"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.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

WRITER'S DREAM; Piggy-Backer Update

You may remember the post I wrote some weeks ago regarding the problem of Piggy-Backing in the publishing industry;  this is when an unpublished writer tries to use a successful author's name, style of writing or emulate a bestselling book to try and get themselves into print.  It is extremely frowned upon within the profession.

I have had some experience of this myself;  an inexperienced writer has frequently used my name to try and get published. It might be an innocent mistake or simple ignorance of the profession;  it might even be sour grapes caused by jealousy but as it has shown no sign of abating,  I have been left with no choice but to address the issue.

So today I wrote a plain speaking email to all of my editors and music producers, naming the piggy-backer and informing them that I do not endorse her work, nor am I in collaboration with her.  My entire professional circle of editorial colleagues are now in the picture of what is going on, so they will be ready for any future attempts at piggy-backing from this person.  At the same time, this polite memo protects my own professional standing which I have worked many years to achieve; my editors are now aware that I have never encouraged such behavior and that if such submissions continue, it is not and never has been, by my endorsement.   I will protect my professional standing against anyone who attempts to make use of my name.

A new writer will only get published when they have an idea that is worth publishing; not because they might have brushed shoulders with a successful author.  There are no short cuts.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Back to School Thoughts

A traditional English Cambridge Satchel
photo from www.Google.com
As the final week of the summer holidays draws to a close I cannot help but think back to my own school days.  Although I don't have any children, I still get excited at this time of year. This is partly because all my favorite activities such as ice-skating and dance will be child-free once again; but it is also due to the fact that there is the buzz of change in the air.

September is a time of transition from summer to autumn and we all feel this shift in the seasons as the year prepares for its slow decline into winter.
Of course for kids the prospect of going back to school is anything but welcome, but for parents it is time to breathe a sigh of relief that the old familiar routine will soon begin again.  I used to like school when I was very young, then I fell out with it in my tweens, before a fresh burst of enthusiasm for learning took hold of me in my teens as I was working towards GCSEs.  Even so, I felt that enthusiasm wane as the summer holidays drew to a close and the first day back at school loomed ever closer!   I don't think it was a reluctance to learn that bothered me so much as the loss of liberty.

Luckily my mother understood our reluctance and she devised a few traditions which helped my older brother and I be more inspired, if not by school itself, then certainly by the new season.  On the last week of the school holiday she would take us shopping for new shoes, stationary and school bags.  I still buy myself a new bag at this time of year and I have a special fondness for satchels - I like the old school traditionalist look of a satchel and I have a bright red one which I use as my holiday bag for when I am in the Highlands. I plan to buy a black or brown one this year.

Autumn fun begins with playing conkers!
photo from www.Google.com
On the weekend before school started Mum would start to ask us what we were looking forward to about the autumn term; this made us think of friends we hadn't seen, nature walks and fields trips, playing conkers, Halloween events and Bonfire Night...in short everything we loved about the coming season.  The Sunday night before the first day back in class was when we finally got look over our new stationary and pack our new school bags, making sure we had everything we would need next day.  As we chattered and packed my mother would be dishing up a home made rice pudding and mugs of hot cocoa as a supper treat, with the promise of creamy porridge next morning to make getting out of bed a little easier.  We would also dig out scarves, hats, gloves and legwarmers, ready for when the weather turned colder. We were Prepared!  Such simple rituals are what memories are made of so here are some more of the things which stick out in my mind about going back to school and which I am reminded of at this time of year;

  • Kicking through autumn leaves as I walked to school each day with my brother
  • Wearing my new Spider Man mittens for the first time - on a string, no less! 
  • My Victoria Plum satchel
  • My Miss Piggy Loves Kermit lunch box
  • Seeing our breath in the air and feeling the morning mist dampening our hair 
  • My brother telling me off for dawdling
  • Parting at the gates to my school as my brother went on to Big School 
  • The smell of the classroom
  • Meeting a new teacher...always scary at first 
  • Bagging a desk...always by the window if I could manage it
  • Standing in line for the tuck shop at break time
  • Playing conkers
  • Being a Milk Monitor...big responsibility
  • Getting into the school Choir

Even now in my 30's I still love learning something new. Autumn is a great time to take up an activity or sporting class or to attend night school; these are things I do quite often. Many schools offer a course of adult learning programs in the evenings; you could do pottery one term and cake decorating the next.  Schools are community buildings and they are not just for kids...so see what is on offer and what new skills you can pick up.  The only limits to learning are the ones you impose upon yourself.

Have a think back to your own school days; what traditions did you have?  What traditions have you made for your children?  What traditions would you like to begin? Remember that you are creating the memories your kids will look back on throughout their adult lives so put some fun and frolic into their back to school routine and help them to get excited!

Monday, 27 August 2012

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Caged Heart; A Fairytale

Picture from;  kirstenstar.deviantart.com

My heart has awoken. 
 I can hear her Nightingale whispers in the night as the she sings to me of liberty. 
 Romantic palpitations allow me to feel her as she flutters around, beating her wings against the bars of my rib-cage.
 I cradle my hands against my chest, delighted to know that she is still there, safe within.  
She makes me smile. She makes me happy.
 Her resilience knows no bounds.

She is singing once more, no longer content to be broken and confined. 
She wants to be free.
  She flits and flutters, fluffs up her feathers and preens to be seen.
 She is open to the gift of possibility.
 She is seeking out the spirit of adventure.
She is looking for another to sing to.
She is so much stronger than anyone knew.

Gently I whisper back "Soon my love"
I soothe her ruffled feathers "It won't be long now. Your time will come again, you'll see"
Softly we whistle together, a sweet melody of love. 
I witness her dreams in my sleep.
She is reborn.  She is yearning to take her maiden flight.
She is almost ready for the risk that comes with the fall.
She knows that she is strong enough to fly once more and she is the heart that is longing to soar.

She is my strength; my compassion; my ambition.
She is the courage that beats through my blood.
She is ethereal beauty.
Her spirit is wild and untamed. 
Her enchantments are powerful magic.
She casts a spell of allure wherever she goes - to see is to fall.
She is my own; my dear one. 
I will set her free and let her fly.
She is my Fairytale Heart and our story is only just beginning...

By Marie Bruce

I woke early this morning and wrote a simple piece of poetic prose, inspired by the picture above. Enjoy!

Friday, 24 August 2012


Photo from;

Lost In Books

There's a room at my Grandma's
Up a dark and winding stair
Lined with shelves and rows of books
And by the fire, a cosy chair

It is a very special room -
It's my favourite place to be
Gran says it's the gateway
To any place you want to see...

For each book is a ticket
To a place that's far away
So I can feel the sun shine
On a wet and windy day.

Whenever we're at Grandma's
I climb the winding stair
And taking down a magic book
I curl up in the chair

The fire crackles merrily
As the wind begins to wail
But the pages whisper to me
And tell me their own tale...

I have sailed the high seas
And seen witches cast their spells
I have been to where the faeries live
Within the Enchanted Dell

Sometimes there are monsters
And it's hard to turn the page
Sometimes there are ghosts and ghouls
Rattling their chains in rage

There was once a wicked vampire
He leapt right out at me!
He followed in my shadow
Though no-one else could see

I didn't want to go to bed
And could never slumber deep
For I knew the naughty creature
Was waiting for me in sleep

Next time we went to Granny’s
I opened up his book
I ordered him back to his page -
And slammed the covers shut!

After that I took more care
And read the fairy tales
There I flew with seven swans
And rode upon a snail!

I wandered through the Looking Glass
Pricked my finger on a spindle
Then I found myself in Narnia
And saw the White Queen's powers dwindle

I have been to Treasure Island
I've let down my golden hair
And I’ve heard the magic mirror say
That Snow White is so fair

I watched Davy Balfour Kidnapped
But through all his adventures there...
I was safe and sound in Grandma's room
At the top of the winding stair.

By Marie Bruce

I wrote this poem years ago and when I discovered the picture above it immediately came to my mind.  I think the picture and the poem complement one another beautifully, summing up the joy and escape  to be found when one is lost in books. 

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Beautiful Darkness

Photo from;

Beautiful Darkness how I adore you.  It is with great joy that I welcome you back each year as your shadow descends in velvet folds, cloaking the earth in deepest blackberry tones.  I look forward to your arrival throughout the bright summer season; I could never live in a land without seasons, where each day is filled with sunshine, without weather patterns that constantly surprise.  I would wilt away to nothing. I prefer the freshness of a sharp autumn shower, the icy blast of a winter frost. 

As August prepares to close and move on for another year, she leaves sultry warmth behind. The nights are drawing in and Darkness has become my close friend once more, wrapping me in the mantle of damp evening mists, drawing me out as he draws in closer, like a lover to my lonesome dreams.  I tell him all my secrets, confiding to the night breeze as I swing in the hammock and watch as twilight becomes night. He is my own Dark Knight and I am romanced by his sweet song of eventide.

The air is soft and mellow, warm in my lungs as I breathe. The trees carry the edge of gold to their leaves and there is the first tang of autumn in the air.  The moon glows amber in a star filled sky - it is a night of wishes and dreams, waiting to unfold as my spell-song sings out into the atmosphere to do my bidding and the Darkness colludes with me, amplifying my powers.  A different kind of magic is waiting in the wings of the Seasons as they turn and turn about, continuing their eternal dance. Gentle Summer holds on with a tenuous grip, preparing to let go and fall into her restful repose.  The Holly King of autumn and winter will take her place, casting his spell across his domain with the Darkness as his herald, proclaiming his absolute power.  These are some of he finest nights of the year; warm enough to enjoy the new sense of enchantment and mystery which holds sway in the silver shadows. There is still the promise of a golden age to come as Autumn begins to fall. 

Monday, 20 August 2012

BOOK NOOK; Reading Ambition

Photo from;
I can honestly say that most of my ambitions and interests as a young girl originated with a book.  I can even pinpoint the novel or series that inspired me to want to do something or try a new activity.  Obviously the yearning to become an author stemmed from the fact that I was, and still remain, a huge bookworm.

It seems to be a natural progression for a reader to want to become a writer.  I am proud that I have achieved this goal, and that I remain consistently published which is no mean feat.  To spend each and every day lost in books, fluttering through pages makes me so happy. I love my cosy little study and my personal library of books collected over many years.

As a child growing up, we didn't have much money.  My dad was a redundant steel worker, struck down with unemployment in the recession of the 1980s.  I got most of my books for birthdays and Yuletide gifts - they were a luxury to be treasured. I still feel this way about my books.

When I was a girl I made good use of the local library and it was from reading that most of my ambitions began to formulate in my mind.  After stumbling across Judith Beresford's Jackie  pony books I begged for riding lessons and I loved being out on horseback.  The character of Beth in Little Women made me want to learn to play a piano, while Jo would feed my ambitions to write. Ballet Shoes for Anna set my heart racing and my feet longing for Pointe shoes and ballet school. Reading the Chalet School and Malory Towers series of books helped to make me more interested in my own school days... I even asked my parents if I could go to boarding school!

I can only imagine how bewildered my working class parents must have felt when their daughter felt the need for a pony, riding lessons, a piano and music tutor, ballet classes and boarding school. I aspired to live a completely different way of life to the one I was born into.  My rather strict grandmother would even go so far as to confiscate books from me as a punishment because they gave me 'too many ideas'!  Now that I am published and make my living as a writer, I do feel that I have proven that my ideas are in fact a good thing and that reading was never a 'waste of time'.

I suppose I regard books as a magical ticket to freedom and escape; without my early reading habits who knows if I would be published today?  Who knows if I would have found my way to equestrianism, music and dance?  Books opened up so many doors for me and I am sure it must the same for others too.  With illiteracy a growing problem in society it worries me that some young people will have this door to personal aspiration forever closed to them.  Books have always been an inspiration to me; they have shaped my adult life and in turn I hope my own writing has gone on to inspire other people too.  For me reading and ambition cannot be separated; they go hand in hand, working in conjunction with one another to help a person grow and develop into a productive member of society.  Without books I might not have developed my ability to make goals and achieve my ambitions.  Without books I would be someone else entirely. 

How have books shaped your ambitions and aspirations?  How are they shaping your children?

Sunday, 19 August 2012

ONCE UPON A DREAM; When Love Came Knocking

Photo from; http://moonlightrainbow.tumblr.com/post/12730054419

When Love came knocking 
Tap-tapping on my door
I refused to answer 
I could take no more

When Love called through the letter box
"Let me in, let me in"
I just covered my ears 
And silenced the din

When Love whispered softly
"Remember me;
Remember me"
My eyes misted over and I could not see

When Love said plainly
"You can trust me; I am here"
I was afraid of the fall 
And I did not hear

When Love pleaded gently
"I understand your fear"
I wept in silence
Too scared to be held dear

When Love grew frustrated
And stomped away down the path
I knew I was right
To avoid such wrath!

But when Love was long gone
Oh what a fool I had been!
For I miss keyhole whispers
I hear his voice in my dreams

So I await his return
Be Love near now, or far
In the lost space I must learn...
...To leave the door slightly ajar.

by Marie Bruce

I saw this picture above, of a beautiful fairytale door and I simply had to write a poem to tell it's story. Enjoy!

Saturday, 18 August 2012

WRITER'S DREAM; Pretty Paper

It's almost back-to-school time and although I am blissfully child free I still look forward to this time of year. Remember when you used to start a new term in school and you were handed new books, pens and pencils?   Or the shopping trips with your mother to buy a new school bag, crayons, a pencil case and so on?  This is one of my favorite memories of my school days.  There is something exciting about buying new writing tools and equipment. Who knows what these new materials will help you to express and create?  Most writers like to wander around stationary shops, browsing through note books, files, index cards, pens etc, wandering amid the tools of their trade.

 Pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue; pretty pencils to write “I love you” Roy Orberson used to sing and he was absolutely right.  Pretty paper and so on do make the writing process easier, more enjoyable and enticing . Good old fashioned pen and paper is the flip side of the technology coin.  Lots of authors, including myself, write the first draft of their books in long hand, before transferring the work to the computer, editing and polishing as they go.  Typing is faster but sometimes your fingers will just be itching to pick up a pen or a pencil and actually write.   For me there is nothing more enticing than a brand new A4 pad of crisp white pages waiting to be filled with, as yet unknown, prose.  And there is nothing more satisfying than the sight of those same pages covered in my hand writing and piled up on my desk in a sheaf of first draft text for a new project.  I save all of my manuscripts in storage boxes – after weeks of working on a project so closely it is too much of a wrench to throw them away so I archive everything. I suggest you do the same and keep hold of as much of your work as your space will allow, even if you are unpublished. It is always fun to look back on your work.

I plan to take a trip out to the stationers next week, taking advantage of the back-to-school offers in order to stock up my 'stationary cupboard' which is actually the storage space inside the leather footstool I keep in my study. I will also be looking at organisational study items as I need to find a more efficient way of storing and dealing with receipts.  In the spirit of the season why not take your inner writer out shopping and treat yourself to some beautiful new stationary?  This is especially important for successful authors and journalists who make a living from words because in the business of deadlines we forget to treat ourselves occasionally. Stock up on whatever takes your fancy from note books, pens, pencils, ring binders, refill pads, index cards, post it notes, paper clips, decorative box files, a fancy pencil box, yellow legal pads and lovely large blank-leaf journals.  Enjoy yourself and remember that this is not frivolous spending; you are actually investing in yourself as a writer and taking your writing seriously enough to put your money where your mouth is.  Anyone can wax lyrical about wanting to be a writer; a real writer will invest in their art making sure that they have everything they need to get the job done.  So as soon as you are able to visit a stationary store go and treat your inner writer to some pretty new tools. I certainly will.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Ballerina Chic

I recently spent time decluttering and sifting through my wardrobes.  I hadn't done this for about two years so it took a while.  One of the things I noticed was that some of my clothes dated back to a completely different time in my life; I had multiple variations on the white blouse from when I worked for a temping agency more than a decade ago. I also had clothes which harked back to first dates that never went anywhere and a previous relationship that I would rather forget! In short, at least a quarter of my wardrobe space was taken up with clothes that I would never wear again because they no longer suited the lifestyle I live and the woman I am today.  My wardrobe was having an identity crisis!

A weekend of sifting, sorting and throwing away old clothes is very liberating to the female mind. Sometimes we forget that our lives have moved forward while our image might be stuck firmly in the past.  I no longer work in an office or behind a bar so those types of outfit are no good to me now.  These days I work from home as a writer; I spend time at the stables; I enjoy dancing and ice-skating.  With a few simple tweaks my current wardrobe now reflects the woman I have become, rather than the woman I used to be.  Since making this sartorial change I feel happier in my own skin.  My current 'look' is one of off- duty dancer and ballerina chic.  I like how effortless this look is and how easy it is wear. Dance clothes are stretchy and comfortable.  My new choice in day wear is made up of high street staples, Hush lounge wear and dance/skate clothes which can take me from the rink, to the dance studio and back to my desk to meet a deadline.

Ballerina chic is effortlessly elegant.  A pretty combination of jodhpurs or leggings, chiffon skirts and wrap-over cardigans in ice cream colours always makes me smile.  It makes me happy to wear to the kind of outfits that reflect who I am, rather than opening my wardrobe and being depressed at the sight of my past hanging by its threads!  I am not going to wander down the street in a full tutu and Pointe shoes, but I will step out in floaty  skirts and ballet shrugs.  I don't spend the day dressed for a gymkhana, but I am often wearing jodhpurs  as I do the grocery shopping and run errands. It's comfortable, it's elegant and it allows my clothes to work for me.

While equestrienne and ballerina chic might not be your personal style the clothes we wear make a statement about who we are. If you don't feel comfortable with the image you are projecting to the world, if you feel frumpy or dated take a good look inside your wardrobe and see if the woman who gets dressed there each day is the woman you still recognize as yourself. Chances are your life will have moved forward and your self-image needs to catch up a bit.  And a good clear out is good for the soul, making space for your brilliant, elegant future to take up residence.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012


Have you ever stalled on a writing project?  I know I have; plenty of times.  Sometimes it happens when I am too tired to write productively and the Muse absconds, forcing me to take a break.  At other times I stall because the writing has been going so well, my own creative well has run dry and I need to take time out to fill up on inspiration with day trips, working breaks away, long rides out in the woods or an evening at the ballet or theater. Often though, writers stall in the middle of a project because they haven't done enough research - the material has run out of foundation space and so there is no framework in place on which to build a piece of work.

Prep.  It is such an evocative abbreviation of the word  preparation, bringing to mind images of old school rooms, warm libraries alight with fire glow and the bowed heads of serious students hard at work, doing Prep in readiness for their lessons next day. These days teachers call it homework, but I think Prep sounds like much more fun; it makes one sound organized and in control of one's studies and it is no less important to a serious writer than it is to a University student.  Preparation is vital to any writing project, of any genre, whether it be a work of fact or fiction.

Being a note-taking, list-making woman-on-a-mission, I have a special fondness for my Prep Time.  I like to be organized and because I write up so many different kinds of projects at any one time, I need to be organized! For me Prep Time is between the hours of 8 - 10pm, every other evening.  I consider this time to be of vital importance to my career as a writer, and although I am working, I make it fun too with a nice glass of wine and some chocolate to nibble on.  I tuck myself away in my study and I Prep out the writing projects for the next two days.  I have an A4 lever-arch binder, with dividers set between each individual project so that I keep all my Prep notes in one place. As I am currently writing novels, journalism, poetry and songs for new albums, having a section for each set of project notes and keeping them all in one binder means that I can easily find what I need when I am actually working on the project in question.  I also keep a plastic poly-pocket in each section too, where I can put postcards, photos, pictures torn from magazines, lists and  inspired snippets I might have written down on scraps of paper as I am out and about during the day...in short anything which inspires me with regard to that project.  Some of these images I might turn into mood boards, but in the meantime they are in the Prep File in the relevant project section.  I actually really enjoy my Prep. Time; it makes me feel that I have accomplished something and that I have moved all my projects forward.  These are some of the ways in which I spend my Prep. Time

  • Pulling and piling up relevant research books from my shelves so I have them to hand next day
  • Making a reading list of books I need to buy to help me in my project research
  • Reading through research materials and making notes as I go
  • Creating a mood board of images for a particular project
  • Updating the desk calender with all the latest deadlines for my current workload
  • Updating my editorial contacts details and Writer's Log Book entries
  • Putting the relevant Prep File section ready and organizing my desk ready for writing the next day
  • Updating and keeping the entire Prep. File organized so I can find things easily when I need them
  • Conducting market research via magazines, media and online
  • Checking out the competition!! Who are they, what are they up to, which House are they with and do we clash or compliment?
  • Brain-storming
  • Maintaining a Blog Ideas book
  • Maintaining a Freelancer Ideas Book
  • Note-taking

The idea is to spend a couple of hours every other night making sure that my study is prepared for a good stint of writing over the next two days, by which time I am ready to do more Prep. This keeps the cogs turning and the creative fires burning. While it might not seem as if flicking through a magazine or reading a novel is work, to a writer it is because it is a valuable source of market research; who is publishing what? Who are their readers? Are their readers also my readers? Can we work together on a project?  All vital questions which a serious published author should ask.

Even if you are only working on a single project, I highly recommend that you begin your own Prep File and set aside regular Prep. Time to organize your thoughts on the work in progress.  It might not seem like very much, but just setting aside a time and space in which to sift, sort and organize yourself as a writer will help you to make the transition from hobby scribbler to serious writer.
I look forward to Prep. Time in the evenings. It feels like an indulgence to me. It reminds me that I am doing my dream job and that I have worked very hard to have people take that job seriously. And one of things about being a writer is that the paperwork does tend to pile up - indulging in Prep. Time helps to keep on top of it!