"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, 28 February 2013


Pretty notebooks help a writer keep track of ideas.
Image from www.ElleandBlair.com

I have quite a collection of notebooks.  They help me to keep track of stray ideas which may become projects later down the line, but which for now, just need a place to sit and wait until I'm truly ready for them. Notebooks are the waiting room of a writer's workplace; here the ideas, musings and pondering snippets can be set down and kept safe.

Ideas are like fickle lovers - if you don't pin them down and keep track of them they will quickly go off with another writer who has more time for them.  You might think that you will remember that genius plot line in the morning so why bother searching for a pen at 3am, but trust me, you won't. You'll just remember that you had a great idea that escaped you.

I also believe that paper notebooks are more valuable than a random file on a computer - things get lost and hidden in the memory archives of a laptop, but a notebook is always on hand to be flicked through as you search for that line of dialogue you heard on the bus or that fantastic chorus for a new song.  Notebooks are tangible evidence of your life as a writer.  You can easily see when certain themes or patterns are evolving, when something is inspired by your own life or when an idea is ready to become the first seeds of a brand new project.  If you work as a published writer notebooks are invaluable for marking down what piece was published where and which editors are most receptive to your work.  

I have four different notebooks.  Each one is a map of the creative journey for a particular type of writing;

  1. Spirit&Destiny; in this notebook I keep track of every column and feature I have written for S&D. It is very important that I can see at a glance how my column is shaping up so that I don't repeat topics/spells.  I list each column's theme, tone and spell type every month before I file it into my editor.  I also add editorial notes (say for instance when a particular issue has an overall theme and my column needs to fit in/stand out) . I jot down ideas for new column topics at the back of this book.  I plan out my columns in advance - sometimes I change up the order and sequence to fit my writing mood as I want to have fun in my work, but I plan ahead by about one full year.
  2. Freelancer; as a freelance features journalist and a core contributor to national multi-media publishers I write for all kinds of magazines, not just MBS.  I enjoy contributing to equestrian, lifestyle, writing, women's and home decor magazines too so I need to keep track of all that is going on in this aspect of my work, particularly when it comes to deadlines.
  3. Poetry & Lyrics; this is one of my favorite notebooks.  It is probably the most whimsical of my collection.  Here I write down random verse, poetry and song lyrics as they come to me - I might not have the whole song/poem right away but I note down the gems I do have.  Sometimes a combination of these gems is enough to create a new poem, or they might be the bare bones of a new song. It could even be the start of a spell-craft incantation.  In this notebook my raw creativity is pinned down, unfinished, uneven and free-flowing.  When I feel stuck in my writing this is the notebook I turn to.
  4. ShimmerCastDreams;  in this notebook I write down new ideas for blog posts at the back of the book.  At the front I keep track of all the Book Nook posts so that I know which titles I have already reviewed - I am a repeat reader and if I enjoy a book I will re-read it several times.  I don't want to repeat the Book Nooks though, so I tally them up in a notebook.  This also helps me to see what types of books I am reviewing, so I can change it up and keep it fresh. It would be boring if they were all in the same genre. 
If you are not in the habit of keeping notebooks with you I suggest you pick up a few next time you are out shopping.  It will keep your head space free for the actual creative process, rather than taking up mental storage with random ideas and deadlines.  Ideas alone do not make a writer, but a writer is nothing without a place to keep her ideas. 

Thursday, 21 February 2013


Envy is not nearly so beautiful in reality!

Image from www.google.co.uk

I am still deep into writing the new album.  It has been going  well for  a while now; the lyrics are flowing freely and the melodies are allowing me to capture them. Sometimes the notes flutter away like butterflies and I have to wrangle them together to record them, but for the most part the music and lyrics are behaving themselves and cooperating with me.

I have been working nocturnally, staying up all night song writing and falling into bed at 6am.  I do find that the night time hours are very conducive to creativity.  I love the peace and silence of the night, as I write the lyrics first, then work on composing the melody. Occasionally melody and lyrics arrive together in my mind.  Its great when that happens; a buzz of pure inspiration!

Over the last couple of nights I have been writing a song about envy.  If you read my column you will know that I have been inspired by this topic before.  
Female envy fascinates me. It is bad enough that the world at large tries to intimidate women and put them down for daring to do well and be successful but that some women should feel the need to turn on their sisters in spitefulness is a social pattern which I find intriguing, disturbing and quite comical. 
I have often said that a women can be the prettiest, kindest, most generous hearted and talented person in a room - but don't ever expect her to be liked for it!

Why do women snipe at one another so cruelly?  Why can't a woman enjoy the success of a female friend, without feeling threatened by it and feeling the need to stick the knife in? It seems that some women are driven by the Mirror, Mirror ideology in that they have to feel that they are 'the fairest of them all'. Everyone else is an underdog, a lesser female and any success that individual might have earned is quickly dismissed as Luck. 

Envy controls its host.  The people who seethe in resentment are usually the ones who just cannot seem to get their own lives on track or make a success of anything.  It is my belief that the reason these women cannot give their lives forward-going traction is because they spend far too much time focused on what their friends, sisters, colleagues and family members are doing. Comparison is the road to discontent.  Discontent breeds envy.

Jealousy is an ugly trait.  In a circle of females malice is always much closer than you would like to think and it often wears the smile of a 'friend'.
When envy escalates into jealousy, the knife comes out, the back-stabbing begins and the Envious One tries to take away the success,man, career ...whatever it is she is jealous of. She just wants to cut someone down to size to make herself feel better about the stagnation of her own life.

In my song jealousy is personified as Lady Envy. Sadly it is a track lots of women will be able to relate to on a deeply personal level.

Sunday, 17 February 2013


Inspiration in a box
Image from www.musicboxshop.co.uk

Music boxes are a part of every little girl's childhood. I still have the one my grandmother gave to me one Christmas when I was very small. It has a ballerina dancing inside and it plays "Raindrops" 

I have been very inspired by these pretty trinket boxes this weekend.  Music boxes are fun playthings in daylight but when they begin to play by themselves at midnight - that's a whole different story! I like the sinister image music boxes have in folklore where they are frequently haunted artifacts or used by witches as spirit traps to contain troublesome demons. 

I knew I wanted to make some kind of music box reference on the new album. I wanted it to be something quite familiar to listeners and at the same time, something completely new. The idea has been brewing gently at the back  of my mind for some time, until late last night the lyrics flowed to me, telling a story of a magical music box.  Is it haunted? Yes, in a manner of speaking, it is, though not by a ghost as that would be too obvious on a pagan album. My Music Box is still haunted nonetheless.

I think Music Box may well be the opening track on the album; this is a track I have been struggling to find! I've had the final track for some time, but the opener was more elusive so it's a relief to have it in place.It is also nice to be able to share this creative process with you. Usually writing a new project is a very solitary experience and my readers don't know what I've been working on until it is released. Now thanks to my blog and Twitter, I can let you in on the creative side of my work without giving too much away and spoiling the surprise.  I can share the nuts and bolts of putting a project together, where I find my inspiration , giving hints so you have an idea of what might be coming soon. 

Inspiration is everywhere; you just need to look with an artist's eyes.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

MUSICAL DOLL; Masque of Inspiration

Image from www.google.co.uk

I adore Venetian masques. I have a couple in my home as decoration that I wore to various Halloween parties. I think that these masques are romantic, mysterious and very glamorous.  I love the imagery they evoke of masquerade balls, secret trysts and moonlit gondola rides. 

I like the romantic notion of  being swept away by a handsome stranger, hiding in plain sight, his masque concealing his true identity. I can almost hear the music of the ballroom, see the velvet gowns swirling and the satin slippered feet dancing across the airborne notes as the music swells and cascades in a beautiful cadence of love...

Yet masquerade balls can be intimidating too as they are the perfect feeding ground for predators and anti-heroes alike. The loss of identity, the deception, the intrigue, the confusion...you never know just who you might be dancing with.  

I have been utterly lost in this kind of romantic reverie for a while now and I have created a song for my next album inspired by the very Gothic setting of a masquerade.  It is lyrically swirling, just like the ballgown of a dancer.  I have had great fun writing it and recording the demo. Look out for it on the new album at some stage in the future for just like the conclusion of a masquerade dance, all shall be revealed in the by and by.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013


Time to tidy up the desk and get to work.

If you follow me on Twitter you will know that I have spent a blissful day today reorganizing my bookshelves...What can I say? I'm a blue-stocking bibliophile and I love spending time with my books!  Seriously though, I needed to make space for new research books so it was time for an overhaul. I now have one and a half shelves of empty space, just waiting to be filled. I am putting off the day when I will be forced to buy an e-reader due to space issues; until then I will sift, sort, stack and re-shelve. I'm just an old fashioned girl at heart. I prefer the printed book.

There was also a work ethic involved in this reorganization for I can feel a writing/researching stint coming on.  I love this excited, tingly feeling, when the seeds of a new idea begin to take hold, or when an old project bears strange and unexpected fruit. In my case it is a little of both as I am revisiting a work in progress (WIP) and taking it in a slightly different direction than the one I had planned.  Sometimes the writing knows best and you just have to go with it.  

I am deep into the Prep Time; making the study ready for long days at the desk.  I have stacks of notebooks, genre samples, research materials and so on, all laid out ready.  I intend to spend a good long while just reading and researching as much as I can; taking notes and jotting down random thoughts and ideas as they  come to me. I like to stick pictures into my notebooks too, building up a mini mood board for inspiration. Sometimes I play music or make a play list of tracks which seem to fit the project I am working on; I generally listen to these between writing stints to keep me in the right frame of mind but I need peace and quiet to actually write.

I have worked in the publishing industry for 17 years now, combining years of both paid and unpaid work as a writer and having had my first unpaid poems published back in 1996/97. During that time I have discovered that publication/payment are not guaranteed; productivity is sporadic without discipline and creativity is something one has to nurture very gently. I am not a task master with myself unless a deadline is approaching and I have to be. I prefer to coax the creativity along.  Projects rarely show up on the page fully formed; this is as true for writing books as it is for creating melody and songs. Writing is a process and this is my process.  

Organization helps to keep my projects on track - as a full time writer I rarely have the luxury of working on a single project and I usually have two or three things on the go at any one time.  Right now I'm working on the new album and I believe that type of creativity has overflowed into something new and exciting. It often happens that one idea leads to another; that one project may spark off another, even though they are totally unrelated.  It's an exciting and interesting time for me right now. I am looking forward to closing myself off from the world, sitting at the desk above and concentrating on moving the WIP forwards.  Productivity is the key to longevity. At the end of the day, writers write - they don't just talk about writing, they get on and do it. It is the act of writing, the discipline of putting the required number of words down on the page each day, that separates the writers from the wannabes. 

Friday, 8 February 2013

BOOK NOOK; Witchstruck by Victoria Lamb

Like a lot of authors I have a love/hate relationship with Amazon.  I hate that brand new books are sold for a pittance as 'used'; I hate the power they hold over publishers and therefore over authors; I hate the monopoly of it all.  BUT, I love it when Amazon recommends a book that is just the kind of novel I want to read - a book I might not have found otherwise.  Such was the case with Victoria Lamb's novel Witchstruck, the story of a magical young women, living in the dangerous era of Tudor England.

When Meg Lytton is sent to serve the imprisoned Lady Elizabeth at Woodstock Palace, she takes her gift of magic with her.  She is glad to go, if only to get away from a man who has decided he wants her to be his wife.  With the protection of the princess Meg feels safe to use her magical skills, especially when Elizabeth expresses an interest in divination and introduces Meg to none other than John Dee. But magic comes at a price in such dangerous times and it isn't long before Meg's witchery is discovered, putting both her and the princess in mortal danger.

To make matters worse young Meg is drawn to Alejandro, a trainee priest of a Spanish Order.  As Queen Mary is earning her reputation for being Bloody, many in England are in fear that her marriage to a Spanish prince will bring with it the might of the Spanish Inquisition.  Some would rise up in rebellion to see Elizabeth on the throne instead and plots are underway to try and do just that, much to Elizabeth's dismay who would be executed if she were to be found involved in such plots.  Can Meg save her mistress; can she trust Spanish priest Alejandro; will he help her, or see her hanged as a witch? Or worse, burned at the stake for heresy? 

Witchstruck is a novel of danger, intrigue and magic. The author has clearly done her research as this novel has one of the most accurate descriptions of the power of witchcraft that I have ever read and that I can totally relate to;

"When the power falls on me, it buzzes in the warm, dark spaces of my skull. It stings like nettles at the tips of my fingers." 

If you have enjoyed the Tudor novels of Philippa Gregory or Emily Purdy, Witchstruck is a must-read.  I have been  completely engrossed in it and couldn't put it down. Although this novel is marketed at teens and YA, it certainly doesn't read like a kids book and the only hint that the author was writing for a younger audience is the lack of sex, though there is plenty of romance so don't allow the YA/Teen tag to put you off. This is a fantastic read for all ages. I highly recommend it.

Monday, 4 February 2013

MUSICAL DOLL; My Beautiful Piano

Time well spent at my very own beautiful piano.

I have been working on the new album for the past few days. I've really enjoyed myself, especially as the weather hasn't been good enough to get out and about.  The photo above is of my beautiful piano - owning a piano was a dream of mine from a young age, so when I was finally able to purchase this gorgeous Yamaha Arius in dark alder a few years ago I was beyond thrilled.  I have waited many, many years for the privilege of sitting down and enjoying playing my own piano whenever I want to. My piano is even more special to me as it was paid for with the money I make as a writer and I use it to further my musical career - that is the icing on the cake! 

It is nice to have my first album Moon Chants close by when I write new songs so that I can see how my work is progressing.  The Venetian masque is something I wore to a Halloween party some years ago, and it is in keeping with the Gothic theme of the next album project, so I keep it close to inspire me as I work on my music.

Today I have finally completed three songs for the new album.  I was having some trouble with the melody of one and with the lyrics of another. Sometimes it feels like the songs are shy children and I have to coax them out to play. But with a nice fire glowing, candles flickering, a howling gale blowing outside and a few days of patient coaxing, I have three more songs ready to go on the album.

I have been in my study recording the first demos this afternoon - these demos are just for me, so that I can keep the melody strong in my mind and rehearse the tracks.  Once I am happy with them, I will record new demos tweaking as I go; then once I have all the tracks in a demo form that I am happy with I will send them into the music label Paradise Music. 

I feel a warm sense of achievement for these last few days.  It's wonderful to be working on my own music. The chance to write, sing and record my own pagan albums is a fantastic pipe-dream-come-true and I love being creative in such a lyrical way.  It is a completely different  experience to writing copy or working on one of my novels. I enjoy all the different aspects of my work. Being a creative person, this is what makes me happy...putting pen to paper, fingers to keys and creating something new and original for other people to enjoy. Hopefully my work as a writer and as a musician will be enough to inspire other creative people too.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

MUSICAL DOLL; Such a Love song!

Taylor Swift's Begin Again is my new fave song of the moment.  I like the hopeful lyrics; that love is always a surprise, one that can sneak up on you when you are quite down, or when nursing a broken heart, caused by one who did not deserve your time.

This song makes LOVE a possibility for everyone.
<3 <3 <3


Arise and soar with the sun's newborn rays;
To breathe new life into dying nights and days.

Happy Imbolc!

Imbolc is a celebration of the midway point between winter and spring.  It is a time for snow and snowdrops; candles and fire glow; lambing and new life. 

In the stables it marks the near end of a long winter; stable work is hard at any time of year, but in the winter it can feel like a thankless job.  As an equestrian, for me Imbolc means that there will soon be long sunny days in which to enjoy riding through the woods, rather than hair-raising 'Horse Whisperer' type battles through the ice and snow!

I like to celebrate by hoofing around at the stables then returning home to a hot bath and lots of scented candles.
How will you celebrate today?