Category Archives: Art

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

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.

Gems and Birthstones

Gemstones fascinate me on many levels and are integral parts of my current manuscript.
Gems and crystals speak to me as grounding influences, vibrating with their own energy. Albert Einstein once said that ‘…everything in life is vibration.’
They also sparkle like stars and thus fulfil my sense of connection with the universe.  

gems and birthstones - the last krystallos

I love pretty things and stones of any kind have been a passion since I was small. My interest began when dad got a gemstone tumbler and with birthstone pendants and rings in the Argos catalogue, but I was disappointed when October’s birthstone was always downgraded to rose instead of opal. I desperately wanted an opal of my own.

Recently, my research into crystals has been extensive because of their use in The Seren Stone Chronicles, of which the three first drafts are now finished. I have a beautiful collection of stones and decided, being January, that it’d be fun to post about birthstones.

Birthstones are thought to originate from biblical and ancient uses. Twelve stones used in Aaron’s breastplate are considered to represent the twelve tribes of Israel. Later, these twelve gems were linked with zodiac signs. Other ancient civilisations believed these stones had powers connected to luck, health, and power. Modern day lists differ from traditional lists, and some cultures have their own lists.  My list is based on the British more romanticised version.

January – Garnet

Garnet is a deep-red stone of health that enhances energy, passion, and pleasure. It is said that the only light on Noah’s Ark was provided by a Garnet stone. Garnet is a good stone to help with depression, as it brings joy and hope to the wearer and helps lessen the anger directed at oneself. It also cleanses the chakras of negative energy, re-energizing them in the process.

January - Garnet

January – Garnet © Lisa Shambrook

February – Amethyst

A very popular purple quartz ranging from the lightest lilac to deep-purple, the presence of maganese and iron changes clear quartz to amethyst. It has a reputation as a healing stone. It is a crystal of spiritual growth and protection. Ancient Greeks believed it would ward off drunkenness and for centuries, myths and legends have had strong religious and cultural connections with Amethyst.

February - Amethyst

February – Amethyst © Lisa Shambrook

March – Aquamarine

Aquamarine simply means seawater and it’s hues of pale blue conjure up coastal seas. It has been said to embody eternal life and is connected with youth and hope. It was the treasure of mermaids and used by sailors for protection. Aquamarine is a stone associated with the throat chakra and is a stone of cleansing and communication.

March - Aquamarine

March – Aquamarine © Lisa Shambrook

April – Diamond

Diamonds have been long associated with love and desire, known for their strength and value. It was once believed that diamonds were made when lightning hit rock, now we know they are made from carbon. Once known as the Stone of Invincibility due to its hardness crystallising deep underground under intense pressure. Diamonds are spiritual stones and are a symbol of wealth.

I own Herkimer Diamonds, named for the Herkimer mines in the US. They are double-terminated crystals often with inclusions of air bubbles or black carbon. I find them just as beautiful as traditional diamonds.

Diamond - April - Herkimer Diamond stone

Diamond – April – Herkimer Diamond stone © Lisa Shambrook

May – Emerald

Rich green gems known as symbols of love and rebirth. They are said to have been Cleopatra’s favourite stone, symbolising youth, eternal life, and friendship. Emeralds are amongst the rarest of gems, often found with inclusions which can enhance their worth, making them unique. It is a stone of wisdom, enhancing memory and increasing mental clarity.

May - Emerald

May – Emerald © Lisa Shambrook

June – Pearl

Both Pearl and Alexandrite are birthstones of June. Pearl has been much sought after through the ages. Myths in Persia called pearls the tears of the gods. Pearls are the only gemstone created by living creatures.  A pearl is formed when an irritant gets inside an oyster, or a mussel or clam shell, and it exudes fluid called nacre which coats the irritant in many layers eventually creating a pearl. Pearls can be cultured or freshwater and come in a range of colours from white to black.

Alexandrite is very rare and worth more than both rubies and diamonds. It’s a rare colour changing variety of chrysoberyl, changing colour from blue to green, and in artificial light red to pink. When they were first discovered the miners thought they’d found emerald only to bring them out and find by the camp fire they looked like rubies. It symbolises wealth, prosperity, and good fortune. A stone of positivity and self-confidence.

June - Pearl - Oyster

June – Pearl – Oyster © Lisa Shambrook

July – Ruby

Ruby is the most valuable of all gemstones depending on its colour. The most valuable rubies are deep red with a hint of blue. Ruby has always been a symbol of passion, protection, and prosperity. It was known as an inextinguishable flame. Ruby is red Corundum, which is an aluminium oxide mineral with chromium which causes its rich colour. It’s also known as an aphrodisiac.

When Ruby in zoisite was discovered in Tanzania in the 1950’s they thought they’d discovered huge deposits of ruby, but this gemstone a combination of ruby and zoisite crystals produced a more opaque ruby that was much more affordable.

July - Ruby - Ruby in Zoisite

July – Ruby – Ruby in Zoisite © Lisa Shambrook

August – Peridot

Peridot is the gem-quality stone of Olivine. Olivine in dust form has been found on the moon, and in comet dust brought back to earth on the Stardust robotic space probe in 2006. Like diamonds they are born of pressure in molten rock of the upper mantle beneath earthquakes and volcanoes. It’s associated with the sun and used to force back darkness. It has been valued for years as a healing stone of the heart chakra. Peridot is said to bring magic and healing powers to its wearer. It is also the stone connected to the Archangel Raphael.

Peridot is the backbone for my new series of books The Seren Stone Chronicles.

August - Peridot - Peridot on Basalt

August – Peridot – Peridot on Basalt © Lisa Shambrook

September – Sapphire

This is a gem known for loyalty and trust. It is a stone of wisdom and royalty steeped in history and lore and religion. The Ten Commandments given to Moses were said to have been engraved on tablets of sapphire. It is used within many religions and cultures as a stone of spiritual enlightenment, worship, and devotion. Its colour moves from royal blue to indigo and are much prized as a talisman of honesty and purity.

The stone I have is Water Sapphire, also known as iolite, dichroite, or cordierite.

September - Sapphire - Water Sapphire, or iolite

September – Sapphire – Water Sapphire, or iolite © Lisa Shambrook

October – Opal

October is known for two birthstones, Opal and Tourmaline. Opals are known for containing the colours of the rainbow and come in the palest form, almost white,  and as triplet with deep blues, green, and pinks. They can be translucent or as glittery as fire. Pliny, the Roman historian, described opal as a precious stone containing the fiery flame of the carbuncle (Garnet), the resplendent purple of the Amethyst, and the sea-green glory of the Emerald – all shining together in incredible union and exquisite pleasure. It’s been linked to superstitions and bad luck but has remained a favourite gem. The Andean Opal (the stone in my pictures) is considered to be a gift from Pachamama, the earliest Inca Goddess of Fruitfulness and Mother Earth. Opals are known for reflection and are emotional stones.

Tourmaline is found in black variety and pinks, blues, and greens. It combines more colours than any other crystal group. Black Tourmaline is a protection stone, and is grounding. It is also electrical in nature and provides connection between the earth and the human spirit.

Also pictured are opal rings and bracelet which match my birthstone. I finally bought my own opal ring from Castleton in Derbyshire in my teens, and received another from my husband just a few years ago.

October - Opla - Andean Opal

October – Opla – Andean Opal © Lisa Shambrook

November – Topaz

Topaz and Citrine are November’s birthstones. Topaz comes in many colours from clear silver topaz, to yellow, brown, blue, green, red, and pink. Blue used to be the rarest colour but now its colour can be enhanced and it has become the most popular. Natural blue topaz is very rare. Blue topaz draws inspiration from the sky and promotes truth, expression, and confidence. It’s soothing and calm. Silver topaz is attributed to the crown chakra and enhances your feeling of self. A stone of good fortune and love.

Citrine a beautiful golden-yellow quartz known for vitality and is said to be a healing crystal. It contains the power of the sun and is a stone of new beginnings. It never needs cleansing and is a stone of positivity. It’s name comes from the French word for lemon, citron.

November - Topaz - Silver Topaz and Blue Topaz

November – Topaz – Silver Topaz and Blue Topaz © Lisa Shambrook

December – Turquoise

Turquoise and Lapis Lazuli used to be the traditional birthstones of December, but modern calendars now include Tanzanite and Zircon. Turquoise is one of the oldest stones known to us, and was prized amongst Native Americans, Aztecs, Incas, Persians, Chinese, and Egyptians in particular. It is a sacred stone known for protection, healing, and wisdom. It can be robin’s egg blue or laced with spider web veins in cream or brown. It’s a stone of calm and wellbeing.

Tanzanite is a relatively new deep-blue stone with hues of purple, discovered only in the 1960’s in Tanzania. It’s a stone for spiritual exploration and is a soft stone, needing care when being worn.

Zircon comes from the Arabic words ‘zar’ (gold) and ‘gun’ (colour) and is often blue, but is found in clear forms and yellow to red. It should not be confused with cubic zirconia which is a lab made gem stone. It is supposed to be a pain reliever and to protect travellers.

December - Turquoise

December – Turquoise © Lisa Shambrook

Crystals and gems, whatever your belief, are beautiful and evocative, and make me happy.

What’s your birthstone?

Loving Boots – Wearing and Caring for Dr Martens

‘I’m from long flowing skirts and Dr Martens,
swishing and clumping down the street…
…I’m from kicking through leaves, golden, red, russet, and brown,
and splashing through puddles, letting the joy of life infuse me.’

Loving Boots – Wearing and Caring for Dr Martens – thelastkrystallos
You can find more about who I am on my blog’s About Me, but these things are intrinsic to my soul and boots have always been part of my life – from my very first pair of Dolcis grey suede pixie boots way back in the eighties, to Feud, and Fly, and Hotter, and Docs… I don’t generally do heels, and I live in boots pretty much all twelve months of the year, bar a few hot summer weeks!

Docs are the perfect boots for artists and creative typesthere are so many customised docs out there, from Dr Martens and from artists – perhaps that’s why they resonate with me so much. I love switching laces and ribbons, and they look great with anything, jeans, tulle, long skirts, short skirts, lace, anything. They are the basis of my wardrobe!

Arcadia 1460 Cherry Red Docs and Burgundy tulle Feb 2018

Arcadia 1460 Cherry Red © Lisa Shambrook

Last Christmas I got Arcadia 1460 in Cherry Red, and red ribbons and burgundy tulle just worked! When winter closes in I’ll be back in my 1420 black boots, 20 eye long boots (currently unavailable at Dr Martens), which see me through the rain and snow! And next on my list will be 1490’s, or 1914, or 1B99 Virginia… how will I choose?

Recently, I bought JMW Turner ‘Fishermen At Sea’ 1460 Cristal Suede Dr Martens, inspired by Turner and his paintings found at the Tate gallery (also currently not available in store). I adore being able to wear art on my feet!

JMW Turner 1460 Dr Martens Fishermen at sea - Aug 2018

JMW Turner 1460 Dr Martens ‘Fishermen at sea’ © Lisa Shambrook

As a rule, docs need wearing in, and I suggest investing in preventative blister plasters as you do so, but in a few weeks you will be wearing the most comfortable boots ever! And my Turner Cristal Suede boots were so soft they needed no wearing in at all.

I was surprised when I read the reviews that several people had returned their Turner boots due to the crackle leather wearing. First off, Cristal Suede is designed to become distressed and peel a little on first use to reveal the base contrasting colour. Secondly, they only shed a tiny amount of paint and you can easily protect the boots.

I bought, as advised, when I contacted Dr Martens for care instructions, Crep Protect, a hydrophobic protection spray. Two coats and any liquid rolls right off the leather.

Dr Martens uses crackle leather (Cristal Suede) on several boot designs – I really want ‘Power, Corruption & Lies’ Joy Division 1460’s – and knowing how to keep them well looked after is imperative to enjoying your boots.

1420 Dr Martens Long Boots Lisa's Docs October 2016

1420 Dr Martens © Lisa Shambrook

Though expensive, these boots are tough, long lasting, and can be repaired when necessary. My daughter is a cobbler, and when my DM soles came away she was quick to point out it wasn’t Dr Martens fault, my car heater was to blame – a common problem with aiming the heat at your feet throughout winter – it can melt away the glue that holds the sole to the boot or shoe. I was glad my beloved docs could be resoled; however, I’ll be keeping direct heat off my feet during cold winters!

1420 Boots - Arcadia 1460 - JMWTurner 1460 Dr Martens

1420 Boots – Arcadia 1460 – JMWTurner 1460 © Lisa Shambrook

I often give my characters Dr Martens – Jasmine in Beneath the Distant Star (release date 11th December 2018) wears Cherry Red docs, and Loren also wears Dr Martens in The Seren Stone Chronicles, currently being written… They’re going to be my boot of choice for a very long time!

Look after your docs and they’ll look after you…

So, Dm’s are my mainstay and I love them.
What are your favourite boots?

Ten Places I Found Joy This Winter

The cold months hold some real treasures –
here’s how and where I found joy this winter…

Ten Places I Found Joy This Winter - The Last Krystallos

It doesn’t matter what the weather, I spied a meadow through a gate swathed in fog and it made the most beautiful picture. The Elan Valley was cold and crisp when Bekah and I visited and the walk was stunning. A simple dog walk through local roads and fields conjure up joy especially when you’re wrapped up warm. The girls and I went up to Brechfa Forest to do a photoshoot for Cait’s art, the mist and rain offered a haunting vista through the woods.

Misty Meadow - Pen y Bont Elan Valley - Local Dog Walking - Brechfa Forest - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Vince and I escaped to London for a weekend, it rained, but The Phantom of The Opera made it memorable along with the sights and sounds of the city. Seeing the Shard disappear up into fog was beautiful. The seagulls perching atop George IV’s head and horse in Trafalgar Square were highly amusing as the statue itself had anti-bird spikes about the plinth, didn’t bother the birds, George’s head will do just fine!

Lisa and Vince Tower Bridge - Shard City of London - George IV Trafalgar Sq - Phantom of the Opera - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I mentioned being wrapped up warm. Winter is cold, and my Scottish fingerless gloves were invaluable during the cold. My Stargazer pyjamas, I don’t think I’ve ever owned nightwear up ‘til now, but I love these! My grey scarf was a must this season, and I got Dr Martens, Cherry Red Arcadia for Christmas and matched them up with this cute burgundy tulle skirt to feel especially good!

Scottish Gloves - Stargazer - Grey Scarf - Cherry Red Arcadia Dr Martens - Burgundy Tulle - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Those fingerless gloves helped keep my fingers typing during my edits, even if Raven wanted attention instead. Writing and reading brings me great joy and tapping away at the keyboard during winter months is one of my favourite things. I redrew my maps and sketched for my new work in progress The Seren Stone.

Raven interrupting edits - research - A Symphony of Dragons - Maps and Edits - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

The best thing is getting out in the cold is for a Hot Chocolate and weekdays means my kids joining me at Pethau Da in Carmarthen.

Pethau Da Hot Chocolate - Bekah and Lisa, Dan, Cait and Lisa

© Lisa Shambrook

The other thing I spent a lot of winter doing was painting, some are secret projects, but I treated myself to some gorgeous art this Christmas from Tahina Morrison and J Edward Neill’s Hither The Wind and Amanda Makepeace’s Winter Raven. My children bought Vince and I the best anniversary gift with a print of the constellations on our wedding day. The stars are my thing!

Art - Hither the Wind - Winter Raven - Constellations - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Crystals and stars are my happy place. Peridot gems have been part of my research for The Seren Stone Chronicles, as are both smoky and clear quartz, I’ve been learning much about crystal therapy and using stones within my writing. The bracelet brought me great joy when Vince bought the Trollbead Wishful Sky set. It came along with one of my favourite quotes: I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the dark…

Peridot - Smoky Quartz - Clear Quartz - Trollbeads - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Our pets give us huge joy, Roxy will flip to her back and ask for a belly rub which just melts us, Raven curls up and purrs like a motorbike, and Misty had us all in hysterics when I took my new Docs out their box and she jumped in. When I tried to reclaim the box you can clearly see her warning to just walk away…

Roxy - Raven - Misty - Roxy - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Then nature gives us the most spectacular displays. In December we had a Super Blue Blood Moon and as it shone over the River Towy, I stood totally entranced. It snowed, briefly in Carmarthen, but much more the country over, and just crunching in the little snow we had brought me joy! Snowdrops have just begun to nod their stunning heads, and chasing rainbows has always brought glorious moments.

Super Blue Blood Moon River Towy - Rainbow - Snow - Snowdrops - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Lastly, there are moments of joy in unexpected places. Discovering baby reindeer in town at Christmas, finding Jack Frost’s handiwork on your car windscreen when you get up, holding a baby dragon in an acorn cup… and the beauty in things that aren’t always beautiful, the rainbows of colour in an oil spill on the pavement.

Reindeer - Jack Frost - Baby Dragon - Oil Rainbow - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

These are the things I notice,
simple and, sometimes, small things that bring me great joy.

Loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night - Sarah Williams - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Where did you find joy this winter?  

From Dusk to Dawn – Mid-Week Flash Challenge

Mid-week Flash Challange-Emerald Depths-Danielle CliftonIt was never going to be easy, and I’d pondered long and hard, and now the choice literally stared me right in the face.

The wind whipped across the moor and I glanced back as its chill bit through my bones. Faces worn with years of decay, pain, and fear stared at me. Crippled bodies, like mine, bore the brunt of the bitter gale atop this mountain and waited.

I’d spent more than an hour staring through the portals, trying to decide. There was no hurry, the chase had ended and we were all that was left. A few hundred of us, lost, but surviving, just waiting now for salvation. And that salvation rested upon my own crooked shoulders.

The storm whistled through the valley and across the crags, and the sun dived behind clouds as the mist rose below us, shrouding the world. The time was now. I turned to face them, my back braced against the blustery wind.

“This is it. It’s all or nothing and this world won’t survive much longer. This is the only way.” I began, raising my voice as loud as I could against the squall. Hundreds of pairs of eyes never left my face as I spoke. I indicated the rear portal. “That one won’t work; look at the storm raging inside… And this one,” I swept my hand out. “is reaching its own twilight, its own dusk. We all know what happens next. So, it’s this one, at the front. Look! The sun still shines as if morning breaks. A new day, that’s what we need and that’s where we’re going.”

I stepped aside and motioned for those at the front to shuffle forward. Tired limbs brought them to the gate, to the portal, to a new life, and with only my words to trust they stepped through. I didn’t realise I was holding my breath until I watched their twisted frames straighten and breathe deep in the fresh air that wafted through the gate as they moved through. The queue moved, gaining momentum, until I was alone. I stood for a moment, staring through the threshold, sudden uncertainty overwhelming me. Then I took a deep breath and stepped though.

It was indeed the dawning of a new age.

0000. Divider

Another brilliantly evocative picture for Miranda’s Mid-Week Flash Challenge, this time from Emerald DepthsDanielle Clifton.

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.

Dragons, Stars, and Works in Progress

Look at the stars look how they shine for you and everything you do…
this is my stargazing year.

Dragons, Stars, and Works in Progress - The Last Krystallos

This post is perhaps more for me than anyone else, but it means I have something in writing which makes a difference.

Goals that are not written down are just wishes – Fitzhugh Dodson - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

My plans for this year encompass change and small steps, but steps that will take me to the stars – to reach them and write about them.

I have a few secret projects involving art and writing and marketing, and the continuation of The Seren Stone Chronicles. So, to fit my mental health I’m taking small steps, one thing at a time.

small steps - dragons, stars, wip - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

A Symphony of Dragons is doing very well – if you’ve read it I could do with more reviewsreviews help us reach much larger audiences – and my marketing is concentrating on this beautiful book of short stories, though my marketing will expand again later in the year.

A Symphony of Dragons - Lisa Shambrook - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Last year I completed The Seren Stone, and it’s almost at its beta reading stage. I have a couple of changes to add, then it’ll go out to my readers, before arriving back and going through more changes (see, I said this is a year of change!). While The Seren Stone is out in the hands of its betas I’ll be working on paintings and hopefully have some news for you in the Spring.

I can’t wait to begin working on the first draft of the second book in the series. It’s all mapped out and ready to go, and as the daffodils and tulips bloom so will the book. The third book of the trilogy will hopefully get its first draft late in the year, and once I am sure all three work together then plans to get The Seren Stone out there will move forward. I’m planning on releasing it Spring 2019, with its sequels in 2020 and 2021.

I also plan to write more flash fiction, writing exercises that promote inspiration, skill, and fun. My life feels very tight and restricted right now, so, letting loose with my words will be cathartic.

Look at the stars look how they shine for you and everything you do – Coldplay – The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Life hasn’t been easy and though I’m currently off medication because the side effects were so severe, my anxiety and panic attacks are still spiking. I’m trying to work through this year by removing the main triggers for anxiety, anything to stop the urge to run, and counter the waves of panic that build within my chest. Part of that is learning to put myself first for a change. That may mean I’m negligent in other areas, but sometimes you need to go right back to the basics and learning to accept yourself is part of that.

I’m planning to fly with my dragons this year and reach the stars.

Forest Fox – Christmas Cake 2017

Padding softly through the snowy woodland
the Forest Fox searches for somewhere safe and cosy to sleep…
and he becomes this year’s Christmas cake theme.

Forest Fox Christmas Cake 2017 - The Last Krystallos - Lisa Shambrook - title

I decorated my cake with some of my favourite things: woodland animals, acorns, snow, autumn/winter leaves, and trees.

Forest Fox Sleepy Christmas Cake 2017 - The Last Krystallos - Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

I relate to the aloneness of foxes (not loneliness), so right now it is the most appropriate creature to decorate my cake. I did not want to think about people. I wanted the trees, the scents and colors, the shifting shadows of the wood, which spoke a language I understood. I wished I could simply disappear in it, live like a bird or a fox through the winter, and leave the things I had glimpsed to resolve themselves without me.’ ― Patricia A. McKillip, Winter Rose.

 

Forest Fox Trio - The Last Krystallos - Lisa Shambrook 2017

© Lisa Shambrook

I covered the cake with smooth fondant icing, concealing a mound that my fox can find shelter beneath. I made chocolate fondant logs (sadly, the chocolate fondant I found is not vegan, so is the only bit Bekah won’t be able to eat!) and a tree trunk, and filled it with fondant snowballs, sugar snowflakes, and silver and pearl sugar balls. He sleeps on a bed of winter fallen oak leaves. Acorns and holly leaves are strewn across the den and paw prints show you how he got there!

Forest Fox Acorns Christmas Cake 2017 - The Last Krystallos - Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

I mentioned in my last post that the cake is vegan. I used dairy-free margarine/butter (vegetable or sunflower oil based spread) and instead of eggs I used chickpea water. This worked really well. The chickpea water (aquafaba – bean water) has a strong smell of beans, so I added a few drops of vanilla essence as I whisked it. 3 tablespoons of chickpea water replaces one egg, and needs to be whisked for a few minutes until foamy then added as you would each egg. The resultant cake is lovely. The smell of beans fades with baking and the cake is firm and looks no different to an ordinary Christmas cake. Smells gorgeous while baking and tastes no different!

Next time I make a sponge cake for my vegan daughter, I will definitely be using chickpea water.

Forest Fox Woodland Christmas Cake 2017 - The Last Krystallos - Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

CaptureSo, when it came to guessing how I’d decorate my cake many people looked back at my love of dragons and thought a variety of dragons could adorn my cake for a second year, but not so. Nobody except almost my husband guessed this one. If he’d switched his guess of squirrel with fox he’d have got it outright! My daughter, Cait, did guess woodland animals… But without a correct answer online I put all the names of those who’ve made a guess into a Random Name Selector and Julia came up as the winner! Julia, you’ll be getting a signed copy of A Symphony of Dragons!

Forest Fox Christmas Cake 2017 - The Last Krystallos - Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

Christmas is only a few days away – and I wish you all the joy it can bring!

Enjoy your Christmas Cake!

The Beast Bits of Halloween

See what I did there? The Beast Bits…
Posting a day early to celebrate the Spookiest Time of Year – Halloween.
Trigger Warning – There is (not real) Blood in this Post…

The Beast Bits of Halloween - The Last Krystallos

I love Magic and the Moon, and Pumpkins, and Blood and Gore (when it’s not real), and lacy Spider Webs, Bats and Potions, and Haunted Houses, and CatsI always love cats! And they all come together for October 31stHalloween.

So what is Halloween for you?

Bats flying free, Trick or Treat, or Hot Chocolate in a cosy coffee shop decorated with pumpkins. Do Dragons sparkle across your Autumn sky? Gargoyles and Demons slink about amid the curl of Death as flowers and leaves dry while the Fae hold court. Pumpkins, carved and soup, Potions and Poisons, beware and be careful!

Halloween - Trick-or-Treat, Demons, Pumpkins, Potions, Poisons - The Beast Bits of Halloween - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

We’ve never shied away from blood and gore… Bekah’s make-up artist years have served us well with Guts and Zombies, and Slit Throats, Bullet Holes, and Pencil Protrusions. As a family we embraced our Halloween Evil. Do you fear Clowns, Darth Maul, or Vampires, or does the Grim Reaper haunt your soul?

Halloween - Zombies, Evil Clown, Darth Maul, The Grim Reaper - The Beast Bits of Halloween - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook © Bekah Shambrook © Cait Shambrook  © Dan Shambrook 

We’ve also embraced the softer side of Halloween, I mean, who doesn’t love a Black Cat? We’ve rescued Bats, listened to Owls and kissed Toads! We love the Magic of Harry Potter, and any chance to Cosplay.

Halloween - Black Cats, Owl, Toad, Bats, Demon, Harry Potter - The Beast Bits of Halloween - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook © Bekah Shambrook

And then there’s the Creepy side of Blood, and Skeletons, and Black Magic. Can you deal with Creepy Crawlies, and their fragile Webs? Full Moon and Darkness fill the Autumn night and take us into chilly Winter. Toadstools, Candles, and Cauldrons, and have you ever stayed in a Spooky Haunted House?

Halloween - Blood, Skeletons, Magic, Moon, Trees, Haunted House, Cauldrons - The Beast Bits of Halloween - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

What makes Halloween for you?

Visual Sensory Aid…

How do we process life? How do we learn and how do we cope?
Are you Visual, Auditory, or Kinaesthetic?

Visual Sensory Aid - The Last Krystallos
I recently discussed this with my daughters, and we found that we each work/cope/learn/love differently according to our Neuro Linguistic Programming, NLP. It is thought that 60% of us are Visual, while 20% are Auditory, and 20% Kinaesthetic.

I posted a piece How to Feel Loved – Discover your Love Strategy back in 2015 helping us to find out how we feel love. My love strategy is Kinaesthetic, but overall my outlook on life is Visual.

Visual Sensory Aid - Tiger - Bubble - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

When completing a VAK Survey, I score a full house in Visual. You can get an idea of your VAK Visual, Auditory or Kinaesthetic learning style/type here.

We were browsing stores when Bekah picked up a sensory toy and thrust it into my hands, proclaiming it should be mine. She was right. I suffer anxiety and panic, and I have Sensory Processing Disorder which means I often need ways to distract myself from the pangs of panic, the tentacles of anxiety, and the sensitivity of SPD.

Eyes Visual - Bekah Shambrook - The Last Krystallos

© Bekah Shambrook

I’ve been trying to meditate, but I struggle to stay focused for long enough. I am such a visual person that my imagination goes into overdrive when I settle to meditate and my thoughts stray too fast for meditation to be much use. Meditation does work in the right place, and I can sometimes use my visualisation skills to take me on a journey, and follow through the exercise, but often I fall short.

I need something that will help give me a time out when I get too restless.

I have a stim that grounds me when I’m out or in company – acorn cups – smoothing them between thumb and forefinger help to keep me focused and grounded, but at home it’s nice to find something different to help.

Visual Sensory Aid - Tiger - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

This toy does just that. It’s similar to a lava lamp, and the little toys with coloured oil slipping through water.

A coloured (oil based?) slime falls like an egg timer, and slips through a hole in the centre of a container. It runs through, creating bubbles that rise and coils of slime as it falls. The whole process in this version (£3 from Tiger) takes about six to seven minutes.

I use it as a grounding tool, a time out, a relaxation moment, a focusing tool, and just time to think. And it works!

The movement stimulates my brain, both calming it and opening it. I can shut out the world and just watch it, or I can focus on the green kinetic movement and allow my brain to clear and alleviate anxiety, or clear my thoughts and let me move forward. It works with my visual programming!

Watch for just one minute…I love how calming this is!

Are you Visual, Auditory, or Kinaesthetic?
Do you have any little tips, toys, stims, which help you remain grounded?