3 Good Reasons to Read Fiction, According to Science

3 Good Reasons to Read Fiction, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com
Photo by Daniela Constantini on Pexels.com

There’s something magical about reading fiction. A story is basically just a series of symbols arranged in a particular order on a page (or screen). And yet, your mind translates those symbols into images, events, and people that feel real. It puts you into the minds of characters and lets you see through their eyes. You hold your breath when they’re in danger, you cringe sympathetically when they’ve done something awkward. Reading fiction puts you in another world and brings that world to life. I can’t think of anything more truly magical than that.

But it isn’t only magic. Science is finding all kinds of ways that reading fiction in particular can benefit you. Here are three:

Reading fiction relieves stress: Reading is enjoyable– it makes you feel good and forces you to take a break from regular life. While reading helps you forget your problems, it can also help you understand them and cope with them better. And reading fiction has been found to relieve stress more than other relaxing forms of media, like music or TV.

Reading fiction helps with cognitive and social skills: Reading challenges your brain. Among other things, it teaches new perspectives and viewpoints. As you read about other people and places, you learn to empathize, to understand different points of view, and to get along in diverse situations. In essence, reading fiction trains you for the real world.

Reading fiction can help you live longer: Studies have shown that reading helps prevent cognitive decline, which is associated with decreased life expectancy. Aside from that, according to at least one study (see “Further Reading”), people who read more fiction live longer, on average.

Bonus: Because reading fiction can mimic what we feel during real-life interactions with other people, it’s been found to satisfy the need for human connection. If lockdowns and distancing have been getting to you, reading a good book can help you through it.

3 Good Reasons to Read Fiction, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Quote by Doris Lessing: There is no doubt fiction makes a better job of the truth.

Reading fiction makes you happier and less stressed, teaches you about the world and other people, helps you feel more connected, improves your mind, and can even help you live longer. What more could you ask?

Want to get all those benefits of reading fiction right now? 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

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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:

Why Getting Lost in a Book Is so Good for You

Even mild cognitive impairment appears to substantially increase risk for death

Bookworms versus nerds: Exposure to fiction versus non-fiction, divergent associations with social ability, and the simulation of fictional social worlds

9 Ways Reading Makes Us Happier and More Creative

Does Reading Fiction Make Us Better People?

The Real World Benefits of Reading Fiction

7 Benefits of Reading Literary Fiction You May Not Know

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

A Vampire’s Kindness (Fiction)

Interview with a Vampire, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Festina Muhaxheri on Pexels.com

Note to the reader: the following text is transcribed from a document found in the crawlspace of an old row house in Montreal, Quebec. The owner of the building sent it to a local historical association, who are now sharing it in hopes that someone might have more information.

Interview with "Mara," a young woman who claims to be
a vampire 
By J.S., editor at large 
April 5, 1918.

J.S.: Could you please state your name for the record?
M: You can call me Mara.

J.S.: Is that your real name?
M: Real enough. It's the only one I have left.

J.S.: Could you tell me what you said when we met 
earlier tonight?
M (does not reply)

J.S.: When we met, I asked what a young lady was doing 
out alone in the middle of the night. How did you 
respond?
M (smiles): I told you that I am a vampire.

J.S.: A vampire--like Mr. Stoker's Count Dracula?
M: As far as I know, he is fictional. I am not.

J.S.: What would you say to those who don't believe in 
such creatures as vampires?
M: Your lack of belief doesn't make me any less real.

J.S.: How long do you claim to have been a vampire?
M: Most of my life.

J.S.: How long is that?
M: Isn't it impolite to ask a lady her age?

J.S.: Do you drink blood?
M: Of course.

J.S.: Where do you get it?
M: Wherever I can find it.

J.S.: From animals?
M: No.

J.S.: Do you have a reflection?
M (gets up and walks to the lavatory. She stares into 
the mirror over the sink): It would seem so.

J.S.: Can you turn into a bat?
M (does not reply)

J.S.: How many other vampires are there?
M: More than your kind would care to consider.

J.S.: My kind? You mean mankind? Human beings?
M: Yes.

J.S.: Do you pay attention to human events? What do you
think of the Great War?
M: I wish I could be there, in the thick of it.

J.S.: Do you mean as a nurse?
M (laughs)

J.S.: Why do you want to be at the front? Isn't it
dangerous?
M: The danger is why. It's all death and chaos. 
People die, people go missing--no one gives it
a second thought. Vampires do well in times of war.

J.S.: If that is the case, why aren't you there?
M: Someone else is there. He's looking for me. I do
not wish to be found.

J.S.: Who is there?
M: You should worry about the illness instead of
my acquaintances.

J.S.: The illness? Are you referring to the
Spanish Flu? There are rumours of epidemic.
M: The rumours are correct--the influenza is 
spreading rapidly. I can smell it in the air.

J.S.: You can smell it? That must be handy.
M: It helps us to choose.

J.S.: What do you mean by 'choose'?
M: Most of us prefer blood from healthy specimens.

J.S.: And the rest?
M: We find those who don't have long. Some consider it
a kindness.

J.S.: Why are you telling me this?
M (does not reply)

J.S.: I don't have the Flu.
M: No, you have something deeper. In your bones.

J.S.: Oh, really? What does that smell like?
M: Like sour chalk and dry rot.

J.S.: Rot is right. You expect me to believe such 
nonsense?
M: What about that ache that never seems to go away?
It's been getting worse, hasn't it?

J.S. (reluctant to respond)

J.S.: I have an appointment to see a doctor.
M: He won't be able to help you.

J.S.: How do you know?
M: They rarely can.

J.S.: Then what can anyone do for me?
M: I could prescribe you herbs, but they won't help, 
either.

J.S.: A vampire and an apothecary? That is quite the
combination.
M: I learned my trade young and found that it
pays to keep humans healthy.

J.S.: Is that it, then? All you can offer are 
ineffectual balms?
M: I can also offer you a kindness.

J.S.: You mean death.
M: Some prefer it to suffering.

J.S.: What if I refuse?
M: It's your choice. You have time to decide,
but not much.

J.S.: Where are you going?
M: I have other business to attend to. I'll return
in a fortnight. Tell me then what you've decided.

J.S.: Will it hurt?
M: I can make it so it doesn't.

M leaves and I finish recording our exchange.
I don't know why, perhaps for posterity.
I am unsure how to proceed.

Aspasia S. Bissas's books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw
Want to read more about Mara? Download my books FREE!

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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

Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day via Aspasia S. Bissas

Stay safe…

Aspasía S. Bissas

Aspasia S. Bissas's books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw
Distract yourself from terrible reality with free books…

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If you prefer a good paperback to an ebook, then order Love Lies Bleeding from an independent bookshop and support small businesses when they need it most. Click here and scroll down for the full list of available online shops.

Vampire’s Garden: Garlic

Vampire's Garden: Garlic, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Nick Collins on Pexels.com

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 eighth 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.

COVID-19 Note:

Vampire's Garden: Garlic, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

Read more of the WHO’s coronavirus/COVID-19 advice here.

Botanical Name: Allium sativum

Common Names: Ajo, Allium, Clove Garlic, Camphor of the Poor, Poor Man’s Treacle, Stinking Rose, Serpent Garlic, Spanish Garlic, Common Garlic

History: Native to Central Asia, garlic has naturalized in many areas and can even be a weed in some places. Garlic has been used in food, medicine, and in religious rituals for thousands of years. Ancient Greeks left it at crossroads as an offering to the Goddess Hekate. Medieval European folklore claims that garlic can be used to repel demons, vampires, and werewolves. Historically, garlic has been used to improve strength and endurance; to treat snake bites, arthritis, and respiratory illnesses; as a cure-all; and as an antibiotic (it was used in both World Wars to prevent gangrene in wounds).

Victorian Language of Flowers Meaning: Courage, strength, or as a ward against illness or “evil spirits” (unwanted suitors).

Cultivation: Perennial. Hardy in Zones 4 to 9, but can be grown in Zone 3. Prefers full sun and loose, dry, well-drained soil high in organic matter. There are two sub-species of garlic: hard necked and soft necked, as well as hundreds of varieties and cultivars. Hard-neck garlic generally grows in cooler climates and produces larger cloves; soft-neck varieties are smaller and tend to be grown in hotter climates. Garlic can be grown year-round in milder climates. In colder climates, plant individual cloves about 6 weeks before the ground freezes. To plant, loosen soil to a depth of 8 inches and plant cloves (pointy end up) 3 to 4 inches deep. Garlic can be planted close together (as long as there’s room for the bulb to mature) and can also be grown in pots. Cover planting area with about 6 inches of straw to help protect the cloves over the winter. Harvest in late spring or early summer. Garlic bulbs are susceptible to a few diseases, as well as to leek moth (AKA onion leaf miner).

Uses:

Culinary: The bulb and scapes are edible and used in a wide variety of savoury (and some sweet) dishes. The flowers are also edible, although they have a much milder flavour than the bulb or scapes. Immature (or “green”) garlic can be pulled and used like scallions. Black garlic is heat aged over several weeks to create a subtle sweet flavour that can be slathered on bread or added to vinaigrettes and sauces. Garlic can be dried or stored in vinegar, but storing in oil can result in botulism poisoning (see below for link on safely storing and preserving garlic).

Some popular garlic recipes include:

Garlic Knots

Pesto

Harissa

Pickled Garlic

Aïoli

Chimichurri

Roasted Garlic Ice Cream

My Mom’s Skordalia

Traditionally served as a sauce with fish or roast meat, skordalia is also good as a dip with vegetables, french fries, and pita bread triangles.

2-3 medium to large potatoes, peeled, and cut in half

10 large cloves garlic, minced or grated finely

scant 1/4 cup white vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup olive oil (or vegetable oil for a milder flavour)

1/2 cup reserved cooking water (optional)

Place potatoes in medium saucepan over high heat. Add enough water to cover. Bring to boil and lower heat to medium. Cook until potatoes are soft (about 30 minutes). Drain potatoes, reserving cooking water. Leave potatoes in saucepan and mash. You should have about 2 cups of mashed potatoes. Add minced garlic to mashed potatoes. Add vinegar and salt, stirring briefly after each addition. Add oil. Stir well. If serving as a dip, no further additions are necessary. If serving as a sauce, add reserved cooking liquid, a little at a time, until desired consistency is reached. Serve at room temperature.  Note: This keeps well refrigerated for 4-5 days.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Tip: Garlic breath can be most effectively minimized  by drinking milk with the garlic (it doesn’t work if you drink milk afterwards or with skim milk).

Companion planting: Garlic is said to repel rabbits and moles, and to improve roses when planted near them.

Mosquito repellent: Anecdotal evidence suggests that eating garlic makes you less attractive to mosquitoes. Research shows that garlic may repel ticks, although not as well as commercial tick repellents.

Crafts: You can braid soft-neck garlic (see link below).

Medicinal: Garlic supplements vary widely in quality and efficacy– make  sure to buy  one (preferably enteric coated to protect the stomach) from a reputable manufacturer. Cooking garlic may remove some of its medicinal benefits, while raw garlic can cause indigestion or gastrointestinal distress, although black garlic retains its medicinal benefits without causing irritation. Garlic is most commonly used to boost immunity against infection, for lowering cholesterol, to prevent atherosclerosis, and to both prevent and help recover from heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases. Research has shown that it may lower your chances of developing some kinds of cancer.

Caution: Don’t take garlic supplements if you’re taking anticoagulants (blood thinning medication) or have a clotting disorder. Garlic can also interfere with some medications, including some antibiotics and hypoglycemic drugs. Avoid taking garlic medicinally while pregnant or breastfeeding.

Caution 2: Applying raw garlic to the skin can cause burns, especially in children.

Mara’s Uses: Mara does not use garlic in any form because it is toxic to her and other vampires (find out why in Love Lies Bleeding). Blood from humans who take garlic supplements is unpalatable to vampires. Blades are sometimes coated in garlic oil as a way of exacerbating a vampire’s wounds.

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Aspasia S. Bissas's books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw
Don’t forget to download your FREE copies…

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, then order Love Lies Bleeding from an independent bookshop and support small businesses when they need it most. Click here and scroll down for the full list of available online shops.

Further Reading

Garlic Scapes FAQ

Green Garlic

Black Garlic

How to Safely Store and Preserve Garlic (pdf)

Wikipedia

What are the benefits of garlic?

WebMD

The Health Benefits of Garlic

Historical Perspective on the Use of Garlic

How to Grow Garlic

How to Braid Garlic (video)