Literary Perfumes

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I recently read an article about the connection between literature and perfume, which also included suggestions for ideal perfumes for book lovers. As someone who has a slight perfume obsession (current favourite: Vanilla Extreme by Comptoir Sud Pacifique), I was intrigued. I especially liked the idea behind the Imaginary Authors perfume company, whose scents are based on the fictional exploits of made-up authors (most of whom seem to be male, an oversight I hope they take care of soon). But if perfume can be designed for fictional authors, why not design one for Love Lies Bleeding’s main character Mara?

Since Mara works with herbs and plants, she’s essentially steeped in their scents without needing to wear perfume. But if I were to create a perfume for Mara, it would have strong notes of sweet woodruff (which smells like vanilla and hay), clover, and lavender, with hints of smoky peat and black tea. What do you think–would you wear this perfume? What perfume would you design for your favourite character or author? Share in the comments…

Read more about Mara in my free short story Blood Magic.” Myth and magic collide in this story about choices, transformation, and retribution: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/816146

And in Love Lies Bleeding: a novel about delusion, obsession, and blood:

Love Lies Bleeding by Aspasia S. Bissas

Available in paperback or ebook (also available at other booksellers).

Don’t forget to leave a review on your favourite book site!

 

 

Mental Health Break

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Like so many people (especially the ones in creative fields), I struggle with anxiety and depression. Usually it’s manageable (I’ve actually found that some mild anxiety helps me write). Every so often, though, for reasons that aren’t always clear, the scale tips from manageable to overwhelming. If you’ve ever had severe anxiety or depression you know the feeling of deep despair that leaves you searching for a reason to get out of bed. If you haven’t experienced that kind of bleakness, then consider yourself lucky (not blessed, or motivated, or magically able to control your emotions–just lucky).

This past week has been difficult for me, both on a personal level and because of events in the wider world. One of the events that made the week so bad (for countless people besides myself) was the tragic suicide of Anthony Bourdain. I didn’t know him, but he’s been part of my life for a couple of decades now. He was an inspiration, something of a kindred spirit (other than that time on No Reservations when he decided hipsters were okay), and a truly decent human being. I’m not exaggerating when I say we’re all worse off without him.

I wish I knew how to break the cycle of depression and anxiety. I do my best to deal by working on it as best I can and trying to work around it the rest of the time (with varying levels of success). If you’re suffering from any kind of mental illness or distress, the first thing you should do is see a doctor and get a proper diagnosis. Don’t be afraid and don’t be ashamed–there is help, from support groups to therapeutic techniques to medications, and more.

If you’re in crisis, you can get help right now (always keep your local hotline number nearby). In Canada, the National Suicide Prevention hotline is: 1-833-456-4566, or text 45645. You can also chat here: http://www.crisisservicescanada.ca/

There’s also good info here: https://suicideprevention.ca/need-help/
If you’re not in crisis but are struggling, here are some things that work for me. It’s a good idea to experiment to find what works best for you.
Shower and Get Dressed: It might not seem like much but it can make a noticeable difference to your mood. And if nothing else, you can say you got up and faced the day. On bad days, that’s a major accomplishment.
Leave the House: Many people (myself included) withdraw when they’re depressed. If you feel like you can’t deal with other humans, then go for a walk on your own. Somewhere green and peaceful is ideal.
Get Something Done: Pick a task to complete no matter how small, and do it. It can be anything that makes you feel like you’ve achieved something. To avoid being overwhelmed, keep a short and easy to-do list handy for times like these.
Indulge Yourself: Do something you enjoy (as long as it’s nothing harmful). If you have a tendency to feel guilty about “doing nothing,” then try interspersing the fun with simple, but productive, tasks (see above).
Spend Time with Pets: You’ll both feel better. If you don’t have a pet, try hugging a plushie. Don’t underestimate the therapeutic value of a soft doll or pillow.
Avoid Things (and People) that Make You Feel Worse: This won’t work long term, but for a day when you’re already feeling crappy, it’s a necessity.
Write a Letter: Sit down with pen and paper and write a letter to someone you like but haven’t spoken to in a while. Think of some positive things you can share (they can be as simple as a great movie you saw or your thriving houseplant).
Plan a Trip: It doesn’t matter if you can’t go because it turns out planning trips makes people happier than actually going. So have fun planning your dream vacation (or  research anything else you’re interested in).
Have you tried any of these? What works for you when you’re feeling depressed or anxious? Share in the comments.

The Subjective Nature of the Creative World

I wrote an article a while back about being rejected by publishers (https://aspasiasbissas.com/2018/03/13/when-publishers-pass-you-by/). This one is better…

The Cat's Write

Many of you may know me as the very, very, very rejected writer/cat lady. There is truly no avenue of writing-related rejection that I have yet to go through – or at least, that’s what it feels like.  I could recap all the rejections for you in chronological order, but I do believe I have done so many times before, namely here and here.

If you clicked on any of those links above, you’ll notice I love sharing my writing failures. But why am I so keen to share? Well, for two reasons:

1) to make you feel better in solidarity and;

2) because my misfortunes are pretty damn hilarious due to their overwhelming and never-ending march toward my inbox (and makes for great blog fodder!)

Today, I want to highlight one particular story that you might have heard before. It relates to the time I applied for a…

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What to Do when Your Plot Falls Apart

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Imagine this: you’ve written the first (or second, or third…) draft of a novel and it’s going well. You’re editing and rewriting at a good pace, happy with your progress. But suddenly the realization hits you that a major plot point of your book is all wrong. For whatever reason a part of your story–maybe even one the entire book hinges on–no longer works. Now what?

This happened to me recently. I wasn’t happy with the ending of my current book and I wasn’t sure why. Then the crushing awareness that it was all wrong and had to go. Not only did I have no idea how to change it, but any changes I did make would have major repercussions for the next book too. Cue the panic.

I think it’s safe to say most writers experience this situation at some point, but if it happens to you it can be disheartening to the point of making you want to give up. If you’re suffering a plot fail, don’t worry. Despite the initial panic and frustration, there are things you can do to help you through it.

Take a Break: It doesn’t need to be a long break. Spend a few hours or a few days focusing on other things. Give your mind a rest from writing while your subconscious keeps thinking about it. Before you know it you’ll be coming up with new ideas and solutions without even trying.

Brainstorm: If the thought of ignoring your writing (even temporarily) stresses you, then brainstorming might be more your style. Try these brainstorming techniques for writers and keep working on the issue until you figure it out.

Think About It: Is there actually a problem with your story? Sometimes writers are convinced their book is terrible when the real issue is anxiety or insecurity. Maybe your plot needs only minor tweaking–or maybe it’s fine as is. Take a deep breath and a step back before considering whether the problem is your plot or your perception.

Talk it Out: Find someone you trust and tell them about it. Explain your concern with what you’ve already written and see what they think. Getting a second (or third) opinion can be really helpful, and sometimes simply saying things out loud is enough to trigger solutions. Don’t forget writers’ groups and forums–they can be invaluable sources of advice and support.

Hire an Editing Service: Editors can do more than check your spelling. Many offer services such as story consultation or manuscript critique. If you’re stuck and nothing else is helping, professional help might be the key.

As for myself, a combination of taking a break, thinking about it, and talking it out helped me overcome my plot issues. My book is still a long way from being done, but at least it’s back on track.

How do you get through when your plot is causing you problems? Share in the comments.

 

5 Book Towns to Visit

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Book lovers are dreamers. We dream of other worlds and other lives. We dream of what we just finished reading and what we’re going to read next. We dream of homes crammed with our book collections, libraries that never close, and cozy local bookshops where we can spend massive quantities of both time and money. And some book lovers dream of entire towns devoted to books and then make them a reality. Did you know there are dozens of book towns around the world (enough that one writer even wrote a book about them)? Here are five of the towns where you can live your book dreams. Have you been to any book towns? Which are your favourites? Share in the comments…

Hay-on-Wye, Wales

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Hay-on-Wye Castle Bookshop. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Probably the best known of all the book towns, and credited with inventing the concept, Hay-on-Wye is home to numerous book and antiques shops. It hosts the Hay Festival in May and June, a literary event that travels to other cities throughout the year. A working book museum will also be opening later in 2018.

St. Pierre de Clages, Switzerland

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Book Festival, St. Pierre de Clages. Image: Le Nouvelliste

A Medieval village, St. Pierre de Clages is Switzerland’s only book town. The town specializes in antiquarian booksellers, but that’s not all you’ll find there. They also host an annual book festival in August that’s described as a must for “book lovers, amateur readers, history buffs or fans of comic books.”

Paju Book City, South Korea

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Forest of Wisdom Library. Image: Getty Images/Topic Images

Located next to the North Korean border, this literal city of books was built to symbolize the importance of the common good. There are almost no businesses in Paju that aren’t book related; the town is packed with bookstores, book cafes, publishers, printers, and a massive library that includes an on-site hotel. Most books are in Korean, but you can also find some in Japanese and English. There’s an annual book festival in September, as well as a children’s book festival in May.

Featherston, New Zealand

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Featherston Book Festival. Image: Stuff

One of the newer book towns, Featherston already has a yearly book fair (featuring a fish ‘n’ chip supper), held in May. The event attracts local secondhand and antiquarian booksellers, and the entire town gets involved with shops setting up special displays and art installations.

Hobart, USA

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Hobart. Image: Hobart Book Village

Located in the Catskills (New York), Hobart was essentially a ghost town not too long ago. Now it’s a dedicated book town with five stores featuring books on topics ranging from African American history and feminism to vintage cookbooks. Massive book sales are held on Memorial Day and Thanksgiving weekends, and Hobart also hosts their Festival of Women Writers every September.

These are just a few of the 40-ish book towns that exist around the world (although most seem to be in Europe, hopefully this concept will catch on elsewhere *cough*Canada*cough*). You can find out about more book towns here and here.

If you’re looking for something to read until you can get to the nearest book town, download my FREE short story “Blood Magic.”

BLOOD MAGIC by Aspasia S. Bissas

Myth and magic collide in this story about choices, transformation, and retribution. Available at SmashwordsBarnes & NobleiBooks!ndigo, and other online book retailers.

My novel Love Lies Bleeding is also available in paperback and Kindle at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and other book retailers. Love Lies Bleeding: a novel about delusion, obsession, and blood. Find out more here.