Category Archives: magic

The Raven’s Wing by Michael Wombat – Enchanted and seduced…

Sometimes a book comes along that both entrances and seduces you,
and I was mesmerised by
Michael Wombat’s The Raven’s Wing.

The Raven’s Wing - Michael Wombat - Enchanted and Seduced Mediaeval Mystery and Magic - The Last Krystallos

I’ve said it before, I don’t often blog about books, I love reviewing them, but every now and then I’ll be so blown away they have to feature on my blog, like Ghostbird by Carol Lovekin, The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss, and Nobody Told Me: Love in the Time of Dementia by S. R. Karfelt. I’m a sucker for a book that draws me in with fantasy and quirky magic.

I’ve read several books by this author before, and always loved them. He has a knack for portraying truth and using description to weave you right into the story. We also collaborated, a couple of years ago, on Human 76, where Michael Wombat was a vital part of collating and helping to create a very original collection of stories.

The Raven's Wing by Michael Wombat extra photos by © Lisa Shambrook

The Raven’s Wing by Michael Wombat extra photos by © Lisa Shambrook

The Raven’s Wing is a labour of love and the resulting book is an incredibly authentic mediaeval novel with a hint of truth and chronicle behind it. Read the blurb:

They say you should follow your dreams. They never tell you what to do when the dreams start following you.
The year is 1322. Minstrel John has enough on his plate with his wife’s funeral. He could do without the naked woman who keeps forcing her way into his dreams, the angel dropping skulls in the village church, the stranger that attacks him for no reason, and the sexy, one-eyed, fire-dancer who is after only one thing – his music. Then there are the voices in his head, compelling him to investigate a mystery that just keeps on growing.
Based on a true story, this is not history, this is the 14th century as experienced by those who lived there, and who saw it as the leading edge of time. As John discovers, demons and magic can be very real.

white and dark feathers by the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

The story begins with an intensely erotic dream, if you know Wombat’s writing you’ll know nothing daunts him, down-to-earth honest, bawdy realism and coarse language intertwine with sheer beauty and descriptions that will whisk you away to another time. After this you are introduced to John, a simple minstrel, and his friends as they deal with the loss of John’s wife. It could be an unassuming tale, but John’s life takes a turn that will change him forever as a mysterious skull is found at the funeral.

You will be drawn into his life and the mystery that shrouds him. You’ll love his friends and you’ll cheer John on as he humbly searches for answers. Wombat will take you on a tour of mediaeval Britain complete with myth and magic, and you’ll be left wanting more.

Print of Winter's Raven painting by Amanda Makepeace

Print of Winter’s Raven painting by Amanda Makepeace

Now, think about the 14th century and imagine you want to write something that truly reflected the period… I asked Michael Wombat about how much research went into The Raven’s Wing:

‘Since I first heard Steeleye Span’s ‘John of Ditchford’ 20 years ago I’ve thought it’d make a good root for a story. When I finally got round to building a proper tale around it, it took 6 years to research and weave a satisfyingly deep story around what was in real life a thuggish murder. I made sure to keep copious research notes (thank you Scrivener!), and included the most interesting things I discovered in the Notes at the back of the book.’

The back of the book Notes are a real treat. Knitting realistic 14th century dialogue, words, places, and much more into a modern-day written story isn’t easy, though Wombat has done it so well; the tale is both fluid and beautiful to read. Chapter-by-chapter Wombat analyses and explains his terms and wordage to both educate and fascinate you.

Six years of research must have brought up intriguing facts and stories, so what was his favourite?

‘The most fascinating part of the research for me was the songs I discovered. Songs of love, lust and weird stuff aplenty. And of course the medieval recipes.’

A friend of mine, Miranda, recently made Pentecost’s waffres, and said they were delicious!

I said earlier, once this tale is done, you’ll be left wanting more. Michael Wombat commented:

‘As for the future, I’m putting together a pocketbook of ‘Raven’s Wing Extras’ – sketches I made while writing the book, behind the scenes stories, character backstories and so on. Beyond that, I kind of left Jenifry and Moss with a massive cliffhanger – one day, maybe, I’ll write their continuing story.’

I definitely want more from this period of time and Wombat’s characters.

Michael Wombat and The Raven's Wing

© Michael Wombat

I am a big fan of Wombat’s writing with many of his books on my Kindle and on my bookshelves, and I look forward to reading more. Wombat is an eclectic writer with a penchant for the extraordinary, and reading his bio will let you know what you’re getting yourself into:

A Yorkshireman living in the rural green hills of Lancashire, Michael Wombat is a man of huge beard. He has a penchant for good single-malts, inept football teams, big daft dogs and the diary of Mr. Samuel Pepys. Abducted by pirates at the age of twelve he quickly rose to captain the feared privateer ‘The Mrs. Nesbitt’ and terrorised the Skull Coast throughout his early twenties. Narrowly escaping the Revenue men by dressing as a burlesque dancer, he went on to work successively and successfully as a burlesque dancer, a forester, a busker, and a magic carpet salesman. The fact that he was once one of that forgotten company, the bus conductors, will immediately tell you that he is as old as the hills in which he lives. Nowadays he spends his time writing and pretending to take good photographs. You can have a good laugh at his pathetic blog or his photographs, but most of all please go and mock him mercilessly on Twitter or Facebook. Michael Wombat has published over one book. Other authors are available.

Please follow him most actively on Twitter, find him on Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, at Cubic Scats and sign up for his Patreon for new and exciting stories.

My last words for The Raven’s Wing – sometimes I get lost in stories because they seduce me, sentences inspire, and the story takes me somewhere completely new. Maybe you’d like to visit the 14th century? Go on give it a try… you won’t be sorry!

The Raven's Wing - Michael Wombat book coverYou can buy The Raven’s Wing

from Amazon in both Kindle and paperback.

It’s seriously worth every penny.

The Moon – La Luna – Stirring the Soul

‘Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass’
summarised from a letter Anton Chekhov wrote to his brother,
this quote has resonated with not only my writing style,
but also with my love of the Moon.

The Moon - La Luna - Stirring the Soul - The Last Krystallos

The moon is paramount in The Seren Stone Chronicles and appears in different phases and forms within all three books. It’s been an inspiration to me since I was small and used to gaze up at the sky and imagine reaching for the silver globeLa Luna has been the muse for many a poet and writer and will continue to stir the soul while she sits and guards our night sky.

The full moon occurs every twenty-nine and a half days, so every few years there are thirteen full moons, this extra full moon – the second in one month – is known as a blue moon, hence the phrase once in a blue moon. As the moon’s cycle is over twenty-eight days, every nineteen years we’ll have a February with no full moon, known as a black moon.

I’m rather fascinated by the names of moons, and each month has a name given by the ancients to describe the manner of plants, animals, and weather during that phase.

Traditional Full Moon Names - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I am equally inspired by the names given to moons that orbit our planets… All my Amaranth dragons are named after moons or myths associated with the moon. It left me with a bit of a problem when I finished rewriting my final novel in the series. A dragon named Sedna had to be renamed, because Sedna in the early 2000’s was thought to be a moon connected to the planet *Pluto, but Pluto’s demotion to a dwarf planet in 2006 meant Sedna then became a dwarf planet too instead of a moon. *Note: Pluto will always be a planet to me…

Did you know that Mercury and Venus have no moons? Earth has just one: Luna. Mars has two called Deimos and Phobos. Jupiter, on the other hand, has seventy-nine moons; her biggest are named Io, Callisto, Europa, and Ganymede. Ganymede is the largest moon in our solar system, larger than the planet Mercury. Europa also appears to be the best suited to finding an environment which could support life within our solar system beyond our earth. These four moons are spherical, but Jupiter’s other moons are generally rough shaped pieces of rock.

Researching moons and planets - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Titan is Saturn’s largest moon, she has sixty-two moons, and Titan even has its own atmosphere. Titan is huge in comparison with Saturn’s other moons, and a theory believes there may have only been two moons but one broke up possibly creating Saturn’s rings and inner moons. Saturn’s moon Mimas is its most cratered and the Herschel crater gives it a Death Star look!

Uranus has twenty-seven moons which are named after Shakespearian characters: Titania, Oberon, Umbriel, Ariel, Miranda…and more. Neptune has fourteen moons and its moon Triton is as big as Pluto.

I love how Shakespeare has influenced the naming of moons! So many names are associated with our own moon. The Roman’s know Luna as Diana and Juno. Artemis, Aphrodite, Selene, and Hera are Greek Goddesses, Egyptian association with Isis, Hathor, and Seshat. She is known as Sedna by the Inuits, and Shing Moon by the Chinese, and the Celts named her Morgana.

Super Blue Blood Moon over River Towy - Ralph Waldo Emerson quote - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I have a gorgeous teeny tiny book on the moon, which sheds light on this celestial object. This quote from the little book echoes my own romanticism of the moon: The sun pours the light of consciousness over the world; the moon reflects the opposite: the dark of the unconscious. Such a beautiful and evocative proclamation which completely echoes my own sentiments.

Countless myths and legends are associated with the moon giving it an enigmatic and mystical aura, which draws us to moon gaze and contemplate. I love standing beneath it, watching and leaving the world behind.

Moon Dreams and Dew... myths of the moon - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Recently I had my first chance to watch a lunar eclipse in a clear sky. I’d researched eclipses just the day before, for the close of my trilogy, and on 21st January I set my alarm. At 11.30pm when I‘d retired for the night, the wolf moon had glistened large, a super moon close to the earth, in glorious light, and now at 4.30am it shone as a sliver, a bright crescent as the shadow of the earth moved across its surface. Within minutes the shard disappeared and the moon shone as a whole as totality swathed it deep rust red. It wasn’t long before it disappeared behind trees, but the sight of the lunar eclipse will remain with me as one of the wonders of nature.

Super Wolf Blood Moon Lunar Eclipse 21st January 2019 - The Last Krystallos

Super Wolf Blood Moon Lunar Eclipse 21st January 2019 © Lisa Shambrook

The moon is vital to the health of our planet – it rules the tides, and due to its gravitational power must have a subliminal affect over our lives too. We are made up of a high percentage of water ourselves, and where the moon influences the earth’s oceans, it’s scientifically likely it influences us and our moods too. It is said it influences poetry, emotions, intuition, energy, rain, reflections, meditations, memory, healing, plant life, farming, weather, and time.

The moon, waxing and waning, evokes reverence and wonderment.   

How does the moon affect or inspire you?
What do you love about the moon?

Moonlight Dreams - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Magical Colours of Autumn

You all know Autumn is my favourite season.
Here’s why…

Magical Colours of Autumn - The Last Krystallos
Let’s start with the coloursOrange and Black.  Now, strangely, I’m not a fan of orange, but I adore russet, bronze, copper, and flame. It’s all in the tone and the name! And black is a classic – the colour of night, the dark, and magic.
Orange is the sky before dusk, dragon flames, squirrels on mugs of hot chocolate, pumpkins, and homemade soup. Black is the colour of the sky behind a full moon, Raven cat, and dark gemstones.

Orange and Black - Magical Colours of Autumn - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Then it’s leaves – every shade of russet and bronze, red, brown, yellow, olive, crimson, scarlet, and copper. As the tree turns passion burns…
I become a squirrel hunting for conkers, acorns, chestnuts, and acorn cups.

Leaves - Magical Colours of Autumn - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

My jewellery box opens with autumn gems and jewelsAmber glows like fire, Trollbead bracelets glimmer with stones and glass, and smoky quartz smoulders. Rose gold, copper, and bronze brighten the crisp mornings, and berries glisten like jewels in the garden. Gems of fire like citrine, amber, quartz, and petrified wood glow with autumn passion, and squirrels and foxes accompany me out.

Gems and Jewels - Magical Colours of Autumn - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

And then we’re out and about – with woollies and jumpers on dog walks. I’ll be back in my long, black Docs stopping off for hot chocolate and woodland picnics. Home in time for a good book, cuddled up on the sofa, and ready for midnight jaunts to stare up at the stars…

Out and About - Magical Colours of Autumn - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

How do you spend autumn?

🦇🎃 Happy Halloween! 🍁🖤

Lose Yourself with Ghostbird, Blodeuwedd, Myth and Magic…

Sometimes a book resonates with an emotional response you didn’t expect,
but it draws you in and you fall in love – Carol Lovekin’s Ghostbird does just that.

Lose Yourself with Ghostbird, Blodeuwedd, Myth and Magic... - The Last Krystallos

I don’t often blog about books, the last times I did were The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss, and Nobody Told Me: Love in the Time of Dementia by S. R. Karfelt and I have to be enchanted or moved before it hits these pages. My reading genres are eclectic, I like a bit of everything, but I fall heavily for beautifully written fantasy, a little romance, and quirky magic.

I was browsing my books and read the caption on the reverse of Ghostbird from Rebecca Mascull who said ‘Carol Lovekin’s prose is full of beautifully strange poetry.’ and I began reading.

This is the tale of Cadi, who doesn’t know who she is. She’s never been told anything about her father, she can taste the cloying secrets, and she is determined to uncover and break the spells about her. Her mother, Violet, is distant and lost, and her aunt, Lili, is bound by a promise she desperately wants to break.

The Hopkins women are well known in their little Welsh village, and they are surrounded by a cloak of mystery, flowers, magic, and a little bit of local scandal.

Ghostbird Carol Lovekin - trying out words - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Carol Lovekin’s writing enthralled me, from beginning to end, and I truly did fall in love. She writes with poetic leaning, creating beauty and an enticing story. This is my kind of writing, with description that made me feel like I inhabited Cadi and Lili’s lives. The story has an ethereal quality and this is even more prevalent with the inclusion of the ghostbird of the title. This book unravels the secrets regarding the Hopkins women with a little myth and magic along the way.

The story of Blodeuwedd, from the Mabinogion, is referenced throughout, something I loved having studied the Four Branches of the Mabinogion with my daughter last year. This meant I was already up to speed with Blodeuwedd’s tragic story.

Cait's Blodeuwedd Owl mask - The Last Krystallos

Cait’s Blodeuwedd Owl mask © Lisa Shambrook

I asked Ghostbird’s author, Carol, about including the story of Blodeuwedd and how it had inspired her:

‘The idea for Ghostbird was a slow burner. I read the myth of Blodeuwedd (from the Mabinogion) in the early 80s and was immediately struck by the notion that her fate: to be turned into a bird, was a curse. As an owl, Blodeuwedd could surely find her freedom by flying away? It was yet another woman’s story begging to be retold from her perspective. So many legends and myths are of their time (and written by men) and by definition, patriarchal.

The idea stayed with me until, years later it re-emerged as the backstory to Ghostbird. At first I planned for the ghost’s voice to be incidental, albeit relevant. It was my astute editor who insisted, the ghost had to play a more prominent role. It was a joy to take the bones of the myth and turn it into the soundtrack to my modern ghost story. And in the process, to discover, that’s what I write: ghost stories!’

When I first read Blodeuwedd’s story I’d come to a very similar conclusion – despite the fact that being turned into an owl was essentially a punishment, it seemed to me to be a poor punishment, as it meant she finally had freedom. She’d been created without thought to who she was, and made for someone else’s pleasure, and rebelling against that had caused retribution, but to me she was given freedom and final liberty.

The use of myth and legend within fiction is something that inspires me. My current work is based on a myth, but a legend of my own writing. I resonated with Carol’s words about most old fairytales and myths having been written by men with suffering women within the stories, so writing my own legend, which you can find in A Symphony of Dragons, meant creating a woman resilient enough to carry the myth on her own. The resulting legend, threads through The Seren Stone Chronicles which I am currently enjoying writing.

Ghostbird - Carol Lovekin - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I loved Ghostbird, because Cadi’s story echoed similar themes I’d explored in my own books. Beneath the Rainbow and Beneath the Distant Star both dealt with grief and loss, and mother daughter relationships, and Beneath the Old Oak spoke of family secrets. Ghostbird moved in different circles, with beauty, grace, and fierce women determined to protect and discover who they are. This is a book that will stay with me, for its magic, emotion, and tender charm.

Carol Lovekin is published by Honno a Welsh Women’s Press committed to giving opportunities for talented women in Wales to see their work in print. Carol’s stories reflect her love of the landscape and mythology of Wales. She is a committed feminist and has always found fiction the perfect vehicle for telling women’s collective stories. She began writing with a view to publication in her late fifties, having ‘suffered from arrested development for far too long.’ She now writes to keep up.

Ghostbird is her debut novel and Snow Sisters is her second book.  

Ghostbird Carol Lovekin - old magic will hear - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

My parting words for Ghostbird are that so often I read sentences that just spoke to me, that described my own feelings, my own experiences, and it’s not often that an author can climb inside your head and touch you. This book touched my heart, the vulnerable bits and the happy bits.

Ghostbird - Carol Lovekin - Honno Press
You can buy:
Ghostbird by Carol Lovekin from Honno
from your local bookstores,
on Amazon UK Kindle, and Paperback.

Please visit her blog for further information and links.

Monday Mixer – Stars of Change

12. Monday Mixer - Stars of Change

© Lisa Shambrook

I’d hardly noticed my nose crinkle, but the strange essence swirling about me suddenly made my insides revolt as I landed face down in the leaf litter. My stomach turned and my throat released a splash of bright bile. I rolled onto my back and stared at the roof of the cave through the miasma of cold fog.

I blinked and tried to sit but my body refused to cooperate. I moved stiffly and brought my hands to my face. One hand clutched a stone, a rock, and I prised my fingers from it, wiping my mouth with the back of my sleeve as I gazed at the stone. It was just a dull, rough pebble, but from the fracture in its surface leaked light, sparkling, fluid, effervescent light. I cracked it against the frozen ground and gasped as the geode fell open between my fingers.

Crystal stars shone, stippling light through the mist that still veiled the cave. I shivered in excitement. Memories began flooding back into my head. The search through the cave for a fabled rock, disappointment, and fear, as I’d struggled through the fog to escape, and now wonder at the sparkling gems.

In one taciturn moment, I knew it all…

I knew the words, the prophecy, the promise, and my fingers gently stroked the crystals. They were soft, malleable, and my heart caught inside my throat as I altered its molecular structure. I now had what I needed, the power to, literally, change the world.

0. Monday MixerMonday Mixer is back at The Latinum Vault, and is a week-long challenge for those of more committed to time constraints! Write 250 words, no more, no less, and include at least one of each of the chosen nouns, verbs, and adjectives, you can choose from nine and if you choose to, use all nine prompt words! So, here’s mine, including five of the nine words (highlighted in my text). Stars of Change, see, I told you I’d be writing of stars this year!