"FUIMUS - We Have Been"

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

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

Monday, 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This is an unpublished poem I dug out from my archives.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.