Guest Post: Disrespecting the Gods

Kneeling Aphrodite at the Louvre, Aspasía S. Bissas
Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas

New guest post I wrote on Druid Life. Take a look…

I blame Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson & the Olympians) and Neil Gaiman (American Gods).

All right, I don’t really blame them, but they and a host of other fiction writers and TV showrunners aren’t helping. By turning the Gods into mere characters, showing no real regard for the beings that inspired and populate their stories, they’re setting the stage… (Read more)

My Notre Dame

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, 2016
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas

By now you’ve likely heard about the devastating fire that gutted Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, collapsing the roof and spire and destroying much of the interior (but thankfully not killing anyone). If you haven’t, you can read about it here, here, or here.

Notre Dame Cathedral devastation
Photograph: François Guillot/AFP/Getty Images

Notre Dame is an icon of Paris, and as some locals described it “the heart of France.” It’s also an international icon, a place many people wished to see in their lifetime, and an unparalleled historic monument. What was lost in that fire is far more than just a building. We can take heart in the fact that the bell towers, the rose window, and even the rooster from the top of the spire were saved; that much of the artwork was removed in time; and that Notre Dame will be rebuilt. But it will never be the same.

The first time I saw Notre Dame, I was in a cab heading from Charles de Gaulle airport to my hotel. We approached the Cathedral from the back, alongside the Seine, and as I caught my first glimpse I realized I was looking at Notre Dame. The Notre Dame. The next thing that went through my mind was “I thought I knew Gothic architecture. I had no idea what it was until now.” This wasn’t the neo-Gothic Victoriana I was used to seeing at home in Canada– this was a 900-year-old Gothic masterpiece. You know what else? Flying buttresses are awesome.

When I’d booked it, I didn’t realize my hotel was so close to Notre Dame–just around the corner. I ended up spending time in and around the Cathedral every day while I was there. When I left, I expected I would see it again one day (hopefully when the cherry trees were blooming this time). I’m not sure what will be waiting for me the next time I go, but in honour of what has been lost, I thought I’d share some of the pictures I took on the trip when I got to know Notre Dame.

Notre Dame Cathedral, front
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris
Copper statues in front of the base of Notre Dame’s spire. The statues were removed before the fire as part of the restoration that was taking place. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Notre Dame gargoyle
Gargoyle, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Notre Dame gargoyles
Gargoyles at Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Side entrace, Notre Dame, Paris
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris (side facing the Seine). Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Inside Notre Dame
Interior, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Stained glass, Notre Dame, Paris
My photos don’t do the windows justice. Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Stained glass, Notre Dame, Paris
Stained glass detail, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.

 

Inside Notre Dame, Paris
Interior, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Stained glass rose window, Notre Dame, Paris
Rose window, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Stained glass and woodwork, Notre Dame, Paris
Interior, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Inside Notre Dame, Paris
Interior, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. The fire extinguisher at the bottom right of the photo takes on new significance now. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Inside Notre Dame, Paris
Interior, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Painted column, Notre Dame, Paris
Beautiful painted column inside Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Stained glass, Notre Dame, Paris
Vivid colours, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Stained glass, Notre Dame, Paris
Stained glass, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Stained glass window, Notre Dame, Paris
Stained glass, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.

 

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris
Notre Dame Cathedral taken from my hotel roof. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.

 

Did you get a chance to see Notre Dame? Do you have any special memories of it? Please share in the comments.

 

 

5 Vampires You May Not Have Heard Of

person woman dark girl
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Chances are when you think of vampires you’ll think of Dracula, Blade, Angel, or any of the fanged creatures-of-the-night that populate modern culture, including Mara from Love Lies Bleeding. The vampires we’re familiar with are (generally) human looking, powerful, often charismatic and attractive, with a thirst for blood and a dislike of stakes. But that wasn’t always the case. History and folklore are full of vampires that are nothing like what we’ve come to expect. Here are five examples…

Lamaštu (or Lamashtu)

lamashtu (2)

Depicted as having a lion’s head, donkey’s teeth, bare breasts, a hairy body, bloodstained hands with long fingers and nails, and taloned bird’s feet, Lamaštu was an evil Goddess of ancient Mesopotamia who preyed on newborns and fetuses in order to suck their blood (among other things). Miscarriages and sudden deaths of infants were blamed on her. Pregnant women could ward her off with amulets, an incantation, or offerings of centipedes and brooches. The offerings were meant to distract Lamaštu, which was a common way of thwarting vampires.

Riri Yaka

riri yaka
Via https://www.rrncommunity.org/items/9836

In the Sinhalese culture of Sri Lanka, the Riri Yaka, or “Blood Demon” has an eternal thirst for blood. He’s usually portrayed as being a blood-smeared, ape-faced, four-armed man with a mouthful of decomposing human flesh. He haunts graveyards, crematoriums, and the dying. He can also possess people and cause illness, usually of the blood. People possessed by Riri Yaka are pale, listless, and anemic; a ritual ceremony must be performed to cure them.

Penanggalan

Penanggalan
Illustration by Munshi Abdullah from ‘The Indo-Chinese Gleaner, Volume 2’ (1819)

Seemingly a normal woman during daylight hours, once the sun goes down the Penanggalan detaches her fanged head and organs from her body in order to fly around the Malaysian countryside in search of the blood of newborns and women who have just given birth. Those who survive being fed on inevitably contract a wasting illness, another common theme in vampire myths. Penanggalan will often disguise themselves as midwives, but can be recognized by their characteristic vinegar smell (they keep a vat of vinegar in their home in which to soak their entrails) and odd behaviour. The best way to get rid of a Penanggalan is to surround doors and windows with thorny branches and thistles, so that they will become entangled and trapped. If found, their hollow bodies can also be stuffed with broken glass or destroyed, which will kill off the head.

Lamia

lamia 2

Daughter (or possibly granddaughter) of the Greek God Poseidon, Lamia was Queen of Libya and Zeus’s lover before being transformed by his wife, Hera, into a creature that was part woman, part sea monster, and wholly deadly. Described as either stunningly beautiful or hideously ugly, Lamia generally had a woman’s face and serpent-like features. In retaliation for Hera killing her children, Lamia began murdering other people’s children by sucking their blood. Over time she was also said to seduce and devour men. Lamia had the power of prophecy, as well as shape-shifting abilities and magical powers. Eventually the single woman became pluralized into a race of vampiric monsters, the Lamiae. The origins of Lamia may lie in Mesopotamia’s Lamaštu. A modern Greek folk saying explains the sudden death of infants and young children as “[the child was] strangled by Lamia.”

Peuchen

animal snake reptile closeup
Photo by Donald Tong on Pexels.com

The Mapuche and Chilote of southern Chile have a legend of a shapeshifter that petrifies victims (both human and animal) with its stare in order to then drain their blood. The peuchen can take any form, although it prefers that of a giant, bat-winged flying snake. Only a machi (medicine woman) can defeat it. There may be a connection between the myth of the peuchen and that of the chupacabra.

Have you heard of these vampires? Which do you think is scariest? Tell me in the comments.

If you want more vampires right now, download Blood Magic free!

-Aspasía S. Bissas

 

Further Reading

Lamaštu

Lamashtu

Seven Mythical Creatures that Supposedly Haunt Sri Lanka

Penanggalan

Penanggalan (Wikipedia)

Lamia

Lamia (Wikipedia)

Peuchen

Encyclopedia of Beasts and Monsters in Myth, Legend and Folklore

 

 

 

 

Is Blogging Dead?

blog icon information internet
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Short answer: not really.

But it also depends on what you want out of it.

If you spend any time around the internet, you’re bound to come across at least one headline declaring that blogging is dead (those headlines have been around for years at this point). As a writer and long-time blogger (you may have seen my other blogs, Blood Lines and Whimsy Bower), this causes me some anxiety. But is there any truth to the rumours?

dead end road sign
Photo by Dustin Tray on Pexels.com

From my research on the topic, if your aim is to earn a living solely from traditional blogging (that is, written articles on specific topics), you might want to hang on to your day job.

On the other hand, if you’re a writer who wants to share your work (and maybe market your books while you’re at it), carry on. Although traditional blogging might be less popular than it once was, there are still people who prefer to read a post than watch a video (which, ironically, most people watch without sound, so end up reading captions anyway). And while social media is a form of blogging, it doesn’t replace traditional blogs (but it is an excellent companion to them). The fact that most of the material debating the future of blogging is written on blogs should tell you something about their so-called demise.

reach for the and blue moon neon signages
Photo by Designecologist on Pexels.com

If you’re concerned your blog isn’t getting as much of an audience as it should, you can do a few things to help:

  • Promote it on social media. Make sure you’re active on at least a couple of different sites and always let your followers know that you have a new post up (don’t forget to include the link). Use hashtags to help a wider audience find you.
  • Be part of the community. If your blog is on a site like WordPress, find other blogs on that site and make sure to follow, like, and comment. That will help bring fellow community members to your blog too.
  • Post regularly. It can be once a day or once a month, but keep your blog active. Posting on a regular schedule gives readers something to look forward to.
  • Try a new type of post. Don’t feel you have to switch over entirely (especially if you’re a writer), but if you can manage the occasional voice or video post, it keeps things interesting. Or switch up the type of posts you do (if you’re usually word heavy, try a photo post).
  • Don’t write just what you want–think about what your audience might be interested in and give them a reason to engage with your blog.
  • Don’t try too hard. Imitating other successful bloggers or trying to follow a formula are both great ways to fail. The idea of “being authentic” is clichéd, but it’s also valid. Not everyone will like you as you are, but no one will like you if you try to be someone else (and you won’t be happy with what you produce, either).

Humans love variety–that’s why we don’t eat the same meal three times a day or read a single book repeatedly. And that’s why blogging won’t die. Even as blogs take on new forms, traditional blogs will always have an audience.

What do you think–does blogging have a future? What do you do to make your blog stand out? Let me know in the comments (and don’t forget to like and share)…

Further Reading:

Blogging Isn’t Dead but Old-School Blogging Is Definitely Dying

Is Blogging Finally Dead?

Are Blogs Dead? 5 Reasons Why the Internet Says Yes and We Say No

Are Blogs Dead in 2018?

Blogging Is Dead (Again)

 

 

 

The Writer’s Tag

person having tea while working
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Another tag snagged from the lovely blog A.M. Molvik’s Ramblings 🙂 If you’ve ever wondered about what it’s like to be a writer (or what I do), this post is for you.

1. What type of writing do you do?

Over the years I’ve written pretty much everything, from magazine articles to poetry to blog posts to novels. If I had to choose only one type, though, it would be novels. I have a lot of stories inside me, waiting to come to life.

abandoned ancient antique arch
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

2. What genres/topics do you write about?

My writing is a mix of literary fiction, gothic fiction, and fantasy, with hints of horror and magical realism. My clouds tend to have dark linings.

3. How long have you been writing?

I started when I was about six and never really stopped (although there were a few long breaks).

Love Lies Bleeding by Aspasia S. Bissas

4. Are you published?

Yes! I went the independent route with my novel Love Lies Bleeding and short story Blood Magic, but I would consider traditional publishing if the right publisher came along.

beautiful bloom blooming blossom
Photo by Gru on Pexels.com

5. What was the first story you ever wrote?

The first story I wrote (when I was around six) was a tale of woe about a flower that doomed anyone (in this case, Mary, Queen of Scots, although I have no idea how I knew about her) who picked it. Clearly, my literary influences started early in my career. I also drew said flower with a pen and coloured it with a pink highlighter. Side note: I still have a particular fascination with Tudor history, although I haven’t written about it since.

6. Why do you write?

I don’t feel I have much of a choice. That’s what I love, it’s what I’m good at, and it’s what I feel I was meant to do. As already mentioned, I have stories that need to get out.

kafka

7. How do you find time to write?

You find time for the things that are important to you. If someone “can’t find the time” to write (or to do anything else), it really doesn’t matter that much to them.

8. When and where is the best time/place to write?

For me, the best times are in the morning and late at night. Where doesn’t really matter as much, as long as there isn’t too much noise.

coffee computer cream cup
Photo by Nguyen Nguyen on Pexels.com

9. Favorite foods/drinks while writing?

It used to be iced coffee; unfortunately I’ve had to cut it out. Between the sugar and the caffeine, it wasn’t doing me any favours (alas). If I do drink anything now, it’s tea, but mostly I don’t eat or drink while I work (I have no idea how those crumbs got all over my keyboard).

10. Your writing playlist?

Silence. I’ve tried to listen to music while I work, but I can’t. Music interferes with rhythm and the lyrics get into your head, unconsciously influencing how and what you write. I don’t know how anyone can concentrate with music (or the TV) on–it’s some kind of super power.

11. What do friends/family think of you writing?

I think it ranges from “that’s cool” to “whatever” to “but what does she do all day?” My partner is completely supportive, though, which is what really matters.

close up of hand over white background
Photo by Lum3n.com on Pexels.com

12. What parts of writing do you enjoy the most?

I love it when the words come together and flow out of you. Best feeling in the world. (It’s also pretty satisfying when you’re stuck and finally figure out the perfect solution). That’s why first drafts are fun and after that, it’s work .

13. Parts of writing you find challenging?

I wish I could be one of those writers who can get a book out every year (speaking of super powers). I’ve got a limit on how much I can write or edit in a day before my brain turns to mush. Hopefully the results are worth the wait.

14. What do you write with/on?

First drafts are usually by hand. The editing starts as I transfer the manuscript to my laptop, where I use MS Word.

silver macbook pro
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

15. How do you overcome writer’s block?

I’ll think/meditate about it. I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I love anything that keeps my hands busy while freeing my mind; that’s how I do a lot of my writing, including overcoming writer’s block. Sometimes I’ll also talk about it with my partner–he’s pretty great at helping me figure things out.

16. How do you motivate yourself to write?

Deadlines are motivating. My anxiety is highly motivating (it gets worse if I don’t write for a couple of days). Mostly having a story I need to get out motivates me 🙂

woman reading a book
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

17. Author(s) who inspired you to become a writer?

I think the existence of books inspired me to become a writer more than any specific author. My love of stories started early, so maybe I should give the credit for my current vocation to Aesop, Hans Christian Andersen, Charles Perrault, and the Brothers Grimm.

19. Writing goals this year?

Aiming to finish my next novel and get it ready for publication (follow me to make sure you don’t miss any news or updates).

20. Best advice you’ve gotten as a writer?

Never to give up (I’ve heard that from a few people). Stephen King’s advice to “kill your darlings” isn’t bad either.

 

What do you think? Do you have any questions or comments? What are some of your thoughts on the writing process? Share in the comments…