"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.

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!

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


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!