16 Butterflies (and a Turtle)

As we head into the holiday season, I thought I’d share some favourite posts from the past. This was originally posted on 12 February, 2o18…

Recently I paid a visit to the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory (Ontario, Canada) and I’m so glad I did. Besides being the perfect respite from the freezing weather, it was a magical experience being surrounded by butterflies (many more than 16). I highly recommend it. I thought I’d share a few of the photos I took…

IMG_8034 edit_1C

IMG_7978 edit_1_C
Basking in the sunshine

IMG_8001 edit_1C

IMG_8014 edit_1C
You’d never guess what this butterfly looks like with its wings open….

Continue reading “16 Butterflies (and a Turtle)”

The Ultimate Book Tag

cold coffee in glass near typewriter
Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

As we head into the holiday season, it seems like a good time to post something fun. I snagged this from A.M. Molvik’s Ramblings. Feel free to share on your own blog (leave me a comment to let me know if you do). Enjoy…

1.Do you get sick while reading in the car?

Unfortunately, yes. I can’t even look at a text on my phone without feeling queasy. It doesn’t help with reading, but I do recommend ginger for the nausea, if you’re also prone to car sickness.

2.Which author’s writing style is completely unique to you?

James Joyce. I can’t think of another author like him.

3.Harry Potter series or the Twilight Saga? Give 3 points to defend your answer.

This is a bizarre question, like asking someone to choose between ice cream or a painting of Elvis on black velvet. Are the two even related?

I’m going with Harry Potter, but since HP needs no defending, here are 3 reasons why everyone should forget about Twilight already:

1. It was written by someone who doesn’t like vampires and has no interest in them, other than the ones she writes about. Never read a book by someone who has no respect for the subject.

2. It presents stalking and abuse as “romance.”

3. It’s not so much a story, as propaganda for the author’s religious and moral beliefs. Do yourself a favour and read something else.

4.Do you carry a book bag? If so, what is in it (besides books…)?

If I bring a book along, I usually just hold it (unless it’s small enough to fit in my purse). If I do bring a larger bag to accommodate a book, I’ll also usually put my purse in there (easier than picking out just the stuff I need), maybe a bottle of water, my hairbrush, a camera–whatever I think I’ll need while I’m out.

5.Do you smell your books?

Not really; I think I’m immune to book smell.

6.Books with or without little illustrations?

Illustrations are always fun, but not necessary.

7.What book did you love while reading but discovered later it wasn’t quality writing?

A lot of books I read as a kid. I’ve recently re-read some of them and have been  disappointed (Gordon Korman, I’m looking at you).

8.Do you have any funny stories involving books from your childhood? Please share!

I’m not sure how funny this is, but growing up, I didn’t have a lot of access to books at home other than the Encyclopedia Britannica (yes, I’m that old), Greek history books, and a few of my older sister’s novels. So one of the books I would read (more than once) was the Donny Osmond Mystery (Donny Disappears!)

donny disappears

The really funny part might be that I still have it.

9.What is the thinnest book on your shelf?

A Dover Edition of Daisy Miller by Henry James (Dover Editions all tend to be slim).

10.What is the thickest book on your shelf?

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth.

11.Do you write as well as read? Do you see yourself in the future as being an author?

I’m currently published. Find out more about my dark fantasy novel, Love Lies Bleeding, and my free ebook, Blood Magic, here.

12.When did you get into reading?

I’ve loved reading and books longer than I can remember. When I started kindergarten, my first question to the teacher was when were we going to the library. The kindergartners normally didn’t use the school library, but I was so excited to see the books that they ended up making special arrangements for my class.

13. What is your favorite classic book?

Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky.

14. In school what was your best subject?

English. I basically took every English class my high school offered, and then majored in English Lit in Uni.

15.If you were given a book as a present that you had read before and hated…what would you do?

I might try reading it again, but if I really hated it I’d probably just keep it on my shelf as a reminder of the person who gave it to me.

16.What is a lesser known series that you know of that is similar to Harry Potter or The Hunger Games?

I think it’s great when people branch out and read new things instead of different variations on a favourite theme. That being said, I do recommend the (non-YA) Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews. It has magic, a dystopian future, shifters, witches, vampires, and a kick-ass female main character.

17.What is your favourite word?

Meander. I love both the rhythm of it and the meaning. Susurrate is also a good one.

18.Are you a nerd, dork, or dweeb? Or all of the above?

Who doesn’t love applying labels to themselves? Just call me a neo-maxi-zoom-dweebie.

19.Vampires or Fairies? Why?

Vampires, always. I like fairies, but fangs beat wings.

20. Shapeshifters or Angels? Why?

Shapeshifters interest me more. Angels can be okay if done right.

21.Spirits or Werewolves? Why?

Werewolves. Spirits are fine as minor characters, but as a main they’d be unsatisfying to read about and impossible to relate to.

22.Love Triangle or Forbidden Love?

Forbidden love, I guess. Love triangles always make me question why they don’t just try a poly relationship.

23.AND FINALLY: Full on romance books or action-packed with a few love scenes mixed in?

Action packed, tyvm. I probably shouldn’t admit this publicly, but I find Jane Austen-style romances tedious. Maybe it’s the lack of Osmond brothers 😉

Anything to add? Let me know in the comments…

 

Read Fiction, Be Happier

00 fiction
Sign outside Waterstones, Bloomsbury, London

I have a theory that people who don’t read aren’t happy people. Or at least, they’re not as happy as they could be. It’s a highly unscientific theory, and maybe a little unfair, but think of some famous readers you know, then think of someone who famously doesn’t read, and decide for yourself whether I might have a point.

Actually, it turns out that I’m not entirely wrong. Science is discovering that to be a happier, healthier, and overall better person you do need to read…fiction.

Apparently (and unsurprisingly) reading fiction teaches empathy, provides a sense of belonging, and relieves stress. It helps with cognitive and social skills–it might even help you live longer. And it offers a healthy escape from a not-so-healthy reality.

sc reality

Anyone who reads both non-fiction and fiction will recognize the difference in the two experiences. Much as I enjoy non-fiction, it’s rare to get lost in facts. Non-fiction is interesting, it can make you excited about learning–but it doesn’t capture you. Fiction makes you part of the story, it lets you live another life. A good work of fiction will lead you to happily blow off everything else you had planned for the day, just so you can keep reading. For me, fiction shows the possibilities of what could and can and does exist. Fiction is proof of the power of imagination. And it’s good for you too.

Read some fiction right now–download my FREE short story Blood Magic.

Check out this new review of Blood Magic on Vamped.org.

Find out more about why reading fiction is good for you.

BLOOD MAGIC by Aspasia S. Bissas jpg

 

Literary Cafés

Thanks to a few well-known tipplers (coughHemingwaycough), writers have something of a reputation for indulging. Though that may be more stereotype than reality, over the years certain bars and cafés have become linked with the literary crowd who’ve gone there to eat, drink, socialize, and occasionally write. Inspired by a recent LitHub article featuring 35 Literary Cafés. I thought I’d share a couple of them here, as well as adding some the list missed.

00 Tortoni
Café Tortoni, favourite of Jorge Luís Borges and Alfonsina Storni, whose wax figures permanently share a table there.
00 grecco
Antico Caffé Greco in Rome has served Lord Byron, Percy and Mary Shelley, Hans Christian Andersen, and Nikolai Gogol, among others.
00 elephant house
The Elephant House in Edinburgh makes the somewhat dubious claim of being the place where J.K. Rowling started Harry Potter. Whether true or not, it’s become popular with fans.

Although not as well-known as the others on the list, here are some local-ish spots this Toronto writer thinks are worth a mention:

00 park hyatt
The Park Hyatt Roof Lounge (currently closed for renovation) has been frequented by many writers, artists and celebrities over the years, including Margaret Atwood and Leonard Cohen.
00 sneaky dee
Sneaky Dee’s is a Toronto institution that has attracted droves of indie types–including writers–over the years. Bryan Lee O’Malley used it as a setting in Scott Pilgrim vs the World.
winnies-bar-restaurant-salle-a-manger
Winnie’s Bar (1455 Crescent St, Montreal) was a favourite of Mordecai Richler. They specialize in alcoholic coffee (my kind of place).

Writers unknown, famous, and infamous have always populated cafés and bars all over the world. Comment and tell me which ones you think deserve a mention.

(Note: This is a re-post from 26 February 2018. If you’re looking for something new to read, how about my free short story “Blood Magic”https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/816146 or my novel Love Lies Bleeding, available in paperback and e-book at most online booksellers.)

Weird Habits of Writers

00 weird

I recently read an article about 11 weird habits that all writers can relate to, and I’ve got to say they weren’t wrong. Dramatically staring into space while thinking about what my characters will do next? Check. Ending up on security watch lists thanks to my online research? Check. Losing track of time, dates, and reality itself thanks to working from home immersed in a fantasy world of my own creation? Check check.

Reading the list got me thinking about my own odd habits, which I’ve decided to share. After all, as the article pointed out, writers spend a lot of time alone–why not take a moment to bond over our mutual strangeness?

My Weird Habits as a Writer:

Seeking Out Mindless Activities so I Can Think: When my hands are busy but my mind is free to wander, that’s when I come up with some of my best ideas, solve problems with my stories, or mentally write entire passages (my phone is handy–and more likely to be nearby than pen and paper–for getting it all down before I inevitably forget). Mindless activities I recommend: weeding the garden, easy crafts, cleaning the house, ironing…

Telling Myself Stories to Help Me Fall Asleep: I’ve had trouble sleeping my entire life–the one thing that’s almost guaranteed to get me to sleep is telling myself a story in bed. It’s been the same story for a while now, with minor variations. Strangely enough this repetitive storytime actually does help with my writing. Every so often I’ll get an idea for a new character, or notice themes I should explore.

Watching (a lot of) TV: Sometimes it’s background noise that works a lot like any other mindless activity (see above). Sometimes it’s inspiring, giving me ideas to consider. Sometimes it’s instructive, helping me with pacing, or seeing aspects to storytelling that do or don’t work. Sometimes it’s just entertaining, which is also important.

I’ll leave it there, although there are more (so many more). What weird habits do you have as a writer (or in general)? Share your weirdness…

(Note: This is a re-post from 19 February 2018. If you’re looking for something new to read, how about my free short story “Blood Magic”https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/816146 or my novel Love Lies Bleeding, available in paperback and e-book at most online booksellers.)