16 Butterflies (and a Turtle)

As we head into the holiday season, I thought I’d share some favourite posts from the past. This was originally posted on 12 February, 2o18…

Recently I paid a visit to the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory (Ontario, Canada) and I’m so glad I did. Besides being the perfect respite from the freezing weather, it was a magical experience being surrounded by butterflies (many more than 16). I highly recommend it. I thought I’d share a few of the photos I took…

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Basking in the sunshine

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You’d never guess what this butterfly looks like with its wings open….

Continue reading “16 Butterflies (and a Turtle)”

10 Stunning Writers’ Homes

I love old houses (old buildings in general, actually). While I can appreciate the practical benefits of a new house, they leave me, well, bored. Old houses have style. They have personality. They have soul. Throw in a resident writer and you’ve got a house worth living in (or at least visiting). Here are 10 writers’ houses that are worth checking out…

WH Thomas Hardy

Higher Bockhampton, Dorset, England: The cottage where Thomas Hardy was born. I love the thatched roof and garden.

WH Agatha Christie

Galmpton, Devon, England: Greenway Estate, home to Agatha Christie, was designated a World Heritage Site in 2004. Christie set several of her novels in the area.

WH Eugene Oneill

Danville, California, USA: Eugene O’Neill wrote The Iceman Cometh and Long Day’s Journey Into Night at Tao House.

WH Virginia Woolf

Rodmell, East Sussex, England: Not only is Monk’s House where Virginia Woolf worked on Mrs. Dalloway, it was also where she hosted the Bloomsbury Group.

WH Emily Dickinson

Amherst, Massachusetts, USA: With a house like this, I can understand why Emily Dickinson was a recluse. The poet didn’t spend her entire life at the Homestead, but she was born here, and after moving back as a young woman spent the rest of her life here.

WH Alphonse Daudet

Draveil (former village of Champrosay), France: Can I just go ahead and move into Alphonse Daudet’s home, located a few kilometres south of Paris? Daudet finished Letters from My Windmill here, and also held famous weekly gatherings of the luminaries of the French arts scene (Zola, Proust & Rodin were among the regulars).

WH George Sand

Nohant, Indre, France: More gorgeous French style at George Sand’s home. Sand wrote many of her books here, as well as hosting artists, musicians, and writers (Frédéric Chopin lived, and composed, here for several years). The house has been classified as a National Historic Monument of France.

WH Mark Twain

Hartford, Connecticut, USA: Mark Twain wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in this house’s billiards room, which also doubled as his study.

WH Edith Wharton

Lenox, Massachusetts, USA: Edith Wharton’s grand home, The Mount, was where she wrote most of her novels, and where she presumably implemented the advice from her first book (co-authored with Ogden Codman), The Decoration of Houses. 

WH Louisa May Alcott

Concord, Massachusetts, USA: Orchard House, where Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women.

What’s your favourite writer’s home? Share in the comments…

Further Reading:

Orchard House

The Mount

The Mark Twain House and Museum

George Sand House

Alphonse Daudet House

Emily Dickinson Museum

Monk’s House

Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site

Thomas Hardy Cottage

Architectural Digest

KQED Arts

New England Historical Society

Air France

Boston Globe

Literary Cafés

Thanks to a few well-known tipplers (coughHemingwaycough), writers have something of a reputation for indulging. Though that may be more stereotype than reality, over the years certain bars and cafés have become linked with the literary crowd who’ve gone there to eat, drink, socialize, and occasionally write. Inspired by a recent LitHub article featuring 35 Literary Cafés. I thought I’d share a couple of them here, as well as adding some the list missed.

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Café Tortoni, favourite of Jorge Luís Borges and Alfonsina Storni, whose wax figures permanently share a table there.
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Antico Caffé Greco in Rome has served Lord Byron, Percy and Mary Shelley, Hans Christian Andersen, and Nikolai Gogol, among others.
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The Elephant House in Edinburgh makes the somewhat dubious claim of being the place where J.K. Rowling started Harry Potter. Whether true or not, it’s become popular with fans.

Although not as well-known as the others on the list, here are some local-ish spots this Toronto writer thinks are worth a mention:

00 park hyatt
The Park Hyatt Roof Lounge (currently closed for renovation) has been frequented by many writers, artists and celebrities over the years, including Margaret Atwood and Leonard Cohen.
00 sneaky dee
Sneaky Dee’s is a Toronto institution that has attracted droves of indie types–including writers–over the years. Bryan Lee O’Malley used it as a setting in Scott Pilgrim vs the World.
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Winnie’s Bar (1455 Crescent St, Montreal) was a favourite of Mordecai Richler. They specialize in alcoholic coffee (my kind of place).

Writers unknown, famous, and infamous have always populated cafés and bars all over the world. Comment and tell me which ones you think deserve a mention.

(Note: This is a re-post from 26 February 2018. If you’re looking for something new to read, how about my free short story “Blood Magic”https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/816146 or my novel Love Lies Bleeding, available in paperback and e-book at most online booksellers.)

5 Book Towns to Visit

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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.