Les Temps Sont Durs…

It’s been a weird couple of weeks. Of course, you could say that of any number of weeks over the last few years, but I’m not commenting on current events. I mean that it’s been a weird couple of weeks for me.

Working through anxiety issues has brought up stuff I didn’t expect and didn’t really want to deal with. Nothing like being forced to confront demons you didn’t know you had. Hopefully, it’ll work out for the best in the long run. But in the meantime I’m a bit of an unfocused mess. I’m restless. Really restless. Although I’m accomplishing things, it doesn’t seem like much and I go to bed at night wondering what I did all day.

I’ve also  been having an unusually difficult time writing. I mean it’s “staring at a blank page all day” bad. I decided to add a scene between two characters in my WIP, and then couldn’t think of one thing to write. It’s like a loud buzzing (or worse) fills my head every time I try to think about it.

(It’s probably not helping that we have band members living a couple of doors down and they’ve taken to daily outdoor practice sessions.) Since I couldn’t focus on the scene, I decided to go back and edit something else for a while, only to not be able to focus on that, either. Yeah, it’s as fun as it sounds. I finally had a minor breakthrough last night when I realized I might have already included a scene like the one I want and then forgot about it (the perils of being a slow writer). At the same time, I also got a flash of inspiration that means I can start on the scene if it doesn’t exist, or improve it if it does. [Insert a sigh of relief here.] Sorting that out also helped me focus on my editing. I think I’ll be back on track soon, but this was the break nobody asked for.

I started this train of thought about the weirdness going on as I was contemplating my honeysuckle plant. I have honeysuckle growing in a pot outside. It’s one of the last surviving garden plants that I tried to move from my last place. If our plans had worked out, it would have been in a permanent spot in the ground a long time ago. Instead, it’s been hanging on, first as a cutting in a jar of water, and this year finally placed in a container of soil. Since the plant it came from was a gift from my mom, I really want to keep it alive until I have a garden again. Earlier this week I noticed it was about to put out flowers– for the first time in years, and despite the less-than-ideal circumstances it’s had to endure. Rejoice! Needless to say I was pretty stoked to see the plant thriving.

And then yesterday I noticed the nascent flowers were gone.

One of our local critters had a snack, leaving cleanly cut stems behind where flower buds used to be. That’s the kind of week it’s been (and really, that’s kind of 2020 in a nutshell– okay, I couldn’t resist one small comment on current events). Sometimes all you can do is hold on and wait for another chance to bloom.

How are you doing these days?

Had a week you need a break from? Download one of my books…

Love Lies Bleeding by Aspasia S. Bissas, Blood Magic by Aspasia S. Bissas, Tooth & Claw by Aspasia S. Bissas, books, free books, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, gothic, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

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

If you prefer a good paperback to an ebook, 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

 

 

More Awesome Literary Embroideries

More Awesome Literary Embroidery, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, needlepoint, cross-stitch, cross stitch, crossstitch, needlepoint, embroidery, books, bookish, reading, literary, crafts, free patterns, patterns, aspasiasbissas.com
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

One of the things that’s been getting me through the long months of COVID isolation has been needlepoint (you can read my thoughts about my favourite craft here). Books are, of course, one of the other things. I doubt I’ve ever been so grateful to be an introvert. I’m not sure whether needle crafts have been catching on during this awful time, like baking and gardening have, but stitching is an excellent way to calm your mind while making something lasting. Another great aspect of needlepoint is that it lends itself to any subject matter. Anything from simple quotes to intricate scenes can be rendered with needle and thread, and you can really get creative with it. No surprise I’m partial to bookish designs, so I decided to share some links to patterns. If you’re already a stitcher, I hope you’ll find something you like. If you’ve never stitched before, maybe you’ll be inspired to give it a try (you don’t even need to be isolating!) Which pattern is your favourite? Share in the comments…

Perhaps this sentiment isn’t as relatable under current circumstances, but you can’t deny that Austen has a point. Free pattern.

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Louisa May Alcott gets the credit for this somewhat negative take on book lovers. I wouldn’t change a thing, even if my brain is turned. Pattern.

 

I have a fondness for fairy tales, and Sleeping Beauty was always one of my favourites. Fairy tales tend to have an appealing aesthetic, as well– perfect for needlepoint. Have fun with this free pattern.

 

From fairy tales to something a little more adult. Cross-stitch (curse-stitch?) for when you’re really f@#*!%g into books 😉 Pattern.

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A sweeter sentiment we can all get behind. Pattern.

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Throw out those old scraps of paper and make yourself a bookmark worthy of keeping your place. Free pattern.

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Free pattern.

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I love this design because in one simple image it cleverly expresses my entire reality: books are my world. Pattern.

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When you need to let people know the movie didn’t quite cut it. You can even stitch it three different ways. Pattern 1.

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Pattern 2.

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Pattern 3.

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Lastly, if you’re looking for more inspiration and patterns, check out these online archives of vintage embroidery books:

Embroidery

Cross-Stitch

Needlepoint

Need a break from embroidery? Download my books!

Love Lies Bleeding by Aspasia S. Bissas, Blood Magic by Aspasia S. Bissas, Tooth & Claw by Aspasia S. Bissas, books, free books, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, gothic, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

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

If you prefer a good paperback to an ebook, 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

Mental Health Break: 11 Coping Techniques to Try

Like so many people (especially those of us in creative fields), I struggle with anxiety and depression. Usually it’s manageable (I’ve actually found that some mild anxiety helps me write). Every so often, though, for reasons that aren’t always clear, the scale tips from manageable to overwhelming. If you’ve ever had severe anxiety or depression you know the feeling of deep despair that leaves you searching for a reason to get up in the morning. If you haven’t experienced that kind of bleakness, then consider yourself lucky (and also please don’t give advice on something you don’t understand– it’s never helpful).

The last while has been difficult for me, both on a personal level and because of events in the wider world. It’s no secret that Covid is having a negative effect on many people’s mental health. Just the anxiety of going through a pandemic is enough to cause widespread distress. Add to that economic insecurity; the stresses of quarantine and isolation (or going to work or school when you don’t feel safe); people spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories while displaying zero empathy or intelligence; certain so-called leaders and governments content to let the virus run rampant; and countless other things that are making life scarier and more difficult than it needs to be– and the stage is set for more people than ever struggling mentally and emotionally.

I wish I knew how to break the cycle of depression and anxiety. I do my best to deal by working on it when I can and trying to work around it the rest of the time (with varying levels of success). If you’re suffering from any kind of mental illness or distress, the first thing you should do is see a doctor and get a proper diagnosis. Don’t be afraid and don’t be ashamed– there is help, from support groups to therapeutic techniques to medications, and more.

If you’re in crisis, you can get help right now (always keep your local hotline number nearby).

In the U.S., the National Suicide Prevention number is 1-800-273-8255 (find out more here: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org.)

In Canada, the National Suicide Prevention hotline is: 1-833-456-4566, or text 45645. You can also chat here: http://www.crisisservicescanada.ca/

There’s also good info here: https://suicideprevention.ca/need-help/
If you’re not in crisis but are having a hard time and need something to help you through it, here are some things that work for me. It’s a good idea to experiment to find what works best for you.
Read a Book: I know, I suggest this a lot. But a book can help distract you, and provides a feeling of accomplishment when you finish it. Make sure to pick one that interests you, preferably something lighthearted or uplifting. If you’re feeling up to it, try a book designed to help people cope with mental illness (there are many to choose from, but Mind Over Mood is one that’s highly praised by mental health professionals.)
Shower and Get Dressed: It might not seem like much but it can make a noticeable difference to your mood. And if nothing else, you can say you got up and faced the day. On bad days, that’s a major accomplishment.
Leave the House: Many people (myself included) withdraw when they’re depressed, which isn’t helpful. If you’re isolating due to COVID (or feel like you can’t deal with other humans at the moment), go for a walk on your own. Somewhere green and peaceful is ideal.
Get Something Done: Pick a task to complete, no matter how small, and do it. It can be anything that makes you feel like you’ve achieved something. To avoid being overwhelmed, keep a short and easy to-do list handy for times like these.
Indulge Yourself: Do something you enjoy (as long as it’s nothing harmful). If you have a tendency to feel guilty about “doing nothing,” then try interspersing the fun with simple, but productive, tasks (see above).
Spend Time with Pets: You’ll both feel better. If you don’t have a pet, try hugging a plushie. Don’t underestimate the therapeutic value of a soft doll or pillow.
Avoid Things (and People) that Make You Feel Worse: This won’t work long term, but for a day when you’re already feeling crappy, it’s a necessity.
Write a Letter: Sit down with pen and paper and write a letter to someone you like but haven’t spoken to in a while. Think of some positive things you can share (they can be as simple as a great movie you saw or your thriving houseplant). Or, if you prefer talking to writing, give them a call.
Plan a Trip: It doesn’t matter if you can’t go because it turns out planning trips makes people happier than actually going. So distract yourself by planning your dream vacation (or research anything else you’re interested in).
Find the Humour: Being depressed, down, or anxious doesn’t exactly lend itself to laughter, but a bit of dark humour can actually help lighten the mood. Try looking up memes about anxiety or depression, or chatting with a funny friend who gets it. Darkly humorous shows and movies can also be good (I like the 1964 Addams Family TV series, as well as the movies from the early 1990s, and the “Adult Wednesday Addams” series on YouTube.)
Mental Health Break: 11 Coping Techniques to Try, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Create Coping Cards: This is an idea I got from Unf#ck Your Brain. When you find a technique that works for you, write it down on an index card. When you’re struggling, you’ll have a handy set of coping techniques ready to go. You can even put the cards on a key-ring and keep them with you.
Have you tried any of these? What works for you when you’re having a hard time? Share in the comments…
Stay safe,
Aspasía S. Bissas
PS: Apologies for the spacing issues–they’re thanks to WordPress’s fabulous new editor that no one asked for. Hopefully such issues will be ironed out over time.

What to Do when Your Plot Falls Apart

What to Do When Your Plot Falls Apart, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Imagine this: you’ve written the first (or second, or third…) draft of a novel and it’s going well. You’re editing and rewriting at a good pace, happy with your progress. But suddenly the realization hits you that a major plot point of your book is all wrong. For whatever reason a part of your story– maybe even one the entire book hinges on– no longer works. Now what?

This happened to me. I wasn’t happy with the ending of my current book and I wasn’t sure why. Then the crushing awareness that it was all wrong and had to go. Not only did I have no idea how to change it, but any changes I did make would have major repercussions for the next book too. Cue the panic.

I think it’s safe to say most writers experience this situation at some point, but if it happens to you it can be disheartening to the point of making you want to give up. If you’re suffering a plot fail, don’t worry. Despite the initial panic and frustration, there are things you can do to help you through it.

Take a Break: It doesn’t need to be a long break. Spend a few hours or a few days focusing on other things. Give your mind a rest from writing while your subconscious keeps thinking about it. Before you know it you’ll be coming up with new ideas and solutions without even trying.

Brainstorm: If the thought of ignoring your writing (even temporarily) stresses you, then brainstorming might be more your style. Try these brainstorming techniques for writers and keep working on the issue until you figure it out.

Think About It: Is there actually a problem with your story? Sometimes writers are convinced their book is terrible when the real issue is anxiety or insecurity. Maybe your plot needs only minor tweaking– or maybe it’s fine as is. Take a deep breath and a step back before considering whether the problem is your plot or your perception.

Talk it Out: Find someone you trust and tell them about it. Explain your concern with what you’ve already written and see what they think. Getting a second (or third) opinion can be really helpful, and sometimes simply saying things out loud is enough to trigger solutions. Don’t forget writers’ groups and forums– they can be invaluable sources of advice and support.

Hire an Editing Service: Editors can do more than check your spelling. Many offer services such as story consultation or manuscript critique. If you’re stuck and nothing else is helping, professional help might be the key.

As for myself, a combination of taking a break, thinking about it, and talking it out helped me overcome my plot issues. My book isn’t done yet, but at least it’s back on track.

How do you get through when your plot is causing you problems? Share in the comments.

love lies bleeding, blood magic, tooth & claw, books by Aspasia S. Bissas
Interested in seeing what I’ve written so far? Download one of my books…

Love Lies Bleeding: SmashwordsBarnes & NobleKoboApple Books, Amazon
Blood Magic: SmashwordsBarnes & NobleKoboApple Books
Tooth & Claw: SmashwordsBarnes & NobleKoboApple Books

If you prefer a good paperback to an ebook, 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