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I’m getting ready to move, an event that’s overdue, stressful, exciting, and exhausting. My days are consumed with organizing and packing, with the last couple of weeks focused entirely on books (and no, I’m not done yet). But as I’ve been sorting through them all, I realized I’ve ended up with a small collection of signed copies, which I’ve decided to share here, along with their stories. Enjoy…
The Recipe of Love is a cookbook by the owner of a (sadly, now closed) Ethiopian restaurant in Toronto, Addis Ababa. Aster, the owner, was a big part of the warmth and appeal of Addis Ababa and I didn’t hesitate to buy a copy of her book the first time I was there. Of course she was kind enough to sign it. It’s still one of my favourite cookbooks.
This obscure little book on photography used to belong to a friend of my SO’s family, Lillith Black. When Lillith was 98, I spent some time reading to her at her nursing home (it was only for a couple of months before she died, unfortunately). My SO’s dad ended up with a few of her things and gave us some of her books, including this one. As I was getting ready to pack it a few days ago, I took a look inside and realized the author had signed it for Lillith. Book friends never really die.
Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Book was a fun find. Written by Terry Jones and illustrated by Brian Froud, this is “Lady Cottington’s” album of pressed fairies (think pressed flowers but slightly grosser). I wasn’t expecting to find this at a hospital fundraising book sale, and was even more surprised when I got home and realized it was signed by the author.
I few years ago I had the pleasure of attending a talk by Anthony Bourdain (RIP) and Eric Ripert. Afterwards they were selling books, including some that were signed. Get Jiro! was one of the few Bourdain books I didn’t already have. Everyone seems to focus on his TV career, but for me his writing was where he really shone.
I bought The Blind Assassin on a whim at a secondhand shop (I’m not normally a Margaret Atwood fan– heresy, I know– but the story sounded interesting). I didn’t get to it for a couple of years and it was only then that I noticed it was signed (I even checked online to make sure it was really her signature– definitely looks authentic). I really need to learn to look inside books right away.
This next book is my favourite, not only because I loved reading it, but also because of what happened the day I got it. My friend had convinced me to go see Salman Rushdie give a talk. This was sometime after the fatwa had been lifted and I think he was starting to do more events. That talk ended up being inspiring in ways I hadn’t expected. Rushdie touched on what it was like to be a writer and what his process involved…and I could relate. I loved writing and wanted to spend my life at it, but I was new enough that I still had doubts that I had any chance at it, or that I really “belonged” among real writers. But everything Rushdie said that day made sense to me and confirmed what I was doing. This isn’t to say I’ll ever be anywhere close to the talent that he is, but, yeah, I made the right choice with my life (maybe not the sensible choice, but the right one). Afterwards I bought a signed copy of The Enchantress of Florence, and every so often I peek at what other authors are saying about being a writer– just to make sure I’m still on the right track.
I have a couple more signed volumes by fairly obscure authors, but I’d already packed them by the time I thought to do this post. How about you– what are the interesting books in your collection? Share in the comments…
Aspasía S. Bissas
PS: I have signed copies of Love Lies Bleeding available for $21 (S&H incl.; price is for North America). Contact me if you’re interested.
Love Lies Bleeding‘s readers know that main character Mara is both a vampire and a botanist. Trained in botany and herbalism, she still has a garden and studies plants. This post is seventh 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:Matricaria chamomilla (German chamomile) and Chamaemelum nobile (Roman or English chamomile).
Common Names: chamomile, camomile, German chamomile, Italian chamomile, Hungarian chamomile, wild chamomile, scented mayweed, Matricaria recutita, Roman chamomile, English chamomile, garden chamomile, Water of Youth, ground apple, mother’s daisy, whig plant, Anthemis nobilis, Anthemis, chamomilla, Flores Anthemidis, Grosse Kamille, Romische Kamile, manzanilla, sweet chamomile
History: Found near populated areas throughout temperate parts of the world, chamomile will grow in any disturbed soil, including along roadsides, near landfills, and in cultivated fields. It has been used medicinally since at least Ancient Egypt, and in beer making (and love potions!) since the Middle Ages. Roman chamomile was thought to be the superior form, hence the use of “nobile” (noble) in its botanical name, although research shows that German chamomile is actually the more potent of the two. Chamomile is the national flower of Russia.
Victorian Language of Flowers Meaning: Patience
Cultivation: Zones 3 to 9. German chamomile is an annual that readily self seeds. Roman chamomile is a perennial. Chamomiles like moist but well-drained soil and full sun (or part shade in hotter climates). Start seeds six weeks before last frost. Seeds need light to germinate, so scatter on top of potting mix, press firmly into the mix, and keep moist. Transplant outside after risk of frost has passed. (You can also directly sow seed outdoors in autumn.) Thin plants to 15 to 18 inches (38 to 45 cm) apart. Blooms June and July. After (Roman chamomile) plants flower, cut them back to soil level to ensure strong plants next season.
Medicinal: Whichever type of chamomile you use, make a tea from the flowers and drink or apply externally, depending on what you’re treating. German chamomile in particular has been found to be antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory, making it ideal for menstrual and intestinal cramps, as well as coughs and colds. Chamomile is calming and has been traditionally used to help anxiety and insomnia. Cooled tea can be applied to skin to calm irritations and help with swelling (it can also be used as a mouth rinse for sores or inflammation). You can make a pot of strong tea and add it to bath water for a healing bath. Chamomile is a mild laxative, but has also been found to help treat diarrhea in children.
Caution: Chamomile can cause allergic reactions in anyone allergic to pollen or plants in the ragweed family. Chamomile may also negatively interact with other herbs and medicines. Avoid using if you’re taking anti-coagulants, NSAIDS, or sleep aids (including herbal kinds).
Caution 2: Pregnant and nursing women are advised to avoid using Roman chamomile. Infants should not be given chamomile, as (like honey) it may be contaminated with botulism spores, which a baby’s immature immune system can’t handle.
Cosmetics: Chamomile extract or essential oil can be added to skin creams as a soothing ingredient. Cooled chamomile tea can be used as a hair rinse to bring out blond highlights. Chamomile can also be added to homemade bath products, such as bath bombs.
Food: Home brewers can use the entire chamomile plant to add bitterness to beer. Chamomile flowers can be used in drinks (lemonade, smoothies, cocktails), in homemade popsicles, or in baking and other desserts. The flowers have a sweet apple or pineapple scent, and are worth experimenting with.
Crafts: Chamomile makes a nice addition to potpourri. You can also scent your home by gently simmering chamomile (fresh or dried leaves and/or flowers) in a pot of water on the stove (do not leave unattended; keep a close eye on water levels).
Gardening: Prevent damping off in seedlings by watering them with cooled chamomile tea. Planting chamomile near sick plants often results in healthier plants.
Mara’s Uses: Mara orders a cup of chamomile tea in Blood Magic (download your free copy here). Chamomile would also be included in remedies she sells via her apothecary business in Love Lies Bleeding, as well as the ones she used to help her fellow passengers in Tooth & Claw (download your free copy here).
Although some insist that independent bookstores are doing just fine, I think it’s safe to say that, for many, keeping the lights on in the last few years has been– and continues to be– a struggle. At a time when people seem to be reading less, and those who do can buy books cheaper and more conveniently at a certain online retailer, indie shops are left in an ongoing precarious position while they try to find new ways to increase (or maintain) sales. I have a suggestion for them: support independently published authors.
Indie authors fall through the cracks with bricks-and-mortar bookstores for a number of reasons. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Seeking out and featuring the works of indie authors is a mutually beneficial– and smart –practice for indie bookstores to adopt. Here are a few reasons why:
1. It sets you apart.
When Michelle Obama’s book came out, every bookstore’s website or Facebook page I visited had it plastered front and centre. More recently the same thing happened with Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments. Your store is selling these extremely popular books? Great! So is literally every other store. I’m not saying don’t offer the guaranteed sellers, but what does your store have that others don’t? How about a specially curated section of indie works? If customers are going to go to the trouble of actually visiting a shop, you need to offer something new and interesting and different. Worried indies won’t sell? An informed and engaging staff or a little extra promo can make all the difference.
2. It’s a new revenue stream.
While books may not be anything new for bookstores, indie books and authors are. These are books most customers may not have heard of, simply because the promotion isn’t there for indies. Don’t underestimate the power of introducing something new to customers, or the appeal of an underdog/unconventional author.
3. It helps you be truly local.
Does a famous author live or work in your store’s neighbourhood? No? Chances are an indie author does. Why not connect with your community by supporting the authors in it? Your customers would probably love to know about the talent living down the street. Local authors also provide great opportunities for in-store events and signings.
4. It creates diversity.
The truth is traditional publishing is not known for its openness to diversity. It’s getting better, but the focus still tends to be rather narrow. Many indie authors eschew traditional publishing for that very reason. By supporting indie you’re contributing to much-needed diversity in literature– something customers, especially younger customers, appreciate.
5. You could discover the next great read.
Excluding an entire category of books from your store ensures that not only are you missing out on something fantastic, but so are your customers. It’s impossible to predict what will strike just the right nerve with readers, but the more books your customers can access, the more chances for one to take off. Imagine the bragging rights (and marketing opportunities) when you can say “we loved this author first.”
6. Indie publishing is here to stay.
Indie publishing was the original publishing and it’ll be here long into the future. The truth is, traditional publishing is not serving authors well, which is why so many authors choose to go the indie route. As publishing houses consolidate (or disappear) and publishers care more and more about big names rather than new talent, indie authors will only increase in number. Booksellers can choose to support these authors, or they can be left behind.
7. Authors buy books too.
It’s wise to remember that authors are also potential customers. Any store that carries my books has an instant fan. Not only will I make a point of shopping at that store, but you’d better believe I’ll also tell everyone I know about it. Margaret Atwood might appreciate that you carry her books, but she’ll never encourage anyone to shop at your store.
8. Indie should support indie.
Several indie bookstores offer Love Lies Bleeding online (you can see the list here). As an independent author, I want to promote my fellow indies, so I post about these stores on my website, blog, and social media. But it can get a little cringey when I see indie bookstores asking people to support them, and then turning around and looking down on/ignoring indie authors. If you truly care about indies, you need to support all indies; otherwise, why should anyone support you?
Love Lies Bleeding is a dark fantasy novel about delusion, obsession, and blood. Love Lies Bleeding (ISBN-13: 978-1775012528/ISBN-10: 1775012522) is available in paperback and e-book and can be ordered wholesale from Ingram and other distributors. If you’d like to find out more about my books, click here.
What do you think? Should independent bookstores make a point of supporting independent authors, or should we just stick with the status quo? Share in the comments.