"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, 24 December 2013

POET'S CORNER; The Forgotten Rose

Rose Angel by www.annestokes.com

The Forgotten Rose

A maiden of the mists, in ceaseless wandering
I am haunted by the ghost of my own happiness
Captivated by Time long past, my mind ricochets
From vision to vision and back again
As I slowly stitch together the puzzle of Memory
Piece by painful piece, building an image of torment
Forgotten, you say?
Forgotten? I say nay

For my eyes sought only you
Peering blindly through the fog of dis-remembrance
And my lips warmed only to the dream of your kiss
While the void that held my heart still awaits your presence
That same heart which once I gave to you
 Wounded and broken, now lies bleeding in your hands
Forgotten, you say?
Forgotten? I say nay

For I see your face in every sweet rose that blooms
And the shell of my heart remembers you anew.

By Marie Bruce

Friday, 20 December 2013

BOOK NOOK; Picture Books

"How am I to sing your praise,
Happy chimney-corner days,
Sitting safe in nursery nooks
Reading picture story books?"

Quotation taken from the poem 'Picture Books in Winter' by Robert Louis Stevenson

This is my favourite image by the artist Briar.
I have never out-grown picture books, though as I grew from child to woman my taste in picture books changed.  These days I prefer to look at an artist's collection of work, rather than the traditional picture books Robert Louis Stevenson was referring to in his poem.  With digital art being so advanced there is a whole new surge of modern picture books available for adult readers who want to enjoy the work of a favourite artist.  Some of these books are published under the term 'graphic novel' but they have nothing to do with superheroes!  Others faithfully reproduce paintings, presenting a complete exhibition of work in the more accessible form of a book.  A quick search on Amazon will throw up a slew of modern picture books that showcase the work of today's finest fantasy, visionary artists.  Below are some of my favourite ones;

Stone Tears; Set Me Free; Frozen Light - the Favole Trilogy by Victoria Frances.

This is a stunning trilogy of Gothic art, inspired by the artist's love of traditional Gothic literature such as Bram Stoker and Edgar Allan Poe.  It tells the tale of a young woman, Favole, who falls in love with a vampire and is then damned because of this forbidden liaison.  Torn apart, the dark lovers must find a way to come to together in salvation and love eternal.

Each book contains three shorter stories, which interlink and move the main plot of the trilogy forward.  It is a clever concept, the text is poetically written and it contains all the key themes of a Gothic romance.  The main point of the trilogy however, is to show-case Victoria's beautiful artwork which is presented to great effect.

Gothic Fantasies, the paintings of Anne Sudworth

I love this collection and I met the artist once while I was out walking on the cliffs at Whitby, where she sat at an easel, painting the view. I was also lucky enough to see an exhibition of her paintings, also held at Whitby in North Yorkshire and I enjoy seeing her take on some of the familiar places from my home county such as Whitby Abbey and Tangle Woods. At first glance Anne's work is a series of pretty landscapes, but if you take the time to look deeper you will find a secret spirit-scape hidden within the brush strokes.  Anne paints green men and goblins hidden in the leaves and trees, bats in the clouds and dryads in the tree trunks, but rather like the old magic-eye pictures, you have to look to find them.  
I find this book is best viewed by candlelight as it draws out the hidden spirits of the paintings.

SHE, The Book of the Goddess by Linda & Roger Garland and Nigel Suckling

This was one of the first books I bought that show-cased the art of Linda Garland  and I immediately fell in love with her work.  SHE is a fantastic book which brings together masses of information about the various concepts of the divine feminine, the Goddess, from various cultures around the world.

It is very informative, particularly if you are interested in knowing more about paganism and goddess centered spirituality. The book is divided into sections named for each of the elements, heavens and rights of passage. The illustrations are stunning but my two favourites are Frost and Waiting for the Tide.  

I never grow tired of looking at these books and studying the artwork.  It might be because I have no talent for sketching and painting myself, so I am fascinated and full of admiration for those who can create such imaginative images for others to enjoy.   If you thought that picture books were just for children, please think again and consider exploring the books of art that are available.  Light the candles, flip through the pages slowly and allow yourself to be absorbed in the whimsical world of the visionary artist. 

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Festive Preparations

This Yule card by the artist Briar was sent to me and sits on the mantelpiece.
How  are all your festive preparations going?  This week has been pretty busy for me so far; I spent Monday getting out all the decorations and putting up the tree.  It always takes longer than I think it will; there is always a big mess to clean up afterwards and boxes to tidy away but I look forward to that moment when it's all finished and I can sit in my oak-leaf rocking-chair with a glass of cream sherry and admire the twinkling lights on the tree and around the fireplace.

Last year I got a new artificial Christmas tree and this year I have new Poinsettia lights around the mantelpiece.  I can't have real Poinsettia plants, as much as I love them, because they are poisonous to felines, so these lights are a nice option and they won't harm Pyewackett.  They make the fireplace look very festive.  Last year I was sent one of Briar's Yule cards (above); I don't generally keep old cards but I am a fan of the artist's work and I like the Pagan elements of this festive image with the sickle, mistletoe and broomstick, so I've put it on the mantelpiece and I think I want to get a little gilt frame for it and bring it out every year. Because it's too small to hang on the wall, I've just propped it up on the mantel with the lights and it looks pretty, but it really does need to be in a frame to finish it off properly.

If you've read my book How to Create a Magical Home you will know that I have a couple of large pewter trees and a three-fold screen, all designed to look like winter trees.  These are pretty all year round as they are all meant to hold candles and tea-lights, but at Yuletide I put fairy lights on them too and they really do sparkle.  They featured in the photo-shoot I did for Spirit&Destiny earlier this month, so you might spot them in the magazine next year.  I love the way the house looks especially warm and inviting at Yuletide.

'Tis the season to be frazzled so yesterday I braved the supermarket and did the grocery run.  It was packed with shoppers, all equally stressed, but it's just one of those things that has to be done.  I think mums deserve a meddle for putting Christmas together for their families!  It looks like such a hard slog in the weeks leading up to the celebration. I did treat myself to Britney Spears new album Britney Jean, as an early present to myself and a little reward to make the supermarket trip worth the hassle and I've been listening to that today as I clean the house.

Tomorrow it's the final trip to the post office for cards and parcels, a last lot of present wrapping to do and then I think mum and I are having the Yuletide baking day at some stage over the weekend. And we have tickets for an Aurora Illuminations Winter Walk at one of the country parks in the next county...so it's all go.

As soon as I've finished this blog post I'm going to settle down with a cup of creamy white hot chocolate with festive sprinkles on top and read some of the seasonal short stories I downloaded onto my Kindle earlier.  Some of them are free or cost less than £1, so if you have a Kindle or similar, take a look on Amazon for free festive stories, curl up and enjoy some down-time. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas so you might as well enjoy it!

Thursday, 12 December 2013

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Highland Marie

The beautiful Isle of Mull and the view from my hotel bedroom window.

Last month I turned 40!!  I knew that I wanted to be in Scotland for my birthday so I went off to the Highlands...to the stunning town of Oban, on the west coast.  I had never been to that part of the Highlands before and I quickly fell in love with the place.  Oban in November is on the far side of chilly...it was bloody freezing to be honest, but I had the great joy of waking up to snow on my first morning and seeing the mountains covered, snowy white and blending seamlessly into the snow laden sky above.  Of course, I felt like I was in Narnia and as I have never seen Scotland in snow before, I couldn't have wished for a more perfect birthday gift...a visit from the Cailleach, just for me.

The snow melted swiftly and the rest of the week was bright blue winter skies, the odd rain shower and gusty coastal winds.  I loved it.  I walked by the sea each day, made friends with 3 dogs, 2 swans and a whole flock of sea gulls, and spent time dreaming and meandering around.  Sadly, the weather was so rough that the ferries were cancelled so I couldn't take a trip out to Mull or any of the islands, but Oban itself was a pretty place and the locals were friendly.  I also visited Fort William, Inverary and Gretna Green.

"As strong as you were...brave as you go...I'm watching you breathing for the last time and I'll carry you home" Lyrics by James Blunt and the song that breaks my heart every time I hear it.
There is a Bruce named upon this War Memorial, Oban.
Flower decked Soul Anchor in Oban Memorial Gardens...the sea is behind me as I took this photo.
Because Oban is a sea port there is a very peaceful Memorial Garden that looks out over Oban Bay. There is both a soldier's war monument and also a Soul Anchor - that is, a monument to those who left Oban Bay and were lost at sea.  Soul Anchors are often seen in coastal towns and they are said to anchor lost souls to the coastline, between land and sea, thereby giving them a place of rest. They are the maritime equivalent to The Unknown Soldier monuments.

Dunolly Castle stands guard at the Gateway to the Islands.

Oban was a very romantic place with rough seas and the endless cries of the gulls creating a mournful soundscape.  The colours are at times vibrant, sometimes water-colour but always beautiful and there is a peace and solitude to the area that greatly appealed to me.  I found myself wondering what it must have been like to live in this castle, right on the coast, with the Islanders as neighbours and the mountains standing sentry.  It was a marvelous way to turn 40 and I am so glad I chose to visit a part of the Highlands that is totally fresh and new to me...it was the breath of fresh air I needed and I will certainly go back there again.

In the meantime, my Bruce progress around Scotland will continue with a visit to another part of the country I've not yet seen.  I am considering Aberdeen, Dundee or perhaps a stay on one of the Islands.  I haven't quite decided yet, so I need to ponder on it some more...

Friday, 6 December 2013

BOOK NOOK; Winter Rose by Nora Roberts

"What is this place?"
"This is Rose Castle, on the Isle of Winter in the Sea of Ice."

Winter Rose by Nora Roberts is one of two short stories published together as In Dreams & Winter Rose.  It is a romantic fairytale and tells the story of the battle wounded Prince Kylar who finds himself at the point of death, in a land of ice and snow which is ruled by a beautiful Queen, an ice maiden called Deirdre. 

Deirdre has a powerful gift - she is a magical healer and she uses her enchantments to heal the Prince of his wounds. In doing so, some part of her melts towards him and she begins to fall in love. However, a tragic past means that she has no trust of men and she believes that her own heart is forever frozen and therefore unable to love. Mistrusting of her feelings she sends Kylar away, even though she thinks he might possibly be the one who can break the bitter spell cast over her land to make it forever winter. All she can do is wait and hope that one day, he will find her again.Will Prince Kylar ever return, and could he find his way back to the enchanted island of the Queen of Ice, even if he wanted to? Or is Deirdre lost to him forever? 

Winter Rose is a charming tale and the perfect fireside read for a cold December night.  It has echoes of Narnia, but it is essentially a love story and a fairytale of an errant knight and a lonely young Queen, trapped in her palace of ice...

With all the classic hallmarks of a traditional fairytale, it is well written by a respected author.  I downloaded this book on my Kindle but it is available in print form too on Amazon.  It is a wonderful tale of chivalry and romance and a heart-warming festive read. 

Thursday, 5 December 2013

WRITER'S DREAM; Photo-shoots

This image is from a previous photo-shoot with Robin Palmer

It has been a very hectic few weeks. Not only did I have my first college course assessment in October, but I went to the Highlands last month to celebrate my birthday.  I went to Oban and it was snowy and cold, but I'll do another post on that soon. Upon my return home to Yorkshire I went to see Disney On Ice with my mother and then I had to begin preparing for a photo shoot with one of the magazines I write for.

The shoot was yesterday and took about six hours. The photographer Robin, was lovely and we have worked together before so it was nice to see him again and have a gossip.  Taking part in such a shoot really gives an insight into how much work is involved in the beautiful photographic spreads that appear in magazines every month.  Robin took over 400 images so it was a pretty busy day for both of us! Pyewackett does not appear in this shoot - he disappeared out of the back door as soon as Robin arrived and he didn't come back indoors again until about ten minutes after the photographer left...smart cat. Part of me wanted to follow him.

I must confess that any kind of photo shoot is not in my comfort zone. I usually avoid as much press and media attention as I can possibly get away with, though being a writer does mean that a certain amount of media coverage is required of me from time to time. Yesterday though, I actually had fun and I enjoyed myself, which was a surprise to me.  I think it helped that I knew the photographer and so I was more relaxed in front of the camera than I have ever felt before.  It's certainly not the same as when a newspaper journalist and photographer are both trying to do their jobs at the same time and vying for attention - that has happened to me a few times and it can be very stressful.   Yesterday's shoot was much less fraught so as a result I felt that I could just relax a bit more and go with it.

For the most part, a writer's life is generally quiet; we sit at a desk all day and write or conduct research etc. But every so often we have to transform ourselves from work-horse to show-pony and that is what a photo-shoot is all about.  It is a little bit of media glamour, shining a light on the person behind the books/column etc, rather than on the written work itself.  Personally I am always fascinated to see and read more about my favourite authors, so doing media work is also a way for me to give a little bit extra to my readers. I had fun in yesterday's shoot and I am very glad that I did it. I'm looking forward to seeing the images at a later date.

As for today, I think that I deserve some me-time so as soon as I finish my words for the day I'm going to settle down with a glass of wine, a box of Chocolate Strawberry Cremes that I bought in Oban and The Tudors DVD box set.  I will let you all know when and where the shoot can be found upon publication as soon as I have that information.
BB Marie x

Saturday, 16 November 2013

ONCE UPON A DREAM; On Making Dreams Come True

Writing your Goals down aids manifestation

Someone once said of me "What most people only dream of doing, Marie actually does."  I am well known for my ability to make my dreams come true and for making my ambitions my day to day reality.  It is not a secret that I keep to myself - I am very happy to share my process - but one thing I have discovered over the years is that oftentimes, people prefer to dream.

In taking steps to make an ambition reality you run the very real risk of failure.  While ever the ambition remains a pipe-dream, bolstered by excuses of why you can't do it (children being the great get-out clause for many women) you are safe from the sting of rejection and failure.  Its a very negative form of self-preservation.  It will certainly keep you safe from failure, but it will keep you from any degree of success too. And what are you teaching your kids if you use them as an excuse for why you cannot be/have/do something?  It has always seemed to me that giving birth is the best way for women to avoid life.

So how do you make a dream come true?  First you need to ask yourself if it is a pipe-dream and something you occasionally think about from time to time;  or if it is indeed a viable ambition and something you feel born to achieve.  Everyone has pipe-dreams and there is nothing wrong with this.  It is fantastic exercise for the imagination.  You will know whether or not you have a pipe-dream as opposed to an ambition because you will find any excuse to avoid making the dream reality, or you will expect other people to make the dream come true for you - this is called Entitlement or Nepotism. 

With a genuine ambition you will be fully prepared to put the work in yourself to achieve it.  You will make sacrifices for the good of your dreams and you will be fully prepared to do it on the back of your own name, talent, and personal efforts.  In short, you will do the leg work.  If you are not prepared to do all of this, for months and even years at a time before achieving success, then you are a pipe-dreamer, not an achiever. 

I have always been a big fan of goal setting.  At the end of every year I write down a list of goals I want to achieve during the next 12 months and I keep this list in my diary.  As I achieve each goal, I tick it off on the list and put the date of when that particular goal was achieved. I have done this every year, for about 20 years, which is why I have achieved most of my lifetime ambitions.  On looking over my 2013 list I realized that of the 21 goals I wrote down, only 5 remain as yet unfulfilled.  Any goals that still remain by New Years Eve will go straight to the top of my 2014 list, with new goals added below.  

Some of my goals are smaller steps towards a larger goal.  I have always found that this is the best way to make a dream come true.  First I dismantle the dream, breaking it apart into smaller, more manageable goals. These goals are written on my list in my diary, to keep me achieving and working towards the dream, for at least the duration of that year.  It also makes the dream seem less distant, more manageable.  Break the dream apart and put it back together again, one step at a time.

If you have never tried goal setting, you might be surprised at how much you can get done in a year, just by planning ahead.  Over the next few weeks think, of what you want to do next year and then take the time to write down your personal/family targets.

In order to become successful in any field, you must first of all make space for achievement in your life.
Bon Chance!

Friday, 15 November 2013


Dancing with Jack Frost...

Jack Frost

The door was shut, as doors should be,
Before you went to bed last night;
Yet Jack Frost has got in, you see
And left your windows silver white...

And now you cannot see the trees
Nor fields that stretch beyond the lane;
But there are fairer things than these
His fingers traced on every pane.

Rocks and castles towering high,
Hills and dales, and streams and fields,
And knights in armour riding by
With plumes and spears and shining shields.

And here are little boats, and there
Big ships with sails spread to the breeze
And yonder palm trees, waving fair
On islands set in silver seas.

And butterflies with gauzy wings,
And birds and bees, and owls and sheep,
And fruit and flowers and all the things
You see when you are sound asleep.

For, creeping softly underneath
The door when all the lights are out,
Jack Frost takes every breath you breathe,
And knows the things you think about.

He paints them on the window-pane,
In fairy lines, with frozen steam;
And when you wake you see again
The wondrous things you saw in dreams.

 Anonymous; circa 19th century

 This beautiful poem is thought to have been written in Victorian times, but it was either published anonymously or the author's name is long forgotten which makes me really sad. It is such a lovely piece of work.  It is a shame that we don't know who the author was.

Perhaps it was written for the Christmas cord industry, which was a new fad back then and not expected to catch on!  I took the poem from a book called The Country Diary Christmas Book by Sarah Hollis, inspired by the famous Country Diary of Edith Holden.

I hope that you will enjoy this piece of work...whoever wrote it has been making readers smile for a very long time with this lovely ditty.
BB Marie x

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Happy Guy Fawkes Night!

"Remember, remember the 5th of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot;
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot."
Traditional English rhyme

I have mixed feelings about Bonfire Night.  On the one hand I love this traditional British festival occasion.  I like a good bonfire, I watch fireworks from a safe distance and with a healthy respect for the powers of fire and I enjoy bonfire food such as roasted chestnuts and hot mulled wine.

Yet at the back of my mind I can't shake off an uncomfortable feeling, for we are after all, celebrating someone being burnt at the stake and public execution.  This doesn't really sit well with me.  I find the concept of it rather unnerving and I often wish I could go back to a state of childish ignorance, when I could enjoy the party with no knowledge of it's origin and therefore with a clear conscience. 

When I was a little girl there was a huge bill poster of Guy Fawkes, similar to the image above, pasted onto the bricks of the local corner shop where they sold fireworks.   It was there for years and years, until eventually the rain washed it away.  I would walk past this poster everyday on my way to and from school. So in a way, you could say that I grew up with Guy Fawkes and  I think this might be the reason I feel some empathy and sympathy towards Guy and his pals.  Plotting to blow up the Houses of Parliament wasn't the greatest plan and he paid the ultimate price for it, largely because he came so very close to succeeding!   

But every year on November the 5th, as I watch the flames I think of how he and his friends must have suffered, so very long ago.  I will always be a fan of Bonfire Night and the gatherings that go on; it is one of our best loved autumn festivals. And I can't help thinking old Guy Fawkes might be dancing a spirit-jig that his famous name and  thereby, his cause, is now the origin of a great British tradition. 

Whatever you are doing tonight, spare a kind thought for Guy Fawkes and his friends, and enjoy a safe Bonfire Night.
Blessed Be,

Saturday, 2 November 2013


"Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness..." John Keats

Fall, leaves, fall;  die, flowers, away
Lengthen night and shorten day
Every leaf speaks bliss to me,
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow.
I shall sing when night's decay
Ushers in a drearier day.

By Emily Bronte

I love this poem by Emily Bronte.  It sums up autumn and my fondness for the season just beautifully.  The dark season has taken hold now, with the clocks going back last weekend.  As I write it is just after nine o'clock in the evening and it is dark as midnight.  The rain is lashing against the windowpanes of my little house and the wind is howling it's way up to a gale...it sounds like a wailing banshee.  

Last week was quite busy as I went to several Halloween events. A couple of them were held in Sherwood Forest, after dark.  I love being in Sherwood at night time; the owls were calling out to one another and the dried leaves lingering on the trees were whispering around us, like the ghostly breath of a spirit.  The Spooky Walk was a bit like a ghost train, with things leaping out of the trees and the Ghost Storyteller was dressed in top hat and tails, recounting ghostly tales of Sherwood Forest.  It was a lovely way to spend Samhain.

Today it was back to the grindstone, writing my column for Spirit&Destiny.  The lead times mean that we are actually writing the spring issues at the moment, so my head space is always several months ahead of time, but I do like to work ahead anyway. It has be difficult to concentrate though as so many fireworks are going off, it being the weekend before Guy Fawkes Night on November 5th. 

In the darker months I like to make my house smell super cosy.  I'm currently burning Yankee's November Rain, which is fitting considering the weather.  I have lots of candles lit each evening as the nights draw in. I like to fill my home with little sparks of living light and dancing flames.  Cosy home fragrances are one of my shopping weaknesses, especially at this time of year.  I think it's because the shops really make an effort to capture the scents of the autumn and winter seasons in their products.  

My ex-fiance used to complain that I was wasting money on scented candles and oils - men just don't get it do they?  It isn't about having money to burn (though obviously that IS what I'm doing!); it's about creating an atmosphere...and atmospheres are magical.  For me scented candles, oils and incense sticks are about enhancing the enchantment of my living space.  They add to the sense of welcome and security of home. They make each room smell fabulous.  They bring the spirits of autumn and winter into my pretty little house and give me a satisfying sense of abundance.  

The oils from Marks&Spencer are wonderful; powerful fragrances that will last a couple of years, and they only cost a couple of pounds.  The comfort and joy these products give to me far outweighs the cost.  If you've never tried the festive oils from M&S, go and have a sniff. Their winter range is out now and they are quite inexpensive for the amount of time they last, as you only need a couple of drops to fill the house with fragrance. Give them a go.  They really are tiny bottles of winter's magic and sparkle!
November Rain (Blue) is the scent I'm snuggling up with tonight.

Monday, 28 October 2013

POET'S CORNER; Shadow Charm

'Tis the season of the witch...prepare to be Spellbound!

Shadow Charm
In the dark, damp earth beneath the fallen leaves of autumn;
In the woody embrace of a hollow tree;
Shrouded in the black velvet night;
On the shadow-side of candlelight;
Tangled within the gossamer threads of a cobweb;
Ruffled in the feathers of a raven’s wings;
In the predatory flick of a feline’s tail;
In the decay of autumn and the death of the year at winter’s end;
On the dark side of the moon;
In mists and fogs and screaming gales;
In thunder, lightening and pouring rain;
In icy white frosts and snowy blizzards;
In the bark of a fox and the howl of a wolf;
In the harrowing screech of a hunting owl;
Lost within desolate castles and lonely bell towers;
Lingering in the cemetery and in crumbling crypts;
Waiting in the stillness of sacred stone circles;
Slumbering deeply in barrow mounds;
On windswept hilltops and isolated moors and tors;
Ebbing and flowing on craggy seashores;
Glimmering in the walls of caverns and caves;
In the soft whisper of a departing spirit;
Waiting on the edge between life and death;
At the centre of the crossroads;
Where three forest paths meet and the yew stands tall;
Hanging in the balance of dusk and dawn;
For those who choose a hidden path...
Herein dwells the shadow charm;
For those who dare to speak it.

By Marie Bruce

This is an unpublished poem I dug out from my archives.  It is in keeping with the spirit of the season. I hope you enjoy it.
Blessed Be,
 Marie x

Friday, 18 October 2013

BOOK NOOK; Fairytale Psychology

We can all learn something from Little Red Riding Hood

I am a woman who loves fairytales...

People tend to look at me strangely when I admit to reading this sort of seemingly childish literature, but there is far more to fairytales than at first meets the eye.  To begin with, fairytales are the very bedrock of literature and therefore they are a valuable point of reference for any writer. These popular stories have been handed down through the generations for so long that it is difficult to pinpoint exactly when or where a certain fairytale originated.  What we do know is that they have been doing the rounds for centuries and were traditionally used as teaching tools and parables. 

Long before the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson and Walt Disney sanitized them and repackaged them as wholesome bedtime stories and children's entertainment, fairytales were designed to teach moral values, incorporating warnings of what might happen if one failed to conform to the rules of society ie; 'stray from the path'.  Originally the stories had much darker themes and an overt sexual context.  Frequently subversive in nature, fairytales were meant to challenge the reader's view of the world, while imprinting messages of wisdom and conformity.

The fairytale has come a very long way.  You might even say that it has grown up a bit.  As a sub-genre it is used by psychologists to explain human behaviour and how we interact with one another. More recently fairytales have been taken up and used by the feminist cause.  There are even collections of erotic fairytales which could still be described as bedtime stories, though they are certainly not for children! Anne Rice's (writing as A. N. Roquelaure) Sleeping Beauty trilogy comes to mind. 

I have so many books on fairytales that it has been difficult to decide which ones to include in this post.  I enjoy all kinds of books that have a fairytale theme, both fiction and non-fiction.  I love novels that rework the classic fairytale romance or that give a traditional Gothic twist to the tales.  I also enjoy reading the self-help books which take the fairytale right back to its origin as a teaching tool.  For that reason, and because I think this type of writing on the theme is the most useful and thought-provoking, I have picked out a handful of my favourite fairytale titles from my library to share with you...

Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes;  If you have never studied the psychology of fairytales then this a great book to begin with.  It contains all the best loved fairytales as well as some you might not be familiar with, along with psychological commentary that explains the intuitive women's wisdom contained within the tales. Aimed at female readers and tagged as Women's Studies, this is a powerful book that teaches readers how to reclaim their inner wild woman and feminine power. There is a reason this book is a modern classic...it really is that good.

Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked by Catherine Orenstein;  As the title suggests this book concentrates on the story of Little Red and her perilous journey through the woods to her grandmother's house. It explores the sexual morality of the tale; asking who is to blame for Red's fate and who should be the one to save her?  Could she, should she save herself?  It explores the many, many guises this fairytale has worn over the years. It also includes a 31 bullet point break down of the traditional fairytale.  This book began as a thesis and it does read like an academic piece, rather than a piece of commercial writing, but that only encourages the reader to take the material seriously and to view the most popular fairytale of them all in a completely new and sophisticated light.

The Wolf in Your Bed by Jill Harris;  I downloaded this book onto my Kindle so I don't know if it's available in hard copy.  If it isn't, then it really ought to be.  I read it straight through in a day, then went back to beginning and read it through again.  I love this book.  I think it might be self-published, due to the amount of typo's but the material is cracking!  With a good copy editor to give it a polish I see no reason why it shouldn't be picked up by a traditional House, if it hasn't been already. It is basically a survival guide for women who have come through, or who are experiencing, an emotionally abusive relationship.  It uses the popular fairytales as a way of helping women to identify their abuser's MO and personality type, then it gives her the tools she needs to deploy damage-limitation.  I bought it as research for my studies and what drew me to this title initially is that it uses journal writing as a form of self-help therapy, and so the book is full of writer's prompts, all with a fairytale theme.  Even if you have never had a bad boyfriend, this book is invaluable in helping women to identify the 'wolves' out there so that they can avoid them.  Plus the prompts are great practice and warm up tools for any writer.

Beauty Bites Beast by Ellen Snortland;  This is a kick-ass fairytale book!  Once you have identified 'the wolf in your bed' with the previous title, use Beauty Bites Beast to awaken the warrior woman within.  Again, I found this title to be a page turner and I kept wondering why it has taken so long for a book like this to made available to women?  It is a book of women's self-defense, both psychological and physical defense.  It explores why men might prefer women to be Sleeping Beauty types, how to recognize if you are a Sleeping Beauty type and most importantly how to wake up and start standing up for yourself.  Imaginative chapter titles include Why Beauty Sleeps...the spell of hearth and home; The Queen is Not Amused...Commanding Respect with Verbal Self-Defense; The Magic Potion of Fighting Spirit and my personal favourite Bitches, Battle Axes and Boadiceas.  Yes, this book is a self-defense manual, but it is written in a female friendly manner, with fairytale flair.  And there is an image of Boadicea on the cover...how can any strong, independent woman not want to read this book?  It could be a life saver. 

The Bloody Chamber by  Angela Carter;  This is a classic collection of darker versions of the popular fairytales.  It includes The Company of Wolves, which was made into a film in the 1980's and that is the reason I bought it.  It is dark, Gothic and surprising.  If you simply want a more sophisticated collection of fairytales for your bedtime reading then this is a good book to keep on your bedside table.

All these titles are available on Amazon UK. I hope that this peek into my fairytale library has inspired you to look at fairytales in a new light...may you always live happily ever after.
Blessed Be,

Saturday, 12 October 2013

SCREEN SIREN; Bell, Book and Candle

Bell, Book and Candle starring Kim Novak and James Stewart is one of my favourite witchy films.  I always watch it during the month of October to get into the mood for the magical season. I even named my own cat Pyewackett after the feline familiar in the film.  It  is a fabulous love story and rather than frights and scares, this film concentrates on enchantments, charms and the universal magic of falling in love.  There is also the scene that must have inspired JK Rowling when she wrote of Dumbledore putting out street lights, not to mention an actress named Hermione Gringold - inspiration for Hermione Granger and Gringotts Bank maybe?  

Kim Novak plays a seductive witch who casts a love spell on her new neighbour, James Stewart, with a little help from her familiar, Pyewackett.  The shenanigans that follow are by turns hilarious and moving, as the characters question where the spell ends and the real love begins; or is it all one and the same?  What is love anyway, if not magic?

Bell, Book and Candle is a very glamorous film and the 1950's costumes are simply stunning, giving a nod to the Red Riding Hood look.  Kim Novak smolders with an aloof sophistication. She is detached from her circle of friends and family; a single, hot witch who longs for nothing more than a loving man who will accept her, her gift and her way of life.  However,  the course of true love never runs smoothly - not even for a powerful witch.  

This is a family friendly, spellbinding film and perfect viewing for Halloween.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Autumn Studies & Inspiration

Loving my night classes so far...
I am about half way through the short taster course I signed up for at night school and I am really enjoying it so far.  I have already decided to continue with the next level in January, so I'm currently writing hard to fund myself and get the course fees together.  It's great to be back in a classroom again - yes, I am aware how nerdy that sounds, but it's true!  I am a total blue-stocking; I love the classroom, the library, the three hour long lectures, the home work...it's great.

I have enjoyed meeting the other students and getting to know them. We are a small class and everyone is there for a different reason, but with a common interest and goal.  One of my favourite aspects of the course so far has been writing out a Personal Development Plan - this is lecture-speak for goal setting.  I love goal setting and I've often written about it in my books and features.  

Strangely enough, one of the reasons I decided to sign up for night school in the first place was because I have already achieved almost all of my personal goals and I needed a new focus.  I felt a bit lost in limbo.  I have always had something to strive for, something to work on achieving.  I wanted to feel that I had a fresh take on life, which will of course be good for my career as a writer.  So now I have a whole new goal, which links into my writing career quite nicely and I'm working on the game-plan to achieve it. I feel more like my old self because of this - I feel the old familiar need to press ahead. 

Learning something new always increases my sense of optimism and positivity.  I enjoy studying. I spend my days busy with my writing career and my evenings studying for the course and completing home work assignments.  If all goes to plan, I hope to be studying night classes for several years to come and of course my work as a writer takes up my days, so I need to develop good working study patterns early on.

As I walk back through the city center after class with my folder of work, I realize how lucky I am to live quite close to such a pretty University city.  I notice the pretty blue lights around the water gardens, the Halloween displays in shop windows, the autumn leaves falling to the ground around campus.  With a gingerbread latte to keep out the cold, I head to the bus stop and so back to my cosy little house, eager to settle down in my crimson study and write up class notes, observations and thoughts I've had during the lecture, so I don't forget them. I  also write down any inspired topic ideas the lecture might have given me for future columns and features.  Oh, and next month I start a short Pilates course too!

People often ask me "Where do you find inspiration?" and my answer is always the same "Life... life is the inspiration."  A writer must frequently leave her desk in order to bring something back to the page. 

Sunday, 6 October 2013

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Meet Pyewackett - 15 TODAY!!!

Happy 15th Birthday Pyewackett !

Sleeping Beauty, dreaming on the canopied chaise lounge
Today is Pyewackett's 'Official Birthday'.  I say official because he is a rescue cat and we don't actually know when his real birthday is, so we celebrate on the anniversary of the day he came to live with me, October 6th.  The vet said he was about a year old when I got him, which makes today his 15th Birthday!!!

He is quite a famous feline; I have written about him in all of my books and he was the inspiration for the cover of  Magical Beasts.  He has been featured in local and national press during my interviews.  Like me, Pye is very camera shy and I have to be sneaky to get a picture of him ...when I do, this is the look I get...

"Get that thing out of my face, Mother!"
Pye has had quite a tough year; he had to have all his teeth removed due to old cat dental problems, but he's recovered well and still loves his food!  He has lots of yummy treats to eat today and new toy mice to play with that crackle when he pounces on them.  For a cat who loves to go outdoors rambling, to reach the grand old age of 15, and to be 'in really good nick' as the vet said, makes me so proud - he is obviously streetwise and super smart.  He has some 'old cat' moments when he is a little stiff in winter time; he prefers to spend more time indoors as the weather gets colder, but during the summer months he likes nothing better than laying out in the sunshine, catching some rays.

People often comment on the fact that I have a black cat, as if I planned it to fit in with the publicity for my books, which is utter nonsense.  Pyewackett is a rescue cat but I didn't go and pick him out from a shelter. Someone my mother worked with told her about him. Mum asked me if I'd give him a home and I said yes immediately so she brought him to me that same day.  I hadn't even seen Pye before I gave him a home.  I didn't care what colour he was; I just wanted to care for him and keep him safe and well. 
I love his personality and he could just as easily have been white, ginger or calico - it wouldn't have made any difference and he would still have been my cat. He is a much beloved friend and companion, not a publicity stunt.  

He does have a few Familiar ways though; he likes to sleep beneath my little mermaid altar table when he is unwell, as he seems to like the positive energy there.  He loves candles, but he has only sniffed one once, years ago - lesson learned!  He likes to flip my tarot cards over with his paws and quite a few have claw marks in them. He is fascinated when I use my pendulum. He knows when I am sad or sick, in the way all animals seem to have empathy with their human carers.  He enjoys playing 'baby' in my arms as I tickle his tummy while I sit in the rocking chair and rock him to sleep.  He sleeps on a purple velvet throw and matching cushion, on the end of my bed...spoilt as a little Prince!  Maybe that's why he has reached a good age. Needless to say, I am hoping for many happy returns of the day!

BB Marie and Pyewackett.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

WRITER'S DREAM; Start A Pillow Book

Take your writing to bed with you...

Image from www.artcentergallery.com

Have you ever heard of a Pillow Book?  It is similar to a diary or journal, being a collection of personal musings, secret thoughts, verse etc.  It is a type of free-writing, where you allow the pen to say whatever is on your mind, but in a very lyrical, creative style.  It is not a rendition of what you did that day or a list of appointments, but a review of your emotional state now that the day is drawing to a close. It might even be a work of fiction, in that you re-write the day/ the relationship/ the argument as you wish it had turned out.

I have always believed that writing is a healing art; a form of therapy that we can administer to ourselves as and when we need it.  It is no accident that lots of young girls begin to write their first diary during puberty, when their bodies are going through massive changes and they need a place to keep all the emotional turmoil.
Psychotherapists often suggest journaling as a way for people to deal with stress, trauma and life changes such as divorce or bereavement, because it helps the client to heal and move forward.

Of course you needn't be traumatized to start creating a pillow book; you can begin one anytime, but if you are going through something then it's good to get it down on paper just to free up your head-space.  Take your troubles to the page, because the page will never let you down.  Don't worry about spelling or grammar, just write it all out.  

The beauty of a pillow book is that no-one else will ever read it - it is for your eyes only, so you are free to say anything you choose...all those natural feelings that society would frown upon if you spoke them out loud.  In a pillow book its okay to admit that  you  dislike your children sometimes; or you feel angry with a parent or spouse for becoming ill and turning you into an unpaid nurse; or that you sometimes have vengeful thoughts towards your ex-partner...in a pillow book you can write it all down, exactly as you feel it; you can fictionalize it or turn it into a poem, but you will always know where it came from and what aspect of your life inspired that particular piece. You can celebrate the joyful events too and have a party on the page!

As you get into the habit of taking your emotions to the page something extraordinary begins to take place within you - your sense of clarity returns, your peace of mind is restored and you will feel more in control of your head-space.  Therapeutic writing can help to lessen anxiety, stress and worry, replacing these negative feelings with more positive ones such as tranquility, contentment and optimism.   This won't happen overnight, but if you maintain a pillow book for a whole year, you will begin to see the benefits.  Those close to you might also comment on how your general outlook on life has improved.  

How can a pillow book make you a writer?  Because it is the act of writing that makes a writer.  All authors draw upon their own personal life experience, so by having the courage to explore your emotions in a pillow book you are documenting rich material for future projects.  The ability to turn the darkest, most painful human experience into something beautiful is what makes someone an artist.  And if nothing else, keeping a pillow book will get you into the habit of writing daily, or at least, frequently.

To begin with, find a notebook you love and a pen that feels comfortable to write with. You might also want to use a book of writers prompts to get you started - Artist Dates by Julia Cameron; The Writer's Idea Book by Jack Heffron or The Wolf In Your Bed, a Kindle book by Jill Harris all offer suitable material to work with.  Most prompts only want you to write for about 10 minutes, so it is easy to fit into a bedtime routine. Or just write for 10 minutes about anything that is on your mind, anything you feel bubbling up...let it out through your pen.

Now get into the habit of going to bed a few minutes earlier, take a cup of cocoa or something with you, settle in, pick up you pillow book and write.  Soon enough your pillow book will become  a much treasured possession. It is a conversation with your Higher Self  and you will enjoy spending time exploring the relationship you are building with the page...this is what it means to be a writer.

In Wicca we have a saying that sums it up; Witch, know thyself!
It is as true for writers as it is for witches. Enough said.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

WRITER'S DREAM; Moving With the Times

I wonder what Jane Austen would think of her novels being on Kindle?

The landscape of the publishing industry is changing at a very fast pace.  When I first started out as a hopeful writer, as then unpublished, parceling up my submissions and walking to the post office with all the nervous jitters of attending a job interview, I could hardly have imagined how quickly publishing would change. After all, it had essentially remained the same for centuries - how could I possibly guess that the biggest overhaul of the industry would take place during my own writing career?

Not long after signing my first publishing contract, email submissions became the preference of editors - it has to be said that this is due in part to the fact that emails are easier to delete and ignore and are therefore more cost effective for Houses dealing with masses of submissions each week.  It also means that new writers have little chance of using gimmicks to make their submission stand out from the crowd.  Gimmicks are frowned upon. The writing must speak for itself.  If it doesn't, rejection is sure to follow, so with email submissions the writing has to be stellar.

Publication is always a relief for any aspiring writer.  It is the start of a new career, where the real work actually begins.  It is amazing to see the words you have labored over for so many months, printed as a book with your own name on the cover, spine, blurb and most importantly, the copyright notice.  It is such a thrill to see your book sat proudly on the bookshelves of your favourite bookshops; to meet and greet your readers, to receive fan mail and yes, to get paid for the joy of being a published author.  It really is the very best feeling in the world.

As your name becomes known, other aspects of the media industry come calling...press, radio and TV.  You will be asked to give interviews; your publishing contract will probably contain a Publicity Clause that states you will be required to make yourself available for promotional interviews to help the book sell - and it is unlikely that you will be paid any extra for this aspect of the job. It is all free promotion for your book - all you have to do is turn up, smile and answer the questions.  It's like being interviewed for the job you already have - that of published author - rather than a job you are hoping to get.

As the world went digital I watched in trepidation as first the music industry and then publishing were re-formed, re-shaped and re-packaged for the Technological Age.  I must confess that I am still quite wary of the changes; it all feels too fast; too much too soon, like a relationship that is running away with you against your better judgment.   I was still thrilled beyond measure that my work was being published at all; that I was an author of books, when I was suddenly informed of plans to make my work available digitally, as ebooks. I think I was expected to be thrilled.  I wasn't thrilled to begin with, but in hindsight I think I was just afraid that digital books would crash and burn and take my career along for the ride.

In fact, the opposite has happened.  It is happening right now, as I type, as you read these words.  People all over the world are changing the way they read and enjoy books.  The Technological Age has made books available in 1 click, from anywhere with WIFI.   Books have gone digital.  The top Houses are all on board; the smaller Houses have discovered how cost effective ebook publishing is in comparison to hard copy publishing...and let's face it, if publishing didn't move with the times we would all be reading scrolls!

My own career was high-jacked by the ebook trend some time ago.  Of course I was worried, but I needn't have been.  This is way the industry is going and I would have to be nuts not to want to be a part of it. These days I am even commissioned to write features for digital ebook only spin offs of traditional magazines and publications.  I have the best of both worlds.  I write for both types of publication, digital and hard copy.

Being a traditionalist I will always prefer the feel of an actual book in my hands, or a CD in my collection. Digital feels too whimsical, too ethereal for me to grasp.  I love walking into my study and seeing rows and rows of books on shelves; I love walking into a bookshop and seeing my own books on the shelves; I love the feel of a CD case as I read the track list, or slip out the sleeve notes...yet, at the same time I am delighted that my own album Moon Chants is available to download in iTunes.

Even so, space issues in my tiny house have forced me to purchase a Kindle...what the hell, my own books are already on there, I might as well have a bloody look!  I wasn't expecting to be totally seduced, but I think I have been.  I downloaded a new novel in a matter of seconds, without going out in the rain to the bookshop, without searching for a parking space; while I was still in bed, drinking my coffee, in fact.  Then I downloaded my favourite classics - for free.  I wonder what the Bronte's would think of that?

I will always prefer 'real' books, but it is wonderful to know that I can take a whole library of novels with me on holiday to Oban, in my handbag on my Kindle.  It made me smile to finally see my own work in Kindle format!   I have tried to remain true to my love of traditional publishing by putting my Kindle in a Pride & Prejudice Kindle cover...so it looks just like one of my much loved classics.  This is comforting to my romantic sentiments and it makes my techno-phobic soul sleep easier in her bed at night, after reading a few digital pages.

I really do feel like I have the best of both worlds, as a writer and as a reader. And yes, I think that Jane Austen and the fabulous forward-thinking Bronte sisters would approve.
BB Marie x

Sunday, 15 September 2013


Feeling inspired by beautiful knitwear ...
My grandmother was a big knitter.  Every autumn she would set to work kitting out the whole family  in winter scarves, jumpers and cardigans.  She was a fast hand knitter and she loved using her knitting machine too. I can remember sitting on the floor at her knees as she taught me how to knit when I was a little girl.  I had my own pair of red child size knitting needles and a small red work box - I still have the work box, though the knitting needles were lost along with childhood.   Eventually I got the hang of it but I will never have the same level of knitting skill that my grandmother had and that my mother has too so I can only make quite simple things.

When I was about 10 years old I decided to rebel against knitting by teaching myself how to crochet with the help of a library book. My grandmother couldn't crochet, nor could my mother so I felt like I had something to prove in teaching myself.  Once I had acquired the skill I taught my best friend and my mum how to crochet too, passing on the needle craft just as my grandmother had taught me how to knit. 

It has been years and years since I indulged in any wool craft; the last thing I made was a baby blanket for my nephew who is now in his mid teens, so it's been a while!  Just recently though, as the weather turns colder and the nights grow darker, I have been yearning for the feel of the yarn at my fingertips.  I am greatly inspired by the beautiful knitted scarves, snoods and wrist warmers on the Hush website but I don't want to just buy a woolly scarf - I want the pleasure of making one for myself.

I want to enjoy the process of sitting with my feet up before the fire, watching TV and plying the needles and yarn; creating something unique that cannot be bought in the shops.  So I drove down to the little wool shop where my Mum and Nan always purchased their knitting supplies.  It hasn't changed a bit and stepping inside is still like walking into the very heart of a rainbow with brightly coloured yarns stacked in high shelves right up to the ceiling.  I purchased  three 100g balls of soft  wool in a creamy cappuccino shade, which cost less than a fiver and I started to crochet myself a scarf as soon as I got home.  I knew I would need something to occupy me after the dental operation I had on Friday so a crochet project was ideal. I plan to make matching wrist warmers too...and all for less than five pounds! 

There was a time when almost all women could knit, sew and crochet etc. It is one of the feminine arts but these days needle craft seems to be a dying art form and there are lots of teens and twenty-somethings who wouldn't know how to handle a pair of knitting needles or a crochet hook.  It is a shame that such skills seem to be diminishing in modern society.  I'm really grateful that my grandmother took the time to teach me how to knit, and that I taught myself to crochet in the spirit of independence.  It is a skill you only need to learn once and then you will have it for the rest of your life. In addition you can make something totally unique, at a fraction of the cost of a shop bought mass produced garment and it is such a cosy way to spend an evening, curled up in an armchair, or tucked into bed working the needles, hook and yarn.

Monday, 9 September 2013

IVORY TOWER; Tabletop Trinkets

These are a few of my favourite things...

A collection of treasures to remind me of my travels

Call of the Sea... a vase of sea shells from Whitby, North Yorkshire coast

Wise Owl... this mirrored, filigree winged owl was from Strathpeffer in the Scottish Highlands last year 

Thistle Down Dreams...and this blown glass thistle was purchased back in 2001 from Gretna Green as I returned from my very first holiday in Strathpeffer

Fallen Leaf...this tea light holder was from Sherwood Forest

Crystal heart...from a winter fair, purchased when I was 16 years old