The Ultimate Book Tag

cold coffee in glass near typewriter
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As we head into the holiday season, it seems like a good time to post something fun. I snagged this from A.M. Molvik’s Ramblings. Feel free to share on your own blog (leave me a comment to let me know if you do). Enjoy…

1.Do you get sick while reading in the car?

Unfortunately, yes. I can’t even look at a text on my phone without feeling queasy. It doesn’t help with reading, but I do recommend ginger for the nausea, if you’re also prone to car sickness.

arizona asphalt automobile automotive
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2.Which author’s writing style is completely unique to you?

James Joyce. I can’t think of another author like him.

3.Harry Potter series or the Twilight Saga? Give 3 points to defend your answer.

This is a bizarre question, like asking someone to choose between ice cream or a painting of Elvis on black velvet. Are the two even related?

I’m going with Harry Potter, but since HP needs no defending, here are 3 reasons why everyone should forget about Twilight already:

1. It was written by someone who doesn’t like vampires and has no interest in them, other than the ones she writes about. Never read a book by someone who has no respect for the subject.

2. It presents stalking and abuse as “romance.”

3. It’s not so much a story, as propaganda for the author’s religious and moral beliefs. Do yourself a favour and read something else.

4.Do you carry a book bag? If so, what is in it (besides books…)?

If I bring a book along, I usually just hold it (unless it’s small enough to fit in my purse). If I do bring a larger bag to accommodate a book, I’ll also usually put my purse in there (easier than picking out just the stuff I need), maybe a bottle of water, my hairbrush, a camera–whatever I think I’ll need while I’m out.

white book on tote bag
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5.Do you smell your books?

Not really; I think I’m immune to book smell.

6.Books with or without little illustrations?

Illustrations are always fun, but not necessary.

7.What book did you love while reading but discovered later it wasn’t quality writing?

A lot of books I read as a kid. I’ve recently re-read some of them and have been  disappointed (Gordon Korman, I’m looking at you).

8.Do you have any funny stories involving books from your childhood? Please share!

I’m not sure how funny this is, but growing up, I didn’t have a lot of access to books at home other than the Encyclopedia Britannica (yes, I’m that old), Greek history books, and a few of my older sister’s novels. So one of the books I would read (more than once) was the Donny Osmond Mystery (Donny Disappears!)

donny disappears

The really funny part might be that I still have it.

9.What is the thinnest book on your shelf?

A Dover Edition of Daisy Miller by Henry James (Dover Editions all tend to be slim).

10.What is the thickest book on your shelf?

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth.

11.Do you write as well as read? Do you see yourself in the future as being an author?

I’m currently published. Find out more about my dark fantasy novel, Love Lies Bleeding, and my free ebook, Blood Magic, here.

black pen on book
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12.When did you get into reading?

I’ve loved reading and books longer than I can remember. When I started kindergarten, my first question to the teacher was when were we going to the library. The kindergartners normally didn’t use the school library, but I was so excited to see the books that they ended up making special arrangements for my class.

13. What is your favorite classic book?

Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky.

14. In school what was your best subject?

English. I basically took every English class my high school offered, and then majored in English Lit in Uni.

15.If you were given a book as a present that you had read before and hated…what would you do?

I might try reading it again, but if I really hated it I’d probably just keep it on my shelf as a reminder of the person who gave it to me.

16.What is a lesser known series that you know of that is similar to Harry Potter or The Hunger Games?

I think it’s great when people branch out and read new things instead of different variations on a favourite theme. That being said, I do recommend the (non-YA) Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews. It has magic, a dystopian future, shifters, witches, vampires, and a kick-ass female main character.

17.What is your favourite word?

Meander. I love both the rhythm of it and the meaning. Susurrate is also a good one.

meander definition
*Definition may contain sarcasm.

18.Are you a nerd, dork, or dweeb? Or all of the above?

Who doesn’t love applying labels to themselves? Just call me a neo-maxi-zoom-dweebie.

19.Vampires or Fairies? Why?

Vampires, always. I like fairies, but fangs beat wings.

vampire fangs, metallic red lipstick

20. Shapeshifters or Angels? Why?

Shapeshifters interest me more. Angels can be okay if done right.

21.Spirits or Werewolves? Why?

Werewolves. Spirits are fine as minor characters, but as a main they’d be unsatisfying to read about and impossible to relate to.

22.Love Triangle or Forbidden Love?

Forbidden love, I guess. Love triangles always make me question why they don’t just try a poly relationship.

23.AND FINALLY: Full on romance books or action-packed with a few love scenes mixed in?

Action packed, tyvm. I probably shouldn’t admit this publicly, but I find Jane Austen-style romances tedious. Maybe it’s the lack of Osmond brothers 😉

Anything to add? Let me know in the comments…

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

 

10 Ways to Get Your Creativity Flowing

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Everyone has times when they need to be creative (even those of you who swear you were born without the creativity gene). Whether you’re trying to turn random ingredients into dinner, or are writing an epic novel, creativity is part of life. But there are times when the creative energy seems to burn out and your perspective on your current project has gone stale. If you need help getting the inspiration flowing again, here are ten things you can try to renew your creativity…

Don’t Force It: No matter how often people claim to work best under pressure, stress doesn’t produce quality results. Unless you’re aiming for quantity rather than quality, trash those arbitrary goals (1000 words every day!), take a deep breath, and relax. Don’t be afraid to walk away for a bit (whether it’s for a five-minute break, an hour-long nap, or to start a new project entirely), if you need to. It’s amazing how well the ideas come when you’re not forcing them.

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Try Something New: When your comfort zone feels tapped out, it can help to look for inspiration elsewhere. If you’re a painter, try listening to (or playing) music. If you’re a writer, bake something. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it’s something out of your ordinary. Creativity begets creativity, and being creative in a new way can spur you on in your usual field.

Take a Walk: Interrupting desk (or wherever you do your best work) time with a walk may seem counter-intuitive, but a Stanford study found that a person walking, whether on a treadmill or out in the world, “produced twice as many creative responses” as someone sitting. The benefits continued even after the walk was over. The next time you need to brainstorm, consider doing it on the move.

person wearing blue pants and black low top sneakers
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Travel: Ideally this will involve foreign shores and exotic cultures, but it doesn’t have to. Go as far as you can, even if that’s just a few streets over. Check out a part of town you’ve never been to. Try a restaurant that serves a kind of food you’ve never had. Meet new people. Go exploring. Be open to new adventures and see how far you go, even if the actual distance is short.

Be Inventive: Try this exercise: take everyday items and come up with as many unusual uses for them as you can. What else can you do with hair ties, forks, or a shoe, for example? Imagine yourself in different situations (desert island, post-apocalyptic…) trying to make the most use of everything in a world with few resources. This re-inventing of common items is a form of creative thinking that can then lead to more creative breakthroughs.

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Get Inspired: Enjoying other people’s work and ideas can prove inspiring. Spend time in museums, art galleries, and libraries, going to concerts, taking classes, reading new or favourite authors, or poring over your favourite websites and magazines. Even people watching can be a great source of inspiration.

Create Without a Plan: When you’re stuck, start making something, even if it’s “just” doodles or stream-of-consciousness journal entries or putting together fabrics you like. As you create aimlessly, ideas will start coming to you and you’ll likely be inspired to complete an old project or start something new.

Be Prepared: Ideas can happen anywhere, and often when you’re in the middle of something else. Make sure to always have with you a way to record all your ideas: a sketchbook, notepad, app–whatever works for you. If you have to, drop whatever else you’re doing to get everything down while it’s fresh (the Muse doesn’t linger and you will not remember later, no matter what you tell yourself!)

man wearing gray blazer
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Work Somewhere New: A change of scenery can sometimes be all you need to light a spark. If any part of your work is portable, try taking it to a park, coffee shop, or anywhere else that appeals to you. Or try rearranging/redecorating your office/work space.

Change Your Perspective: Consider your project as though you’re someone totally different (whether someone specific, or just a generic “character”). How would that person approach the project? What might they see that you don’t, and what would they do about that? See your work through their eyes.

Have you tried any of these techniques? What did you think of them? Do you have any other suggestions to add? Please share in the comments 🙂

 

 

 

Writers and Cats

black cat holding persons arm
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Writers are known to have an affinity for cats, so much so that books have been written on the topic (the latest is Writers and their Cats by Alison Nastasi). As a cat lover, I get the appeal. Cats are good company, generally unobtrusive, frequently entertaining, and the perfect distraction when you need a few minutes away from the keyboard. If you’re lucky enough to have a lap cat, they’ll make sure you get work done by helpfully pinning you in place for hours (and they keep you warm too). My home would feel pretty sad and empty without my three furbabies.

Cats can also provide literary inspiration, especially to poets. T.S. Eliot wrote an entire book about them. Jorge Luis Borges wrote these words:

Mirrors are not more silent
nor the creeping dawn more secretive;
in the moonlight, you are that panther
we catch sight of from afar.
By the inexplicable workings of a divine law,
we look for you in vain;
More remote, even, than the Ganges or the setting sun,
yours is the solitude, yours the secret.
Your haunch allows the lingering
caress of my hand. You have accepted,
since that long forgotten past,
the love of the distrustful hand.
You belong to another time. You are lord
of a place bounded like a dream.

-“To a Cat” by Jorge Luis Borges

It seems that what the ancient Egyptians started, writers are happy to carry on. I know I am.

Alice-Walker cats
Alice Walker
s king cats
Stephen King
ann m martin cats
Ann M. Martin
hemingway cats
Ernest Hemingway
colette cats
Colette
n gaiman cats
Neil Gaiman
le guin cats
Ursula K. Le Guin
murakani cats
Haruki Murakani

Do you have cats? Tell me about them in the comments. Tell me about your other pets too!

Read More:

7 Famous Writers and Their Cats

Iconic Writers and Their Cats

10 Writers and Their Cats

Famous Writers and Their Cats

16 Famous Writers and Their Cats

Would You Rather: Book Edition

woman reading book
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I thought I’d post something fun today, so I snagged this from A.M. Molvik’s Ramblings.

Would you…

1. Rather read only a series or standalone books?

A series. Standalone books can be unsatisfying, but I can happily read a good series for as long as the author is willing to keep putting out books. With a series you can also go back to the beginning and rediscover things you’d forgotten, or notice something new (technically you can also do that with a standalone, but a series gives you so much more to work with).

2. Rather read a book whose main character is male or female?

Female. I’m tired of the male perspective, which has really had a disproportionate amount of emphasis put on it for far too long. I’d also rather read female authors–they usually can write all characters with depth, not just the half they personally relate to.

3. Rather shop only at Barnes & Noble (or other actual bookstore) or Amazon?

I’d rather shop online. I’m an introvert and crowds make me uncomfortable. Also, shopping online doesn’t require pants. (Most “actual” bookstores have websites too–you can see a whole list of the ones that carry my books here–just scroll to the bottom.)

4. Rather all books become movies or TV shows?

I’ll have to go with TV because that format offers the chance to fully explore a story. The Harry Potter series would have been so much better if they’d made it into a TV show instead of movies, with one or two seasons per book.

5. Rather read 5 pages per day or read 5 books per week?

This is a tough one. I like to savour books, but 5 pages a day doesn’t give you much. Still, 5 books a week sounds like it would become a chore rather than a pleasure, so I guess I’d rather get 5 pages a day and fully enjoy them.

6. Rather be a professional book reviewer or an author?

Author. Done and done. 🙂

7.  Rather read only the same 20 books over and over or get to read a new book every 6 months?

If I can still re-read books I’ve already read, then I’ll take a new book every 6 months. If I can read only one new book every 6 months, I think I’d prefer the same 20 on repeat (if I get to pick them).

8. Rather be a librarian or own a book store?

I’ve thought about doing both, but I still sometimes dream about owning a bookstore, so I’ll go with that.

9. Rather read only your favorite genre or your favorite author?

Genre. Authors can stop writing, but there will always be something new to read within a genre.

10. Rather read only physical books or eBooks?

Physical books. They aren’t always as convenient to cart around, but I find them more enjoyable to read (and screens are bad for your eyes).

What do you think–do you prefer series or standalone books? Physical or ebooks? Share your answers in the comments below (and let me know if you do the whole thing and post it).

PS: Have you stopped by my book tour yet? Find out about my books, read excerpts and guest posts, ask a question, and enter the giveaway for a chance to win a sweet custom Love Lies Bleeding travel mug filled with goodies (including a little something handmade by me)!

The 4 Responsibilities of Writers…Maybe

phillip pullman

Phillip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials, recently wrote an essay on the responsibilities of writers (the essay appears in his new collection Daemon Voices). Four of these key responsibilities were summed up and illustrated by Nathan Gelgud, and after reading them, well, I’m not so sure I agree. Here’s the list:

  1. Make money.
  2. Protect language.
  3. Have tact.
  4. Service the story.

On the surface these seem more or less reasonable, but when Pullman expands on each point I start to take some issue.

Make Money: Pullman states that we [writers] have the responsibility of “doing it as well and as profitably as we can.”

Yes and no. Of course writers should be compensated for their work–because it is work. It’s a little shocking how often writers, who spend many lonely hours creating even the shortest pieces, are expected to give their work away for nothing. And now there’s a whole slew of indie writers who routinely give away their first novels free, hoping to hook readers with cliffhanger endings and sell them the next installment in the series. These authors are selfishly making it harder for the rest of us to earn a living by devaluing all our work in the eyes of readers. But successful authors like Pullman are speaking from a rather lofty position when they announce that writers have a “responsibility” to be as profitable as possible. Easy to say for a lucky few.

Profit also shouldn’t be a writer’s main priority: that should be the writing. Making money is good and necessary (yes, those of us in the arts have as much right to earn a comfortable living as anyone else), but it shouldn’t come at the expense of the art.

Protect Language: At first this one sounds okay–until you delve into it a little more. Pullman states that those of us who use language professionally “are responsible for looking after it.” Looking after it how? Protecting it from what? Should we fight the inevitable changes that all languages undergo? Should my characters speak in stilted dialogue so that the language isn’t sullied by the more relaxed slang that most people use in casual conversation? And what language should we be preserving, exactly? Language as presented in textbooks? The language of the majority that’s spoken right now, or the language spoken twenty years ago? Fifty? A hundred? I agree–some “innovations” in language are beyond annoying (using “gift” as a verb springs immediately to mind), but language is a living, breathing, evolving thing. It’s preserved by being used, no matter how or by whom. The only truly protected language is a dead one. Maybe Pullman wants us all to write in Latin.

Have Tact: On this responsibility, Pullman explains, “We who tell stories should be modest about the job, and not assume that just because the reader is interested in the story, they’re interested in who’s telling it. A storyteller should be invisible…”

As an introvert I would love to be invisible. But since when have writers not named Anonymous ever been invisible? We’re expected to provide pictures and bios, to give interviews, go to events, interact with readers. I won’t even get started on social media. From what I’ve experienced, readers want us to share, not just about our books, but about ourselves. Still, anyone not interested can feel free to tell me to shut up. I will happily oblige.

Service the Story: I thought this would be the one responsibility I fully agreed with–until I read Pullman’s description. He says that as a “good servant,” he has to keep regular hours, stay sober, and stay in good health. Not what I was expecting. It’s great if doing these things helps Pullman write the best possible story he can, but that doesn’t work for everyone–and why should it? Those in poor health can still write, and even write brilliantly. I’m not suggesting anyone crack open a bottle of Merlot before hitting the keyboard, but writing under the (slight) influence can stimulate creativity. Service the story your own way.

Responsibility is a heavy word, and I think Phillip Pullman may have taken it too lightly. Writing is difficult enough without feeling obligated to burden oneself with someone else’s ideas of what’s necessary. What writers are responsible for is to write, to get their words out, and to do it whatever way works for them. As someone wise once said: do you, boo. Do you.

What do you think? Do you agree with Phillip Pullman? Share in the comments…

You can see the original article with Pullman’s quotes here.