"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.


Saturday, 31 December 2016

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Bridge of Dreams


New Year's Eve is always a nostalgic time as we think back on our lives.  Sometimes the past just needs to be remembered and acknowledged in some way, to honour where you have come from, and also where you are going.

As I was digging out the Christmas trimmings earlier this month a folder of art prints fell into my lap.  These were prints that I had put away several years ago because they didn't really suit my tastes anymore, but they were too nice to throw away.  Among them were a couple of Monet prints, the ones pictured here in this post, which had been given to me as Christmas gifts when I was just 21.

At the time they helped brighten up the tiny flat I lived in, but they were never really me... They remind me of a rather trying phase in my life which is why they were put away in a folder.  At 21 I was working two jobs just to pay basic bills and survive, the flat I lived in was far from ideal and being young and ambitious I lived on the dream that one day I would be a published writer, though the whispers behind my back went something like this...

"Poor Marie, she'll never make anything of herself. She thinks she's going to be a writer...she's a barmaid and a care assistant, not a writer!"  

I'd had a few jobs as I struggled to get published and unfortunately all people could see back then was a young woman who drifted from job to job and they commented accordingly.  After all, no-one can see your dreams except you, so it was a fair assumption to make, that I was going nowhere and not making anything of my life.  All the real work went on behind the scenes, while they were tucked into bed sleeping.  Late at night I was writing and sending out book proposals and so on. Alas I was the only one who took this writing work seriously.  Thinking back on that time I am reminded of a quotation I read online somewhere and which stuck in my mind...

First they laugh. Then they copy.

When the odds seem stacked against you; when you are not sure how you are going cross from your present into your future, you need to trust that you are stepping onto a magical, invisible bridge that will carry you safely to where you want to be.   I don't blame people for thinking I wasn't going anywhere - on the surface of my life back then, that is the way it must have appeared to them but my achievements in publishing since that time speak for themselves - I need no other endorsement. 

Sometimes people just do not have the breadth and depth of mind to comprehend your dream. They are not just being mean.  It is after all, your dream, not theirs...they will only understand it when you have made it your reality and it is staring them in the face on a daily basis.  They need to see proof; then, for one reason or another, they will rally to your cause...but while ever it is just an ambition, you're on your own with it! How they emotionally deal with the success of your dream is also down to them, not you. 

As a new year fast approaches in the next few hours lots of people will be thinking of what they want 2017 to bring them, but I like to wonder what I will bring to 2017?  For it is in our personal efforts and achievements that our life experience becomes positive or negative.  Anyone can sit and moan about their lot in life, complaining that they can never get a leg up or a foot in the door or catch a break etc. Complaint is easy.  Achievement takes effort.  If you simply cannot be bothered with your own life and drift through it in a state of apathy then how can you expect to see great results? 

I have just six months left of my psychotherapy training so 2017 will be the start of a second professional career for me.  To honour the past I have come from, I am going to put the two Monet prints into the clear sleeves on the front of a couple of A4 ring binders, to make pretty covers.  These folders will be used to keep my clinical notes in when I am seeing clients in placement.  In this way, my past is used as a focus for my future...a reminder that once upon a time, people thought I was going nowhere fast and now I have not just one, but two successful and professional career paths. 

Whatever your ambitions are for 2017, don't let the naysayers get you down or keep you from your dream...remember, they can't see your dream, only you can. Next year you may well have realised your 2017 dream too.  

And if you hear some sneering and sniggering  along the way, just remember...First they laugh. Then they copy. 
Happy New Year! 

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Thinking of You

Katy Perry - Thinking of You

Little Mix - Secret Love Song

Thinking of you at Christmas and always
 Love M x

Thursday, 1 December 2016

WRITER'S DREAM; Switching Genres...Moving On


The end of an era beckons...

The air tonight has the bite of frost in it, so I am curled by the fire with my laptop and a home-made Pumpkin Spice latte (made with Baileys Pumpkin Spice) which is delicious.   December has begun and with it the thrill of anticipation of a new year to come. My birthday was just over a week ago and so this time of year always feels like a fresh start to me as my solar year begins anew.

It is an exciting time and a new future glimmers on the horizon of my life.  Over the course of this year I have been reassessing my writing work, pondering on where I want to take it and I have come to the conclusion that I am actually in the process of switching genres.   This has been happening so gradually I hadn't really noticed, yet now it has come to the point where I need to make the final leap, once and for all and become more of a mainstream self-help and psychotherapy writer.   

There are several reasons for this.  First of all it feels like a natural progression of my work and it is something I have been working towards with my night classes for the past three and a half years. 

Secondly the Mind, Body, Spirit market is not what it was when I first started out in the late 1990's when it was a huge upcoming trend.  It hasn't weathered the financial crash that well; some magazines have folded, others are fast losing readers and struggling to stay afloat, publishing houses have closed down their MBS imprints completely. Budgets are now so tight that there is little room for freelancer fees and the market on the whole has shrunk to the size of a pin head. 

A big part of being a writer is keeping an eye on the market and I noticed this shrinkage beginning some years ago, which is why I started psychotherapy training.  It was obvious that the MBS genre was starting to sink - bookshops no longer house the large MBS sections that they used to have on display and while I am sure the genre will recover in time, I couldn't sit back and wait for that to happen.  I needed to branch out and I have successfully published my first psychotherapy pieces this year. 

It is impossible to move forward into your future if you are clinging on to the past.  Part of reinventing yourself is letting go of what no longer serves you best.  For me this means letting go of my regular witchcraft column with Spirit&Destiny magazine, and while I might still write magical features on a freelance basis for other magazines, on the whole I feel that my work on Wicca has come to an end.  I have been writing about witchcraft for 20 years!  I have published books, features, columns, home-study courses and music, all on a witchcraft theme.  I have been Spirit&Destiny's highest paid keystone columnist for well over 8 years so I've had a great run with them, and with witchcraft as my topic...I am rather bored of it now though.

Also it is impossible to maintain ones Unique Selling Point as a columnist when another writer is blatantly emulating one's entire format, within the pages of the same publication!  It has been irritating, saps away enthusiasm and I have thought of leaving the magazine a couple of times in recent years, but then part of being a trend-setting best-selling author is that other writers will try to follow in your footsteps.  Still I am moving onto a new topic of expertise and a new genre now, so it hardly matters, because anyone wanting to follow in my psychotherapy writing footsteps will have to pay for and sign up to four years of training first, which is bound to be slightly off-putting! 

Even a dream job has its downside and mostly I feel a sense of relief at leaving the column behind...No more full day photo-shoots to endure. No more urgent text required, for no fee, to help fill out a staffers feature.  No more editor requests for my original ideas only to see those ideas written up by a staffer, leaving me a great idea down and not a penny up in payment!  It's like that scene in Devil Wears Prada when Andy throws her phone into the fountain then breaths a sigh of relief to be free of it all - that's a bit how I feel too. 

I feel ready to nurture my new psychotherapy and self-help topics and to keep publishing those instead, rather than witchcraft items.  And although the team at S&D are not a fan of this change, my editors at Time Inc are supportive of this fresh topic so I will still be writing nonetheless and you can still read my work in your favourite magazines, with the exception of Spirit&Destiny - I finish with them in February 2017. 

In addition I have the remainder of my final year of psychotherapy training to complete too, with essays to write over Christmas (and beyond!), so I will be busy with that.  Once that course is completed next summer I am hoping to go on to do a Masters Degree in a year or so, in order to further my writing prospects.  

You cannot become a butterfly without first going into the dark chrysalis, so while it might seem as if I am not doing much, I am actually working hard and pushing my writing career up to the next level.  This is going to take time, so the blog might take a back seat for a while, but I will do my best to keep posting on progress!  I know those readers who have followed my work for years are likely to stay with me through into a new genre and a new era, even if there are bumps in the road to come...for those who only want to read about witchcraft, I have left a large back catalogue of work for you to enjoy.  

I will always be pagan, magic will always fill my life and will no doubt find its way into my blog posts and tweets, but I feel that my stint as a popular Media Witch, a Wiccan Icon as I was once dubbed,  has come to a welcome end.  A new era of writing beckons...I hope my readers are as excited by this as I am.
Blessed be. 








Sunday, 20 November 2016

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Angel Luck and Blessings

http://www.bellakotak.com 
I have been pondering on luck a lot just recently and wondering what makes one person seemingly blessed with good luck and another seemingly cursed with bad luck?  I do believe that a lot of it is down to attitude, but the fact remains that bad things do happen to good people.  Take the recent tram crash in London - all those people were doing is heading off to work as usual when bad luck struck them down.  It is unfair and tragic and it makes us question the fragile fabric of life.  

For me luck is largely a matter of what you focus on the most. In the realm of magic, like attracts like, so if you concentrate on how unlucky you are then you are effectively magnetising misfortune your way.  Changing your thinking to a more positive mindset isn't always easy, because to begin with, you will still be dealing with the misfortune you have already attracted. It is hard to be optimistic in the face of ill-fortune and unlucky events but that is exactly how you turn things around.

I have always believed that I am protected and guided by a higher force; if something bad happens then it is designed to teach me something, or make me even stronger and more resilient.  I try to trust that my path will be smoothed out for me and that, so long as I put the effort in and work hard to reach my goals, I can achieve whatever I set my mind to.  This kind of methodical achievement is often referred to as luck and I do feel very fortunate to have ticked off so many life goals. 

But that doesn't mean that I don't have bad days, or that I have never felt let down - I do and I have.  Sometimes I wonder if my luck might run out, but deep down I believe that luck and blessings are not a finite resource.  There is always plenty to go around for all of us to share and enjoy. 

A lot of it is about recognising an opportunity and I must admit that in recent years, I haven't always been great at this.  People who have been betrayed in the past sometimes look for trickery where there is only opportunity and I have certainly been guilty of this myself!  I am trying to be more watchful for opportunities as they come about, so that I can grab them with both hands.

Sometimes it is our fears that get in the way of good luck.  A lucky chance might present itself to you, only to be turned away because it has triggered fear or anxiety.  How many young starlets have run away from opportunity when stage fright struck?  The idea of success can be just as fear inducing as the idea of failure, and both fears can block out the lucky breaks.  

I tend to keep the good fortune flowing into my life with a few witchy tricks.  When I feel weighed down, I do a bit of decluttering and have a clear out. When I feel misfortune is sweeping in I do a cleansing ritual in my home to banish negativity.  When it is my attitude that is becoming negative I re-read my favourite self-help books to boost my positivity.  I try to focus on all the good things in my life right now by writing out a gratitude list of five things each day.  Once I have made the changes I need to make personally and at home, then I cast my focus to the wider world.

I like to cast a quick lucky angel spell by lighting a tealight and saying a few words of blessing.  I do this daily. This activates the threefold law, which states what you send out you get back times three, so it is a great way to draw good fortune your way, at the same time as putting some much needed love and light out into the universe for those who need it most. Let the angels take your blessing where they will.  Then keep your eyes peeled for the threefold return to bring lucky blessings your way. 

Magic doesn't have to be complex to be effective.  Blessed be!

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Study Fatigue

Just another few months to go...

It is a chilly morning and the first snow of winter is falling as I write.  I have a Yankee Snowflake Cookie candle burning, which is one of my favourites for this time of year.  I love its warm, sweet scent, like Christmas baking.  

I'm trying to shake off a chest infection and just lately it feels like I have had one bug after another, which has left me feeling drained and tired. Apparently Study Fatigue is a real thing and a lot of students do get it when they are coming to the end of a long period of learning.  The cure as always is 'plenty of rest' but that is a luxury I can't afford as I have too much to do for my course.

I have just 30 classes left, which sounds like a lot, but to me it feels surreal that in just a few months I will have finished all my academic training and I will be a Psychotherapist.  I will have a whole new profession as a back up to my writing and as another string to my writing bow.  I can't help wondering "How did I get here?" because it seems like no time at all since I embarked on a Level 1 taster course - and now I'm just 30 lectures from the finish line of qualification!

I have 6 essays to write this academic year too, so each holiday will be taken up with that.  Again, this means that I won't have any real down-time to rest, so the fatigue will only get worse, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now and I just need to press ahead.

I am also coming to the end of my additional training course with Cruse Bereavement Care.  I have just one full day of training left on that and then I will have a grief counselling qualification too.  It has been a really interesting course and I'm very glad I did it. I know it will be a valuable life skill to have. 

Soldiers say that the training is always the hardest part of any mission and that they just want to get out there and get on with the job. I am starting to understand what they mean.  After years in the classroom learning, practising skills and writing essays on the theory of  psychotherapy and how to apply different counselling models etc,  I feel now that I just want to get out into the field and help my clients. I feel ready to start putting what I know to some practical use and to reaping the benefits of my training. 

So 30 classes to go - of course I'm counting them down! - and then I will be free of college and night classes and essays and portfolio building and presentations...all the hoops will have been jumped and all the boxes ticked off and 4 long years of training will have come to an end.  I will have my freedom again and be ready to spread my wings and fly forwards into my future as a practising counsellor and psychotherapy writer. It feels like a big future!






Sunday, 30 October 2016

ONCE UPON A DREAM; The Swan Queen

http://www.bellakotak.com/
The Swan Queen

There once lived a Swan Queen, whom you may know, for she is frequently seen gliding upon the waters of her enchanted Loch.  She paddles around, minding her own business and dreaming the dreams only a Swan Queen can dream...dreams of love and freedom, of spells cast and curses broken, of her enemies vanquished and victory won.

The other birds often stare at her, wondering what her secret is, for surely all birds should quack and waddle and gossip in groups... shouldn't they?  Yet the Swan Queen does none of this.  She has her dreams and she knows what she must do to achieve them.  So she continues to paddle hard, keeping herself moving steadily forward and serenely staying her course.

The other birds dislike her for it; for her independent spirit and the strange allure of her magic, so they often taunt her by pecking at her and gossiping about her whenever they can. All they see is a swan gliding effortlessly upon the water - they never look deeper to see all the hard work the swan is doing beneath the surface, to get to where she wants to be.

Occasionally it all gets too much and the Swan Queen is forced to retaliate by demonstrating her strength and power with a show of aggression, for she is no coward and her power is formidable.  But then she is called a 'crazy bird' and renamed Trouble and the gossip continues on and on.  It is always the ugliest ducks that quack the loudest and try to waddle their great weight around the most.

The Swan Queen understands; their spite is all they have to recommend them. They can't help being ducks anymore than she can help being a swan.  But still, it irritates her from time to time and she would rather show her strength and get back to serenity than try to change the ducks into something else...something they were never meant to be. She cannot make them swans.

And so the Swan Queen continues to work hard at her dreams, paddling away beneath the surface where none can see, determined to one day leave the ducks far, far behind, flying away to freedom and taking her magical allure with her. It isn't always easy to be enchanted.

She bears it as gracefully as she can. She doesn't allow it to ruffle her feathers too much, for she is a Swan Queen and she can regally rise above it. 

And for putting up with all that, the Swan Queen deserves a medal...for it would bring out the gold of her crown!




Saturday, 22 October 2016

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Cats, Books and Wine


It is almost midnight, the Witching Hour, and I have been trying to study - but Pyewackett had other ideas!  He kept sitting on my books and putting his claws through my notes and basically demanding attention.  He is a little under the weather today and we have a regular visit to the cat-doctor coming up - I don't even dare type the V word or he will hide under the bed until January!  He's a senior citizen cat now at 18 years old, so he needs medical attention more frequently, just like old people do.  So after lots of cuddles, kisses and fuss, he has finally settled down on my feet and he is purring softly in victory.  

I wonder why cats are so drawn to books?  Sitting on them, climbing on them, sleeping on them, demanding attention when you are trying to read or study?  Pye even likes me to read to him when he is feeling very poorly, but he has to be in the right mood. He seems to enjoy funny cat poems...  I just read him "I Could Pee On This" from Poems By Cats. It made me laugh and praise him for being a much better behaved cat than the feline in the poem, so maybe its the attention he likes, rather than story-time. But I am happy to read to him and he seems happy to listen. Is that weird? Does anyone else read to their cat? Please say yes!

After all this feline interference, it was clear I wasn't going to get any studying done tonight, so I thought I'd write a quick blog post instead.  It is nearly Halloween and I've got my ceramic pumpkins out,  each burning a Yankee By The Fireside tealight, so I am surrounded by glowing faces and the room is filled with the warm, spicy, woody fragrance of mulled wine and a log fire. I have a glass of red wine beside me - just plain, not mulled - and I am feeling grateful for a cosy home and a snugly cat. I am aware that I have to make the very most of Pye now as I try to face up to his mortality. The years seem to be catching up with him all of a sudden. But he is still as mischievous as ever, as proven by the claw-marks in my college notes!

I am looking forward to half-term.  Our college course has been very disrupted so far due to our tutor being off sick with stress, so classes have been cancelled, or taken by a supply tutor, which is far from ideal.  Our own tutor is back now though and so normal classes will resume after half-term.  I am a bit concerned that we are now five weeks behind, and we've been informed that we are to be given two essays to write over the Christmas holidays this year, to try and make up the time.  This hardly seems fair, but I do want to pass this course and qualify.  

I can see the glimmer of the finish line in the distance now and I just want to get there and get through it, so I can move forward in my life. It will have been a long four years of studying by then.  I honestly don't know how vets, pharmacists etc do it...years and years of training...and no guarantee of a pass at the end of it all.  It really is a form of mental torture. And I have paid good money for this torture.  Money which could have been spent on Scottish holidays and Chanel perfumes and all those lovely things that keep life liveable.  Alas, I have to write six more essays between now and June next year - six! Good thing I'm a writer by trade then...and a fairly productive one too, despite Pyewackett's best efforts!
Good night x




Monday, 10 October 2016

BOOK NOOK; White Rose Rebel by Janet Paisley


"Maybe it was just pride and he wasn't man enough to admit being wrong. Maybe he couldn't face Anne, humbled, and back down. Not to the woman he loved..."

White Rose Rebel is the first novel I have ever read that takes place, in part, at Fort George among the Black Watch.   It tells the story of Anne Farquharson, a woman who is in love with two men. The first is Alexander, a Jacobite and the second is Aeneas, a soldier in the Black Watch ...so far, so my life and this book has certainly turned my mind towards thoughts of Inverness!

It is a very Scottish book, written in the mingled languages of English, Scots and Gaelic (translations are at the back of the book) and the Scots accent leaps from every page.  It is quite bawdy and vulgar in places, but then that's the Scots for you - to say they're oversexed would be an understatement!  In fairness there was little else to do in the Highlands in the 18th Century.  It's an atmospheric read and I could almost breathe in the fresh mountain air and smell the pine forests and the heather of the Highlands as my eyes drank in the descriptions of places I know and love. 

Anne is a valiant supporter of Bonnie Prince Charlie and her dearest wish is to see the Stuart King restored and the Union with England broken.  It is basically a story of the Scottish bid for Independence and the events that lead up to the final Jacobite Uprising of 1745.  Please note - it's an Uprising - it's only a Rebellion if you're totally English, which I'm not.

I found this book to be very moving and I had a physical response to it.  In the run up to the Battle of Culloden I had butterflies in my stomach and a feeling of dread, as I knew what was coming. Reading the battle scene was heart-rending and I had tears in my eyes.  I have been to the battle site of Culloden Moor; I have photos of it on my phone and I could visualise the battle clearly in my mind's eye. It was a difficult few chapters to read, as history repeated itself on the page. 

Anne is a figure from history that I had never come across before, and while this is a fictionalised version of her part in the Uprising, she was a known Jacobite in her own right.  I didn't warm to her as a character though, largely because she has an over-developed sense of entitlement and uses both the men she loves to provide for her every need and whim.  She is demanding and belligerent and I felt sorry for the Scotsmen having to deal with women like her on a daily basis and provide for them.  I only began to sympathise with Anne towards the end of the story, when she is faced with the consequences of her actions and has developed a sense of humility.

Reading about the destruction of the Clans was tough as well.  The aftermath of Culloden was brutal; the banning of tartan made me stop reading and put on my red tartan arasaid in defiance!  I also learnt things from this novel - for instance, that the Fort George I have seen on my visits to the Highlands was actually built in order to keep the Scots in check, after Culloden. Ironic that the bag-pipes that were banned at the time now play loud and proud at the Fort George Highland Tattoo each year!  

Sad too, that the Scots Regiments of Fort George are usually some of the first soldiers deployed by the modern UK government and the fighting spirit of the Highlanders is now shackled to the whim of Westminster and the Crown.  If only more had voted "YES" in 2014 the Scots could have won their Independence. Alas the Jacobites fell in vain.

If you like Scottish history or you have enjoyed the Outlander series then you will love White Rose Rebel.  It is a gripping read and it has made me even more excited for my return to the Highlands in September next year, when I go to Dornoch.  I really can't wait for that! And yes, I will be wearing my Bruce tartan and Clan brooch! The Jacobite spirit lives on.

You can buy the novel by clicking here   Enjoy! 



Sunday, 9 October 2016

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Living a Pretty Life


There is a saying that a beautiful woman has a beautiful home. That has certainly been proven true to me among the women I know and I do believe that women are naturally drawn to beauty of all kinds. We love sunsets, snow falls, flowers, full moons, baby animals...the list is endless. 

Naturally we want to bring some of that beauty into our home so that we can enjoy it everyday.  While a man might head off to B&Q with a practical task in mind and the tools he needs to get the job done, a woman is more likely to shop from her senses, looking for tactile things with which to create an atmosphere, so she will head straight for the soft furnishings and candles.  

To women cushions, throws, crockery and candles are tools, though we'll never get a man to see the sense of it!   They are tools because they create warmth and comfort, a sense of plenty and fragrant light to cheer the darker nights.  Atmospheres are like magic and a bad day can be lifted with the help of a luxury bath creme and a scented candle. Women know this instinctively...and it shows in our shopping baskets! 

I think of it as living a Pretty Life, which is the kind of lifestyle I like to lead.  It's not about having lots of money to fritter away either - you can pick up scented tealights from Poundland if you're strapped for cash, and they will still create a pretty glow.  It is more about creating an atmosphere of abundance by being selective in the things you do buy.

I have one rule - if its a choice between pretty and plain, I always buy pretty.  Why settle for something plain when you can get something pretty for around the same price?  Over the years this simple rule has enabled me to build up a home full of beautiful things and I apply it to everything, from notebooks and office supplies to egg-cups and tea-sets. In order to earn a place in my house it needs to be pretty as well as practical. 

When you take this attitude to shopping, you will be surprised at how quickly you build up a collection of 'pretties' that visitors comment on.  Recently I had a gas worker at my home to service the boiler and he told me "You've got a lovely house.  My wife will love it; she's been thinking of decorating.  Do you mind if I text her some pictures?" lol  It's always nice to be an inspiration! 

You have to be your own Muse. If you make the decision to bring beauty into every aspect of your life then your life will be beautiful, because the law of attraction states that like attracts like and what you focus on is what you get. And its so simple - just buy Pretty! 

There are some women who seem to have everything; who live successful lives of elegance and glamour, surrounded by beautiful things. Everything they do has beauty attached to it; everything they own adds to their glamour and their dog matches their decor! We've all seen woman like this on TV, You Tube and across social media such as Instagram.  Allow yourself to be inspired by them; don't give in to pangs of envy which will destroy your sense of abundance, focusing your mind on the things you lack.

Instead, choose to live a Pretty Life, even if you're on a budget. Choose to buy the pretty option, even if you have to save up a bit longer to afford it. Be your own Muse of inspiration and inspire other people in turn. Because when people start to copy you, that's how you know you've created something beautiful and people want to take the atmosphere you've created away with them to their own homes.  Now that's a compliment! Happy Shopping. 

Monday, 26 September 2016

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Promise This


When his promises turn out to be empty...

...Strike a match on all your wasted time...


Just sitting here, planning out revenge
Go Taylor
xoxo

Saturday, 17 September 2016

WRITER'S DREAM; The Vanity Press


Have you ever come across an advertisement in a magazine along the lines of "Publisher seeking new authors - send us your book for free appraisal"  This is the mark of the vanity press and it has been the downfall of many a would be writer.

Basically the vanity presses are glorified printers; they make money off the backs of people who have dreams of being published authors, by offering to 'publish' their book 'at a very competitive rate' etc, etc.  Don't touch them with a barge pole!!

The vanity press is so named because it appeals to your vanity as an unpublished writer.  They will praise your work to the skies, will not seek any editorial changes to the typescript and will draw you in with promises of how your awesome, amazing book deserves to reach a wider audience.  Then they offer to 'publish' it -  for a significant fee.  This is not how the publishing industry works.

A legitimate publishing house pays the author - never the other way round. Of course vanity publishers don't call themselves vanity publishers; they go by the handle of subsidy publishers; self- publishing services; or self-publishing co-operatives.  If you enter into an agreement with them, they will indeed present you with x number of copies of your book; but these are likely to look cheap, with little attention given to cover art etc, or limited cover art options if you get to 'design' your own.  

They will take your money off you and leave you with boxes of books you are unable to shift.  This is because book shops and libraries won't stock vanity books.  The high street book chains sell shelf space to all the traditional publishing houses - they have very strict contracts, and terms and conditions as to what books they stock, where and how they are displayed in the store.  Publishing houses spend more to have their books displayed face on, or to have them presented on a display table, or in the window.  The vanity published writer will be dismissed without thought, because the shelf space in bookshops is not free, it has to be purchased under contract. 

Using a vanity publisher means that you will see your work printed up, but you are unlikely to make your money back on it and might still be trying to shift copies in your dotage.  You might sell a few copies at a car boot sale, or on Ebay and such like - but you can forget the bestseller status.  You can also forget ever being taken seriously in the publishing industry, with that book.  

One of the reasons vanity books are viewed with such disdain is because it demonstrates the writer as someone who is looking for an easy way into a very elite industry.  Publishing can be a snobby world - like all snobby worlds, you have to be invited in, and earn your place there.  Another reason is that these typescripts rarely meet the minimum word count to be called an actual book - they are usually more akin to novellas. A vanity published book is unlikely to get picked up by a traditional publishing house, who don't take kindly to those who try to leap-frog their way in through the back door. So you will have effectively ruined any chance your book had of being properly published. You can't just buy your way in.

The bottom line is, there are no short cuts to publication.  If you want to be a reputable author, you need a reputable publisher and this takes time.  So many people view writing books as some kind of hobby - something to do on the side, when they've retired, or at the weekends when the kids are at the grandparents.  But it isn't a hobby.  It is a business and like any other business it takes time to establish yourself and build something to be proud of.  It takes years to establish yourself in any elite profession - publishing is no different.  

The consolation for taking the time to find a traditional publisher to take you on their list, is that you will have a whole team of people
working hard to make your book look fantastic.  Copy editors, legal teams, artists, designers, marketing teams, publicists and so on - all working to make your book a success.  It is a team of expertise well worth waiting for, and it doesn't cost you a penny. 

But then, as long as there are people who look for the easy way, the vanity press will continue to advertise.  As long as there is a sucker for them to sell their printing contract to, the vanity press will thrive.  Some potentially great books will never get the chance that they deserve, being left to linger in boxes, with no-one to buy them because they do not have the expert backing of the publishing industry.  And all because their writers were too impatient to enjoy the vanity being able to call themselves authors. It's a shame. 

Monday, 12 September 2016

POET'S CORNER; The Red Rose Knight



The Red Rose Knight

Who comes to call when I am low?
Who gladdens my heart when filled with woe?
Who stirs the romance of my mind?
The Red Rose Knight, my spirit guide.

Who is clad in armour black?
Who brings the love I feel I lack?
Who champions me against all foes?
He bears the shield of the red, red rose.

Who kisses me in slumber deep,
As safe my hopes and dreams he keeps?
Who guards my castle in the air?
My Red Rose Knight waits for me there.

Who rides upon a coal black steed?
Who gives me all the strength I need?
Who brings sweet dreams to my repose?
My spirit-knight of the red, red rose.

Whose fingers gently brush my cheek?
Who lends support when I am weak?
Who gallops with me, far away?
My Red Rose Knight, 'till dreams meet day.

By Marie Bruce

I wrote this poem back in 2007 after a dream I'd had the night before and it is included in my book Angel Craft and Healing. It isn't written about anyone in particular; it's more about the dream of love and the lasting romance of being with a man one can rely on and trust completely - which can often feel like an unattainable dream in itself!

I have often wondered, since I wrote the poem, why I didn't make him a white rose knight, for Yorkshire.  I can only think that it is because the red rose is a symbol of true love and that is what I wanted the knight in the poem to represent. Maybe one day I will write about the White Rose Knight too and give him a companion.

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Friday, 26 August 2016

BOOK NOOK; Three Sisters, Three Queens by Philippa Gregory

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"...I think that these are women's troubles indeed - when a woman loves a man who betrays her.  Betrays her completely - in thought and word and deed.  In plan and in whisper, in the day and in the night, and - worst of all - in public, before the world...

...I wake in the night, thinking that I am the greatest fool that ever lived and I am humbled to dust for my stupidity."

from Three Sisters, Three Queens

It is one o'clock in the morning and I have just finished reading the latest novel by Philippa Gregory; Three Sisters, Three Queens.  I have enjoyed it, mostly because it is set in Scotland and much of the story takes place at Stirling Castle which is one of my favourite places north of the boarder.

It tells the story of Margaret, the sister of Henry VIII and the granddaughter of both the Red Queen, Margaret Beaufort and the White Queen, Elizabeth Woodville, so if you enjoyed those books you might like this one too, as it successfully bridges the gap between the end of the Cousins War and the better known history of Henry VIII's Tudor court. 

Margaret is sent to marry the King of Scots, James IV and so secure a lasting peace between England and Scotland.  Of course, it doesn't work and she finds herself at war with members of her own family in England and with the Scots lords, who all want to manipulate her for their own purposes.  The Scots dismiss her as 'the English Princess' and she has to fight to claim her power as Queen. Much of the book is about this constant struggle, the betrayals and so on.  There are some hair raising exploits along the way and it keeps you guessing as to whether her husband is really on her side or working against her.

I have to say though, that I did find Margaret quite irritating at times; her constant envy of her sisters was tedious.  She has a well developed sense of entitlement and her jealousy is just annoying  - but then I have known women just like her and it was an accurate description of how petty minded female jealousy works! I just wanted to give her a slap though and tell her to stop whinging.  

Margaret marries three times and each time she has to fight for her position in Scotland.  The constant jostling for supremacy is evident throughout the novel and the author doesn't shy away from describing the cultural habit of the Scots for being completely two- faced, which I really admire her for - it takes a Yorkshire woman to tell it like it is!  The Scots say one thing and do the opposite; they make promises they have no intention of keeping and then come back with a ready excuse and a bit of charming prattle - and Margaret falls for all of it.  Of course she does - she's English, she has been brought up to believe that an man's word is his bond - but the Scots just aren't like that.  She has some harsh lessons to learn. 

My favourite part of the book happens quite early on, when a Comyn gets punched in the face - this was a treat I wasn't expecting and it did make me giggle.  What can I say? I'm a Bruce, right through to the bone - I'm always going to feel smug at the fall of a rival clan.  This is a nice book to add to my collection of Tudor novels, but due to the constant struggle of Margaret's life it is a rather sorrowful read - in that respect it reminded me of The Red Queen by the same author.  If it's a period of history that you like reading about though, you will probably enjoy this novel.

"To be loved by a man like Archibald Douglas is to be scorched, to be rejected is to be scarred.  I want to heal and forget that I ever knew him."

from Three Sisters, Three Queens


Friday, 19 August 2016

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Ice Queen - Freeze Them Out

Once upon a time there was a beautiful Queen whose heart was broken in two


"You will never know this suffering again...
Love is a lie.
 It is a trick played by the cruel on the foolish and weak.
Cast it from your mind. 
Never let it render you frail of mind, or of will..."

Freya, the Ice Queen in The Huntsman; Winter's War

It is a wet soggy day and the rain hasn't stopped pouring since early this morning.  I like days like this.  It is a taste of autumn and a sign that the colder weather is waiting in the wings.  I am ready for the dark season to begin and today I lost myself in winter when I curled up and watched The Huntsman; Winter's War which is a prequal/sequal to Snow White and the Huntsman.

It has fast become my new favourite ice maiden film, knocking Bridget Fonda's Snow Queen off the top spot and leaving Disney's Frozen cold.  The film tells the story of the Wicked Queen's little sister Freya, who starts off as a gentle, trusting and loving woman, but when she is betrayed by both her lover and her spiteful sister, a change comes over her.  She internalises the loss and grief; her heart turns cold and she removes herself from society to a far off palace of ice in the cold, cold northlands, becoming the Ice Queen and wielding a frosty new magical power, turning her focus from love, to battle.  She is a warrior Ice Queen, with her own army.

I have always been drawn to ice maiden stories, from the Snow Queen with her frozen heart and magic mirror; to Holda and her gift of winter snow; to the Cailleach with her deadly kiss of cold, which I have experienced myself more than once - in fact, the Cailleach has been on me so often, it's like the touch of an old friend! 

There is something intriguing about the notion of a woman so wronged in love that she chooses to isolate herself and freeze out love altogether.  It is a theme I have explored in my books, most notably Faerie Magic.  

It takes a very strong woman to live such an isolated life, needing no man at all, complete in her own sense of power and independence. It's not a life for everyone, but it is a life I can totally relate to. Love makes us all vulnerable and vulnerability is a weakness. Love also carries the risk of heartbreak and betrayal...and who needs that?  A strong sense of female independence is far more reliable than any man will ever be. 

Have you ever noticed that there are no Ice King myths and fairytales?  No Ice Prince takes himself away from the world because a lass lied to him and betrayed his trust. I think this is because men just don't love in the same way as women do - if and when they love at all.  Men don't seem to be shattered by betrayal and heartbreak. They are not frozen in time when a lover lets them down with infidelity. Instead they move swiftly on to their next conquest, for one woman is as good as the next to them; any woman can potentially offer what they are looking for and men prefer to make an active search, moving fast, from one love to the next, to the next and so on.  Men are like shampoo - they just rinse off and repeat!

So it's not surprising that Freya takes satisfaction in literally freezing men and turning them to ice - she's simply doing to them what they've done to her.  She freezes them out and leaves them cold.  She is not evil, she is deeply wounded and if she doesn't want to bleed to death from a broken heart, she has no choice but to remain frozen. She cannot risk melting - for to melt would release the pain.  

I think this is why I like Ice Queen stories; because it has been my story and it is potentially, every woman's story.  We can all be ice maidens at times; we have all turned a cold shoulder, given a frosty glare, made a cutting reply with frostbite on our lips, frozen someone out of our life for good.  Yes, it can be painful, but it is also a woman's means of survival.  For that reason alone the Ice Queen legend will forever endure, because she is a part of every woman and she lives in each of us... 

...And because there will always be some cock-sure man who thinks he can be the one to melt her! Melting her is one thing, but can he stay true to her? That is the real question. Probably not... and so the story continues ad infinitum.   





Saturday, 13 August 2016

ONCE UPON A DREAM; BACP Membership!!

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When autumn falls it will be time to hit the books again

Yesterday I received the news that I have just been elected to membership of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, or BACP.  While it's not nearly as exciting as being a member of The Society of Authors, it has still given me a bit of a buzz, nonetheless, because it is some kind of recognition for all the work I have put into my training thus far.  I'm looking forward to receiving my new BACP membership card, which will sit proudly alongside my Society of Authors card - the duel aspects of my working life.

It means that I am now officially part of the psychotherapy profession - I have my foot in the door and a second career awaits, a new aspect of my self-employment and possibly even my own private practice. The option to set up on my own is always there. 

BACP membership is another small stepping stone behind me, as I make the crossing from my past into my future, and its also a bit of a two finger salute to the medicine man who told me I'd not be accepted without his help and sponsorship.  As if!! Don't you just hate it when a spurned suitor tells you you'll never get ahead in life without him? Isn't always fun to prove him wrong?! ;-) 

Now I'm just waiting on the DBS check to come through and then I can sort out insurance and begin my placement next month, which is something else I'm looking forward to, as I will finally be able to help soldiers, which has been my plan since the beginning. 

In addition I have just applied to do an extra six week training course with Cruse Bereavement, because they offer training on military bereavement which I think will be really useful in the long term.  It's an additional expense I could do without, but it will also be an additional Qualification Certificate, adding to my professional credibility and should win me a few Brownie Points with my placement provider too.  Cruse is also a good back-up plan for a placement, if the one with SSAFA falls through - I like to have a contingency plan in place, just in case!

As I have mentioned before, paying for the courses and all the additional expenses attached to training in psychotherapy, is the hardest part of the journey, so if you are considering signing up for a counselling course this September, you need to bear that in mind. There is no funding help with course fees for the first three levels of training - you have to pay every penny yourself.  At level 4 you can get funding to pay part  of the course fees, but you have to pay the rest yourself and you will also have to pay back the funding too, once qualified.  

Additional expenses include a certain number of hours private personal counselling (the NHS doesn't count towards your course - just as well because you'll be waiting months for a counsellor!), legalities such as the cost of a DBS check and insurance policy, the purchase of a recording device so you can record your sessions to add them to your student portfolio, the cost of text books and paying for private supervision sessions throughout the placement. You will also need to pay extra course fees with specific organisations, such as Cruse, Relate etc, if you want to do their training in tandem with the main course.

It all adds up and there is no financial help available whatsoever; there are no student grants, no maintenance loans and no training bursaries offered to student counsellors.  This effectively means that you're on your own financially, so you will need to keep your real job, or live off your partner's income for a minimum of four years, if you're happy to do so, though very few independent women would want that!  

I'm lucky in that my writing work has paid for my training, and my training in turn has inspired articles and features etc, but it has not been easy and one of the reasons I will be glad to complete the course is because I will be able to afford to have a life again! Horse riding, piano lessons, ice skating, dance classes, even holidays, have all been put on hold while I pay my way through psychotherapy training. So sacrifices have to be made to make room for your training.  It can be tough so be prepared.  

That said, I can now begin to see my way ahead a little bit and providing my SSAFA placement goes well, I can see that a whole new chapter of my life is about to begin.  I have that feeling of  
 excitement, nerves and anticipation - I just know a new phase of my life is about to start, new doors will open, new experiences and adventures are waiting in the wings for me. 

If everything goes to plan then come September I will be starting three new ventures; the final year of my psychotherapy diploma, a placement in a Military setting and an additional six week training course with Cruse Bereavement.  It's going to be a busy autumn! 

Wings are made to fly...