Category Archives: Writing

Drained. Empty. Done. – Mid-Week Flash Challenge

RadioArts Cadena de AmoreDrained. Empty. Done.

That’s how I felt. Life had sucked me in and spat me back out, drained, empty, and done.

There was nothing left and nowhere to go, and I’d dropped to the ground with a whirlwind of emotion spiralling through my mind about an hour ago. Rage, disappointment, and anxiety had flooded my body, and I’d ridden the waves until they crushed me.

Now I sat in the dirt, my arms tight about my knees, rivulets of mascara smudging my cheeks, and a runny nose glistening atop my lip.

I threw my head back and stared up at the sky. Grey clouds rolled and mists closed in and I relished the pathetic fallacy. Mournful moors and lonely mountains spread before me and I howled. I bawled and let the tears flow afresh like a waterfall tipping over the edge of a precipice.

I felt better as the tears dripped off my chin and down my collar bone, sliding into my cleavage. I cried more, letting the liberty of anguish relinquish my anger. I shook with sobs, my breast rising and falling against the black swathes of chiffon. Guttural and organic, my cries echoed and spilled right out of me and into the gathering fog.

“Damn you!” I cursed with abandon and wiped my nose the length of my forearm. I was ugly crying now, but I didn’t care. I was far enough away to shout and swear at the drawing night without concern, and my blubbing continued relentlessly.

Finally my body was done – drained, empty, done.

I sniffed and wept, but there was nothing more to give.

I opened puffy eyes and blinked, wiped my nose again and cleaned my arm with an inconspicuous piece of chiffon, before dropping both hands to the ground and leaning back. I really was alone up here, completely alone. I took a moment to compose myself. Wiping my wet eyes with my fingers and smudging away the lines of black mascara with my thumbs.

I sighed, my body catching with every breath as the sigh escalated then I breathed out. A few more and calmness overtook my torment. Images of betrayal, of a cheeky grin, a guilty grin – my lip curled, but I lifted my hands and lowered them in a palliative movement.

I remembered my agony, up here beneath the glowering sky, and smiled with wry embarrassment. He was not worth those tears, that grief, and exhausted I let my head sink again to my knees. I stroked my leg, soft and smooth and worth more than him. In a gesture of acquiescence I lifted my left hand and felt something weightless alight.

Very slowly I moved my head, peering from beneath my hair and saw a chaffinch, sitting, as unperturbed as my morning hairbrush, in my hand. I raised one eyebrow and he cocked his head. Grey and pink feathers ruffled in the breeze and his tiny feet tickled my palm. Was I Cinderella? Would he speak?

I held my breath and he stared at me, his black eye glistening. He warbled something deep within his throat, but I didn’t understand. Then he zig zagged through the misty air ‘til he was gone. Then I understood.

I sniffed again, pulled out my reticule, and checked my face. Fresh mountain air would take away my puffy eyes and a quick wipe corrected the stains on my cheeks. A brush of powder, a sweep of eyeshadow, and a stroke of eyeliner was all it took. I got to my feet and shook out my dress, clouds of dark chiffon billowing like the cumulus above.

He wasn’t the only man at the party, and I’d spied a bloke in a grey suit and a pink shirt on my way out… I shook my head. I wasn’t done, after all.

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Inspired to write for this photo literally just as it presents itself… for Miranda’s Mid-Week Flash Challenge and a digitally manipulated photo from RadioArts, this one is called Cadena de Amor.  You can find him on Deviant Art.

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.

Ghosts and Water – Mid-Week Flash Challenge

Lake Pehoe, Chile Mid-week Flash Challenge Ghosts and WaterThe mountains rose like ghosts of a world past in pinnacles of granite entwined with shards of history. Shay stood opposite, perspiration biting beneath her armpits like sand ants.

Months, maybe years, of hope culminated in this moment as she stood knee-deep in crystal waters. Murmurs whispered on the breeze as her people shuffled behind her, gathering on the foretold beach.

She allowed a small sigh to escape her lips.

“Is it now? Are we here?” Menon spoke in a low whine and his voice irritated her. Shay tightened her fists, her fingernails too short and stubby to do any damage.

She nodded. “It’s here, and now.”

“But…” Shay’s jaw clenched as Menon’s voice complained.

“But nothing,” she stared ahead, ignoring the muttered protest that Menon didn’t dare complete.

Another voice rose from the crowd behind her, small in its volume but large in awe. “Is that home?”

“Home…” began Shay, “is the other side of those giants.”

Menon spoke again, “The mountains we can traverse like goats, it’s the water…”

“I know!” Shay betrayed her emotions.

“Give her a moment,” cried a voice from the back. “Don’t push her,” called another. Menon dropped to the sand and Shay hoped sand ants would find him.

“We don’t swim,” he muttered.

Shay moved forward, her legs pushing through the water. She’d read the prophecy a thousand times and not once did it ever mention crossing the water. She’d always put the sea to the back of her mind. Now it stood in front of her, vast, deep, and the colour of her hair.

The sun was going down, and their pursuers were less than hours behind. If they were to find safety the water had to be crossed. But if they found a way to cross, so would the companies behind them. Shay’s sigh was louder this time and accompanied by a minuscule shake of her head.

“C’mon then.” Menon was impatient.

Shay’s hands shook as she stared at the land, their promised land, their sanctuary after all these wilderness years. This time it would take more than words to save them.

She refused to look behind her; she already felt dozens of pairs of eyes boring into her spine and the pressure sat upon her shoulders like concrete. Like the concrete prisons that had enslaved so many of her kind. Now they stood on the brink of returning to their own lands, far enough away from the destruction and toxicity of the compounds, and she could taste freedom like salt on the air.

Closing her eyes, Shay offered silent thanks to the ghosts of the past, the Elders that dwelt on in the mountains buried beneath granite tombs, and to the eagles that still soared on the horizon in a welcome that spoke directly to her soul.

Nothing now entered her mind except the cry of the eagles, and the wind that weaved through the mountains and across the turquoise sea.

She’d heard of miracles, she’d met them face-to-face, and she needed one now.

Clenched fists opened as calm washed over her and Shay lifted her arms in a biblical motion. She barely heard the murmur behind her as she concentrated on her ancestors’ whispers.

The ocean bubbled at her feet, sloshing about her legs and soaking her leather trousers above her boots. Maybe it would part like legends of old had once told, but the water remained, cool and fluid.

Creaking iron, steel, metal shattered the silence, and Shay’s eyes fluttered open as gasps flew about her like errant butterflies. Water undulated and waves broke as rails rose from the water bed, sand and water washing over the previously buried struts as they pushed clear of the sea.

They weren’t rails, but a ladder, like a rollercoaster which rose and rested just below sea level, unseen to those behind but a saviour to those who climbed and walked across.

Shay led her people to safety, to the foothills of their home, and as they entered the mountains with feet as nimble as antelope, the ladder crumbled.  Metal shattered and gurgled and disappeared, lost in all but memory.

Eagles and ghosts sighed and Shay took her people home.

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Needed the flash fiction boost, so Miranda’s Mid-Week Flash Challenge and photo was perfect inspiration this week.

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.

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?  

Blog Posting Schedule and News

My Blog Posting Schedule is changing this year.

Blog Posting Schedule and News title for The Last Krystallos blog

Right now, my mental health has been suffering and I’m drawing back for several reasons. To find more time for writingThe Seren Stone Chronicles are foremost in my mind, on paper and the keyboard… and to give myself space for recovery.

I want to fit in more Flash Fiction and writing exercises, these inspire me and keep my writing tight, and so I will be blogging articles on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of each month.

Star ornament with Tell a Beautiful Story written on it - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

You’ll find stories, and I’ll keep you up to date with gorgeous photos, nature, mental health awareness, dreams, positivity, and articles on writing, reading, and more cool stuff!

cushion with Retreat written on it on The Last Krystallos blog

© Lisa Shambrook

I began to blog as The Last Krystallos in February 2010, eight years ago on Blogger, switching to WordPress in 2014.  I blogged sporadically but posted all my Flash Fiction each week. I began blogging once a week, every Wednesday, three years ago in 2015, and have loved posting regular articles on subjects as diverse as Mental Health, Positivity and Dreams, Nature, and Writing, and Reading.

Labradorite gem stone with a necklace with Strength written on it - The Last Krystallos blog

© Lisa Shambrook

My articles have generally been in line with my writing, as it says in my website About Me:  I’m a sensory writer and I delve into sensitive subjects that will lift your spirit and steal your heart, and I conjure worlds of fantasy and post-apocalypse which will ignite your imagination.

This is what you’ll find here!

Trollbeads bracelet and Hot Choc from Pethau Da coffee shop Carmarthen - The Last Krystallos blog

© Lisa Shambrook

You can search my articles on my blog and reread or find anything you want since I began regularly writing. My Flash Fiction can be discovered under Fiction in Categories in the side bar: Five Sentence Fiction, 55 Words, Monday Mixer, Blues Buster, Mid-Week Flash Challenge and more… It’s all accessible and fun to look back at.

grey cat sleeping and relaxed The Last Krystallos blog

© Lisa Shambrook

See you on the first and third Wednesdays,
but don’t forget to check out my short and micro short stories when they come up!

Thank you so much for all your ongoing support and love ❤

Dragons, Stars, and Works in Progress

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

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

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

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

© Lisa Shambrook

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

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

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

© Lisa Shambrook

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

A Symphony of Dragons - Lisa Shambrook - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

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

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

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

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

© Lisa Shambrook

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

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

Perpetual Repercussion – Mid-Week Flash Challenge

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Perpetual Reprcussion - Photograph - Sarolta Ban

Photograph by Sarolta Ban

Perpetual repercussion – words resonate. Seasons lost – time too late. Arctic perma – wayward lea. Dig for seed – find the key.

I’d not taken the riddle literally, so my surprise at discovering the huge protrusion in the sand is very real.

Tolkien snuffles at its base, his nose flaring and his whine rising amid a low growl, and I tentatively hold my hand to the square and my team remains silent behind me. Only Tolly’s snorts and the thwack of canvas sails flapping in the wind make a sound.

I stare at the metal post, the cold biting through my clothes, and call Tolly back. He barks at it one last time and returns to my side. Through my blurry lenses, the shaft rises at an angel out of the ground with notches protruding like the bit of a key. I rub my goggles, but only smear the dirt and scratch the surface glass even more.

My boots crunch as I move closer, the dry stone and sand giving way beneath my soles. I tug the scarf from my throat, loosening the itchy material away from my beard and chapped lips then lift my goggles. I chuckle. It isn’t a key, not a literal key, but the leaning post does offer answers.

We’d spent months traversing the desert, crossing the ocean, and reaching the island called Spitzbergen, at least we hoped that’s where we were. The world had changed; its continents and islands had altered beyond recognition in many cases. How could we ever be sure where we were?

But Tolly jigs at my side, his muscles taut with pent up excitement, and it’s contagious. I reach up and brush the dust from the broken metal sign. I smile, as I can’t read the words etched into the steel, and Nottson approaches from behind to clean and decipher the runes. Moments later his laughter rings out on the breeze. “Your riddle speaks true.” He beckons the rest of the team. “Perpetual is clear, Repercussion half lost, but the words are true. It is here. We are here.” His arms swing wide and a cheer erupts from the men and women at my rear.

We dig – unearthing the base of the signpost and nothing more. Frustration fills our hearts, our souls, and our exhausted bodies, but Tolly insists and alongside the faithful dog, we keep excavating.

It takes days, weeks, but Tolly has never let us down and finally, as the arctic sun begins to drop in the sky Tolly’s bark echoes and his claws ring out – on glass, or metal, or?

We dig, and clean, and polish, and then we step back with tears in our eyes. Mirrors, steel, and prisms, preserved beneath the sand, gleam beneath our feet. Dyveke Sanne’s ancient work glistens once more, reflecting the Svalbard polar light in tones of green, and blue, and white.

Finally, we have the key within our grasp. Tolly whirls and barks and feeds our anticipation. The world is waiting, tired and weary, and hungry, and we are just moments from the vault, just moments from saving humankind.

Perpetual Repercussion…life can start again.

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I was inspired by the existence of the Global Seed Vault and Dyveke Sanne‘s art Perpetual Repercussion on the roof and entrance to the facility in Svalbard, Norway. In my story the world has suffered great catastrophe and the hunt for the seed bank underway… See more stories at Miranda’s Mid-Week Flash Challenge.

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.

Nightlings – Mid-Week Flash Challenge

The battle was not yet won and nor would it be without help.

The opposing army stood silent but for a drum beating in time with Nomin’s heart. Sweat and fear from his warriors and their horses reeked and the taste of blood set his teeth on edge.

Numbers did not favour him, and the exhaustion evident in the hoarse breaths behind him made him wonder how much longer he could stall the inevitable.

Though they were almost a mile apart, separated by a stretch of verdant mossy green and a crystal clear stream, he knew the Captain’s eyes were trained upon him, and he squirmed with discomfort. Within moments the virid velvet carpet would become mire and the stream would run with ruby swirls.

Nomin straightened his back and relaxed his shoulders heavy beneath his leather armour, and stared back. The drumbeat, echoing across the glen, quickened and Nomin’s heart matched it. His breathing rose and fell with the strain of courage building and determination gilding his lungs. It was now or never, and time was not on their side.

Nomin closed his eyes, and uttered her name beneath his breath, a single syllable, yet everything, “Bren…” Her name fluttered away on the breeze, but he hoped she’d heard it. Their lives depended on it.

The horses shuffled, nerves tingling beneath their hide and anticipation flooding their veins. The drumming stopped and a shimmering wave glinted on the far side of the valley as shields rose, and in the sudden hush Nomin raised his arm. He could not retract his response and commitment was sealed in his shaking hand.

Tension increased as armoured gloves clenched reins and boots gripped flanks. The battle roar opposite had the desired effect, and Nomin swallowed hard then dropped his hand. Heels kicked and horses sprang and Nomin urged his steed forward.

Thunder flooded the glen, and lightning flashes of swords and shields glittered beneath the gloomy sky, and they raced towards death and glory.

Nomin closed his eyes as his breath tore through his throat and his knuckles grazed against his horse’s armour. How long had they before the clash, before the clang of steel took the lives of those around him, how long before death graced the green, green grass?

A new sound echoed, wailing and tearing through his brain and his eyes flew open. He almost dropped his reins as he pulled up his mount and watched his army divide and veer. “Bren!” his voice cracked with effort and passion.

Bren sat astride a steed of the night, clothed in witchery and ebony. She howled like a wolf, and from the forests came a host of Nightlings, baying like demons and screaming with banshee calls. Black, and white, and grey chargers, midnight’s ghosts, streamed from the trees with wild manes and tails, and the magic of the night.

Nomin watched with wonder sparkling in his tired eyes and love pumping through his veins. He screamed and roared encouragement, and he and his army watched as Bren stormed the soldiers that would have annihilated his. Tears welled and merged with the sweat on his grimy face.

Nightlings, the myths of the night, stampeded across the glen without leaving a hoof print or a trampled piece of grass, and barrelled into the army with a force they would never survive. Screams of men mingled with the rage of the revenant, and death did indeed come to the glen that afternoon.

When it ended, Nomin galloped forward, searching the Nightlings for their queen. The ghosts departed and finally Nomin gazed into the dark eyes of his love. Bren smiled with eyes that could not weep, and blue lips that matched the pale skin that barely covered her hollow face. Wild black hair, whipped in strands as the wind kissed her in a way that Nomin now – never could.

Their steeds stood side by side, ghost by flesh, and Nomin tore off his glove and reached to cup Bren’s face in his warm, calloused hand. Bren’s frozen fingers closed around Nomin’s in a clasp that would have to last for all his time he had left. She backed slowly away, until he nodded and whispered in a breath that only she could hear, “Til then…” and Bren’s mount was gone, and she with it.

Death and the Nightlings came and the battle was won.

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Miranda’s Mid-Week Flash Challenge is back again after a summer break and this photo truly inspired me, and I listened to Audiomachine as I wrote…epic battle music!

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.

 

Going Underground – Mid-Week Flash Challenge

abandoned subway station - City Hall Station, in New York

Abandoned Subway by John Paul Palescandolo & Eric Kazmirek, featured Daily Mail 2012

Talin grabbed Cae’s arm, yanking her away from the wall and down to the ground. Cae yelped, but dropped beside him cursing at the cry she’d uttered. She bristled as his arm swept across her chest in a protective gesture and he held her against the crumbling wall. Falling bricks and concrete echoed amid the crash of shattering glass, and dust clouds rushed round the corner.

They pulled bandana scarves up and over their mouths and shrank back. A billowing fog of debris and death smothered the back street, and they remained crushed against each other and the broken wall.

Moments later, Cae impatiently pushed against Talin’s restraining arm and signalled to him. Reluctantly, he released her and followed as she began to creep, toe to heel, along the wall, her dirty fingers clutching at the disintegrating brick as the ground trembled beneath their feet.

Fog and dust swirled and rotors whirred above them, the hum of drones hovered, and Talin moved behind Cae, wiping the dirt and grease from his goggles. He could hear her breath wheezing behind her neckerchief, and knew her asthma was playing up. He reached out to slow her, but she was gone.

Explosions and splintering glass still rang in his ears as tenements crashed and collapsed behind him, and as he bolted forward, the ground disappeared and he fell through the same rotten boards Cae had.

He landed in a pile of rubbish with an oomph that juddered through his body. He jumped as a hand rested on his leg, as Cae grabbed him and pulled him to his feet. He knew it was Cae as her breath still rasped and rattled, and he immediately snatched her backpack off her shoulders. Even in the gloom he knew what he was looking for and his fingers quickly located her inhaler. They slipped off the mound of rubble and waste, and collapsed onto cold concrete. Talin found Cae’s hand and pressed the inhaler into it. He heard her cough and then gulp down the medication. There was silence as she held her breath, then she took another puff.

The sound hissed in the eerie silence, and then Cae breathed softly, more measured, and Talin relaxed.

“Where are we?” she panted.

“Don’t talk,” he warned. “We have to move from here, in case we’re tracked.”

“The drones can’t get down here…” began Cae.

“Never say never.” Talin squeezed her arm.

The vague light from above disappeared with a thunderous crash as the wall they’d inched along fell, and more dust and grime mushroomed down the hole.

“Not know, anyway!” cried Cae, leaping away from the falling stone and filth. She shrugged her backpack on again and felt along her belt until she found the torch hanging at her waist. She flipped the light on and a stark white glow shone out into the dark.

A broken steel ladder barely clung to the wall, rusted and hanging free of its bolts, and they stood inside an alcove. Cae stepped forward and cried out again, “We’re in a tunnel, the old railway!”

Talin pushed past her and stumbled on the ancient iron rails. Regaining his balance, he switched on his own torch and swept it about the tunnel. “Trains haven’t run for years…” He pointed his light at the tracks. “But these rails look so clean…”

“We shouldn’t be down here…” whispered Cae, clinging suddenly to his arm.

“Rather here, than up there,” said Talin, patting her hand. “And there’s no way back up there.”

Together they moved forward, following the tracks, stepping from sleeper to sleeper, their pace increasing as they hurried over the wooden stepping stones. Torch light bobbed ahead of them and they flinched as the sound of devastation continued to rain above.

The sound of war lessened the further they ran, until up ahead a soft golden glow shone like a candle in a window. The tunnel widened opening up into a vast domed underground station. Cae gripped Talin’s hand as they slowed to a walk then they stopped as two tiny red lights shone in the dark.

The red dots danced lightly across their chests, settling on their hearts. They stopped and waited.

Two women, dressed in combat trousers and torn jackets, with rifles and military boots, stood before them. “Friend or foe?” they asked in unison.

“We were escaping… I’m Talin, this is my sister, Cae.”

Broad smiles lit the women’s faces, “Talin, Cae, welcome to the Resistance.”

6c195d394e709b0cfd47dce8416778fd_christian-page-divider-clip-christmas-underline-clipart_560-420

Another great photo prompt from Miranda’s Mid-Week Flash Challenge over at Finding Clarity.

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.

The Albatross – Mid Week Flash Challenge

My feet moved as if they were dripping with wet cement, but they moved forward all the same.

It had been raining when I’d arrived at the lonely beach, but the sun had glazed the sky and a soft breeze had chased the rain west. Now, bronze clouds swept across the firmament and a warm zephyr caressed my hair.

It wasn’t enough and I kept walking.

Water slapped the struts of the pier the only sound above the light wind that tickled my ears, and my soft footfalls.

The boards beneath my feet echoed and I thrust my hands into my Virginia Woolf pockets. Fingers stroked stones, smooth pebbles, and balled up letters of love.

At the end of the pier I sank to my knees and peered down into the water. Burnished clouds danced over the ripples as twilight gave way to dusk. I moved to let my legs dangle, my toes dipping into the ocean.

Tears slipped silently into the water, not making a sound as they joined the vast body of sea, and I considered how it would feel to follow them.

The clouds in the ocean parted and diamond stars sparkled like glitter strewn across the water, but even that wasn’t enough.

Paper, wrapped around the pebbles in my pockets, burned my fingertips, and my tears yielded to sharp, choked sobs, and I swung my legs, gaining momentum, rhythm, and resolve. My hands moved from my pockets to grip the timber, to push, to give me strength, to urge my body forward.

The last rays of copper shifted across my legs as the sun bowed low, begging me to sink with him, to tag along on his shimmering tail sinking into the silky sea. My sigh rivalled the breeze and I closed my eyes, grasping the beams beneath cold, trembling fingertips.

Dizzy with anticipation, sick with fear, and empty of care I prepared to slide from the pier.

Behind me a soft whoosh moved through the breeze and I thought angel wings touched my shoulder. Startled amid the quiet and acquiescent eventide, my eyes fluttered open and I twisted to see what celestial presence had landed behind me.

The huge bird stared at me with eyes as dark as night rimmed with gold, and snow-white feathers quivering with curiosity. I gazed back at the ghostly creature, glowing beneath the rising moon, and wonder struck my soul.

The bird shook his head and eyed me at an angle that must have been uncomfortable, and a smile whispered across my face for the first time in forever. His hooked beak dipped and the albatross shook his wings. Soft, downy feathers spilled and spiralled about me, like lost confetti, and tears blurred.

Then far away, beyond the cliffs, over the ocean, a cry caught the wind and the bird raised his head. His answering call spoke to my heart and I knew his mate waited. Love endured.

Pebbles dropped with my heavy heart, one by one.

It was enough.

As the albatross launched and soared across the sky above me, my soft footfalls echoed through the night as I made my way back down the pier, my bare feet slapping on cold, damp boards and my hands keenly clutching a white feather of hope.

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Leaping right in early with a piece for Miranda’s Mid-Week Flash Challenge over at Finding Clarity.

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.

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.

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

© 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.

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

© 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?