Category Archives: Art

Amaranth Alchemy – Beautiful Gifts from Broken Books

If you love art, jewellery, craft, and books you will appreciate the
time, energy, love, and passion that goes into creating something magical.
This is how you can pay it back and forward…

Amaranth Alchemy – Beautiful Gifts from Broken Books

Matching in with my Reviews post – support local and creative businesses this year.
The sales creatives make during November and December make all the difference.
Take a look at crafters, jewellers, artists, and authors…

Photograph of gifts by Amaranth Alchemy on Etsy: Potion bottle necklaces, book page bookmarks, book spine bookmarks, tie bars and frames.

Amaranth Alchemy gifts

It’s difficult to sustain a craft business all year round, so we often concentrate on Spring and Winter seasons, and make probably the lion’s share of our sales in lead up to Christmas. To be honest, it makes sense, I do most of my year’s buying in October and November too.

Think about spending your hard earned money locally, ethically, and with small independent businesses. Large conglomerates will usually keep going without your purchase, but we, small crafters, totally depend on your trade. Our winter sales will keep us going, encourage us, and make us deliriously happy.

Ocean Dreams and Neptune's Night-tide Potion Bottles by Amaranth Alchemy

Amaranth Alchemy Potion Bottles

My own Etsy store, Amaranth Alchemy is restocked each September, but this year has seen many of us with the least amount of disposable cash ever and sales have been poor. Watching large stores like Mothercare, and in previous years BHS etc, go to the wall worry the little fish in the ocean like me, is there still space for us? I say, yes, because we offer something the big stores don’t – a personal touch and originality.

I’m also working to be ethically and environmentally sound, reusing packaging and envelopes, and crafting with items that would have gone to landfill if they hadn’t been rescued.

Photos of parcels in brown paper and recycled packaging from Amaranth Alchemy

Parcels from Amaranth Alchemy

I make gifts using old, damaged, lost and ruined books, breathing new life into old pages. I make bookmarks from books that have lost pages, been torn, and ripped apart. I rescue spines and pages to make classic bookmarks and wall hanging plaques, I have peg magnets – perfect for keeping those notes and lists on your fridge or freezer, necklaces with dictionary words, and potion bottle necklaces with names from a forsaken and broken poetry book.

Photograph of gifts by Amaranth Alchemy on Etsy: Potion bottle necklaces, book page bookmarks, book spine bookmarks, tie bars and frames.

Amaranth Alchemy gifts

Gems caught up with faery song in a tiny glass vial, enchanting sand from Neptune’s night tide, and precious lightning crystals. Keep them safe as you wear them about your neck.

Photograph of gifts by Amaranth Alchemy on Etsy: Potion bottle necklaces - Lightning crystals with glass crystals, A Faery's Song with peridot gems, Amethyst Dreams with purple glitter, Ocean Dreams and Neptune's NIght-tide with sand, Winter Forests with moss and leaves.

Potion Bottle necklaces

As an added bonus you’ll find all my books in my shop too, signed copies at a cheaper price than bookstores.

A Symphony of Dragons, Human 76, Beneath the Rainbow, Beneath the Old Oak, and Beneath the Distant Star by Lisa Shambrook

My Books

The postage time has passed for many overseas sales, but if you’re in the UK, see what I and many others on Etsy and their own websites have to offer. Find your one-of-a-kind gift and support buying small and local this year.

Amaranth Alchemy products

Amaranth Alchemy on Etsy © Lisa Shambrook

Many thanks for all the sales I’ve had over the years. I love buying from real people who put their heart and soul into their work, and most of my Christmas shopping has been via Etsy and other small businesses. It’s a pleasure to support them, and in so doing I want to support another friend with her own Etsy store… Take a look at Aureliola’s jewellery and see if she’s made something you or a loved one would adore too.

photos of Aureliola's jewellery on Etsy: Mermaid, polar bear, fairy, fairy wings, mermaid, flowers

Aureliola – winter collection

We work hard to try and make original and different gifts
and every sale makes us smile and lifts our heart! 

Support those who create the art that allows you to escape into adventures
and other worlds, and those who give you beauty to enrich your lives.

 

Colours to Inspire – Metallic – What’s Your Favourite?

I’ve blogged about my favourite jewel colours and neutrals,
so today I’m looking metals…

Collage of photos depicting silver, gold, brass and copper photos for Colours to Inspire - Metallics, for The Last Krystallos blog

Metallic colours are striking, bright, crisp, and shiny. Any colour can be metallic, but I’m sticking with traditional colours of metals – silver, gold, brass, and copper. Bronze and brass are both alloys of copper, brass is copper and zinc and has a more yellow colour, and bronze is primarily copper with stronger reddish tones. I have a love of antiqued jewellery, or silver with a patina, and I love how these colours are rich and diverse, and as accessible in the natural world as they are in sleek modernity.

Silver photos: the moon, fog, silver spoon, silver topaz jewellery, frost heart, grey cat, frost, dragon tail necklace, silver fairy, for the last krystallos blog

Sterling Silver © Lisa Shambrook

Silver is my colour of choice for metals, and not just because I’m embracing going grey!
I love silver jewellery, and enjoy wearing greys, pewter, slate, and silver colours.
Silver is enchanting, magical, mystical, and sophisticated…

gold photos: gold herkimer diamond jewellery, yellow forest, fireworks, yellow rose, gold wall with Love quote, fairy lights, lemon amber bead, daffodil, citrine stone for The Last Krystallos blog

Glowing Gold © Lisa Shambrook

Gold is the colour of warmth, not one I wear often,
but it embraces the sun and everything that glitters and reminds me of heat and wealth.
Gold is regal, expensive, prosperous, and successful…

brass photos - yellow leaves, fairy lights, brass necklace, yellow leaf, steampunk bumblebee, russet apple, oak leaf, fairy lights in bottle, river bed in sunlight, for The Last Krystallos blog

Beautiful Brass © Lisa Shambrook

Brass, strangely, for a metal, brass feels soft to me, warm and soft.
The colour of dropping autumn leaves and sculptures.
Brass is warm, welcoming, autumnal, and happy…

copper photos - copper metal bookmark, sunset, copper red leaves, High Brown Fritillary Butterfly, leaves, squirrel necklace, copper leaves, red squirrel, leaves, for The Last Krystallos blog

Crisp Copper © Lisa Shambrook

Copper always brings images of red squirrels, butterflies, and pipes,
not the smoking ones, but plumbing ones.
Another metal that is autumnal and warm.
Copper is fun, bright, friendly, and down-to-earth…  

What’s your favourite metallic colour and what does it mean to you?

Reviews – Why they mean so much to Authors and Artists

Review: to think again. It’s about considering, assessing, and to offer an opinion, and how many of us love offering an opinion? Social media is all about reviews… we’re posting about our lives, reviewing what we’ve done, where we’ve been, and sharing our thoughts about it. These days, reviewing is just another part of our life.

Reviews - Why they mean so much to Authors and Artists - The Last Krystallos

So, since we’re doing it all the time, how about taking a few minutes – the time to write a status update – to offer a review to those who need them?

It’s my birthday week this week and when I’m asked “What would you like?” – right now, I’d just love a review.

Not a review of me, I think I’m open enough for everyone to know who I am, and I don’t need a rate! I’d love a book review or an Amaranth Alchemy Etsy review.

If you love and buy books, art, and jewellery you will appreciate the time, energy,
love, and passion that goes into writing a book or creating something magical.
This is how you can pay it back and forward…

small advertising photos of the Surviving Hope novels by Lisa Shambrook

The Suviving Hope Novels © Lisa Shambrook

Add to that list angst, frustration, low financial reward, and you’ve got what it means to be an author or an artist. There’s plenty of love and passion, days of writing and sculpting, or painting and crafting, with your muse whispering in your ear and the true wonder of watching a story, an adventure, unfold, or creating an item of beauty beneath your fingertips, but there are days and weeks when your muse goes AWOL, when your fingers bleed (figuratively), and you hate everything you write or create. Novel writing and art is not easy, but it is extremely rewarding.

You will have heard how writers and artists don’t have a choice in their craft, it’s intrinsic, it’s a part of us and we have to do it. Escaping into a world of writing or of intricate design is just what we do to survive. The wonder of it is that we end up with something beautiful and we can’t wait to share it with the world. Whether it’s a novel, or a painting, or sculpted silver, glass, or a piece of jewellery to treasure, we want to share our skills and talents with you.

Time is money, it’s a necessary evil, and we can’t give our talents away for free. Most eBooks are the price of a coffee and they last… your coffee is satisfying and gone within half an hour, but a book can satisfy for years for the same price. Books are significantly cheaper than video games, and comparable with your monthly payment to Netflix or Prime – create a literary library as well as a streaming library.

Review books - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Most authors and artists are introverts, we love hiding away writing and creating, but we also know that to sell our wares we need to market them. Marketing doesn’t come naturally to those of us who prefer to squirrel ourselves away and just create. Our publishers help, but many authors are independent – doing it all on their own – artists too, and we need help to promote our work. Even with a publisher, unless you are one of the very few who have huge Big Five Publisher budgets and promotion, you’ll be doing most of it yourself.

We can shout from the rooftops about our books and art, but visibility is key. If our work isn’t visible, no one knows it’s out there. Reviews on Amazon, Good Reads, Etsy, Ebay, and Blogs, or Facebook and Twitter statuses, photos on Instagram – they all help and offer visibility. The more reviews we garner on Amazon, for instance, will change algorithms and our books will be promoted more. You don’t have to like Amazon, but we have to deal with them, so any help is appreciated – more than you could ever know. On Etsy and other craft sites it’s important to share and help others decide if our products are worth purchasing.

advertising photos of A Symphony of Dragons and Human 76 books by Lisa Shambrook

A Symphony of Dragons and Human 76 © Lisa Shambrook

This is where YOU come in. If you buy our book, and read it, and you love it – or you buy our art, and display it and love it every day – or you buy and wear our jewellery, then the best way you can thank us for those days, months, or years of hard work is to write a review. Let the world know that the book or art is out there, that you loved it, and why you loved it.

You don’t have to write much, literally, just a sentence or two is worth everything to an author. Just award your stars and say what you loved. That works. Or you can write a paragraph or an essay, it’s up to you!

Amaranth Alchemy products

Amaranth Alchemy on Etsy © Lisa Shambrook

Over the last few years I’ve bought lots of glass beads and jewellery from Etsy and Ebay, the reviews I leave help those artisans to continue and to sell more. I tend to leave photos of pieces so other prospective customers can see them in a different setting too. I also have an Etsy shop Amaranth Alchemy and I know just how important reviews are to new customers.

Books I've read and reviewed: The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss, Of Lies and Zombies by Angela Lynn, Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall, Ghostbird by Carol Lovekin, The Raven's Wing by Michael Wombat, Dead Sea Games by J Whitworth Hazzard, The Reaper's Bride by A J Richmond

Books I’ve read and reviewed: The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss, Of Lies and Zombies by Angela Lynn, Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall, Ghostbird by Carol Lovekin, The Raven’s Wing by Michael Wombat, Dead Sea Games by J Whitworth Hazzard, The Reaper’s Bride by A J Richmond © Lisa Shambrook

I have read a lovely selection of books and part of my reading process is to leave a review for the authors on the platforms used to sell. I have written blog posts celebrating wonderful books and stories and I am so glad that I can help promote wonderful people sharing their amazing talents.

So, like I said, it’s my birthday week, and all I want is a review…

I know my book sales figures, but the number of reviews I have pales in comparison to the sales. Of course, not everyone who’s bought my books will have read them – I have hundreds of books at home and it’ll take years to read them all, but if you’ve bought and read one of mine, then a sentence shared on Amazon or Good Reads is a gift for me that I will appreciate forever!

Reviews and why they are impostant to Authors and Artists - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Support those who create the art that allows you to escape into adventures
and other worlds, and those who give you beauty to enrich your lives.

Take a moment, just ten minutes, to leave a review for a struggling author or artist
– it will mean the world to them.

Book Spine Poetry

Sometimes when you’re feeling tired or uninspired and you need to
find your creativity, you can find it in unexpected places…

A few years ago I discovered Book Spine Poetry and had a go. This week, after meltdowns and shutdowns I needed to recover my imagination and found it on my bookshelves!

Poems can be long or short – whatever you choose – just grab a few titles and see what you can conjure up.

Bookspine poetry - An Inspector Calls - Love in the Present Tense - Reasons to Stay Alive - The Last Krystallos

An inspector calls love in the present tense,
reasons to stay alive.

(J.B. Priestley, Catherine Ryan Hyde, Matt Haig)

Bookspine poetry - Across the Wall - I Capture the Castle - The Castle of Adventure - The Last Krystallos

Across the wall – I capture the castle,
the castle of adventure.

(Garth Nix, Dodie Smith, Enid Blyton)

Bookspine Poetry - How to Stop Time - Just One Look - Second Star - Hat Full Sky - Slow Regard Silent - Linger - Hold Tight

How to stop time, 
just one look, second star to the right, 
and a Hatfull of Sky.
The slow regard of silent things, linger…
Hold tight.

(Matt Haig, Harlan Coben, Deborah Hautzig, Terry Pratchett, Patrick Rothfuss, Maggie Stiefvater, Harlan Coben)

Bookspine Poetry - Snow Sisters - Linger - Before I Die - The Last Krystallos

Snow sisters linger, before I die…

(Carol Lovekin, Maggie Stiefvater, Jenny Downham)

Bookspine Poetry - The Ice Dragon - Catching Fire - Falling - Across the Wall - Looking for Alaska - The Last Krystallos

The ice dragon,
catching fire,

falling across the wall,
looking for Alaska…

(G.R.R. Martin, Suzanne Collins, Sharon Dogar, Garth Nix, John Green)

Bookspine Poetry - If I Stay - Tell No One - The Last Krystallos

If I stay…
Tell no one.

(Gayle Forman, Harlan Coben)

0000. Divider

Tell me what’s on your bookshelves and make poetry…

Give it a go.

 

Magical Colours of Summer

Though Summer may not be my favourite season, it is still full of magic,
I just have to look for it harder than I do in Autumn and Winter.
In the spirit of embracing Summer, I’m discovering its charm…

Magical Colours of Summer - The Last Krystallos

Summer’s colours are bright and bold, though the ones that enchant me are its blues and softer tones. For me the colour of summer is blue, linked intrinsically to water and clear skies. The sea sparkles with jewel tones. Two years ago we stayed on the north coast of Scotland and visited the most beautiful beach we’ve ever found, and I described the ocean with gem colours: White sand ran from the dunes to the sparkling water, and what water! It merged from every green to every blue you could imagine…from crystal white Quartz froth, to pale Amazonite, and Adventurine, then to Turquoise, and rich Apatite blue, before darkening to the tone of Sodalite. An ocean of jewels!

The sea changes from moment to moment and from seafoam green, to teal blue, to slate grey and myriad more colours. These are my summer tones.

I love how Brighton and Hove’s ocean switches from green to blue by the West Pier. Swgd Eira’s tumultuous waterfall crashes amid diamonds of water and light. Teal-green sea rolls in at Penbryn beach. You can find every blue and green in the sea froth at Staffa. Coldbackie’s jewelled colours spread across the tide. Green is the colour beneath the loch in the Kyle of Lochalsh and in the Isle of Skye’s Fairy Pools. I love the pebbles at Applecross and the blues and greens of Bosherston beach.

Magical Colours of Summer - water - blues - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Then nature and light pick up summer vibes. Early evening sunlight shimmering through cow parsley is pure magic. Summer light sinking through the pines in Brechfa forest creates enchantment within the trees and across the moss. The sun beams from behind the clouds, glistening light can touch on unicorns and shine on daisies. Water sparkles, and late evening castle reflections at Eileen Donan Castle bewitch you. The slate-blue loch at Kylerhea is surrounded by summer’s lush green.

Magical Colours of Summer - light - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Summer then speaks of roses, figuratively and literally, and the pinks of watermelon and bronze sunsets. I’ve sat on Brighton beach watching the sun sink down beneath the horizon, and got up early to witness the sunrise on Dartmoor, and walked the dog through late evening scarlet dusks. Roses bloom with scents and colour: Rhapsody in Blue, and Audrey Wilcox’s blush pink. Purple foxgloves fill the forests, and Sarah Bernhardt peonies, their petals the colour of strawberry milkshakes, flourish.

Magical Colours of Summer - pink - rose - sunset - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I wear different bracelets in each season; this one representing winter to summer looks great in the hottest season – keeping me cool with its frosty white beads, dark night indigoes, leading to summer sunshine with lemon amber. Strawberries are always a summer favourite, and the flowers that bloom in June and July – lavender, the arum lily, and nigellalove-in-a-mist fill my yard tubs. Butterflies and dragonflies flutter by and my favourite is the peacock butterflyWaterfalls and messing about in rivers will cool you, and rainbows light up the sky in summer showers.

Magical Colours of Summer - summer colours - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I usually spend summer berating the heat and counting the days ‘til autumn,
but I’m trying to embrace the warmth of the summer sun…

What are your favourite things about Summer?

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?