Category Archives: Wales

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.

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Snow Feathers…

I adore watching cotton-wool snowflakes drop from the sky,
coating the land in white and trees in icing sugar frosting.

Snow Feathers title for The Last Krystallos blog post

It’s been snowing, just a bit…

Where I live in West Wales it doesn’t snow as much as other parts of Wales, but when it does I love it.

I came across this post on Twitter and thought it was beautiful! I love the Welsh language, I sadly, don’t speak much of it, but I love its lyrical prose and beauty.

Snow Feathers… such a gorgeous way to describe snowfall…

Frost swirls like feathers and a small white feather - the last krystallos blogpost

© Lisa Shambrook

It matched beautifully with a scene in my book Beneath the Rainbow:

(Freya has passed away – not a spoiler it happens in the first sentence of the novel – and her little sister Jasmine, and her best friend Meg, and Meg’s friend Steph, are visiting Freya’s neighbours Daisy and Donald. Donald, playing a joke on the girls, throws a bunch of white feathers out into the yard and they are excitedly trying to catch them…)

‘Daisy laughed as she stood in the doorway watching her husband and three little girls chasing feathers that whirled and danced around the yard. “You’ll never catch them!” she chuckled.

“Got one!” shouted Steph and punched her hand in the air to wave her white trophy. Daisy nodded and Steph presented it to her then raced off after another.

The wind played havoc, lifting the feathers and dropping them, and spinning them and spiralling them around the girls’ legs, happy with every squeal as a feather evaded the hand that grabbed at it. Hair flew about their faces and whipped up a little vortex in the centre of the patio. The delighted players converged and a rugby scrum formed as they created a barrier to keep the wind out.

Little hands snatched and they began to gather up the rogue feathers.

They’d collected most of them when the wind turned bitter and moments later the remaining white feathers were joined by huge, fat snowflakes.

The girls’ screamed with glee and the feathers were forgotten as they lifted their red faces up toward the sky.

Donald cradled an armful of feathers and took them inside then he stood by the door with his wife. “Little Freya should be among them now,” he said with a wry smile.

She nodded, both unaware of the unseen figure twirling alongside Jasmine, Meg and Steph.

Freya danced and frolicked in the snowfall, and dressed in white, decorated with a million tiny, silver snowflakes, and fur-lined, white boots, she was a sight they could not behold.

She moved as gracefully and as invisible as the wind, but she was there, dancing her heart out, face tilted trying to absorb the flakes that fell around her.

“I love snow!” shouted Steph.

“And me!” added Jasmine.

The three girls grabbed hands and began to dance in a circle. The snow began to lay and a circle of footprints emerged.

“Oh, would you look at them!” Olivia and Rachel appeared at the wall, summoned by the raucous noise, and gazed over into the yard.

“Mummy!” called Jasmine, “Look at me!”

Rachel nodded and grinned at the sight before her.

“Mummy,” Jasmine shouted again, “get Feya, it snowing!”

Rachel’s smile did not falter, but Olivia squeezed her shoulder.

Daisy and Donald shared a glance and sent a sympathetic smile across the wall.

“Mummy!” Jasmine jumped, delighted in the footprints she left, and she jumped again making her way towards the wall. “Mummy, look…feetpint.”

Olivia lifted her hands and gave a quick clap. “C’mon girls, you’re messing up the beautiful snow in the yard, come over this side and leave some fresh ‘feetprints’ over here!”

Jasmine rushed to say goodbye to her neighbours then jumped all the way to her own back door, with Steph and Meg following her little footprints.

They continued to enjoy the snow until their noses were red and cold and their fingers likewise, and then Olivia called them in to enjoy mugs of hot chocolate and biscuits.

Outside, Freya danced alone unaware of the cold, or the slush and squashed snowdrops at her feet.’

tiny snowflake beginning to melt

© Lisa Shambrook

What do you love about snow?

1. L_Shambrook_Beneath_the_Rainbow_AmazonBeneath the Rainbow

“It’s those silly dreams that keep us alive.”

Freya won’t let anything stand in her way. Not even death. Freya’s family are left to fulfil her dreams, but as time runs out final yearned for wishes remain lost. Only Freya can help as precious life hangs in the balance.

Narberth Book Fair 2017 – Come and Find Your New Book

Saturday 23rd September 2017 come to the Narberth Book Fair
and find inspiration, authors, and books – lots and lots of books!

Book Fair Special Offer Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

Narberth Book Fair 2017I will be part of this lovely Book Fair, which began some years ago as part of the Tenby Arts Festival. The fair has outgrown its home and we can now be found at the Queen’s Hall, 44 High Street, Narberth, SA67 7AS, and you can also visit the Narberth Food Festival on the same weekend, what could be better? Great books and delicious food all in one place!

You will find many authors and their books from 10am to 4pm, and attend a variety of talks and book readings all FREEand with only 13 weeks ‘til Christmas this is your ideal time to start shopping for that bookworm in your life, or just treat yourself!

I will be signing and selling copies of the Hope Within Novels, and my new release this year A Symphony of Dragons, a collection of dragon themed short tales.

The_Hope_Within_novels_Lisa-Shambrook-Low-Res-205kb Book covers x3

The Hope Within novels © Lisa Shambrook

And to make it even better I have a fantastic SPECIAL OFFER for buyers at the Book FairWhen you buy A Symphony of Dragons you will also get a FREE copy of Beneath the Rainbow.

Book Fair Special Offer Today Symphony and Rainbow adI will also be selling items from Amaranth Alchemy perfect book related Stocking Fillers…

All my books cost £5 each at Book Fairs which is a significant discount on Paperback prices online or in stores…and I’d love to see you there!

Check out my Narberth Book Fair Author Page and read an interview with me…

A Symphony of Dragons April 2017

Asher – BHC Press – A Symphony of Dragons

“A Symphony of Dragons is a book of short stories…each one about a dragon, or dragons. The lyrical, descriptive writing conveys both beauty and fear… The author will surprise you with her imagination and intricate detail.”
A Symphony of Dragons review on Amazon ~ Penny

“I was completely caught off guard by this breathtaking story. It is sweet, touching, uplifting, and frankly just beautiful.”
Beneath the Rainbow review
on Amazon ~ Sophie Moss, award-winning author of ‘The Selkie Spell’

“Highly recommend this beautifully woven story! I found myself immersed in this book, wanting to turn the page to find out what happened next!”
Beneath the Old Oak review
on Amazon ~ Bunnygirl

​“…I have compared it to Mitch Albom because this feels like the story he didn’t get around to writing yet. A really wonderful tale. Don’t miss out on this one.”
Beneath the Distant Star review
on Amazon ~ Mr Dead

Book Fairs coming up at which I will be attending…

Carmarthenshire Carmarthen Library Book Fair – Sat 21st October

Carmarthen Book Fair, St Peter’s Civic Hall – Sat 11th November

Llandeilo Christmas Book Fair – Sat 9th December

See you in Narberth!

Plastic – Polluting our Oceans

Do we need plastic?
That’s one of the questions I believe we should be asking ourselves,
as the ocean begins to drown in the man-made material…

Plastic - Polluting Our Oceans - The Last Krystallos

A plastic-free society is a scenario I definitely pose in my current manuscript The Seren Stone Chronicles (unedited excerpt):

‘Will’s eyebrows shot up. “There’s no plastic!”

“Legend has it that all your plastic got swallowed up by mother earth in the lunar apocalypse,” said Ianthe. “It melted in the pit of her belly.”

“Best place for it,” said Rhianna.’

In my future Wales, plastic has become a thing of the past, but how do we know how the phenomenon of this synthetic material created only 110 years ago (though natural polymers have been around for generations) and widely available from the 1940’s after the introduction of Tupperware, will ultimately affect the earth that we live on?

Plastic - Polluting Our Oceans - Earth - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I glance about me at home and plastic is rampant…It forms much of my laptop, television, plug points, plugs, wires, my car outside, pens, kitchen utensils, white goods – fridge, freezer, many appliances, and a huge amount of packaging. It even forms veneers on some of my cheaper bookshelves, plastic bags, and more, but the majority of disposable plastic in my home derives from packaging.

Plastic - Polluting Our Oceans - Plastic Bags - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

How do we replace it? It shouldn’t be that tough, after all, generations only a hundred years ago didn’t have access to the sort of durable, strong plastics we do now, and they managed! We could move back to using metal, wood, and plant-based materials, but in this society that’s not always easy. A few years ago my daughter tried to reduce her plastic usage and go plastic free using bamboo toothbrushes, trying to buy dry food in jars, even taking her own jars to fill, and her own cups to coffee shops, and using canvas bags for shopping. It was so hard, and so unaccepted that it became near impossible to achieve. Some people have and I salute them, but it makes normal life very difficult.

Plastic - Polluting Our Oceans - Glass Jars - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

We live in a society where butchers aren’t used as much as they could be, and meat is packaged in large, thick, sealed plastic boxes. The green grocer is left behind for plastic bags of pre-packed fruit and veg, and the grocer with cardboard boxes and tins and jars has been replaced with plastic bottles, containers, and bags for almost everything.

We are often pushed by governments and local councils to recycle more, fines are imposed when we don’t, and rubbish collection services are cut to force recycling. The fines and restraints should be levied upon the companies using excess packaging, in my opinion, but that’s another story.

Many people are trying their best to be environmentally friendly, after all we didn’t ask for plastic microbeads to be placed in soaps, facial washes, and toothpastes. We don’t need all the packaging that companies force upon us, and we don’t need many of the knick-knacks that are constantly thrown at us. And there are so many organisations trying to show us the way to a more enlightened and environmentally friendly approach to life.

We see how plastic is drowning the sea, how microbeads have devastated oceans and marine life, how plastic wraps have damaged creatures, and how plastic is washing up on beaches across the planet. 8 million tonnes of plastic enters the ocean every year from bottle tops, to rope, bottles, plastic bags, sanitary products, disposable nappies, and more. Evo News even quoted that:  ‘The number of plastic microbeads in oceans and seas, bigger than the number of stars in our galaxy.’

However, there’s been great news from Greenpeace who reported just last week that by 30 June 2018 all personal care and cosmetic products with microbeads will be off shelves in the UK in a government ban!

Seagull Dreams by Bekah Shambrook Plastic - Polluting Our Oceans - the last krystallos

© Bekah Shambrook

We’ve all seen pictures of seabirds with legs and feet caught in plastic bags and debris, turtles deformed with plastic can rings looped about their shells, and fish, seals, dolphins, sharks, and even whales caught up in plastic nets. These are creatures we have the responsibility of caring for. We have the responsibility of caring for the whole earth.

There are several initiatives trying to help clean up our oceans, and make us aware of the pollution of plastic. Von Wong began #MermaidsHatePlastic and borrowed 10,000 plastic bottles to make an art installation that makes a valuable point. Find him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and read his story.

And 4Ocean sells bracelets made from ocean plastic to fund the removal of trash from the sea Find them on Twitter.

My question evolves into a solution when people respond with the continuing need for plastic in our lives, why can’t we use the plastic we recover from the ocean? Hopefully we are, or if we’re not then governments will soon pick up the idea, as they have with home and business recycling.

Plastic - Polluting Our Oceans - Bottles - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

But to counter, maybe we can try to use less plastic, invent things that use less plastic, and we could buy and use more environmentally friendly products to begin the move away from plastic. Plastic isn’t generally good for us. Many of us, myself included, reuse water bottles to drink from, but that plastic gradually breaks down and enters our bloodstream through constant use. It’s better to buy a metal or glass water bottle. As charges for plastic bags have come in, we are using less and reusing and taking our own, every little helps. We need to keep doing our bit, no matter how small it is.

There are alternatives if companies are willing to put the money and research in to develop products that are environmentally friendly – take these plastic bags for example…

I’ve seen plates and tableware made from palm leaves or wheat fibre pulp, bamboo toothbrushes, cotton/canvas shopping bags, water powered clocks, solar power and much more. We can all do our bit by increasing recycling, reusing products, avoiding one-use items, and we can actively reduce, reuse and recycle.

reduce reuse recycleI’ve seen many products that are created/invented using plant based materials, we just need to change our ways, alter our sensibilities, and transform our habits.

Humans don’t like change – but change is what we need to do.

We need to continue the fight to remove unnecessary plastics and packaging,
to help not only our own health, but the health of the planet on which we live.  

What are we doing to Mother Earth?

* Edited to add: 2nd August 2017 is officially #EarthOvershootDaywhich makes this post even more appropriate. Today is the day that we have used up this year’s quota of Earth’s natural resources for one year. We need the equivalent of 1.7 Earths to support humanity’s demands on nature… Just something to think about…

Cow Parsley and its Rogue Cousin Common Hogweed

I love the Welsh hedgerows of summer,
full of white Cow Parsley, Common Hogweed,
and dotted with Red Campion, and purple Foxgloves.

Cow Parsley and its cousin Common Hogweed - The Delicate Beauties of the Hedgerow - The Last Krystallos

Delicate white Cow Parsley and Hogweed flowers sway gently amid roadside flora, and along paths, and the edges of fields. Both Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) and Common Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium) are common sights from spring into summer, and their dry stalks and skeletons decorate the verges when autumn and winter arrives.

Cow Parsley Hogweed Flowers - The Last Krystallos

Cow Parsley – Hogweed – Hemlock © Lisa Shambrook

Being an everyday sight in the UK countryside, Cow Parsley has become a favourite wild plant to include in my writing, its form and structure adds to descriptive scenes and offers history and familiarity to the reader.

It’s also familiar to readers who understand herbs and plants, as cow parsley has been used in traditional medicines to treat ailments, stomach and kidney problems; breathing difficulties and colds. You must be able to positively recognise the plant before using it as medicinal, or even in cooking, as you can make Cow Parsley soup and a variety of other recipes. My sister advises me that her horses love Cow Parsley!

Cow Parsley - The Last Krystallos

Cow Parsley © Lisa Shambrook

Cow Parsley is recognisable with its long, green, furry stems which are ribbed and have a V shaped groove, umbels of white flowers often tinted pink (left in picture below), and fern like leaves (top middle). Common Hogweed is a very close relation. Its leaves are edible when young, and it’s discernible from Cow Parsley by its daintier florets and broader leaves, but more rounded (bottom middle) than the jagged, spiky leaves of Giant Hogweed. Another cousin is the Wild Carrot (Daucus carota) with narrow ferny leaves and heads of tiny white flowers, but you’ll recognise the difference as the Wild Carrot’s flower cluster usually has a single red/purple flower right in its centre.

Common Hogweed, Cow Parsley, Giant Hogweed and Hemlock Leaves Stems - The Last Krystallos

Common Hogweed (left/bottom middle), Cow Parsley (top middle), Giant Hogweed (top right) and Hemlock (bottom right) Leaves/Stems © Lisa Shambrook

It has to be said that you need to be incredibly careful not to confuse these with their dangerous and poisonous relations Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) and Hemlock (Conium maculatum).

The first way to tell Giant Hogweed apart from its Common counterpart and Cow Parsley is its size. Cow Parsley can grow to just over 1m (3-4 ft), Common Hogweed a bit taller, but Giant Hogweed grows up to 3m (almost 12 ft) and its umbels of flowers are pure white and can reach the size of 60cm (2 ft) across. Giant Hogweed will generally tower over you and its stems are far thicker. Its leaves are deeply lobed with jagged, serrated edges, and its stem is bristly and purple blotched, (which you can see in the top right picture). Giant Hogweed has violent sap which will react if it touches skin in bright sunlight inducing burns and painful blistering, needing quick medical attention. My mother discovered this when she tried to cut one down without realising what it was and ended up arms of red blisters and hospital treatment.

Common Hogweed Leaves Stem - The Last Krystallos

Common Hogweed © Lisa Shambrook

Hemlock is much smaller, and very similar in appearance to Cow Parsley with fern like leaves, but it also has stems blotched wine-red, though its stalks are smooth (bottom right in picture). All parts of Hemlock are poisonous though it was also used as medication by the Anglo-Saxons.

Giant Hogweed is well known for its dangerous phototoxic sap, but it’s wise to remember that all of these plants have sap that reacts to bright sunlight. In the same way a wild animal would attack if assaulted plants can do the same, and if these plants are cut down by mechanical means (strimmers etc) they utilise their defences and their sap will react and burn when it touches skin.

Wild Carrot - The Last Krystallos

Wild Carrot © Lisa Shambrook

Both Cow Parsley and Wild Carrot are also called Queen Anne’s Lace in the UK. Queen Anne took the British throne in 1702, and she was the second daughter of James II. A story goes that the queen asked her ladies-in-waiting to see who could make lace as beautiful as the cow parsley in the countryside, and only she could. Another story says that Queen Anne pricked her finger while making lace, thus why the Wild Carrot has a purple flower at its centre.

Cow Parsley, Foxglove and Red Campion - The Last Krystallos

Cow Parsley, Foxglove and Red Campion © Lisa Shambrook

I love the wild flowers that embellish my landscape, and along with Bluebells, delicate, lacy Cow Parsley enchants me as it bends in the breeze like fairy blossom…

Sunset and Cow Parsley - The Last Krystallos

Sunset Umbels © Lisa Shambrook

What wild flowers charm you?

Where does the Beach take you?

It’s turning into beach weather here in the UK…
though, in my opinion, all year is beach weather for me.
I love wandering a lonely, cold, winter beach as much as
paddling through the surf on a warm, summer evening.
But what entices you to the ocean, what floats your boat?

Where does the Beach take you... - The Last Krystallos

Is it the heat, the sun, and the chance to sunbathe, or family time and BBQs, building sandcastles, and jumping waves, or do you prefer to explore, climb rocks, and appreciate the beauty?

Do you enjoy the sounds of the ocean rolling across pebble beaches? I grew up in Brighton, and the sound of the sea turning pebbles brings back all kinds of memories.
I adore walking barefoot over sand, and letting the surf lap across my feet, so the gorgeous West Wales beaches, where I live now, fit me perfectly…

Pebbles-vs-Sand-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Do you like the flora that thrives in the salty air, and the seaweed decorating the beaches? I have a weird penchant for wearing seaweed hairpieces…

Flora-and-Seaweed-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Do you collect shells, do you search out conch, mussels, and pretty shells, and do you put them to your ear to hear the sea? Do you listen to the shrieking gulls with pleasure or irritation?

Wildlife-and-Shells-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

And speaking of irritation, do you feel compelled to share your chips with the local birds? Fish n’ chips on the beach can’t be beaten! Do you sit on the beach with can of coke and newspaper wrapped chips and watch the sunset? Do you embrace your loved one as the sun disappears below the horizon in a fiery ball and the stars begin to sparkle?

Sunsets-and-Food-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Do you love your feet in the ocean, do you paddle or dive right in? On the hottest days, dunking beneath the waves can be refreshing and invigorating.
Or do you prefer to sunbathe, lying on the beach worshipping the sun, or do you take a book and lose yourself in stories?

Feet-in-the-Sea-and-Relax-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Are you one of the lucky ones who can surf the waves – either on a board, or in a boat? Can you relax on board and let the ocean rise and fall beneath you?

Boats-and-Ocean-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Do you love to explore, to climb the rocks, dive from cliffs, build dens, and get creative? Do you take photoshoots of mermaids, dystopia, and conquer pirates?

Explore-and-Dystopia-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Are sandcastles your thing? Are you an architect of the golden grains? Do you build turrets, and moats, and make lolly stick flag poles? Do you sculpt the sand to your every whim, designing and creating with imagination and the salty breeze? Can you build towers of pebbles, balancing in an ever more intricate game of Jenga?

Fun-and-Craft-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

The Palace Pier, now the Brighton Pier – though I can’t ever call it that – was a haunt for my childhood self, walking along the wooden timbers watching the green sea swell beneath me, feeling the ocean in my hair.
Do you search for lonely bays, lost coves, quiet havens, and romantic harbours? Do you walk from one end of the beach to the other, kicking through the rippling waves?

Bays-and-Piers-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Or are you like me, as long as my feet are in the water, I let the siren call of the ocean beguile me, and I lose myself in the beauty of the sea?

Beauty-and-Waves-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

What is it for you? What draws you to the beach, to the salty sea?

What entices you to the ocean?

The Tears of Nature – Rain and Flowers

Spring flowers laced with crystal tears…
the warmth of Summer nurturing her flora…

The Tears of Nature – Rain and Flowers - The Last Krystallos

A lovely friend posted a couple of photos on Facebook this week
of her garden flowers in the rain, and as we’ve had a fair bit of rain this May
it made me think of my own flowers decorated with diamonds…

aquilegia-rhapsody-in-blue-rose-geranium-the-last-krystallos

Aquilegia, Rose – Rhapsody in Blue, Geranium © Lisa Shambrook

It rains a lot in Wales, but that’s not a bad thing.
Taking photos of flowers in the rain offers a beautiful clarity and charm.

aquilegia-arum-lily-philadelphus-belle-etoile-aquliegia-the-last-krystallos

Aquilegia, Arum Lily, Belle Etoile – Philadelphus, Aquilegia © Lisa Shambrook

Water is the essence of life, watching thirsty plants flourish shows how vital it is to all of us.

paeony-geranium-poppy-tulip-the-last-krystallos

Paeony, Geranium, Oriental Poppy, Tulip © Lisa Shambrook

Dewdrops, crystal, diamond rain, reflection, life, clarity,
nature’s mantle to beautify our lives…

Ladies-mantle-rudbekia-daffodil-aquilegia-the-last-krystallos

Ladies Mantle, Rudbekia, Daffodil, Aquilegia © Lisa Shambrook

 What flowers have you enjoyed seeing laced with nature’s tears?

The Tears of Nature – Rain and Flowers - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

To Vegan or Not to Vegan – Worldbuilding a Future Generation

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

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

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

Dryslwyn Castle Cait and Lisa The Last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

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

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

© Lisa Shambrook

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

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

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© Lisa Shambrook

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

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

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© Lisa Shambrook

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

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

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

© Lisa Shambrook

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

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

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

Taking part in the #LlandeiloLitFest – My Book Fair Interview

I’m heading to the #LlandeiloLitFest next week – a Literary Festival from 27th – 30th April in the gorgeous Welsh market town of Llandeilo. I’ll be signing and selling books on Saturday 29th April in the Civic Hall, Crescent Road (SA19 6HN if you need SatNav directions). I’ll be offering some great deals too. While stocks last, I will be giving everyone who buys ‘A Symphony of Dragons’ paperback a free copy of ‘Beneath the Rainbow’ too…and who doesn’t want a free paperback?

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So, in preparation I thought I’d share the interview I did for Llandeilo Book Fair (find the original interview here) with you:

Please tell us about the books you’ll be bringing to the Book Fair.
L_Shambrook_Beneath_the_Rainbow_AmazonBeneath the Rainbow: Freya won’t let anything stand in her way. Not even death. Freya’s family are left to fulfil her dreams, but as time runs out final yearned for wishes remain lost. Only Freya can help as precious life hangs in the balance.

BeneathOldOak_Cover_Amazon (1)Beneath the Old Oak: Meg thinks her mother is broken. Is she broken too? Meg’s life spirals out of control and she’s terrified she’ll inherit her mother’s sins. Seeking refuge and escape she finds solace beneath a huge, old oak, but a devastating storm will change her life forever.

Distant_Star_AmazonBeneath the Distant Star: Jasmine feels like the ghost of the sister she can no longer remember and has something her sister never will – life. She fights to become her own person. Life becomes a battleground as she disregards the rules and her reckless abandon threatens to destroy what she needs most.

4. Symphony_of_Dragons_LISTINGMy newest release A Symphony of Dragons is a collection of my own short stories which connect my Hope Within books and my new chronicles, and follow the theme of dragons…A lyrical collection of seven stories featuring enchanting worlds of fantasy, contemporary fiction, romance, steampunk, and more that will let the song of dragons lead you…

Which genres do they belong to?
My three Hope Within Novels belong in the contemporary and Young Adult genres, but have delighted all ages. The short story collection embraces dragons and the eclectic genres of Steampunk, fantasy, contemporary, romance and more!

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Jasmine © Lisa Shambrook

What are the characters and plots like?
My characters are real and vulnerable in the Hope Within novels, the plots cover a range of difficult subjects which will inspire those who read them.

Tell us about your newest book.
I’m currently working on The Seren Stone Chronicles which I am loving writing. This is Wales far, far into the future: ‘Centuries beyond post-apocalyptic, the landscape of Wales has turned into a whole new country…and the rumble of dragons has returned…’

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Seren Stone © Lisa Shambrook

Which of your books are you’re most proud of, and why?
I am totally engaged in my current writing, but I am proud of each of my books in different ways.

What is the best thing that has been said about your books?
One of the best compliments has been having my writing likened to Virginia Woolf and Mitch Albom.

Why did you decide to come to the Llandeilo Book Fair?
I have been before and the atmosphere is fun and friendly and the visitors are lovely!

Do you have a special connection to Wales?
I moved to Wales twenty-three years ago and I love it. The Welsh countryside has inspired my latest writing, and the myths, legends, and nature continue to enchant and rouse me.

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© Lisa Shambrook

What is your personal background?
I am a quiet introvert and I live within my words! I have a lovely husband and three children, and have been writing since my youngest was born.  I also have cats and a neurotic German Shepherd!

Who are your favourite authors?
It’s always been Garth Nix and Tolkien, but Patrick Rothfuss and Philip Pullman are right up there.

So, come and see us all at the Book Fair and see if any of the weekend’s events take your fancy…Lots of great talks, classes, and a Book Hunt…check out the website and Facebook page to see what catches your eye!

Ten Things I Discovered Beneath…

Do you ever look beneath?

Ten Things I Discovered Beneath - The Last Krystallos

I love being beneath – the rainbows, the old oak trees, and the stars,
and what else have I found beneath?

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I was five and the verandah was cracking, not long and it would be dangerous… © Lisa Shambrook

I grew up in a house with a veranda out the back. When I was young, Dad tore it down and rebuilt the back steps and I discovered the space beneath the veranda! A dark, dusty, and dirty ‘cave’ which I loved to play in, I doubt today’s health and safety would allow it, but I discovered my imagination down there.

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The night sky has always fascinated me © Lisa Shambrook

I always knew I was a Daddy’s girl, and standing out beneath the stars while he taught me constellations, confirmed it.

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I love the calm beneath the water © Lisa Shambrook

Under water there is calm – a calm which I lack in my every-day life (do any of us have calm in our every-day life?) and swimming relaxes me. I once swam a whole length beneath the water without taking a breath – it was beautiful. Maybe I should be a mermaid…

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Nothing more beautiful than the colours of the rainbow © Lisa Shambrook

Rainbows are all about perspective. Have you ever tried to stand beneath one? Rainbows teach me both magic and science – and that you can never reach the end of one!

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The crashing cascade is a true wonder © Lisa Shambrook

There are many waterfalls in Wales, but at Henrydd Falls and Sgwd Eira you can walk a slippery ledge to get behind the veil of water, but it’s worth it. Standing beneath a waterfall is an exhilarating experience and I found the inner delight of a child and my love of water!

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Arty clutter © Lisa Shambrook

I can’t even go into detail about how many things, every-day items, I’ve lost and found beneath other things – that’s the cluttered home of a writer.

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Lost in the velveteen darkness © Lisa Shambrook

I love the dark. Have you ever gone beneath ground into an old castle ruin’s dungeon or down a mine? Dolacothi gold mine isn’t far away and we visited when my children were small. We wore miner’s hats with lights on the front and big heavy batteries round our waists, and to demonstrate the darkness the miners worked in we were all instructed to turn out our lamps. As we stood in the pitch blackness, small fingers clutched my hand tight and a small, quivering voice rang out in the dark. “Mummy, my eyes don’t work anymore.”  I discovered the innocence and trust of my three-year-old standing in the dark, his hand clutching mine.

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Beneath the Old Oak © Lisa Shambrook

Beneath trees I’ve discovered how to make daisy chains, how to kick up piles of autumn leaves and I’ve found love.

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Anxiety and depression © Lisa Shambrook

Beneath the suffocating blanket of depression and anxiety, I discovered support, love, hope and reasons to carry on…

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The Hope Within Books © Lisa Shambrook

I was a shy and very introverted child, and beneath the façade of quiet and reserved I uncovered an observant and imaginative mind – capable of writing and conveying all the stories queued up in my head – hence, I became a writer!

What have you discovered beneath?

Lisa Shambrook The Hope Within Novels Twitter Ad

The Hope Within Novels by Lisa Shambrook

Find out what Freya discovered Beneath the Rainbow,
what Meg found Beneath the Old Oak,
and what Jasmine searched for Beneath the Distant Star…