"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.

Friday, 30 March 2012

BOOK NOOK; My Top Five Magical Nest-Making Titles

It's spring time which means it is time to set about spring cleaning and sprucing up the house.  There is nothing quite like a sunny spring day to make a girl want to break out of winter's lethargy and go nuts with the mop and bucket.  I like to make a list of all the things that need to be done in the house; this can be somewhat daunting but the trick is to tackle one task at a time.  If you try to spring clean the entire house in one go, you will probably get disheartened even before you begin!  So take it one room at a time, day by day, and it will take as long as it takes.

Now is a great time to go through magical supplies and to give everything a thorough cleansing.  It is also a good idea to pass on anything which you do not use, this includes books, films, CD's, clothes and so on.  Box it all up and ship it out to a charity organisation.  In this way you are making space for new opportunities to come into your life and at the same time, you are giving a little bit of help to those who need it.  If you know someone who is having a tough time of late then donate your unwanted magical  books to that person; you might be introducing them to a whole new path of positive vibes.  

Over the next couple of weeks I plan to do a massive sort out and spring clean of my house.  I do this every year and I touched on it in my book How to Create a Magical Home. I like to get everything ship shape and sparkling, and to declutter all the stuff which I feel might be holding me back or which keeps me stuck in the past.  Reminders of old relationships, old friendships that have gone sour, old dreams which no longer serve you - get rid of it all and make space for positive experiences to enchant your life and your home.  Be ruthless!! The more you throw out the better you will feel.  I always feel especially lighthearted after a sort out.  Throw the windows open, play some fun music and burn new spring scented candles.  Then add a touch of magic to your home.  The following books will make spring cleaning seem like child's play, so put some enchantment into your environment.

My Top Five Magical Nest-Making Books

1. Spirit of the Home by Jane Alexander

2. The Magical Household by Scott Cunningham & David Harrington

3. Cottage Witchery by Ellen Dugan

4. Witch in the Kitchen by Cait Johnson

5. Magical Hearth by Janet Thompson

Jane Alexander is my fellow columnist at Spirit&Destiny magazine and her book is my main go-to for those days when I want to feel inspired about where I live.  What I love about Jane's book is that she makes it clear that we are merely the current custodians of our homes, and so we can never really be trapped even if we live somewhere less than ideal. Jane's book will make you look at your home in a completely different way.
Scott Cunningham was a popular pagan author and his book of household magic is well written and suitable for all magical abilities.  Ellen Dugan listened to her instincts and ended up writing a book of cottage witchery rather than the project she had stalled on - I for one am glad she did, its a fantastic book, full of easy to work spell-castings.  Cait Johnson's book of kitchen witchery might not look like your cup of tea if, like me, you don't enjoy cooking; but don't be put off by the title as this book is about so much more than recipes - it is a tome which encourages the reader to reconnect with the sacred hearth, the heart of the home.  Finally Janet Thompson has created a book of house magic which includes everything from tea spells to cat magic!  Each of these titles will make you eager to find the lost magic of home-making, which is one of the most traditional feminine arts. Once all the house work is done you can curl up with a cup of herbal tea and be proud of a job well done.  Every witch deserves a magical home...so put a spell in your spring cleaning and turn your home into an enchanted palace of magical possibility.


Wednesday, 21 March 2012


It would appear that the world and its mother is writing a novel - and I include myself in that statement; I am actually writing two novels, one for adults and one for youngsters.  I believe that it is a basic human need to share stories and that storytelling is what separates us from the animal kingdom.  I don't believe that writing a novel, or indeed any kind of book, is the fast track to wealth. I know from experience as a full time published writer that it is not.

Why are so many people writing books?  Because it has become so much easier than it used to be! Bill Gates has taken much of the tedious toil out of a writer's life! When I started out as a teenage wannabe, writing and submitting  I had to type out each submission on a manual type writer; no spell check, no auto correct, no typing once and printing out multiple copies, no email.  Each submission had to be painstakingly retyped.  These days most people have a computer so its easy to type the work in once, save and re-use multiple times.  With the invention of email there is no need to even print out and post copies for submission - no hopeful walks to the post box required and new writers no longer have to spend a fortune in ribbons, paper, envelopes and postage as I once had to. Its just so easy these days and this effectively means that those people who would have been too lazy to do it the old fashioned way are now able to give it a go, and good luck to them.

Then of course there are the media success stories of authors who make millions in movies rights, merchandising, foreign language editions, red carpet appearances etc.  These authors are the exception, rather than the rule.  Take a look on Soc's website to see statistics of how much money authors actually earn! Many don't clear the tax threshold. The fact is most publishing contracts for new authors pull in an advance of less than £1,500 which would be paid out in three, maybe four payments across eighteen months to two years. Reality check; your car is probably worth more than a publishing deal and could you really live on less than a grand a year? This is the reason agents say "Don't give up the day job"! And if you have an agent, they will take at least 20% of your advance before you even see a penny.

This trend for authorial dreams shows no sign of waning and the industry is well aware of it.  Agents and publishers know how easy it is for new writers to find them on the internet and they have set up boundaries; namely the submissions@publisher email address which a reader or junior will go through every few months.  Unless you have written something stellar it is unlikely that a commissioning editor will read it. Use the Writer's&Artists Yearbook instead to glean editors names and try the old fashioned postal approach - prove that you are willing to put a stamp on your dreams.  Another publishing trick is to sign rejections with an illegible squiggle so they don't have to deal with any comeback. Crafty, but clever!  I was chatting to a wannabe writer some time ago who had a finished novel but refused to print it out and relied on a link to a blog site to try and sell it to agents and publishers. Editors will not read an entire project on screen!  New writers; if you are not prepared to invest in your own work why would you expect a publisher to invest in it by way of an advance and contract?

Writing a novel requires a completely different approach to writing non-fiction.  Editors want to see three consecutive chapters, a synopsis and possibly a character profile list too.  Again, this is a good way for said publishers to protect their valuable time as an author can only supply the above to a high standard when they have completed the novel.  Have you ever been asked for a synopsis and thought to yourself "How can I write that when even I don't know how my book ends yet? I'm only on chapter five! It's so unfair!"  The bottom line is you must finish writing the novel before you approach a publisher or agent.  It is a very busy and competitive industry - editors and agents have no time for emails which muse "I've had a great idea for a novel; do you want to be my publisher?"  It is a pipe-dream of the idle to assume that ideas sell & make money - action makes money - write the whole novel and you actually have something to show and to sell.  

I tend to work on my novels when all the deadlines are met and after I have put time into my music and the new album - in other words, when I have finished with the day job.  I have written over 30,000 words on one novel and about 12,000 on the other so neither project is completely off the ground yet.  I am not even thinking about publishing or approaching editors with them at such an early stage. It is the very last thing on my mind.  Writing a novel is tough enough; to maintain momentum and stamina for the project can be hard work at times; why would I put myself under the added pressure of dealing with publishers at such an early stage of the books?  Especially when a rejection could completely derail my enthusiasm for the story I am telling?  I would much rather enjoy the actual process of writing and of being absorbed in the two different worlds of my imaginings.

Once again, I realize that this post is going to be a bit disappointing to some of you; but I did promise you that I would tell it like it really is in the publishing industry.  There is no reason why you should not  start to write your novel; but your very best chance of publication lies in finishing it! Good Luck :-)

Saturday, 10 March 2012

BOOK NOOK; My Top Five Faerie Spell Books

Working with the energies of faeries and elemental spirits is an intrinsic aspect of paganism.  Belief in these beings is just as valid as holding a belief in angels, yet while most folk are open minded to the possibility of guardian angels, few would openly admit to a strong connection with the faerie realms.  This is largely due to the fact that faeries are considered to be fictional characters of children's bedtime stories, but the elemental energies that witches refer to as faeries are simply the natural energies of the environment and the archetypal personification of the four elements that make up the world of matter. Even the great alchemists believed in the power of the faerie elementals.

Having been drawn to all things magical and enchanting from a very young age, it was only a matter of time before I began to write about faeries!  For me they represent all that is beautiful and beguiling about the natural world around us.  Here then are my top five books of faery lore and faery spells;

Top Five Faery Books

1.  Faeriecraft by Alicen and Neil Geddes-Ward

2. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Fairies by Anna Franklin

3. Enchantment of the Faerie Realm by Ted Andrews

4. A Complete Guide to Fairies & Magical Beings by Cassandra Eason 

5. Fairy Lore by Anna Franklin and Paul Mason

Faeriecraft is my personal favorite and not just because the author Alicen, and artist Neil, are my friends! It is beautifully written in a poetic style and has lots of stunning artwork throughout.  I really like the way in which Alicen has crafted a faerie book that hangs securely upon a Wiccan framework, as this gives a point of reference to those with some magical experience, even if they have never cast faerie spells before.  This is a very enchanting read and will make you want to set up a faerie altar and get out into the woods as soon as possible!  Anna Franklin's encyclopedia is also beautifully illustrated  and provides a stunning reference book that would enhance any magical bookshelf.   Ted Andrews and Cassandra Eason provide basic introductions to working magically with the elemental spirits which are great for new practitioners or young teenage witches.   The final book on my list, Fairy Lore is a guide to who and what the faeries are and as the title suggests, is more concerned with the folklore of this quite fascinating subject.

The CD (left) Faerienights is a fantastic album of harp music composed by Patricia Spero and inspired by the faerie realm.  I was delighted when I was asked to write the magical sleeve notes for this album, and I included spells and of course, some poetry too.  It is an ideal musical accompaniment to any faerie ritual.  As spring is in the air and the equinox is just around the corner, now is a great time of year to begin working faerie spells.  Get out and about, feel the quickening in the earth and the greening in the forests.  Take your collection of fairy books along for a spring time picnic or read in the garden on a sunny day.  Enjoy the enchantment and faerie essence of an awakening world.

All book and album titles on this list can be found on www.amazon.co.uk   Happy casting!

Friday, 2 March 2012

ONCE UPON A DREAM; The Art of Sophistication

The art of sophistication seems to have diminished within modern society.  There was a time when strict rules of social propriety and etiquette were firmly in place; a man could not approach a woman in the street without her nod of consent, even if he knew her.  People always sat at a table to eat and fast food and TV dinners were unheard of; the idea of strolling down the street munching on a burger was unthinkable, and simply not done.  Strict sartorial rules were also in place; everyone wore hats; ladies wore gloves. Strangers must wait to be formally introduced and everyone knew exactly where they stood.

Compare that with today's society where people swear and spit in the street; where evidence of fast food litters the pavements; where men regularly feel entitled to approach women they do not know in an attempt to strike up a flirtatious and possibly inappropriate conversation.  Take a look around any town or city center and you will see people who have not showered in days, who walk around in public wearing dirty clothes and unwashed hair; who offend society with the stench of their presence. This type of person is so prevalent in society that it is almost considered normal - one knows to expect it when using public transport, or in a crowded city center. What woman with a shred of dignity would want to blend in with such a crowd?

You will also see women who dress themselves as shop windows, with all their goods on display for all to see and any to sample. Teenage pregnancy, once so shocking, is now mundane. Gangs of children and teenagers run around in wild packs like dogs, snarling at those who pass by, intimidating their elderly neighbours. Schooling and education seems to be optional and as the parental discipline diminishes from generation to generation, we are left with a society in crisis, where rules are an illusion and propriety is a thing of the past.  We need only think back to the London riots last summer to recognize the truth of this crisis.  Anyone who lives in a large town or city will be fully aware that there are certain areas one does not visit after dark.

This type of dreary existence is optional; even if you live on a difficult housing estate, you can choose to opt out of the social disintegration going on around you.  Creating a sense of community has traditionally been a woman's role, but if your local community is not up to scratch you can always distance yourself mentally and emotionally, even if you are in no position to move house.   This is not about developing a superiority complex or being snobbish, though such accusations might be thrown at you as a woman who maintains her dignity is unusual in modern society; it is simply about creating the kind of life you want to live, choosing to associate only with those people who enhance your life in some way, and to educate yourself on the topics that you find interesting.

I love to spend my time doing things that develop my  sense of accomplishment and sophistication.  I have mentioned in previous posts and Tweets that I adore the etiquette and sophistication of  ballet and equestrianism.  Both these activities make me stronger, more graceful and fearless.  I have always been an avid reader and a bibliophile, collecting books from a young age.  Style is more important to me than fashion.  I refuse to follow trends.  I find pleasure in art and music and I am enjoying learning more about these fascinating subjects.  For me, sophistication has nothing to do with money and titles; it is not about the salary you make or the work you do.  Sophistication is not dependent on  material possessions.

The art of  becoming a sophisticate is an intellectual pursuit. It lies deep within a woman's sense of self as she refines herself intellectually, sartorially, physically and emotionally.  Developing one's sophistication can be a great solace when circumstance refuses to comply with one's personal dreams; so much can be self taught from books, in the evenings.  To be well read in literature, poetry, history, philosophy, psychology; to have a wide vocabulary;  to develop greater knowledge of culture by attending art galleries, ballets, theater plays, talks and discussions; to hone one's wit and social skills - all these things will help you to develop your sense of personal sophistication.  This in turn will give you a much needed sense of separation from the masses; you are no longer content to follow the crowd because you are too busy forging your own path.  You will walk taller, rather than slouching around; you will carry a book to read or visit a park or museum in your lunch break, rather than gossiping at the water cooler; you will be happy to be seen as different, an individual, rather than blending in.  Your time is precious so you are less likely to agree to do something from a sense of  'falling in line' with everyone else; you will learn to say no, graciously but firmly, and as you glean more time to yourself you can work more on developing your sophistication even further - its a win win situation. Leave the masses far behind and become a sophisticate.