A new book…a new beginning

Standard

Today is launch day for The Standing Stone – Silence is Broken. This is the second book in the Standing Stone series. It’s longer, faster paced and features the Goddess Ishtar.

Ishtar, or Innana, came into my life over 15 years ago when I picked up a book about goddesses in the children’s library and was inspired to paint her, my first ever water colour. Since moving to Wales, she has been a constant in my life and with her support and guidance, I’ve embarked on a new spiritual and emotional journey.

When I stand beneath the vast skies in rural Wales, the stars from her belt shine on me, reminding me that I’m part of an amazing universe. On wet Welsh days when the weather changes from torrential rain to sunshine in minutes, the rainbow necklace at her throat gives me hope, showering my life with a myriad of colourful blessings.

As Ishtar, the warrior goddess, I carry her with me always.

Eight pointed star, one of the symbols of Ishtar

Eight pointed star, one of the symbols of Ishtar

She inspires me to dance and teach others, even if my classes are depleted. She inspires me to share my stories, even when my book sales are low.

Every day can be a new beginning with the goddess and today begins the life of a new story, sent into the world to be shared.

Embrace Ishtar in your life today.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Standing-Stone-Silence-Broken-ebook/dp/B010NUJALG/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1435824840&sr=1-1&keywords=standing+stone+silence+is+broken

http://www.amazon.com/Standing-Stone-Silence-Broken-ebook/dp/B010NUJALG/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1435824925&sr=1-1&keywords=the+standing+stone+silence+is+broken

 

Standing Stone Silence Is Broken ebook cover proof

 

Renovating our 18thC Welsh farmhouse and byre

Standard

We’ve called a halt to work upstairs under the new thatch as the sun is shining and outdoor jobs take preference.

11150930_1600818576843299_7145038719453612890_nThe river bank has been tidied. We’ve fished a wheel and debris from the river and had a good burn up so now Mike, my partner, can get the ride on mower from one end to the other. DSC_1414I’ve been busy with my trusty secateurs in Bramble Avenue and on the path down to our little ‘beach. The bluebells were far more abundant this year after we removed a few very low branches, allowing the sunlight in to more of the land.

We’ve paid for a man and his digger to aid with the next part of the byre reconstruction so this week, we are making clom..clay, sand, straw and cow poo. DSC_1418DSC_1419DSC_1420DSC_1421We’re desperate to make a liveable home here in mid Wales but the realities of living on a building site make life difficult, especially in this warm weather with a pile of steaming clom by the front door! (It is now double covered in thick plastic and old tyres so the smell is less noticeable!)

Unfortunately, the digger has broken so work is on hold but we hope to have enough clom for the byre and to finish the sides of the house by the weekend. Sadly, the pathway to the river is only just started but, hopefully, we will soon have a track we can walk or drive down on which we will line with our tree saplings and begin working back down the slope as coppice.

I missed the local farmers baling the hay in our field this year as I was working but the intricate ballet they perform with their machines is worth a watch, if you get a chance. Wales to 21st June 2014 016

Thanks for following our adventure in Wales…do look back at other posts to see how far we have come.

Summer Solstice…the build up

Standard

Since the new moon on Tuesday, life has gone from chaotic to manic…and I’m loving it!

Tuesday is always a busy dancing day, teaching a Beginners class at lunchtime and a Beyond Basics for two hours in the evening but this week, classes were buzzing and we’ve two more events in the pipeline where we’ve been asked to perform. The amazing thing is, we are not a performance group and most of my dancers have only been dancing for a year. Let me tell you our story…

Barefoot Festival 2014

Barefoot Festival 2014

I had been dancing with Tribal Unity for four years when we finally sold our house and prepared to set off for our new adventure in Wales. My wonderful ATS® Bellydance teacher, Deana Lawman, asked me if I would like to be Tribal Unity in Wales. I was overwhelmed and delighted to accept such an honour so from August 2013 to February 2014, from tent life, to caravan life to a house with no heating, I planned how to begin teaching ATS® Bellydance. I found a venue, advertised in the local free magazine, The Grapevine, and began teaching in March 2014.

First Tribal Unity Wales selfie

First Tribal Unity Wales selfie

I met the most wonderful bunch of ladies! I planned to talk to them about dancing at the Lampeter World of Dance Festival in October, just one dance to show everyone how much fun we have in class but they way laid my plan by asking if they could dance at the Cardigan Bellydance in August…and we did! 10603378_10202597850844530_906991781996694645_n Everyone had so much fun they wanted to perform again…and again and again! ATS® Bellydance allows you as the dancer to bring yourself to the group and before my eyes, a Tribal Unity family was born. From May 2014, my Mum’s dementia worsened and frequent trips to Essex were exhausting and painful but these wonderful women supported me throughout and we danced together, for each other. Indoors at the Cellan Beer Festival Dec 2014 to outdoors in the park at the eclipse in March, we have been there and danced.

11012386_10153650985507802_1147847422645631772_nWe’re now preparing for the Lampeter Food Festival on 25th July and the Cardigan Bellydance Festival on the 8th/9th August. We’re dancing at The LongWood Open Day on 6th September as well as two performances in October, also confirmed.

And we danced together to celebrate the Summer Solstice, welcoming back the Holly King as he takes over from the Oak King, bringing in the harvest and preparing the Land for the winter.10346537_1624424897816000_5432437501420269489_n

ATS® Bellydance is an inspirational dance form, combining influences from Egyptian bellydance, Kathak (classical Indian), Flamenco and African Tribal. This unique style of dance is lead by a leader who gives cues to her dancers so there is no choreography to be learned, just moves and cues. It’s hard work! Our bodies get into bad habits so muscle memory has to be created and that means repetition but when you have as much fun as we do, nobody seems to mind. For more information http://www.tribalunity.co.uk

Our house is coming on…we have a roof now! The new thatch is holding up well to the rain but we still need to finish the ends of the walls so they meet the roof so, we need clom…clay, sand, cow/horse poo and straw.

DSC_1354

But first, we need a man with a digger and he has been booked for Friday and Saturday, firstly to dig out our clay (we’ve removed the battered shed and agricultural asbestos sheeting that was in the way…don’t ask!), mix with the straw we have left from thatching and poo we will collect from friendly farmer on Thursday night and secondly, to dig us a meandering pathway down to our riverbank. Last year we cleared Bramble Avenue so we could walk from one end of the riverbank to the other and this new pathway will mean easy access for the barrow and mower and a clear area to start working out from to plant our new trees (ash doing well, beech still a bit wobbly) for coppicing.

As well as all this excitement, I’ve been writing the third book in the Standing Stone series The Gathering, while editing the second book Silence is Broken, getting it ready for publication on 2nd July and guess what arrived in the post this morning?

DSC_1413I love it when plans start to come together after months, even years, of hard work. Staying focussed on what I believe, trusting in myself and sharing warm heartedness helps with those difficult days. Solstice Blessings to all my friends around the world.

Women of a certain age

Standard

As we learn and grow our bodies, as well as our minds, change before our eyes. I look for tips, advice and sharing on social media from other women, as we tread this path of change together. Knowing other women feel as I do really helps me, as I embrace my crone years, rather than dread them. Here’s a little of my story and the tips I use.

Pre-menopause symptoms began for me in my early 40s. By 45, I was suffering the ‘big heat’ most days. I loathe the phrase ‘hot flush’! It suggests a warmth that comes and goes as simply as a pull on the toilet chain! I suffered in silence, embarassed in the supermarket as my face exploded in sweat, running into my eyes so I couldn’t punch my pin to pay for my shopping. My friend and dance teacher, Deana, suggested fenugreek tea and though a little weird as you feel hot and prickly straight after drinking, it did reduce the length of any ‘big heat’ episode but then came the night sweats.

DSC_1181I suffered these for many months, often having to change the bed twice in one night. Sleep deprivation caused more ‘big heat’ during the day and I gritted my teeth, determined to find a natural way to help myself. Evening primrose didn’t work and black cohosh made me really ill. On a trip to the nurse at my doctor’s surgery for a smear test, she asked me how I was and I burst into tears. She was wonderful and an appointment with my doctor was made. I now take the lowest form of HRT there is which has almost eliminated the night sweats and makes the ‘big heat’ moments bearable.

I’m sharing this because I’ve always wanted to be a natural girl but, as in giving birth to my children, sometimes you have to go with what is best for your body. Night sweats changed my life. I could no longer function through lack of sleep and I changed into a growling, grumpy monster. Taking HRT at first made me feel like a failure as I was unable to cope with the perfectly natural changes rampaging through my system but now I treat my little pink pill as something my body is missing that it needs.

It seems to me that stress and diet plays the biggest part in dictating the hormonal balance in my body. We came to Wales to help alleviate the stress and since sticking rigidly to no dairy in my already vegetarian wheat-free diet, I feel really well. There will always be stressful times but recovering from them quickly and with new found energy also helps.

My skin has changed drastically and after applying moisturiser the other morning, I realised how tight it felt across my cheeks. After consultation with my lovely friend Sarah at Spellbound Herbals, I now use two of her herbal, hand made products and I’m loving the results. I highly recommend ‘Bright Eyes’ skin lotion and ‘Magic Fountain of Youth’ face and neck skin cream. Pop along to http://www.spellboundherbals.co.uk for a browse.

Finally, aches and pains. I regularly dance six hours a week and for the past five years I’ve been using Sarah’s ‘Sore Muscle and Ligament Injury Oil’ before bed. It’s wonderful! It smells gorgeous and you can feel the warmth of the herbs spreading into your muscles immediately. In the morning, I wake up pretty much ache free. I’m always recommending it to other dancers but it works just as well after a day in the garden weeding!

Wales to 1 August 2014 002I hope this sharing will help you on your impending crone journey and feel free to share. I look forward to hearing your tips and advice. Love and light xx

 

Why I write magical realism – my place in time and space Part 2

Standard

In 2005 a woman came into my life. I had recently joined a bellydance club and she joined too. I saw her as strong, in control of her life, forging forward on a path of which she was certain. I embraced the opportunity to do the same. She liked me. We danced together. I had a new friend.

100_0852Making friends was a challenge for me. I started primary school in a class of children who already knew each other from playschool and here began my life as an outsider. The pattern continued through my school and teen life; make a friend, laugh, share and be unceremoniously dumped, jeered at, ridiculed and bullied.

I was certain my new friend was different. In a safe space, she led me on my first path working. Here are the notes I made immediately after. ‘I’m in a temple. Columns rise around me and I sit on a vast stone seat. Looking up, icy fire bursts from the tops of the columns far above me. Someone is standing behind me. I am not afraid. He is Michael, the Archangel, protector and friend. A cloak of strength and wisdom protects me now, as it has always done. I look down at the creature sitting by my right foot. I see bulbous eyes, pointy nose and ears and many jointed fingers and toes but I feel I know him too and the mischief behind his eyes. The light is changing, sweeping around the columns, growing brighter until my body is full of a green-white, refreshing light. I feel my feet reaching down, pressing through the soft rich earth until I stand on ancient rock.

I see the Goddess of the Land, of Nature herself. I know her. I have always known her.

My Angel protects me, I need never fear.

My pixie shows me all sides of what my eyes see. I no longer feel in the dark.

The force and power of Nature, the Goddess, fills me and I know this magic is my path.’

100_0876

For the first time in my life, I knew who I was and where I belonged. I saw myself for the first time. I am the sum of all that has happened to me in the past but much more. The contentment I felt, coming back to the ‘real world’ is the peace I strive for today as I write, dance and heal. I am now blessed with true friends in my life.

On the beach with my home girls

On the beach with my home girls

My writing became inspired by the magic that was mine, the love, joy and energy of nature that I wanted to share.

An interesting addition: after this pathworking, my relationship with ‘my friend’ began to change. I ‘saw’ her and she knew it. The friendship ended, not by her hand but mine and after months of manipulation, bullying and rudeness, I said ‘no more’. I then stood firm against her abusive emails and attempts to retain contact.

 

Why I write magical realism – a personal story Part 1

Standard

Magic has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. From the lonely child who talked to the moon with Rosie rabbit, to the teen who married too soon, who begged the goddess of the moon every night to stop the violence, conversing with the moon has always brought me comfort.

DSC00477As I grew older, I began to read and with Rae Beth’s book Hedge Witch’s Way, began to discover my life path. In my own space, I drew strength from the elements, renewed my connection with the moon and made life choices upon the guidance I was given.

My first novel, never published, described the life of an English teacher, traditional at work but able to lose herself in the words she loved and become part of the stories herself. This was the magic I wanted to share, how ‘real’ life can embrace and benefit from magic. At this time books about vampires, shape shifters and schools for wizards sold in their millions but my writing was different and didn’t fit neatly into the fantasy genre.

A few lean writing years followed where I penned short stories, reaching out into different genres, trying to find my niche until the loan of a book and an inspirational path working journey changed my life.

The life of a hedge witch , like an author, can be a solitary one and though I shared extracts of my novel at writing group, I felt alone in my love of this ‘real magic’ genre….until I read The Sea Priestess and Moon Magic by Dion Fortune. These books were ‘magical realism’. They ignited my passion for my magic, supporting me in my study of the Qabalah and my desire to write about real magic. Written at the beginning of the 20th Century, Dion Fortune’s settings feel quaint, almost naive and yet the magical scenes and the subsequent discussions about them feel powerful and apt for modern life.

I’ll save the detail of my path working for another post but the connections I made and the confidence they inspired, remain with me today. Though I had not Dion Fortune’s background, knowledge or depth of understanding, I had my own magic and from this platform, I wrote Destiny of Angels.

The book begins at a school reunion where Angel Parsons bumps into her good friend from school, Jenny Parkes, as well as those who blighted her school days. Gone is the geeky, odd, easily tormented school girl and in her place, Angel the entrepreneur, successful business woman and high priestess takes centre stage. With her ‘family’, misfits in society who she met, helped and befriended, she works with Lilith on the astral plane to offer the perpetrators of her childhood misery the opportunity to choose redemption, finally closing that unhappy chapter of her life.

I’ll be honest with you, Destiny of Angels is not the best book ever written but the intent is there. The message that there is more to life than on this physical plane on which we dwell and that we can access levels of understanding if we give ourselves the space and time to do so, rings throughout the book.

If you are interested in real people and real magic, I would love to hear from you.

You can download Destiny of Angels today for just £1.38 or $2.11 so why not join me in sharing the magic of life.

575517_2923802914446_700076725_n

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Destiny-Angels-Lilith-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B007OX5J8O/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1433157027&sr=1-1&keywords=Destiny+of+Angels+wendy+steele

http://www.amazon.com/Destiny-Angels-Wendy-Steele/dp/0957316909/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1433157488&sr=1-1&keywords=destiny+of+angels+wendy+steele

 

 

 

Dumping the routine and facing my fears

Standard

Routine makes us complacent, settling us in safe, familiar territory while improvising, reacting and being in the moment keeps our minds and bodies young and active.

11167955_1610750972516726_7729406917342820848_nThis is me at the weekend on Cei Bach beach striking a pose while balancing barefoot on a slippery rock!

My fears, including depression, pain and failure, required me to construct daily routines in order to function. Having a reason to get up and get going was vital while having something to look forward to was essential. In May 2013 we sold our house, moved to a tent, then a caravan and into a run down farmhouse and from that moment, routine was unobtainable.

I’ll be honest, it’s been a struggle at times but facing each new day, not knowing what it might bring, has been empowering. We’ve been in our house for almost 18 months now and finally have a new roof but it’s only now I can look back and see how much the lack of routine and the challenges I’ve faced have changed me.

I trust myself more

Making decisions, especially those involving what seems to me vast sums of money, takes courage. I’ve made mistakes but trusting myself means I’m not afraid anymore.

I feel more confident

Another first for me…I am no longer afraid to fail. Who quantifies and judges failure anyway? I do my best with everything I do so there can be no berating or guilt if plans go array.

I like myself more

I’m proud of me and I don’t mind saying it! Life isn’t about the opinions or approval of others. I appreciate how hard I work and the achievements I make but, most of all, I am happy that I live by my own values of honesty, trust and love.

I can look at myself in the mirror

I’ve always had a problem with mirrors but a few weeks ago, squeaky clean from the bath, as I danced in my room, I looked in the mirror. I saw my tattoos from your eyes, saw my face, shoulders, arms, neck and chest and for the first time in my life, I saw myself. I saw me. It wasn’t Wendy Mum, partner, dancer or writer who looked back at me but me, Wendy Woo, the person my friends, my girls, my sisters see.

On the beach with my home girls

On the beach with my home girls

I can highly recommend dumping your routine, facing your fears and living and being present in every moment of your life.

 

My Lovely Blog – Blog Tour

Standard

Thank you to the fabulous historical fiction author Judith Arnopp for tagging me to join in this blog tour. You can read about Judith and her novels here:

http://juditharnoppnovelist.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/my-lovely-blog-blog-hop.html

 

First memory

What do we truly remember as a first memory or what inspires us to recall a scene, a moment in time from the past? My earliest memories focus on my dad, the most loving, generous and kind man I have ever known. Dad loved the sunshine and the sea so the salty smell, wind in my face and seagulls overhead remind me of him.  My earliest memories are of happy seaside holidays at Cliftonville, near Margate in Kent. During the year I would save 1d from my 4d a week pocket money so I had spending money for our yearly one week holiday. My savings would buy me a Seaside Special comic and an icecream for the whole family, though in retrospect my Dad must have subbed this enterprise. Sat in the sand in my swimming costume with cardigan on top, I created fairy castles and pirate ships, surrounded by moats and bridges so when the sea came in, they stood proud of the tide for a time until washed away, they were reduced sand, a new medium for the following day’s play.

When the tide went out, Dad would take me by the hand to the rock pools. In his beach sandals, he tiptoed across the rocks before pulling back the sea weed and depositing a small crab in my little yellow bucket. The children on the beach loved him. Like the Pied Piper he would lead them across the sand. He showed me how to pick up the crabs gently and encouraged all the children to return the crabs to the pools once parents and siblings had been shown the wonders in their buckets.

Sat in a deckchair in his shorts, white vest and Panama hat, smiling in the sunshine….my first memory.

 

Books

My brother left for University when I was twelve years old. I was a lonely child. Mum didn’t believe in play school so I began school not knowing anyone and I lacked the social skills to make friends. By the time I started senior school, I had learned to hide in a book, preferring the fictional lives I read about to the isolated existence in which I lived. Books transported me around the world and to other worlds I was free to imagine. I wrote stories of my own, creating little books that I attempted to tape together. An inspiring English teacher encouraged my creative writing, set me on a path to discovery within a reference library and prompted me to challenge the careers teacher with my desire to be a researcher for the BBC, rather than a secretary. Her lack of support propelled me into office work but now, research for my own books is a joy and I love nothing more than reading a book and adding to my knowledge.

My children were surrounded by books from the moment they were born. Bath, stories and bed was the norm and they were encouraged to write themselves.

I rarely leave the house without a book….who knows where you may be held up and have the opportunity to read.

 

Libraries or bookshops

On Saturday mornings, from age 12 to 14, I spent my time in the library. It was a long walk, through the twittens (alleyways) up to the town but I didn’t mind because once I was there, I had the world at my finger tips. Libraries are opportunities, free reading for everyone and should always be fought for. Recently, phone box libraries have appeared, recycling a space and giving it a new, important place in our community.

Wales to August 25 2014 001I love bookshops and frequent them with birthday or Christmas tokens. Finances have never allowed for me to purchase new books regularly, reiterating my love of libraries. I love second hand bookshops even more but just before we left Essex, our favourite one in Maldon closed down due to competition from the internet. My partner and I spent happy hours in that shop over the years, discovering dusty treasures from the shelves and curling up in a tatty armchair to peruse them.

Learning

I’m not a fan of pumping information into young children, requiring them to take tests and meet standards. I’ve always believed that if you instill a sense of wonder into small children, you give them the desire to learn and they will do so for the rest of their lives. Giving children opportunities and introducing them to new topics, ideas and cultures helps them decide their own likes and preferences and leads them to the subjects they wish to study further.

My infant and junior schools did all of the above and though senior school was not so good (newly formed comprehensive school from old grammar and secondary modern), I emerged with both O and A levels. I ventured into the world of work, desperately to leave home and start my own life and, over the years, regretted not attending university but in the past twenty years, I have pursued areas of learning that have always intrigued me….history, archaelogy and magic.

My passions

Apart from writing, I love dance and I love cats. Labelled a fairy elephant as a child, I was dissuaded from dance and learned piano from the age of four. I was forty before I walked into a bellydance class and asked if I could join in. Since then, I’ve passed on my love with my company Phoenix Bellydance, teaching Egyptian dance to over 300 women and girls and in the past five years, have danced and trained with Tribal Unity in ATS® Belly Dance and have been teaching as Tribal Unity Wales this past year. ATS® Belly Dance is a blend of styles of Egyptian belly dance, Flamenco, Kathak (classical Indian dance) and African Tribal. Moves and cues are danced by a leader and dancers follow, creating an improvised dance which is inspirational, uplifting and a full body work out.

I’ve never passed a cat in a street without saying hello. Not allowed pets as a child, I’ve taken in rescued cats for many years and now live with Tiggy and Jibby, the latter living in an old barn when we moved here in November 2013. Two seems too few cats to have around but while the large building work has been taking place here, nervous new kittens would not have felt at home here but now we have a roof, it won’t be long before we give more cats a home.

Wales to 20th Nov 2014 078Jibby helping with my writing.

I hope you’ve enjoyed your stop of the Lovely Blog Tour and will continue to follow it. I’m passing the baton to two authors who I met via social media and who support Indie authors in many ways. Look out for Kim Scott aka Lydia North and Clare Plaisted on your travels.

http://www.kimscottbooks.com/apps/blog/

 

http://myjourneyintowriting.blogspot.co.nz

https://claireplaisted.wordpress.com
http://plaistedpublishingauthorinterviews.blogspot.co.nz/

Thatching is finished!

Standard

It’s been a long wait…our scaffolding has been up for a year but we finally have a roof. It’s not quite watertight up there yet though as the walls still need to be build up at the ends of the house to meet the roof…DSC_1334but we are close!

The thatchers laid a wooden frame over the new commoon rafters and new gorse DSC_1347Then thatched over the frame…DSC_1350The scaffolding is a brilliant place to get a phone signal!…DSC_1352 The ridge is begun…DSC_1354 before work starts at the back of the house…DSC_1356 My partner had to construct the frames to hold the new conservation skylights…14 inches above the roof! DSC_1364Thatching of the back of the house begins…DSC_1367

It’s been a long, tiring, messy process. We’ve argued with planning department, tussled with Listing and battled with the thatcher but finally, we are the proud owners of a Welsh, thatched, 18th Century Farmhouse.

10422389_1600818613509962_5003792390274671595_n        11150930_1600818576843299_7145038719453612890_n

I hope you’ve enjoyed following our journey….follow this blog to watch us rebuilding our 17th Century cow byre.

Thatching begins!

Standard

It’s been a long wait….we’ve been in our house since November 2013 and had permission to thatch since July 2014 but I’m pleased to say, work is underway.

First, the tin comes off then a wooden lattice is laid over the remaining old gorse on which to attach the thatch.

DSC_1317We hoped all the old gorse could be removed but Listing are insisting we keep as much as possible (don’t ask me why, it’s crumblyand dirty) so we are stuffing new gorse in from inside wherever we can. The new gorse still has yellow flowers and looks so clean and fresh against the filth. Jibby went to check out the roof….DSC_1327 as the thatch was layered on. Two new purlins had already been put in by my partner, Mike and a friend. The common rafters leaning against it and the old gorse, crumbled to powder so, we are using wood cut from our land for new rafters. DSC_1331It’s an odd sensation standing in what is going to be ones bedroom and seeing the sky! DSC_1337DSC_1340 The thatcher went home for the weekend and left the house like this…DSC_1345 but they are back today and we’ve had a glorious sunny weekend (who says it rains all the time in Wales?)

I’m off to writer’s group now but check in again for more progress on our 18thC farmhouse.