"FUIMUS - We Have Been"

"FUIMUS - We Have Been!" motto of Clan Bruce

All material on SHIMMERCASTDREAMS copyright of Marie Bruce and may not be reproduced without the author's permission.

Monday, 30 January 2012

BOOK NOOK; Top Five Hedge-witchery Books

Witchcraft...a single word that stirs the imagination and sends shivers down the spine.  There is no doubt that the stereotype of a witch casting hexes and curses still exists in society, but thankfully perceptions are slowly changing and paganism in all its forms, including witchery, is now more likely to be viewed as the gentle practice it is.  Of course there will always be the odd individual who insists that magic and spell-casting is evil, but on the whole society has become more tolerant and open to learning about alternative spirituality and different ways of doing things.

One of the things I love about paganism and witchery is the concept of the divine female; the goddess and the earth as our mother.  Holding a female figure in a place of divine reverence naturally brings about greater respect for all women; and when the earth is regarded as our mother we are less  inclined to cause damage and destruction, so pollution and environmental issues are faced with compassion for the planet we inhabit.

As a pagan author I have hundreds of titles on witchery, magic, spell-casting, divination and so on.  Two of the large bookcases in my study are filled with magical tomes, some old, some new, some written by myself lol!   I have encyclopedias of magic, histories of paganism in the UK,  books on shamanism, herbalism and fortune telling.  As there are so many books out there, and far too many in my study for me to post Book Nooks on each individual title, I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite witchy books with you as Top Five's; splitting the books in to categories as I go.  In this way you can explore and learn your chosen topics, but with a little guidance on side, as the sheer number of titles available can be confusing if you are new to the subject.  I thought I would begin with hedge-witchery titles as this is usually one of the first paths new seekers discover and solitary practice is my own personal preference.

Top Five Hedge-witchery Books

1. Witch Crafting by Phyllis Curott

2. Craft of the Wild Witch by Poppy Palin

3. Natural Witch by Ellen Dugan

4. The Hedge Witch's Way by Rae Beth

5. Wild Witchcraft by Marian Green

I have listed these books in order according to how much I have enjoyed reading them and how useful they have been to me over the years.  Phyllis Curott is one of my favorite Wiccan authors, and I enjoy the memoir style of her writings - it makes it very easy to for the reader to drop into her world for a while.  As I am a girl who loves poetry, it being the very first kind of writing I ever had published myself, I adore Poppy Palin's book because it has been so poetically written; the blurb even describing this title as 'a poetic guidebook to the green-spirited path'.  It is just beautiful and one of the books I turn to again and again whenever I am having a blue day and I need a gentle reminder of what matters most to me. Its not a book for neophyte witches though and you will need some experience to get the most from this tome.

Ellen Dugan's book is a great primer for the beginner.  Its fun and fab, with lots of tips and tricks to get you casting right away. It is very accessible and gently written to lead you in to a whole new world of magic and wonder.  Rae Beth's book is a delight to read, and is also a great beginners title, while Marian Green's is more of an intermediate book which will help you make the transition from dabbling to serious practice.  There is nothing scary in any one of these books - all are gently written in accordance with the basic Wiccan Rede of causing harm to none.  Each book also sports a rather lovely cover design and as a collection they will certainly enhance any bookshelf.  Let me know if you plan to read, or have read these titles and what you thought of them, either in the comments box, or you can Tweet me using the Twitter link in the right  hand sidebar. Its always great to hear from you guys.
PS: I hear Marie Bruce's books are pretty good too! lol Have a good week ;)

Friday, 27 January 2012

SCREEN SIREN; Top Ten Femme Fatale Films

One of my favorite things to do in the evenings is to light candles, pour a glass of wine, climb into bed and settle down to watch a great film.  I have recently been Tweeting on the films I have watched this week - look out for tweets that say Now showing on BoudoirScreen1 which will tell you the film I am watching in bed before I go to sleep. A nice romantic film is a lovely way to relax in the evenings.

I am also fascinated by the idea of the Temptress or Femme Fatale, and this is a favorite theme with movie makers and classic novelists too.
Ever since Eve shimmied her forbidden fruit under Adam's poor bewildered nose, beautiful women have been labeled as temptresses - it is never going to change so we might as well embrace it!  It's a topic I explored in my book The Wiccan Temptress.

So many actresses whom I admire have taken on this kind of role and done the Femme Fatale proud with their portrayals.  Sometimes the temptress is calculating and scheming;  sometimes she is bitten by the reality of her own beauty and powers of attraction.  Occasionally she is just a woman who falls in love with the wrong man.  Whoever she is, she captures the imagination.  Men want her; women want to be her.  She is irresistible. Check out these films to see the Femme Fatale and some amazing actresses as work.

1. Dangerous Beauty ; Catherine McCormack & Rufus Sewell
2. Lady Audley's Secret ; Neve McIntosh & Steven Macintosh
3. The Wicked Lady ; Margeret Lockwood & James Mason
4. Legends of the Fall ; Julia Ormond & Brad Pitt
5. The Age of Innocence ; Michelle Pfeiffer & Daniel Day-Lewis
6. The Return of the Native ; Catherine Zeta Jones & Clive Owen
7.  Far From the Madding Crowd ; Paloma Baeza, Nathaniel Parker & Jonathan Firth
8.  Cleopatra ; Leonor Varela & Timothy Dalton
9 . Poison Ivy ; Drew Barrymore & Tom Skerritt
10. The Heart of Me ; Helena Bonham Carter & Paul Bettany

Ten fantastic films to snuggle up to on a cold winter's night! Enjoy.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

WRITER'S DREAM; Be a Tweeting Blogger

As you probably know I am new to blogging and tweeting.  At first I wasn't sure that it was for me, but I confess I love them both!  I can see the attraction of  having an instant platform upon which to share one's ideas and it is ever so addictive.  The thing which most surprised me though is how useful it is to me as a professional writer.

For many years all my ideas have first of all had to be filtered through editors - if they did not get approval, or an editor had recently commissioned something similar, the ideas didn't get written up fully - they remained a collection of notes and brainstorming.  Since setting up ShimmerCastDreams I now have a place to place the ideas that do not get placed with editors!  I see the blog as my own mini magazine - its subject is me and my life, so anything that I spend time doing and which I enjoy has a place here.  I cannot express how liberated this has made me feel as a writer - for the first time in my career, I know that every idea I have will get written up; whether it ends up in a magazine or on the blog doesn't really matter as it will still reach my audience.  This freedom is the payoff for blogging and it is also a little extra gift to my readers; here you get to read my work entirely for free so it is a small thank you for the support you have given me over the years and I do read and appreciate all of your lovely comments and tweets!

For those of you who want to be writers I cannot recommend blogging enough.  As a regular practice this form of writing will help to keep the creative cogs turning. I am a professional writer; I am used to writing daily but even I have noticed that it takes less time for me to warm up and get  into zone since blogging and tweeting. This is a benefit to my professional life that I had not anticipated at all.  Blogging will give you the three things you need to be a writer; a voice, a platform and an audience.  That is really all it takes to be a writer.  Yes, I know that some of you want to write professionally and get paid for your words and blogging will not prevent this.  Lots of professional writers, myself included, have written for free, especially at the beginning of our careers - it is how you make yourself known to the right people.   And if you have a blog you can include the link in your queries to editors so that they have the option to look at more of your work and get to know your personality a bit.  When I began approaching editors years ago, this personal touch was simply not available - I was just another hopeful name to be accepted or rejected.  The option to view a blog will not be taken up by every editor as they are so busy, but if they like your voice they are likely to want to see more, and a blog is instantly available to them.

Twitter is also very useful, but in a different way.  The most important thing tweeting will teach you is how to tighten your text.  Editors want good, tight text and in tweeting to 140 characters or less there is no space for purple prose.  Your writing will become sharper and to the point.  Tweeting is quick, on the go, in the moment writing.  It is very fluid - that's why its called a stream.  It will also teach you how to say what is important leaving out all the rest.  These techniques are things writing tutors have been teaching in class rooms for years; yet now you don't even need to sign up and pay for a class, just start tweeting and you will learn as a you go. Not everyone will like everything you post all of the time - but that is true for any writer, even best-selling novelists.

My personal opinion is that blogs and tweets should be clean and free from expletives. While there is the odd bloody or chuff in my tweets, I would never use strong language - I am aware that some of my readers are young teenagers.  And it doesn't look very professional to have a blog or tweet stream full of  effin'&jeffin' as we say in Yorkshire. You won't always be aware when an editor plans to look at your page, so keep it smart and although such pages should be personal, they should not contain private, sensitive information which might fall into the wrong hands.

I have found blogging and tweeting to be both fun and beneficial.  If you don't have your own pages yet then do set them up -its really very easy and its free.  If you do have pages then start to consider them as an extension of your writing life - use them as daily practice, or as warm-up exercises to get you into the zone before you begin working on your novel or screenplay or whatever your personal project might be.
I hope this post has been useful to you and I look forward to reading your comments.

Monday, 23 January 2012

ONCE UPON A DREAM; An Accomplished Lady

I started to read classic novels when I was 11 years old, beginning with Little Women and Good Wives.  As I grew into my teens my reading progressed and I discovered the novels of Jane Austen and the wonderful Bronte sisters.  Being a Yorkshire lass I will always prefer the Brontes' books as the landscape they describe is familiar to me. If they were alive today I have no doubt that Jane, Charlotte, Emily and Anne would be blogging away, which is why I love this picture on the left!

One of the things I most love about these romantic novels is the notion of  an accomplished lady. I like the idea that women were far from merely decorative during this period of history, as some would have us believe; nor were they idle while waiting for their turn in the marriage market. Writing, needle craft, equestrianism, reading, art, debating, dancing and so on were all deemed to add to a lady's charm.  Yes, admittedly some of these accomplishments are pretty time-wasting activities; I never could see the attraction of decoupage myself, although I am sure there are those who find their bliss in this traditional craft.  I do like the idea of a woman who is well read; intelligent; graceful; strong in body, mind and spirit and who can turn her hand to many tasks -that to me is an accomplished lady, and being an impressionable teenager at the time, I decided that I wanted to make myself as accomplished as I could possibly manage.

I have ridden horses since childhood; it is one of my greatest accomplishments & I take pride in the fact that I can handle difficult mounts. I make my living as a writer.  I also read a great deal, and I have been a bookworm ever since I can remember.  For me the wonderful thing about books is that they teach us to see the magic in the mundane. I can often be found working on a tapestry in the evenings and my large mahogany tapestry frame is one of my prize possessions. 

I have always enjoyed singing and dancing; but I had to wait until adulthood to really pursue these achievements to any degree; now I am fortunate to be able to record and share the songs I write, and I am busy studying music too.  I love being at my piano, though I cannot  yet play anywhere near as well as I would like, but I am working on it! Again, my piano is one of my prize possessions and something I dreamed of owning since I was a little girl. It was such a thrill when I was able to achieve this dream.

For the past three and a half years I have had ice-skating lessons and made time to get down to the rink for regular practice sessions.  I love the freedom of gliding on the ice, and the balance and grace this skill has given me.  I dance regularly too, especially ballet and belly dancing.  Of course, I don't do all of this, all the time; when I hit a wall with something, I take a break for a few weeks or months, then pick it up again with a clear head and fresh enthusiasm.  But I do enjoy learning new things and the sense of achievement it gives to me. At 38 years old I am also living proof that it is never too late to take up a new hobby, or to make a childhood ambition a reality.

It always saddens me when women somehow lose themselves in marriage and motherhood - of course you should enjoy your kids, but remember to give time to yourself too, and do some of the things you always dreamed of doing.  Your kids will be even more proud of you for it. I know that some hobbies don't come cheap - this is why I choose to ride for someone else rather than owning a horse myself!  But there are plenty of books, CD's and DVDs available so that you can teach yourself in your own time and work around your family commitments.  If I can't get to dance class for whatever reason, I'll pop on a belly or ballet dance workout DVD and still get the dance experience and put the training hours in.  I also have a Bodi-Tek Equi Trainer which I use when I can't get to the stables, if the weather is really bad.  So there are ways to bring your dreams alive, that need not cost the earth.

I feel very fortunate to do all that I do and I try to live the gentle life of a lady.  I know that it will be more difficult for some of you to follow your dreams, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't give it a try.  I hope this post has inspired you to take up a new, or an old, hobby and work towards your personal accomplishment.

Do I consider myself to be an accomplished lady? Lets just say that I consider myself to be a work in progress! BB Marie x

Friday, 20 January 2012

MUSICAL DOLL; Dark Dreams & Gothic Romance

Those of you who are following me on Twitter will know that I am currently working on my new album; I'm actually working on two new albums, but one has taken precedence and I feel very in the zone with it right now, so I'm just going with the flow.

The album I am creating has a theme of dark moon magic, fairytale enchantment and Gothic Romance. I have loved the Gothic genre since I read Dracula aged 12; I became enchanted by the nebulous beauty and tragic tales of lost love & forbidden romance that permeates the genre as a whole. Although I am not a Goth - that's a different thing entirely - I am very drawn to all kinds of dark Gothic romance.

 Without giving too much away, my new album has a working track list of 16 all original songs, and I have written 8 so far, so lyrically I am half way through the album.  Melody composition comes next, then it will go into the label Paradise Music  for pre-production after which I will re-record my vocals, tweaking things as I go, so there is still a long way to go before the album is ready for release, but I am really excited by this project - I think even more so than I was with Moon Chants as I have a better idea of what to expect this time around; I have more confidence in my ability and I feel able to experiment without worrying people will say "who does she think she is?!" Let them say it! This is my baby and I'm having fun with it!

While I am still very much a musical novice when it comes to theory and instrumentation, I do feel that I am finding my stride with my own natural musicality.  I spend a lot of my time at my piano, just playing with sounds and finding my zone and for me, Moon Chants opened up so many doors to my creativity which I didn't even know were there - in this album I am venturing through some of those doors to find what lies beyond.  Its exciting and I love feeling so inspired; it makes me very happy to be so creative and to be studying music along the way.  I am even thinking of buying an Irish Harp and learning to play that too! This is not something I would have thought of were it not for the opportunity to work on musical projects.

Inspiration is much like magic - it is all around us, all the time.  My main inspiration for the new album is darkness - but in a beautiful way.  The album is magical of course, and various archetypes are met through the tracks as the album progresses.  Mostly though I want to be true to the Gothic Romance genre which first inspired me, so the album features all the elements of a true Gothic novel or Edgar Alan Poe poem.  I am very drawn to fairytales too, in their original form before they were so heavily sanitized for children, and so I plan to write the sleeve notes in the style of a Gothic fairytale.

Other inspirations are many and varied - the deep velvet black circle of a dark moon; various silvery dreamscapes; the goddess as Crone; Gothic instrumental music such as Nox Arcana, Dark Sanctuary and Llewellyn's Ghosts album; the creative work of Tim Burton; the artwork of Anne Sudworth (I met her at Whitby once, she told me she likes my books! Nice lady) Jessica Galbreath, Anne Stokes and particularly of Victoria Frances, as I have lots of her prints framed around my house and I have all of her books too.  She is my favorite Gothic artist, so I was delighted to find the video above on You Tube which showcases her beautiful artwork, alongside Sally's Song from Tim Burton's Nightmare before Christmas which is being sung here by the exceptionally talented Amy Lee of Evanescence.  The video was put together and uploaded by moon seed26 some years ago, and as it perfectly illustrates some of my main inspirations for the new album I wanted to share it with you.  I am now off to practice piano and work on the album some more. Enjoy the video and look out for more musical updates here and on Twitter @marie_bruce
Have a great weekend x

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Frosty Hollow

Do you ever dream of living...somewhere else...  somewhere other than the place you live right now; whether this be a new house, a change of location from town to country or vice versa, maybe even emigrating to a foreign country?  I know I do.

I have always dreamed of living in a Scottish castle - maybe its my Bruce ancestors calling out to me and reminding that I am seriously letting the Clan down with my humble abode.  And I am fully aware that the realities of castle life would either be uncomfortably cold or would require a lotto win to finance appropriate heating. Nonetheless, my lotto dream (which will never happen as I don't play lotto) would be to purchase somewhere like Slains Castle, rebuild, refurbish and live happily ever after - with sea views!  And Dougray Scott, in tights, ala Ever After :)

Unfortunately  my house is firmly landlocked and not at all like a castle to look at - I mean, it doesn't  even have a turret, for crying out loud - I don't know what the world is coming to when turrets are so difficult to come by.  As for my own personal flag pole flying the Royal Standard from the battlements...(eyes roll) I might as well forget about it!   No handsome troubadour serenades me in the great hall; no loyal champion dons shining armor for my entertainment in the tilt yard...ah, the hardships I endure.

So although I have done all I can to make my house as much of a pretty princess palace as I can manage, it still isn't my dream location - there's no sea, for a start. It made me wonder what I might be able to do to put some enchantment into my perception of my home and I came up with the idea of a Secret Name...if the location of your home is far from your ideal, name your home to make it feel more dream like.  After pondering on this for a while I came up with the name Frosty Hollow for my little house, because I am an ice maiden (in a good way! I love winter and I ice-skate) and because there is a pocket of land at the far end of the garden which holds onto the frost with an icy grip and refuses to let it go.  So, its not Slains; it's not by the sea; but its Frosty Hollow and its my home.  What name would you give your home to make it seem more dream-like? Leave a comment or tweet me on Twitter @marie_bruce  
Oh and Dougray, if you're free, the kettles always on, love ;-) x

Sunday, 15 January 2012

BOOK NOOK; The Wise Woman by Philippa Gregory

I have just finished re-reading Philippa Gregory's book The Wise Woman.  This is one of my favorite novels by Gregory and if you enjoyed reading the Wideacre trilogy or The Other Boleyn Girl then you will love The Wise Woman.

The novel is set in Tudor England during the Reformation.  The protagonist is a young woman called Alys; a runaway nun, escaping her burning convent and fleeing to her old mentor Morach, the wise woman on the moor.  With her knowledge as a herbalist Alys is summoned to the castle to care for the ailing old Lord Hugh.  There she meets the young Lord Hugo and her vows are truly tested as she finds herself sexually attracted to a man for the very first time.  Will she hold true to her vows, or will Lord Hugo trick her into seduction and sin?

While the story is set within the confines of a Northern castle, the happenings at Court provide the backdrop for the story and The Wise Woman is set within the same time frame as The Other Boleyn Girl.  As first Anne Boleyn and then Jane Seymour rise from lady's maid to  be Queens of England, Alys determines to emulate their success and to use all her powers to make herself the first lady of Castleton castle - no matter what the cost.  But every day she walks in danger as discovery of her convent days or her magical mentor means that Alys might well be burned as a heretic or hanged as a witch. She must tread a careful line of pushing for her ambitions, without overstepping the mark with the old Lord.  Alys is nothing if not resourceful - she will do anything to save her own skin - this novel is an education in betrayal, deceit and hypocrisy! Just how far will Alys go to ensure that she is the last one standing?

One of the things I really like about this book are the descriptions of castle life; it is as if you are climbing the turret steps feeling the fresh breeze from the arrow slits;  sitting before a great log fire hearing it spit and crackle; reading and writing in the glow of flickering candles; hiding herbs and oils away in a great oak chest; stitching away at a great colourful tapestry in the ladies gallery... its just so atmospheric!  And for a girl who has always wanted to live in a castle, its just perfect for me :)  Of the whole book, my favorite part has to be when the wax poppets take on a life of their own, betray their mistress and run amok - for some reason, this part always reminds me of the fairy-tale of the little gingerbread man as the sinister little poppets begin to act on their own will.  It is a great novel which foreshadows the wonderful Tudor series of books Gregory is now most famous for.  Spell-binding escapism for a cold, frosty winter's weekend.

Saturday, 14 January 2012


I just found this cool video on You Tube! It features beautiful pagan artwork which perfectly illustrates the lyrics from the title track of my album Moon Chants which can be purchased from  www.paradisemusic.co.uk and www.amazon.co.uk   Enjoy!:)

Thursday, 12 January 2012

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Key to the Kingdom

Can you imagine what treasures these beautiful keys might unlock...  a pirates chest; a dresser drawer filled with love letters; an attic which holds family secrets?   I get excited when I see pretty keys; especially when they fit no lock I know of...perhaps they are magic keys which can unlock the door to an enchanted land; or maybe they are the keys to a ladies jewel box and diamonds and pearls lie upon a velvet bed, waiting for their finest state moment.

Even more romantic is the thought that these are the keys to a ladies boudoir; a place of rest and retreat when life gets too much; or a gilded box containing a princess tiara, or a queen's crown.  They might be the keys to a secret passage leading discreetly up to my lady's chamber...and during a dance at a masked ball she slips them into the pocket of her lover...but two of the guests are wearing the same mask! Did she give her keys to the right man?!

Keys hold a very special place in British folklore; people once believed that to hide a key in a baby's cradle would prevent the child from being snatched away by fairies and a changeling left in its place. As the fairy folk cannot abide iron the key was a form of protection.  We see echoes of this tradition in the key shaped rattles and teething toys sold in baby stores; and in the tradition of giving a young adult a decorative Key to the Door on a special birthday such as their 18th or 21st - again this is a gift of protection.  To hang a key which fits no lock in your home by the main door to your house is also a protection ritual, said to keep the house safe... house number plates often feature a key design, keeping this old magical tradition alive.

Keys can unlock mysteries, hearts, kingdoms and magical realms. Skeleton keys unlock everything. The humble key is often taken for granted, thrown quickly into a handbag or pocket, with little thought for the fact that it is upholding the security of your home while you go about your day. Car keys unlock freedom and independence. While modern keys might not be as pretty as those pictured here, they are just as magical. Next time you find an orphan key at the back of a drawer which fits no lock that you know of, instead of throwing it away, thread it on a pretty ribbon and hang it up as a decorative item of magic and mystery...or hunt through antique stores to find a special decorative key. Maybe you've found the key to the kingdom of a magical land...maybe one day you will also find the door to this enchanted realm...and then you will be glad you kept that useless old key!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

SHIMMER SPELL; Madame Endora's Fortune Cards

One of the nicest things about being a writer is that companies send me their products for review purposes.  Sometimes these people even become my email buddies which was the case with Joseph Vargo of Monolith Graphics in the USA. Joseph is a very talented artist, writer and musician - I am a huge fan of his Gothic band Nox Arcana so I was delighted when he sent me a pack of divination cards which feature the artwork of Christine Filipak.

This beautiful oracle deck of 48 cards draws on world mythology and heraldic beasts. The artwork is presented in a romantic Art Nouveau style reminiscent of Mucha, which flows across the cards and brings a touch of feminine sophistication to readings. The set includes a 32 page booklet which explains how to use the cards, suggestions for different spreads and offers detailed definitions for interpretation. Even better, each card has a basic meaning printed at the foot of the picture ideal for quick readings or for drawing a single card each day.

For a girl who loves romantic art, as I do, these cards are ideal.  They are not at all scary - each of the pictures is a beautifully crafted piece of artwork, which gives a nod to the Romanticism of the 18th  and 19th centuries.  My favorite cards are the Harlequin, the Siren, the Unicorn, the Knight and the Minstrel.  I have used these cards regularly for over a year now and it has become my favorite deck. As the cards are easy to understand and interpret  this is great tool for beginners and those who are new to cardomancy.  You can buy them from  www.monolithgraphics.com

Disclaimer; these cards were gifted to me for review purposes well over a year ago but this is not a sponsored post.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Ivory Tower

I am a woman who loves fairy tales!  My house is a realm of romantic enchantment and pagan magic.  From the outside it looks just like any other house; but inside it is a pop-up picture book of delights.  Step inside...let me show you around, but first know this - all I say is truth, not fantasy...and it has taken a long time and lots of hard work for me to create the ivory tower in which I live.  In this tour I hope to inspire you to begin creating your own enchanted realm...my book How to Create a Magical Home available on Amazon Kindle, can help you achieve this. In brackets are the fairy-tales I associate with each piece I am going to show you.

All my rooms have subtle themes, with a fairy tale magic running throughout.  The hallway and staircase is Gothic - at the foot of the stairs stands a large wood carving of a howling wolf and a berry red velvet cloak hangs nearby (Red Riding Hood).  At the top of the stairs the head of a fire-breathing dragon hangs from the wall, guarding the sleeping chambers beyond (Dragon Heart).

My kitchen/dining area is pure Celtic magic with knot work carvings and lanterns, Celtic crosses, royal lions of Scotland and thistle design crockery.  I have lots of Gothic arch shaped mirrors dotted around my home - they remind me of castle windows/arrow slits! - with the biggest one being hung by the dining table.  The table itself is round, of course (Camelot) and standing in a crystal bud vase in the center is a long-stemmed full blown rose of pure silver (Beauty & the Beast).

The lounge is a cozy haven of Victoriana - here you will find the rainbow glow of Tiffany style lamps gently illuminating the sheet music set out on the piano.  A chaise lounge of deep red wine with matching velvet throws and cousins invites you to rest a while; or perhaps you prefer to dream in the rocking chair carved with  oak leaves, putting your feet up before the glowing coals of the fireplace.  Dotted around this room are oak leaf men candle holders, bowls and wind-chimes (Sherwood Forest) and beautiful pagan stags which remind me of Scotland, Herne the Hunter and Cernnunos. A pair of red ballet slippers sits by the hearth (The Red Shoes/Wizard of Oz), while a 5 foot tall three-fold tea-light screen of silver leaves and two 6 foot tall pewter trees designed to hold pillar candles cast a spooky forest filigree upon the walls (Hansel & Gretel/ Sleepy Hollow).

As I work from home as a writer I have a small study, complete with an escritoire writing desk that has pigeon holes.  I am a bibliophile and my childhood dream was to own a room full of books - I have achieved that dream in my study which houses more than 2000 books, carefully collected over many years.  This is the quietest room in the house, so I have my microphone/studio etc set up in a corner and I record vocals for my albums here. My love of horses is plain in the books, statues and wall tapestry. I wish my study had a secret door/passage hidden behind wooden paneling, but alas it is not to be! 

My bedroom is a box of feminine delights! French furniture, gold scroll work, the frothy cream lace canopy of my four poster bed which is my pride and joy..  it's quite a high bed and it reminds me of the Princess & the Pea! I adore my bed, it brings me the sweetest dreams (Sleeping Beauty). In this room knights in armor look down from the walls (Camelot again!) - my favorite art prints in this room are Sir Frank Dicksee's La Belle Dame Sans Merci and I'm hoping to get Frederick Burton's The Meeting on the Turret Stairs. Figures of Lancelot and Guinevere are displayed in this room too.

On the dressing table sits a crystal glass slipper (Cinderella) and a red apple perfume bottle (Snow White).  Pink wrought iron roses, designed to hold tea-light candles, 'grow' up the side of the door (Rapunzel) while my pagan tools and Book of Shadows sit upon a mermaid lamp table in the corner(The Little Mermaid) .

Beneath a full length French magical mirror (Snow White)  are a pair of sparkling silver ballet slippers (Cinderella), while a snowy white tutu hangs close by, and make-up items are kept in little swan planters (Swan Lake).  A collection of ice and snow fairies stand on the window sill (Snow Queen) along with a turreted pink castle that lights up and flickers with fiber optics (Disney!)

The bathroom is so tiny, but even here magic happens! Sea shell light shades and mobiles hang from the ceiling, fine art prints of mermaids and sirens hang on the walls and lovely bath and body products are kept in a carved wooden pirate's chest (Treasure Island)!  I have a large collection of Lord of the Rings goblets, which are dotted all around my home - every room has at least two, with the exception of the bathroom, which has one - the City of Tirion goblet holds my toothbrush!

As I said - this really is my home, but it has taken many years to put together and to build up such a collection of fairy tale items. I had a very clear image of what I wanted my house to look and feel like, and the magical atmosphere I wanted to create. People who visit always say the same thing "It's like stepping into another world!"  Mission accomplished then :)  I hope this post has inspired you to bring some magic into your own home. It is almost the witching hour and I am going to climb into my four poster bed with a book, so from the enchanted realm of my Ivory Tower I bid you goodnight and the sweetest of dreams. Blessed be x

Saturday, 7 January 2012

BOOK NOOK: The Star Qualities by Caroline Goyder

Confession... I am quite a shy girl which is why you will never see me at MBS fairs touting my work or giving workshops - its just not me. I prefer to let my work speak for itself. However, I am open to the idea that one can boost one's confidence and that shyness does not have to be a disability so it was with great interest that I bought a copy of Caroline Goyder's The Star Qualities. 

This book was actually recommended to me in person by the actress Sophia Myles whom I met at St Mary's church, by Whitby Abbey when she was filming Dracula, along with Marc Warren who took the title role.  Sophia was very gracious and just as pretty in person as she appears on camera in films like Underworld and Tristan and Isolde.  We got chatting about her work as an actor, mine as a writer and the similarities between the two worlds. Writers are frequently expected to put in a star turn on TV and in radio and media interviews and I don't mind admitting that this is an aspect of my job which I do not like one little bit.  I am not a celebrity and I don't have a team of people behind me making sure I  don't put a foot wrong.  I find  radio and media interviews to be high pressure situations; to this day I have always refused to appear on TV, though there have been offers, but its my worst nightmare! Sophia explained that celebrities are actually trained  to be able to handle their public with grace and ease; while they might be as nervous as you or I would be, they have the training tools in place to enable them to keep cool and dignified in difficult situations, such as an intrusive interview or a paparazzi chase.

The Star Qualities is basically a text book which gives the everyday Jane Doe those very same tools which celebrities use, thereby enabling you to shine like a star in your own life.  It includes top tips from high profile celebrities such as Sophia Myles, Kate Winslet, Sarah Jessica Parker and Ewan McGregor, so its like having a team of mentors to hand who really do know what they are talking about.  The author Caroline Goyder is an acting coach, but she has also trained politicians and broadcasters and her advice works in the real world - in her book, she passes on her knowledge and experience, giving readers the tools celebrities use to shine in areas of public speaking, interviews, parties, social events; as well as detailing how your appearance and ambitions can help boost your personal confidence.  It really is an invaluable tome to have on hand and I often dip into this book for a quick boost and pep talk.

I highly recommend that you use The Star Qualities in conjunction with Paul McKenna's Instant Confidence book and hypnosis CD, as together they will help you to reprogram your mind at a conscious and subliminal level. I read the books by day and fall asleep to the CD at night time; I have found this yields the quickest, most effective results for personal confidence.  Together these two books will help you start the new year with a boost, a tool kit and a plan of action... for whatever your personal ambitions might be, confidence in yourself is always the key.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

WRITER'S DREAM; Become a Diarist

I have kept a diary since I was 16 years old.  My very first diary was small and decorated with a balloon design...it details how I felt about everything that was going on at that time in my life, from my very first crush, my parents divorce,  GCSE's and my first job in an equestrian centre.   These days my diary is filled with hopes, ambitions, dreams, thoughts, spells, manifestations, writing ideas and the occasional PMS strop!  If I did not have a diary in which to place my worries, anxieties and personal triumphs I think I would go nuts as I could never carry all that stuff around in my head day after day.

Starting a new diary is like the first day of term when new exercise books were handed out by the teacher. All those blank sheets to fill - 365 pages of possibility!  I find this most exciting, and I always make a little note at the beginning of the diary about what I plan to achieve during the coming year. I tick off and date each goal as I achieve it, and transfer those that remain at the end of the year into the next diary. I keep my old diaries in a decorative storage box and I enjoy reading through them now and again - its good to see how far I've come and to see when my current reality began as the seed of a dream; in 2003 I wrote how nice it would be to have my poems set to music so I could sing them - by 2009 my debut album Moon Chants was being released.  I have always found that a diary is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy; what you write you can become.  There is magic in journal keeping!

I always pick the same style of diary each year; it has to be A5 hard cover and a full page for each day. I find this is just enough space to free up my head space each evening before I sleep.  I usually decorate the cover in some way to make it personal - or to act as a Treasure Map of something I want to manifest in my life.  This year my diary already has a lovely cover, with a beautiful deep red rose in full bloom and a coordinating bookmark inside so there is no need for me to break out the glue-stick.  But adding pictures and symbols to a diary can increase the chances of your goals coming to fruition as the subconscious works to magnetise what you see each day. So diary keeping can be viewed as a magical tool of manifestation.

For me a diary is a very personal thing - I would never let anyone else read them.  Partly because I am a private person, but also because if someone vexes me, I take my temper to the page and say what I think in my diary!  This makes for harsh reading - but it also prevents me from hurting those I love by saying things I don't really mean in the heat of the moment.  A diary is also a great form of daily writing - it frees the creative mind and gets the Muse on side.  Personally I like my diary, and indeed my blog and Twitter account, which is a more public online diary, to be very relaxed writing.  I am not too concerned with grammar and spelling here...I just need to write.  For anyone wanting to become a published writer I urge you to keep a diary as it will get you into the habit of daily writing, which is essential for a professional approach to the craft of authorship. It is a great way to incorporate your 10 minutes a day of writing time into a busy life...and you may well become tomorrow what you write today, so pick up a diary in the sales and use your diary time to create the life you want to live!