Happy World Goth Day!

Happy World Goth Day, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, black heart, gothic

It’s World Goth Day today, so break out your black eyeliner and Sisters of Mercy CDs, and head to the local cemetery for a discussion on why we’re celebrating goths in May instead of the obvious choice of October.

I thought I’d mark the day by sharing some pictures of real vampires I found. Enjoy!

Happy World Goth Day, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, goth, gothic, vampire, vampires, vampire cat Loki
Her name is Loki
Happy World Goth Day, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, goth, gothic, vampire, vampires, vampire deer, water deer, chinese water deer, fanged deer
Chinese Water Deer via Reddit
Happy World Goth Day, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. goth, gothic, vampire, vampires, vampire dog
Scary vampire dog spotted on Reddit
Happy World Goth Day, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. goth, gothic, vampire, vampires, vampire monkey, fanged monkey, golden monkey, golden snub-nosed monkey
Male golden snub-nosed monkey
Happy World Goth Day, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, goth, gothic, vampire, vampires, vampire cat Monk
Monk the Vampire Cat
Happy World Goth Day, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, goth, gothic, vampire, vampires, vampire cow, vampire cow meme

What are you doing to celebrate World Goth Day? Share in the comments…

Want more (non-animal) vampires? Get 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

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords (all formats), Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Blood Magic: Smashwords (all formats), Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Tooth & Claw: Smashwords (all formats), Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

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! ♥

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

PS: Thanks for everyone’s support after this post, where I shared that my entire family contracted or was exposed to COVID, while my SO had his own sudden health crisis. I’m happy to report that everyone is fine now. My sister, who’d been vaccinated shortly before this all happened, never got COVID, even though she lives with three people who had it. Vaccines work.

Flowers for Isolation

Flowers in Isolation, blog post with photos by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, spring, daffodils, narcissus, photography, covid, astrazeneca

The week started out so well.

Or maybe I should say last week ended well. This week was a nightmare.

Last Saturday my SO and I got the first of our AstraZeneca COVID vaccines! What a relief that was– the first bit of light at the end of a long, long tunnel. I had very mild side effects that didn’t last long. He didn’t have any side effects. We’re looking forward to our second doses.

I think it was Monday that I found out my entire family had either tested positive for COVID, or was exposed to it. Let me tell you, it’s a special kind of feeling of isolation to hear that nearly all the people you care about in the world have contracted or might contract a deadly and debilitating illness. I don’t recommend it. And my family aren’t covidiots, by any means; it was a real shock to hear the news.

But speaking of the people you care about in the world, on Wednesday my SO was hit with a non-COVID health issue. Because those haven’t taken a pause during the pandemic. And we then discovered the fun of trying to get medical care during a lockdown (he managed to connect with a doctor and avoid a trip to the ER, thankfully).

So, things have been stressful lately. In light of that I decided to share some pictures I’ve taken of spring flowers, because flowers make me feel better. If you’ve also had a rough week, maybe they’ll make you feel better too…

Cherry Blossoms

Flowers in Isolation, blog post with photos by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, spring, cherry blossoms, sakura, photography, covid, astrazeneca
Flowers in Isolation, blog post with photos by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, spring, cherry blossoms, sakura, photography, covid, astrazeneca
Flowers in Isolation, blog post with photos by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, spring, cherry blossoms, sakura, photography, covid, astrazeneca
Flowers in Isolation, blog post with photos by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, spring, cherry blossoms, sakura, photography, covid, astrazeneca
Flowers in Isolation, blog post with photos by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, spring, cherry blossoms, sakura, photography, covid, astrazeneca
Flowers in Isolation, blog post with photos by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, spring, cherry blossoms, sakura, photography, covid, astrazeneca
Flowers in Isolation, blog post with photos by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, spring, cherry blossoms, sakura, photography, covid, astrazeneca

Magnolia

Flowers in Isolation, blog post with photos by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, spring, magnolia, magnolias, photography, covid, astrazeneca
Flowers in Isolation, blog post with photos by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, spring, magnolia, magnolias, photography, covid, astrazeneca
Flowers in Isolation, blog post with photos by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, spring, magnolia, magnolias, photography, covid, astrazeneca
Flowers in Isolation, blog post with photos by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, spring, magnolia, magnolias, photography, covid, astrazeneca
Flowers in Isolation, blog post with photos by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, spring, magnolia, magnolias, photography, covid, astrazeneca

Daffodils

Flowers in Isolation, blog post with photos by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, spring, daffodils, narcissus, photography, covid, astrazeneca
Flowers in Isolation, blog post with photos by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, spring, daffodils, narcissus, photography, covid, astrazeneca
Flowers in Isolation, blog post with photos by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, spring, daffodils, narcissus, photography, covid, astrazeneca
Photo by Maria Tyutina on Pexels.com (I didn’t take this one but I’m using it because my photos are too disorganized for me to find all the daffodil photos I did take!)

What makes you feel better when things haven’t been going your way? Share in the comments.

Studies have shown that books fight stress. Download some stress relief today:

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

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords (all formats), Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Blood Magic: Smashwords (all formats), Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Tooth & Claw: Smashwords (all formats), Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

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! ♥

Stay safe and happy May 1st,

Aspasía S. Bissas

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

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

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

Vampire’s Garden: Hawthorn

Vampire's Garden: Vampire-Repelling Plants, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com
Photo by Ylanite Koppens 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 eleventh 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: Crataegus monogyna (and other species of Crataegus)

Common Names: thornapple, May tree, whitethorn, hawberry, mayhaw, fairy thorn, quickthorn, Bread and Cheese Tree

History: Native to temperate areas around the world, hawthorn is part of the Rosaceae (Rose) family (you can see the resemblance in the berries, which are similar looking to rosehips). Folklore about Hawthorn abounds, and these are only a few examples: In Ancient Greece, branches decorated altars of Hymenaios (God of marriage), and were carried during wedding processions. It is believed that Jesus’ crown of thorns was made of hawthorn (in parts of France it was claimed that the plant would groan and cry on Good Friday). The Celts thought it could heal a broken heart. Before the calendar was changed from the Julian to the Gregorian system, hawthorn bloomed on 1 May, and May Day/Beltane celebrations included gathering the flowering branches (the only time it was allowed). In Great Britain and Ireland it was believed that uprooting or cutting down a hawthorn brought bad luck (with some attributing the failure of the DeLorean Motor Company to their cutting down a hawthorn in order to build a factory). Hawthorns have strong associations with fairies, and lone trees were thought to be especially powerful and most beloved of the fair folk.

Vampires: Starting in Serbia and spreading throughout the Balkan region, it was believed that only stakes made of hawthorn or ash could kill a vampire. In Bosnia, people would wear hawthorn twigs to funerals, dropping them as they left the cemetery; if the deceased rose as a vampire, they would have to stop to pick up the twigs, allowing the living to return home safely. The thorns were also placed in a recently deceased person’s clothing to “pin” them to the coffin and keep them from rising.

Language of Flowers Meaning: Hope

Cultivation: There’s a hawthorn for almost any hardiness zone, from Zones 4 to 11 according to the USDA, and as far north as Zone 1 (just below the tundra) in Canada. Hawthorn will grow in full sun or part shade. They’ll tolerate most types of soil, although they prefer rich, well-drained soil. They’re also drought tolerant. Growing hawthorn from seed is difficult and time-consuming– it’s easier to transplant a sucker or seedling. It’s possible to graft one type of hawthorn onto the seedling of another type. You can also use hawthorn as rootstock to graft other plants, mainly medlar and pear. Flowers generally bloom from May to June. Hawthorn is used as a hedge plant and as ornamentals– just be mindful of the thorns. Once established, hawthorns need little attention, other than fertilizer in spring, and some water during prolonged dry periods. It is also resistant to road salt and air pollution, making it ideal for urban areas.

Uses:

Medicinal: The flowers, leaves, and berries of Crataegus laevigata and other species have been used since the first century CE to treat heart disease. Science is starting to back up hawthorn’s use for treating a variety of cardiovascular issues, although more studies need to be done to confirm results and determine things like dosage. The dried fruits of Chinese (C. pinnatifida, shān zhā in Chinese) and Japanese (C. cuneata, called sanzashi in Japanese) hawthorn species are used in traditional medicine as a digestive aid.

Caution: Taking too much hawthorn can cause cardiac arrhythmia and low blood pressure. Some people may also experience headache, a racing heart, and nausea. Do not use if you are taking digoxin. It’s best to be safe and avoid hawthorn if pregnant or breast feeding.

Culinary: The “haws” (berries) can be used to make jam, jelly, sauces, or wine (although since they’re an important winter food for wildlife, you might prefer to leave them on the plants. The young spring leaves and flower buds can also be eaten cooked or raw. In Mexico, the fruit of a local hawthorn species is made into candy called rielitos.

Wildlife: Hawthorn is a source of food and shelter (especially in winter) for birds and mammals, as well as an important source of nectar for insects. It also provides food for the larvae of many butterflies and moths.

Bonsai: Many species of hawthorn can be used for bonsai, including common hawthorn (C. monogyna), Japanese hawthorn (C. cuneata), thornless hawthorn (C. nitida), and ornamental varieties like Crataegus lavigata ‘Paul’s scarlet’.

Other Uses: First Nations people of Western Canada used the thorns as fish hooks and for minor surgeries.

Mara’s Uses: Although Mara would likely use hawthorn in tonics for her clients, its traditional use against vampires might leave her a little reluctant.

Further Reading:

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

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

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! ♥

Wikipedia: Crataegus

Vampires: Hawthorn

Six Ways to Stop a Vampire

WebMD

Mt. Sinai

How to Grow Hawthorns

Hardy Fruit Tree- Hawthorn

Gardening 101: Hawthorn

Hawthorn- a Foraging Guide

Hawthorn- bride of the hedgerow

Hawthorn- Tree of the Wee Folk

Hawthorn as Bonsai

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

10 Things I Learned in 2020

10 Things I Learned in 2020, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, 2020, 2021, new year, restrospective, learning, lessons, moving forward
Photo by Alex Green on Pexels.com

Finally– the year that we all wish had never happened is over! If you were lucky enough not to suffer the full brunt of 2020, you’re still probably feeling that the entire year was a waste. And in so many ways, it was– wasted time, wasted opportunities. It’s been frustrating, to say the least. The one thing 2020 did offer us, though, was a chance for introspection and reflection. I’m sure we’re all coming out of this a little wiser than we were at this time last year. Here’s what I learned in 2020…

1. People Are Awful

Call me naive, but I always believed that in a disaster, people would pull together and help one another. Maybe I’ve seen too many movies. But the first thing that 2020 taught me is that some people are truly selfish. They scream about their rights or pretend they don’t understand what’s happening, while blithely spreading a deadly and debilitating disease wherever they go. I don’t think I’m the only one whose faith in humanity took a hit in 2020.

2. People Are Awesome

Luckily, most people aren’t selfish twits, and many are truly amazing. Those in the medical and care fields working around the clock to help the sick and dying. Those who have kept working under trying and dangerous circumstances so that supply chains aren’t disrupted and the rest of us can still eat and get the things we need. Those who stay home, even when they really, really, really want to get out of the house. Leaders who are actually leading and keeping people as safe as possible. Thanks to all of you ♥

3. How to Be Resourceful

When some things were in short supply or unavailable last year, I found ways to manage, either by making do or doing without. If I couldn’t get help when I needed it, I worked around it or figured out how to do it myself. Going forward, I’ll be embracing more of an attitude of resourcefulness, because you never know when you won’t have a choice about it.

10 Things I Learned in 2020, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, 2020, 2021, new year, restrospective, learning, lessons, moving forward, aspasiasbissas.com, bread, baking, baking bread, making bread, cooking
Photo by Vaibhav Jadhav on Pexels.com

4. I’m More Competent than I Think

Having to be more resourceful, having to endure difficult circumstances, having to rely on myself more than I ever have– all of this has shown me that I can do more than I  thought possible. I need to remember this lesson.

5. Clarity

This past year has given me time to figure out what I’d like my life to look like going forward. I might not be able to do all of it, but I know what to work towards and what to let fall away. Having a clear direction is something I didn’t realize I needed.

6. There’s No Limit to Learning

When I decided to take French (and later Greek) lessons using an app, I approached them with a bit of trepidation. Learning a language is easy in childhood, but not so much in adulthood (at least, that’s the popular opinion). Maybe it helped that I already had a start in both languages (eventually I hope to try learning a language I don’t know anything about). The lessons have been fantastic, not only because I’m learning a lot, but also for my mental health. They keep me busy with something that’s actually useful. If there’s anything you’ve been wanting to learn, I highly recommend going for it.

7. Introverts Need People Too

I’m about as introverted as they come, which has been helpful in getting through lockdowns and avoiding crowded places. But even I miss people. I miss my family and friends, and I miss the places people gather, especially museums, coffee shops, the zoo, the mall (memories of a misspent youth), and just generally seeing people without worrying about whether they’re merely clearing their throat or are hacking up deadly germs. For someone who used to dream of the hermit life, actually living it has shown me that I need to socialize sometimes. Who knew?

8. Keep a distance

I don’t mean physical distance, which I’ve also learned to do and is important for other reasons. I’m talking about a mental/emotional distance. I’ve learned not to rely on external factors because they aren’t reliable. I don’t know if this is cynical, or if it’s something everyone else already knew and I’m just late in figuring out, but I’ve had some major disappointments this last year, and I’d like to avoid more of the same in future.

9. I Have Value

It turns out there are a lot of people in the world who can’t wait to tell you how little you matter (a lot of them are the same people I mentioned in my first point). They’re wrong. I have value just by existing, and so do you. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

10. There’s a Light at the End of the Tunnel

…even if it’s faint and sometimes flickers.

10 Things I Learned in 2020, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, 2020, 2021, new year, restrospective, learning, lessons, moving forward, aspasiasbissas.com, light at the end of the tunnel
Photo by Johannes Rapprich on Pexels.com

What did you  learn in 2020? Share in the comments…

Looking to start 2021 with a good read? I’ve got you covered…

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
FREE Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer a good paperback to an ebook, 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! ♥

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

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