Currently Reading

I used to share what I was reading on my Tumblr blog, but since Tumblr has flagged Love Lies Bleeding’s cover one too many times (nothing more scandalous than 19th-century statue nudity, you know), I’ve decided to switch to posting about my current reads here.

I just finished Princesses Behaving Badly by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie. (A good alternate title might have been “Be Grateful You’re Not Royalty.”)

Currently reading, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

Next I’m starting Mort by Terry Pratchett (Discworld #4), which I’m very much looking forward to.

Currently Reading, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

What are you reading these days?

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

(P.S. If you want to see what else I’ve read, check out my Goodreads page.)

 

Vampire’s Garden: Nettle

Vampire's Garden: Nettles, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Mareefe on Pexels.com

Love Lies Bleeding‘s readers know that main character Mara is both a vampire and a botanist. Trained in botany and herbalism when she was still human, she continues to study plants and have a garden. This post is ninth in a series exploring Mara’s plants. Are you interested in botany, gardening, or plant lore? So are some vampires…

Please note: Medicinal uses are given for informational purposes only. Always consult a medical professional before diagnosing or treating yourself or anyone else.

Please also note: Nettle is known as stinging nettle for a reason. See “Caution” below.

Botanical Name: Urtica dioica

Common Names: Stinging nettle, common nettle, nettle leaf, stinger, burn nettle, burn weed, burn hazel, feuille d’ortie, slender nettle, tall nettle, wild nettle. (Not to be confused with dead nettle, Lamium spp.)

History: Native to Europe, temperate Asia, and parts of northern Africa, nettle can now be found throughout the world. It grows abundantly in areas that receive regular rain, such as the Pacific Northwest, and locations that have been disturbed by humans (e.g., ditches and fields). The German idiom “sich in die Nesseln setzen,” or to sit in nettles, means to get into trouble. The medical term for hives, “urticaria,” comes from the Latin word for nettle: Urtica (from urere, “to burn”). It has been used as medicine, food, tea, and as a raw material for textiles since ancient times.

Language of Flowers Meaning: Rudeness, coolness, scandal, pain, slander, cruelty, protection (no two sources I found gave the same meaning).

Cultivation: Perennial. Nettle needs moist, rich soil (it’s also an indicator of fertile soil wherever it grows wild). Start seeds indoors about 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost date, or sow seeds directly in spring or autumn. Transplant hardened seedlings in spring, spacing plants 30 cm (12 inches) apart. Make sure to grow nettle away from high-traffic areas in your garden. The plant grows 1 to 2 m (3 to 7 ft) tall in summer and dies back in winter. Harvest leaves in early spring (don’t use once the plants have flowered) and roots in autumn. Nettle spreads easily via rhizomes, so if you’d like to grow it but don’t want it taking over your yard, keep it contained with a barrier around its roots (if it gets invasive, regular and persistent tilling can help get it under control; otherwise, you may need to resort to herbicides). Add nettle leaves to compost as a source of nitrogen (or make compost tea). You can also forage for nettle in green spaces and open woodland (just be sure it hasn’t been sprayed with pesticides or steeped in car exhaust).

TIP: Aphids love nettle. Grow nettle to keep aphids away from other garden plants (like roses).

Uses:

Medicinal: The fresh plant is a traditional spring tonic. Fresh or dried leaves and the powdered root have been used to treat disorders of the kidneys and urinary tract, and for sore muscles, osteoarthritis, rheumatism, and gout. The leaves are also used for skin conditions, to treat anemia, and to reduce hay fever. There is some evidence that nettle lowers both blood sugar and blood pressure. Some folk practitioners still practice Urtication, or flogging with nettles, to treat arthritis and rheumatism, and to increase circulation (although this has been shown to be effective, before you try it keep in mind that Urtication has also been used as a sentence for criminals).

Hair Care: A tea made from nettle leaves can be used as a hair rinse to add strength and shine. Some people believe it also stimulates hair growth, but that is purely anecdotal.

Culinary; Nettles are rich in Vitamins A, B, and C, as well as iron, potassium, calcium, and protein. Use young plants picked in spring (plants that have flowered or gone to seed contain gritty particles that can irritate the urinary tract and kidneys). The sting can be removed by cooking or drying nettles, or by soaking them (I can confirm that cooking and drying works, but I’m hesitant to try the soaking method– please let me know if you have, and how it went). Fresh nettle can be used like spinach or other greens, or made into chips or pesto. Dried or fresh leaves and flowers can be made into tea. You can also brew beer from young nettles.

Fun Fact: There’s a World Nettle Eating Championship, where people compete to see who can eat the most fresh nettles. Those with a low pain tolerance need not apply.

Wildlife: Nettle provides food for the larvae of several species of butterflies and moths. Ladybugs (a beneficial garden insect) also prefer laying their eggs on nettle. When harvesting, watch out for eggs and caterpillars (a curled leaf can be a sign of a resident) and avoid damaging those leaves.

Textiles: Nettle has been used to make a linen-like fabric for at least 3,000 years, and unlike some plants (looking at you, cotton) nettle doesn’t need pesticides. Some modern European manufacturers are starting to produce nettle fabric again.

This short video demonstrates how to make nettle fabric:

And this video shows how to make paper from nettles:

Natural Dye: Nettle produces yellow dye from its roots and a yellow-green or grey-green hue from its leaves.

Caution: The leaves of most nettle species are covered in hollow needle-like hairs that inject histamine and other irritating chemicals into the skin when touched, causing a stinging sensation and contact dermatitis (known as contact urticaria). The sting is removed when nettles are cooked or dried. Wear gloves and use caution when handling the fresh plant. Dock leaves are a traditional remedy for nettle stings, and dock often grows close to nettle (you can also use spotted jewelweed, plantain, antihistamines, or anti-itch creams).

Caution 2: Nettle has been deemed likely unsafe to take during pregnancy, as it could potentially cause a miscarriage. Although it has a history of being used to induce lactation, it is now recommended to avoid nettle while breastfeeding. Nettle can also interfere with some medications; let your doctor know if you are using it.

Mara’s Uses: Mara would include nettle in tinctures and teas to help strengthen bloodletters (human volunteers used by vampires for their blood) and to prevent or treat anemia.

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Further Reading

Aspasia S. Bissas's books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw
Make sure to download your FREE copies…

Love Lies Bleeding: SmashwordsBarnes & NobleKoboApple Books
Blood Magic: SmashwordsBarnes & NobleKoboApple Books
Tooth & Claw: SmashwordsBarnes & NobleKoboApple Books

If you prefer a good paperback to an ebook, order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

 

Canadian Wildlife Federation (includes recipes)

Gardeners’ World: 10 Uses for Nettles

Penn State Hershey (medicinal use)

Surprising Ways to Use Stinging Nettles (with recipes)

Stinging Nettle: Useful and Delicious

Tips for Growing Nettle

How to Use Nettle as a Fertilizer

Dyeing with Nettles

Wikipedia

Floriography, Language of Flowers

Meaning of Flowers

WebMD

A Vampire’s Kindness (Fiction)

Interview with a Vampire, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Festina Muhaxheri on Pexels.com

Note to the reader: the following text is transcribed from a document found in the crawlspace of an old row house in Montreal, Quebec. The owner of the building sent it to a local historical association, who are now sharing it in hopes that someone might have more information.

Interview with "Mara," a young woman who claims to be
a vampire 
By J.S., editor at large 
April 5, 1918.

J.S.: Could you please state your name for the record?
M: You can call me Mara.

J.S.: Is that your real name?
M: Real enough. It's the only one I have left.

J.S.: Could you tell me what you said when we met 
earlier tonight?
M (does not reply)

J.S.: When we met, I asked what a young lady was doing 
out alone in the middle of the night. How did you 
respond?
M (smiles): I told you that I am a vampire.

J.S.: A vampire--like Mr. Stoker's Count Dracula?
M: As far as I know, he is fictional. I am not.

J.S.: What would you say to those who don't believe in 
such creatures as vampires?
M: Your lack of belief doesn't make me any less real.

J.S.: How long do you claim to have been a vampire?
M: Most of my life.

J.S.: How long is that?
M: Isn't it impolite to ask a lady her age?

J.S.: Do you drink blood?
M: Of course.

J.S.: Where do you get it?
M: Wherever I can find it.

J.S.: From animals?
M: No.

J.S.: Do you have a reflection?
M (gets up and walks to the lavatory. She stares into 
the mirror over the sink): It would seem so.

J.S.: Can you turn into a bat?
M (does not reply)

J.S.: How many other vampires are there?
M: More than your kind would care to consider.

J.S.: My kind? You mean mankind? Human beings?
M: Yes.

J.S.: Do you pay attention to human events? What do you
think of the Great War?
M: I wish I could be there, in the thick of it.

J.S.: Do you mean as a nurse?
M (laughs)

J.S.: Why do you want to be at the front? Isn't it
dangerous?
M: The danger is why. It's all death and chaos. 
People die, people go missing--no one gives it
a second thought. Vampires do well in times of war.

J.S.: If that is the case, why aren't you there?
M: Someone else is there. He's looking for me. I do
not wish to be found.

J.S.: Who is there?
M: You should worry about the illness instead of
my acquaintances.

J.S.: The illness? Are you referring to the
Spanish Flu? There are rumours of epidemic.
M: The rumours are correct--the influenza is 
spreading rapidly. I can smell it in the air.

J.S.: You can smell it? That must be handy.
M: It helps us to choose.

J.S.: What do you mean by 'choose'?
M: Most of us prefer blood from healthy specimens.

J.S.: And the rest?
M: We find those who don't have long. Some consider it
a kindness.

J.S.: Why are you telling me this?
M (does not reply)

J.S.: I don't have the Flu.
M: No, you have something deeper. In your bones.

J.S.: Oh, really? What does that smell like?
M: Like sour chalk and dry rot.

J.S.: Rot is right. You expect me to believe such 
nonsense?
M: What about that ache that never seems to go away?
It's been getting worse, hasn't it?

J.S. (reluctant to respond)

J.S.: I have an appointment to see a doctor.
M: He won't be able to help you.

J.S.: How do you know?
M: They rarely can.

J.S.: Then what can anyone do for me?
M: I could prescribe you herbs, but they won't help, 
either.

J.S.: A vampire and an apothecary? That is quite the
combination.
M: I learned my trade young and found that it
pays to keep humans healthy.

J.S.: Is that it, then? All you can offer are 
ineffectual balms?
M: I can also offer you a kindness.

J.S.: You mean death.
M: Some prefer it to suffering.

J.S.: What if I refuse?
M: It's your choice. You have time to decide,
but not much.

J.S.: Where are you going?
M: I have other business to attend to. I'll return
in a fortnight. Tell me then what you've decided.

J.S.: Will it hurt?
M: I can make it so it doesn't.

M leaves and I finish recording our exchange.
I don't know why, perhaps for posterity.
I am unsure how to proceed.

 

Aspasia S. Bissas's books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw
Want to read more about Mara? Download my books FREE!

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer a good paperback to an ebook, order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

 

Cheers,
Aspasía S. Bissas

 

World Dracula Day: 5 of the Count’s Best Crossovers

World Dracula Day: The Count's Best Crossovers blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo via the BBC.

Tuesday is World Dracula Day, when we celebrate the anniversary of the first publication of Bram Stoker’s vampire classic Dracula. Over the 123 years he’s been with us, The Count has encountered all sorts of other characters, some more memorable than others. Here are some of my favourite Dracula crossovers…

Dracula vs. King Arthur

World Dracula Day: The Count's Best Crossovers, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

After making a deal with Lucifer to become a vampire, Lucifer then decides to send Dracula back to Arthurian times to take over the world. Hi-jinks ensue over the course of this comic book’s four-issue run. It’s maybe not the best-executed crossover (Lucifer wants to send Dracula back in time to before vampires existed so the Count can start turning humans and spreading evil– so why send him back to the time of legendary heroes? Why not to, I don’t know, any other time in history that wasn’t legendary?), but the concept of Dracula vs. King Arthur is a good one, and Camelot fighting Dracula is a fun idea (Merlin as sinister anti-hero doesn’t hurt, either).

Dracula vs. Frankenstein

World Dracula Day: The Count's Best Crossovers blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

As two of the most popular monsters, it’s no surprise that Dracula has faced off against Frankenstein*. In fact, the two have met many times over the years in movies like Dracula vs. Frankenstein and Les expériences érotiques de Frankenstein (ooh la la); pulp novels like Frankenstein Meets Dracula; and comic books, including The Frankenstein-Dracula War and A Story of Dracula, the Wolfman and Frankenstein, which came with a corresponding LP so you could listen to the story as you looked through the book. Whether you root for the undead or the reanimated, these stories have you covered.

*Yes, Frankenstein is the doctor, not the monster. It’s been 202 years of people calling the monster Frankenstein– can we just accept it?

Dracula vs. Zorro

World Dracula Day: The Count's Best Crossovers, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

Zorro and Dracula meet on a ship heading to Europe and become instant enemies. Although it’s hate at first sight, the fight doesn’t get serious until they meet up in the catacombs of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris (as one does). As a fan of both Zorro and the Count I’m not sure who to root for in this mashup, although I am slightly disappointed that (spoiler) Dracula doesn’t turn Zorro. Now that would be an interesting story…

Dracula vs. Sherlock Holmes

World Dracula Day: The Count's Best Crossovers, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

I don’t know why I was surprised that Dracula has met up with Sherlock Holmes, but he has– and numerous times, too. I haven’t seen or read any of the existing versions (yet), but there’s one Dracula/Sherlock crossover I would love to see, and that’s one put together by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, creators of the BBC’s Sherlock and Dracula (2020). It’s true I didn’t really enjoy their Dracula miniseries earlier this year, and the last season of Sherlock left a lot to be desired, but if the two of them were inspired and brought their A game, they could make a crossover for the ages with their versions of these characters. Dare we hope?

Dracula vs. Batman

World Dracula Day: The Count's Best Crossovers, blog post via Aspasia S. Bissas

It’s definitely worth seeking out the animated The Batman vs. Dracula if you’re a fan of either character. Based on The Batman TV series, the story brings Dracula to Gotham, while also featuring some of the typical characters you’d expect, like Penguin and Joker. The movie touches on the influence of Dracula on Batman, which I appreciate. The animation is fantastic, especially for Dracula and the other vampires. I actually reviewed this movie years ago on my other blog, if you feel like taking a look (I have since come to appreciate Dracula more as a character). I don’t think there are any plans for a sequel, but I would love to see more Dracula-Batman stories.

There are other great Dracula crossovers, but I’m going to save those for another post. In the meantime, which is your favourite (including those not mentioned here)? Who would you like to see Dracula go up against? Share in the comments…

Happy Dracula Day!

Aspasía S. Bissas

Aspasia S. Bissas's books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw
Want to read about vampires that aren’t Dracula? Download my books FREE…

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer a good paperback to an ebook, order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

Book Tag: Spring Cleaning Book Tag

Book Tag: Spring Cleaning Book Tag blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Polina Zimmerman on Pexels.com

 

Those of us staying home the past couple of months have probably had more than enough of our living spaces. I know I have (especially since we were ready to move before everything shut down and left us stuck). Spring cleaning is usually a good time for a fresh start, and we could all use a fresh start right now. In that spirit, I snagged this book tag from Bookmark Your Thoughts, who got it from Between the Shelves.

1. Getting started: A book series you’ve been wanting to read

Book Tag: Spring Cleaning Book Tag, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Just some of the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett. Image found here.

I’ve been wanting to read the Discworld series for ages and finally started. So far I’ve read the first three; put in an order for more– which are taking forever to be shipped as books have been de-prioritized; and realized I already have one of the books but packed it and will never be able to find it until we move and unpack. Fun! At least I have something to look forward to…

2. Cleaning/organizing the closet: The best way to organize books

Book Tag: Spring Cleaning Book Tag, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I always have been, and ever will be, a proponent of organizing alphabetically. Other systems might work for other people, but this is what works for me. I group non-fiction by subject and then alphabetically by title. Fiction I organize alphabetically by author. When I have multiple books by the same author, I organize the titles alphabetically (except for series, which are kept in chronological order). People who organize their books by colour (or worse, don’t organize at all; or still worse– put them on the shelves backwards for “aesthetics” are agents of chaos and should be avoided).

3. Getting rid of unnecessary things: Book/series you no longer need

Marion Zimmer Bradley was a well-regarded fantasy author, and I had a few of her books. Last year I found out some disturbing things about her (I won’t share them here, but they involve serious allegations by her daughter). I decided I really didn’t need her books anymore.

4. Get some air: Your favorite light-hearted read

Book Tag: Spring Cleaning Book Tag blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas  Book Tag: Spring Cleaning Book Tag, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

I was doubly crushed when Douglas Adams died (RIP) in the middle of writing a third Dirk Gently book, and then when the Dirk Gently TV series got cancelled after the second season (sigh). At least we have two seasons and two books. If you’ve never read them, you’re in for a treat (watch the show too, if you dare).

5. Clean out the kitchen cupboards: Favorite food-themed read

Book Tag: Spring Cleaning Book Tag blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

This is a tough one. Do I go with non-fiction, like The Omnivore’s Dilemma, The Fruit Hunters, Tender at the Bone, or pretty much anything by Anthony Bourdain? Should I try to choose a novel that revolves around food, like The Confectioner’s Guild or Chocolat; or go with one where food isn’t the focus, but adds so much to the story, like The Hobbit or the Harry Potter series? And what about cookbooks, many of which are surprisingly readable and entertaining? If you can’t tell, this is my way of not having to choose 🙂

6. Dust the shelves: What’s the fifth book on your bookshelf?

Book Tag: Spring Cleaning Book Tag blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

Sadly, my shelves are all packed (if only I’d known…) I do have a small TBR pile, and the fifth book down is Gods Behaving Badly, which will be a re-read when I get to it. I liked it the first time I read it, but I’m not so sure it will have held up (TBD).

7. Wishing for the end: A 2020 release you’re really excited about

Book Tag: Spring Cleaning Book Tag, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Ksenia Chernaya on Pexels.com

I’m not looking forward to any particular new release, actually. If something comes out that catches my eye, I’ll pick it up or add it to my wishlist, but I’m happy to read all the books I already have. Besides, 2020 isn’t a real year and nothing that happens during 2020 counts.

8. Long but satisfying: The longest book series you’ve read

Book Tag: Spring Cleaning Book Tag blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

The Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews isn’t the longest in terms of total number of pages (that would be the series I hated and refuse to name), but it’s the series with the most books (including novellas not pictured here), and one I actually enjoyed.

 

What do you think? Feel free to answer the questions in the comments, or share the link if you post it on your blog (and make sure to link back to the original post) 🙂

Aspasia S. Bissas's books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw
Looking for something to read right now? Download my books FREE

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer a good paperback to an ebook, order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas