"FUIMUS - We Have Been"

"FUIMUS - We Have Been!" motto of Clan Bruce


All material on SHIMMERCASTDREAMS copyright of Marie Bruce and may not be reproduced without the author's permission.


Thursday, 1 December 2016

WRITER'S DREAM; Switching Genres...Moving On


The end of an era beckons...

The air tonight has the bite of frost in it, so I am curled by the fire with my laptop and a home-made Pumpkin Spice latte (made with Baileys Pumpkin Spice) which is delicious.   December has begun and with it the thrill of anticipation of a new year to come. My birthday was just over a week ago and so this time of year always feels like a fresh start to me as my solar year begins anew.

It is an exciting time and a new future glimmers on the horizon of my life.  Over the course of this year I have been reassessing my writing work, pondering on where I want to take it and I have come to the conclusion that I am actually in the process of switching genres.   This has been happening so gradually I hadn't really noticed, yet now it has come to the point where I need to make the final leap, once and for all and become more of a mainstream self-help and psychotherapy writer.   

There are several reasons for this.  First of all it feels like a natural progression of my work and it is something I have been working towards with my night classes for the past three and a half years. 

Secondly the Mind, Body, Spirit market is not what it was when I first started out in the late 1990's when it was a huge upcoming trend.  It hasn't weathered the financial crash that well; some magazines have folded, others are fast losing readers and struggling to stay afloat, publishing houses have closed down their MBS imprints completely. Budgets are now so tight that there is little room for freelancer fees and the market on the whole has shrunk to the size of a pin head. 

A big part of being a writer is keeping an eye on the market and I noticed this shrinkage beginning some years ago, which is why I started psychotherapy training.  It was obvious that the MBS genre was starting to sink - bookshops no longer house the large MBS sections that they used to have on display and while I am sure the genre will recover in time, I couldn't sit back and wait for that to happen.  I needed to branch out and I have successfully published my first psychotherapy pieces this year. 

It is impossible to move forward into your future if you are clinging on to the past.  Part of reinventing yourself is letting go of what no longer serves you best.  For me this means letting go of my regular witchcraft column with Spirit&Destiny magazine, and while I might still write magical features on a freelance basis for other magazines, on the whole I feel that my work on Wicca has come to an end.  I have been writing about witchcraft for 20 years!  I have published books, features, columns, home-study courses and music, all on a witchcraft theme.  I have been Spirit&Destiny's highest paid keystone columnist for well over 8 years so I've had a great run with them, and with witchcraft as my topic...I am rather bored of it now though.

Also it is impossible to maintain ones Unique Selling Point as a columnist when another writer is blatantly emulating one's entire format, within the pages of the same publication!  It has been irritating, saps away enthusiasm and I have thought of leaving the magazine a couple of times in recent years, but then part of being a trend-setting best-selling author is that other writers will try to follow in your footsteps.  Still I am moving onto a new topic of expertise and a new genre now, so it hardly matters, because anyone wanting to follow in my psychotherapy writing footsteps will have to pay for and sign up to four years of training first, which is bound to be slightly off-putting! 

Even a dream job has its downside and mostly I feel a sense of relief at leaving the column behind...No more full day photo-shoots to endure. No more urgent text required, for no fee, to help fill out a staffers feature.  No more editor requests for my original ideas only to see those ideas written up by a staffer, leaving me a great idea down and not a penny up in payment!  It's like that scene in Devil Wears Prada when Andy throws her phone into the fountain then breaths a sigh of relief to be free of it all - that's a bit how I feel too. 

I feel ready to nurture my new psychotherapy and self-help topics and to keep publishing those instead, rather than witchcraft items.  And although the team at S&D are not a fan of this change, my editors at Time Inc are supportive of this fresh topic so I will still be writing nonetheless and you can still read my work in your favourite magazines, with the exception of Spirit&Destiny - I finish with them in February 2017. 

In addition I have the remainder of my final year of psychotherapy training to complete too, with essays to write over Christmas (and beyond!), so I will be busy with that.  Once that course is completed next summer I am hoping to go on to do a Masters Degree in a year or so, in order to further my writing prospects.  

You cannot become a butterfly without first going into the dark chrysalis, so while it might seem as if I am not doing much, I am actually working hard and pushing my writing career up to the next level.  This is going to take time, so the blog might take a back seat for a while, but I will do my best to keep posting on progress!  I know those readers who have followed my work for years are likely to stay with me through into a new genre and a new era, even if there are bumps in the road to come...for those who only want to read about witchcraft, I have left a large back catalogue of work for you to enjoy.  

I will always be pagan, magic will always fill my life and will no doubt find its way into my blog posts and tweets, but I feel that my stint as a popular Media Witch, a Wiccan Icon as I was once dubbed,  has come to a welcome end.  A new era of writing beckons...I hope my readers are as excited by this as I am.
Blessed be. 








Sunday, 20 November 2016

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Angel Luck and Blessings

http://www.bellakotak.com 
I have been pondering on luck a lot just recently and wondering what makes one person seemingly blessed with good luck and another seemingly cursed with bad luck?  I do believe that a lot of it is down to attitude, but the fact remains that bad things do happen to good people.  Take the recent tram crash in London - all those people were doing is heading off to work as usual when bad luck struck them down.  It is unfair and tragic and it makes us question the fragile fabric of life.  

For me luck is largely a matter of what you focus on the most. In the realm of magic, like attracts like, so if you concentrate on how unlucky you are then you are effectively magnetising misfortune your way.  Changing your thinking to a more positive mindset isn't always easy, because to begin with, you will still be dealing with the misfortune you have already attracted. It is hard to be optimistic in the face of ill-fortune and unlucky events but that is exactly how you turn things around.

I have always believed that I am protected and guided by a higher force; if something bad happens then it is designed to teach me something, or make me even stronger and more resilient.  I try to trust that my path will be smoothed out for me and that, so long as I put the effort in and work hard to reach my goals, I can achieve whatever I set my mind to.  This kind of methodical achievement is often referred to as luck and I do feel very fortunate to have ticked off so many life goals. 

But that doesn't mean that I don't have bad days, or that I have never felt let down - I do and I have.  Sometimes I wonder if my luck might run out, but deep down I believe that luck and blessings are not a finite resource.  There is always plenty to go around for all of us to share and enjoy. 

A lot of it is about recognising an opportunity and I must admit that in recent years, I haven't always been great at this.  People who have been betrayed in the past sometimes look for trickery where there is only opportunity and I have certainly been guilty of this myself!  I am trying to be more watchful for opportunities as they come about, so that I can grab them with both hands.

Sometimes it is our fears that get in the way of good luck.  A lucky chance might present itself to you, only to be turned away because it has triggered fear or anxiety.  How many young starlets have run away from opportunity when stage fright struck?  The idea of success can be just as fear inducing as the idea of failure, and both fears can block out the lucky breaks.  

I tend to keep the good fortune flowing into my life with a few witchy tricks.  When I feel weighed down, I do a bit of decluttering and have a clear out. When I feel misfortune is sweeping in I do a cleansing ritual in my home to banish negativity.  When it is my attitude that is becoming negative I re-read my favourite self-help books to boost my positivity.  I try to focus on all the good things in my life right now by writing out a gratitude list of five things each day.  Once I have made the changes I need to make personally and at home, then I cast my focus to the wider world.

I like to cast a quick lucky angel spell by lighting a tealight and saying a few words of blessing.  I do this daily. This activates the threefold law, which states what you send out you get back times three, so it is a great way to draw good fortune your way, at the same time as putting some much needed love and light out into the universe for those who need it most. Let the angels take your blessing where they will.  Then keep your eyes peeled for the threefold return to bring lucky blessings your way. 

Magic doesn't have to be complex to be effective.  Blessed be!

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Study Fatigue

Just another few months to go...

It is a chilly morning and the first snow of winter is falling as I write.  I have a Yankee Snowflake Cookie candle burning, which is one of my favourites for this time of year.  I love its warm, sweet scent, like Christmas baking.  

I'm trying to shake off a chest infection and just lately it feels like I have had one bug after another, which has left me feeling drained and tired. Apparently Study Fatigue is a real thing and a lot of students do get it when they are coming to the end of a long period of learning.  The cure as always is 'plenty of rest' but that is a luxury I can't afford as I have too much to do for my course.

I have just 30 classes left, which sounds like a lot, but to me it feels surreal that in just a few months I will have finished all my academic training and I will be a Psychotherapist.  I will have a whole new profession as a back up to my writing and as another string to my writing bow.  I can't help wondering "How did I get here?" because it seems like no time at all since I embarked on a Level 1 taster course - and now I'm just 30 lectures from the finish line of qualification!

I have 6 essays to write this academic year too, so each holiday will be taken up with that.  Again, this means that I won't have any real down-time to rest, so the fatigue will only get worse, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now and I just need to press ahead.

I am also coming to the end of my additional training course with Cruse Bereavement Care.  I have just one full day of training left on that and then I will have a grief counselling qualification too.  It has been a really interesting course and I'm very glad I did it. I know it will be a valuable life skill to have. 

Soldiers say that the training is always the hardest part of any mission and that they just want to get out there and get on with the job. I am starting to understand what they mean.  After years in the classroom learning, practising skills and writing essays on the theory of  psychotherapy and how to apply different counselling models etc,  I feel now that I just want to get out into the field and help my clients. I feel ready to start putting what I know to some practical use and to reaping the benefits of my training. 

So 30 classes to go - of course I'm counting them down! - and then I will be free of college and night classes and essays and portfolio building and presentations...all the hoops will have been jumped and all the boxes ticked off and 4 long years of training will have come to an end.  I will have my freedom again and be ready to spread my wings and fly forwards into my future as a practising counsellor and psychotherapy writer. It feels like a big future!






Sunday, 30 October 2016

ONCE UPON A DREAM; The Swan Queen

http://www.bellakotak.com/
The Swan Queen

There once lived a Swan Queen, whom you may know, for she is frequently seen gliding upon the waters of her enchanted Loch.  She paddles around, minding her own business and dreaming the dreams only a Swan Queen can dream...dreams of love and freedom, of spells cast and curses broken, of her enemies vanquished and victory won.

The other birds often stare at her, wondering what her secret is, for surely all birds should quack and waddle and gossip in groups... shouldn't they?  Yet the Swan Queen does none of this.  She has her dreams and she knows what she must do to achieve them.  So she continues to paddle hard, keeping herself moving steadily forward and serenely staying her course.

The other birds dislike her for it; for her independent spirit and the strange allure of her magic, so they often taunt her by pecking at her and gossiping about her whenever they can. All they see is a swan gliding effortlessly upon the water - they never look deeper to see all the hard work the swan is doing beneath the surface, to get to where she wants to be.

Occasionally it all gets too much and the Swan Queen is forced to retaliate by demonstrating her strength and power with a show of aggression, for she is no coward and her power is formidable.  But then she is called a 'crazy bird' and renamed Trouble and the gossip continues on and on.  It is always the ugliest ducks that quack the loudest and try to waddle their great weight around the most.

The Swan Queen understands; their spite is all they have to recommend them. They can't help being ducks anymore than she can help being a swan.  But still, it irritates her from time to time and she would rather show her strength and get back to serenity than try to change the ducks into something else...something they were never meant to be. She cannot make them swans.

And so the Swan Queen continues to work hard at her dreams, paddling away beneath the surface where none can see, determined to one day leave the ducks far, far behind, flying away to freedom and taking her magical allure with her. It isn't always easy to be enchanted.

She bears it as gracefully as she can. She doesn't allow it to ruffle her feathers too much, for she is a Swan Queen and she can regally rise above it. 

And for putting up with all that, the Swan Queen deserves a medal...for it would bring out the gold of her crown!




Saturday, 22 October 2016

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Cats, Books and Wine


It is almost midnight, the Witching Hour, and I have been trying to study - but Pyewackett had other ideas!  He kept sitting on my books and putting his claws through my notes and basically demanding attention.  He is a little under the weather today and we have a regular visit to the cat-doctor coming up - I don't even dare type the V word or he will hide under the bed until January!  He's a senior citizen cat now at 18 years old, so he needs medical attention more frequently, just like old people do.  So after lots of cuddles, kisses and fuss, he has finally settled down on my feet and he is purring softly in victory.  

I wonder why cats are so drawn to books?  Sitting on them, climbing on them, sleeping on them, demanding attention when you are trying to read or study?  Pye even likes me to read to him when he is feeling very poorly, but he has to be in the right mood. He seems to enjoy funny cat poems...  I just read him "I Could Pee On This" from Poems By Cats. It made me laugh and praise him for being a much better behaved cat than the feline in the poem, so maybe its the attention he likes, rather than story-time. But I am happy to read to him and he seems happy to listen. Is that weird? Does anyone else read to their cat? Please say yes!

After all this feline interference, it was clear I wasn't going to get any studying done tonight, so I thought I'd write a quick blog post instead.  It is nearly Halloween and I've got my ceramic pumpkins out,  each burning a Yankee By The Fireside tealight, so I am surrounded by glowing faces and the room is filled with the warm, spicy, woody fragrance of mulled wine and a log fire. I have a glass of red wine beside me - just plain, not mulled - and I am feeling grateful for a cosy home and a snugly cat. I am aware that I have to make the very most of Pye now as I try to face up to his mortality. The years seem to be catching up with him all of a sudden. But he is still as mischievous as ever, as proven by the claw-marks in my college notes!

I am looking forward to half-term.  Our college course has been very disrupted so far due to our tutor being off sick with stress, so classes have been cancelled, or taken by a supply tutor, which is far from ideal.  Our own tutor is back now though and so normal classes will resume after half-term.  I am a bit concerned that we are now five weeks behind, and we've been informed that we are to be given two essays to write over the Christmas holidays this year, to try and make up the time.  This hardly seems fair, but I do want to pass this course and qualify.  

I can see the glimmer of the finish line in the distance now and I just want to get there and get through it, so I can move forward in my life. It will have been a long four years of studying by then.  I honestly don't know how vets, pharmacists etc do it...years and years of training...and no guarantee of a pass at the end of it all.  It really is a form of mental torture. And I have paid good money for this torture.  Money which could have been spent on Scottish holidays and Chanel perfumes and all those lovely things that keep life liveable.  Alas, I have to write six more essays between now and June next year - six! Good thing I'm a writer by trade then...and a fairly productive one too, despite Pyewackett's best efforts!
Good night x




Monday, 10 October 2016

BOOK NOOK; White Rose Rebel by Janet Paisley


"Maybe it was just pride and he wasn't man enough to admit being wrong. Maybe he couldn't face Anne, humbled, and back down. Not to the woman he loved..."

White Rose Rebel is the first novel I have ever read that takes place, in part, at Fort George among the Black Watch.   It tells the story of Anne Farquharson, a woman who is in love with two men. The first is Alexander, a Jacobite and the second is Aeneas, a soldier in the Black Watch ...so far, so my life and this book has certainly turned my mind towards thoughts of Inverness!

It is a very Scottish book, written in the mingled languages of English, Scots and Gaelic (translations are at the back of the book) and the Scots accent leaps from every page.  It is quite bawdy and vulgar in places, but then that's the Scots for you - to say they're oversexed would be an understatement!  In fairness there was little else to do in the Highlands in the 18th Century.  It's an atmospheric read and I could almost breathe in the fresh mountain air and smell the pine forests and the heather of the Highlands as my eyes drank in the descriptions of places I know and love. 

Anne is a valiant supporter of Bonnie Prince Charlie and her dearest wish is to see the Stuart King restored and the Union with England broken.  It is basically a story of the Scottish bid for Independence and the events that lead up to the final Jacobite Uprising of 1745.  Please note - it's an Uprising - it's only a Rebellion if you're totally English, which I'm not.

I found this book to be very moving and I had a physical response to it.  In the run up to the Battle of Culloden I had butterflies in my stomach and a feeling of dread, as I knew what was coming. Reading the battle scene was heart-rending and I had tears in my eyes.  I have been to the battle site of Culloden Moor; I have photos of it on my phone and I could visualise the battle clearly in my mind's eye. It was a difficult few chapters to read, as history repeated itself on the page. 

Anne is a figure from history that I had never come across before, and while this is a fictionalised version of her part in the Uprising, she was a known Jacobite in her own right.  I didn't warm to her as a character though, largely because she has an over-developed sense of entitlement and uses both the men she loves to provide for her every need and whim.  She is demanding and belligerent and I felt sorry for the Scotsmen having to deal with women like her on a daily basis and provide for them.  I only began to sympathise with Anne towards the end of the story, when she is faced with the consequences of her actions and has developed a sense of humility.

Reading about the destruction of the Clans was tough as well.  The aftermath of Culloden was brutal; the banning of tartan made me stop reading and put on my red tartan arasaid in defiance!  I also learnt things from this novel - for instance, that the Fort George I have seen on my visits to the Highlands was actually built in order to keep the Scots in check, after Culloden. Ironic that the bag-pipes that were banned at the time now play loud and proud at the Fort George Highland Tattoo each year!  

Sad too, that the Scots Regiments of Fort George are usually some of the first soldiers deployed by the modern UK government and the fighting spirit of the Highlanders is now shackled to the whim of Westminster and the Crown.  If only more had voted "YES" in 2014 the Scots could have won their Independence. Alas the Jacobites fell in vain.

If you like Scottish history or you have enjoyed the Outlander series then you will love White Rose Rebel.  It is a gripping read and it has made me even more excited for my return to the Highlands in September next year, when I go to Dornoch.  I really can't wait for that! And yes, I will be wearing my Bruce tartan and Clan brooch! The Jacobite spirit lives on.

You can buy the novel by clicking here   Enjoy! 



Sunday, 9 October 2016

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Living a Pretty Life


There is a saying that a beautiful woman has a beautiful home. That has certainly been proven true to me among the women I know and I do believe that women are naturally drawn to beauty of all kinds. We love sunsets, snow falls, flowers, full moons, baby animals...the list is endless. 

Naturally we want to bring some of that beauty into our home so that we can enjoy it everyday.  While a man might head off to B&Q with a practical task in mind and the tools he needs to get the job done, a woman is more likely to shop from her senses, looking for tactile things with which to create an atmosphere, so she will head straight for the soft furnishings and candles.  

To women cushions, throws, crockery and candles are tools, though we'll never get a man to see the sense of it!   They are tools because they create warmth and comfort, a sense of plenty and fragrant light to cheer the darker nights.  Atmospheres are like magic and a bad day can be lifted with the help of a luxury bath creme and a scented candle. Women know this instinctively...and it shows in our shopping baskets! 

I think of it as living a Pretty Life, which is the kind of lifestyle I like to lead.  It's not about having lots of money to fritter away either - you can pick up scented tealights from Poundland if you're strapped for cash, and they will still create a pretty glow.  It is more about creating an atmosphere of abundance by being selective in the things you do buy.

I have one rule - if its a choice between pretty and plain, I always buy pretty.  Why settle for something plain when you can get something pretty for around the same price?  Over the years this simple rule has enabled me to build up a home full of beautiful things and I apply it to everything, from notebooks and office supplies to egg-cups and tea-sets. In order to earn a place in my house it needs to be pretty as well as practical. 

When you take this attitude to shopping, you will be surprised at how quickly you build up a collection of 'pretties' that visitors comment on.  Recently I had a gas worker at my home to service the boiler and he told me "You've got a lovely house.  My wife will love it; she's been thinking of decorating.  Do you mind if I text her some pictures?" lol  It's always nice to be an inspiration! 

You have to be your own Muse. If you make the decision to bring beauty into every aspect of your life then your life will be beautiful, because the law of attraction states that like attracts like and what you focus on is what you get. And its so simple - just buy Pretty! 

There are some women who seem to have everything; who live successful lives of elegance and glamour, surrounded by beautiful things. Everything they do has beauty attached to it; everything they own adds to their glamour and their dog matches their decor! We've all seen woman like this on TV, You Tube and across social media such as Instagram.  Allow yourself to be inspired by them; don't give in to pangs of envy which will destroy your sense of abundance, focusing your mind on the things you lack.

Instead, choose to live a Pretty Life, even if you're on a budget. Choose to buy the pretty option, even if you have to save up a bit longer to afford it. Be your own Muse of inspiration and inspire other people in turn. Because when people start to copy you, that's how you know you've created something beautiful and people want to take the atmosphere you've created away with them to their own homes.  Now that's a compliment! Happy Shopping.