"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, 27 December 2011

Auld Lang Syne & Old Friends

Its 4.30am as I write and as usual I find myself conversing with my Muse more freely in these hours of darkness.  So here I am tucked up in bed, laptop on my knee, a mug of eggnog latte beside me and my cat, Pyewackett, curled up asleep at my feet.  The Yuletide festivities are over and my thoughts are turning towards the New Year.  I really enjoy the New Year, though I must be honest and admit that I generally celebrate quietly at home, as I find the crowds in the city to be a little overwhelming.  I always dream of celebrating in Edinburgh, but as soon as I see the masses of people on the TV I am always glad I stayed at home! The Scots do know how to put on a Hogmanay show though and the 2nd of January is a bank holiday north of the boarder, giving folk a chance to sleep off the festive headaches.

The New Year is a time of reflection and anticipation.  We look back on what the past year has brought our way, deciding what we want to carry forward into the next year and also what we need to let go. It is a time of remembrance - old friends are in our thoughts once more, distant relations come calling and reconciliations warm even the coldest heart.  Memories are fragile things, sometimes lying hidden deep in the mind only to bubble up to the surface of the conscious once again many years later.  At this time of year it seems natural to look up old pals, or to offer an olive branch to someone you have had words with in the past. It is all too easy to misplace people; but one can never replace them.

I recently remembered some friends I made in the Highlands several years ago, when I was on holiday.  There I met five boys and a soldier and we had  a fantastic time hanging out in an army style tree-house in the woods.  It was a forest full of princes and they taught me many things; like how to climb a rope ladder (you go up the side); how to glide down a zip-wire (one must always wear the wrist straps!); how to row a boat (if the water feels heavy and solid, you're doing it right).  The soldier taught me how to follow my instincts in the Danger Zone without being afraid, while the fifth boy showed me how to feel the true love residing in and around an ancient Pictish marriage stone - I could hear the humming of the stone!  The boys were set on joining the army and they could be serving anywhere in the world now.  I hope they are all safe and well and if by some magical miracle any one of my six forest princes is reading this post, I would love to hear from him and catch up, so drop me a line  on marie.webweaver@gmail.com


The run up to New Year is a great time to bring people back together; it is a time of love and forgiveness as old rifts are healed and stronger relationships are formed.  All relationships have bumps in the road - some bumps seem so big you might think you will never get over them but little by little you can smooth things out. So if you have had a falling out with someone in the past and you have their number, take time this New Year to give them a call.  Life is too short to bear a grudge.  And if a bridge is going to be built, someone has to be strong enough to lay the first stone...



Thursday, 22 December 2011

Tree-House: I wish I lived here!

I wish I lived here!! I have always had a secret desire to live in a tree-house and I do love trees, forests and woodlands. One of my favourite things to do is to go riding through the local woods, enjoying a fast gallop.

I grew up in a tiny terraced house where the view from every window was of more terraced houses, concrete pavements and tarmac roads.  I wanted to look out of my window and see trees...to notice the leaves changing in autumn and falling away to reveal the spooky skeleton tree beneath.  Now I look from my window and I see lots of trees and greenery and the wildness of it all makes me smile.

This picture totally captures my childhood dream of what a tree-house should look like.  Its so fairy-tale! I love the Gothic door and diamond windows; the Juliet style balcony; the thatched roof; the swinging bench beneath, just perfect for dreaming away or reading a book.  A tree-house is the perfect book nook.
Gazing at this picture I can almost smell the lush green forest, and hear the birds singing along with the humming of the bees. I can feel the swaying of the house in the breeze and hear the creaking of the bark. I could be quite happy here, with a stash of chocolate, home-made lemonade and a pile of books to read...go away world, I'm busy dreaming. Who knows?.. maybe one day I will have a tree-house of my own where I can write songs and poems of the forest. Until then...dreams cost nothing and give much. Where would you live in a dream world?

Saturday, 17 December 2011

My Perfume Collection; Top Ten


Is there a girl in the world who does not adore perfume?  I know I do, and with the gift season upon us I thought it would be nice to share with you my top ten perfumes from my personal collection.  A gift of perfume can be enjoyed on a daily basis and in my opinion any Yuletide tree can be made far more glamorous with a special fragrance all wrapped and sparkling beneath the branches!

Perfume can also create a sense memory; that is when you smell a fragrance and it conjures a very specific time, place, person or memory.  Spirits often communicate with us by leaving a favourite scent in the air as a sign that they are close by watching over us.  I only have to smell the perfume Tommy Girl to be taken right back to a most romantic encounter I had some years ago in the Highlands, as this was the fragrance I wore at that time... the tag line for the scent is The Spirit of Independence which sums me up in a nutshell. Here then are my top ten perfumes of the moment, the ones I use on a regular basis and that I keep dotted around my bedroom and bathroom for the glamour factor!

My Top Ten Favourite Perfumes

  1. Coco by Chanel
  2. Angel by Thierry Mugler
  3. Pure Poison by Dior
  4. Flower by Kenzo
  5. Nina by Nina Ricci
  6. Daisy by Marc Jacobs
  7. Hypnotic Poison by Dior
  8. Midnight Fantasy by Britney Spears
  9. Tommy Girl by Tommy Hilfiger
  10. Moroccan Rose by The Body Shop
Every time I wear a  Chanel or Dior fragrance I feel glamorous!  The top three perfumes on my list are great for when you want to turn heads and leave a lingering impression such as on a first date, at a party or a meeting.  Angel is my go-to Yuletide fragrance - I think its the sparkling star shaped bottle as much as the scent - it looks so beautiful sitting on my dressing table! Flower and Daisy are my  favourite summer fragrances, while Hypnotic Poison is perfect for autumn. Midnight Fantasy has a sultry, fruity scent which is nice for  the evenings, as is Nina, which is also very warm and sultry and which comes in an adorable bottle shaped like a shiny red apple - so Snow White and fairytale and I adore it... it sits proudly beside a glass slipper on my dressing table: I kid you not, I have a glass slipper!  Tommy Girl is fresh and youthful, and as its inexpensive its a great everyday perfume - plus it holds special memories for me lol! Moroccan Rose from The Body Shop is also inexpensive and smells wonderful...pure romance in a bottle...this is my bedtime fragrance and I wear it every night as I can think of nothing more girly and romantic than to drift off to sleep beneath the lace canopy of my four-poster bed, inhaling the scent of a fragrant rose bower! Well I am a Yorkshire rose, after all.

I hope this post has helped those of you who need to do some last minute gift shopping. Have a fantastic festive season, if I don't get chance to blog before then, I wish you all the very best.
Blessings from
Marie x

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Late Night Yuletide Shopping

Its 10.30pm and I just got home from a spree of Yuletide shopping.  I like to go quite late in the evenings as its not so busy as at the weekends and I can relax with a nice Eggnog Latte and a Christmas Spiced Cookie in one of the coffee shops. The local shopping centre is all decorated and twinkling with lights and sparkle; mechanical creatures sing carols on the hour; and of course there is Santa's grotto... makes me wish I was six years old again!  Still at least as a grown up I get to buy pretty make-up for the party season and this year I have embraced my inner Ice Maiden with a stash of beautiful silver and sparkling white eyeshadows, nail polishes and lip glosses.  Its all very frosty and Snow Queen-ish and as I am very keen on ice skating, it will be nice make-up to wear when I am taking a turn around the rink all the year round. 

One of the things I like best about Yuletide shopping is the excitement of finding a gift which is just perfect for a loved one...when you know without a shadow of a doubt that they are going to love it!  If you have a lot of people to give to over the festive season December can be an expensive month.  Home-made gifts are a lovely gesture, especially if you can make them with a magical significance for pagan friends.  I always have a Big Bake day with my Mum each year, where we spend the day in the kitchen - not normally my favourite place to be, but she makes it fun! - baking cakes, muffins, mince pies, tarts etc.  We have Yuletide songs playing and it is always a laugh.  This has been an annual family tradition since I was a little girl; it used to be myself, Mum and Nan and I thought it was great fun to watch Mum being told off by her mother for sampling the cakes and getting her wrist slapped!  Now my Nan has passed away, its just me and Mum and I'm the one getting my wrist slapped...well, someone has to uphold the tradition of Chief Tastser :)

Wandering through the shopping centre tonight I have witnessed a variety of moods and emotions from young families brimming over with enthusiasm for everything, to cross harassed people just trying to buy something for everyone on their list and have done with it all.  I am somewhere in the middle - I enjoy shopping for friends and family, but it can be stressful getting through the crowds.  I make it more fun by choosing my diary and calendar for next year and by taking advantage of 3 for 2 deals - the freebie is always for me!  I like to save an extra stash of cash so I can treat myself after a job well done...this year I decided to indulge in a scented candle spree as I love Yankee Candles, especially the autumn and winter fragrances. This was not my best idea...already laden down with gifts, I had to lug two bags of heavy jar candles right through the shopping centre and across a massive car park...in heels.  By the time I got them all home...arms...dropping...off!

Note to self; buy candles online and get them delivered!  At least my house will smell beautifully festive throughout the winter months though, and I have some lovely  Candied Ginger bath and body products from The Body Shop that I am going to indulge in tonight. They smell absolutely gorgeous - all warm and spicy, like Yuletide in a tub!  I cannot wait to sink into the fragrant bubbles, with a new candle burning and a tub of body butter waiting on the side with my pj's and cosy bed socks.  After a day of shopping, a girl needs to pamper herself :)

Happy shopping guys!

Monday, 12 December 2011

WRITER'S DREAM: Rituals

Writer are creatures of habit.  We have certain rituals which we perform each time the Muse takes us.  Special paper and pens; certain fonts or background music; preferred sweets that help the mind to concentrate; all these things are employed as tricks of the trade.    Some writers like to write direct onto a screen; others prefer to write longhand and then type up the manuscript.  I personally like to work on screen for features and columns but for longer projects such as books, I write the first draft by hand, editing and making changes as I type up the manuscript and save to my computer.  My choice of paper for the longhand draft is always A4, narrow lined and ruled and I use a blue or black Paper mate Replay pen.  When I'm working on poems or songs and putting together lyrics, I always use yellow legal pads as this helps me to spot my musical projects at a glance.  I keep a small bowl  (which is a white feather nest with an angel sitting on the side - a gift from my grandmother who passed away) on my desk filled with boiled sweets such as cough candy, sherbet lemons, or  herbal voice tablets if I'm song-writing and recording as I write.  I find it helps to focus the mind when sucking on sweets! Some writers prefer chewing gum. 

Of course this kind of ritual activity is designed to persuade the creative juices to flow.  If you can make the practise of writing into a habit, chances are you will do it more often and get more done. As I am a Wiccan author I also have magical ritual items and tricks I use. They may work for you, but the key is to find your personal creative trigger - if you hate the scent of cinnamon, substitute something else you do like. Here's what I use;

Crystals;  I keep the following crystals on my desk; citrine for communication; clear quartz for clarity of thought; aventurine for abundance.  I also keep a round black obsidian scrying mirror, for insight, propped up on the book stand at my elbow - gazing into this has helped me over many a writer's block!

Scents; This is very personal and will depend on your tastes.  I like to have oils and incense sticks burning as I work. Scented candles also work well, with the added benefit that you can scry in the flame for insight when you stall!  At the moment I am burning Yankee Candle's Warm Spice. My all time favourite fragrances are rose, cinnamon and frankincense.  I use rose more in the warmer months or when writing something with a girly, romantic slant.  Otherwise its something more spicy, with cinnamon incense sticks being my regular staple for a working fragrance - I keep a stash of these in my Arwen Lord of the Rings Chalice on my desk. Some essential oils can aid clarity of thought and concentration, particularly the citrus scents like grapefruit or lemongrass. Using the same fragrance each time you write will help to create a sense memory; you will automatically want to write each time you smell it.  This helps writers get into the zone.

Music;  I personally prefer complete peace and quite when I write, which is why I am most productive through the night.  Some people like to have a little background music playing as they work.  Occasionally I will have a New Age CD playing very quietly, but this needs to be instrumental or I find myself singing along to the lyrics instead of writing.  I have lots of Nature Sounds CDs which I play as I work; these are what work best for me as they are non-intrusive and calm the mind for concentration. Some people prefer classical music and I do have CD's of piano nocturnes, but I tend to use these when sorting out my desk and study rather than when I am writing.  Once the writing work is done I sing and dance to a pop music DVD like Kylie, Britney or Girls Aloud to shake off the stress and get my body moving after a long stint at my desk!

Nature;  Nature is always a fantastic source of inspiration for me so I like to get out and about; in woods, parks, the garden etc.  I take trips to the Scottish Highlands as often as I can, and as I love the ocean I try to get to the coast whenever possible. I keep a glass dish of beautiful seashells on my desk, along with a Caithness mountain rock, hand painted with a thistle, which I use as a paperweight.  I like to keep fresh flowers on my desk and a little rosemary plant as rosemary is the herb of Clan Bruce. You could use whichever house plants to have, or buy a special plant to keep in your creative space.

Sentiment;  For sentimental inspiration I drink tea from a Clan Bruce mug with a matching coaster and I have a small Saltire, and a small Royal Standard, the two flags of Scotland flying from my pen pot! I use an a-ha tour mug, which I bought at their farewell tour last year, as my pen pot.  And my memo block is printed with a thistle!

I hope these tips and tricks prove helpful for you.  Happy writing!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

MUSICAL DOLL: My Album has a REMIX!!

 My album Moon Chants is available as a Remix...I have a Remix!  I cannot write, read or say that sentence without grinning.  It makes me feel like Britney Spears :)  I was asked to write and record an album of pagan songs a while back.  Originally this was to be traditional pagan chants such as covens use, but during the initial chat with Llewellyn, the record label owner at Paradise Music,  I suggested I write an album of entirely new material and the suggestion was welcomed with enthusiasm...I was basically given the go-ahead to do what I wanted!

So I decided to write a collection of fresh new pagan melodies that were catchy enough for practitioners to sing along to and to raise power during their rituals - just like in a traditional coven.  At the same time though we wanted to maintain a  traditional feel throughout the album and I think we achieved that.  The Remix has all the same songs and melodies, but the instrumentation has been stripped right back; its really just drums and vocals, but with the nature sounds I wanted kept in place.  This gives the album an earthy heart of beat, which is very evocative...it makes me think of a coven of witches chanting, drumming and dancing around a midnight fire in the woods! Chris Conway is the genius behind the Remixing. I love the red wash over the cover art.

 It does annoy me somewhat when people assume that I simply put my name to someone else's work.  That is not the case at all.  I wrote every word of every song, and I composed each and every melody for the whole of my Moon Chants album.  I recorded my own vocals too; mine is the very first voice you hear on each track, leading the chants throughout the album.  I also wrote all of the magical sleeve notes for the album.  I did need help with the instrumentation as I have neither the knowledge nor the skill to layer instruments and sounds in order to build up a rich, full-bodied track; that was Chris Conway's department and he did a fantastic job. He is super talented! But I did suggest the kinds of instruments I wanted for each of my melodies.

Unlike my career as a writer, where I worked very hard to get to where I am today, suffering through a myriad of rejections, I cannot say I put that amount of effort into gaining a deal with a record label.  The opportunity for Moon Chants just fell into my lap and I ran with it,  I didn't have to send out demo's or audition as such; I did sing for Llewellyn on the phone though, so maybe that was my audition!  And I had always had in the back of my mind 'Wouldn't it be nice to have my poems put to music so I could sing them' but this was more of a pipe dream than an actual goal.  I love writing poetry and I love singing, so it seemed natural to me to want to put the two things together.  I am honoured that Chris, Llewellyn and Juliana liked my songs so much they sang with me on the album; I'm especially thrilled that Juliana agreed to sing her mermaid vocals on Lady of the Sea.

Writing and recording Moon Chants was such a great experience for me and I learnt so much from it.  If you want to hear samples and download the remix check out the links below.   Meantime I am going to keep tinkering away at my piano...as I write this post I am currently working on not one, but two brand new magical albums! Not sure how long it will be before production...all I can say is Watch this Space!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

WRITER'S DREAM; On My Writer's Bookshelf; Part 2

It is a cold, wet, windy December day; just the kind of day to curl up with a good book or to indulge in a spot of Internet book shopping. I love reading novels as much as anyone but I also try to ensure that I read books which will inspire me and enhance my career in some way.  These books might not be linked to writing; books about art and music, dance and theatre, biographies of people I admire and so on, have all had a positive effect on how I write. 
 Filling the creative well is often even more important than drawing from the creative juices; if you don't fill you mind with new thoughts, feelings, people, places and experiences then what will you write about?  Inspiration is all around us all the time and simple things can often be enough to light the creative spark. With this in mind I spent time this morning perusing the bookshelves in my study to find books which will help those of you who wish to write.  I have chosen five books which are invaluable to new writers and which focus on the business aspects of writing and being published.  In my opinion these are must have titles for any writer, at any level.
 
Top Five Writer's Books for Getting Published
 
1.  How NOT to Write a Novel by David Armstrong
 
2. Writer's & Artists Yearbook
 
3. Write Right! by Jan Venolia
 
4. Solutions for Writers by Sol Stein
 
5. 501 Writers' Questions Answered by Nancy Smith
 
The Writers & Artists Yearbook is a directory of agents and publishers in the UK and abroad. Published each autumn, it lists editors names and contact details, submissions guidelines and publishing type so it is the go-to guide for those trying to find a way in; if an agent or publisher is not listed here, then be very wary!  Jan Venolia has written a guide to correct grammar and punctuation to help you produce good, clean saleable copy, while Sol Stein offers a book of solutions to common problems.  Nancy Smith's book of answers will tell you everything you ever wanted to know including how many copies you need to sell to be a best-seller, which is surprisingly few.  Finally David Armstrong offers a truthful account of what the life of a mid-list author is really like; I love this book and it is one of my favourites.  It tells is like it is rather than perpetuating the myth of the instant millionaire publishing deal!  It makes me laugh out loud and nod in shared experience; but if you prefer the myth then this book will cut too deep for you.  Good Luck!

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

St Andrew's Day!

Today is St Andrew's day and while, being pagan, I do not really hold to saints days I do like to celebrate all things Scottish on this day each year.  I regard St Andrew's day as a day to connect with a country I love and to indulge in my passion for Scottish history and legend.

The sight of the Saltire always puts a smile on my face and having recently been to the Highlands again I have lots of fresh memories to enjoy.  Today I will be listening to Scottish folk music, my favourite songs being Flower of Scotland as its about Robert The Bruce, Highland Cathedral and also The Dark Island which conjures up the magic of this majestic land.  I will also be burning heather oil in my oil burner to try and capture the scent of the Glen.  I love to hear the sound of the pipes playing; a lone piper can reduce me to tears, as can the sight of a beautiful Glen, or a stag - and I won't even mention what a man in a kilt can do for me!

I will be watching The History of Scotland DVDs and reading some of Neil Oliver's book of the same name. I must confess that I have a bit of a crush on Neil Oliver; its the way he scurries through the heather with his hair blowing; and the way he walks around Scotland absolutely secure in his sense of belonging.  Plus he is super intelligent and he loves all the things I love - Scotland, the sea, history, writing - he's just brilliant. I never tire of his work.  And I do think Scotsmen are incredibly sexy!

Finally I will be planning my next trip north of the boarder and getting excited about my return - there are still parts of Scotland I have not yet seen, including Loch Lomond, so perhaps I will visit there next time.  I was at Loch Ness in September, on a cruise boat sailing past a row of pretty Loch-side cottages, but I didn't catch a glimpse of the monster.  Maybe I'll go back again and have better luck Nessie spotting next time round...until then I wish all my Scots friends and readers, wherever in the world you may be, a very happy St Andrew's Day!

Blessed be
Marie x

Monday, 28 November 2011

BOOK NOOK: To Die For; a novel of Anne Boleyn by Sandra Byrd

I am obsessed with all things Tudor and I have been for a long while now, so I eagerly awaited the arrival of Sandra Byrd's novel of Anne Boleyn To Die For from Amazon.  The cover art is beautiful and this is a lovely book to have on my Tudor bookshelf.    The triumphant/tragic tale of Anne Boleyn is told here through the eyes of her best friend, Meg Wyatt, sister of Thomas Wyatt, the great poet.  I have to be honest and say that the narrative did not grip me completely and I found Meg to be a bit of a cold fish.  However Byrd does a fine job of illustrating the subtle jealousies and rivalries that exist between close female friends especially when one friend is successful and the other is hanging on by the coat tails!  Meg goes from being Anne's best friend to Mistress of the Queen's Robes and glorified servant - this change in the dynamics of the friendship is beautifully played out on the page, as is the unshakable loyalty of a true friend when Anne's star begins to fall.  While I have sympathy for each one of Henry VIII's wives, I find I can empathise most with Anne Boleyn who was, in my opinion, viciously framed. In To Die For   Byrd refrains from repeating the usual stereotype of Anne as either a scheming minx or a wanton harlot; instead she is portrayed as a women who fell in love with the wrong man - a man who let her down, mistreated her and eventually eliminated her so that he could move onto his next victim, Jane Seymour.  This lends the novel a gentle truth; a truth which most women can relate to as lots of us have fallen for the wrong man at some point in ours lives and so it is easy  to imagine oneself in Anne's place; a woman who trusted and who was betrayed.  Overall To Die For is quite a superficial read, lacking the character depth of Phillipa Gregory's Tudor series or the Tudor novels of Emily Purdy to compare, but it does come into its own at the trial and execution of Anne and her fellow accused; at this point I was thoroughly drawn in, though the historical content means it was Anne's voice rather than the authors which eventually gripped me and wouldn't let me go until the terrible swing of the sword.  It is not a long novel at just 325 pages and I read it in a day and a half. Never the less, it has been an enjoyable read and a great escape during a wet and windy day when the rain is pounding against the window panes and the wind is howling down the chimney.  Although I cannot take up Anne's case, I do judge it kindly and I regard her as one of the strongest women in British history. The one thing which I shall take from To Die For is this; it does a woman no good at all to pledge herself to a weak man who bears a grudge... I too have a very little neck!  Thank goodness marriage these days is optional.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Yey...I'm the Birthday Princess!

There is a magical day that comes but once a year...I'm refering to a birthday. Today is mine and I have been thoroughly spoilt and pampered, after a nice weekend of catching up with friends and family.  Birthdays are somehow extra special in a time of recession and it is lovely to be presented with fabulous gifts and tokens of affection from loved ones. It is more meaningful that someone has taken the time and expense to think of you when times are hard and people are struggling.

Today I was given lots of wonderful gifts including a few books, dvds, a couple of perfumes, some Scottish crystal wear with thistle and piper design, bath and body products, the new Evanesense album and of course chocolates! So I have been wallowing in my own glory reflected in the eyes of those who know me best.  Its always nice to feel like a Princess :)  If my birthday was a colour, it would be soft rose pink with sparkling diamond dewdrops.

Every year since I was little my mum has written in my birthday card "May all your dreams come true" and I am convinced that this annual wish of loving kindness really has helped me to make many of my dreams and goals a reality over the years.  There are still things I want to do, goals I have yet to achieve, goals I have yet to set for myself as I have the Bruce trait of 'the need to press ahead' and meet all challenges, especially those I create for myself. So later tonight I will do a thanksgiving ritual for all the wonderful people in my life and to set the tone for the coming year, I will cast for the things I want to achieve.

I also have birthday traditions which I uphold every year; the main one being that my birthday is always a Disney day!  I watch Disney's Sleeping Beauty (which is my favorite fairytale) every birthday just after I open my cards and gifts.  I also got Tangled as a gift this year so I will be watching that tonight.  I tend to watch or listen to one of my favorite pop princesses; this year it is Britney and Kylie - are they really going to sing a duet together? That would be so cool!  And pink iced cakes are another must, with something festive and bubbly to drink, followed by a read through of one of my fairytale anthologies before I go to sleep at night. Mostly though I take time to consider all the wonderful things in my life; I am grateful for all that I have, all that I do and all the fabulous things that wait for me in the course of the year to come.

I know that a lot of you have followed my work for many years now and I am grateful for your loyalty and support.  As I am a writer and a witch I believe in the transformative power of words so here is one more birthday wish, just for you guys;   May all your dreams come true too! 
Blessed be
Marie x

Saturday, 19 November 2011

WRITER'S DREAM; On My Writer's Bookshelf: Part 1

Are you still with me; or did the reality of my first Writer's Dream post bite too hard?  If you are here for a second helping then you might just have what it takes in resilience to become a writer!  I have said that writers write, but we also spend a lot of time reading too. Writers tend to read about writing when they have stalled creatively, when they seek inspiration from favorite authors or when they are gearing up to a long stint in the study working on a big project. I have lots of books on writing and the business of the publishing industry, some of which I have found invaluable throughout the course of my career.  Buying books such as the ones I am going to recommend here should be viewed as a financial investment in yourself and in your ambitions. And if you are not prepared to invest in yourself then why would you expect a publisher to invest money in your talent?  I was going to do a Top Ten Writer's Books post as I have been a big fan of reading lists since my university days, but on sorting through my favorite tomes in my study it became clear that they fall into two very distinct groups; books on the process of creativity and books about the business aspects of the publishing industry.  So without further ado here is Part 1 of my personal Top Ten.  Part 2 will follow at a later date.

Top Five Writer's Books for Creativity

1.  Teach Yourself Creative Writing by Dianne Doubtfire

2. The Creative Writing Coursebook by Julia Bell and Paul Magrs

3. The Writer's Idea Book by Jack Heffron

4. The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women by Gail McMeekin

5. How I Write; The Secret Lives of Authors by Dan Crowe

Each of these books offers something different, from the basics covered by Dianne Doubtfire, through to a kind of home study experience presented by Julia Bell and Paul Magrs, to a book of ideas to get writers over a block and back into the zone.  Dan Crowe has complied anecdotes from well known authors, including Will Self and Ian Rankin, about how they write and what inspires them on a personal level, while Gail McMeekins book of secrets encompasses creativity of all kinds from music and dance to art and literature.

Let me know in the comments below if you want me to post BOOK NOOK reviews on any or all of these titles.  I have had some of these books for many years, since the start of my career, but you should be able to find them on Amazon if they are not in your local bookstore.   Grab whichever appeals to you the most - if you are a multi-dimensional writer like me and you enjoy writing music and lyrics, or poetic verse then The 12 Secrets will be right up your street.  In fact I think I am going to have a skim through that one now as I curl up with a latte and a cinnamon spiced cookie...  happy reading!
http://www.amazon.co.uk/

Friday, 18 November 2011

Pointe Shoes!

I am having some trouble breaking in my pointe shoes, which are not the shoes I wanted to buy. I actually wanted a pair of Bloch shoes but they didn't have my size so being an impatient creature I bought a pair of Sansha Recital instead.  These are really, really hard!  I keep rolling them back and forth, in both directions front and back but nothing seems to work and they are still as hard as clogs!  Maybe I am being too soft with them.  I don't want to break the shank as I do need the support, but at the moment there is no support and I keep tipping forward onto the box - not good. I cannot seem to get the shank to shape to my instep, so there is a gap between shoe and foot and I don't know what I might be doing wrong. I am having trouble rolling up en pointe in them too as there is just no flexibility in the shoe.  As I have already sewn on the elastics and ribbons I cannot return them, so I will keep trying to break them in for a bit longer...maybe they just need more time. Or I might go back for some Bloch pointes and hang the Sansha Recitals in my bedroom as room decor!  They are very pretty after all.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

WRITER'S DREAM; A Fashionable Ambition

People are always fascinated by the fact that I am a writer and I am often asked by those who would like to be writers too "How did you do it?"  There is no quick fix answer, I'm afraid.  It was lot of hard work, disappointment, rejection, tears and eventually a bit of luck!  I feel very fortunate to be able to do what I do; I work with some lovely editors and for well known publishers. Being a writer has opened new doors for me; it is unlikely that I would have been asked to write and record a pagan album or host a column in a national magazine had I not been a well known author in my field.  In these Writer's Dream posts I intend to pass on what I have learnt in my career; including hints, tips and insights into my own life as a working published writer.

Nowadays it seems that everyone wants to be a writer.  In a recent issue of EVE magazine a survey asking readers about their career goals stated that the number one dream job was that of bestselling author.  In a highly competitive industry the stakes just got higher! It would seem that so many people are looking for a publishing deal; contacting editors, publishers and agents, working away at a novel, screen play, poetry collection or children’s book as they wait for their big break into print.  The urge to become a writer is now a very fashionable dream, but the current popularity of this dream does make me wonder how many people really know what they could be getting in to? 

Unless you become a huge household name the fact is that writing, journalism and editorial are not the best paid professions.  It could even be said that writers and journalists are hard done by when it comes to the financial rewards for their work.  The truth is that for every JK Rowling, Helen Fielding, Stephen King or Terry Pratchett there are thousands of working writers just trying to make ends meet or who are making a modest living.  Many more use writing as a paid hobby and work in other jobs to support their family and pay the bills. So if you want to be a writer because you think it is the best way to make a fast buck or achieve instant fame then you might as well put down the pen.  The majority of authors fall into what is euphemistically known as the mid-list.  This basically means that they are regularly published and their books sell well, but that they have not yet reached the highest level of commercial success or the millionaire status. This is especially likely to be true if you want to write specialist non-fiction or you fall into a genre with a low shelf turn over. If you want to write for the popular genres such as romance,  fantasy, horror, crime or children's books etc than be aware that millions of other writers have exactly the same game plan and the competition will be fierce.  The houses who publish in these genres will also be quite ruthless in sifting the wheat from the chaff.  

It could be that this fashion for becoming a writer is a passing social phase due to the exposure of high profile authors who make it seem so easy; an idea arrives in your head (naturally this is always fully-formed), then you simply write the book, find an agent, obtain a publisher and a film deal and you’re away with the celebrities… the truth is somewhat different from the dream however and there is nothing like the thud of a pile of rejection slips and form letters landing on your doormat to bring about a very rude awakening.  Some of you reading this post will already be aware of the pain a rejection can bring. Keep the faith!

I am by no means trying to put you off;  I am living, breathing proof that persistence and determination can eventually lead to successful publication and work as a full time author. I also believe that the need to pass on information and tell stories is what makes us human. Some of us simply could not get through the day without writing! The question is; what do you want to achieve from your writing?

An Audience; this one is easily achieved.  If you feel you need to pass on information, share anecdotes and so on with people of a like mind you can simply set up a blog page and begin to share your work right away. Some bloggers have even won the attention of top publishing houses.

Validation; perhaps you prefer the validation of a publishing deal?  This will boost your confidence in your talent and ability, but it should not be viewed as the winning post - rather, it is where the hard work begins.

Financial Gain; if you write well you will eventually be paid for your work.  It might not be a large enough income to support a growing family though, so you should keep hold of your main job.  You might be one of the lucky few who do make it to the big time...its always a possibility! But sadly, not every writers destiny.

Fame; while some level of recognition is inevitable when you become published, it is likely that your name will be known, but not your face. However, if you can get a great agent, top publisher and you have the personality to self-promote like a super-star...who knows?

Once you have decided what you want from your writing you can begin to work towards it - not everyone wants to be published; some people just want to share what the they know.  The bottom line is; writers write. There are some who talk about being an author yet never send work out, or they give up after the first rejection.  They are more concerned with having the appearance of being a writer than getting down to the task of the job.  For those of you who have the determination to succeed here are a few affirmations to keep you positive when the going gets tough. 
TIP:  Use the following affirmations to get you into the right frame of mind.
I am totally committed to my writing
I find the time to write something every day
Each day brings me closer to my goal of becoming a writer
No-one else will take my writing seriously until I do
Today is my first day as a committed writer
I make this pledge that I will serve my writing in the best way I can
Actions speak louder than words and so I pick up my pen and write…


Monday, 14 November 2011

A great Gallop!

A lovely grey, damp November day; just the day for a gallop through the misty woods!  I love riding out in the woods at this time of year and I enjoy horse-riding more in autumn than in the summer time.  Its so exhilarating, with the chill wind in my face making my cheeks rosy and the squish and squelch of the mud under the horse's hooves, the jump to clear a fallen log. Its slippery and a bit dangerous, but that adds to the fun for horse and rider; there is nothing to make my heart beat faster than the feel of a hoof slipping out from under my mount -- as they have four feet they are very unlikely to fall, but it adds to the adrenaline rush! Or the sight of a low branch I are not sure I can duck low enough to avoid and the feel of it brushing my jacket as I lie flat against my horse's neck.  I admit that I do feel the need for speed and equine speed is second to none.

Then its back to the yard and the shelter of the stable.  I love the rustling sound of hooves and boots through the straw; the rasping, crunching. munching sound of a hungry horse feeding from a hay net as I wisp him dry, groom him and rug him up for the colder evenings.  Once the horses are bedded down, its time to clean the tack. The warm glow of the tack room beckons across the yard in the early dusk and tucked inside out of the wind my friends and I enjoy hot coffee and buttery crumpets, the delicious fragrance mingling with the scent of the saddle soap.  Laughter, chatter, a shared interest and soon the tack is gleaming.  One last pat, a nuzzle and a whisper and its time for me to drive home and begin writing.  Days just don't get any better than this!

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Sulking...

Today I have been sulking.   Not in any door-slamming teenage tantrum sense, you understand; no, this is something far more sophisticated.  I must confess, I have turned sulking into an art form!  For me sulking is about taking the time to indulge in one's own personal space and privacy. On days like today I am so grateful for the fact that I am happily single and blissfully child free...so many women do not have the luxury of sulking as their time is taken up by the demands of husbands and kids.  For me sulking is all about self-nurturing, comfort and joy.  Its about snuggling into the nest of one's home and just staying put; its about short term hibernation.  November is the perfect month to indulge in the sulks as the short grey days and long dark nights bid you to stay indoors and enjoy a few home comforts. And I am a huge fan of soft living!

I believe that there are two types of sulking; spontaneous and pre-meditated.  Spontaneous sulking usually happens when you have had a set-back, disappointment or a really bad day. It comes upon you all of a sudden, leaving you feeling out of kilter and in need of a moments peace.  Pre-meditated sulking happens when you know you are in for a rough week due to a winter flu or PMS and you take steps to make things a little easier on yourself.  Both kinds of sulking are actually beneficial; they are our mental health days.

How do I sulk? Let me count the ways! I sulk in my four-poster bed, or curled up on the chaise-lounge under a warm throw; I sulk in cosy pj's or a long Victorian nightgown.  I sulk in a fragrant bath of foam and bubbles.  I indulge my need for peace and quiet by turning off the phones to avoid chatter and sinking into a great novel instead.  I always have scented candles and oils burning - today I am burning Sparkling Cinnamon from Yankee Candles and oil of  Winter Snow berries, so my house smells like a Narnian forest. I always mix fragrances so that my home smells unique; rarely the same two days in a row.  I also like to have piano nocturnes playing as the sound of this solitary instrument is so soothing to me. Sometimes I watch a DVD box set, like The Tudors (Henry Cavill is so sexy!) or I might simply day-dream and fall into reverie. 

Comfort foods are essential for a day of sulking, especially at this time of year when the weather is turning colder so I enjoy one of my favourite dishes like lasagna or baked potatoes with a yummy filling. Pretty cupcakes make me smile as they are so feminine; cinnamon waffle ice-cream is a nice treat; chocolate is essential!  Hot drinks keep out the chill and comfort the soul so I drink sweet caramel lattes during the day and right now I am sipping on warm mulled wine with the excuse that it is a seasonal beverage and its nearly my birthday! Naps and early nights are to be commended so I am going to add a drop of blackberry and lavender oil to the burner in my bedroom and snuggle into bed with my novel and spiced wine.  Reading by the soft glow of lamps and candlelight is the perfect end to a comforting day; in fact I have had so much fun sulking today that I plan on sulking again tomorrow too...that should leave me rested and restored, ready for a hectic, manic Monday!

Do you plan to indulge in a spot of sulking this month? How do you sulk?

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Bonfire Night with Britney Spears!!!

Hi everyone!  I hope you all had a fun Guy Fawkes night.  I didn't go to a bonfire this year as I had tickets to see the Britney Spears 'Femme Fatale' tour instead.  It was fantastic to see Britney in my home town and the best bonfire night ever...I didn't even miss out on the fireworks as Britney had a load of them going off on stage around her!   It was a great concert, concentrating on her last three albums from Blackout to Femme Fatale, with just a few of her old hits thrown in. I have been a fan for years and this is the first time I have managed to a bag myself a ticket - £60 well spent and I was chuffed.

After a few troubled years its brilliant to see Britney back stronger and better than ever.  She wore beautiful sparkly costumes throughout, had audience members up on stage with her, was very warm hearted and friendly towards the crowd and danced like a trouper all the time she was on stage.  My one complaint is that it just did not last long enough.  Britney came on stage at 9pm and the show was over for 10.30pm...gimme more!  Having been lucky enough to see Kylie more than once I have to admit that a Kylie concert is much better value for money as she is on stage for at least two hours and sings every word live;  whereas Britney only sang a few songs live.  In fairness to Britney though, much of her work is dance music and is highly produced in the studio so it would be nigh on impossible to recreate that same sound with purely live vocals... I guess she needs a bit of help from time to time to maintain the sound she is known for.

I had a brilliant night, came away with a big bag of souvenirs including a pink Femme Fatale coffee mug, and I would absolutely go to see Britney again if she returns to my home town.  However, I am not convinced that a 90 minute stage presence would be worth a long trip out of town to see her.  Still I am thrilled to have seen her perform live on stage and it was a magical evening.  It is the one fireworks night that I will never forget!

Monday, 31 October 2011

Circle of the Silver Strand Column Spell

Well, my soul mate spell candles are burning good and strong, are yours?!  Hope my Web Weavers are enjoying tonight's circle spell and feeling the energies...do email me via my blog profile or Spirit&Destiny magazine if you have any interesting and romantic developments to report.  Good luck everyone...may true love find you and light up your lives.  Happy casting!

Samhain Blessings
Marie x

Friday, 28 October 2011

BOOK NOOK; Scottish Witches by Lily Seafield

In the spirit of Halloween I have been reading Scottish Witches by Lily Seafield.  This fascinating book digs deep into the witch trials that went on throughout Scotland during the 16th and 17th centuries.  Unlike other books on similar topics Seafield does not sensationalize or romanticize the witch hunts, nor does she turn this tragic period of history into a grim fairytale.  Quite the opposite in fact, as Scottish Witches looks at all aspects of witchcraft from the superstitions and the magical nature of witches, through to how those accused of witchcraft were taken to trial, prosecuted and what ordeals or tortures were commonly used to bring about a confession.  This is a somewhat harrowing read at times as unlike England where witches were hanged, in Scotland they were actually burnt at the stake or in a barrel - the witch trials is where the phrase 'to have someone over a barrel' originally came from.   Seafield explores weather witching, elf bolts, agricultural charms, counter charms and poppets before going on to detail the trials of specific people such as the North Berwick Witches, Isobel Gowdie and the Paisley Witches to name a few.   Seafield also looks at how witches and witchcraft are depicted in art, literature and poetry.  She ends the book with a final chapter on modern Wicca which does lift it to a more positive level.  Though it makes for uncomfortable reading at times, overall I did enjoy the book and I shall look out for more titles by this author.  I actually bought Scottish Witches when I was in Strathspey in the Highlands but I have checked and you can get it on www.amazon.co.uk

Friday, 21 October 2011

PC Night Shift

For keeping the streets safe so that single girls can sleep easy in their beds at night - we saltue you!
Hope you like my blog; post a comment or email me from my profile if it made you smile.
Take care,
Marie

Thursday, 20 October 2011

October's Nocturne...music of the night!


 As Samhain draws closer my thoughts naturally turn to all things phantasmagorical.  I decorated my house a couple of days ago and now I have ceramic pumpkins gleaming at me in all the rooms and a skeleton hanging in my kitchen...its good to get into the spirit of the season!  While Samhain itself is a sacred ritual night, I do enjoy a bit of a build up during the month of October and this is when I enjoy the 'Halloween' aspect. I watch spooky films by candlelight at midnight, and I enjoy all the Gothic drama that this time of year has to offer.

There is something magnetic and soul-stirring about the nebulous beauty of the Gothic genre.  From literary classics such as Dracula and The Hound of the Baskervilles to the romantic artwork of Victoria Frances and Anne Stokes, immersing oneself in all things eerie and spine-chilling has a funny way of brightening the day!  My favorite Gothic band is Nox Arcana and I have been listening to their albums all month.  The ones pictured here are the albums which are most suited to Samhain; ghostly melodies and eerie, mournful dirges are perfect background  music if you are having a special gathering or even just a kids Halloween party.  Grimm Tales tales has a dark, fairytale quality while Shadow of the Raven is inspired by the works of Edgar Allan Poe... listen out for the cries of a man who has been buried alive at the end; spine-tingling stuff!  Listen to samples of their albums at   www.NoxArcana.com

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Autumn Indulgence

I just love this time of year!  Autumn and winter are my favorite seasons and I love the mists, the rain, the howling winds and swirling leaves fluttering to the ground.  I know that some people begin to feel depressed as the nights draw in and summer is long over, but for me this is the best time of the year, when a cosy winter waits around the corner and the amber glory of autumn is under way.

It is dark before 7pm now and soon the clocks change - I can't wait.  I seem to get more energized through the darker half of the year; I get more done; I feel more productive as the early dusk inspires me to be even more creative.  I wrote the whole of my first album Moon Chants (which is a pagan musical journey through the seasons)  at this time of year and I think that the autumn and winter tracks came to me more easily because I was tuning into the season around me.  These shorter, colder days certainly inspire me to spend more time at my piano as it situated in the warmest room in the house! And with the windows closed I practice my vocals more too!

Autumn is a time of great activity in nature, and this has an effect on us humans too...we feel the need to spruce up the house and make it as warm, secure and comfortable as possible, knowing that we will be spending more time indoors as the temperature plummets.  We tend to stock up on comfort foods, take more hot baths rather than a quick shower, and dig out winter woollies.  We are certainly encouraged in this as we walk down the high street - shops are filled with gift ideas ready for Yuletide shoppers, and it is a great time of year to treat yourself, especially if the darker days make you grumpy.

This need to indulge in comfort and warmth is a natural reaction to the drop in temperature, and treats need not be expensive. Magical goodies can be found in most supermarkets if you know where to look.  Tonight for example I indulged in a long hot bath fragranced with Bededas bath gel, which is made from extract of horse chestnut and smells simply divine...it smells like autumn in a bottle and the fragrance is so powerful it has wafted right through my entire house...making me feel like I am living in the middle of a woodland glade.  Magically speaking, horse chestnut is associated with healing and promotes good energies, while any tree which casts nuts or seeds is said to bring prosperity and abundance.

At the same time I was sipping on Tetley's Chai Tea which I love!  Its a dreamy blend of autumnal spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and clove...all of which are linked with prosperity.  So there I am, indulging in good vibes and bathing in the waters of abundance, both within and without.  Magic made easy!  Try it for yourself - next time you are in the supermarket see what magical things you can pick up and indulge in a spot of  simple enchantment.  If you want to hear samples of my album Moon Chants  go to www.paradisemusic.co.uk

Friday, 14 October 2011

BOOK NOOK: Hiding from the Light by Barbara Erskine

As I am such a blue-stocking book-worm I thought it would be nice to share some of my favorite reads with you.  So any post with the header Book Nook is a review of a book that I am reading.  I always have two or three books on the go at any one time; something inspiring, some poetry and a novel is the usual mix.

So in the spirit of October I have been reading Hiding from the Light by Barbara Erskine. IMHO this is one of Erskine's best novels.  It is beautifully crafted and each page is filled with spooky atmosphere.  For those of you not familiar with Erskine's work she writes time loop novels, where the past and present intertwine in a supernatural way, whether this be by a standard haunting,  a past life or an ancient artifact.  In Hiding from the Light we meet Emma, a top London business women inexplicably drawn to an old cottage in Essex.  On buying the cottage and moving in Emma begins to have unsettling dreams and it soon becomes clear that she is being haunted by the ghosts of Mathew Hopkins, Witch Finder General, and one of his victims.  The novel reaches its climax on all Hallows Eve when all hell breaks loose and it is up to Emma to fight the good fight!  Bear in mind that the Wiccan aspect is fictional.

This is a really great book to curl up with on a chilly October evening, while sipping on a glass of red wine  - which is exactly what I have been doing.  Erskine has done a fantastic job in capturing the spirit of autumn's fog and mist and weaving it into a rich and detailed novel.  I greatly enjoyed reading this book and you can find in on http://www.amazon.co.uk/

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Mercury Moon

It is the phase of the full moon and Mercury, planet/god of communication, has just moved into my sign of Scorpio so I guess now is the perfect time to begin to blog.  Its something I've been putting off for years, digging my heals in and saying its just not for me, but now that I am up and running it's actually not that scary! I quite like it.  I am surprised by this as I was lead to believe that setting up any kind of Internet page is a massive learning curve, but I found it to be surprisingly easy and I did it all by myself...I deserve a gold star!

The wonderful thing is that I have been invoking Mercury for a couple of weeks, and now here I am communicating with my Circle members and readers in a completely different way to anything I have done before.  Magic can often be that way...once you invite the gods into your life they shed a new light on things and you might find yourself doing something entirely unexpected.  These subtle coincidences - which are not really coincidence at all - are a sign that magic is afoot.  Mercury certainly has a few surprises up his sleeve, so who knows how many exciting new things he has lined up for me?  I invoked him and he is answering the call.  You can take advantage of his energies too...whether you need a boost to your social life, confidence for a presentation at work, or the chance to meet up with an old friend, simply call on Mercury and state your need aloud...then wait for the phone to ring and expect the unexpected.  Enchanting!

Merry Meet!

Welcome to my brand new blog!  First let me say that I am a certified technophobe so I'm not sure how this is going to work out...it could be that in a few weeks or months I break up with Blog in one of those "It's not you, its me" moments.  We'll see how it goes.

For those of you who don't know me I write for the Mind, Body and Spirit genre or New Age as it is also known.  I write for top UK publishers and magazines, both as a columnist and a freelance features contributor.  My specialist subjects include all things magical and pagan, from angels to zen, but I have also written for equestrian and home decor publishers as well.  Some of you will already be very familiar with my work.

Here readers can get to know me a little better... find out what I have been up to, what projects I am working on and so on.  I will also post spells and poetry and fun stuff for you guys to try out, including tips on how to put more enchantment and glamour into your life...we all need a glamour ritual every now and then!
Of course this blog will feature my other interests too - its not all all about magic and charms as you can find that in my other work.  I will also share creativity tips for those with artistic ambitions and other random bits and pieces.