Category Archives: animals

Life Lessons We Can Learn From Dogs

I was never a dog person,
but that all changed when an eight-week-old
bundle of German Shepherd was placed in my arms.

Life Lessons we can Learn from Dogs - The Last Krystallos

To be honest, it actually took me a couple of weeks to become comfortable with her, but she rested her little puppy head on my feet, and there was no going back. I fell in love. That was almost nine years ago, and she has given our family great joy.

So, here are some lessons we can learn from these most devoted of creatures…

A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than she loves herself – Josh Billings - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Truth. The most unconditional love I have ever experienced has been puppy love, the love of a dog knows no bounds and is pretty much infinite. A dog loves unconditionally and that’s a quality we should emulate as much as we can. I’m not sure we can ever love with as much purity as a dog, but we can try!

When a dog speaks, it is not language but pure feeling given voice – anonymous - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

This matches their ability to love. Dogs can’t hide their emotions, they don’t lie. When my dog greets me, leaping up at me with excitement, I know she really is happy to see me. When she’s stolen a packet of biscuits and eaten them all, and left the wrapping torn up on the floor, the look of guilt is right there for all to see. The trust in her eyes gives you everything. There’s an honesty in dogs that many humans don’t ever show.

Your dog will never wake up one day and decide he doesn_t love you anymore… anonymous - The Last Krystallos

© Caitlin Shambrook

Once dogs have given you their heart – it’s yours forever. Treat their love with respect and you will never want for affection. Let’s try and show this kind of love to all those who mean much to us. This trait revolves around love, joy, trust and forgiveness.

I think we are drawn to dogs - george bird evans - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Oh, yes, dogs know how to have fun! They don’t waste time when adventure is on the menu, just watch your pup race across a sandy beach, splash in the ocean or rivers, and lope through shady woodland. They emit pure joy! Watching my Roxy leaping into the air to catch bubbles was a true delight, and I often think I should mirror her abandon and spontaneity and embrace life for all it offers!

Dogs have a way of finding people who need them - Thom Jones - The Last Krystallos

© Bekah Shambrook

Did you ever know how a dog would fill that void you never knew existed? I had no idea how rewarding owning a dog is until I had my own. We can be that for those around us. We can be there, filling empty hearts with friendship, love, and company.

He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog - Agnes Repplier - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

This quote means a huge amount to me. My favourite poem is Beddgelert by William Robert Spencer and is a poem that makes me weep (and I dare you not to cry when you read it), but if you want pure devotion those words are where you’ll find it, within Gelert’s pure hound heart.
My Roxy sits at the window most of the day, my own personal guard dog, she saves me from the postman, delivery people, neighbours, cats that prowl the neighbourhood, and anything that might attempt entry into the house. She makes me feel safe. Outside, I know if anyone attacked me while she was there, they would have to get through her first. Devotion, loyalty, and trust are huge parts of a dog’s life, and you truly are your dog’s life, you are what they live for. Be worthy.

If we could only emulate a few of dogs’ qualities, we would be better people. We would love unconditionally, trust, guard, and care for each other, with honesty, loyalty, and pure devotion.

A dog’s life is a good life.

To Vegan or Not to Vegan – Worldbuilding a Future Generation

An appropriate post for National Vegetarian Week! When I began worldbuilding for The Seren Stone Chronicles, there was much to sort out. Set roughly two thousand years into our future, the populace has learned a great deal from our mistakes.

To Vegan or not to Vegan - Worldbuilding - Writing a Future Generation - The Last Krystallos

Their ancestors had to live through apocalyptic consequences of our generation’s capitalism and complete disregard for the environment. So, their outlook is very different to ours. Many things have changed, from the landscape which suffered and shifted hugely in the ensuing chaos, variations in the chemical makeup of minerals and natural elements, a large loss of population, and the rise of dragons

Dryslwyn Castle Cait and Lisa The Last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

The Chronicles are set in Wales within a naturally simplistic countryside, having lost the large cities a millennia or so earlier. Though technology levels, beliefs, and lives the world over will be different, my lands are a beautiful backdrop to include the changes in landscape and scenery, and to introduce dragons. It lends to a natural community which have turned their backs on twenty-first century technology and embraced the organic and elemental ways of life. This is a society that renounced plastic and tech generations ago because of its aftermath, and makes choices with empathy and a symbiotic relationship with the earth.

The Seren Stone Chronicles -Worldbuilding - Writing a Future Generation - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

The question of food and sustenance crept into my worldbuilding, and I thought I’d be making the decisions, but my characters told me exactly where their values stood.

Their choices lead me to Carnage, a BBC iPlayer mockumentary on veganism. This also coincided with my daughter (who’s been vegan for over a year and vegetarian for two) showing me Cowspiracy as I needed to learn about the environmental damage caused by our current diets and animal agriculture. I wanted to know if meat-eating, vegetarianism, or veganism would be part of their future.  I like that we can be both light-hearted and informative about veganism, especially when the stereotypes are so vicious, but both these programmes and further research opened my eyes to much more than I’d expected.

Field -To Vegan or not to Vegan - Worldbuilding - Writing a Future Generation - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

As I wrote, my characters let me know that environmental issues are an imperative part of their lives. They are determined not to make the mistakes of ancestors and they choose to live sustainably. This doesn’t mean they have no tech – just very different devices to ours – and their food choices and health became a crucial part of my worldbuilding.

They use natural materials for building, clothing, and technology, but my biggest dilemma was with leather. However, leather is still a by-product of wild animals, and dragons, quickly reaped when animals die and is highly valued and respected.

Moors - To Vegan or not to Vegan - Worldbuilding - Writing a Future Generation - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Without the huge populations that we have today, mass-marketing and factory-farming are a thing of the past, and choices based on environment, welfare, and ethics are much easier to make.

Incidentally, my research brought me to a pivotal point in my own life. I won’t judge anyone on their own choices, but within a month I was a fully-fledged vegan. We often get portrayed as self-righteous and of inflicting our food choices on others to make them feel guilty. This, in general, couldn’t be any further than the truth. Our care and evangelism is about the environment and the animals about us – and you can’t blame anyone for wanting to share how to help the world, can you?

Berries - To Vegan or not to Vegan - Worldbuilding - Writing a Future Generation - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I’ve also discovered a true love of food and the alternatives that exist out there. I thought I could never live without milk-chocolate, or cheese, or lamb, but I don’t miss any of it. My characters couldn’t imagine a life any other way, though there are definitely people who will differ and choose other diets and ways of living, just as it is in our world.

Worldbuilding is a fascinating process, especially when your characters spell out their ethics and conscience to you, and help you change your own life!

Have you ever been influenced by another world in a book,
or wished you lived in a different time?

It’s the Little Things…

Have you ever thought how it really is the little things
that make the difference in life?

It's the Little Things in life - that make you truly happy - The Last Krystallos

Last Saturday I had a good day, a really good day! I had no commitments and it was a beautiful sunny morning. I popped into town nice and early, enjoyed the sunshine, and listened to the birds sing amid the hubbub of town life. It’s the little things.

star wars tattoos - the last krystallos

Great legs! © Lisa Shambrook

I wish I’d told the man in front of me on the escalator how much I loved his legs! I did call out how cool it was to hear two girls (mother and daughter) singing ‘I’ve had the time of my life’ at the top of their lungs as they paused at the traffic lights in a cabriolet. And I smiled at a six-year-old Ironman swaggering through the precinct, flexing his muscles and grinning at everyone. It was that kind of day!

The evening before, in the warmth that predicted a beautiful day to come, Vince and I walked Roxy and listened to the birds in the trees. Noting how different their calls and songs were, from the courting couple of cooing and crooning collared doves, to the blackbird’s familiar call, to a robin red-breast singing his little heart out on the top branches.

robin singing - the last krystallos

Sometimes the smallest things are the loudest © Lisa Shambrook

Sometimes the smallest creatures sing the loudest and have the most beautiful voices.

Do we listen?

We even attempted to get a photo of the tiny robin atop the tree (our phone cameras were pitifully lacking for this!), and it was a giggle to watch passing motorists’ passengers straining their necks to see what we were looking at!

It made us realise how lucky we are, and how the littlest things can often be the best things.

It's the Little Things - The Last Krystallos

The little things are the best things © Lisa Shambrook

…Like the way your cat purrs when she snuggles into you – one of your favourite songs playing in your car – brushing your hand across velvet moss – a flower blossoming – new leaves appearing on trees – getting lost within a great book – your dog’s welcome home – your favourite hot chocolate – being silly with friends – the feel of your favourite jumper – a hug – snowflakes – your bed after a hard day – creating art – dancing in the rain – fresh baking – holding hands – watching a sunrise – something that makes you laugh and many more…

What are the little things that make you grateful and happy?

Which Animal Lives in your Heart – what Animal Are You?

Many of us identify with animals…
we relate to certain creature characteristics, to animals we connect with,
on both an aesthetic level and on a much deeper spiritual level.

Which Animal Lives in Your Heart - What Animal are You - The Last Krystallos

Lots of novels bond their protagonists with animals, from Philip Pullman’s Lyra and Pantalaimon, her dæmon, in His Dark Materials, to Harry Potter and his stag Patronus, and countless other books. My own Seren Stone Chronicles, which I’m currently writing contain animals that have connected with some of my characters, and it’s definitely fun to write.

Many cultures have beliefs that connect them to animals like Native American Spirit Guides and Animal Totems. There is huge significance to those who recognise their animal guides, and it’s not a frivolous choice of whatever creature you like, but a deeply sacred experience. There are plenty of online games and quizzes to find your Spirit Animal, but it doesn’t work like that, a Spirit Guide will come to you, not the other way round and no one can assign an animal to you.

So, I am not talking about Spirit Guides or Spirit Animals here, I’m taking a more light-hearted look at animals that we feel a commonality with.

Years ago I wrote a paragraph, at a time when I felt trapped and confined in my life, and I yearned for escape: ‘I once answered a question: If you could be an animal, which would you be and why?  No hesitation… I would be a horse, a wild horse. “I couldn’t stand being a trained horse, left in a field and ridden when the owner wished…” I wrote. “I would be wild and free, roaming valleys, mountains, forests… I would race, chase the wind and explore, as free as the air. Graceful and beautiful.” Then I put a spin on my answer, I wouldn’t be a horse, I’d be a unicorn. I would not only be wild and free, but I’d be mythical and mysterious. People would wonder if I really existed, I would live in dreams, a free spirit, magical and carefree… I would be a unicorn.’

When I came upon this piece recently, it made me think about animals we relate to, and what animal I would associate with myself? Then I expanded and was curious which animals I would link my family to. I wonder if they agree?

Although I don’t like to limit the choice to one, I’d still love to be a unicorn – I know much more about myself and I believe I am probably a Squirrel

Lisa Squirrel

© Lisa Shambrook (bottom right: Squirrel wallpaper)

I’m anxious, socially awkward, and a hoarder. I scamper about erratically, bright-eyed and bushy tailed, collecting treasure – acorn cups in particular – and I am very much at home in nature, within the forests, wandering through mossy glens beside trickling streams. I will observe you from a distance, and maybe, just maybe, if I feel confident enough, I’ll sidle up close to see if I can trust you enough with my presence! I am soft, nervous, bold, a paradox, and wild, just like a squirrel.

Vince Bear

© Lisa Shambrook (top left: Bear wallpaper)

I see my husband as a bear, a big, brown bear. He keeps me safe, and gives me confidence and my trust in him is implicit. He’s large, in the best way, has a huge heart and when I’m in his arms, nothing can touch me. When he’s grizzly and grouchy he needs love and appreciation, and then his fur fluffs up and he’s happy to explore and adventure with us. His inner strength shines like the sun. Vince is cuddly, protective, tender, warm and passionate, just like a bear.

Bekah Fox

© Lisa Shambrook (top left: Fox wallpaper, bottom right: Fox wallpaper)

Bekah is a wild one, she moves to her own beat, and follows her own path. She has a nature that embraces adventure and exploration, and a spirit that defies definition. She knows what she’s doing, constantly bettering herself, learning new things and developing. Bekah is an individual – conforming is not in her dictionary – and her style is her own. She is passion and cunning, spirit and character; she’ll twinkle like the stars and keep you enchanted and enthralled, just like a fox.

Dan Dog

© Lisa Shambrook

Dan is definitely a puppy dog. He’s cheerful and loving and sensitive to everything about him. He’ll play with gusto and disregard, and throw himself right in at the deep end. Dan will be your rock, your companion, the person you can rely on, and he will trust you just as you trust him. He is faithful and strong, playful and open. You’ll know exactly where you are with him. He’s adorable, happy, stubborn, funny, and caring, and will always be there for you, just like a pup.

Cait Wolf

© Lisa Shambrook (top left: Wolf wallpaper)

My lone wolf is Cait, a spirit that seeks something deeper and won’t rest ‘til she finds it. She’s a deep thinker, an empathic soul that desires the best in an imperfect world. She wonders in the simplicity of nature, and yearns for compassion in her fiery heart. Cait will champion your cause and fight for your rights while wrapping herself within her own aesthetic. She is quiet, sullen, bright, and quick-witted, sharp and devoted, and she will move beneath the moon, just like a wolf.

What animal do you relate to most and what do you think others’ would perceive you as?

If you could be any animal, which would you choose?    

And…I might be a unicorn, or a squirrel, but I am also a dragon, and a cat…
and much, much more! What about you?