Vampire’s Garden: Queen Anne’s Lace

By Christian Fischer, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15779192

Love Lies Bleeding‘s readers know that main character Mara is both a vampire and a botanist. Trained when she was still human, she continues to study plants and have a garden. This post is thirteenth 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.

Warning: Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum), Water Hemlock (Cicuta douglasii), and Fool’s Parsley (Aethusa cynapium) are toxic plants that can easily be mistaken for Queen Anne’s Lace. Don’t harvest wild QAL unless you are absolutely sure you have the right plant!

From Wikipedia: D. carota is distinguished by a mix of tripinnate leaves, fine hairs on its solid green stems and on its leaves, a root that smells like carrots, and occasionally a single dark red flower in the center of the umbel.[9] Hemlock is also different in tending to have purple mottling on its stems, which also lack the hairiness of the plain green Queen Anne’s lace (wild carrot) stems.

Botanical Name: Daucus carota

Common Names: wild carrot, bishop’s lace, bird’s nest weed, lace flower, devil’s plague, bee’s nest

History: Native to temperate Europe and southwest Asia, and naturalized in North America, Australia and New Zealand, Queen Anne’s Lace is the wild form of the carrots in your vegetable drawer. The white flower clusters sometimes have a dark red or purple floret in the centre, which inspired the name Queen Anne’s Lace. The dark spot is said to be a drop of Queen Anne’s* blood, a result of pricking her finger as she was making lace (the spot actually serves to attract insects). Queen Anne’s Lace has been used as a food throughout history: the roots have been eaten as a cooked vegetable, and thanks to its high sugar content it has even been used to sweeten other foods. In England it was once believed that the dark floret could cure epilepsy. First Nations peoples used the plant medicinally to treat blood disorders, skin conditions, and diabetes (please do not try this at home).

*The Queen Anne in question could be Queen Anne of England (wife of James I), Anne of Denmark, or even Anne Boleyn.

Victorian Language of Flowers Meaning: Sanctuary

Cultivation: Biennial. Prefers full sun to part shade and well-drained soil. Blooms from late spring until autumn of its second year. Queen Anne’s Lace is easy to care for and requires only occasional watering. If you plan on growing carrots for seeds, don’t grow Queen Anne’s Lace– the plants will cross-pollinate and your carrots will produce QAL seeds. Don’t plant QAL near apples if you’re going to eat the roots, because apples affect the flavour, making the roots bitter. If you don’t want it spreading everywhere, then it’s best to plant Queen Anne’s Lace where it can be contained. You can help prevent the spread by deadheading the flowers. Remove plants by digging them up (be sure to get the entire taproot). Can be found growing wild on roadsides and in fields, but don’t harvest it unless you’re 100% able to confidently identify it.

Companion planting: Queen Anne’s Lace attracts beneficial insects, and has been found to be especially helpful when planted next to blueberries and tomatoes.

Note: Some states and provinces have listed QAL as a noxious/invasive weed, so check with your local government or invasive species organization before planting it.

Uses:

Culinary: the roots can be cooked and eaten like carrots when they’re young and tender. You can also dry, roast, and grind them to make a coffee substitute. The flowers can be battered and fried, added to salads, or used in drinks and to make jelly. Chop young leaves (from first year plants) and add to salad. Use the seeds to flavour soups and stews.

Medicinal: The roots and seeds are used as a diuretic. The grated root can be mixed with honey and used as a poultice to treat minor wounds and sores.

From The Woodrow Wilson Foundation Leadership Programs for Teachers:

“It is still used by some women today as a contraceptive; a teaspoon of seeds are thoroughly chewed, swallowed and washed down with water or juice starting just before ovulation, during ovulation, and for one week thereafter.”

Dye: The flowers produce an off-white colour. Using different mordants will result in yellows, golds, shades of orange, and forest green.

Science Experiment to Demonstrate Capillary Action: If you place the freshly cut flowers in coloured water (make by adding food colouring to water and mixing well), the flowers will slowly change colour to match the water.

Wildlife: Queen Anne’s Lace attracts beneficial insects to the garden. It’s a food source for Black Swallowtail butterfly larvae. Some birds also eat the seeds.

Caution: Do not consume Queen Anne’s Lace if you’re pregnant (the plant was traditionally used as an abortifacient). Be careful while handling the foliage as the leaves can cause photo sensitivity and dermatitis.

Mara’s Uses: Mara might use QAL in some of her herbal remedies, but its association with blood would probably interest her more.

Further Reading:

Aspasia S. Bissas books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw, book, books, free book, free books, freebies, freebie, free ebook, free ebooks, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, dark romance, historical fiction, gothic fiction, gothic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, horror, dark reads, indie author, indie fiction, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

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

If you prefer paperback, use this link to 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! ♥

Wikipedia

Growing and Caring for Queen Anne’s Lace

Edible Wild Food

Detailed Description of Queen Anne’s Lace

Queen Anne’s Lace: Symbolism and Meaning

Queen Anne’s Lace: Butterfly Host Plant and Blueberry Protector

Three Herbs: Yarrow, Queen Anne’s Lace, and Indian Pipe

Instructions on Dyeing with Queen Anne’s Lace

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

4 Ways Travel Can Help You Be More Creative

4 Ways Travel Can Help You Be More Creative, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com
Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

A while back I 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. Now that travel is slowly getting to be possible again, it seems like a good time to remind ourselves of how much it can add to our lives. Here are four more ways travelling is good for creativity (even if you don’t go any farther than the other side of town)…

It breaks up your routine

Even the most imaginative person needs inspiration, and, as many of us have learned these last couple of years, 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.

4 Ways Travel Can Help You Be More Creative, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com
Photo by Alex Zhernovyi on Pexels.com

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 offer classes and workshops for tourists). What you discover can be the spark you need for your current project, or the inspiration for something new.

4 Ways Travel Can Help You Be More Creative, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It gives you the chance to be a different kind of creative

There are all kinds of opportunities to be creative while you travel, and if you can do so in a new (to you) way, even better (I’ve written before about how creativity begets creativity). Take pictures, write a journal entry (or poetry, short fiction, a song…) about your trip, sketch what you see, take part in a workshop, visit galleries and bookstores, talk to interesting people you meet along the way. Use it all as creative fuel.

4 Ways Travel Can Help You Be More Creative, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com
Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on Pexels.com

It can help you in unexpected ways

When I was having trouble finding the right image to use for the cover of Love Lies Bleeding, a photo I’d taken in Paris turned out to be just what I needed (I posted about it here). My Paris trip photos also came through for the cover of Blood Magic, and I have a third one in mind for the next book. I didn’t go to Paris to take photos for my covers, but my travels led to exactly what I needed. You never know what going somewhere new could end up doing for you.

4 Ways Travel Can Help You Be More Creative, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com
Photo by Mohamed Almari on Pexels.com

You don’t have to travel to be creative, but it really does help. Even if you can’t make it to another country, try exploring a different nearby town, or 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.

Has travel helped your creativity? Share in the comments…

Download my books and find out how my travels have influenced my stories, and not just the covers…

Aspasia S. Bissas books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw, book, books, free book, free books, freebies, freebie, free ebook, free ebooks, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, dark romance, historical fiction, gothic fiction, gothic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, horror, dark reads, indie author, indie fiction, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

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

If you prefer paperback, use this link to 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

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 can be a bit… boring (and after seeing the “same” new house a thousand times while house hunting, I’m even more bored of them now). 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– see below for links). Here are 10 writers’ houses that are worth checking out…

10 Stunning Writers' Homes, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com.  Thomas Hardy, Higher Bockhampton, Dorset, England.

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

10 Stunning Writers' Homes, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com.  Agatha Christie, Greenway Estate, Galmpton, Devon, England

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.

10 Stunning Writers' Homes, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com.  Eugene O'neill, Tao House, Danville. California

Danville, California, USA: Eugene O’Neill wrote The Iceman Cometh and Long Day’s Journey Into Night at Tao House. This looks like a cozy space to work.

10 Stunning Writers' Homes, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. . Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, Monk's House, Rodmell, East Sussex, England, Bloomsbury Group.

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.

10 Stunning Writers' Homes, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. . Emily Dickinson, The Homestead, Amherst, Massachusetts,

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.

10 Stunning Writers' Homes, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. . Alphonse Daudet, Letters from My Windmill, Draveil, Champrosay, Paris, France, Zola, Proust, Rodin

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).

10 Stunning Writers' Homes, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. . George Sand, Nohant, Indre, France, Frederic Chopin.

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.

10 Stunning Writers' Homes, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. . Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Hartford, Connecticut.

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. I wonder if he got distracted by billiards the way modern writers get distracted by the internet.

10 Stunning Writers' Homes, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. . Edith Wharton, The Mount, Lenox, Massachusetts, The Decoration of Houses

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. 

10 Stunning Writers' Homes, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. . Louisa May Alcott, Orchard House, Little Women, Concord, Massachusetts

Concord, Massachusetts, USA: Orchard House, where Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women. A lot of Victorian interiors can seem fussy or claustrophobic, thanks to the “more still isn’t enough” design aesthetic of the time, but this room feels light and pleasant.

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

What kind of house would a vampire live in? Get my books to find out…

Aspasia S. Bissas books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw, book, books, free book, free books, freebies, freebie, free ebook, free ebooks, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, dark romance, historical fiction, gothic fiction, gothic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, horror, dark reads, indie author, indie fiction, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

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

If you prefer paperback, use this link to 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! ♥

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

Boston Globe

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Vampire’s Garden: Bloody Dock

Vampire's Garden: Bloody Dock, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Rumex sanguineus, vampire, vampires, herbs, herbalism, garden, gardening

Love Lies Bleeding‘s readers know that main character Mara is both a vampire and a botanist. Trained when she was still human, she continues to study plants and have a garden. This post is twelfth 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.

Botanical Name: Rumex sanguineus

Common Names: bloody dock, bloody sorrel, bloodwort, red-veined dock, redvein dock, red-veined sorrel, wood dock

History: A member of the buckwheat family, bloody dock is native to Europe and parts of Asia and northern Africa. It has also naturalized in parts of North America and can be found growing in ditches and unkempt areas. Bloody dock gets its name from the deep red veins running through the leaves (and the Latin name ‘sanguineus’ means bloody or blood-coloured).

Victorian Language of Flowers Meaning: None (although it may share the same meaning as dock/Rumex crispus: “patience”– which, with its bloody appearance, may read as somewhat more menacing!)

Cultivation: Perennial in USDA zones 4 to 8 (can also be grown as an annual). In mild climates it stays evergreen. Grows best in full sun to part shade. Reaches 18″ (about 46 cm) both in height and width (flower stalk can reach 30″/76 cm). Prefers average to moist soil (does well around ponds or in water gardens). The flowers are tiny and unremarkable. Keep plants attractive by removing old foliage in spring and removing flowers (this will also prevent self seeding). Propagate by seed or division in early spring; sow seeds directly into the ground. Fertilize annually in spring. Can have issues with slugs, rust, and powdery mildew. Can become invasive if allowed to go to seed.

Uses:

Medicinal: High in vitamin C, as well as beta carotene, iron, and potassium. A decoction of the leaves can be used externally as an antiseptic and astringent to help heal cuts, burns, rashes, wounds, and other skin irritations and inflammations. An infusion of the root can help stop bleeding.

Caution: All parts of bloody dock contain oxalic acid, which can irritate the urinary tract and cause kidney stones. May cause skin irritation for particularly sensitive people. Those allergic to ragweed may also be allergic to bloody dock.

Caution 2: Oxalic acid is toxic to dogs and cats. Do not let your pets eat or chew on bloody dock. It’s apparently safe for wildlife and livestock.

Ornamental: The attractive leaves are ideal in borders or herb gardens. The flowers are insignificant and should be removed to maintain the attractiveness of the leaves (and to prevent self seeding). If the plant does go to seed, cut it back hard afterwards to rejuvenate it. Pairs well with plants that have light green or purple foliage or red or blue flowers.

Culinary: Bloody dock is one of the first spring greens in the garden. The young leaves have a slightly sour, lemony flavour, thanks to oxalic acid (present in all parts of the plant), which can cause kidney stones and blood mineral imbalances. It can also cause contact dermatitis in some people. Eat in moderation or avoid altogether if you’re particularly sensitive or at risk. You can boil the leaves in several changes of water to reduce the oxalic acid, if you want. Older leaves are too bitter to be palatable. Serve young bloody dock leaves like spinach (after boiling, drain, and heat with olive oil or butter and garlic, or add to any dish you would use spinach in). They’re also a nice addition to soup. Leaves can be eaten raw in small amounts. Bloody dock can be grown as a microgreen. Once seeds have turned brown they can be eaten raw or cooked.

Natural Dye: The roots can yield a dark green, dark brown, or dark grey dye. No mordant is needed. The leaves produce a medium green or dark brown dye, depending on mordant.

Mara’s Uses: Although, she might include bloody dock in her medicinal tonics, Mara’s main interest in this plant would be as part of her experiments in creating a blood substitute.

Further Reading:

Aspasia S. Bissas books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw, book, books, free book, free books, freebies, freebie, free ebook, free ebooks, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, dark romance, historical fiction, gothic fiction, gothic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, horror, dark reads, indie author, indie fiction, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

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

If you prefer paperback, use this link to 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! ♥

Wisconsin Horticulture: Bloody Dock

Bloody Dock: Not as Macabre as it Sounds

NC State Extension: Rumex sanguineus

Red Veined Sorrel

Herb: Red-Veined Dock

How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest (including as a microgreen)

Dyeing with Dock

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

3 Reasons You Should Ignore Your Inner Critic

3 Reasons You Should Ignore Your Inner Critic, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com
Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels.com

To be creative, especially if you’re creative for a living, is to be in a constant state of worry. Will anyone be interested in my work? Will they like it? What if they hate it? The worst is when the worry morphs into self-criticism and you start doubting yourself and everything you do. My own inner critic nags at me that my books aren’t any good, that I should never have pursued writing in the first place, and I should just quit now. If I let them, my inner demons would probably take up as much space in my head as my plots and characters.

But my inner critic is a liar, and so is yours.

Your inner critic is nothing more than an amalgamation of doubts, anxieties, and insecurities. We inadvertently feed our critics because smart creators know there’s always room for improvement, so we think we should pay attention to what our critic tells us. We definitely shouldn’t,

Why you should ignore your inner critic

  1. It’s counterproductive. Your inner critic is both a poor judge and a compulsive liar. If you need some honest feedback to help improve your work, ask a friend or colleague, or join one of the many groups (both online and in real life) where your fellow creatives and/or interested volunteers will be happy to help. You could even hire someone like an editor to assess your work. But your inner critic will never offer anything useful, and you’ll waste your time focusing on the wrong things.
  2. It undermines you. If you keep thinking that you’re not as good as you could/should be, or telling yourself that you suck, then even if you don’t really believe it, eventually it will chip away at your confidence. Before long you’ll be second-guessing everything you produce– and might even end up too stressed to finish a project. If you do manage to complete something, your eroded confidence in your abilities will make it impossible to pitch your work to anyone or promote it. If you’re not convinced your work is great, how are you going to convince anyone else?
  3. You might end up believing it. There’s nothing wrong with choosing not to pursue your creative skills as a career, as long as you’re doing it for the right reasons. Unfortunately I’ve known too many talented people who’ve quit because they convinced themselves they weren’t all that good. Even worse, most stopped being creative for fun too, and that’s truly a shame. The world is better with your art/writing/music/whatever in it, and to let your inner critic convince you that you shouldn’t bother is a loss for everybody. No one is inspired by accountants, no matter how awesome they are at their job (apologies to all the amazing accountants I know), but that photo or poem or sketch you shared with friends or on social media could get someone through a bad day, or encourage them to start creating.

How should you deal with your inner critic?

An article on the Brockton Writers Series site suggests mindfully addressing your inner critic. The author offers some good suggestions, such as waiting the emotions out (they will pass) or agreeing with your inner critic and going forward anyway (for example, you’d say something like: “I should just quit now…and I will go ahead and write another paragraph.” Basically: acknowledge your inner critic, and then do your thing anyway. In other words: ignore it.

What’s important at the end of the day is to keep at it, no matter what that nagging voice in the back of your head tells you. Whether you’re creative for love or money, go ahead and ignore your inner critic. Or tell it off. Or sit and have a polite conversation with it– whatever you need to do. As long as you don’t believe it.

How do you deal with your inner critic? Share in the comments.

And while you’re here, don’t forget to download my books:

Aspasia S. Bissas books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw, book, books, free book, free books, freebies, freebie, free ebook, free ebooks, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, dark romance, historical fiction, gothic fiction, gothic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, horror, dark reads, indie author, indie fiction, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords (all formats), Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Blood Magic: Smashwords (all formats), Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Tooth & Claw: Smashwords (all formats), Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer paperback, use this link to 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

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