All Memories Are Everything

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I just read an interesting article in the Atlantic about why we can’t remember most of what we read (or watch), something that, according to the article, has irritated people at least since Plato. I thought it was just me that had an issue with recollection. I still can’t accurately quote passages (or even lines) from books I’ve read half a dozen times. Sometimes I have trouble remembering a specific fact (like a name or date) right after I finish reading about it. The article explains that this happens because we’ve traded “recall” memory for “recognition” memory; in other words, we don’t remember details because we know we can look them up in an external memory bank (a book, DVD, or website, for example).

While it can be frustrating not to be able to recall something you just read, I can see a few advantages to favouring recognition memory (with external memory banks) over recall. A non-writing culture where stories are memorized and passed down verbally would be continuously at risk of losing those stories. All you need is a little chaos in the system to take the priority off memorizing or passing down information. Nobody is going to be thinking about passing on verbal traditions in the midst of a plague, war, or famine. Without a written record to preserve information, it can easily be lost forever.

When stories are passed down verbally, there’s also the ongoing risk of “broken telephone.” Over time and re-telling, parts will be changed or forgotten, in some cases, perhaps, deliberately, to suit the teller’s preferences. That can, of course, happen with books, as well. But with a book, there’s usually an early version to be found and consulted. You can’t ask someone long dead to recite you their version of a story.

On a personal level, it can actually be a good thing to forget a book you read and enjoyed. It gives you the opportunity to go back later and read it again “for the first time.” Maybe you’ll find the memories flooding back, making the re-reading experience something like a happy reunion. Or maybe you’ll really have forgotten, giving you the rare chance to enjoy it all over again, as if you’d never read the story before.

One line at the end of the Atlantic’s article leaves me feeling that the way our minds work is something quite lovely.  While maybe it would be more convenient or impressive if memories were clean facts that could be extracted at will, the article states that instead, “all memories are everything.” Humans aren’t data banks. We aren’t discrete segments of information and experiences that can be added or deleted. We are made up of bits and pieces that merge together and form a whole. Everything we’ve read and seen and done is part of us, even if we can’t always dip into our memories and pull a piece out. That is wonderful and terrifying and so completely perfect. I don’t know about anyone else, but I wouldn’t trade that for perfect recall.

What do you think?

(Note: This is a re-post from 27 January 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)

Your Inner Critic Is a Liar

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To be a writer is to be in a constant state of worry. Will anyone be interested in my work? Will they like it? What if they don’t like it? The worst is when the worry morphs into criticism and you doubt your own validity as a writer: my book isn’t good, no one will ever read it, I should just quit now. Sometimes it seems as though your inner demons take up as much space in your head as your stories and characters.

I recently read an interesting article on how to mindfully address your inner critic. The author offers some good suggestions, such as waiting the emotions out (they will pass) or agreeing with your inner critic and going forward anyway (for example, you’d say something like: “I should just quit now…and I will go ahead and write another paragraph.”

I often use the agreement technique, only I follow up with “but” instead of “and.” The article says not to use “but” because you’re supposed to be agreeing with the critic, not challenging it. But (see what I did there?) I guess I’m the challenging type because it makes more sense to me, is more reassuring, and, therefore, is more effective. My agreement statement would be more along the lines of : “I should quit now…but what else am I going to do with my life?” Even more challenging is when I go with the ‘agree but don’t care’ method (AKA the stubbornness approach). When I’m in this mood I’ll say something like: “I should just quit now but I like what I’m doing, so who cares what anyone else thinks–I’m going to do it anyway.”

However you deal with your worries or inner critic, the most important thing is to remember that they are liars. Unless you have legit psychic powers (if you do, I have a question about the lottery numbers…), you really don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Just because you don’t see how things could possibly work out doesn’t mean they won’t. Life is funny that way. So go ahead and ignore your inner critic, or tell them off, or sit and have a polite conversation with them–whatever you need to do. As long as you don’t listen to them.

How do you deal with your inner critic? Share in the comments.

And while you’re here, make sure to download my free short story Blood Magic. Myth and magic collide in this story about choices, transformation, and retribution: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/816146

 

Amazon Prime and Eden Mills

It’s Amazon Prime day, which means it’s the perfect time for Prime members to get the 5-star book one critic called “abominably good”: Love Lies Bleeding

Love Lies Bleeding by Aspasia S. Bissas

I’m also excited to announce that I’ll be at the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival on 9 September.

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Stop by and get a copy of Love Lies Bleeding, and get your copy signed too! Hope to see you there…

Summer Fun for Creatures of the Night

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Toronto is going through its usual series of summer heat waves, where temperatures reach well into the 40s (104F+). It’s hot, it’s sticky, it’s miserable. There’s an inescapable burning orb in the sky, buzzing insects in your face, and a pervasive smell of fake coconut (AKA suntan lotion, which is actually one of the pleasanter smells one encounters at this time of year). Summer can be rough, even intolerable, for a lot of people. Being of Greek descent you’d think I’d love the sun and heat. You’d be wrong. Born and raised in Canada, I’m far more tolerant of low temperatures than high ones, but even my ancestors had a word for people like me:

Ancient Greek Word of the Day: κακοθερής (kakotherēs), unfitted to endure summer heat (via Tumblr)

So unfitted. But never mind the heat, there’s a bigger issue with the sun: I can’t stand the feel of it on my skin. Hell, I don’t like being in direct sunlight even when I’m completely covered. No, this isn’t some sort of melodramatic goth affectation (not that I’m opposed to those). Up until age 8, I loved the sun and spent my summers outdoors, usually in the nearest pool. And then my immune system decided to start going after me instead of sticking to fighting bacteria and viruses. All of a sudden sunlight was uncomfortable, exhausting, and overall unpleasant. I don’t know if this is a common side effect of auto-immune disorders or if I’m the lucky exception, but I can relate more than a little to my vampire characters.

not you

So what do you do when you and summer just don’t get along?

  • stay inside as much as possible during the day
  • when you have to go out, hats, parasols, and sunscreen are your friends
  • if it’s hot and you can’t cool down at home, the library is perfect (by the way, Love Lies Bleeding is now available at the Toronto Public Library! If your local library doesn’t carry it, ask them to start 🙂 )
  • movie theatres, coffee shops, museums, and art galleries are all good places to cool off for a few hours
  • look for nighttime entertainment and activities, such as concerts and festivals
  • reading is always a good (and portable) option. You’ll find endless articles about beach reads, but check out this article on alternatives to beach reading for sun haters.

Are you looking for books featuring characters that avoid the sun as much as you do? I’ve got you covered:

Blood Magic: Myth and magic collide in this FREE story about choices, transformation, and retribution: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/816146

BLOOD MAGIC by Aspasia S. Bissas

Love Lies Bleeding: a novel about delusion, obsession, and blood: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35524549-love-lies-bleeding

Love Lies Bleeding by Aspasia S. Bissas

Make sure to leave a rating or review on your favourite book site!

What’s summer like for you? Share your thoughts in the comments…

Wordy: Words About Vampires

bela

As a writer, I love words. As a vampire fan, I write about vampires. It seems natural to combine it all into one post: I bring you words about vampires 🙂

Sanguisuge (n) is a new word to me. It means bloodsucker, or leech. From Latin sanguisuga, from sanguis (blood) + sugere (to suck). Wikionary says it’s obsolete but I think it’s due for a comeback.

Related: “Sanguisugent,” (adj) blood sucking or blood thirsty.

 

revenant

 

You may have heard vampires occasionally referred to as revenants. The word was coined in 1814 by Laetitia Matilda Hawkins in Rosanne:

“‘Well, but what is it? What do you call it in French?’ ‘Why, revenant, to be sure. Un revenant.'” (p. 260)

 

lamia

From from Greek lamia “female vampire, man-eating monster,” literally “swallower, lecher,” from laimos “throat, gullet.” (Source).

“Philosophy will clip an Angel’s wings,
Conquer all mysteries by rule and line,
Empty the haunted air, and gnomèd mine—
Unweave a rainbow, as it erewhile made
The tender-person’d Lamia melt into a shade.”  -John Keats, “Lamia”

undead
1. (adj)  no longer alive but animated by a supernatural force, as a vampire or zombie.
2. (n) undead beings collectively (usually preceded by the)  (Source)
The first use of “undead” was c. 1400, but its use as a noun to mean vampires and other creatures dates from 1904. (Source)
“It’s a reflex. Hear a bell, get food. See an undead, throw a knife. Same thing, really.” -Ilona Andrews, Magic Bites
you had me at
Exsanguinate is one of those words I just really like. I first heard it on the X-Files episode “Eve” and it stuck with me. Exsanguinate is a verb meaning to bleed to death. It can also mean to drain blood or make bloodless, and it was first used around 1800, coming from the Latin exsanguinatus meaning bloodless or deprived of blood (Source).
“My first word for the new year was ‘exsanguinate,’ This was probably not a good omen.” -Charlaine Harris, Dead to the World
And of course, we can’t forget the word that all the others relate to:
vampire

 

The earliest form of the word “vampire” goes back to only 1734, although stories of monsters that rise from the dead and attack the living can be found even in ancient times. The idea of blood-gorged walking corpses goes back at least to the 1100s. There’s some debate as to where the word comes from, but it most likely has its roots in the Old Church Slavonic “opiri”.  (Source)

“It was too much, the weight of it all was too much. Maybe that was why emotions were deadened in vampires; the alternative was to be overtaken by them, crippled, left stranded and isolated and trapped by unbearable sensation. How could they hunt if they felt sympathy, empathy, love for their prey? How could they—how could she—live with themselves?” Aspasía S. Bissas, Love Lies Bleeding

Yes, that’s a quote from my own book (I’m sneaky that way). You can find out more about Love Lies Bleeding, including where to get it, here. And if you want even more vampires, don’t forget to download my FREE story Blood Magic: get it here.

Did I miss your favourite word about vampires? Let me know in the comments. If you’re interested in words, you can also read my post on words about books.