you may later hear. I was safely at home, writing this blog post – and you’re my witnesses to that.

Anyway, onto the questions before I blurt out any other strangely specific denials.

Hi Ailish, how you’ve been doing?

Well, I was lying in the sun eating chocolate cake when you showed up out of nowhere. But you know that. I’ve been doing quite well, writing, cooking and gardening to my heart’s content.

That’s great, any hoo we should probably get started before those police arrive.

It’s okay. I didn’t call them in the end.

7. Hi there Ailish, good to have you back on the blog. So, you’ve got a new book coming out, and this one revolves around the kidnapping of children in Aberdeen during the 18th century. Could you tell us a wee bit about that, and why in particular you were drawn to that subject?

Traumatised voices from the past seem to follow me around. While I was researching the dark history of the Aberdeen witchcraft trials for The Mermaid and the Bear, I came across the kidnapped children and realised that theirs was a story waiting to be told. I don’t like the fact that aspects of history that are uncomfortable often get overlooked or swept under the carpet as it were. If we’re to learn from history we have to look it straight in the face and say: this happened, let’s remember the people that it happened to, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

6. In the past you’ve often talked about the extensive research you do while you’re working on a project; and of course, it shows in ‘Fireflies and Chocolate’ whose world feels uniquely real to the time it’s set in. So, my question is, out of all the elements you had to research for the book, which was the most challenging?

Reading about what happened to those children was deeply distressing. At one point some of them were kept in the town gaol and their parents tried, unsuccessfully, to break down the door to save them. Having been in that dark and dank prison (now a museum), I could imagine what that must have been like, from both a child’s and a parent’s perspective, and it was truly terrible.

5. One of the things I loved about your last book was how it seamlessly blended the fictional characters in the setting with real historical people. And ‘Fireflies and Chocolate’ has a real historic person as a potential love interest for your heroine. Could you tell us a bit about him, and what made you include him in your story?

Peter Williamson, or Indian Peter as he later became known, was a bit of a likely lad who wrote books about his adventures and worked hard to expose those who had made money from the kidnapping. His publications were very useful to me during the research phase and I developed a fondness for his plucky character, so into the book he went! I knew Elizabeth would like him too.

4. In ‘Fireflies and Chocolate’ food seems to mark important milestones in your characters journeys – was this a deliberate choice on your part as the writer, and if so, why?

Yes. Food marks milestones in life, so why not in books? From special holiday food after a difficult time (and I like to give my characters many difficult times), to celebrations like birthdays and graduations, food is always there. It’s interesting, in life as well as fiction, to note who is invited or permitted at these occasions, who is offered the best food, who gets the fancy china, or, as happens to one poor soul in Fireflies and Chocolate, whose hot chocolate is rather spitefully salted, and why… can I offer you a piece of this cake Wee Lassie?

3. Mmm, salty. Anyway, your female characters are so very strong – well they have to be – and yet unlike in a lot of other modern media they still manage to have flaws; could you tell any future or just getting started writers out there, what your process is for writing such strong female characters?

I try to write them as real, rounded, whole people. We are all flawed. We all do and say stupid or ill thought-out things sometimes, so let your characters do that too. Draw from your own life. Get down and dirty on the page with the lads and lassies that you’re writing. Try and feel what they’re feeling and see what their true and immediate reactions to the situations you’ve placed them in would be.

2. I know that I personally found that the inclusion of Scots speaking characters, not just in this book but your last one, felt very special – as Doric and Scots is not usually a language encouraged in the traditional world of publishing. So, my question is, what inspired you to include these elements in your stories in the first place?

I suppose it’s all about being real again. My stories are, at least partly, set in Aberdeenshire so it would be inauthentic not to include the local language. Some of the Doric words are beautiful or funny and strange. They add richness and humour to the vocabulary, though I do try and have the more obscure phrases explained in the narrative so as not to leave anyone in the dark about what’s going on. In The Mermaid and the Bear Isobell has to ask Agnes what a ‘collieshangie’ is, and is told that it’s an uproar or noise. It’s one of the few friendly scenes between the two quines (girls!), and the word helped with that.

1. So, now that you’ve got a second book published, what’s next for Ailish Sinclair?

I’m writing a novel set in Iron Age Scotland just now, featuring the Battle of Mons Graupius. There’s no castle in this one, though much of it is set in the place where the castle from my other books will stand one day. Are you finished with that plate? You don’t need to put it in your bag, I can take it back now. Is that a key to my house?

Before I start my usual signing off message, I’d just like to thank Ailish Sinclair for being an extremely good sport when I mentioned the idea for this blog post to her. No, I did not break into her house just to clarify in case any policemen are reading this – that was part of the joke. What was not was the extreme excellence of Ailish’s latest novel. Seriously, I’m sending the word out now for all you Wee Readers, flip over to Amazon right now and buy that book. Go ahead, we’ll all wait.

You done it? Good.

If you’ve enjoyed this little trespass of mine, don’t forget to follow the Wee blog if you haven’t already. Also check me out on Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, Tumblr and Pinterest for all the good stuff. Also, I recommend signing up for the Wee Mailing List by the 12th of July to find out what the eighth intrusive question I asked to Ailish Sinclair was . Also if you’ve enjoyed Ailish’s long suffering replies to my intrusive questions, why not follow her wee blog; and check her out on Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, Tumblr, and Pinterest for all the good stuff. Also she has a mailing list too. ‘Fireflies and Chocolate’ is available at Amazon (both American and British) and from Waterstones. Until next time Wee readers, keep yourself safe and have a very bonny day. Also, before I forget for a second blog post in a row, if you’d like to support this blog and help me possibly get these posts out quicker, click the button below and buy me a Wee Cup of Coffee on Ko-fi. Also check out Ailish Sinclair’s Ko-fi page and buy her a wee cup too.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

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.

Just a brief note before we leave, if you’ve enjoyed this and other posts like it on the Wee Writing Lassie, why not buy me a Wee Cup of Coffee, or drop me a tip over on Ko-fi. Which is linked to the image below.

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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.

Just a brief note before we leave, if you’ve enjoyed this and other posts like it on the Wee Writing Lassie, why not buy me a Wee Cup of Coffee, or drop me a tip over on Ko-fi. Which is linked to the image below.

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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.

Just a brief note before we leave, if you’ve enjoyed this and other posts like it on the Wee Writing Lassie, why not buy me a Wee Cup of Coffee, or drop me a tip over on Ko-fi. Which is linked to the image below.

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