"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