I always find it strange that people need to be convinced to read. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love books. For me, books have always been magic, gateways to other worlds, other lives. They’re adventures and dreams, knowledge and potential, all packed into conveniently portable packages. Forget apps–no matter what you want or need at any given moment in life, there’s a book for it. How could anyone not instantly see the value in that?
(This reminds me of an old Twilight Zone episode where someone was reading a book in parts to their elderly relative, always leaving the story on a cliffhanger to keep the person hanging on well beyond a normal lifespan. #goals)
Successful people read (and they share some of their favourite books here).
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.
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).
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?
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.)
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.
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.
There’s nothing quite like reading. You start out staring at words on a page or screen, and– if all goes well –the next thing you know, you’re visualizing a vivid story in your head and empathizing with characters who suddenly feel like you’ve known them your whole life. A good story will give you the feels, stay with you long past the end of the book, and will make you want to go back and read it again.
We writers live to give readers this kind of experience. We write in the hopes of creating something worth reading, worth remembering. And make no mistake– it’s hard work. Lonely, demanding, often draining work, with more than its share of frustrations, setbacks, and disappointments. What is so effortless to read has taken someone months, years, maybe even decades to write and publish. While a few authors become household names, most toil on in obscurity, for the sheer love of writing.
As a reader, what can you do to help brighten a writer’s day and make the struggle worthwhile (not to mention keep the stories coming)? Here are 7 suggestions (6 of which don’t cost a penny):
1. Buy their books! Authors whose books sell can keep writing. If you like their work, help them keep producing it. (Handy reminder: find out where you can get Love Lies Bleedinghere.)
2. If you prefer borrowing to buying, then borrow from a library or an official lending service like Scribd. It might be easier to borrow your friend’s copy, but the author doesn’t get anything that way. Libraries and lending services compensate authors and help them keep writing.
3. Ask your local bookstore or library to carry their books. Shelf space and budgets are limited, so stores and libraries often won’t offer a book unless they know people want it. (Handy Hint: give them the ISBN, as well as the title. Love Lies Bleeding’s ISBN is: 978-1775012528.)
4. Read their book! Seems obvious, but with everyone’s busy lives, it’s easy to set a book aside for later and then forget about it. Please don’t let this happen– an unread author is an unhappy author.
5. Review or rate their books on sites like Amazon or Goodreads (bookstore sites are also good). If you like what you’ve read– let the world know what you think. Just a line or two will do.
6. Share on social media (and tell your friends too). Help spread the word.
7. Go to their events. Say hi, get a book signed, let them know they’re not sending their work out into a void. Writers might not be the most social people, but we love meeting our readers!
Do you have other ways to help support your favourite indie authors? Share in the comments…
Aspasía S. Bissas
PS: Take a moment to download your FREE copies of my short stories Tooth & Claw and Blood Magic(or if you already have, click the links to leave a rating/review)!