Category Archives: Bluebells

Be like the Wildflowers of Spring…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foxgloves - Campanunla - Thistle and a Gatekeeper butterfly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

Forests that Claim your Heart

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

Robert Louis Stevenson

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

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

Roxy - Green Castle Woods - The Last Krystallos

Roxy – Green Castle Woods © Lisa Shambrook

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

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

Bluebells at Green Castle Woods © Lisa Shambrook

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

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

The Old Oak at Green Castle Woods © Lisa Shambrook

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

Kira - Brechfa Forest - The Last Krystallos

Kira – Brechfa Forest © Lisa Shambrook

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

Brechfa moss - Kira - Brechfa Forest - The Last Krystallos

Brechfa Forest © Lisa Shambrook

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

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

Brechfa Forest © Lisa Shambrook

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

Do you have a favourite woodland or forest?

Beneath the Rainbow – A tale of Grief and Hope

Beneath the Rainbow is a story that will weave through your emotions
and draw you in with its colour and magic.

Beneath the Rainbow © Lisa Shambrook

Beneath the Rainbow © Lisa Shambrook

Freya won’t let anything stand in the way of her dreams – not even her death.
Now her family will need to uncover the clues to her secrets before it’s too late.

Beneath the Rainbow is released through BHC Press on 14th August and is a novel that will completely enchant you.

“I highly recommend reading this touching and moving story of acceptance and unending love.” —LibraryThing Early Reviewers

Beneath the Rainbow © Lisa Shambrook

Beneath the Rainbow © Lisa Shambrook

“…wonderful interplay between afterlife themes and how memory and loss affect the living. It is about moving on and moving forward for the living and the dead, and let’s be clear about this, there is soooo much tragedy in this one, but what emerges from it is something beautiful. I would say that if you are a fan of Mitch Albom then this is absolutely something you will love.”  —Mr Dead on Amazon

Beneath the Rainbow © Lisa Shambrook

Beneath the Rainbow © Lisa Shambrook

“Once in a while a book totally stirs you and pulls you right in, this is it! “Beneath the Rainbow” captivates, enthrals and invites you on a magical journey of time as it moves beyond this life into the next.
It is true genius how the author interweaves messages of hope and inspiration into the lives of the characters. Thomas teaches us how to fulfil our dreams and Freya teaches us how to hold on and when to let go. I recommend this book to anyone who is dealing with any kind of loss or anyone who just wants to enjoy a captivating read.”
Mrs A. on Amazon

Beneath the Rainbow is now available in eBook and paperback (choose your format) at:
Amazon UK, Amazon US, and your local Amazon. Barnes and Noble, Waterstones, Google Play, Kobo, iTunes, and other online outlets.

Library Thing Early Reviewers

Also, once you’re entranced by Beneath the Rainbow you’ll be excited to read Beneath the Old Oak which releases on 16th October followed by Beneath the Distant Star on 11th December – and my publisher has offered a number of ARC copies of Beneath the Old Oak through LibraryThing. In exchange for an honest review you can read a prepublication copy of Beneath the Old Oak. Pop over and request your copy now.

AD_Beneath_Rainbow_Shambrook_RELEASE

The First Breath of Spring…

Spring is the breath of new beginnings, of fresh green growth,
and the jewels of Mother Earth lifting their heads to nod in the breeze.

The First Breath of Spring - The Last Krystallos

The first colours of spring appear to be green and white with splashes of blue, yellow, lilac, and pink.

Snowdrops are the first of Mother Nature’s little ones who peep through the frosty mornings to offer us the hope of spring. Hellebores, Christmas roses, throw out their very best with simple flowers and fancy doubles. They’re quickly followed by tiny crocuses and narcissus and then full blown, blousy daffodils.

Christmas Tree - Oak - Daffodils - Primroses - Cowslip - Abies Koreana new growth

Christmas Tree – Oak – Daffodils – Primroses – Cowslip – Abies Koreana new growth © Lisa Shambrook

Fresh growth on trees as they begin to dress with buds of lime-coloured leaves and blushes of blossom. Magnolia will be one of the first to robe its trees with a flush of ivory or pink, and cherry blossom won’t be long to follow. Viburnum Bodnantense Dawn is one of the first clusters of pink to flower on shrubby twigs with a scent to linger beside.

Ragged Robin - Blossom - Mallow - Valerian - Aquilegia - Hellebore - Tulip - Virbunum Bodnantense Dawn

Ragged Robin – Blossom – Mallow – Valerian – Aquilegia – Hellebore – Tulip – Virbunum Bodnantense Dawn © Lisa Shambrook

Primroses and cowslips adorn the meadows and gardens with tiny sunshine flowers, and white wild anemones unfurl their fairy wings in woodlands, right before bluebells carpet the forest floor. Vinca (periwinkle), and forget-me-nots begin the blue, with chinodoxa and primula.

Crocus - Primula Denticulata - Chinodoxa - Forget-me-nots - Vinca - Wild Violet - Bluebells - Aquilegia

Crocus – Primula Denticulata – Chinodoxa – Forget-me-nots – Vinca – Wild Violet – Bluebells – Aquilegia © Lisa Shambrook

Wild oxalis, garlic, violets, and campion spread through the countryside, and ragged robin nods its shaggy head in the warmth of spring. Valerian pushes through wherever it can, determined and strong, and mallow and aquilegia begin to clothe our gardens. Belle Etoile (philadelphus – mock orange) fragrances the air with beauty and heaven, and lastly, spring tulips will open as the sun dances – and heralds the hope of summer.

Snowdrops - Belle Etoile - Wild Anemone - White Campion - Magnolia - Hellebore - Oxalis - Wild Garlic

Snowdrops – Belle Etoile – Wild Anemone – White Campion – Magnolia – Hellebore – Oxalis – Wild Garlic © Lisa Shambrook

What is Spring to you?
Which flower do you look forward to most?  

Art by Instagram – Sharing your Artistic Streak with the World: Colours and Seasons

I love images – photographs, paintings, evocative writing,
and art that create the essence of something real, whether abstract or realistic.
I’m an artist of words, pictures, photographs, and sculpture,
and Instagram has been one of the ways I share my creativity with the world.

art-of-instagram-sharing-your-artistic-streak-with-the-world-seasons-lisa-shambrook-the-last-krystallos

I enjoy capturing moments and photography is the easiest way to do that, even easier since the advent of digital cameras, apps, and editing software.  Beautiful images soothe the soul, and I love being able to share them so readily.

Recently, as I scrolled my Instagram feed, I noticed how the seasons rule the colours in my photographs. It’s easy to recognise the season by the colours rippling through the collections of pictures. It’s subtle, but it’s there…

instagram-spring-lisa-shambrook-the-last-krystallos

Spring © Lisa Shambrook

Spring erupts across the pictures in deep bluebell lilacs, pale pinks and white of daisies, and blossom and spring flowers, daffodil yellow and clean greens with new growth and hope.

instagram-summer-lisa-shambrook-the-last-krystallos

Summer © Lisa Shambrook

Summer hails with beaches, blue sky and crashing ocean waves, deep rose pinks, lilacs and summer flowers, and magical rays of sunshine.

instagram-autumn-lisa-shambrook-the-last-krystallos

Autumn © Lisa Shambrook

Autumn brings deep berry red, gold, russet, crimson, and brown of crunchy, fallen leaves, warm colours and cosy pets, scarlet apples and night lights, and shimmering silver frost.

instagram-winter-lisa-shambrook-the-last-krystallos

Winter © Lisa Shambrook

Winter arrives with night-sky indigos and blues, glittery frost and gleaming snow, jewel tones and hot chocolates, bare trees and the colours of cold and chill and warm blankets.

The seasons have their own colours and tones and I love being able to scroll through them…

You can find me on Instagram @lisashambrook and I share more pictures on Flickr.

Which season owns your favourite colours?  

Bluebell Woods and an Enchanting Carpet of Colour

‘…she flopped to the ground amid the bluebells.
Her hands brushed the mat of flowers and she lowered her head 
staring intently at the spray of tiny bells.’
Beneath the Rainbow

Bluebell Woods and an Enchanting Carpet of Colour

Anyone stopping by my blog cannot fail to notice my love for bluebells. You’ll find them on my banner and on my first book cover, I’ve blogged about them before and they’ve been my favourite flower since I was small. Now I wander through Carmarthen’s Green Castle Woods rather than the Sussex woodlands of my childhood. The beauty, however, exists countrywide.

bluebells-green-castle-woods-the-last-krystallos-four

© Lisa Shambrook

Bluebells talk to me of spring, new growth, romance, fairies, childhood and innocence, and I look forward to them every year. The hardy flowers thrive in our damp climate amongst the woodland flora. 50% of our native bluebells grow in our woodlands and we stroll through their carpet of blue every April and May as their delicate flowers swathe the ground.

bluebell-woods-the-last-krystallos-green-castle-woods-2.jpg

© Lisa Shambrook

Not much gets in their way as they spread beneath our trees, but the Victorian introduction of Spanish Bluebells, as garden plants, have become a threat over the years.

bluebells-thelasy-krystallos-garden

© Lisa Shambrook

Spanish bluebells are stronger and more vigorous, and can easily crossbreed creating a fertile hybrid. Native bluebells have become protected by UK law and we’re encouraged not to grow the Spanish variety in our gardens.

bluebells-green-castle-woods-the-last-krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

The varieties have distinctive differences and the hybrids lean more to the stronger Spanish Bluebell.

native-bluebells-green-castle-woods-the-last-krystallos

Native British Bluebells © Lisa Shambrook

British Bluebells (hyacinthoides non-scripta)

Dainty, nodding and delicate.
They have narrow stems and leaves, and arch like a shepherd’s crook with delicate bells that droop.
The bells only hang from one side of the stem, nodding lightly.
They have a soft sweet scent and are often a deep purple, violet blue and have creamy white/yellow anthers and pollen.
Their bells are narrow and the petals curl back at the tips and they carry fewer flowers.

 

spanish-bluebells-lisa-shambrook-the-last-krystallos

Spanish Bluebells © Lisa Shambrook

Spanish Bluebells (hyacinthoides hispanica)

Sturdy, upright and strapping.
These have a much thicker stem and leaves, standing tall and erect.
Their bells are more closely packed and their sturdy stems can hold more flowers.
The bells don’t hang they grow all around the stem and are generally a paler lilac blue.
They don’t really have a scent and their anthers and pollen are blue.
The bells are shorter and open wider.

 

whitebells-bluebells-lisa-shambrook-green-castle-woods-carmarthen

© Lisa Shambrook

Both are beautiful, but the Spanish bluebells that once grew in my garden are now restrained in containers, while I allow the natives to sweep, unrestricted, through the undergrowth. And every now and again I’ll revel in the white bluebells that show their nodding faces…

carpet-of-blue-beneath-the-rainbow-lisa-shambrook

Beneath the Rainbow © Lisa Shambrook

Here’s a fun author/writerly fact:
Bluebell bulbs and stems were once used to make glue that was used to bind books!

Where do you find your favourite bluebells?