"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.


Friday, 23 February 2018

WRITER'S DREAM; Psychotherapy Copy-Writer


Copy-writing...this is a branch of writing that I never thought would interest me, but when I was offered the opportunity to create original content for a new psychotherapy website, I thought "Why not?" and jumped at the chance. 

Copy-writing, or advertorial content provider, is basically sales writing. You are trying to create a brand and a flavour of the services or products on offer in order to draw in clients, so in this case, the services offered by a new psychotherapy practice.  Copy-writing has never really appealed to me, though I know the money can be good with large companies, because my brother was a copy-writer for years.  Modern day bloggers of You Tube fame are today's best known copy-writers, but it has never been on my personal list of writing goals.

However, the Muse works in mysterious ways and sometimes you get such an unexpected opportunity that it would be churlish to say no.  It makes sense to have a go at any branch of writing that comes your way, because you never know where you might find your niche. I never actually set out to become a Wiccan author - it just happened that way, because I followed where the Muse led me and took the opportunities she provided.  

I see this opportunity in the same light.  It is a chance to write on the topic of psychotherapy and counselling, which is my new area of authorial expertise, and it also helps to build my publishing platform in this arena.   Although I see it as a one off commission, it will nevertheless provide me with a point of reference for editors who are looking for psychotherapy and self-help contributors. In an industry where reputation counts more than a standard job reference, a good testimonial can be the key that opens the door to a new publishing outlet.  So for that reason alone, I accepted the commission.   

Starting to write in a new genre is like germinating seedlings; you have to nurture and care for the fragile shoots as they come up; you have to give them time and attention if you are going to bring them to fruition and enjoy the abundance they provide in later years. 

It has been just over a year since I wrote my last Wiccan piece of work and since then I have had about half a dozen or so psychotherapy pieces published, with more in the pipeline, so I'm taking it as a sign that I was right to make the leap, because the change is manifesting naturally, to bring me work I never could have imagined a year ago.  Doors are already opening for me and it reminds me of the old adage "Make the leap and the safety-net will appear".  

You do have to have a body of published work in place first though, as it is unlikely that an unpublished writer, or a writer with very few by-lines to their name, would be invited to provide advertorial copy for a new business.   Again, it comes down to reputation; they have to know you and trust your work before they trust you with their business, because they are after all, paying you to create for them. 

For me, I see this copy-writing commission as a new feather in my writer's cap and another job title to add to my increasingly long writer's CV!  I am looking forward to getting on with the commission next week and to projecting the warmth and genuine compassion of the counsellor, onto her website and from there, out into the world to the people who really need her skills. 

It will be a great opportunity for me to evolve as a writer, to step out and try something completely new.  All artists grow and evolve over time. As I mentioned in a previous post, we cannot keep doing the same thing over and over or the creativity will stagnate.  It is important to keep moving forwards in our work, to try new things and see what comes of them.  Although this copy-writing commission is a one-off and I am happy for that to be the case, I'm still thrilled that the Muse is presenting me with new opportunities and fresh challenges; and as always, I plan to follow her wherever she chooses to lead me.  That is after all, how I have made a career for myself as a writer. 

So follow your Muse...you just never know where she will take you, but rest assured she always has your best creative interests at heart. 
You never know where your Muse will take you

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

SHIMMER SPELL; My Book of Shadows; S&D Columns


Image result for book of shadows

Late last night as I was sat watching one of my Charmed DVD box sets, I suddenly got the urge to do something that I have been putting off for months - that is, to organise all the columns I wrote for Spirit&Destiny magazine, and put them into a portfolio.

When I finished writing for S&D in February 2017, I cut out all my columns and threw the magazines away to make space in my study. Eight years worth of back issues took up a lot of space!  So out the magazines went to be recycled and my columns were put into a plastic envelope folder for safe keeping.  A couple of weeks later I bought a ream of cream card, half a dozen glue sticks and 200 poly pockets; but I still didn't get around to doing anything with them. 

I think that I was procrastinating because I hadn't fully let the magazine go at that point in time.  While I was very happy not to be writing spells every month and while my head and my life had already moved on into psychotherapy writing, my heart was still very much attached to my column.  Spirit&Destiny was such a big part of my life for so many years - eight and a half years to be exact - and I think I needed more time for my heart to release this aspect of my working life. 

I never imagined that I'd stay with S&D for so long.  Initially I was asked if I wanted to write a full page series on my style of pro-active, life issue based witchcraft, but it was only meant to last for six months. Well, the full page series actually lasted for two years and the editors liked it so much, they then made it a permanent feature in the witchcraft section of the magazine. From then on I was their key-stone, highest paid columnist, producing over one hundred columns and writing almost 73,000 words in column inches for them over the years. That's an entire book! 

Other magazine writers copied the format and even though my column was the first of its kind to introduce reader participation, soon rival magazines had their own 'witching hour' column too, so I started a trend!  But I will always have the satisfaction of knowing that I was the first writer to come up with the idea of inviting readers to cast the same spell, at the same time, on the same day. Yeah, that was all me, and this originality is the reason I think the column was so successful for so long. 

A year on and last night I finally felt ready to tackle the portfolio. This took longer than I anticipated, but as I was watching Charmed at the time, I was struck by the similarities between what I was doing and what I was watching - because three hours later, what I had actually created was a witch's Book of Shadows, not just a writer's portfolio.   

Over the years in my column I have covered so many issues;  anxiety, jealousy, success, creativity, love, prosperity, stress, fertility, reconciliation, protection...I could go on, but I won't.  There are also more traditional spells here too - spells to call a familiar or to empower a pendulum.  In some cases I can clearly remember what inspired me to write a particular spell or to give a column a certain theme.  The Protect a Loved One column was based on the fact that my soldier was serving in Afghanistan at the time; the Rite to Remember column was inspired by my own experience of having flashbacks.  There are spells for Truth, Independence and Fulfilment - all values that I hold dear.  

Of course writers always put something of themselves into their work, but I hadn't realised just how personal the column was, until I saw them all together, one after the other, bound together into a BOS, offering a reflection of my life.  My final words for Spirit&Destiny at the end of my last column were "walk away and don't look back" - this wasn't even intentionally written at the time, but it struck a chord with me last night, as that is exactly what I did.  I walked right away, with my head up, and I didn't look back once...until last night...and now all I feel when I look at my collected columns is a sense of pride and gratitude.  

I am proud of every word I wrote for what was then, the top selling MBS magazine in the UK.  It wasn't always easy; there were rough patches and hiccups along the way, but I'm proud of my work with S&D and grateful for the experience.  In my very first column I suggested to readers that they cut out my columns and keep them safe.  I wonder how many of them did so?  Last night I finally took my own advice and I had a moment of insight, because during my time as a Wiccan author I have often thought to myself "Mmm, maybe I should write and publish a Book Of Shadows" .  It was the one aspect of my magical writing that I felt I had left undone.  Not anymore!  Now I know that I did indeed write and publish an entire Book of Shadows - I just did it in over 100 monthly instalments! I hope that you all enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

I am proud of my time with Spirit&Destiny and the magazine will always hold a special place in my heart, but now that I have this lovely Book of Shadows created by my very own columns, I feel that I have finally let the magazine go once and for all.  
After all moving on is good for the soul.  
Blessed Be. 



Tuesday, 13 February 2018

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Reinvention vs Apathy



Reinventing yourself is a pro-active experience.  It doesn't just come to you, nor does it happen overnight.  It can be a long process and you have to agree to participate along the way. Frequently it is the result of a big life change or a feeling of stagnation. For some people though, reinvention is too much like hard work and that is when apathy picks up the slack instead.

Apathy seems to be a modern epidemic.  Far too many people are unhappy with their lot in life, yet unwilling to do anything about it. They are waiting for outside forces to change their life for the better - that jackpot lottery win, for instance, or the perfect man to sweep them off their feet and into a life of luxury.  While it could happen, it's not very likely, and you would be far better taking charge of your own life, than sitting around waiting for something or someone to do it for you. 

Apathy, meaning a state of indifference, is passive by nature.  I see apathy all the time in the therapy room. People want to feel better, but they think it's my job to do all the hard work for them.  It isn't my job. It's their job.  All I can do is support them along the way. The problem is that it is impossible to help someone who simply cannot be bothered with their own life. If you can't be bothered with your life, why would anybody else be bothered with it, or with you for that matter?  

Apathy is exhausting. It makes you feel drained and leaves you in a state of daily inertia; doing nothing, sleeping too much, complaining often.  Not only is it self-destructive, it can destroy your relationships too.  Loved ones get tired of it, friends start to avoid you - they may even suggest counselling because they are sick and tired of listening to you griping on!  

Apathy's main partner is crime is Excuse - apathetic people will find any number of excuses not to change their life and to maintain their inertia. They're too sick, too tired, too depressed; they don't have the time, or the money, or the education.  I've heard it all, and there have even been times when I have said some of it myself!  But the only way you will feel better is if you kick apathy's butt, and the only way to do that, is to get pro-active.

Reinvention is a process of empowerment. If you are feeling stuck and like you're not getting anywhere, then changing how you think about yourself, how you see yourself, will have a positive effect on what you do and how you act.  This in turn changes how others see you and in time, you can turn things around completely.  

The happiest people seem to be the ones who like a challenge; those individuals who have ambition, set goals and do what they need to do to achieve them.  Then they set new challenges and fresh goals. This creates the cycle of achievement; achievement builds capability and capability breeds personal confidence, so you feel able to take on bigger challenges. That is the secret to success. 

Sometimes reinvention is subtle.  Like a caterpillar in a chrysalis it may seem as if you are not doing much, but slowly the reinvention is taking place beneath the surface, away from prying eyes.  This type of reinvention usually begins with boredom; you might be bored of doing the same job, as I was, and feel the need to try something new. For me that was a night class in counselling skills. For you it might mean switching to a new arena within the same company, or trying for a promotion, or setting up your own business.  It might mean accepting that your marriage has been over for some time and you are both just plodding on with it, not in love with it as you once were.  This is when apathy beckons. But life is too short to stagnate like that! And all you really have to do is to choose to be something else and then start moving in that direction instead. 

Be honest with yourself and those around you. Talk to the boss, the spouse, the parents, the kids - and tell them that you will be making some changes. Then do what you need to do to move towards your goal; dress the part, act the part, speak the part and then one day, hey presto! - you are living the part and you have moved your life forward. At first it might feel as if you are wearing a mask or pretending to be something you're not; you might even have to deal with comments like these from others; but all you're really doing is listening to the whispers of your soul, asking you to grow into the person you have the potential to become.

If you want to fly through life solo, then go for it and fly solo; if you want to be part of a team, go out and find your tribe! Reinvention takes time, it isn't easy and it can be difficult, even painful at times; but know that you are enough and no-one else can do it quite like you because you are unique, with your own set of skills, talents and gifts. Leave apathy and self-doubt behind, and go out and charm the world! I'll be rooting for you.





Sunday, 11 February 2018

BOOK NOOK; Racy Romance for Valentine's Day

Image result for the chief monica mccarty imagesImage result for the chief monica mccarty images
" Scouring the darkest corners of the Highlands and Western Isles, Robert the Bruce handpicks ten warriors to help him in his quest to free Scotland from English rule. They are the best of the best, chosen for their superior skills in each discipline of warfare and known as The Highland Guard."

It's Valentine's Day this coming Wednesday, February 14th, and if you happen to be single there is really no need to be miserable with these novels to hand! The Highland Guard series are racy romance novels set during the time of the Scottish Wars of Independence. Books find me in the strangest of ways and I first came across this series while watching a film called A Princess for Christmas, when a maid takes one of these books out of a suitcase. The cover art drew me in, so I looked it up on Amazon and was delighted to see that the books are about my hero, Robert the Bruce!  So of course I had to order them.

There are at least a dozen books in the series (oh the joy of it!) and I have the first seven.  I have read the first two books, The Chief and The Hawk and I loved them both, but I think The Hawk was my favourite by a slight margin because the female protagonist, Ellie, has a personality that matches my own. By that I mean that she doesn't take shite from any man, no matter how tall and handsome and strong he may be, nor is she overly impressed by his arrogant warrior charms.  In fact, she repeatedly puts her love interest in his place good and proper and I was rooting for her the whole time. You tell him love, don't put up with that shit!

Each novel begins with an overview of where Robert the Bruce is in his mission to win Scotland back from the English. The first novel, The Chief, details the killing of Red Comyn and the crowning of the Bruce as King of Scots. The second book, The Hawk, begins with the legend of Bruce in the cave with the inspirational spider.  So you can pin point the moment in history that these fictional love stories occur.  This lends a great sense of time and place to the novels.  The Highland landscape and the Western Isles are beautifully described and extremely accurate.  I felt like I was back in the Highlands myself as I read these books. 

There are ten men in the Highland Guard and each novel is one man's story of love and war. Each book is complete in itself and could stand alone, so you wouldn't necessarily have to read them in order, but I do prefer to read them chronologically myself, as I enjoy working through the historical timeline of Robert the Bruce and his fight for Scottish Independence. He is more of a background character in these novels though, so if you are looking for novels with him as the main protagonist, I recommend Nigel Tranter's The Bruce Trilogy, which is fantastic.

The Highland Guard novels are romances, with a decent dose of fun and frolic, battle and warfare mixed in. These are the first Scottish novels I have read that have remained true to how the Scots actually speak. For instance, a Scotsman will never tell you that he'll see you tonight; he'll say "I'll be seeing ye the night lassie", which means exactly the same thing, it's just their way of speaking. In many Scottish novels, this subtle dialect has been edited out and put into 'proper English'.   But the Scots will never be English and to lose this kind of dialect means that you lose the culture and flavour of a nation which is proud to stand apart from the rest of the UK.  

There are also references made to the Highlanders Viking heritage which is great, but if I had to pick one gripe with the books, it is that the warriors invoke the Greek god Hades. This doesn't ring true to me, or to the Highlanders of Scandinavian origin, that I know. I never once heard my friend Alexander call on Hades in temper; he only ever mentioned Thor, and he wore a small Thor's Hammer on a leather thong around his neck. He's half Viking, half Highlander and the Greek gods are beneath him!

I would have preferred the characters to invoke one of the Norse or Celtic gods, say Odin, Norse Lord of the Wild Hunt, or Arawn, Celtic god of the Otherworld, who are both comparable to Hades and more likely to be invoked in the Highlands, even to this day. Maybe even Thor, being Norse god of war, or the Morrigan, the Celtic battle goddess, would have rung more true to me and to the Highlanders that I know. I must stress though, that these jarring references to Hades do not spoil the story one bit, or my enjoyment of the books. These novels are great and I highly recommend them.

I'd never read any of Monica McCarty's novels before, but I shall certainly be buying the rest of the Highland Guard series and I shall look out for more of her other books too. She has fast become one of my favourite authors of Scottish romance and I am looking forward to seeing how history plays out in the rest of the books.  Her novels are quite racy in places, but no worse than Phillipa Gregory's novels. And you do need a bit of spice come Valentine's Day!

If you have enjoyed Outlander and you like Scottish novels, or want to learn more about Robert the Bruce and the Scottish Wars of Independence but in a fun way, then the Highland Guard books will be right up your street.  I have so much enjoyed the first two novels and I plan to take the third novel, The Ranger, to bed with me tonight. 

So treat yourself this Valentine's Day to a nice bottle of wine, a box of chocolates and one of the Highland Guard novels...because when you've spent time between the covers with one of these bare-chested, kilted, gorgeous warrior heartthrobs - well then, a real boyfriend would just prove himself to be disappointing!  Cue the Valentine music and dare to dream into infinity...∞ Happy Valentine's Day!
 💘
xxx


Thursday, 8 February 2018

MUSICAL DOLL; Sky Dancing

So, if you just happened to be an aerobatic pilot from Down Under, this would be such a cool song to fly to, don't you think? 😉💋
Fly safe, love Maz x

Saturday, 3 February 2018

WRITER'S DREAM; Secrets



Image result for girls secrets images
Mean Girls


It pays to keep your writer's cards close to your chest.  It took me years to learn this and I learnt it the hard way.  I have always worn my heart on my sleeve. I speak out about my hopes and dreams and goals because I am excited about them.  I talk about my work because I am proud of it and because people often ask me about it and ask for advice, and in the past I was happy to help.  

But just because someone is close to you, doesn't mean that they can be trusted with your dreams or your contacts.  Friends and co-workers might try piggy-backing on your good name; enemies might try to make trouble for you with your editors.  In both instances, I speak from personal experience!

When people discover that I am a writer they immediately ask who my publisher is and I used to tell them. But having been stung by the spite of envy in the past, I now keep this kind of information to myself. I no longer reveal my contacts or mention the names of my editors.  I don't even let people know which publishers I am writing for anymore. I just get on with writing for them.  When the work appears in magazines etc, then obviously the secret is out, but in the meantime, I keep all such information to myself.  I won't have it used against me again. 

People will of course try to goad you into giving them details of your contacts list. A conversation I had some time ago went something like this;  

"Who is your publisher?"  This from an unpublished would-be psychotherapy writer, asking about the psychotherapy features I'd had published. It doesn't take a genius to guess what her motivation was! 
"I don't discuss my contacts." I replied
"Then why should I believe you're published??" she huffed.
"I don't care if you believe it or not. I only care that my editors believe in me and the royalties and the fees keep rolling into the bank because that's what pays my bills!"  

And its true. I don't care who believes that I'm published.  I have a body of work out there to prove my case should anyone care to check, but I certainly don't owe anyone the details of my contacts list!  

It is too easy to dismiss someone's achievements, especially if they have already succeeded where you are still trying. If another counsellor is finding it hard to get their own psychotherapy work published, then that isn't my fault, nor is it my responsibility to get them published.  Not my circus, not my monkeys, as the saying goes. 

Its the same with ideas.  It pays to keep your ideas to yourself, until you have that all important commission, in writing, from a publisher.  Again, I learnt this the hard way when I was asked by my then editor for some possible ideas for features.  The implication was clearly made that if they liked those ideas I would be commissioned to write them.  

Imagine my outrage then when having heard nothing for a while, I saw my ideas shamelessly written up by a staff writer and published alongside my column! 

Needless to say, the next time they asked for my ideas I replied with "I only work to a written commission now.  If you want to commission a feature from me, put the details in an email and I'll be happy to write it for you."  Such a commission never came - they were once again just looking to scrounge from my creativity while not paying me for it.

So it isn't just other writers who might glean your ideas - unscrupulous editors will do it too.  It makes sense then to keep your ideas to yourself.  And not just in writing either...I once described how I planned to decorate and theme out my therapy room should I ever open up a private practice, only to have that idea ripped off too!  Fortunately I am nothing if not imaginative and I have already dreamt up a whole new theme, which is even better that the original one!

The bottom line is, if you don't want your ideas to be ripped off, then keep them to yourself. Likewise any contacts you make in publishing - keep your platform private. And be aware of possible hidden agendas and motivations when speaking to someone who shows a sudden interest in your work. They might make a show of befriending but they could just be out to rip you off or discredit you in some way! 

Get commissions in writing; keep your platform private; and never indulge the foolish vanity to sign a so-called publishing contract that asks you for money.  Most of all, keep your writer's dream secret from those who are mean.








WRITER'S DREAM; Lead, Don't Follow



Comparison kills joy.  This is as true in the publishing world as it is in daily life.  If you compare your work to that of other writers, you might lose the enthusiasm and dedication it takes to complete a project.  Watching what so-and-so is doing, in the hopes of emulating their success will only stifle your own creativity. 

In publishing, it is never a good idea to try and follow in another writer's footsteps.  This is because it is an industry looking for originality and unique talent. Imitations just don't sell, yet some people will even go so far as to send a direct emulation of an author's work to the same publisher!  Not only are you stifling your own creativity in trying to repeat someone else's success, you are actively inviting rejection. 

A writer's life is ever moving forward. My own writing has moved from poetry, to content provider for home study courses, to Wicca books, to magical features and music, to columns, to mainstream self-help and psychotherapy work. It won't stop there either and my work continues to evolve as I set about achieving more of my writing goals.  

It's lovely that people have been so inspired by my published work that they try to follow in my footsteps, but this is an industry where it pays to forge your own path, for the only way you will get published is by developing your own authentic authorial voice.  

Some would-be writers might wait until their target author has moved on and quickly try to slip into the space left behind, but again, there is probably a good reason why that author moved on in the first place, and it may be that the space just isn't available anymore.  Shrinking markets, new publishing trends and so on, can all have an impact on your submission or suggestion of becoming a new contributor.

In addition, if you focus too much on emulating the success of one author, you will forever be playing catch up.  As authors move on to new outlets, markets and genres, you will struggle to keep up and hamper your chances of even getting started.   Just as you decide to approach their publishing house, they move into features writing; as you start approaching their magazine editors, they move on again, into music, or fiction, or screen writing.  It's like trying to keep up with the Jones's - its expensive, time consuming, and ultimately a fruitless pursuit which leaves you feeling unsatisfied, while the Jones's have moved onto a new purchase and are far too busy enjoying it to even notice your homage! Its a pointless task.

As authors we need to move our work forward, in order to keep enjoying it and to maintain enthusiasm for it.  I have a new sense of achievement now when I write my psychotherapy work. It is a subject that I enjoy putting into my own style of writing and it draws on all my previous years of experience in writing and publishing. 

I get the biggest thrill when a psychotherapy commission comes in!  It is just like when I had my first book published, or when I was invited to be a columnist, or to compose an album.  It's the best feeling, but it does depend on moving forwards in one's career, for the longer you write in one genre, the more mundane it becomes to you.  The buzz wears off.  Switching genres, from MBS to mainstream self-help and psychotherapy, is the biggest writing buzz I've had in years and I'm loving it! 

It is still early days and the platform needs building, but I now get paid to write about psychotherapy, as an expert who is trained in the field.  No-one can say that is down to luck... it's down to a four year diploma and clinical practice, not to mention twenty-odd years publishing experience! 

Lead, don't follow. Be inspired, but don't jump on band wagons. Blaze your own trail and develop your authentic voice as a writer. Then go out there and forge your own path. Good luck.