Tag Archives: Family

In Need of a Hug…

Feel the presence of love, wrapped up within a hug – Robert M. Hensel

In Need of a Hug - How Hugging offers affection, love, protection, and compassion - the last krystallos

I read this week that the more you hug your children the faster their brains develop. New-born babies shown more affection had stronger brain responses. This shouldn’t be a surprise. Touch and hugs show affection, love, protection, and compassion, everything a child needs. It’s one of the reasons babies are born and placed on their mother’s chest or at their breast – skin-on-skin touch helps bonding and gives comfort.

I also watched a report of a man, Antar Davidson, working with children recently separated from their mother in a migrant detention home in Tucson, who was asked to intervene and explain to three siblings aged 16, 10, and 8 that it was against shelter policy to hug. He was told to tell them to stop hugging. Antar refused and quit his job. These children only had each other left in a terrifying and alien situation and they were asked to relinquish touch between each other. It seems an atrocious and altogether backward move to make.

Then I saw this video of ten abandoned baby ducklings released into a pond. The pond’s resident mother duck, having recently hatched her own family of nine, immediately rushed to their side and ushered the orphans into her own family.

 

These three reports had a lasting effect on me this week. I’ve been distressed at the news of families being ripped apart at US borders. No matter your thoughts on immigration, removing a child from its parent is categorically wrong and never, ever the answer. Compassion seems to have taken a holiday from the current administration’s hearts.

A hug is worth a thousand words – anon - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Removing touch from a relationship can be dangerous. The ability to convey love and emotion within a relationship is paramount to keeping a bond and an emotional connection. One of our basic needs is to feel closeness, to touch each other, and to feel security within love. Animals know this. My dog welcomes us home with physical touch, and my cats rub against us and crave being stroked.

Most of us welcome each other with a hug, or a kiss, or a handshake, depending on your relationship. I’m not a tactile person, and if I don’t know you don’t try to hug me. I have personal space, control, and consent issues and to share a hug with me I have to be emotionally connected to you. My immediate family, and very close friends are the only ones who can break into my physical hug circle. But I crave touch as much as my cats do!

You can't give a hug without getting a hug – anon - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I love holding hands, hugging, and snuggling with my husband, and my children give me the most amazing hugs! The act of a hug offers me security and love. To be denied this would damage me as a human being.

The mother duck immediately knew what the little ducklings needed. Affection and security and she offered both within moments of meeting them. This world is so divisive, judgmental, and bigoted we need acceptance, compassion, and love.

Can we welcome all those in need the same way this duck embraced an expanding brood?

In Need of a Hug - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

The best place in the world is inside a hug – J Quest

There are myriad articles out there extolling the benefits of hugs
and physical touch – and as long as consent is given – always ask first –
you should get and give as much as you can!

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.

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?  

What is the Love in Your Life?

Valentine’s Day always makes me think about the love in my life
So, here it is, everything that means Love to me… 

what-is-the-love-in-your-life-the-last-krystallos

What brings you LOVE in your life?

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Vince, Bekah, Dan, and Caitlin © Lisa Shambrook

My instant response to what brings me the most joy and love in my life is easy – my Family. My husband and children have brought me every emotion under the moon, but love overrides it all. My marriage and partnership with my husband is the most important relationship to me as my children came from this union. I’ve written about our love before and it’s blatantly obvious how much my children mean to me. Each one of them is a unique human being and I love how different each relationship is, how much fun and laughter and joy they bring to my life.
This is Love.

pets-the-last-krystallos

Rusty, Roxy, Raven, and Misty © Lisa Shambrook

Soft fur, purrs (the cats, they can’t help it!), devotion, dependence, twinkling eyes, curling up on your lap (yes, even a sixty pound German Shepherd tries this!), adoration, kneading kitty paws, wagging tail (generally the dog!), wet noses, pricked up ears, padding paws. Rusty, Roxy, Misty and Raven.
This is Love.

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Nature, scriptures, freeagency, and crystals © Lisa Shambrook

I don’t often write about my religious views and my Faith. My faith is vast, ever evolving, and it embraces humanity with a Christ-like vision, but my Christianity intertwines with aspects of nature and Paganism and the peace of Buddhism. I think Spirituality is a vast subject and faith is very personal. My beliefs make sense to me, and no one can challenge what my heart reveals to me.
This is Love.

creativity-writing-the-last-krystallos

Art, worldbuilding, sketches and notes, and dragons © Lisa Shambrook

I need a Creative outlet, without it I’d go quietly mad. I draw, plan, sketch, paint, sculpt, write, design, craft, photograph, and create. I create worlds with words, characters, plots, emotion, and dragons. I share my emotions in every piece I write or make.
This is Love.

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Acorn Cups, Trollbeads, Leather jacket, and Dr Martens Boots © Lisa Shambrook

Most of the things that bring me love are free, family, faith, nature, pets, imagination, but sometimes we have material items that mean something to us. If I wear something ‘til it’s worn out, then it’s been needed and loved. My leather jackets end up worn and torn, as do my beloved boots. I adore gems, I love pretty things, so my bracelet adorned with silver tokens and Murano glass beads means a great deal to me. Each trinket and bead means something, a moment, a place, people, something precious. And as I’m a squirrel, bushy-tailed and anxiously curious I have a thing for acorn cups and hazelnut shells.
This is Love.

What is the Love in your life?

Twenty-one Things I Love About Dan…

Twenty-one Things I Love About You…

To my son, Daniel, on your Twenty-first Birthday!

21-2016-with-the-bells-aug-2016

Dan…Twenty-one on friday!

  1. You lit up my world from the first moment you kicked into this world, my head-strong beautiful son.

    1-1997-daniel-1-heronsbrook-aug-1997

    One…

  2. Your smile has always been one of my favourite things about you. You can light the darkest place with it.

    2-1998-vince-dan-may-1998

    Two…

  3. Your eager delight at the world about you. Your excitable nature from shweep to slox…(sheep and socks!)

    3-1999-dan-3-model-school-nursery-photo-oct-1999

    Three…

  4. Our little Danny boy, full of mischief and fearless adventure!

    4-2000-dan-4-danny-boy-llansteffan-june-2000

    Four…

  5. Your straight-forwardness is strength. Your favourite animal at Gelli Aur aged five was “A big animal with sticks on his head!” A stag.

    5-2001-carreg-cennan-dan-5-oven-august-2001

    Five…

  6. Like a bulldozer you throw yourself into everything with true gusto and sometimes very little thought for consequences, but you always survive!

    6-2002-dan-6-donkey-june-2002

    Six…

  7. I love how you share and love, your love runs deep and strong.

    7-36-dan-7-st-davids-march-2003

    Seven…

  8. You have empathy that will guide both you and those about you, and your example will always inspire.

    8-2004-dan-8-cait-4-model-school-photo-oct-2004

    Eight…

  9. I have never met anyone who can bond so easily and so well with so many, and make a positive difference in their lives!

    9-2005-dan-9-army-july-2005

    Nine…

  10. You have an endearing innocence and naivety, and this is why so many will love you for your honesty and integrity.

    Before Dan had his hair cut.

    Ten…

  11. Your smile lights up so many lives as your sense of fun shines through!

    11-2007-dan-smile-may-2007

    Eleven…

  12. You embrace the simplicity and beauty of life with courage and joy!

    12-2008-freshwater-dan-12-smile-august-2008

    Twelve…

  13. You can be anyone you want to be, dig deep, work hard, and be true to yourself.

    13-2009-dan-and-cait-firth-of-forth-aug-2009

    Thirteen…

  14. Don’t ever give in. Life can be tough and frustrating, but you can always overcome and win!

    14-2010-dan-14-by-bekah-june-2010

    Fourteen…

  15. You have grown slowly with confidence and you will become a beacon of light, a lighthouse…

    15-2011-dan-15-may-2011

    Fifteen…

  16. The way you love is deep and honest and without bars, and your hugs can heal broken spirits.

    16-2012-dan-roxy-july-2012

    Sixteen…

  17. Your sense of adventure will take you far and help you carve your place, don’t lose it!

    17-2013-amazon-zoo-dan-lemur-instagram-april-2013

    Seventeen…

  18. I love your spirit of generosity. You care deeply for those around you and always fight for those in need.

    18-2014-dan-giving-blood-instagram-august-2014

    Eighteen…

  19. Strength and devotion are both naturally abundant in your nature, a true soul of beauty.

    19-2015-dan-family-dystopian-post-apocalyptic-photo-shoot-instagram-february-2015

    Nineteen…

  20. You know your worth, a son of faith and spirit, our son…

    20-2016-dan-on-skype-may-2016-close-up

    Twenty…

  21. The world is at your feet…it’s yours…

    136-dan-skyping-christmas-day-2016-21

    Twenty-one…

*Note: All photographs within this post are copyright to Rebekah, Caitlin, or Lisa and are not to be reproduced or copied in any way.

Silver Wedding Anniversary – Twenty-five Years Together

Today, 5th October, Vince and I celebrate 25 years together
and our Silver Wedding Anniversary…

the-words-that-you-write-with-your-heart-lisa-shambrook-the-last-krystallos

I want to link to a couple of posts, the first is: our 20th Anniversary and our Twenty Expressions of Love…♥ I’m so moved when I read back over the words that our love has produced…

I want to add five more:

After twenty-five years we know each other well, we understand each other as well as we can, given our differences, and what we don’t understand we lovingly accept.

We both feel that spiritual and physical bond that holding hands gives you, and physical intimacy brings both immense emotional and spiritual intimacy.

Time is a blessing, time spent together strengthens and deepens our love, and walks on the beach, or through woodlands, or across mountains, or anywhere together increases and heightens our affection.

The love and humour our family has is an eternal bond, something that ties us together no matter where we are. We, as a family, will always be united whether we are oceans apart or sitting side-by-side, and the winds of time cannot change that, our family makes us whole.

We know the strength of a hug, of arms wrapped tight around each other. We know it in sorrow and in joy, and in unity of love.

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Twenty-five years – Vince and Lisa… One photo a year from 1991 – 2016

We’ve changed in many ways: in looks, personality, character, knowledge, wisdom, emotions, understanding, and much more. We’ve grown and become very different people to who we were twenty-five years ago, but we’ve found solace, compassion, love, strength, and passion within each other and a bond that pushes the boundaries of this life.

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On our Twentieth…

I’ve written a couple of other posts about love and relationships, so if you’re interested: How to Feel Loved – Discover your Love Strategy and learn about how you feel and give love, and: The Most Valuable Way to a Happy and Successful Relationship and see how kindness works.

Here’s to the next Twenty-five Years!

♥ With all my love ♥

How to Feel Loved – Discover your Love Strategy

Have you ever considered what makes you feel loved?
Do you know how to make others feel appreciated and valued?
Read on…and discover your love strategy…

how_to_feel_loved_the_last_krystallos_lisa_shambrook_Title

A thought-provoking post inspired me to consider what makes me feel loved, how does love manifest itself to me, and what makes me feel good? I found the original post on Head, Heart, Health and discovered more on NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) sites and posts about Love Strategies.

how-to-feel-loved-the-last-krystallos-lisa-vince

© Lisa Shambrook

So, take a moment and think about what makes you feel loved?

Is it a word whispered in your ear, or a thoughtful gift, or holding hands?

We have three basic Love Strategies: Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic.

Visual: the need to see love – that special look, flowers, that thoughtful gift, romantic acts and gestures, rose petals on the bed…

Auditory: the need to hear it – whispered words of love, sensual talk, the tone of voice, poetry…

Kinaesthetic: the need to feel love – the touch of your loved one, holding hands, cuddling close, an unexpected kiss…

The idea is to work out which you are, and that’s where it got interesting for me. I looked at how I felt loved within my relationship, and then how I feel loved in general.

how-to-feel-loved-the-last-krystallos-rose-petals

© Lisa Shambrook

To begin with, being an observer, I believed I’d have a visual Love Strategy, but on deeper consideration I found the visuals were less important to me than the kinaesthetic aspect.

You need to ask yourself which of the three could you do without, then get serious and break it down to just one choice. I knew that in my relationship, if my partner couldn’t show me love with flowers, gifts or that look in his eye, I’d be okay as long as I could still feel his touch. Hearing the words, I love you, are so important but if I was deaf, it would still be his hug and a stroke down my arm that would mean more. So I knew I was kinaesthetic.

This became even more apparent when I thought about what makes me feel loved in general. What makes me feel good – is seeing, or hearing, or feeling more important to me?

how-to-feel-loved-the-last-krystallos-hot-chcolate

© Lisa Shambrook

Again, I’m an observer who notices everything, the small things: the heron alighting by the lake, the flower in the hedgerow, the clouds sailing across the sky…but it’s the things I feel that affect me most. The silky taste of Spanish hot chocolate makes my heart sigh. Pulling a woolly jumper or blanket around me comforts me, the velvet feel of rose petals between my thumb and finger calms me. I love splashing through the ocean’s surf, kicking through autumn leaves or crunching through snow…all these delight me. Sinking into water and swimming, I love the feel of the wind caressing my hair, sunbeams kissing my skin and hugs from those I love. Seeing and hearing compliment my experiences, but I need to be enveloped, engulfed, and immersed to really feel and it’s tactile for me.

All these things show me that my love strategy, the sense that makes me feel the best, is kinaesthetic.

how-to-feel-loved-the-last-krystallos-cat-misty

© Lisa Shambrook

What’s yours?

We can enhance our relationships if we understand what makes us tick, what makes us feel good. Not just in romantic encounters but in life itself. If we know what makes our loved ones happy we can create healthier and stronger bonds, and we can all feel more loved.

how-to-feel-loved-the-last-krystallos-cosy

© Lisa Shambrook

If your partner’s love strategy is visual perhaps you could leave them a love note or take them somewhere special to make them feel loved…

If they are auditory you could be sure to tell them often how much they mean to you or leave a loving message on their answerphone…

And if they are kinaesthetic, take time to hold them close, and always remember that meaningful touch…

Work out your love strategy and enjoy enriching your relationship!

Author Feature: Jules Vilmur

There are stories in life that should be told, that need to be told, and this is one of them.
Teenage years are stormy for most, but for a transgender teen,
life can be almost impossible.
You will come away from this book, like I did,
with both greater understanding and compassion.

Complicated

Jules Vilmur lives in California with her husband and too many greyhounds. I found this enigmatic writer on her blog, Laurustina, after her sister, Bullishink, one day posted a link. I discovered a series of pieces about Alice, which touched my heart. At the time I had no idea of the background of these snippets, and once I did, I admired this wonderful woman and her writing even more. I am privileged to feature Jules here, with a book that became an inspired and life-affirming read.

jules vilmur author, the complicated geography of alice, author,

Jules Vilmur

Jules Vilmur

When I first discovered your story, told in snippets on your blog, I was drawn to your beautiful descriptions of heart-breaking moments, what I didn’t know at the time, was that it was true. I ­understand why you wrote it, but how difficult was it to turn it into a book and share with the whole world?

I had been blogging about my life and our family for nearly a decade, tucked away in my little corner of the internet, but after Alice’s death, I couldn’t seem to string a sentence together to save my life. Then in November of 2009, my sister Ruth (aka Bullishink) challenged me to join her for Nanowrimo. Once I started writing, I couldn’t stop.

Virtually none of that first draft made the final cut but it was an incredibly therapeutic process. Taking time out between drafts was important. I waited six months between the first and second, then nearly a year between the fourth and final drafts. I also did a lot of writing aloud, inviting my family to jump in with lines of their own or whatever they thought Alice would say in a given situation. A lot of her profanity came like that and much of the humour.

The biggest hurdle was letting go of the idea of Absolute Truth in exchange for a story that made sense to the reader. Squishing multiple characters into one, shaving off extraneous subplots and rewriting family history felt like lying, but was necessary.

the complicated geography of alice, jules vilmur, book, transgender teen, transgender,

The Complicated Geography of Alice – Jules Vilmur

You tell your story bluntly, with humour, with sadness, and with love. It’s a story that will inspire and help many in similar situations. How do you think it can help the LGBT community, and if anything could change in the world for the better, after what you’ve been through, what would it be?

I wish for a better world, a safer place for kids like Alice, Leelah Alcorn and Kyler Prescott. I hope that readers will gain some understanding of and compassion for trans youth and those who struggle in these formative years. Being a teenager is tough, even in the best of circumstances. Add in issues of gender, sexuality or mental health and it can be agonizing.

A huge factor in my choice to publish with CreateSpace and Kindle, after a year with an inattentive agent, was that I wanted the book out there for the one person who might need it. If our story might help someone feel like they’re not alone or save one family from what we went through, well that’s worth it.

Alice

Alice

I came away from your book with much greater understanding and compassion. What do you think Alice would like readers to get from her, and your, story?

First off, she’d say I got it all wrong, that there wasn’t nearly enough glitter or Gwen Stefani and not a SCRUBS joke in the lot. Beyond that, I think she’d hope for more kindness and bravery. Encouraging others to live their truth was important to her. It takes a brave soul to step out into the light and be seen. When that bravery is met with kindness, we are all better for it.

Alice

Alice

I’ve read some of your flash fiction pieces and your writing is beautiful, are you writing anything more now?

Honestly, I’ve been lazy for a while now. There’s a stack of intertwined stories on my desk that I poke at when the muse strikes. But I know now that books don’t get finished without commitment and a whole lot of muse-less work.

It was important for me to tell Alice’s story simply, with all the fancy poetic language stripped away and now, as I work on other things, I find myself torn between lush language and telling a good, straight-forward story. There’s a balance there. I just haven’t found it.

Jules Vilmur, author

Jules Vilmur, author

We often talk of the need to create or write because of an innate desire, what does writing do for you?

I was an awkward kid, always felt on the outside of things, and writing was my way of dealing with that. I could escape into another world, or imagine controlling the one around me. In that way, it has always been my therapy.

I enjoy writing fiction, but even then it’s like I’m always trying to get at something – like there’s a purpose to it. My college thesis focused on the use of therapeutic writing with survivors of domestic abuse and I’m still passionate about writing therapy and its practical applications. As my friend Mateo once put it, “I’m not writing about these things as much as I’m writing myself out of them.”

the complicated geography of alice, jules vilmur, book, transgender teen, transgender,

The Complicated Geography of Alice – Jules Vilmur

I am full of admiration for Jules Vilmur, and her ability to honour her daughter’s memory, and this book is a fitting tribute. This book will be a huge support and can offer hope to those going through similar, or any, personal upheaval. I am incredibly grateful for the strength this family had to share Alice’s story. Love wins, always. 

The Complicated Geography of Alice is available in both eBook and paperback from Amazon UK, US and all local Amazon stores. Find out more on her Amazon Author Page.

You can follow Jules on Twitter @Laurustina and find her blog Laurustina, and she’s on Goodreads, Pinterest and Google+.

Burn with the Brightest Flame and Believe in Yourself…

Dream big, and you can be anything…

dream big, burn with the brightest flame, believe in yourself,  the last krystallos,

Driving home last week, through the most beautiful welsh countryside, I felt on top of the world, truly amazing! I was thinking how blessed I and my family are living our dreams. What a great feeling…and then The Script and Will I Am came on with ‘Hall of Fame’, and I realised just how true the lyrics read.

“You can go the distance. You can run the mile. You can walk straight through hell with a smile. You can be the hero. You can get the gold. Breaking all the records they thought never could be broke.
Yeah, do it for your people, do it for your pride. How are you ever gonna know if you never even try?
Do it for your country, do it for your name, ’cause there’s gonna be a day…
When you’re standing in the hall of fame, and the world’s gonna know your name, cause you burn with the brightest flame, and the world’s gonna know your name, and you’ll be on the walls of the hall of fame…”

It’s what I’ve always believed…you can do anything, be anything…
but, you’ve got to live your dreams…

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Dreaming of the castle on a cloud © Lisa Shambrook

There was a time, many years ago, when I was a shy little thing and I let my dreams escape. I didn’t believe my dreams were worth dreaming. My default was to put aside my own feelings but be sure to fix everyone else. This continued from early childhood into my teens, where I allowed someone else’s preference push me to a different path than the one I wanted, and then on into adulthood.

I became the mother with holes in my boots for a decade because I refused to buy myself a new pair, deeming everyone else more important. There’s a time and a place for others to take priority, but that should never be a permanent condition!

My family © Lisa Shambrook

My family © Lisa Shambrook

As I hit a breakdown and emerged, still snow blinded, the other side, I began to be coaxed by my wonderful husband and children into believing in myself. Now I know that I’m important too, that my dreams are worth dreaming, and more than that, they’re worth putting into action!

There’s nothing I want more for my children than for them to live their dreams…

My oldest is extremely talented and enthusiastic, and always threw caution to the wind when embracing her dreams! She lacked direction, but as she’s matured, her direction evolves and her plans are coming to fruition. We’ve been able to instil self-belief and a confidence I only wish I’d had thirty years ago! She’s recently had the strength to do something my younger version would have cowered from, which is to close some of her enterprises and head towards a new ambition. She stands with assurance and ability and dreams. My soul bursts with pride as I see my child grow and plan and act towards her new horizon…

My son is moving into an exceptional period of his life. He struggled greatly at school, and had some real soul searching to discover what he wanted to do once he left. He has since excelled in the work he’s done, to the point that his employer would love him to stay on at work, but he’s made a decision to explore life. He has, of his own volition, decided to serve a ministering mission for the church which we belong to. This means accepting a call to preach in a place he’s never been. He’s been called to serve in Halifax, Canada for the period of two years, and he is bursting with excitement and opportunity, and so am I…

My youngest is still at school and of an age where I struggled to be anything but a shy little bird. Exams and subjects she’s not keen on bury her, and I see her heart trying to decide where it lies. Those middle teens are years I’d not choose to return to, but they are the years where you grow, where you begin to learn who you are and where you want to go. These are the years where my daughter will begin to grow wings, to emerge from within and to want to fly. These are the years when I will refuse to stand in her way, and I will encourage with everything that I have, just as I have with her siblings, to be just who she will be. ..

© Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

My husband and I both waited years to begin to achieve. I lived with clipped and broken wings for many years, but I want my children to believe in themselves, to spread their wings and fly.

To do that they, and we, need to dream, and dream big!

To quote The Script again “Be students, be teachers, be politicians, be preachers, be believers, be leaders, be astronauts, be champions, be truth seekers…” and we can, we can be all of those, if we just dream and believe!

Did you get encouragement to believe in yourself?

Have you achieved what you set out to do, or is it an ongoing goal?

Share your dreams and encouragement…

Families That Cosplay Together – Stay Together…Cardiff Comic Con

Have you ever wanted to release that inner geeky child?

If yes, then Comic Cons are the way to go! 

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Getting ready to play – Lara Croft Tomb Raider 2013 – © Lisa Shambrook

My daughter, Bekah, of Arkhdrauth Cosplay, is a cosplay enthusiast and after her first Comic Con dressed as Thranduil, we were all raring to have a go… So after a few months of preparation and much costume design…we headed off to Cardiff Comic Con.

indiana Jones cosplay, cardiff comic con, Antti Karppinen Photography Alias Creative

Vince Shambrook – Indiana Jones by Antti Karppinen Photography, Alias Creative

maleficent cosplay, cardiff comic con, Antti Karppinen Photography Alias Creative

Bekah Shambrook of Arkhdrauth Cosplay – Maleficent by Antti Karppinen Photography, Alias Creative

Bekah entered the Community Masquerade and placed First with her magnificent Maleficent cosplay!

ghost call of duty cosplay, cardiff comic con, Antti Karppinen Photography Alias Creative

Daniel Shambrook – Ghost Call of Duty by Antti Karppinen Photography, Alias Creative

Daenerys cosplay, cardiff comic con, Antti Karppinen Photography Alias Creative

Caitlin Shambrook – Daenerys by Antti Karppinen Photography, Alias Creative

This was a family affair and we had a great time. The atmosphere at Cardiff was brilliant and the cosplayers fantastic. I also really loved seeing all the families arriving with little cosplayers…start young!

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Cardiff Comic Con – Daenerys and Margery, Ghost and Star Lord, Indiana Jones and The Penguin, Maleficent and Maleficent, two Indys, Daryl Dixon and Lara Croft – © Lisa Shambrook

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Cardiff Comic Con, Maleficent and Star Lord, Daenerys x2 and Margery, Daenerys, Tauriel, Aragorn and Lara Croft, Daryl Dixon and Daenerys, Space Marine and Ghost, Star Lord, Lara Croft and The Terminator – © Lisa Shambrook

The organisers did a great job and special thanks must go to Antti Karppinen of Antti Karppinen Photography, Alias Creative who took the most amazing photographs of almost all of the cosplayers, because he believes that the fans, the cosplayers, are what Comic Con is all about and he wants to recognise the passion and work they put into their costumes! He made a lot of cosplayers very happy with his brilliant photographs!

So, to release the child in you…dress up…honestly, it’ll do you the world of good! 

Have you ever wanted to Cosplay, if so who would you choose?

If you have already – who did you go as?