"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!