Vampire’s Garden: Chamomile

vampire's garden chamomile, aspasia s. bissas
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Love Lies Bleeding‘s readers know that main character Mara is both a vampire and a botanist. Trained in botany and herbalism, she still has a garden and studies plants. This post is seventh 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: Matricaria chamomilla (German chamomile) and Chamaemelum nobile (Roman or English chamomile).

Common Names: chamomile, camomile, German chamomile, Italian chamomile, Hungarian chamomile, wild chamomile, scented mayweed, Matricaria recutita, Roman chamomile, English chamomile, garden chamomile, Water of Youth, ground apple, mother’s daisy, whig plant, Anthemis nobilis, Anthemis, chamomilla, Flores Anthemidis, Grosse Kamille, Romische Kamile, manzanilla, sweet chamomile

History: Found near populated areas throughout temperate parts of the world, chamomile will grow in any disturbed soil, including along roadsides, near landfills, and in cultivated fields. It has been used medicinally since at least Ancient Egypt, and in beer making (and love potions!) since the Middle Ages. Roman chamomile was thought to be the superior form, hence the use of “nobile” (noble) in its botanical name, although research shows that German chamomile is actually the more potent of the two. Chamomile is the national flower of Russia.

Victorian Language of Flowers Meaning: Patience

Cultivation: Zones 3 to 9. German chamomile is an annual that readily self seeds. Roman chamomile is a perennial. Chamomiles like moist but well-drained soil and full sun (or part shade in hotter climates). Start seeds six weeks before last frost. Seeds need light to germinate, so scatter on top of potting mix, press firmly into the mix, and keep moist. Transplant outside after risk of frost has passed. (You can also directly sow seed outdoors in autumn.) Thin plants to 15 to 18 inches (38 to 45 cm) apart. Blooms June and July. After (Roman chamomile) plants flower, cut them back to soil level to ensure strong plants next season.

Uses:

Medicinal: Whichever type of chamomile you use, make a tea from the flowers and drink or apply externally, depending on what you’re treating. German chamomile in particular has been found to be antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory, making it ideal for menstrual and intestinal cramps, as well as coughs and colds. Chamomile is calming and has been traditionally used to help anxiety and insomnia. Cooled tea can be applied to skin to calm irritations and help with swelling (it can also be used as a mouth rinse for sores or inflammation). You can make a pot of strong tea and add it to bath water for a healing bath. Chamomile is a mild laxative, but has also been found to help treat diarrhea in children.

Caution: Chamomile can cause allergic reactions in anyone allergic to pollen or plants in the ragweed family. Chamomile may also negatively interact with other herbs and medicines. Avoid using if you’re taking anti-coagulants, NSAIDS, or sleep aids (including herbal kinds).

Caution 2: Pregnant and nursing women are advised to avoid using Roman chamomile. Infants should not be given chamomile, as (like honey) it may be contaminated with botulism spores, which a baby’s immature immune system can’t handle.

Cosmetics: Chamomile extract or essential oil can be added to skin creams as a soothing ingredient. Cooled chamomile tea can be used as a hair rinse to bring out blond highlights. Chamomile can also be added to homemade bath products, such as bath bombs.

Food: Home brewers can use the entire chamomile plant to add bitterness to beer. Chamomile flowers can be used in drinks (lemonade, smoothies, cocktails), in homemade popsicles, or in baking and other desserts. The flowers have a sweet apple or pineapple scent, and are worth experimenting with.

Crafts: Chamomile makes a nice addition to potpourri. You can also scent your home by gently simmering chamomile (fresh or dried leaves and/or flowers) in a pot of water on the stove (do not leave unattended; keep a close eye on water levels).

Gardening: Prevent damping off in seedlings by watering them with cooled chamomile tea. Planting chamomile near sick plants often results in healthier plants.

Mara’s Uses: Mara orders a cup of chamomile tea in Blood Magic (download your free copy here). Chamomile would also be included in remedies she sells via her apothecary business in Love Lies Bleeding, as well as the ones she used to help her fellow passengers in Tooth & Claw (download your free copy here).

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

 

Further Reading:

Flower meanings

Wikipedia: Chamomile

Wikipedia: Roman Chamomile

Wikipedia: German Chamomile

The Flower Expert

German Chamomile

NIH: Chamomile

What Are the Benefits of Chamomile Tea?

WebMD

23 Ways to Use Chamomile

What Is Chamomile?

How to Grow Chamomile

 

 

8 Reasons Why Indie Bookshops Need to Support Indie Authors

people inside bookstore
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Although some insist that independent bookstores are doing just fine, I think it’s safe to say that, for many, keeping the lights on in the last few years has been– and continues to be– a struggle. At a time when people seem to be reading less, and those who do can buy books cheaper and more conveniently at a certain online retailer, indie shops are left in an ongoing precarious position while they try to find new ways to increase (or maintain) sales. I have a suggestion for them: support independently published authors.

Indie authors fall through the cracks with bricks-and-mortar bookstores for a number of reasons. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Seeking out and featuring the works of indie authors is a mutually beneficial– and smart –practice for indie bookstores to adopt. Here are a few reasons why:

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1. It sets you apart.

When Michelle Obama’s book came out, every bookstore’s website or Facebook page I visited had it plastered front and centre. More recently the same thing happened with Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments. Your store is selling these extremely popular books? Great! So is literally every other store. I’m not saying don’t offer the guaranteed sellers, but what does your store have that others don’t? How about a specially curated section of indie works? If customers are going to go to the trouble of actually visiting a shop, you need to offer something new and interesting and different. Worried indies won’t sell? An informed and engaging staff or a little extra promo can make all the difference.

2. It’s a new revenue stream.

While books may not be anything new for bookstores, indie books and authors are. These are books most customers may not have heard of, simply because the promotion isn’t there for indies. Don’t underestimate the power of introducing something new to customers, or the appeal of an underdog/unconventional author.

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3. It helps you be truly local.

Does a famous author live or work in your store’s neighbourhood? No? Chances are an indie author does. Why not connect with your community by supporting the authors in it? Your customers would probably love to know about the talent living down the street. Local authors also provide great opportunities for in-store events and signings.

4. It creates diversity.

The truth is traditional publishing is not known for its openness to diversity. It’s getting better, but the focus still tends to be rather narrow. Many indie authors eschew traditional publishing for that very reason. By supporting indie you’re contributing to much-needed diversity in literature– something customers, especially younger customers, appreciate.

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5. You could discover the next great read.

Excluding an entire category of books from your store ensures that not only are you missing out on something fantastic, but so are your customers. It’s impossible to predict what will strike just the right nerve with readers, but the more books your customers can access, the more chances for one to take off. Imagine the bragging rights (and marketing opportunities) when you can say “we loved this author first.”

6. Indie publishing is here to stay.

Indie publishing was the original publishing and it’ll be here long into the future. The truth is, traditional publishing is not serving authors well, which is why so many authors choose to go the indie route. As publishing houses consolidate (or disappear) and publishers care more and more about big names rather than new talent, indie authors will only increase in number. Booksellers can choose to support these authors, or they can be left behind.

7. Authors buy books too.

It’s wise to remember that authors are also potential customers. Any store that carries my books has an instant fan. Not only will I make a point of shopping at that store, but you’d better believe I’ll also tell everyone I know about it. Margaret Atwood might appreciate that you carry her books, but she’ll never encourage anyone to shop at your store.

my face when, aspasia s. bissas

8. Indie should support indie.

Several indie bookstores offer Love Lies Bleeding online (you can see the list here). As an independent author, I want to promote my fellow indies, so I post about these stores on my website, blog, and social media. But it can get a little cringey when I see indie bookstores asking people to support them, and then turning around and looking down on/ignoring indie authors. If you truly care about indies, you need to support all indies; otherwise, why should anyone support you?

 

Love Lies Bleeding is a dark fantasy novel about delusion, obsession, and blood. Love Lies Bleeding (ISBN-13: 978-1775012528/ISBN-10: 1775012522) is available in paperback and e-book and can be ordered wholesale from Ingram and other distributors. If you’d like to find out more about my books, click here.

7 ways to support indie authors, aspasiasbissas.com  free short story by aspasia s. bissas Tooth & Claw, free short story by Aspasia S. Bissas

What do you think? Should independent bookstores make a point of supporting independent authors, or should we just stick with the status quo? Share in the comments.

 

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Should You Write What You Know?

should you write what you know by aspasia s. bissas

It’s been repeated so many times it’s cliché: write what you know.

But is it true?

Do you agree with William T. Vollmann, who said that you should indeed write what you know, and that you should also have as many experiences as possible in order to expand your knowledge?

Or do you believe Kazuo Ishiguro, who said writing what you know results in writing “a dull autobiography,” and essentially leads authors to stunt their imaginations and potential?

should you write what you know, aspasia s. bissas
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Or maybe you side with Ursula K. Le Guin, who absolutely agreed that you should write what you know, as long as you have a flexible definition of “know” (she happened to know quite a lot about alien planets, dragons, and the distant future).

You might even think Nathan Englander has a good point when he says you should write what you know–emotionally. (This actually is excellent advice–writing about an emotion you’ve never felt might seem like a good idea, but the sentiments will be obviously hollow to readers who have experienced it.)

Should you write what you know, aspasia s. bissas
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For me, I think American author Meg Wolitzer sums it up best: write what obsesses you.

And I’ll also add: because writing should be about passion. When I wrote my first novel, what I knew was English Literature, so I wrote literary fiction. And there was nothing wrong with what I produced (I might even still publish it one day), except that the dark, macabre, supernatural things that warmed my geeky heart kept creeping into my early work. Now, it’s perfectly fine for a little para to mix with the normal, but when I realized those were the parts I enjoyed writing (and reading) most, I decided to focus on what obsessed me, starting with vampires, my lifelong fascination. I think my work is better now, and I certainly enjoy it more.

Should you write what you know, aspasia s. bissas
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Whether you decide to write about what you know or not, you should always start from a place of passion, obsession, or love. Because if you’re not excited about what you’re writing, why bother?

If you want to see more about what authors have to say on this subject, check out this article on Literary Hub.

If you want to check out some of the dark and macabre things I’ve written (including two FREE stories) click here.

 

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Book Tag: Ice Cream Tag

ice cream book tag, aspasia s. bissas
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My posts for the last while have been all business, so today I thought I’d have some fun with the Ice Cream book tag (snagged from the lovely A.M. Molvik’s Ramblings). Read on to find out about some of my favourite books (or possibly end up with serious ice cream cravings)…

Peanut Butter

A very long book series that you want to read but probably won’t, and why.

discworld books, ice cream book tag, aspasia s. bissas
Just some of the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett. Image found here.

The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. When there are so many books in a series that there are multiple charts to help readers navigate it, the chances of finishing are pretty slim. Still, I’m going to try…eventually.

Chocolate

A book series that you would read again and again and again.

harry potter books, aspasia s. bissas

I’ll have to say the Harry Potter series, since I’ve already re-read it multiple times.

Pistachio

A book with a green cover.

Edgar Allan Poe meets Aspasia S. Bissas

The greenest cover on my shelf (even if it isn’t pistachio green).

Strawberry

A book with the cutest romance.

gunmetal magic, ilona andrews, aspasia s. bissas

This is a tough one, as I don’t tend to read “cute” romances. I did enjoy Andrea and Raphael’s story in Gunmetal Magic (they also show up occasionally in a few of the other Kate Daniels books). As hyena shifters, they show interest in potential mates by pranking them, which was amusing, if not exactly cute. I also really like both characters and Raphael is cute in his own way.

Lemon

A book with a sour ending.

her fearful symmetry, audrey niffenegger, aspasia s. bissas

There are so many books like this. I even wrote a post about a series that had an ending so bad, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. But Her Fearful Symmetry stands out because this book would be one of my all-time favourites if it weren’t for the disappointing ending.

Mint

A children’s book that you like.

alice's adventures in wonderland, lewis carroll, arthur rackham, aspasia s. bissas

Going with a classic that’s beautifully written. Arthur Rackam’s illustrations are my favourite, as well.

Vanilla

Your favorite classic.

crime and punishment, dostoevsky, aspasia s. bissas

It’s been a while since I’ve read Crime and Punishment (time for a re-read) but it’s remained my favourite after all these years. There’s something deeply human about it that I think is lacking in the world right now.

Whipped Cream

A very long book that you read very fast.

six wives of henry viii, aspasia s. bissas

I love all of Alison Weir’s (nonfiction) books on the Tudors. If you’re interested in the period, Weir’s work is well researched and fascinating to read.

What do you think? What book “flavours” would you choose? Share in the comments (and let me know if you post this tag on your own blog).

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas