Happy Canada Day!

photo of a person s hand holding a maple leaf
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Happy Canada Day to all Canadians, no matter where they find themselves on 1 July!

Did you know that Canada Day is not our independence day? It’s Canada’s birthday (happy 152nd!) July 1st marks the anniversary of Confederation, or the day the first four provinces officially joined to create the Dominion of Canada.

Long weekends are also the perfect time to catch up on your reading (how else are you going to digest all that BBQ?) Take advantage of Smashword’s sale and get Love Lies Bleeding for half price (and Blood Magic, as always, is free). Support Canadian indie writers and have a good day 🍁

If you want to learn more about Canada, watch this short video by a couple of resident experts:

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Can’t Get You Out of My Head

woman reading books
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Almost three months ago I started reading a book series that I’d been meaning to get to for a while. I’d read the first book in the series years ago, but decided to re-read before (finally) continuing with the rest of the books. Although I remembered liking it at the time, I noticed a lot of issues while reading it again. A lot. Still, the main character was a good one, the story was compelling and had promise, and I already had the rest of the books. I was going to read this series.

You may have noticed I’m not mentioning the author’s name, series name, or book titles. That’s because I do not recommend them. I don’t want anyone else thinking they couldn’t possibly be that bad and deciding to find out for themselves. Don’t waste your time on these, guys. I finished the series about a month ago and can’t stop thinking about it–and not in a good way.

I am bothered. I’m bothered on a personal level as a human, on a “customer” level as a reader, and on a professional level as both a writer and editor. That awesome character from the first book? Diminished into mediocrity. It’s six books of her being chipped away at until there’s nothing left. The compelling story? Bogged down in excessive fact spewing and repetition, unnecessary/superficial side characters, and ridiculous/pointless/nonexistent plot lines. The promise the story had? Disappeared without a trace. Besides that, the end of the series was so unbelievably infuriating I still can’t get over it. It actually left me feeling personally betrayed. I’ve never so wanted to contact an author and ask them wtf they were thinking.

What do you do when something you despise gets stuck in your head? As a reader it’s difficult not to get emotionally invested, especially over the course of six 500+ page books, one of which was actually decent. As a human who needs to get on with life, though, that kind of attachment is a problem. How do you let it go?

I’m still not really sure. I can tell myself it’s “just a story,” but that doesn’t help much. It’s a story that was also an emotional investment, time investment, and an actual financial investment too, since I bought the books. But it wasn’t an investment that paid off in any way. Maybe the best thing to do is to focus on the good parts: the character’s strong beginning, the one book in the series I enjoyed, and the intellectual curiosity inspired by the setting. Maybe I should take heart that even though the author gaslit the main character (and, by extension, tried to gaslight the reader), I didn’t fall for it. That might not have been the case had I read all the books when they first came out. Maybe appreciating the little wins in a giant fail is the best–and only–way to move on.

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How about you? Have you ever felt betrayed by an author’s choices? Have you ever disliked a book/series so much that you couldn’t let it go? How did you deal with that? Share in the comments.

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

11 Craft Projects for Book Lovers

artistic arts and crafts colourful conceptual
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I’m a big fan of crafting. When I’m not reading or writing (and sometimes when I am) I can often be found working on a project, usually needlepoint, but also crocheting/knitting, jewellery making, sewing, or something else along those lines. I get inspiration from all kinds of places: my own tastes, magazines, Pinterest, friends and family–but why not combine forces and get inspired by books? Not craft books, but actual novels?

Well, other crafters thought the same thing and have come up with some great literary-inspired projects. Here are some of my favourites:

Amigurumi Little Prince

amigurumi lttle prince

You can’t go wrong with The Little Prince. This amigurumi version by Eda Gizem K., over on Ravelry is adorable and would be fun to make. Get the free pattern here.

Assymetric Hunger Games Cowl

Hunger Games cowl

Perhaps not the most practical item of clothing for the non-archers among us, but still a pretty cool project. Elderflower on Craftster shares her free downloadable pattern.

Bookmarks

bookmarks

Still using old receipts as bookmarks? Nothing wrong with this practical-but-dull approach. Then again, for a little effort you can mark your place in a more colourful–and personal–way with a DIY bookmark.

Alice in Wonderland Flamingo Croquet Set

flamingo croquetMorena’s Corner provides a tutorial for one of my favourite DIY projects, ever: an Alice in Wonderland-inspired flamingo croquet set. Anyone up for a game?

Hardcover Book Pendant

Great video tutorial by I Love Paper Beads. You can find written instructions for making this cute pendant here. Or, if you prefer a stack of books…

Stack of Books Pendant

book necklace

Love it. Via the Darice blog.

Book Bag

bookbag

I’m normally not a fan of crafts that use (read: destroy) actual books, but some books really have outlived their usefulness and can be ethically sacrificed. And this awesome book bag by Mollie Makes is a worthy cause (but do try to find a book that’s damaged beyond repair, is missing pages, or isn’t valuable). Video tutorial and written instructions here.

Magnets

magnets

There are no instructions with these magnets, but they’re simple enough, and can be customized however you want. Use a clean mint tin or jar lid. Glue pictures, quotes, mini figures, and so on inside to create a scene evoking a favourite book. Then glue magnets on the back and adorn your fridge with your handiwork.

Terrarium

Alice in Wonderland terrarium

This gorgeous terrarium was originally posted on Catch My Party. Although there are no instructions, as with the magnets above it’s a pretty straightforward craft and can be customized for any theme. Keep costs low by looking for the container at secondhand stores or garage sales (you could even use a clean pickle jar, if you want).

 

Cross Stitch Bookmark

what would violet do

For the Lemony Snicket fans out there, here’s a cross stitch Baudelaire bookmark from SealStitchery on Etsy.  They also used to offer a “The World Is Quiet Here” pattern, but alas, no more.

the world is quiet here
Too good not to share.

Japanese Ribbon-Bound Book

how to make a book

Why settle for making book-themed crafts when you can make your own books? Here’s a tutorial from Homemade Gifts Made Easy on how to hand make a hardcover, Japanese-style ribbon-bound book. What’s that, you ask? Why, yes, I do accept gifts…

And just for fun, here’s a cross stitch I made in honour of Love Lies Bleeding. I didn’t use one pattern but put it together from a few patterns I found online.

vampire bat cross stitch needlepoint embroidery hoop by Aspasia S. Bissas
Vampires Suck cross stitch by Aspasía S. Bissas

Do you craft? Have you completed any literary-inspired projects? Do you know of any good patterns online? Share in the comments…

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

 

Further Reading:

10 Lovely Literary Crochet Patterns

14 Book-Themed DIY Projects

15 Bookish Cross Stitch Patterns

15 Free Handmade Book Patterns

World Dracula Day

Happy World Dracula Day! Today we celebrate the anniversary of the first publication of Bram Stoker’s vampire standard Dracula. Many of us in English-speaking countries are familiar with Stoker’s creation, but how do other countries view the Count?

Drácula

dracula in spanish
https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8848632
spanish dracula 2
Lobby Card

Drácula, a 1931 Spanish film adaptation of Stoker’s work, was filmed at night using the same sets as the 1931 English version starring Bela Lugosi. Because the Spanish crew got to see the English dailies every night, they had a chance to adjust camera angles and other details to produce what many fans believe is a superior film.

 

Evil of Dracula

evil-of-dracula-1
Evil of Dracula
evil-of-dracula-1974-vampire
Toshio Kurosawa in Evil of Dracula.

Evil of Dracula (original title: Chi o suu bara “Bloodsucking Rose”) is the third part of a Japanese trilogy, known as the Bloodthirsty Trilogy, of Dracula adaptations (some more loosely adapted than others). In this version, the vampire bites his victims on the breast, rather than on the neck (hey, it was the 70s).

 

Dracula, the Musical

dracula musical korea
Dracula, The Musical, poster in Seoul

Musical-Dracula-release-interview-and-posters-of-JYJ-Junsu_33

Dracula, The Musical, debuted in South Korea in 2014, starring Kim Jun-su in the titular role. Although based on a 2004 Broadway musical, the Korean version seems uniquely their own. This post has plenty of photos and info, including lyrics to one of the songs. Anyone else think North America could use a rebooted musical Dracula, including the pink hair?

 

Dracula Adult Panto

dracula adult panto
Dracula Adult Panto in South Africa

Another stage adaptation, Dracula Adult Panto brings the gender-bent Count(ess) to South Africa, along with a dash of humour and an LGBT+ twist. At the end of the show, the venue transforms into a dance floor, and attendees spend the rest of the night partying.

 

Tomb of Dracula aka Κόμης Δράκουλας

tomb of dracula
Tomb of Dracula, Greek version

Tomb of Dracula, Greek version

Not a unique adaptation, but I thought the Greek edition of Marvel’s Tomb of Dracula was worth a share. Interestingly, his title can translate to either Count or Earl (you’ve heard of Earl Grey–now tremble before Earl Dracula!) I wish my parents had thought to pick me up a few copies of these when I was a kid learning Greek; alas, my Greek-language education remained pitifully vampire free.

Which is your favourite non-English version of Dracula? Is there another one you think I should know about? Share in the comments…

Cheers,

Aspasia S. Bissas

How to Get Books Cheap (or Free)

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You might remember a few months back when a certain minimalism peddler debuted her show on Netflix and then went ahead and called books clutter, telling people they should get rid of all but a laughably small number in their homes.

Yeah, I wasn’t impressed, either. And neither was writer Anakana Schofield, who tweeted that “every human needs a v extensive library.” You’d think people would rally around that kind of noble sentiment, but before Ms Schofield had finished hitting send on the tweet, people were calling her out as “elitist” for suggesting people needed their own home library.

man in white shirt using macbook pro
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Allow me to gently point out that “needs” an extensive library does not mean “must have” or even “should get.” But whatever your stance on the issue, if you agree that books clutter up your empty space, please feel free to forward them to me (seriously, though, please give them to someone–don’t feed landfills for the sake of a minimalist aesthetic).

For those of us who do know the value of books and a home library, we also know that building a collection can get pricey. But it really doesn’t have to. Here’s how you can get “a v extensive library” for next to nothing.

Before I get to that, though, just a quick note to say that if you can afford to buy books at full price, please do so. Authors (other than a lucky few) make hardly anything from the months and years of hard, gut-wrenching work they put into a book. Authors also make nothing from most of the suggestions I’m about to share. Give the author a reason to keep writing by buying their book(s). If you like an author’s work but really can’t afford it, you can still support them by posting reviews, sharing on social media, and telling your friends about the latest great book you just read. There’s many ways to support authors and we appreciate every bit of it ❤

Now, how can you get books cheap (or free)?

 

yard sale books

Yard/Garage/Rummage Sales

I’ve never stopped by one of these sales and haven’t found books. The selection varies and you won’t always find something good, but if you stop by toward the end of the day, you’ll get great deals (or stop by early for the best selection). You can (usually) haggle too.

Best Bets: Kids books, older bestsellers, books on obscure topics that were clearly unwanted gifts

 

Aspasia S. Bissas website

Estate Sales

These aren’t as common as other sales, but they’re well worth seeking out. Although they sound like something exclusively for the wealthy, that’s not the case, and sales can take place in any neighbourhood with items available at all price points. Not all estate sales will include books, but the ones that do can be like hitting the jackpot. As with yard/garage/rummage sales, go early for selection and late for deals (you can luck into entire boxes full of books for only a few dollars). Tip: Consider moving sales too.

Best Bets: Entire collections, vintage books

 

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Library Sales

My personal favourite, these happen when libraries need to cull older/less popular books to make room for new additions. My local one also accepts donations from the public and donates the proceeds to an adult literacy program. Tip: bring small bills/change and your own bag(s). Also, look into specialist organizations that have their own libraries. Our local botanical garden has a book sale a couple of times a year featuring gardening books and magazines. If a group specializes in a topic you’re interested in, you can score some fantastic finds, cheap.

Best Bets: Fiction in all genres, large-print books, kids books, a bit of everything the library carries

 

thrift shop books

Thrift Stores

Thrift stores always seem to have more books than they can handle, and prices tend to reflect that. If you’re willing to look through disorganized shelves/piles, you can find some sweet deals.

Best Bets: Obscure older cookbooks, vintage craft books, loads of interesting books donated by people getting rid of “clutter”

 

Munich 24.06.2017 Lisar (reading at Isar) book flea market, just for one summer day in June

Flea Markets/Swap Meets

Flea markets aren’t my favourite places to shop, but you can find some bargains (haggling is also expected). It’s easy to get distracted, so focus on finding books before looking at anything else. Going at the end of the day will also result in the best deals. Swap meets are apparently very similar to flea markets, although some of them actually involve trading items instead of buying and selling–a great idea if you can find one that includes books.

Best Bets: Vintage and collectible books

 

recycling depot

Recycling Depots

I don’t know how other recycling depots work, but there’s one about an hour and a half from where I live that collects not only recyclables like glass and plastic, but also donations of all kinds of items, similar to what you’d find in a thrift store. They’re set up in a warehouse and have an ample collection of really cheap books. I haven’t been in a while but when I lived closer it was a favourite, and I’d almost always find something that was on my wishlist. Tip: bring your own bags or boxes.

Best Bets: Required reading for English classes, general fiction, quality nonfiction, kids books

 

novel books
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Secondhand Bookstores

Although the prices will be higher at a secondhand bookstore than at any of the other places I’ve mentioned, the selection and quality of the books will also be better. Bonus: you’ll be among fellow book lovers who can direct you to awesome books you didn’t even know existed. These stores sometimes have bargain bins (or even free books) to help keep things within budget.

Best Bets: Obscure and quirky books, vintage books, recent bestsellers

 

two people shaking hands
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Trading

At some point you’ll likely end up with books you no longer want. A good way to make room and get new books for nothing is to trade. See if any friends or family members might be interested. Swap meets that still involve swapping are an option. You can even try something like kijiji or craigslist (exercise caution when meeting strangers).

Best Bets: Hit and miss, but anything is possible

 

two man and two woman standing on green grass field
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Just Ask

Sometimes it’s as simple as letting people know you’ll take their unwanted books. Because people know I love books, they’ll often offer me the ones they no longer want. When a history teacher I was friendly with was retiring, he couldn’t take his personal collection home (his wife was decluttering before decluttering was cool). I scored boxes of history, geography and Canadian lit books. If you know someone who’s moving, spring cleaning, or who inherited a collection they don’t want, feel free to speak up. In most cases, the other person will feel like you’re doing them a favour.

Best Bets: Bestsellers, older books

 

pile of books
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Random Sales

You need to keep an eye out for these ones. I know of at least one bank and a hospital that have permanent book sales set up. The money goes to fundraising/charity and the prices are cheap. Other places you visit might have a table or rack of books available too. Tip: have exact change–these sales tend to be based on the honour system and usually don’t have anyone around to make change.

Best Bets: Mostly older fiction, occasional gems

 

reading reader kindle female
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Ebooks

These books won’t look pretty on a shelf, but you can find a lifetime supply of free and cheap ebooks online (and not the illegally downloaded kind, either, which will curse you with terrible karma anyway). I recommend Smashwords, which has an awesome collection of indie books at reasonable prices (or free), and available in all e-reader formats (even pdf and online reader). If you don’t have a Kindle, but want to read Kindle books, Amazon has a free app you can download for any device (they’re not all evil). You can start with my short story Blood Magic (available free everywhere except Amazon–they’re still a little evil) and my novel Love Lies Bleeding (only $2.99).

 

Where do you like to get cheap or free books? And how do you feel about books as “clutter”? Share in the comments…

-Aspasía S. Bissas