Dracula!

Happy World Dracula Day! Today we celebrate the anniversary of the first publication of Bram Stoker’s vampire standard Dracula. And how better to celebrate than by sharing some of my favourite versions of the classic character?

I have to start with the original, Stoker’s Count. Although Stoker wasn’t the first to write about vampires, his character (and book) started an ongoing obsession with vampires, inspiring countless variations over the decades, including dozens of versions of Dracula alone. Many of what we now consider essential characteristics of vampires: aversion to sunlight and garlic, lack of reflection, supernatural powers, vulnerable to a stake through the heart–all came from Dracula. A few have been discarded over the years too–how many modern vampires have hairy palms or need to keep the soil of their homeland handy? If you’re a vampire fan and you haven’t read Dracula yet–drop everything and get yourself a copy.

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Nosferatu is an early, unauthorized, movie based on Dracula. The names were changed (Dracula became Count Orlok, for example) but that wasn’t enough to keep Stoker’s widow from suing (and eventually giving up after the film company went bankrupt and copies of the movie got out anyway). You can’t beat Nosferatu, or Max Schreck’s Count, for atmosphere, dramatic visuals, and general creepiness.

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Count Orlok, Nosferatu

Although Bela Lugosi may be the definitive Count Dracula (and no one is disputing that he did a great job), but Christopher Lee gets my vote for best film Dracula. Imposing and intense, it’s hard not to agree that Lee is pretty awesome in this role (I’m not sure he really needs hypnotic powers–he’d do fine all on his own).

I have to admit I’m not a fan of Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula (an inaccurate title, by the way), but I do enjoy Gary Oldman’s performance in it. He seems to embrace the character, especially when he surreptitiously licks Harker’s bloody razor, which is my favourite moment of the entire film:

Here’s the entire scene if you want some context:

One of my absolute favourite portrayals of Dracula is in Buffy in the episode “Buffy vs. Dracula.” It’s a great episode overall (who doesn’t love Xander as Renfield?) and Rudolf Martin does a fantastic job as Dracula. Aside from the show, Dracula makes an appearance in several Buffyverse comic books (scroll down to Appearances for the full list). It’s well worth tracking them down (if for no other reason than to find out whether Spike ever gets the eleven pounds Dracula owes him).

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And lastly (on what is by no means a comprehensive list), what’s not to like about Community’s Troy attempting to put together a cool Halloween costume by becoming a “sexy Dracula”? 😉

What’s your favourite version of Dracula? Share in the comments, and have a bloody good World Dracula Day!

Writers’ Advice on Writing

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Photo by Ruca Souza on Pexels.com

As with so many of my posts, this one is inspired by an article I read. In this case, the article shares advice on writing from famous writers. I don’t know about anyone else, but what I find most valuable about advice from other writers isn’t necessarily the advice itself (although it’s often helpful) but the chance to bond over writing, and to affirm that I’m doing something right. Whether you enjoy the advice, the bonding, or the affirmations, here are some of the best tips from other writers, as well as a couple of my own…

Get a Cat (Muriel Spark via her character Mrs. Hawkins, from A Far Cry From Kensington)

As someone with three cats, I can’t argue with this advice 🙂 Cats are a source of joy, laughter, and purrs (and my lap cat makes sure I sit and focus). If you’re not a cat person, you might want to consider bunnies or small pets (rats, mice, hamsters…) They’re equally good company and shelters always have many available for adoption.

Stop While the Going Is Good (Ernest Hemingway)

Stop while you’re on a roll and let your subconscious keep working on it until you start again. The best way to write is to not force it.

Writing Anything Is Better than Nothing (Katherine Mansfield)

Just write. The more you do it, the better you get, even if what you’re writing will never go further than the paper/screen it’s on.

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Some advice of my own:

Keep the TV, music, and internet (if you can) off. Some people can work with distractions; I’m not one of them. But even if the noise doesn’t bother you, words, phrases, storylines, and even rhythms can burrow into your subconscious and end up in your work. That can happen anyway (it’s just part of the fun of having a brain!) but why increase the risk?

Take up needlepoint. Or any craft you can easily do while staring at a computer screen. Crafts that occupy your hands while your mind is free to focus elsewhere are great for writing.

Take an editing class. Not that you should edit your own work, but you should be able to polish it before submitting it anywhere. No publisher is interested in a manuscript full of errors (it’ll also help with other things, like work emails and social media posts).

Do you have writing advice to share? What tip has helped you most as a writer? Let me know in the comments…

 

BLOOD MAGIC by Aspasia S. Bissas

Download your free copy of “Blood Magic.”

On the run from both vampires and hunters, Mara and Lee are forced to confront the bleak reality of their future together. But an unexpected turn of events offers Mara the chance to shift things in her favor–at a cost. Will she walk away or will she embrace the magic?

Also available free at Barnes & NobleiBooks!ndigo, and other online book retailers.

Welcome to Vancouver

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Last month I got to spend a week in Vancouver (Canada) and had a great time. What a beautiful city–mountains, ocean, attractive architecture, flowers in bloom–and friendly people too. What’s not to love? (It probably didn’t help that I returned home to Toronto in the middle of an ice storm–but that’s another story…) I wanted to get more photos, but Vancouver is known for being rainy and the weather didn’t cooperate on the day I had planned for exploring with my camera–or on whale-watching day, either, which ended up being cancelled. Surprisingly, I didn’t mind the rain and I still got plenty of pictures to remember my trip–and to share 🙂

These were taken in the north end of downtown Vancouver and the Gastown neighbourhood. That’s not smoke coming out of the clock–Vancouver has one of the only steam clocks in the world.

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I got these shots (and the “Welcome to Vancouver” sign) on the way to Stanley Park…  Continue reading “Welcome to Vancouver”

Art and Writing

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I recently came across an article about how art can improve your writing.  I was intrigued; as an art lover, I was excited to find out how one obsession could affect the other. Unfortunately, the article didn’t offer anything particularly insightful.

Some of the advice was good, if basic: “Show Don’t Tell,” “Find the Humanity,” “Copy the Old Masters…Then Find Your Distinctive Style.”

Some was puzzling: “Keep it Interesting.” Well, yes, that’s the idea–I doubt any writer is deliberately going for a boring story.

The worst advice, IMO, was this: “Make it Beautiful: This is the greatest lesson to me. Artists – first and foremost – aim for BEAUTY. As a writer, don’t forget to reach for the beautiful in your imagery, language, story, even characters… ”

No. Just no.

Some artists strive for beauty and create masterpieces. Some explore the ugliness of the world and do the same. Never mind the sheer subjectivity of a concept like beauty, if all art were “beautiful,” how dull would that be? And writing is no different. Writers who aim only for beauty not only won’t be able to “Keep it Interesting,” but will also lose most of the humanity they’re supposed to be finding. Focusing on what’s lovely is the best way to miss what’s interesting.

So, can art help your writing? I think so. Creative and artistic pursuits are complementary; the more you immerse yourself in art and creativity, the more inspired your work will ultimately be. I also believe there’s one key rule that applies universally: do it with passion, or don’t do it at all. If you have a burning desire to tell a story (compose a song, sculpt, sew, whatever), then that’s what you should be doing. If you think it would be a neat hobby to try in your free time, then great–have some fun while you pursue your real passion. But if you’re meh about what you’re doing (maybe you’re motivated by ‘should’ rather than ‘must’), the results will reflect that. The people who are great at what they do have passion for it. Find your passion and go be great.

If you’d like to read the original article, you can find it here. What do you think? Do you have any tips for how art can improve writing (or vice versa)? Share in the comments.

Don’t forget to get your free copy of my new short story “Blood Magic.” Myth and magic collide in this story about choices, transformation, and retribution. Available here and at most online booksellers.

Weekend Reading

Weekends are made for reading, aren’t they? Part of the fun is picking your next read. If you’re in the mood for something with bite, check out my new short story “Blood Magic.” It’s free to download…

BLOOD MAGIC by Aspasia S. Bissas

On the run from both vampires and hunters, Mara and Lee are forced to confront the bleak reality of their future together. But an unexpected turn of events offers Mara the chance to shift things in her favor–at a cost. Will she walk away or will she embrace the magic?

Available FREE at SmashwordsBarnes & NobleiBooks!ndigo, and other online book retailers.

As for myself, I’m currently reading (and enjoying) The Perfect Afternoon Tea Recipe Book. Not just recipes, there’s also some interesting info in here about the history of tea. I recommend it for anyone who’s a fan of either the beverage or the tradition.