Happy Canada Day!

photo of a person s hand holding a maple leaf
Photo by fotografierende on Pexels.com

Happy Canada Day to all Canadians, no matter where they find themselves on 1 July!

Did you know that Canada Day is not our independence day? It’s Canada’s birthday (happy 152nd!) July 1st marks the anniversary of Confederation, or the day the first four provinces officially joined to create the Dominion of Canada.

Long weekends are also the perfect time to catch up on your reading (how else are you going to digest all that BBQ?) Take advantage of Smashword’s sale and get Love Lies Bleeding for half price (and Blood Magic, as always, is free). Support Canadian indie writers and have a good day 🍁

If you want to learn more about Canada, watch this short video by a couple of resident experts:

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

My Notre Dame

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, 2016
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas

By now you’ve likely heard about the devastating fire that gutted Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, collapsing the roof and spire and destroying much of the interior (but thankfully not killing anyone). If you haven’t, you can read about it here, here, or here.

Notre Dame Cathedral devastation
Photograph: François Guillot/AFP/Getty Images

Notre Dame is an icon of Paris, and as some locals described it “the heart of France.” It’s also an international icon, a place many people wished to see in their lifetime, and an unparalleled historic monument. What was lost in that fire is far more than just a building. We can take heart in the fact that the bell towers, the rose window, and even the rooster from the top of the spire were saved; that much of the artwork was removed in time; and that Notre Dame will be rebuilt. But it will never be the same.

The first time I saw Notre Dame, I was in a cab heading from Charles de Gaulle airport to my hotel. We approached the Cathedral from the back, alongside the Seine, and as I caught my first glimpse I realized I was looking at Notre Dame. The Notre Dame. The next thing that went through my mind was “I thought I knew Gothic architecture. I had no idea what it was until now.” This wasn’t the neo-Gothic Victoriana I was used to seeing at home in Canada– this was a 900-year-old Gothic masterpiece. You know what else? Flying buttresses are awesome.

When I’d booked it, I didn’t realize my hotel was so close to Notre Dame–just around the corner. I ended up spending time in and around the Cathedral every day while I was there. When I left, I expected I would see it again one day (hopefully when the cherry trees were blooming this time). I’m not sure what will be waiting for me the next time I go, but in honour of what has been lost, I thought I’d share some of the pictures I took on the trip when I got to know Notre Dame.

Notre Dame Cathedral, front
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris
Copper statues in front of the base of Notre Dame’s spire. The statues were removed before the fire as part of the restoration that was taking place. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Notre Dame gargoyle
Gargoyle, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Notre Dame gargoyles
Gargoyles at Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Side entrace, Notre Dame, Paris
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris (side facing the Seine). Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Inside Notre Dame
Interior, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Stained glass, Notre Dame, Paris
My photos don’t do the windows justice. Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Stained glass, Notre Dame, Paris
Stained glass detail, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.

 

Inside Notre Dame, Paris
Interior, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Stained glass rose window, Notre Dame, Paris
Rose window, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Stained glass and woodwork, Notre Dame, Paris
Interior, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Inside Notre Dame, Paris
Interior, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. The fire extinguisher at the bottom right of the photo takes on new significance now. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Inside Notre Dame, Paris
Interior, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Painted column, Notre Dame, Paris
Beautiful painted column inside Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Stained glass, Notre Dame, Paris
Vivid colours, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Stained glass, Notre Dame, Paris
Stained glass, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Stained glass window, Notre Dame, Paris
Stained glass, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.

 

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris
Notre Dame Cathedral taken from my hotel roof. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.

 

Did you get a chance to see Notre Dame? Do you have any special memories of it? Please share in the comments.

 

 

Bookstore Cat Love

grey and white long coated cat in middle of book son shelf
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Given that libraries have kept cats as far back as Ancient Egypt, it’s probably safe to assume that bookstores have had resident cats for as long as there have been bookstores. Besides stopping rodents from destroying the books, cats are a soothing presence to (non-allergic) staff and visitors, act as a store’s (or library’s) public face, and add life to what can be a sterile environment. On top of all that, cats and book people are simply a natural combination. Here’s a small sampling of the bookstore cats who keep books safe and hearts warmed…

Spike at Left Bank

“Magnificent” Spike lives at Left Bank Books in St. Louis, Missouri. Spike has his own page here, where you can find out fun facts about him, like his one-word description mentioned above.

 

parrot at pegasus

Parrot, from Pegasus Books in Oakland, California, may be grumpy but she still gets fan mail.

 

The Wild Rumpus (Minneapolis, Minnesota) kitties:

booker at wr

Booker T (who loves strollers)…

 

Trini Lopez at wr

Trini Lopez (has a thing for tasty crickets)…

 

Walter Dean at wr

…and Walter Dean (the youngest and the biggest of the three). Wild Rumpus has several other store animals too, including Ferdinand the Ferret and Thomas Jefferson the tarantula (my kind of place!)

 

Kona Stories on Kailua-Kona in Hawaii also has two cats in residence:

Noble at Kona

Noble (once a twosome, along with “Barnes,” who found a forever home with a garden)…

Chloe at kona

…and Chloe (who adores attention). They have their own page on Kona Stories’s website.

 

Copperfield’s in Healdsburg, California, is also a multi-cat store:

sweetpea at copperfields

Sweetpea (who lives up to her name, although she thinks she’s tough)…

 

jack at copperfields

…and Jack (who’s a bit of a bully to visiting dogs).

Coincidentally, all these stores carry Love Lies Bleeding in paperback (and some also offer it and my FREE short story Blood Magic in ebook–check their sites.) You can also get Blood Magic here.

Does your favourite bookstore (or library) have a cat? Share in the comments 🙂 You can read more about the history of library cats here.

4 Ways Travel Can Help Your Creativity

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I recently read a great article about how travelling can enrich your writing. In it, the author outlines how travel is unpredictable, fosters empathy and reflection, and creates authenticity in your writing. All excellent points. The article got me thinking about how travelling has helped my writing, and how it can help you with your creative endeavours. Here are four more ways travelling is good for creativity, even if you go no farther than the other side of town…

1. It breaks up your routine. Even the most imaginative person needs inspiration, and nothing is less inspiring than doing the same things and seeing the same few places over and over again, day after day. Going somewhere new shakes you out of your rut, gives you a fresh perspective, and re-ignites creativity.

silver car beside building
Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

2. It helps you learn. If you go somewhere you’ve never been, you’re bound to learn something, whether it’s a few words in another language, facts about local history, or even a new skill (so many places now offer classes and workshops for tourists). What you discover can be the spark you need for your current project, or the impetus for something new.

asphalt dark dawn endless
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

3. It gives you the chance to be a different kind of creative. There are so many opportunities for creativity while you travel, and if you can do so in a way that’s not your usual, so much the better (I’ve written before about how creativity begets creativity). Take pictures, write a journal entry (or poetry or even short fiction) about your trip, sketch what you see, take part in a workshop, talk to interesting people you meet along the way. Use it all as inspiration when you get home.

ball shaped blur close up focus
Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on Pexels.com

4. It can help you in unexpected ways. When I was having trouble finding the right image for the cover of Love Lies Bleeding, I decided to look through my photos to see if anything would be useful. Going through shots I’d taken in Paris, I realized the statue at the base of the Medici fountain at the Jardin du Luxembourg was perfect, so I ended up using it:

Love Lies Bleeding by Aspasia S. Bissas

(The statue at the top of the fountain is on the back cover.) Not only that, but another photo I’d taken at the Louvre became the cover for Blood Magic:

BLOOD MAGIC by Aspasia S. Bissas jpg

And I have a third photo in mind for my next book, which I’m currently working on. The point is, I didn’t go to Paris to take photos for my book covers, but my travels led to exactly what I needed. You never know what going somewhere new could end up doing for you.

You don’t have to travel to be creative, but it really does help. Even if you can’t make it to another country or continent, try getting on a bus and exploring a different town, or go for a walk and visit a neighbourhood in your own town that you’ve never been to. The important thing is to break out of routine and try something new. It could lead you to places you never expected.

What do you think? Has travelling helped your creativity? Share in the comments…

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)”