"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.

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. 

Monday, 26 September 2016


When his promises turn out to be empty...

...Strike a match on all your wasted time...

Just sitting here, planning out revenge
Go Taylor

Saturday, 17 September 2016

WRITER'S DREAM; The Vanity Press

Have you ever come across an advertisement in a magazine along the lines of "Publisher seeking new authors - send us your book for free appraisal"  This is the mark of the vanity press and it has been the downfall of many a would be writer.

Basically the vanity presses are glorified printers; they make money off the backs of people who have dreams of being published authors, by offering to 'publish' their book 'at a very competitive rate' etc, etc.  Don't touch them with a barge pole!!

The vanity press is so named because it appeals to your vanity as an unpublished writer.  They will praise your work to the skies, will not seek any editorial changes to the typescript and will draw you in with promises of how your awesome, amazing book deserves to reach a wider audience.  Then they offer to 'publish' it -  for a significant fee.  This is not how the publishing industry works.

A legitimate publishing house pays the author - never the other way round. Of course vanity publishers don't call themselves vanity publishers; they go by the handle of subsidy publishers; self- publishing services; or self-publishing co-operatives.  If you enter into an agreement with them, they will indeed present you with x number of copies of your book; but these are likely to look cheap, with little attention given to cover art etc, or limited cover art options if you get to 'design' your own.  

They will take your money off you and leave you with boxes of books you are unable to shift.  This is because book shops and libraries won't stock vanity books.  The high street book chains sell shelf space to all the traditional publishing houses - they have very strict contracts, and terms and conditions as to what books they stock, where and how they are displayed in the store.  Publishing houses spend more to have their books displayed face on, or to have them presented on a display table, or in the window.  The vanity published writer will be dismissed without thought, because the shelf space in bookshops is not free, it has to be purchased under contract. 

Using a vanity publisher means that you will see your work printed up, but you are unlikely to make your money back on it and might still be trying to shift copies in your dotage.  You might sell a few copies at a car boot sale, or on Ebay and such like - but you can forget the bestseller status.  You can also forget ever being taken seriously in the publishing industry, with that book.  

One of the reasons vanity books are viewed with such disdain is because it demonstrates the writer as someone who is looking for an easy way into a very elite industry.  Publishing can be a snobby world - like all snobby worlds, you have to be invited in, and earn your place there.  Another reason is that these typescripts rarely meet the minimum word count to be called an actual book - they are usually more akin to novellas. A vanity published book is unlikely to get picked up by a traditional publishing house, who don't take kindly to those who try to leap-frog their way in through the back door. So you will have effectively ruined any chance your book had of being properly published. You can't just buy your way in.

The bottom line is, there are no short cuts to publication.  If you want to be a reputable author, you need a reputable publisher and this takes time.  So many people view writing books as some kind of hobby - something to do on the side, when they've retired, or at the weekends when the kids are at the grandparents.  But it isn't a hobby.  It is a business and like any other business it takes time to establish yourself and build something to be proud of.  It takes years to establish yourself in any elite profession - publishing is no different.  

The consolation for taking the time to find a traditional publisher to take you on their list, is that you will have a whole team of people
working hard to make your book look fantastic.  Copy editors, legal teams, artists, designers, marketing teams, publicists and so on - all working to make your book a success.  It is a team of expertise well worth waiting for, and it doesn't cost you a penny. 

But then, as long as there are people who look for the easy way, the vanity press will continue to advertise.  As long as there is a sucker for them to sell their printing contract to, the vanity press will thrive.  Some potentially great books will never get the chance that they deserve, being left to linger in boxes, with no-one to buy them because they do not have the expert backing of the publishing industry.  And all because their writers were too impatient to enjoy the vanity being able to call themselves authors. It's a shame. 

Monday, 12 September 2016

POET'S CORNER; The Red Rose Knight

The Red Rose Knight

Who comes to call when I am low?
Who gladdens my heart when filled with woe?
Who stirs the romance of my mind?
The Red Rose Knight, my spirit guide.

Who is clad in armour black?
Who brings the love I feel I lack?
Who champions me against all foes?
He bears the shield of the red, red rose.

Who kisses me in slumber deep,
As safe my hopes and dreams he keeps?
Who guards my castle in the air?
My Red Rose Knight waits for me there.

Who rides upon a coal black steed?
Who gives me all the strength I need?
Who brings sweet dreams to my repose?
My spirit-knight of the red, red rose.

Whose fingers gently brush my cheek?
Who lends support when I am weak?
Who gallops with me, far away?
My Red Rose Knight, 'till dreams meet day.

By Marie Bruce

I wrote this poem back in 2007 after a dream I'd had the night before and it is included in my book Angel Craft and Healing. It isn't written about anyone in particular; it's more about the dream of love and the lasting romance of being with a man one can rely on and trust completely - which can often feel like an unattainable dream in itself!

I have often wondered, since I wrote the poem, why I didn't make him a white rose knight, for Yorkshire.  I can only think that it is because the red rose is a symbol of true love and that is what I wanted the knight in the poem to represent. Maybe one day I will write about the White Rose Knight too and give him a companion.

Image result for red rose knight images

Friday, 26 August 2016

BOOK NOOK; Three Sisters, Three Queens by Philippa Gregory

Image result for three sisters three queens images

"...I think that these are women's troubles indeed - when a woman loves a man who betrays her.  Betrays her completely - in thought and word and deed.  In plan and in whisper, in the day and in the night, and - worst of all - in public, before the world...

...I wake in the night, thinking that I am the greatest fool that ever lived and I am humbled to dust for my stupidity."

from Three Sisters, Three Queens

It is one o'clock in the morning and I have just finished reading the latest novel by Philippa Gregory; Three Sisters, Three Queens.  I have enjoyed it, mostly because it is set in Scotland and much of the story takes place at Stirling Castle which is one of my favourite places north of the boarder.

It tells the story of Margaret, the sister of Henry VIII and the granddaughter of both the Red Queen, Margaret Beaufort and the White Queen, Elizabeth Woodville, so if you enjoyed those books you might like this one too, as it successfully bridges the gap between the end of the Cousins War and the better known history of Henry VIII's Tudor court. 

Margaret is sent to marry the King of Scots, James IV and so secure a lasting peace between England and Scotland.  Of course, it doesn't work and she finds herself at war with members of her own family in England and with the Scots lords, who all want to manipulate her for their own purposes.  The Scots dismiss her as 'the English Princess' and she has to fight to claim her power as Queen. Much of the book is about this constant struggle, the betrayals and so on.  There are some hair raising exploits along the way and it keeps you guessing as to whether her husband is really on her side or working against her.

I have to say though, that I did find Margaret quite irritating at times; her constant envy of her sisters was tedious.  She has a well developed sense of entitlement and her jealousy is just annoying  - but then I have known women just like her and it was an accurate description of how petty minded female jealousy works! I just wanted to give her a slap though and tell her to stop whinging.  

Margaret marries three times and each time she has to fight for her position in Scotland.  The constant jostling for supremacy is evident throughout the novel and the author doesn't shy away from describing the cultural habit of the Scots for being completely two- faced, which I really admire her for - it takes a Yorkshire woman to tell it like it is!  The Scots say one thing and do the opposite; they make promises they have no intention of keeping and then come back with a ready excuse and a bit of charming prattle - and Margaret falls for all of it.  Of course she does - she's English, she has been brought up to believe that an man's word is his bond - but the Scots just aren't like that.  She has some harsh lessons to learn. 

My favourite part of the book happens quite early on, when a Comyn gets punched in the face - this was a treat I wasn't expecting and it did make me giggle.  What can I say? I'm a Bruce, right through to the bone - I'm always going to feel smug at the fall of a rival clan.  This is a nice book to add to my collection of Tudor novels, but due to the constant struggle of Margaret's life it is a rather sorrowful read - in that respect it reminded me of The Red Queen by the same author.  If it's a period of history that you like reading about though, you will probably enjoy this novel.

"To be loved by a man like Archibald Douglas is to be scorched, to be rejected is to be scarred.  I want to heal and forget that I ever knew him."

from Three Sisters, Three Queens

Friday, 19 August 2016

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Ice Queen - Freeze Them Out

Once upon a time there was a beautiful Queen whose heart was broken in two

"You will never know this suffering again...
Love is a lie.
 It is a trick played by the cruel on the foolish and weak.
Cast it from your mind. 
Never let it render you frail of mind, or of will..."

Freya, the Ice Queen in The Huntsman; Winter's War

It is a wet soggy day and the rain hasn't stopped pouring since early this morning.  I like days like this.  It is a taste of autumn and a sign that the colder weather is waiting in the wings.  I am ready for the dark season to begin and today I lost myself in winter when I curled up and watched The Huntsman; Winter's War which is a prequal/sequal to Snow White and the Huntsman.

It has fast become my new favourite ice maiden film, knocking Bridget Fonda's Snow Queen off the top spot and leaving Disney's Frozen cold.  The film tells the story of the Wicked Queen's little sister Freya, who starts off as a gentle, trusting and loving woman, but when she is betrayed by both her lover and her spiteful sister, a change comes over her.  She internalises the loss and grief; her heart turns cold and she removes herself from society to a far off palace of ice in the cold, cold northlands, becoming the Ice Queen and wielding a frosty new magical power, turning her focus from love, to battle.  She is a warrior Ice Queen, with her own army.

I have always been drawn to ice maiden stories, from the Snow Queen with her frozen heart and magic mirror; to Holda and her gift of winter snow; to the Cailleach with her deadly kiss of cold, which I have experienced myself more than once - in fact, the Cailleach has been on me so often, it's like the touch of an old friend! 

There is something intriguing about the notion of a woman so wronged in love that she chooses to isolate herself and freeze out love altogether.  It is a theme I have explored in my books, most notably Faerie Magic.  

It takes a very strong woman to live such an isolated life, needing no man at all, complete in her own sense of power and independence. It's not a life for everyone, but it is a life I can totally relate to. Love makes us all vulnerable and vulnerability is a weakness. Love also carries the risk of heartbreak and betrayal...and who needs that?  A strong sense of female independence is far more reliable than any man will ever be. 

Have you ever noticed that there are no Ice King myths and fairytales?  No Ice Prince takes himself away from the world because a lass lied to him and betrayed his trust. I think this is because men just don't love in the same way as women do - if and when they love at all.  Men don't seem to be shattered by betrayal and heartbreak. They are not frozen in time when a lover lets them down with infidelity. Instead they move swiftly on to their next conquest, for one woman is as good as the next to them; any woman can potentially offer what they are looking for and men prefer to make an active search, moving fast, from one love to the next, to the next and so on.  Men are like shampoo - they just rinse off and repeat!

So it's not surprising that Freya takes satisfaction in literally freezing men and turning them to ice - she's simply doing to them what they've done to her.  She freezes them out and leaves them cold.  She is not evil, she is deeply wounded and if she doesn't want to bleed to death from a broken heart, she has no choice but to remain frozen. She cannot risk melting - for to melt would release the pain.  

I think this is why I like Ice Queen stories; because it has been my story and it is potentially, every woman's story.  We can all be ice maidens at times; we have all turned a cold shoulder, given a frosty glare, made a cutting reply with frostbite on our lips, frozen someone out of our life for good.  Yes, it can be painful, but it is also a woman's means of survival.  For that reason alone the Ice Queen legend will forever endure, because she is a part of every woman and she lives in each of us... 

...And because there will always be some cock-sure man who thinks he can be the one to melt her! Melting her is one thing, but can he stay true to her? That is the real question. Probably not... and so the story continues ad infinitum.