"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.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

BOOK NOOK; Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

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"We must not look at goblin men,
We must not buy their fruits;
Who knows upon what soil they fed
Their hungry, thirsty roots?"

from Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti

Tomorrow marks the spring equinox, but you wouldn't think so to look outside, as there is still snow on the ground.  It has been a long winter and so I wanted to curl up with a book that took me far away in my mind.  I have dozens of new books on my study shelves waiting to be read, but I reached for Wintersong; a fairytale novel based on the epic poem Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti, which is one of my favourite poems.  

Wintersong tells the story of Elizabeth, the eldest of three children, who befriends a mysterious boy in the woods and unwittingly makes him an innocent promise she doesn't really understand.  Years later a handsome stranger turns up in her life to lay claim to that promise.  He is magical and ethereal and powerful - and he is looking for a bride, or else he will plunge the world into an eternal winter of ice, snow and death.   

His choice falls on Elizabeth's beautiful golden-haired sister and he whisks her away to the Underworld, leaving Elizabeth no choice but to venture after them to try and rescue her sister from the Goblin King.  So begins an epic adventure for Elizabeth and her sister Katharina - one filled with all the feasting, dancing and fine ball gowns of the dark realm of the Fey.  But all is not what it seems and faerie glamour is all around them. 

As the title of the book suggests, the novel has a musical theme and there is musicality in the lyrical way in which the novel is written.  The author clearly has a depth of knowledge in musical theory and composition and this shines through in every chapter.  Anyone with a love of playing and composing music would enjoy this book, for it explores the magic of the musical composition and the genius of plucking sounds fresh from the mind and transforming them into melody and song for others to enjoy.  The vocabulary used is extensive and lyrically expressive.  It is a very intelligent novel.

Wintersong is by far one of the most sophisticated fantasy novels I have ever read, drawing upon classic poetry and the great composers, as well as folklore and mythology, weaving them together into a fairytale version of the Persephone myth, that literally sings from the page.  It blends together everything I love about the arts - literature, classical music, poetry, mythology - this book has it all.  It's so inspiring to read too.  It made me want to study musical theory - and I mean really study it - and take my own attempts to learn piano more seriously. 

This book is over 500 pages long and I read it in a day and a half, it's that good.  Curled up by the fire, listening to classical harp music playing in the background, I was completely swept away by this story.  It is beautiful, romantic, magical and whimsical. If you love music, or enjoyed other fairytale books I have reviewed, such as Entwined and The Treachery of Beautiful Things, I am sure that will love Wintersong too, so I will include the link here, should you want to give it try.  It is a beautiful escape into an enchanting world, resplendent in the music of love. 

"But did I remember something I had imagined, or something real? There was pretend, and then there was memory..."

Saturday, 17 March 2018


The snow is coming down again, in pretty white flurries.  It started yesterday as I came home from Cruse Bereavement Care.  I have been on placement with them for just over a year now and I have less than ten hours left to do, to meet the one hundred clinical hours required as the final part of my psychotherapy diploma.   So I should have that box ticked by the end of next month.  All that is left to concentrate on now, is the final placement report, which is a long, tedious piece of essay writing.  But it is the very last hurdle of a long five years of training to become a counsellor.  

The diploma is split into two sections, with two years of class lectures and the final year out on placement racking up clinical placement hours.  So although  I have passed all the academic aspects of the course, I still have this last little bit to complete before I am free of it altogether. 

All of which means that I am starting to think about what I want to do next.  I have already decided that I am taking the summer off from volunteering as a Cruse counsellor - my contract with them was for one year, so I have more than served it out, but I want a break from death and dying for a few weeks over summer, before probably returning to practice there in the autumn.  I have enjoyed my time on placement.  It suits my mind-set, because everyone is a volunteer, so there is no real hierarchy. 

Someone once asked me if I saw myself as an Alpha or a Beta, to which I replied "Neither - I see myself as a lone wolf, so hierarchy doesn't really come into it. That's how other people might see me, but I don't really care what anyone else thinks of me. I just do my own thing."  And it's true.  I do see myself as a lone wolf. I have lived alone for nearly twenty years and worked from home for the majority of that time.  I have a very autonomous spirit.  That is not to say that I cannot work well as part of a team - being part of a team is one of the things I have enjoyed most about my placement.  But I am not deeply entrenched in the Pack mentality. 

By this I mean that I am quite happy to play my part in a Pack, providing they are heading in the same direction as me, we share the same ethics and values and we are working together to achieve similar goals or for the greater benefit of others.  But I refuse to play any part at all in what I call a Bitch Pack - those groups of people who are all about gossip, drama, spitefulness and office sexcapades - life is too short to get caught up in that kind of juvenile behaviour and I avoid such Packs like the plague!

Its about finding your tribe and choosing your Pack carefully, because who you associate with is who you become.  I am happy to assimilate with a positive Pack that is heading in the same direction as me, to enjoy the experience of team work and making new friends, but at some stage it is inevitable that our paths will part and I will go my own way.   I need to do my own thing to be happy.  I need space and solitude to develop my capabilities and explore my creativity.  

Sometimes, a chance meeting with a lone wolf can be enough to make you question your own Pack mentality; to wonder if it might be time for you to go your own way a bit more. I believe that everyone could benefit from being more of a lone wolf, because existentially we are all alone in life anyway.  

In some working environments it is an inevitable aspect of promotion and doing well - hence the saying "It's lonely at the top".   If you have ambitions to break away from the shop floor and into the management suite, you will first have to break away from the shop floor Pack, in order to be seen as management material. The old Pack might well snarl at you for this, but you do what you need to do to get to where you want to be - they could well be happy enough on the shop floor, but that doesn't mean you have to settle for it.   Start to assimilate with the Management Pack instead and you'll be more likely to work your way up. 

In some professions, being a lone wolf is just part of the job.  A doctor or health worker out on call is usually out on their own, away from the Pack of the surgery.  This distance can be enough to satisfy those who have lone wolf tendencies, but who also like the support of a team as back up.   It can be a happy compromise for those who feel the need to break out, but not break away. 

In some careers, such as counselling, being a lone wolf is purely circumstantial, because there are no jobs for counsellors out there, so private practice is often the only option; it's less of a choice and more a necessity, which is why I'm thrilled that I am already a professional writer, as if nothing else, my training has given me a new area of expertise in which to publish my work!  Writing is also a lone wolf career because you are spending long hours alone at your desk, building a world on the page that no-one else can see. 

Autonomy is one of the greatest, most empowering gifts that you can give yourself.  That isn't to say that you can never accept help - a young soldier once washed my car for me, fixed my bookshelves and re-tuned my TV, all in one day; and not because he questioned my capability, but just because he was a pal who wanted to help me and he knew I liked having him around. It was a fun afternoon and we had a good laugh, but I went straight back to being the lone wolf after he'd returned to Catterick!

If you see yourself as a lone wolf, hierarchy becomes irrelevant. No-one can lord it over you, because you'll just walk away and leave them behind.  You never lower your standards, so people who want to be around you either have to be on the same level, or raise their standards to meet yours, and then maintain them.  You are adept at survival and thrive in your own company, so you don't become needy and clingy.  You make your own decisions and choices, which means that you're less likely to whinge and whine about doing things you don't want to do.  

If someone else wants to share in your journey, that's great, but they have to be your match and your equal - you are not prepared to carry a free-loader or be drained by a narcissist.  

If someone wants your skills for their Pack, they have to make sure that their Pack is up to your standards to begin with, because its not your job to make it so.  You can only enhance a standard that is already there and if its not already in place, you simply walk away. 

Committing to being a lone wolf raises your game to the next level and attracts only the Alphas for the long term.  I keep my standards high, I'm not afraid to defend myself if necessary, and the Betas in life - wastrel men, spiteful women and time-wasting jobs - just fade away and give me a wide birth. They know they can't compete, they don't have what I'm looking for, so they slink away with a disgruntled snarl - and that's just fine by me! I wish them well in their chosen Beta lifestyle, but I refuse to diminish myself to be a part of it and I remain a lone wolf, neither Alpha nor Beta, just strong and powerful, going my own way, doing my own thing. 

Autonomy is cool; independence is sexy; so why wouldn't you want more of it in your life?  And if a man offers to wash your car, you can let him, safe in your autonomy, because it's a nice thing to do...and because it makes for a really nice view! 😏

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

BOOK NOOK; The Viper by Monica McCarty

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This very saucy book made me blush so much, but I loved it!
The Viper is the fourth novel in Monica McCarty's Highland Guard series.  It tells the tale of Isabella MacDuff/Buchan, who is one of my greatest heroines.  Her name is legendary in Scotland and if you are unfamiliar with her story, its worth researching her role in the Scottish Wars of Independence. 

Here are the historical facts in a nutshell; it was the ancient right of Clan MacDuff to enthrone Scotland's kings, but at the time Isabella's brother was being held as a political hostage by the English, purely so that he couldn't fulfil this role.  But the English had underestimated his sister Isabella and she took it upon herself to defy her Clan Comyn husband, steal his horse and ride out so that she could crown Robert the Bruce as King of Scots herself!  She had a clear choice  - Comyn or Bruce - and she chose Bruce.  For that reason alone she is my heroine; but for the price she paid for her loyalty, she won the respect of all loyal Scots, to this very day. You can learn more about her at The Bannockburn Visitor's Centre, which is a wonderful place to visit if you are ever in Stirlingshire. 

In this fictional account, The Viper, Lachlan MacRuairi, is the green-eyed bad boy of the Bruce's Highland Guard.  He has a reputation for ruthlessness and barbarity.  Few people actually like him; even his own comrades are wary of his temper and his black-hearted reputation.  He is certainly a man with dark secrets and he prefers to work alone.  He doesn't like to get too close to people, so when he meets the feisty Isabella and finds he can't scare her, he is a bit nonplussed.  

His mission is to guard her as she makes her epic journey to crown the Bruce, and in the process, she gets right under his skin.  At first he resents her for it, but when he learns of her fate, he knows that he has to rescue her from the cage in which she is being kept by the English.  

As for Bella, well she's not much more impressed with Viper either. She finds him arrogant and full of himself.  She hates that he tries to command her and expects her to obey him, without question, because that's what he is used to doing with his team of men.  She is intimidated by the lust she sees in his eyes and the crude way in which he sometimes speaks of her, though she'll never let him see it and uses her sharp tongue as a means of defence against his raw masculine desire.  She has been ill-used by men in the past, but as she begins to fall for Lachlan, she desperately wants him to see her for herself, for her courage and intelligence, not just for her shape or her beauty.  She wants a man who loves her spirit, rather than one who tries to break it.  

Well, don't we all? I think all women want to be admired for who they are, rather than as a receptacle for a man's lust, and this novel makes that point very well.  It makes an argument for love, over lust, though it accepts that the first is much easier if desire is present on both sides. But lust alone isn't enough to build a relationship. It's too fleeting.  It's too easy to forget and move on. 

Most women want a man who plans to stick around afterwards - not one who thinks he can just pass through her like a ghost, on his way to something else.  She needs to trust that he is interested in more than her body, more than a fleeting moment of pleasure; that he thinks of her when they are not together; that he misses her. We need the reassurance of long-term fidelity.  That is the only way to truly win us over.  It's a lesson Lachlan has to learn in spades!

The Viper is racier than the first three books in the series, but if you've ever read any Jackie Collins or Jilly Cooper, you shouldn't find that it's too much.  Just be aware though, that it has quite a few sex scenes, so probably not one to lend your grandmother!  That said, the story is great. There are some fantastic rescue missions, complete with explosives, blowing up walls and so on - it has a great military/SAS vibe to it, which makes it such a fun read.  I've already ordered the rest of the books in this series! What can I say?  The Highland Guard are holding me hostage for the foreseeable  future...and I have no intention of allowing myself to be rescued from them! 
"The Lovers"
Taken in Gretna Green last September 2017

Friday, 9 March 2018

MUSICAL DOLL; Treacherous

"And I'll do anything you say, if you say it with your hands..."

When that treacherous part of you is hoping his hands are quite chatty, yet speak in a gentle whisper...you're probably already doomed.😉 💘

"Your name has echoed through my mind and I just, think you should, think you should know"💋

Monday, 5 March 2018


I'm dying here...
And I'm crying for the you that I remember, but now you make me shiver, you're so cold...

How can I fight when love is the enemy?

The Veronicas

Friday, 2 March 2018

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Standing By For Ant Middleton!!!

I just got tickets to see Ant Middleton's tour in September when he comes to my home town!!!!  I'm so excited!  I'm glad I waited too, because I was thinking of booking tickets for his Chesterfield show, but now he's coming to Sheffield as well, which is much easier for me to get to. 

I'm not sure what to expect really. I'm thinking it's going to be a cross between a motivational seminar and autobiographical tales of high adventure and derring-do.  All I know is that I love to watch him on the telly-box, so of course I want to see him on tour.  He is such an inspiration to me - all the SAS Who Dares Wins guys are; but for some reason the media world seems to have concentrated more on Ant than the others. Or maybe the other lads just let him do all the talking! 

He has a new book coming out too, which I'm hoping to buy at the event as a wee souvenir.  I enjoyed their TV tie-in book and I refer back to it time and again, so it will be nice to have a new book from him to read.  I was literally dancing when I got the ticket confirmation email!  I haven't been this excited about tour tickets since I booked for Kylie's Kiss Me Once tour back in 2014. Or maybe Disney On Ice;Frozen in 2016. 

I can't wait for autumn now and it's going to be a long six months waiting for the date to come up...I have a date with Ant Middleton! I'm actually going to get to see him in the flesh, and as he's even cooler than the beast from the east, I'm sure I'll learn lots. I'm really looking forward to it! 

Tuesday, 27 February 2018


An icy wind is sweeping over Yorkshire from Siberia, bringing with it the forecast of heavy snow this week.  We've already had a dusting today, but the main deposits are set to fall in the next few days.  I must admit that I am thrilled by the prospect and although cold snowy weather tends to make me poorly these days due to my thyroid illness, I have my own way of enjoying it.  With nowhere pressing to go, snow days are great for hibernation and I like nothing better than being tucked up, safe and warm indoors and watching the pretty snow fall, through the windows, transforming everything it touches and turning the barren, grey landscape into a wonderland of ice and snow.

Of course, winter hibernation is best enjoyed with a little preparation, so make sure you have everything you need in the house, from basics like groceries and medicines, to those little luxuries that make staying in an indulgence.  Luckily, I still have lots of treats and goodies left over from Christmas and a snowy spell is the perfect excuse to open that bottle of mulled wine or winter punch.

I know that some people get terrible cabin fever when they are stuck inside for a few days, but I honestly enjoy snowy hibernation. No-one ever expects very much of you when it snows; the world seems more relaxed somehow. Schools close, as do some offices; transport networks shut down or run a reduced service.  Emergency services advise people to just stay home - so that's what I do.  No skating, no volunteering, no driving, no trips out and online shopping only.  I just stay home in my cosy nest.

I'm like a little squirrel tucked away in her dray, watching the snow fall and enjoying the sensation of being all warm and snuggly.  I am by nature, a home body, anyway. I always have been.  I have hermit-like tendencies and I can amuse myself for hours on end just with a few books, my tapestry, my Gothic art therapy and my piano.  Just because I'm at home all day doesn't mean I'm not being productive.  In fact a few snow days are great for creativity and inspiration can often strike when the weather forces you to hole up indoors for a time. 

I make myself and my nest as cosy as possible.  Hot baths with lovely bath products; comfy pj's and woollen bed socks; scented plug-ins all over the house; scented candles in warm, wintry fragrances; hot mulled wine or hot chocolate; comfort food straight from the oven and feet up on a footstool, before the fire.  It's heaven.

As soon as the snow begins to fall, I prepare an atmosphere of warmth in my home.  I turn up the heating a notch, put the fire on and put on the heated mattress cover - this is a godsend on cold, frigid nights.  I have the kind that can be kept on all night, so my bed never gets cold and it feels like the snuggliest place in the house.  I use lots of faux fur throws on the bed and the chaise-lounge, or I tuck myself into my mermaid blanket to sit in the rocking chair, with my feet propped up out of any draughts.  Having candles lit around the room also adds extra heat; close the doors and draw the curtains to keep the heat in. 

As I write, I am burning Glade Winter Spice candles and there is a home made rice pudding in the oven, filling the house with its milky, spicy nutmeg scent.  I am playing Enya's Amarantine album - Amid the Falling Snow is my favourite Enya song.  I have a Fireside DVD playing, so my TV looks like a log fire and the crackly sounds add to the atmosphere too.  I have a lovely stack of books to read, so I plan to mull some cider before the night it through and curl up with more novels from the Highland Guard series, or maybe with the snowy medieval and Highland romance novels I just downloaded onto my Kindle.  So whatever the weather decides to throw at us, I'll be enjoying the candlelit peace of a cosy wintry-themed home, snuggled up with a steaming spicy beverage and a hot Highlander warrior...Baby it's cold outside, but inside I'm all aglow, so let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!
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