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.

Why You Need to Read Books

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I always find it strange that people need to be convinced to read. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love books. For me, books have always been magic, gateways to other worlds, other lives. They’re adventures and dreams, knowledge and potential, all packed into conveniently portable packages. Forget apps–no matter what you want or need at any given moment in life, there’s a book for it. How could anyone not instantly see the value in that?

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And yet… According to the Pew Research Center, 26% of American adults have admitted to not reading even part of a book in the last year (and I’m sure the numbers are similar in Canada). Clearly a lot of people don’t realize they’re missing out.

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If magic, knowledge, and adventure aren’t enough to get you interested, maybe I should also mention that:

Yale researchers found that people who read books for 30 minutes a day live longer than those who read magazines or who don’t read at all.

(This reminds me of an old Twilight Zone episode where someone was reading a book in parts to their elderly relative, always leaving the story on a cliffhanger to keep the person hanging on well beyond a normal lifespan. #goals)

Successful people read (and they share some of their favourite books here).

People who read short stories are more open-minded and creative, according to a University of Toronto study.

Need a short story to get you started? How about “Blood Magic,” available free here, and at other online booksellers!

BLOOD MAGIC by Aspasia S. Bissas

You can read more about the benefits of reading books here, or you can just pick up a book and find out for yourself.

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Today is also World Book and Copyright Day! It’s the perfect day to start a reading habit or to encourage others to start one. How will you be celebrating? Share in the comments.

Lastly, the Copyright Act is under review in Canada. The current Act has allowed copying of copyrighted works to the extent that Canadian creators and publishers have had their royalties decline by 80% since 2012. I urge everyone to read more about it here, and to show your support for Canadian writers and creators (like me) by sharing the message on social media using the following hashtags: #IValueCdnStories #CreativeCanada #ValueGap #INDU #cdnpoli #WBCD2018 #worldbookday2018 #worldbookandcopyrightday

Last Meal

I’ve never given much thought to last meals. As something one generally doesn’t get to choose, it’s a topic that, for me, ranges from pointless to depressing (I’d much rather think about my next meal). But others find it a fascinating subject, agonizing in detail over what they would have, or in the case of J.B. Gish over at Quirk Books, what famous literary characters might have.

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Gish has imagined Hermione Granger, imprisoned for identity theft by unknown means, would have boomslang skin, lacewing flies, a bit of a guard’s hair, and the rest of the ingredients for Polyjuice Potion (imagine making that request). Meanwhile Shadow Moon (American Gods) might opt for a more conventional last meal of cheeseburger, fries, and American beer.

In the spirit of pure speculation, I’ve given some consideration to what my character Mara (Love Lies Bleeding) would have eaten for her last meal as a human before she was forced to convert to an all-blood diet. As the daughter of an upper-class English Knight in Medieval Ireland, Mara would have had access to higher quality food than the average person. Her last meal would have been a typical everyday light supper in her household (at least for her and her father–the servants likely didn’t eat as well).

Mara’s Last Supper

  • wheat bread with fresh butter
  • fish stew made with onions, parsnips, trout, bacon, and wild garlic and herbs that Mara foraged
  • baked apples with honey and currants
  • wine

What do you think–is it a good last meal?

And because I couldn’t talk about food without including recipes, here are some modern versions of Mara’s last supper:

soda bread

Irish Soda Bread (Brown Bread)

fish stew

Irish Fish Stew

baked apples

Honey Baked Apples with Raisins and Cinnamon

(Note: I haven’t tried these recipes, so let me know if you do and how they turned out.)

You can read more about Mara in my new FREE short story “Blood Magic,” available for download at Smashwords and other online booksellers. And if you haven’t already, now is a great time to also get a copy of my novel Love Lies Bleeding. Happy reading (and eating)!

BLOOD MAGIC by Aspasia S. Bissas