Book Tag: Spring Cleaning Book Tag

Book Tag: Spring Cleaning Book Tag blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Polina Zimmerman on Pexels.com

 

Those of us staying home the past couple of months have probably had more than enough of our living spaces. I know I have (especially since we were ready to move before everything shut down and left us stuck). Spring cleaning is usually a good time for a fresh start, and we could all use a fresh start right now. In that spirit, I snagged this book tag from Bookmark Your Thoughts, who got it from Between the Shelves.

1. Getting started: A book series you’ve been wanting to read

Book Tag: Spring Cleaning Book Tag, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Just some of the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett. Image found here.

I’ve been wanting to read the Discworld series for ages and finally started. So far I’ve read the first three; put in an order for more– which are taking forever to be shipped as books have been de-prioritized; and realized I already have one of the books but packed it and will never be able to find it until we move and unpack. Fun! At least I have something to look forward to…

2. Cleaning/organizing the closet: The best way to organize books

Book Tag: Spring Cleaning Book Tag, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I always have been, and ever will be, a proponent of organizing alphabetically. Other systems might work for other people, but this is what works for me. I group non-fiction by subject and then alphabetically by title. Fiction I organize alphabetically by author. When I have multiple books by the same author, I organize the titles alphabetically (except for series, which are kept in chronological order). People who organize their books by colour (or worse, don’t organize at all; or still worse– put them on the shelves backwards for “aesthetics” are agents of chaos and should be avoided).

3. Getting rid of unnecessary things: Book/series you no longer need

Marion Zimmer Bradley was a well-regarded fantasy author, and I had a few of her books. Last year I found out some disturbing things about her (I won’t share them here, but they involve serious allegations by her daughter). I decided I really didn’t need her books anymore.

4. Get some air: Your favorite light-hearted read

Book Tag: Spring Cleaning Book Tag blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas  Book Tag: Spring Cleaning Book Tag, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

I was doubly crushed when Douglas Adams died (RIP) in the middle of writing a third Dirk Gently book, and then when the Dirk Gently TV series got cancelled after the second season (sigh). At least we have two seasons and two books. If you’ve never read them, you’re in for a treat (watch the show too, if you dare).

5. Clean out the kitchen cupboards: Favorite food-themed read

Book Tag: Spring Cleaning Book Tag blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

This is a tough one. Do I go with non-fiction, like The Omnivore’s Dilemma, The Fruit Hunters, Tender at the Bone, or pretty much anything by Anthony Bourdain? Should I try to choose a novel that revolves around food, like The Confectioner’s Guild or Chocolat; or go with one where food isn’t the focus, but adds so much to the story, like The Hobbit or the Harry Potter series? And what about cookbooks, many of which are surprisingly readable and entertaining? If you can’t tell, this is my way of not having to choose 🙂

6. Dust the shelves: What’s the fifth book on your bookshelf?

Book Tag: Spring Cleaning Book Tag blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

Sadly, my shelves are all packed (if only I’d known…) I do have a small TBR pile, and the fifth book down is Gods Behaving Badly, which will be a re-read when I get to it. I liked it the first time I read it, but I’m not so sure it will have held up (TBD).

7. Wishing for the end: A 2020 release you’re really excited about

Book Tag: Spring Cleaning Book Tag, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Ksenia Chernaya on Pexels.com

I’m not looking forward to any particular new release, actually. If something comes out that catches my eye, I’ll pick it up or add it to my wishlist, but I’m happy to read all the books I already have. Besides, 2020 isn’t a real year and nothing that happens during 2020 counts.

8. Long but satisfying: The longest book series you’ve read

Book Tag: Spring Cleaning Book Tag blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

The Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews isn’t the longest in terms of total number of pages (that would be the series I hated and refuse to name), but it’s the series with the most books (including novellas not pictured here), and one I actually enjoyed.

 

What do you think? Feel free to answer the questions in the comments, or share the link if you post it on your blog (and make sure to link back to the original post) 🙂

Aspasia S. Bissas's books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw
Looking for something to read right now? Download my books FREE

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

11 Awesome Literary Embroideries

11 Awesome Literary Embroideries, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m a huge fan of embroidery (AKA needlepoint, although it’s not quite the same thing). It’s not only that I find the results visually appealing, but it’s one of my favourite pastimes, as well. I was taught tapestry needlepoint when I was five, after which I forgot about it until I was a stressed university student and decided to take it up again. I’ve since tried other types of embroidery, including cross stitch, but tapestry is still my favourite; I’ve completed at least a couple of dozen over the years.

It occurred to me that embroidery and writing have a lot in common. In both cases you put together small units (stitches/words) in a precise and harmonious way over the course of weeks and months (sometimes years) until you’ve created a completed piece that tells a story. I also get a similar sense of satisfaction when I’ve completed an embroidery as I do when I’ve finished a story. Maybe needlepoint and writing activate similar parts of the brain. Then again, maybe it’s just me.

Whatever the case, books have definitely provided all kinds of inspiration for the embroiderers of the world. I thought I’d share some of the best literary-themed embroidery I’ve found. Are you a fan of embroidery/needlepoint? Share in the comments…

 

My first choice has a cute design, good colours, and a message you can’t argue with 🙂

11 Awesome Literary Embroideries, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

 

This next piece came from an article on embroidered book covers. Check it out to see some other gorgeous works (although this one is my favourite).

11 Awesome Literary Embroideries, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

 

For those who prefer a pattern, there’s also this classic cover in cross-stitch…

11 Awesome Literary Embroideries, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Found on Etsy

 

I couldn’t decide between these two Shakespearean cross-stitch pieces, so I’m sharing both. The first is a quote from “As You Like It,” and features what could basically be my personal coat-of-arms (books, comfy chair, cat, coffee/tea). The second is stage directions from “The Winter’s Tale,” and is just funny.

11 Awesome Literary Embroideries, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Found on Etsy
11 Awesome Literary Embroideries, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Pattern found here.
exit pursued by a bear completed, literary embroidery by aspasia s. bissas
This completed piece was shared by a buyer on Etsy.

 

O.M.G. I don’t think I could find a better bookmark than this cross-stitch mashup of book culture and pop culture…

oh my god becky, literary embroidery by aspasia s. bissas
From an article on subversive cross-stitch.

 

I love this tapestry portrait of Virginia Woolf (although I could do without the cigarette, and really, a pen would have made more sense).

virginia woolf tapestry, literary embroidery by Aspasia S. Bissas
Found here.

 

A character portrait is also a good option…

jane eyre, literary embroidery by aspasia s. bissas
Found via Etsy

 

Cats, books, colour– what more could you ask? And this looks like it would be a lot of fun to work on.

books and cats needlepoint, literary embroidery by aspasia s. bissas
Found here.

 

I love this updated take on the needlepoint classic of pink roses on a black background. And it’s always good to be honest 😉

i will read books and ignore you, literary needlepoint by aspasia s. bissas
Found here.

 

Lastly, this cross-stitch that honours my favourite genre…

fantasy genre needlepoint, literary embroidery by aspasia s. bissas
Found here.

 

Aspasia S. Bissas's books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw
Delve further into the (dark) fantasy genre– download my books FREE

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

 

5 More Vampires You May Not Have Heard Of

5 More Vampires You May Not Have Heard Of, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
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Chances are when you think of vampires you’ll think of Eric Northman, Drusilla, Barnabas Collins, or any of the other fanged creatures-of-the-night that populate modern culture, including Mara from Love Lies Bleeding. The vampires we’re familiar with are (generally) human looking, powerful, often charismatic and attractive, with a thirst for blood and a dislike of stakes. But that wasn’t always the case. History and folklore are full of vampires that are nothing like what we’ve come to expect. Here are five examples…

Vetala

5 More Vampires You May Not Have Heard Of, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo via https://detechter.com/three-famous-vampires-in-india/

Also known as vetaal or baital, the vetala is a blood-drinking demon in Hindu mythology that haunts burial grounds and crematoria, hangs upside down (like a bat) from trees, and possesses dead (or occasionally living) humans or animals. Not unlike the vampires on Buffy, the demon sets up shop in the body it’s possessing, while the original soul that inhabited said body is “completely gone.” Unlike the vampires of Buffy, the vetala retains none of the memories of the person it’s possessing. As well, destroying the body doesn’t destroy the demon, which simply moves on to the next handy body. Vetala are chaotic, revelling in the damage they cause, including driving people insane and killing children. Interestingly, some vetala are not evil; there’s even a Disney Channel series in India where a harmless vetala is friends with a boy. It’s also possible that Bram Stoker was inspired by tales of vetala before he wrote Dracula.

Revenant

5 More Vampires You May Not Have Heard Of, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Dylan Sauerwein on Unsplash

There’s some debate about what revenants actually are. It has been argued that they are a type of vampire, zombies, or simply generic undead. Since the word itself means “one who returns,” it could refer to anything from a ghost to (technically) someone coming back from a long trip. Augustin Calmet wrote in the 18th century that revenants were created by sorcerers “who sucked the blood of victims.” Most historical accounts agreed that revenants are caused by the restless spirits of wicked people re-animating their corpses. Whatever a revenant is, stories show a number of similarities with classic vampires, from their bodies being swollen with blood (usually from gorging on it); to only being able to move about at night; to needing their heads and/or hearts removed and destroyed in order to finally stop them. Illness and death almost always follow in a revenant’s wake. While vampires are said to require blood as sustenance, a revenant doesn’t need the blood it consumes. Another difference is that revenants, unlike vampires, decompose.

Draugr

5 More Vampires You May Not Have Heard Of, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

Draugr (or draug, pl. draugur, AKA aptrganga) is essentially a Norse revenant. Unlike other revenants, draugur can increase their size at will, are motivated by treasure (as well as revenge and the general desire to do damage), and are not affected by sunlight (although they prefer the dark). Draugur have magical abilities and can shape shift (one form they were known to take was a cat that would sit on a sleeping person’s chest, getting steadily heavier until the victim suffocated). They can also rise from their graves as wisps of smoke or pass through solid rock. Draugur can enter the dreams of the living, leaving a “gift” as assurance that they were really there. Draugur kill their victims (both human and animal) by draining their blood, but can also kill by crushing, devouring, or driving their victims mad. They were also thought to run animals to death by chasing or riding them. They can be killed via burning, dismemberment, destruction of the body, or simply by eventual decay.

Izcacus

5 More Vampires You May Not Have Heard Of, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Illustration by Mexicankaiju on DeviantArt

(AKA Aizhakos) A pagan shaman on trial during the Hungarian Inquisition described a demon called Izcacus (meaning blood drinker), which could be called forth to destroy the enemies of the pagans. The name has ancient Turkish roots, and may have been originally spread by migrating tribes who were themselves influenced by the Assyrians. Specific information on the Izcacus is hard to find, but if it does have roots in Assyrian vampire beliefs, it could (like other Assyrian vampires) be a violent, merciless spirit or demon that devours its victims’ blood and flesh.

Guaxa

5 More Vampires You May Not Have Heard Of, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Image source (and I believe this is the artist).

Originating in Spain, the guaxa (AKA guaja or guajona) is an ancient vampire resembling an old hag (think stereotypical witch) with bright eyes and bird legs (any relation to Baba Yaga?) She sucks blood (preferably from children) with her single long tooth/fang. The guaxa sneaks into homes at night through keyholes and chimneys, and slowly drains victims over the course of weeks, causing them to waste away. Unlike most vampires, they are born, not turned. One source claims that the guaxa’s weaknesses include silver, antlers, running water, and magical amulets, but I couldn’t find any corroborating sources, so it may not be accurate.

Have you heard of these vampires? Which do you think is scariest? Tell me in the comments…

Edit: I forgot to add the link to my original post, 5 Vampires You May Not Have Heard Of. Enjoy 🙂

Aspasia S. Bissas's books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw
Get more vampires right now– download my books FREE!

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

 

Further Reading

Three Famous Vampires in India

Vetala Indo-European Vampire

Wikipedia: Revenant

Mythology.net: Revenant

Wikipedia: Draugr

Vampire Underworld: Draugr

Vampire Folklore by Region

Monsters from Mesopotamia

La Guaxa Es La Vampiresa Asturiana

Wikipedia: Guajona

The Monster Blog of Monsters: Guajona

 

 

 

 

My Best Way to De-Stress

young woman thinking with pen while working studying at her desk
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I think it’s pretty safe to say that literally everyone is stressed right now. Most of us are worried about ourselves and our loved ones getting sick or dying. There’s also the not insignificant stress over losing jobs, paying bills, shortages of necessities, keeping kids happy and educated, and being stuck inside for long periods of time (even the introverts are getting stir crazy). Meanwhile, a very special group of people aren’t bothered about any of that because they’re too busy stressing over their stock portfolios. Priorities.

I’ve always been a worrier. I have anxiety and a tendency to get emotionally invested in the world’s problems, even when I can’t do anything about them and they don’t necessarily affect me. Being stressed all the time isn’t fun. In fact, it’s incredibly bad for your health. I’ve tried all the usual suggestions for lowering stress levels: meditation, deep breathing, exercise, yoga, relaxation techniques… Did any of them help? Meh. Some of them actually stress me more (how is being bored supposed to relax anyone?) I’ve also found that things like reading, TV, or hobbies are a good distraction, but aren’t very effective once I stop doing them. I got to the point where I gave up trying to de-stress (which actually helped a little in and of itself).

midsection of man
Photo by Hichem Deghmoum on Pexels.com

Then I found something that actually helps. It wasn’t intentional– I started doing it because I had to, kept doing it because I enjoyed it, and then eventually realized it was making me feel better. I don’t remember ever seeing “make plans for the future” as a suggestion for relieving stress, and maybe it’s not something that works for most people, but it’s exactly what I needed.

Because my life’s been in a holding pattern for a while now, I’d stopped planning anything. I figured there was no point until something definite was in motion. That was a mistake. Even though I don’t know where I’ll end up or when I’ll get there (especially with the way things are now, thanks to a certain pandemic), it’s important to think about what might happen, what I’d like to happen, and what I can do to make it happen. Maybe it’s even more important when everything is up in the air. Although there are no rules on how to make plans, this is what’s been working for me…

Figure out what to plan for

Since my SO and I had been intending to move before real estate shut down in Toronto, I’d spent weeks packing (now regretting being so quick to put away most of the books and all the DVDs). From there I naturally started taking stock of things that needed to be repaired/replaced and what we’d need to buy for a new home. And as we started getting an idea of the kind of place we’ll likely end up in, I also started thinking about decorating, something I love doing. I have no idea what kind of space I’ll have to work with, but I’m enjoying thinking about what I might do with it once we’re there. Thinking about decorating has also led me to think about a future garden and just generally what I’d like my life to be like once we move. Maybe it’ll all work out, maybe it won’t– but it’s so much better than not thinking about it at all.

Pick something you can do right away

Because we’ve been in limbo, I’ve put a lot of things off until “after the move.” That’s a good idea to a point, but planning without doing can get frustrating after a while. One of the things I’d planned to do later was take classes. Once self isolating began I decided to go ahead and start taking them right away. So now I’m enrolled in a free online class at The Open University, with plans to take more. Being able to act on some of my plans right away makes me feel like I’m living my life and not just passing time.

reach for the and blue moon neon signages
Photo by Designecologist on Pexels.com
Pick something you’ll probably never do

Being practical all the time kills joy, as well as imagination. But if you’re a fairly practical person like I am (no, seriously), making plans for something that can’t or won’t ever happen is a good outlet. I love thinking about the farm I’ll (probably) never have, future home of rescue animals and a huge garden. But as a city person with allergies to everything from hay to sheep and most of what would be in that garden, I’m pretty sure this is a dream that won’t make the transition to reality. And that’s okay. I still find it relaxing to name the donkeys and plan the flower garden and debate whether I should get guard geese.

Make lists

Lists not only help me organize my thoughts, but I enjoy writing them (and all the people who say lists are bad can mind their business). I add a visual component to my planning by saving pictures and making Pinterest boards. Talking about plans can be fun too, when my SO is feeling cooperative. Anything that keeps my enthusiasm up and helps me refine my ideas becomes part of the process.

The best part about making plans is that a large component of it is daydreaming. You can do it anywhere, even while you’re busy with other things. I think part of the problem with other stress relieving techniques is that they require you to take time out especially for them and focus just on them. Who has time for that? Or more accurately, who wants to spend time on that? I need something I enjoy doing in order to actually de-stress; something that’s easy to do, that I want to do, and is also productive in some way. For me, making plans is all those things.

What helps you de-stress? Share in the comments…

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Aspasia S. Bissas's books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw
Relieve some stress with these FREE books…

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

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