Author Archives: Lisa Shambrook

About Lisa Shambrook

An author and dreamer who loves dragons... Author www.lisashambrook.com and owner Amaranth Alchemy on Etsy etsy.com/uk/shop/AmaranthAlchemy

My Writer’s Life – how plans go awry…

I thought you might be interested to know how I plan and achieve (ahem) my writing strategies. I enjoyed writing this Writer’s Lives piece for IASD (Indie Author Support and Discussion) group and decided to share my squirrely ways with you too.

My Writer's Life - how plans go awry... The Last Krystallos

I’m a creature of habit, but like a squirrel I’m jittery and anxious. I like routine, but have a degree in procrastination. So, my writing habits are well planned with the best intentions, but not always successfully carried out.

My writing tools - scented candle, hot chocolate, chocolate, laptop, pen, notebooks, bluebells, crystals, hand drawn map, and memory sticks

© Lisa Shambrook

I begin my day with plans that fit my control freak personality, but go awry as soon as I hit social media. It always starts with ‘just checking my notifications’, but finishes a few hours later after having been distracted by posts, blogs, and shiny things… My problem is beginning, but once I’m there the words flow and I easily slip away into another world.

my writing tools - hot chocolate, scented candle, bluebells, chocolate, notebook, laptop

© Lisa Shambrook

My laptop – on my lap, where else? – is where I begin, in my lounge with my German Shepherd at my feet, a hot chocolate in my squirrel mug, and chocolate within reach. I like being surrounded by pretty things and though my house is a chaotic array of disorder and a carpet full of dog fluff, I like sensory things to keep me focused. I always have acorn cups or hazelnut shells beside me, sounds odd, but I did say I’m a squirrel… actually I deal with several mental health disorders including anxiety, panic, depression, and Sensory Processing Disorder, and acorn cups are my stim of choice. Rolling a polished hazelnut shell or acorn cup between my fingers calms and grounds me. I also like having a scented candle alight, and flowers and crystals close by.

Lisa Shambrook in a mossy forest with Kira German Shepherd

Out in the forest with Kira © Lisa Shambrook

You’re probably noticing that I ramble a fair bit… give me an inch and I’ll take a mile, but only with those I’m close to, otherwise I’ll keep my mouth shut and listen. Listening is fun – sometimes it’s what gives you a kernel of a story idea. Not just listening to people, but to everything. I let my mind wander, dog walks in the forest are perfect for this, and once an idea spins in my head I’ll be desperate to get it down onto paper. I fill notebooks with untidy notes and sketches. I’ll make maps, paint characters, and keep intricate detailed summaries, research, and annotations of every chapter that I write. I flip through these pages all the time as I write, and they are invaluable during edits and rewrites.

I’m a plotter, I like to know the beginning, middle, and end before I start, but as authors will tell you, our characters like to improvise and take us on journeys we didn’t expect, so you have to allow for digressions and detours. In real life I don’t like change, but in my writing life changes are exciting and inspiring! We writers are nothing if not a mass of contradictions. My first three published works were inspired by emotional issues and became a trilogy of three girls, three lives, three stories composed with the melody of hope. As grief is faced, hope becomes the only force to cling to and build upon.

Beneath The Rainbow, Beneath the Old Oak, Beneath the Distant Star by Lisa Shambrook ads

Beneath the Rainbow, Beneath the Old Oak, and Beneath the Distant Star

Since then, I have put together a lyrical collection of dragon themed short stories, and a unique collection of post-apocalyptic tales that weave together into a larger story with fourteen other lovely authors. Right now, I am rewriting and editing a fantasy series set two thousand years in the future where the landscape of Wales has turned into a whole new country… and the rumble of dragons has returned.

A Symphony of Dragons, Human 76, The Seren Stone Chronicles AD 2020

A Symphony of Dragons, Human 76, The Seren Stone Chronicles

I love writing and, as a skittish introvert, disappearing into an imaginary world is a solace that I’ve enjoyed since I first picked up a book as a child and vanished into my imagination. Come and join me!

How do you settle into writing, reading, or whatever you love doing?

The Holloway – Mid-Week Flash Challenge

The motorbike growled between her thighs, its back wheel skidding on gravel as she raced down the country road. Her hand gripped the throttle twisting it roughly, her fingers tense inside her leather gloves, and trees blurred as she risked a glance over her shoulder.

They followed. There was no let up, as two, maybe three, bikes thundered behind her. She swallowed and her mind whirled for a moment. Was there even still a reason left to run? She’d saved all she could save, delivered everything she’d been entrusted with, and now there was only escape. There’d be no hero welcome, no liberation, nothing for her. Quietly, the Resistance would win, but they no longer needed her, her job was done. She’d given everything. All that was left was evasion and lonely seclusion – if she could shake her pursuers.

Clusters of flashes zipped past as bullets skimmed and ricochet off the bike’s chrome, and she momentarily flinched and lost balance. She focussed and forced the tension from her body into the bike and sped on.

A shot echoed, its report bouncing through the trees, and then pain erupted in her shoulder knocking her off balance and throwing her forward. The bike shifted beneath her, its weight slipping and its tyres burning against the tarmac, and Ayla let go. The bike crashed to the ground, spinning and screeching across the road, sparks flying and metal glowing. Ayla landed on her back and her body flipped as she tried to pull her limbs close. Ayla felt the impact as her helmet hit the ground and her head spun and lights flickered behind her closed eyes before blackness enveloped her.

Moments later Ayla opened her eyes and, barely allowing herself to move, gazed at the mass of chrome and black metal strewn across the road. Engines roared and as her pursuers slowed and leaped off their bikes, Ayla instinctively twisted and rolled away from the scene. She hurriedly pulled off her helmet, discarding the cracked and shattered polycarbonate, and shaking the ringing sound from her ears. She jumped into a squat and threw herself into the hedgerow. Brambles caught in the tears and slashes in her leather jacket as Ayla tumbled down a steep embankment.

She quickly gathered herself and, on all fours, stared about her. Metal clashed and running footsteps echoed above her and she threw herself into the wall of the bank. She pinned herself there as voices rose and chaos sounded, but no one appeared in the trees above her, and after briefly patting herself down, Ayla bolted forward.

Tree roots, ivy, and moss coated the walls of the holloway and they reached clean over her head. She needed distance from the crash site before she could even think of trying to scale the earthy wall. She ran until the noises lessened and she could hear birdsong instead. Birds sung and twittered, voles peeped out of holes in the ivy, and a squirrel danced through the treetops above. She gazed up and only white light bathed her through the canopy of leaves.

Ayla slowed, pushing her hair off her face, wiping the sweat from her brow, and then lifting her hair from the nape of her neck. The adrenaline rush was gone and Ayla stood for a moment then slowly turned on the spot. Behind her the holloway stretched further than she could see. Steep banks curved either side, like looking through the barrel of a telescope, and in front, the sunken lane lay hidden some way along as a gap in the canopy let the light flood in.

She smiled, feeling safe, and surprisingly fit despite the motorbike crash. She ran her hands along her arms, taking time to check for injuries she might have missed whilst escaping, but there were none. Her jacket, torn and grazed beyond repair, a bullet hole in the shoulder, leather trousers scored and scuffed, but not a scratch on the bare skin beneath the sliced open material. Not a bruise or a cut, nothing but soft skin. She pulled off her gloves, and though her hands shook, she was fine, unscathed and unharmed.

She would keep walking until she reached that celestial rift of bright white light…

***

Behind her, back on the road, three motorbike engines started up as their owners left the scene of the accident. Not one of them glanced back at the shattered helmet, pool of blood, and the broken body – its neck at an impossible angle, prone and lifeless.

 

0000. Divider

Getting words written during lockdown… Miranda’s photo prompt on Mid-Week Flash Challenge is a holloway, a sunken lane in La Meauffe, France, once a site of a 1944 World War II battle – although dating back much further than that. It was taken by Romain Brégetalias Kormin on the Wikimedia projects. I love holloways and the tunnels carved out in nature, completely natural, formed by constant walking and the flow of water.

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.

 

The Simple Things that Lift your Spirit

Sometimes the small and simple things are the things that lift us,
and in times like these where many of us are in lockdown and
missing our normal lives, the simple things are often the big things.

The Simple Things that Lift your Spirit - The Last Krystallos

My anxiety has been sky high since this pandemic struck, and finally I’m feeling able to release some of the tension and allow myself to relax. The change in daily routine has been a struggle for me, routine gives me safety and order, and any change makes my brain spin out of control. So, in addition to health worries, stress over income and work, and those immediate alterations we’ve all had to deal with, my mind has been rushing about like a wild rabbit.

We’ve tried to keep as much of our lives as constant as we can, but we’re also embracing the situation to positively change things where necessity demands. And it’s the small things that are enabling this.

I’m missing walking my dog in the forest. Brechfa forest is ten minutes away, but we’re trying to adhere to the walk locally ethos without travel, so we’re revisiting some of the walks we used to do with Roxy. We’ve been walking Kira up in the solitude of the forest because she’s a rescue and because of her history she can’t deal with people, dogs, or cars. She’s relaxed, happy, and inquisitive on woodland paths, but as soon as you hit local streets with her she’s on high alert, nervous, and anxiety ridden, barking at every vehicle, person, and dog. It helps that the streets are more empty, and Sunday mornings are perfect, but walks can be an ordeal for her, so we’re trying different times and locations, in the hope to find the best conditions for her.

Blackthorn blossom and Primroses - The Last Krystallos

Blackthorn blossom and Primroses © Lisa Shambrook

When we’re out walking I’m noticing the beauty around mewildflowers pushing up through cracks in walls and pavement, forget-me-nots and violets spreading across verges, and spring primroses bringing sunshine to the roadside. Birdsong has increased, louder and more prevalent now there are fewer cars and people about. And, yes, I know we’re in lockdown, but the weather has blossomed just like the blackthorn hedgerows!

Walking, in itself, and exercise is something that helps lower anxiety, so finding calm walks helps us all. And talking of dogs, can you think of anything more simply beautiful than the love of a dog? When my anxiety spikes Kira is there to rub against me and love me, and when she’s anxious we scritch behind her ears and that softest of soft fur comforts both of us.

Lisa and Kira Brechfa and the softest soft fur - The Last Krystallos

Lisa and Kira Brechfa and the softest soft fur © Lisa Shambrook

I didn’t panic buy, just trying to keep to our usual routine, but I did buy extra chocolate. Like I said, the simple pleasures… We’ve made bread, chocolate-chip cookies, milkshakes, and hot chocolates.

I’m not a social being, I’m the archetypal introvert, but I have enjoyed messaging conversations with friends as we check up on each other, and social media has been both a blessing and a curse. It’s a wonderful way to keep up to date with the news and in touch with friends, and probably the only way I socialise, but the amount of misinformation that has been passed around is both stressful and frustrating. Add in a great deal of judgement and shaming, along with the constant link to the pandemic, and you have to know when to turn it off and get away.

Milkshake, Hot Chocolate and cookies - The Last Krystallos

Milkshake, Hot Chocolate and cookies © Lisa Shambrook

My favourite weekend was one where we turned off everything and marathon watched The Hobbit and then The Lord of the Rings – extended versions. It afforded me the luxury of escaping reality, of getting away and immersing myself in fantasy and beautiful cinematography. It made me stronger, happier, and more able to cope with current everyday life. The availability of entertainment, games, books, movies, and streaming services to watch has been a great escape for most of us, giving us time to leave reality behind for a few hours and fill our minds with something different.

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings - The Last Krystallos

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings © Lisa Shambrook

I have been playing with my crystals and bracelet beads, losing myself in the simple beauty and energies of crystals and rocks. I love the natural world and crystals fascinate me. My daughter even put together an anti-anxiety spell for me: salt for protection, rosemary for both protection and cleansing, sage for mental strength, and cloves to release negativity. Lavender and rose petals for peace and calm, amethyst to soothe emotions, and a sigil to be calm and clear headed, and sealed with the wax of a protective black candle. She also drew a tarot which fitted perfectly offering calm, peace, and renewed hope even in darkness and difficult and unexpected times. The simplicity of magic can be found when you need it.

Crystal Grid and Anti-anxiety Spell - The Last Krystallos

Crystal Grid and Anti-anxiety Spell © Lisa Shambrook

Time spent with my family, doing anything, binge watching TV, dog walking, playing board games, talking, or just general house tidying, is good! Fewer hours at work and outside commitments has let us lounge about in bed with lie-ins and extra sleep.

Maybe once this is all over and we try to return to normal, we’ll have learned that not everything is about money, the economy, or capitalism. That sometimes we need simplicity, time, and relaxation more than a twenty-four hour seven-day-a-week society. Spending time out, either alone, or with family, or friends is important, and if we can get out of a society that values cold hard cash and profit more than families, health, and humanity, maybe, just maybe, we can make life better and more rewarding – with the small and simple pleasures.

The small and simple things are, more often than not, the big things that matter.  

BHC Press Online Book Store Launch

My publisher launches their online book store today
accessible at their website BHC Press and at their Storefont 
to help support Independant Bookstores.

BHC Press online bookstore launch
BHC Press is pleased to announce they have launched their new online storefront in conjunction with Bookshop.org to help support the independent bookstore community … and make their books more accessible to readers.

“We’re always looking for ways to help support the book community, independent bookstores, and libraries,” stated Joni Firestone, co-founder and co-publisher at BHC Press. “That’s why we’re so excited about Bookshop.org and the benefits and support they are providing to independent bookstores. There’s nothing more magical than a book, and we’re thrilled to lend our support and help to the book community.”

Over 200 titles are available for purchase at the BHC Press storefront, including many award-winning books for both adults and young adults. Books are available to purchase in both hardcover and trade softcover. Every purchase through their storefront benefits and supports independent booksellers.’

Read more at the BHC Press Blog

BHC Press online bookstore launch

You can find my books in the bookstore too – Beneath the Rainbow, Beneath the Old Oak, and Beneath the Distant Star, and A Symphony of Dragons, plus anthologies that I have contributed to, and a copy of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol for which I wrote the forward and an original short story.

BHC Press online bookstore launch

Find your next book and your next favourite read… 

The Magic of a Fairytale Forest – Brechfa Forest

The beauty of Brechfa forest captivates me offering magic and enchantment and a place to give respite to my weary soul. Gnarled trees clothed in moss and lichen. Tall, spindly spruce, pine, and larch decorated with cones and needles, interspersed with oak and beech, and hedgerows of bracken and fern. Jewel greens all year round finished with autumn copper then silver winter frost.

The Magic of Fairytale Forests – Brechfa Forest - The Last Krystallos

January brings snowfall, frost, and fog with wispy cloud dropping into the tall pines creating an ethereal landscape. Walking through the glare of light from the low sun makes it bright and crisp and magical as it shimmers across the frost and moss. You might even see the copper winter coat of a fox as it dashes across the forest floor.

Images of January Brechfa Forest trees

© Lisa Shambrook

February is another month of mist and magic, sparkling through branches clothed with the soft froth of reindeer moss. Reindeer moss swathes the trees like jewels on a chandelier in a soft seafoam green. Bright peridot greens contrast beautifully with the sharp burnt-orange and browns of dead bracken, ferns, mulch and leaves.

Images of February Brechfa Forest trees

© Lisa Shambrook

In March, and its preceding months, stormy gales whistle and rustle through the spires. Rain and wind are common in Wales and wet, windy winters add to the streams and puddles and saturated land. Pine and spruce are known to have shallow root systems and sometimes you’ll come across fallen trees. Brechfa is looked after by the Forestry Commission and fallen trees across the roads are cleared quickly, but sometimes you’ll need to hop over or circumnavigate fallen logs on the tracks.

Images of March Brechfa Forest trees and moss

© Lisa Shambrook

April brings lighter showers and the moss swathing the forest floor act like sponges, holding many times their own weight in water aiding the forest as sponging, cooling and humidifying systems. New growth becomes evident as bright green sprouts from branches and spring flowers like bluebells and toadflax intermingle with moss over the forest banks.

Images of April Brechfa Forest trees

© Lisa Shambrook

May spring growth spread across the branches, and the past seasons’ dead leaves are covered with grass, lichen, and golden-green moss. Green tinged cones are pushing upright on spruce trees like decorative candelabras.

Images of May Brechfa Forest trees and a dog

© Lisa Shambrook

June is predominantly green, autumn colours are gone, and peridot-green is back in charge. Moss swathes the forest floor, trees, and rocks and is sumptuously soft and yielding. There are over one thousand species of moss in Britain, with more yet to be discovered, though many people will only ever notice two or three varieties. Get right down on the woodland floor and you’ll see the intricate ecosystem living right there amongst the moss and lichen.

Images of June Brechfa Forest tees and moss

© Lisa Shambrook

July sees the forest thickening up with moss, leaves, and foliage, and the additional colour of pink threads through Brechfa. Thistles become homes to the bees, and it’s a real treat to wander through the forest on a warm summer evening and come across purple thistles bending under the weight of sleeping bees! Foxgloves grow tall and said bees also adore their pink bells nodding in the breeze.

Images of July Brechfa Forest trees and Foxglove

© Lisa Shambrook

August and springy moss carpets the forest floor and drapes like swags of feathery curtains from the fir trees. The woods are thick with green and if you look carefully you could swear the fae are hiding in the undergrowth. Magic emanates from every branch.

Images of August Brechfa Forest trees and moss

© Lisa Shambrook

September’s autumn sunshine glistens on the gossamer webs that suddenly fill the boughs and you could be lost in Mirkwood. Find the wider tracks to walk if you’re keen to avoid the spiders! Toadstools and mushrooms emerge amongst the moss and mulch, and enjoy the colours as the leaves begin to turn on the oaks and beech trees, and the sunset touches bracken and fern with gold.

Images of September Brechfa Forest webs and mushroom

© Lisa Shambrook

October and autumn is here. Leaves have been painted with brass and copper, mosses are tinged with gold as they sport thready stems ready to spore, and larch needles turn golden-yellow before they drop. Cones adorn the firs, and acorns, beechnuts, and hazelnut shells are strewn underfoot, crunching beneath your feet. There’s magic in the air as the cool breeze wafts through the forest.

Images of October Brechfa Forest trees

© Lisa Shambrook

November brings frost and the pines are dark and foreboding, but the rest of the forest glistens with winter sun and crisp coppers and burnt-orange as the bracken dies and autumn leaves fall. The colours dance in the late sunshine and the birds twitter with warnings of weather and cold.

Images of November Brechfa Forest autumn trees

© Lisa Shambrook

December and the forest opens up again, with winter light glaring across bare boughs and weaving through the mist. It’s quiet and expectant and maybe snow will fall, coating the trees and drifting over the roads like icing sugar.

Images of December Brechfa Forest trees

© Lisa Shambrook

And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul
– John Muir             

In a world where you can be anything, be kind.

Being kind is a choice, and it says much about people
whether they choose to be cruel or to be kind. Choose to be kind.

In a world where you can be anything, be kind - the last krystallos

I was going to post a different blog today – I’ve decided to post only once a month due to writing and family commitments – but today’s subject is too important to miss, especially after the weekend’s events.

Friday brought us Valentine’s Day, an annual celebration of love, compounded by a recoupling in the evening’s episode of Love Island, the TV show offering young singles a chance to find love. Love was in the air, and both love and compassion should be in the air every day, not just Valentine’s. I mention the day and the show because the very next day Caroline Flack would take her own life. Caroline was very much weaved into the tenets of Love Island, being the former host and a romantic herself, and was described as someone who loved being in love.

Her death is complicated and none of us can know the reasoning behind her decision, and the discussion surrounding her loss is made more complex by an impending trial for domestic abuse. None of us are here to debate her wrongs or failings, we all have those, and not one of us is in a position to throw stones. But no one can fail to see the relevance of both tabloid and social media as a likely contributory factor in her loss.

happiness-and-melancholy-

© Lisa Shambrook

The weeks following her arrest offered an onslaught of media attention and endless stories in the tabloids. I heard a quote that over four hundred stories about her appeared within four weeks or so, not to mention the amount of tweets, opinions, and comment they gave life to. How could any one of us deal with kind of scrutiny and vilification? I certainly couldn’t.

I suffer from severe anxiety, depression, and a host of other issues, and not even a hundredth of what she was laid bare to would have left me okay. One single negative tweet can have me contemplating my place in this world, and I understand that, so I am careful what I say online. So, if someone like me who has attempted suicide, regularly self-harm, and live with constant anxiety can’t deal with that kind of attention, why do we think celebrities, personalities, and even royals are stronger? Celebrities have emotional and mental health conditions, they have lives as complicated as ours, they struggle, and they try to live the best they can. They have faults and flaws just like we do, but when they make a mistake they do it inside the glare of the spectator.

Mental Health Foundation - Stress - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Imagine making your mistakes in the limelight and scrutiny of the public, and being tried and convicted by uninformed armchair judges.

It’s easy to sit anonymously behind a screen and damn everyone we disagree with. We’ve seen it with Brexit, Trump, Johnson, Meghan and Harry, even coronavirus, and much more, but it’s not healthy when debate is uninformed or judgemental. We’ve seen a big move to fact check information online, especially when politics is involved. How often do we check our facts before posting our opinion, or sharing that meme that’s doing the rounds? We should. We must.

And this leads to the bigger issues. Our media is very much controlled by a few select outlets: tabloids and big media personalities, and I’d currently consider government too. When our media is owned by huge corporations including the media mogul Rupert Murdoch we often only hear the things they want us to hear. Personalities, like Piers Morgan, Katie Hopkins etc, also tend to gain traction with loud and widespread controversial voices. These voices have a responsibility to be just and respectful, and not incite hate or bullying.

Both Light and Dark - J. K. Rowling - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Journalism does need to report what’s happening, but what happens when those reports become judgemental, mean-spirited, bullying, and downright persecution? Both bullying and sensationalising within the media has become endemic.

We are becoming a nation, a world, enslaved to bad news. We need more good news, we need more love, more kindness, and more good things all round. We need to be careful with what we say, not because we’re walking on ice around people not to offend, but because we are good-hearted genuine people who don’t want to hurt those around us.

Life is hard and we often have no idea what truly goes on in the lives of our friends let alone people outside of our circles. We’re all fighting battles no one can see.

Kind words are easy to speak - Mother Theresa - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

It’s important we are there for each other, and that spreads further than just our own back yard. If we interact globally, our circles widen and our influence grows.  We need to reassess our ethics and priorities. Our words can either harm or comfort, it’s up to us which we choose. We can help others reach their potential, help them to succeed, and support those who need it. We can work together, and kindness and compassion are paramount to achieving that.

Kindness is a base response, it’s automatic, it’s a default we should all have.

Gottman, a german researcher who worked with couples at The Gottman Institute, declared that: Contempt is the number one factor that tears couples apart, and Kindness, on the other hand, glues couples together.

Let’s take contempt, hate, dislike, animosity, disrespect, all those things that contribute to bullying, away and replace them with kindness, love, compassion, empathy, validity and everything that will cement a community together in this wild, difficult, uncertain thing called life and become a stronger more supportive society.

Kindness has a beautiful way of reaching down... unknown

© Lisa Shambrook

Kindness isn’t hard, it’s a natural setting that all children have until prejudices and differences become apparent. Let’s reclaim it in our social media environment and in our personal lives until it becomes our default.

Kindness is more than deeds. It is an attitude, an expression, a look, a touch.
It is anything that lifts another person.
(C. Neil Strait)

In a world where you can be anything, be kind.

Unexpected Kindness - Bob Kerrey

© Lisa Shambrook

Last – Mid-Week Flash Challenge

Week144Photo Alfonso Leon SurrealThere was nothing more to say. I stood in the gutter, rain slipping down my face with the tears I couldn’t stop. The last plane had gone and I wasn’t on it.

The streets were quiet. In the distance I could still hear the whine of jet engines. I could still smell the gasoline and kerosene, the fumes, and her fragrance.

Now, my tears ran more freely.

I paced, my eyes flitting from tenement to tenement, my movements twitchy, glitching as I tripped over my feet and sprawled across the tarmac. A guttural moan moved up my throat but I was reluctant to release it. I froze and gazed about me, terrified I might have woken one of the waiting demons hiding in the shadows.

I had no idea what to do.

It was too late to convene at one of the final terminals – the exodus had finished – and I had no one to run back to. I’d be able to hunker down in the apartment for a few more weeks, but after that? And on my own, without her, how would I even cross the threshold into our home again?

I pushed my hair out of my eyes and got to my feet, snapping out of my stupor to hurry on down the street. The eerie silence compounded my fears and my footfall echoed between the tall buildings. As I ran down the centre of the road, I slowed and stopped. There didn’t seem much point in running anymore. For a moment, in the unearthly quiet, I grinned and let a small laugh escape my lips. It wouldn’t be long before lunacy slipped into my mind. What was I running from when there was nothing left to run to?

My breath lightened in my chest, and a feeling like helium invaded my head, and I dropped to the floor. The damp road seeped through my jeans, but I didn’t care, and as my head spun for once the cold asphalt beneath my fingers was the only thing that felt real.

There was nothing left in this world for me. My last foolish mission had seen me trapped for too long, and I’d known even before I escaped that she’d have gone. Our pact determined our actions and I’d been the one to ruin it. I stared up at the sky, grey and overcast without even a chem trail to follow. I knew she’d be angry, furious even, but maybe one day she’d remember me with sadness rather than ire, and recall our love with passion and reverence, but I wouldn’t blame her if it wasn’t for a very long time.

She’d start again in another country with the rest of our refugees, with everyone who’d escaped. Woozy with emotion and despair, I pulled my knees up to my chest and sat there in the road. In the periphery of my sight I knew they were coming. I didn’t care.

Unwilling to watch the gloomy shadows vacate the cover of the tenements, I buried my face against my knees, my fingers threaded over my head. I didn’t want to see what was coming for me.

Scratchy sounds dragged themselves across concrete and I tried to think of her, tried to imagine her soft arms holding me close. Groans echoed in the still air and my own moan mingled with theirs.

Then the sound of metal unsheathed whirred about my head and I cowered into my shell, as it sliced through rotten flesh and meat thudded to the ground.

“Get on your fucking feet!” she screamed, and I sprang from the ground, my head spinning.

She was here, beside me, her wakizashi swinging through the air and severing an infected head from its shoulders. I yanked my katana from its sheath and joined her, suddenly invigorated. Together we fought, until the bloody mass at our feet stopped writhing.

“I waited!” she spat at me.

“I can see that…” I replied as she threw herself at me. Relief flooded my system making my legs go weak. She kissed me, violently and fiercely, then extricated herself and stared at me.

“You prick!” She slapped me, hard across my cheek, and it blazed with fire. “Don’t you ever give up.”

“The plane?” I began.

“There won’t be another. We’re on our own,” she said, as I nodded. “Just us, that’s it.”

“That’s enough.” She grabbed my hand and we ran, flames now flowing through my body with the intense desire to live. “That’s enough.”

 

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Really enjoying getting stuck into some more short fiction for Mid-Week Flash Challenge, which you can find on Miranda’s blog. This week’s photo prompt is Surreal by Alfonso Leon and drew me right in…

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.

A Doorway to Nowhere – Mid-Week Flash Challenge

Week143Photo Cornelia KonradsThe light was definitely different. It was warmer, brighter, and at odds with the spot where Eva sat.

Eva squinted and leaned forward, resting her chin in her hands and her elbows on her knees. The light on her side glanced off her spectacles, flaring against the lenses, and she adjusted her position. She stared at the opening made of weaved twigs and sculpted into a doorway, and let her mind stray.

A portal, a gateway into another world, maybe the threshold of adventure … so many ideas spun through her brain and she let a smile spread across her lips. The leaves on the other side whispered, then the trees around her fluttered and so did her heart. It was all she could do to stay put on her small portable stool, but she did. Eva softened her grin and leaned down to pick up her book. The day was yet young.

About thirty minutes later Eva had read and reread the same page multiple times and she finally dropped the book. It rested in the moss at her feet and her gaze returned to the doorway.

Her sigh reflected the breeze and she knew the sun was different on the other side of the track. She repositioned her body again to her previous studious arrangement and watched the opening.

Eva’s eyes began to blur and her eyelids closed, just briefly as her elbow slipped off her knee, and then a bark cut through her reverie. The bark echoed bouncing off the trees and she looked up to see a golden flurry of fur flying at her through the portal. The dog, an excited retriever, bounded up and wound itself about her legs, snuffling at her feet. Unable to resist, Eva’s hands buried themselves in the dog’s fur, fluffing and stroking the animal as it pushed against her like a cat demanding attention.

“And who are you?” she asked. “Where have you come from? Somewhere exciting?” Her voice lifted and the dog licked her hands. “Another world? No wonder you want attention! What’s it like in your world?”

The dog stared at her with big brown eyes mesmerising Eva. When the dog finally strayed from her touch, snuffling back towards the portal following its own trail back through the leaf mulch, Eva followed. She didn’t even pause when the dog hurried back through the doorway, and she stepped right through.

The light shone brighter, glaring through the canopy, and Eva shielded her eyes as she tried to follow the dog, but it loped away too fast vanishing into the trees surrounding the meadow. Eva looked back through her portal. Her stool now lay on its side beside her book, dull in the lesser light, and she turned back to the meadow searching for the dog.

The sun tingled against her skin and Eva shivered with anticipation. Leaves rustled and the dog bounded back out of the trees followed by a young man. He paused when he saw Eva and called his dog to heel. Eva stood with the doorway behind her as the dog waited impatiently at the man’s side. She stepped forward and the dog leaped across the grass to welcome her.

Eva grinned as the dog eagerly jumped and the man issued a quick reprimand. “Fenrir!”

“It’s okay!” she replied, laughing.

The man hurried over with apologies slipping from his mouth and a smile in his eyes, but Eva smiled widely.

“He likes you!” the man said. “I’m Jake.”

“Eva, nice to meet you, and you too, Fenrir.”

“Are you local?” asked Jake, looking behind her at the gap in the trees framed by sculpted twigs. “I’m from the next village …” He indicated behind him with a sweeping hand. “We don’t usually walk this far, and I’ve never walked beyond the tree gate, but Fenrir got spooked and ran away – finding you, as it happens.”

Eva turned to gaze back at the sculpted trees. “Yes, a few miles back that way,” she said, smiling, and she knew her long-awaited adventure had begun. “Maybe you’d like to walk even further along the path today? With me?”

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I only wrote three Mid-Week Flash Challenge pieces last year, which you can find on Miranda’s blog, and I’d like to do better this year! So, the prompt photo of an art installation by German artist Cornelia Konrads caught me. When have I ever been able to resist trees?

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.

Embracing Change Makes Life Better

After years of saying I don’t like change, I’m changing.
I’m learning that change is not only inevitable, but essential
and I need to embrace it.

Embracing Change Makes Life Better - The Last Krystallos

I struggle with change, but now I’m seeing it differently. I used to explain my lack of enthusiasm for something new as disliking change, but what I meant was a loathing of a change in routine, or an aversion to altering my view. I admit I’m not keen on things changing unless it’s something I initiate. That’s a selfish, but very human place to be. It’s not easy to alter your point of view, or adjust to something new, it’s hard to revise your opinion, but it is essential.

Many things in my life have changed, both good and bad, but changes are necessary. Growth comes from change, and only you can decide to grow. We don’t always have control over changes that happen to us, and sometimes we will need outside help to counter trauma, finance, situation, or mental, physical, and emotional health issues. In general, though, how you react to change will be your choice. Will you initiate it, love it, embrace it, or fight and challenge it?

My life has been one of quiet acceptance and of not rocking the boat, from a childhood of muted introversion and acquiescence, while inside I screamed for control of my own until I finally broke free about fifteen years ago.

true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world - Brene Brown - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I have changed in so many ways. My mental and emotional health has been forefront and my take on life has altered hugely. My personal ethics, beliefs, and thoughts on the world are so different to how I grew up, and I’ve grown up too. I’m a very different person with different beliefs and views on life, and I’m much happier with a less rigid and more altruistic life.

I’ve had to learn to adapt to change. Living on the spectrum, for me, means anything out of the ordinary or off routine is anxiety ridden and often scary, but getting older and a necessity to find my own ways to combat mental health issues has given me strength to make changes.

Acceptance has been a big part of knowing who I am, and who I strive to be has allowed me to open up to new things. I’ve spent over a year embracing myself and letting my hair go grey. When society advocates a certain beauty standard it’s difficult to break away from that with confidence, but I’ve loved the process of turning silver and letting natural changes happen.

She understood that the hardest times in life... – Sarah Addison Allen - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I now find it easier to break away from things that are toxic, things that don’t create positivity in my life, and from ties that used to bind me. Learning that I don’t need to be the product of my childhood and upbringing, allowed me to take control and taking control means embracing change.

I cannot now imagine being tied to things that limit us. I crave a world where people embrace equality, compassion, and love, where the climate and our planet takes precedence over capitalism, political corruption, and ease, where the whole world is one without boundaries.

When our general election loomed last month my take on voting was: ‘Think of the most vulnerable person you know and vote in their best interests.’ I couldn’t, in all that’s good, let this country move on as it was without using my vote to try and make someone else’s world better.

I want to change and embrace change, especially changes that help the world and its inhabitants. It’s sad to see climate change deniers, and odd to see people deride Greta Thunberg, but listen to Sir David Attenboroughthink about that – two people saying the same thing, but peoples’ prejudices limit them from taking action, because they don’t want to be advised by a young girl. I want to make changes because it’s for the greater good.

I want to embrace equality, in a world where it doesn’t matter what race or gender or sexuality you are, and where your beliefs or political allegiance don’t make you a bigot or a hypocrite. I want to live in a world which loves everyone no matter whether they are poor, homeless, or a migrant. A world where the wealthy want to pay higher taxes to support those who’ve never had their birth-right or opportunities, a society that wants to preserve good and fair over climbing the ladder of success without regard for who they step on. I want change, I welcome it.

We cannot become what we want to be by remaining who we are - Max Depree - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Change is vital for our species to grow. I was once told ‘God doesn’t change’ but I struggle with this. We all change, and I suppose if I believe in a higher being I want them to continue to grow, develop, and become better too. I want a hereafter where we move forward, and eternity, as a concept, is continual, which demonstrates something that moves on, develops, changes, and grows.

As Steven Hawking said: ‘Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.’

Change is growth, growth is learning, learning is education, and education leads to knowledge. Knowledge brings improvement, and improvement leads to both betterment of society and ourselves.

I used to love the prayer of serenity, but life is not serene, it’s not easy, and it’s not about sitting on the side-lines. There will always be things we cannot change, but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying. Angela Davies said: ‘I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.’

Change can be scary, but you know what’s scarier Allowing fear to stop you from growing, evolving, and progressing.

© Lisa Shambrook

Sometimes change will surprise you. Eleven years ago, we brought home a puppy. I was not a dog person and for the first few weeks I struggled with this little brown-eyed dog that gazed up at me with adoration. But I fell in love and Roxy became an integral much-loved part of our family. We lost her ten years later, but she’d enriched my life on so many levels, so much so, that two months later I saw a plea for a home for another dog and I fought for her. Those sad eyes gazed out at me from my Twitter feed and I knew she needed us. It’s now a year since that tweet and almost a year since she joined our family. Kira has a past infused with neglect and loneliness and small snippets of happiness, but now she’s home with a family who are her everything. It’s a small change, just one dog, but it means everything to us and to her.

Let change glide into your life, welcome it and embrace it,
and see who you can become.

If we don’t change, we don’t grow.
If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living – Gail Sheehy

If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living – Gail Sheehy

© Lisa Shambrook

 

Northern Lights and Polar Bears Christmas Cake – 2019

When you’re re-reading Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials
and watching it on BBC, it cannot fail to inspire you…
and so my Christmas Cake this year became a tribute to
Northern Lights, the panserbjørn, and Iorek Byrnison.

Northern Lights and Polar Bears Christmas Cake 2019 - The Last Krystallsos

No armoured bears on my cake, purely because my fondant work isn’t up to scratch enough to do their armour justice, but I softened the polar bears and gave them a snowball fight instead.

Polar Bear snowball fight Christmas Cake - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I had fun with this one. Sketching out plans and then beginning always makes me think I’ve bitten off too much, but thankfully, so far, most of my cakes have worked, and I was really pleased with this one!

Polar Bear snowball fight Christmas Cake - the last krystallos.

© Lisa Shambrook

Blue fondant pool, covered by a layer of white fondant icing, melted Foxes Glacier Mints (170C for 10 – 15 mins on greaseproof paper) to make ice (I haven’t been able to stop it bubbling, but I quite like it anyway), then sculpted polar bears in white fondant, with snow balls, royal icing snow drifts, sugar silver and pearl balls, and sugar snowflakes.

Polar Bear snowball fight Christmas Cake - the last krystallos..

© Lisa Shambrook

It was also a bit of a reminder to me as ten years ago when I decorated my first cake with more than rough royal icing and plastic holly, it was with polar bears. So I’ve come full circle in a decade.

2009 - 2019 ten years of Christmas Cakes - the last krystallos

Ten years of Christmas Cakes – 2009 – 2019 © Lisa Shambrook

It’s been a bit of a bleak year, politically, and so I’m throwing myself into the few days before Christmas and enjoying my family and the Christmas spirit.

Have fun and enjoy the holidays – remember the important things:
love, compassion, and good will towards all.