Turning Silver and Going Grey – Embracing your Hair…

Going grey, turning silver – whether you’re aging gracefully or disgracefully –
at some point your hair colour is going to change. How will you embrace it?

Turning Silver and Going Grey - Embracing your Hair - The Last Krystallos

I’m forty-seven, and eleven months into growing out my coloured hair and turning silver… and I thought I’d share my process with you.

July to July Going Silver 2018-19 - The Last Krystallos

July to July – Going silver © Lisa Shambrook

There’s a huge amount of pressure on women these days to always look good, and as I’ve got older the media’s view on aging can be intimidating.

The average woman will begin to notice grey hairs from the age of thirty-five and by fifty most women will have at least 50% grey coverage. Men grey a few years earlier than women, but it seems more acceptable in men, just look at George Clooney (58)! I realised that most women my age on screen don’t have any discernible silver in their locks. Many popular presenters, Davina McCall (51) and Holly Willoughby (38) for example, are actively advertising hair dye products. And, tell me, have you seen many female news readers sporting grey hair recently? Fiona Bruce (55) still has glorious dark hair. I don’t have a problem with this, I’m all for being whoever we want to be, but for women who are going grey or who choose to transition from colour to grey it can be difficult. In the end you have to do what fits you, and if you prefer to dye then all power to you, but if you want to switch having some role models can help.

The positive, though, is that firstly, grey hair has become a fashion statement, with many young women choosing to dye their hair silver or grey and looking amazing, and secondly, I have noticed a few more women in the media in their forties and fifties with highlights mixed into what could be their natural grey growth. I saw Joely Richardson (54) on television this week, with beautiful golden-blonde and white highlights.

This is my going grey story – part one (there’ll be a part two, probably in another year or so when I’m fully silver)

Ages 19, 29, 39, and 47 - The Last Krystallos

Ages 19, 29, 39, and 47 © Lisa Shambrook

When I was young, I never thought about getting old. I was one of those teens who looked young and benefitted from family genes, and though my hair was always thin, I loved its colour. Certainly, the thought of going grey had never crossed my mind until my late thirties. As we age our bodies produce less melanin, the colour pigment, so instead of coloured hair, our locks grow in grey or white. Genetics play a big part in when this happens. My mother had dark hair all her life, and only a few grey hairs well into her sixties, but my dad went grey much earlier – guess whose hair I have? My dad’s! I’ve also found that my silver hair is stronger, less greasy (I used to wash it every day, now I can go three days at least before it needs washing), and much thicker (a true blessing for a girl like me with limp and thin hair!).

lisa 45, going grey first white stripe... The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I often dyed my own dark brunette hair, and mahogany, plum, ruby, and copper were my go to colours, enhancing my natural red tones. Then, about eleven years ago, white roots began to show through, mainly at the front hairline, and my dye game stepped up. I moved to dark and warm browns and auburns, until I felt they were getting too dark for my skin. You’ll notice as you age that your skin tone changes too. A few years ago I decided to follow my natural lighter colour and moved to light brown and ash colours which worked with my skin and root growth much better. I dyed every eight weeks and felt I looked older whenever white roots showed.

An element of fear kept me holding onto brunette, but now, as I age, I want to be me – my authentic self. I got bored of dyeing and discovered Grombre an inspirational Instagram page which celebrates women turning silver, and I knew I wanted the freedom of embracing the evolving real me. It’s been a time of change, becoming peri-menopausal, my altering beliefs and ethics, and I wanted to be my natural self without apology!

age 45 - 47 from this to this - the process of going grey - The Last Krystallos

From brown to silver in a year © Lisa Shambrook

My local hair salon are award-winning colourist experts and when I asked how best to go grey, they advised ditching the colour, avoiding highlights (matching to grey growth can be very hit and miss), and just going for it. So I did. A few years ago I moved from long hair to a short bob and this definitely helped with the grey process. It seems my hair grows about 2cm a month, so this was my root growth progress and also what I asked my stylist to trim every two months. This meant my hair colour change was obvious and I love it! The bronze tips of my hair are now just fading colour from years and years of dye, and like autumn leaves they’ll soon be gone.

This doesn’t mean I’ll never colour again (as a dark-haired girl no colours but black, brown, and red ever took to my hair), and after my fading copper tips are gone I’m looking forward to playing with pink or purple or blue!

Going Grey 8 months bronze, copper, grey and white - The Last Krystallos

Ombre © Lisa Shambrook

The weirdest thing in this process for me is acknowledging that brunette is no longer my natural colour!

The shimmering shades of silver, white, and steel grey in my hair suit me and I’m fascinated by the process. I thought I’d go completely and suddenly white but the salt and pepper effect is lovely, steel grey at the back moving through shades of silver to white framing my face. My fear of looking old was quashed fast as I realised my ombre of silver and bronze didn’t negatively affect how I saw myself. I used to look in the mirror when my white roots shone through and believed I looked ten years older – but it’s a matter of attitude. I look the same but have a sparkle of silver gilt.

I can’t wait to see what it looks like once it’s all natural and like an emerging butterfly I’m ready to embrace my wings!

It’s been almost one year, and by this time next year I expect to be completely colour free.

I’m ready to let my silver spirit soar with freedom and abandon.

Are you thinking of transitioning from colour to grey, or have you gone grey naturally?
What were your ups and downs, and how do you love your new look?

When your Dog is your Soul Mate

No one can fully understand the meaning of love
unless he’s owned a dog – Gene Hill

When Your Dog Is Your Soul Mate - The Last Krystallos

We often find parallels in our lives with each other, but what if it’s with your dog?

My dog, Kira, loves deeply, has panic attacks, is needy, anxious, and completely unsure of herself and I seem to have chosen a dog that I mirror to an extreme extent.

Lisa and Kira - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

They say you shouldn’t/can’t *project human emotions onto a dog, but if there is ever a dog that is me – it’s Kira! Dogs, animals, can often have psychological issues. Maybe I have an autistic dog? Who knows?

Anyway, although we have similar physical issues with daily meds and needs, and that might have been what drew me to her, I had no idea we’d mirror each other so completely.

Kira and me April 2019 - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

It’s strange and revealing watching reactions to her knowing I conjure so many of the same ones. I know I overshare a lot, and if she could be understood I’m pretty sure her constant vocalisation would be the same. She trills, purrs, whines, and chats all the time. She and I need to be heard, to put our thoughts and emotions into words. We need constant reassurance. She needs to feel our love even when we’re so loving she cannot possibly misconstrue our affection. She doesn’t always do as she’s told, or follow demands, because (and yes, I’m guessing) they don’t always seem common sense to her – they often don’t to me, but, like me, she tries to please to an extreme degree. She’s well trained and conditioned, but needs to reach out of it to find herself. She struggles to let go but when she does she’s a free spirit and bounds through the forest with utter joy and thrill!

Kira GSD - Brechfa Forest - May 2019 - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Kira is scared of people and dogs. Her fear of other dogs, her own species, is so ingrained, so great that it instantly throws her into a panic attack. I understand panic attacks. We’re supposed to be training her with dog exposure, to normalise it, to show her other dogs aren’t a danger, and to a degree we are. But I cannot ignore a full blown panic attack and just leave her in the situation that fills her with terror. And possibly this is our closest moment – needing reassurance. Ignoring the panic lets it continue, growing into a monster she cannot control, but as I hold her, and soothe her, and stroke her, she calms. She does what a child in fear does leaning close, crying, needing that contact, that assurance, and the comfort softness gives. I know, because I’m the same.

My pup obsesses with her toys, loves routine, is triggered by specific small noises, and loves with complete abandon. I think we’re twins!

Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole - Roger Caras - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Kira is at her happiest when she’s with the people she loves, she doesn’t need anyone else. I laugh, because that’s been my ethos for forty-seven years! Her complete acceptance of us when we collected her and her immediate love and affection was a surprise as we’d been told she’d be slow to trust, but she met us and we became hers.

When people visit, her anxiety rises (I don’t do well with visitors either). I’m not sure she’s barking and protesting the visitor to protect us, but more to protect herself. She’ll calm around people who are more familiar, but with amusement it’s noted, that as she sniffs about them quite happily, until she realises they’re making eye contact or even daring to talk to her, she’ll spike, jump back, and bark again. When people she doesn’t know are necessary and they show authority she’ll give in and accept them, but only because she has to. Back again, with the only ones she needs she’s secure, content, and relaxed, brushing against us like a kitten craving attention, purring like a tribble, and loving like she’s been deprived.

She’s had love in her past, beautiful love, but it’s taught her that she only needs those closest to her, and breaking that cycle is something I’ve never been able to do in my own life, let alone hers!

Kira GSD - May 2019- The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I think we exist in the same bubble. I worry that I overshare, that people will tire of me, that I’ll be too needy, that I’ll do things wrong – say things wrong, that my anxiety and strangely wired brain will push people away, and that despite every single proof otherwise that love will be fleeting, floating away on the wind where I can’t catch it.

I know much of my dog’s behaviour is the same as normal dogs, you’ll recognise it in your own pup, but it’s the detail, the utter symmetry of my life and hers that throws me into wonder. I’ve spent my life fighting my mental health, my debilitating sensory issues, extreme empathy, panic, depression, and anxiety. I’m still battling them, waiting for adult autism assessment, for recognition and acceptance. Like Kira some of my issues won’t ever change, and they can’t, and possibly shouldn’t, be trained out of me, because they are me.

Kira and me April 2019. - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I wasn’t even looking for another dog after losing our beloved Roxy last year, and I have no idea why a passing Tweet from a rescue centre I didn’t even follow caught my eye back in January, a short, one-off tweet about a dog with problems needing a home, and people to love and love her back – but it did. They sometimes say dog owners look like their dogs, it appears Kira and I are much more than that, we’re soul mates, and we were meant to find her. I thank every wheel that was ever set in motion to make this happen, you know who you are.

Finding those you love and who love you back with no barriers
and no boundaries isn’t easy, but it’s what makes life worth living.

A dog smiles with its whole face - ears, eyes, nose, whiskers, mouth, tongue - Pam Brown - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

*My brain needs to add a caveat for those who will shrug, or mock, or claim I shouldn’t push human emotions onto a mere dog. I truly believe animals can think than more than we can possibly imagine, and seeing as we cannot ever know their thoughts, don’t try to shame me. A dog’s love and empathy is inherently deeper and more totally committed than a human is, and maybe, just maybe they are much purer and greater than we will ever be.          

Be like the Wildflowers of Spring…

I hope you are blessed with a heart like a wildflower
strong enough to rise again after being trampled upon,
tough enough to weather the worst of the summer storms,
and able to grow and flourish even in the most broken places
(Nikita Gill)

Be like the Wildflowers of Spring... The Last Krystallos

As an author I notice detail, lots of it, and nature provides so much! My favourite few months for flora fall in April, May, and June. The ground wakes up and releases a prolific field of colour – predominantly pink, blue, purple, yellow, and white.

Ragged Robin - Red Valerian - Red Campion - Cranesbill - Rhododendron - Aquilegia - Herb Robert - London's Pride

Ragged Robin – Red Valerian – Red Campion – Cranesbill – Rhododendron – Aquilegia – Herb Robert – London’s Pride © Lisa Shambrook

Let’s start with the pinks, from the deep pink of the shaggy but beautiful Ragged Robin to the palest shade of London’s Pride. Hot pink Rhododendron join the usual purple varieties swathing the countryside with huge flowers covering their waxy, dark-green fingered leaves.

Red Valerian remind me of walking home from school, I used to pick bunches from the railway sidings to take home along with bluebells (I know you can’t pick wildflowers now, but I was about ten many years ago!)

Aquilegia, also known as Granny’s Bonnet and columbine, are favourites.

Geranium Robertianum was used for medicinal purposes, but now Herb Robert is commonly a weed, easy to seed and grow, and a relation of the vast geranium family.

Garlic Mustard - Wild Garlic - Cow Parsley - White Campion - Cuckoo Flower - Elderflower - Wild Carrot - Columbine

Garlic Mustard – Wild Garlic – Cow Parsley – White Campion – Cuckoo Flower – Elderflower – Wild Carrot – Convolvulous © Lisa Shambrook

Looking at edible wildflowers takes us to the Garlic family, both pictured above easy to find, pick and use. Elderflower is also becoming more and more popular in cuisine.

The Convolvulous flowers on neverending vines can hugely frustrate gardeners, but I adore them. Beautiful white trumpets that enchanted me as a child and continue to do so now, have become part of my writing, being enchanced to become huge moonflowers.

I’ve previously posted about Cow Parsley and Hogweed varieties, there are many and I love when they spread through the hedgerows like swaying white lace.

Gorse - Bog Arum Lily - Laburnum - Buttercup - Welsh Poppy - Cowslip - Primrose

Gorse – Bog Arum Lily – Laburnum – Buttercup – Welsh Poppy – Cowslip – Primrose © Lisa Shambrook

I don’t imagine there’s anyone out there who hasn’t held a Buttercup to their chin to see if they like butter… your chin will glow gold to show you do!

Right now, at the beginning of June the Laburnums are flowering all through our Welsh countryside. I hadn’t realised how many there were until I saw the yellow racemes threading through our hedgerows and trees. I used to have a Laburnum in my garden until it fell after heavy storms.

Foxgloves - Campanunla - Thistle and a Gatekeeper butterfly

Foxgloves – Campanunla – Thistle and a Gatekeeper butterfly © Lisa Shambrook

Another flower just about to flower near me is the Foxglove, and our forests are full of them in Wales.

I also love Campanula, and always notice walls covered in this gorgeous mass of purple. They seed and grow with abandon.

And as we move into summer keep a watch for the butterflies. I loved my summer a couple of years back searching out butterflies!

Blackberry - Valerian - Ox-eye Daisy - Snowdrop - Stitchwort - Wood Anemone - May Blossom - Daisy

Blackberry – Valerian – Ox-eye Daisy – Snowdrop – Stitchwort – Wood Anemone – May Blossom – Daisy © Lisa Shambrook

Some of the most beautiful wildflowers are the simple ones. Daisies will always blow me away with sunny faces in whatever condition, and I love the huge Ox-eye Daisies that grow in clusters and often swathe the duel-carriageway roadsides!

One of my favourite things is walking through woods and our local woods are carpeted with Bluebells, Wood Anemones, and Common Stitchwort.

Bluebells - Forget-me-not - Purple Vetch - Vinca - Speedwell - Bugle - Wild Violet - Ivy Leaved Toadflax

Bluebells – Forget-me-not – Purple Vetch – Vinca – Speedwell – Bugle – Wild Violet – Ivy Leaved Toadflax © Lisa Shambrook

Blues and purples fill our spring gardens and countryside with delicate flowers like Forget-me-nots and the deep blue of Speedwell.

Vinca, known as Periwinkle, is another favourite and along with many of these wildflowers are mentioned within my books.

Bluebells, my favourite flower, and bluebell woods have inspired me since childhood with simple bells and pure magic. I’ve blogged about them several times and weaved them into my books, and there’ll be more!

What are your favourite wildflowers?
These are mostly British Wildflowers – what do you get and do you have
the same threading through your native countryside?

 

 

 

For the Love of the Moon – Mid-Week Flash Challenge

Super Blue Blood Moon over River Towy - Ralph Waldo Emerson quote - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Cara moved slowly down the jetty, enjoying the warm weathered wood beneath her feet. She stretched her fingers by her side, flexing them and releasing pent up anxiety. Air caressed her naked skin and with conviction she pushed her shoulders back, ignoring the twinge of pain, and rotated them in unison, smiling wryly at the cracking sounds her bones made echoing in the humid night air. She drew in a deep sigh then let her breath ride on the breeze that fluttered about her.

The stars twinkled like diamonds studded in blue satin and Cara was exactly where she wanted to be.

Dainty steps took her to the end of the pier and she carefully lowered herself to the broad pontoon, her mouth opening as she smiled at the sway beneath her. Her knees were noisy too as she bent and dropped to the floor, but they would soon be eased.

She sat, her hands flat on the deck beside her, leaning back slightly to gaze up at the sky. The Milky Way stretched across the night and she wondered what it would feel like to float up into the sky.

Cara let her feet dip into the water, toes first, testing the temperature, then her legs up to her calves. She welcomed the flow about her toes as she gently moved her feet.

Water and stars…and my moon, Cara breathed out her words, almost silent thoughts, but a soft whisper took them from her mouth.

She jumped at the hoot of an owl and water splashed about her toes, and she laughed as the bird soared across the lake disappearing into the dark woodland at the shore. Bats also darted, seeking gnats and midges, but Cara felt akin to them and enjoyed their swooping paths.

Cara gazed at the moon. All her life she’d worshipped the deity of the night sky, softly lighting the dark and showing her that even when she wasn’t whole she was still full of depth, and mystery, and power. She smiled at the moon and lifted her hands, cupping them about the orb before her then closing them in a prayer.

Thank you, she whispered.

She shuffled forward on the deck and lowered her body to the water. The little strength in her arms left her and she let herself go, plunging with abandon. She didn’t hear the splash she made, just the bubbles and the oddly comforting gurgle that rumbled in her ears as she slipped down through the water.

For a moment she let the water envelope her, like a cocoon, then she moved her arms downwards and kicked her feet. She broke the surface and swallowed a deep gulp of air, her feet and hands still paddling. It was colder than she’d expected, and it took a moment to adjust her breathing and relax her body, but soon she stopped agitating the water and let it lap at her chin, her hands gently undulating beneath the surface and silver hair spread like a watery spider’s silk.

Her creaking joints quietened, the pressure easing as water supported them and pain lessened as if leaching into the liquid surrounding her. Slowly Cara let her body rise and floated with her head back, half submerged. No sound but the lapping water, and nothing to see but the stars and the moon bathing her in white light.

Still floating, Cara let the moon bless her, its gentle rays soothing away her pain and hurt. Stars shimmered and glitter rained down in spirals like winter snowfall. She smiled, meds kicked in and fatigue faded replaced by lofty intoxication. She was alone in the world, completely and utterly, and when they finally came looking they’d wonder, but they’d never know. Not until she was home.

Cara gazed up at the moon as water closed over her face.

The moon smiled, Selene smiled, waiting for her beloved to return…

0000. Divider

Stars and the moon enthrall me, so loved this prompt picture by James Wheeler – Moonlit Dock for Miranda’s Mid-Week Flash Challenge.

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.

Bringing Books to Life – Painting Surviving Hope Covers

I dream my painting, and then I paint my dream – Vincent Van Gogh
I loved creating cover art for the Surviving Hope novels.
Picking up my paint brushes was an inspiration
as much as writing the books themselves.

Bringing Books to Life - Painting Surviving Hope Covers - The Last Krystallos

When the Surviving Hope novels: Beneath the Rainbow, Beneath the Old Oak, and Beneath the Distant Star, were rereleased, my new publisher BHC Press requested cover art in a similar style to A Symphony of Dragons.

4. A Symphony of Dragons Cover Art Evolution - Lisa Shambrook BHC Press

© Lisa Shambrook

I had to do something I’ve already done within my writing, and that was to find my art voice, my style. When I see an image in my head it’s like a photo, and I had to accept that the realism in my head was not what would end up on the canvas. My style is like my writing, swirly, romantic, and poetic, but mine.

I’d painted my Symphony dragon a year earlier and I set up an art studio on my dining room table and began sketching. The most testing thing was discovering how to paint rainbows. The majority of painted rainbows are bright childlike bows full of block colour and that wasn’t what I wanted. I had to find several tutorials to get an idea, and the trick is to stipple dry white paint across the arc of the bow before you build with colour. Rainbows are faint, translucent, and very difficult to capture! I was using acrylics, and with hindsight, as I’m currently painting in watercolour, a translucent media would have been easier.

Beneath the Rainbow Painting Covers - Lisa Shambrook - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

My rainbow is not a recreation of anyone else’s… it iridises with chalky pastel light above my bluebells. Bluebells feature within Freya’s story and the hours I spent breathing life into them were very enjoyable.

Beneath the Old Oak Painting Covers - Lisa Shambrook - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Beneath the Old Oak’s cover was always going to be an oak with acorns, and was my most confident subject. I’ve painted trees before, and the sturdy oak would protect Meg when life got unbearable. Acorns always represent new life and strength to me and it was comforting to paint them.

Beneath the Distant Star Painting Covers - Lisa Shambrook - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Then I had to create stars. It became my favourite painting, and after pages of failed dusk skies I finally got one that worked. Jasmine would stare up at the stars, trying to live up to her sister on one hand and battling to vanquish her memory on the other. I’ve stared up at many twinkling indigo skies trying to defeat my demons and harness wonder in much the same way in my own life.

Artists often lack confidence in their work and it wasn’t until I saw the covers, framed and titled, that I loved them. They brought the three books together, weaving the stories of three girls and their lives with the melody of hope.

Painting Seren Stone Covers - Lisa Shambrook - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Right now I’m working on The Seren Stone Chronicles, and while the first book has been with beta readers I’ve been painting again. The Seren Stone covers will need to coordinate and follow my branding and I’m loving developing images for them. This time I’ve been working with watercolour instead of acrylics and it’s been beautiful to discover a forgiving and radiant medium to bring my dragons to life.

Surviving Hope and Symphony Paperbacks - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

The Surviving Hope novels are available in eBook and paperback from most online retailers, all links are found on my website and at BHC Press. You can also buy signed and discounted paperbacks from my own Etsy shop, Amaranth Alchemy, too.

Three girls, three lives, three stories composed with the melody of hope.

Freya’s death sends ripples through many lives as Meg loses her best friend, and Jasmine, her sister. Lost dreams need to be found, hidden family secrets need to be unearthed, and grief must be embraced before ghosts can be laid to rest.

These beautifully composed tales of coming of age, mental health, and the struggles of finding yourself, begin with grief and culminate with hope. As grief is faced, hope becomes the only force to cling to and build upon. Freya, Meg, and Jasmine need to survive with hope.

Surviving Hope Novels - Lisa Shambrook - The Last Krystallos

The Raven’s Wing by Michael Wombat – Enchanted and seduced…

Sometimes a book comes along that both entrances and seduces you,
and I was mesmerised by
Michael Wombat’s The Raven’s Wing.

The Raven’s Wing - Michael Wombat - Enchanted and Seduced Mediaeval Mystery and Magic - The Last Krystallos

I’ve said it before, I don’t often blog about books, I love reviewing them, but every now and then I’ll be so blown away they have to feature on my blog, like Ghostbird by Carol Lovekin, The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss, and Nobody Told Me: Love in the Time of Dementia by S. R. Karfelt. I’m a sucker for a book that draws me in with fantasy and quirky magic.

I’ve read several books by this author before, and always loved them. He has a knack for portraying truth and using description to weave you right into the story. We also collaborated, a couple of years ago, on Human 76, where Michael Wombat was a vital part of collating and helping to create a very original collection of stories.

The Raven's Wing by Michael Wombat extra photos by © Lisa Shambrook

The Raven’s Wing by Michael Wombat extra photos by © Lisa Shambrook

The Raven’s Wing is a labour of love and the resulting book is an incredibly authentic mediaeval novel with a hint of truth and chronicle behind it. Read the blurb:

They say you should follow your dreams. They never tell you what to do when the dreams start following you.
The year is 1322. Minstrel John has enough on his plate with his wife’s funeral. He could do without the naked woman who keeps forcing her way into his dreams, the angel dropping skulls in the village church, the stranger that attacks him for no reason, and the sexy, one-eyed, fire-dancer who is after only one thing – his music. Then there are the voices in his head, compelling him to investigate a mystery that just keeps on growing.
Based on a true story, this is not history, this is the 14th century as experienced by those who lived there, and who saw it as the leading edge of time. As John discovers, demons and magic can be very real.

white and dark feathers by the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

The story begins with an intensely erotic dream, if you know Wombat’s writing you’ll know nothing daunts him, down-to-earth honest, bawdy realism and coarse language intertwine with sheer beauty and descriptions that will whisk you away to another time. After this you are introduced to John, a simple minstrel, and his friends as they deal with the loss of John’s wife. It could be an unassuming tale, but John’s life takes a turn that will change him forever as a mysterious skull is found at the funeral.

You will be drawn into his life and the mystery that shrouds him. You’ll love his friends and you’ll will John on as he humbly searches for answers. Wombat will take you on a tour of mediaeval Britain complete with myth and magic, and you’ll be left wanting more.

Print of Winter's Raven painting by Amanda Makepeace

Print of Winter’s Raven painting by Amanda Makepeace

Now, think about the 14th century and imagine you want to write something that truly reflected the period… I asked Michael Wombat about how much research went into The Raven’s Wing:

‘Since I first heard Steeleye Span’s ‘John of Ditchford’ 20 years ago I’ve thought it’d make a good root for a story. When I finally got round to building a proper tale around it, it took 6 years to research and weave a satisfyingly deep story around what was in real life a thuggish murder. I made sure to keep copious research notes (thank you Scrivener!), and included the most interesting things I discovered in the Notes at the back of the book.’

The back of the book Notes are a real treat. Knitting realistic 14th century dialogue, words, places, and much more into a modern-day written story isn’t easy, though Wombat has done it so well; the tale is both fluid and beautiful to read. Chapter-by-chapter Wombat analyses and explains his terms and wordage to both educate and fascinate you.

Six years of research must have brought up intriguing facts and stories, so what was his favourite?

‘The most fascinating part of the research for me was the songs I discovered. Songs of love, lust and weird stuff aplenty. And of course the medieval recipes.’

A friend of mine, Miranda, recently made Pentecost’s waffres, and said they were delicious!

I said earlier, once this tale is done, you’ll be left wanting more. Michael Wombat commented:

‘As for the future, I’m putting together a pocketbook of ‘Raven’s Wing Extras’ – sketches I made while writing the book, behind the scenes stories, character backstories and so on. Beyond that, I kind of left Jenifry and Moss with a massive cliffhanger – one day, maybe, I’ll write their continuing story.’

I definitely want more from this period of time and Wombat’s characters.

Michael Wombat and The Raven's Wing

© Michael Wombat

I am a big fan of Wombat’s writing with many of his books on my Kindle and on my bookshelves, and I look forward to reading more. Wombat is an eclectic writer with a penchant for the extraordinary, and reading his bio will let you know what you’re getting yourself into:

A Yorkshireman living in the rural green hills of Lancashire, Michael Wombat is a man of huge beard. He has a penchant for good single-malts, inept football teams, big daft dogs and the diary of Mr. Samuel Pepys. Abducted by pirates at the age of twelve he quickly rose to captain the feared privateer ‘The Mrs. Nesbitt’ and terrorised the Skull Coast throughout his early twenties. Narrowly escaping the Revenue men by dressing as a burlesque dancer, he went on to work successively and successfully as a burlesque dancer, a forester, a busker, and a magic carpet salesman. The fact that he was once one of that forgotten company, the bus conductors, will immediately tell you that he is as old as the hills in which he lives. Nowadays he spends his time writing and pretending to take good photographs. You can have a good laugh at his pathetic blog or his photographs, but most of all please go and mock him mercilessly on Twitter or Facebook. Michael Wombat has published over one book. Other authors are available.

Please follow him most actively on Twitter, find him on Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, at Cubic Scats and sign up for his Patreon for new and exciting stories.

My last words for The Raven’s Wing – sometimes I get lost in stories because they seduce me, sentences inspire, and the story takes me somewhere completely new. Maybe you’d like to visit the 14th century? Go on give it a try… you won’t be sorry!

The Raven's Wing - Michael Wombat book coverYou can buy The Raven’s Wing

from Amazon in both Kindle and paperback.

It’s seriously worth every penny.

Forests that Claim your Heart

‘It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts,
as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees,
that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.’

Robert Louis Stevenson

Forests that claim your Heart - The Last KrystallosForests are inspiring, especially to writers. Imagine Tolkien without Fangorn Forest and the Ents, or Lothlórien, or Mirkwood. And Walter De La Mare’s The Listeners would be nothing without its haunting forest’s ferny floor. Even Shakespeare’s Macbeth awaiting Birnam Wood… We have been inspired by trees and forests since the beginning of time, and I can’t see the fascination ending.

I recently read these two articles, the first on Brechfa Forest and the second a list of Twenty of the Best British Forests, and it made me reflect on my local woods and forests. Having a dog means exploring forests becomes a way of life and I have my favourites.

Roxy - Green Castle Woods - The Last Krystallos

Roxy – Green Castle Woods © Lisa Shambrook

Green Castle Woods, just outside Carmarthen on the road to Llansteffan, was one of Roxy’s best places. She loved to lope through the trees and the bluebells, sniffing, wading through mud and/or leaves, and enjoying the fresh outdoors. Bluebells are always a major reason for visiting Green Castle – they’re my favourite flower and have influenced my writing – and they bring me peace. Bluebells and white wood anemone with fairy wings blanket the woods in spring and leaves of bronze, gold, and brown colour autumn.

Bluebells - anemone - Roxy - Green Castle Woods - The Last Krystallos

Bluebells at Green Castle Woods © Lisa Shambrook

The circular walk ends, either in 30 minutes or an hour, at the old oak. This tree has captivated me for years. When I first saw it, standing alone, I thought it was dead, especially as it was midwinter and bare, but as spring dawned I noticed new growth and my own excitement burgeoned just like its leaf buds! It spread gnarled branches, and foliage erupted and beauty ensued. It quickly became the most beautiful and unusual tree I know.

Four seasons - Old Oak - Green Castle Woods - The Last Krystallos

The Old Oak at Green Castle Woods © Lisa Shambrook

This oak is not much more than ten feet tall, and hollow. I know nature withstands a great deal, and the fact that it is fully alive amazes me seeing as it’s almost completely hollow. It stands alone in the middle of a reclaimed meadow in Green Castle Woods, and reminds me that even when I’m spent I can still flourish.

Kira - Brechfa Forest - The Last Krystallos

Kira – Brechfa Forest © Lisa Shambrook

Kira is a different dog altogether, so our forest of choice for walking is the much quieter Brechfa Forest. Sixteen and a half acres of forest spread across Northern Carmarthenshire allows you to find your own paths, and due to Kira’s fear reactivity to both people and dogs it’s an ideal place to walk her when we’re not training. It gives her freedom and though, unlike Roxy, she remains on a long retractable lead she enjoys the liberty and opportunity to explore.

Brechfa moss - Kira - Brechfa Forest - The Last Krystallos

Brechfa Forest © Lisa Shambrook

Brechfa is magical, like the description in the linked The Independent piece, and it always feels enchanting and ancient. Green is the predominant colour throughout the year, olive, peridot, and emerald. Swathes of moss hang from the spruce and pine, and lichen and moss spread across the grassy forest floor. Reindeer moss hangs in trees like chandelier jewels and like snow on the ground. In autumn toadstools and mushrooms decorate the stumps and fog moves through the trees like ghostly spirits.

Toadstools mushrooms - fog - reindeer moss - oxalis - Brechfa Forest - The Last Krystallos

Brechfa Forest © Lisa Shambrook

Trees offer balm for my soul, wisdom, and pure natural beauty. I could spend all day winding my paths beneath them. Having a dog is a bonus, giving me even more opportunity to walk and share the peaceful gratitude of the forests.    

Do you have a favourite woodland or forest?

Colour, Crystals, and Writing

My writing is full of colour.
As a descriptive writer colour is important to convey
atmosphere, environment, and emotion.

So, while the first book in The Seren Stone Chronicles is with beta readers,
I’m painting and playing.

Colour, Crystals, and writing The Seren Stone Chronicles - The Last Krystallos

First off, crystals are inherent in my Welsh future. After apocalyptic events in our century many changes occur to the foundation and appearance of the earth, meaning that rocks and crystals take on new traits and qualities.

I like pretty things – that’s obvious – and I’ve been collecting crystals and gems for years. I’ve done a fair bit of research into crystal therapy and it interests me greatly. If we believe in molecular power then why not in the vibration and essence of rock and crystal?

Secrets Universe - energy, frequency, vibration - Nikola Tesla - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Heather Askinosie, who writes at Energy Muse, said in an article worth reading: Do crystals really work? There is much debate regarding this question, as scientists say there is no hard proof to show that they do. However, every ancient civilization has utilized crystals in a vast variety of ways—from healing to offerings to protective talismans. And Quartz Crystal has been on this Earth since the beginning of time.

Crystals for The Seren Stone Chronicles - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

She goes on to talk about the fact that over 90% of the earth’s crust is made of silicate minerals, about 46.6% Oxygen and 27.7% Silicon, and when these two combine they create silicon dioxide which is in its pure form Quartz Crystal – comprising about 12% of the earth’s crust. Quartz is currently used in electronics, watches, lasers, and IT. Magnetic particles have been used in tapes to record music; you can just imagine how vibration and the energy in crystals could be used. The value of crystals may be much greater than we currently understand.

Crystal Colour Wheel - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

In my written world crystals and gems are used in many ways and are vital to medicine and technology. The most important stone in my world is peridot, formed, like diamonds, in molten rock and brought up to the surface in volcanoes and earthquakes. The vast changes in geography have not only returned dragons but brought geological change too. My protagonists wear talismans and I loved designing and painting them. When I feel overwhelmed I often work with my crystals, both in a therapeutic way and just to relax. Creating colour wheels was both restorative and fun.

Painting The Seren Stone Talismans - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

This takes me on to painting. I painted the covers for The Surviving Hope Novels and A Symphony of Dragons but haven’t painted since, so picking up my pencils and sketchpad has been good for me. I’m painting aspects of The Seren Stone Chronicles: gems, characters, scenes. In the end they’ll serve as inspiration for the covers, but right now they’re just delighting me, helping me give my expressive self a voice, and it’s a tranquil break from writing.

Painting The Seren Stone - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I’m enjoying experimenting with watercolours for the first time. I’m a heavy acrylic painter, so trying out watercolours, both pencils and pans, is revitalising and fun. While I wait for my beta readers to come back with their thoughts, I’m hoping to fill my sketch book with dragons and crystals and colour.

Crystal Colour Wheel - Fluorite centre - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I find working with colour both calming and inspiring,
and these couple of months will refresh me leaving me ready
for my soon-to-do edits.

The Sign of the Dragon – Mid-Week Flash Challenge

The Sign of the Dragon - Mid-week Flash ChallengeThe stones rocked inside Arla’s gnarled hands and clattered to the table. The old hag’s forehead creased and Talita’s parents leaned forward with expectation. When the runes were tossed at her birth the expression on her parents’ faces said it all

Arla’s finger shook as she read the symbols and sealed Talita’s fate.

***

It began with herbalists working with essential oils to calm her fervent spirit and treat thickening patches of skin. But as ridges hardened Talita fought her childhood with rage and passion that threatened fire.

Scales decorated her body and wing buds began to push through her shoulder blades, and it ended with the ashes of surgeons glowering in the scorched dust of her furious breath. Copper hair glinted in sunlight as her parents closed the book on her burgeoning puberty and iron doors became her prison gates.

***

“’tis true love that will release her,” Arla’s last hurried words rang through Talita’s parents’ heads and suitors were summoned as their daughter turned from teen to adult. But when faced with the abomination that swept through the Eastern wing of the castle every man turned tail and fled.

Talita watched the exodus from her window and curled her wings about her. She wasn’t sad at the sight of the fleeing men, but loneliness and desire bit deep within her belly, roiling like a black cloud on a thundery day. The time had come and as night fell Talita rocked the bars at her window, gently teasing dry brick and clay with her fingers until the iron rods bowed and fell free.

Moonlight filled the room and Talita cast a last glance behind her. The bed, a huge four poster, sat swathed with drapes of dusty velvet, scorched and singed, lost amongst the vastness of the room. A mirror blackened with soot reflected tears and frustrations and fury. Her wardrobe doors lay broken on the stone floor, discarded clothes strewn like ghosts of fabric, torn and beyond repair. Her life lay in tatters of dreams and destruction.

She released the binding cloth that swathed her body, no more a piece of clothing than a mere mantle, and climbed onto the windowsill. She crouched swinging her tail, coiling it about her. She remained hunkered, one hand clinging to the last bar for a moment, then stood and leaped, spreading her wings and soaring up into the sky.

Storybooks told her that dragons lie to the north and she dropped into the cold currents that pulled her from home. She flew for days, stopping to rest in caves and sleeping by burning logs, and each day her limbs grew colder and her scales spread further. Her hair thickened like wire and coursed down her spine like a bronze, wavy waterfall.

Finally, after weeks of solitude, beneath the crescent moon, far, far in the northern lands Talita whirled and somersaulted, and called with every fibre of her being. Her call echoed and in the still night air an answer sounded, echoing back with vigour and urge.

Talita danced and a dragon as red as rust wheeled before her, drenched in moonlight and stardust. Flames lit the indigo sky and embers flickered in their wake and Talita discovered her release.

Her last human traces vanished with bronze spines prickling down her back and her tail swished with ardour and arrow barbs. The dance beneath the moon heralded a new beginning.

***

“And that’s how grandma met grandpa…” soft words left the dragon’s mouth and she smiled as the baby dragon snuggled at her side and yawned, his needle teeth clashing as he closed his mouth and his eyes. “True love,” she whispered as her son fell asleep. “That’s all it took.”

0000. Divider

No doubting I’d want to write for this photo (unable to find a source to credit) for Miranda’s Mid-Week Flash Challenge, I mean – dragons!

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.

Rescuing Kira and EPI in Dogs

It only took one tweet from a Rescue site and seeing a scruffy, forlorn
German Shepherd and I knew she had to be ours.
Dogs with health problems can be harder to home but we wanted her.

Rescuing Kira and EPI in Dogs - The Last Krystallos

Kira, a six-year-old, had moved from home to home, lived long-term in kennels, and had several foster homes before coming to us. She is adorable, but not without her problems.

Finding Kira GSRE - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

At first we concentrated on Kira’s EPI (Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency). We knew treatment would be an ongoing cost for the whole of her life and working out our budget and what it would entail was our priority. We were also aware that she suffered anxiety and was reactive around dogs and new people, but having had an anxious German Shepherd before, we felt equipped to deal with that.

In actuality, her EPI was the easiest thing to deal with! Her reactivity around other dogs is the biggest problem as it affects how and where we can walk her. We’ve taken training advice and going back to basics with Kira is the best thing to do. She’s such a good dog, listening and learning fast, so she’s making progress, and had already benefitted from a caring foster parent who took time to train and love her too. We’re now working with our local vet practise to help her acclimatise to the surgery and the vet, and this helps with socialising and encouraging her not to be scared of new people. It’s not going to be a quick turn-around, but she’s getting there.

Kira rescue GSD - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

EPI is a condition, once prevalent in German Shepherds, where the body is simply missing the right enzymes to break down food. If left untreated a dog will eat ravenously but lose weight and eventually become skinny and malnourished. With EPI no nutrients are absorbed from ingested food and it doesn’t get broken down, it just passes through the system with no nutritional value. It will cause discomfort, bloating, severe weight loss, diarrhoea, constant hunger, coprophagia (eating stools), and a complete failure to thrive.

This insufficiency can be diagnosed by a vet with a TLI (trypsin-like immunoreactivity) blood test and your dog will need replacement pancreatic enzymes for the rest of their life. There are a couple of ways to do this. The enzymes are found in animal pancreas and are most commonly available as a powder, capsules, or in raw pig, beef, or lamb pancreas.

Raw pancreas can be bought at your butcher or an abattoir by arrangement. Though hugely cheaper than buying powder or capsules, you must bear in mind that animal pancreas is toxic to humans, so preparation must be done with care. Raw pancreas can be blended or finely chopped and frozen to keep. A few ounces (suggested 2 – 4 oz to every 20kgs of dog’s weight) of raw pancreas given with your dog’s meal can replace the lost enzymes.

Panzym EPI dog diet - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I chose not to go the raw route, my kitchen is tiny and storage space a minimum, so prep and storage health and safety would be difficult. I buy powder and add it to Kira’s food. Enzyme powder or supplements are not cheap. The average price for Panzym at my nearest pet store is over £70 for a tub of 225g and even more at my local vet. We found it supplied for less than half that price by an online *supplier at £122 for 650g (UK only). Shop around.

Panzym powder is added to Kira’s food: one level teaspoon (5ml) twice a day. The only way to judge if treatment is working is by watching her stools. Without treatment Kira has runny poo like a cowpat, but with the right amount of Panzym her poo becomes firm again. The amount you give your dog will be judged on their stools. Kira has had various amounts, and when we first got her she was on double the dose we have her on now. As it settled the dose was lowered to a maintenance amount. Every dog is different some will require more, some less. Some EPI dogs need more small meals each day, some need enzyme added to every piece of food – even treats – some won’t. Kira manages with two meals a day with Panzym, and has a few treats without added enzyme.

We keep an eye on what she eats, and a diary of her meals and bodily functions, so if something new affects her we know straight away. Kira eats grain-free and we add a small amount of tinned meat to her slightly wetted kibble with Panzym. The powder adheres better to meat than kibble. Some enzyme powder needs to be incubated, left to develop on wet food, but Panzym doesn’t need to do this.

GSD red brown fur paws allergies or prophyrin - the last krystallos

Red/Brown fur on paws can alert you to allergies © Lisa Shambrook

Kira’s EPI is totally under control and we barely notice it. She does suffer from other connected issues though, flatulence is one of them, but it goes with the territory! She also has allergies, possibly connected to her stomach problems. Grain-free food helps as many other dog foods have added grain to bulk and it often causes allergies.

Dark-red/brown fur on her paws also alerted us to allergies. Many sensitive dogs have itchy skin, paws, and ears, and her red fur is a reaction to allergies or to prophyrin a protein found in saliva or tears. Directed by our vet we use Malaseb shampoo and bathe Kira’s paws once a week. She’s a paw-licker, probably due to itchy skin and possibly developed a habit. Her sensitive ears are also treated and cleaned regularly.

Kira is a very happy dog, incredibly loyal, immensely loving and affectionatewinding herself about our legs and trilling like a Tribble, her version of a purr – and her anxieties are lessening gradually. There’s something so rewarding about giving a rescue dog a forever home. We had Roxy from a puppy, but Kira has never had that security and it’s beautiful to see her so relaxed and happy with us.

Kira smile - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

She fits into our family like a rediscovered lost puzzle piece.   

If you’re looking for a new pet think about rescuing rather than buying,
if you can, it’s hugely rewarding.

*Note – this post is not sponsored or promoted or in any way connected with Panzym or the supplier I use. Links are for reader’s reference.