Literary Perfumes

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I recently read an article about the connection between literature and perfume, which also included suggestions for ideal perfumes for book lovers. As someone who has a slight perfume obsession (current favourite: Vanilla Extreme by Comptoir Sud Pacifique), I was intrigued. I especially liked the idea behind the Imaginary Authors perfume company, whose scents are based on the fictional exploits of made-up authors (most of whom seem to be male, an oversight I hope they take care of soon). But if perfume can be designed for fictional authors, why not design one for Love Lies Bleeding’s main character Mara?

Since Mara works with herbs and plants, she’s essentially steeped in their scents without needing to wear perfume. But if I were to create a perfume for Mara, it would have strong notes of sweet woodruff (which smells like vanilla and hay), clover, and lavender, with hints of smoky peat and black tea. What do you think–would you wear this perfume? What perfume would you design for your favourite character or author? Share in the comments…

Read more about Mara in 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

And in Love Lies Bleeding: a novel about delusion, obsession, and blood:

Love Lies Bleeding by Aspasia S. Bissas

Available in paperback or ebook (also available at other booksellers).

Don’t forget to leave a review on your favourite book site!

 

 

5 Book Towns to Visit

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Book lovers are dreamers. We dream of other worlds and other lives. We dream of what we just finished reading and what we’re going to read next. We dream of homes crammed with our book collections, libraries that never close, and cozy local bookshops where we can spend massive quantities of both time and money. And some book lovers dream of entire towns devoted to books and then make them a reality. Did you know there are dozens of book towns around the world (enough that one writer even wrote a book about them)? Here are five of the towns where you can live your book dreams. Have you been to any book towns? Which are your favourites? Share in the comments…

Hay-on-Wye, Wales

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Hay-on-Wye Castle Bookshop. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Probably the best known of all the book towns, and credited with inventing the concept, Hay-on-Wye is home to numerous book and antiques shops. It hosts the Hay Festival in May and June, a literary event that travels to other cities throughout the year. A working book museum will also be opening later in 2018.

St. Pierre de Clages, Switzerland

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Book Festival, St. Pierre de Clages. Image: Le Nouvelliste

A Medieval village, St. Pierre de Clages is Switzerland’s only book town. The town specializes in antiquarian booksellers, but that’s not all you’ll find there. They also host an annual book festival in August that’s described as a must for “book lovers, amateur readers, history buffs or fans of comic books.”

Paju Book City, South Korea

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Forest of Wisdom Library. Image: Getty Images/Topic Images

Located next to the North Korean border, this literal city of books was built to symbolize the importance of the common good. There are almost no businesses in Paju that aren’t book related; the town is packed with bookstores, book cafes, publishers, printers, and a massive library that includes an on-site hotel. Most books are in Korean, but you can also find some in Japanese and English. There’s an annual book festival in September, as well as a children’s book festival in May.

Featherston, New Zealand

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Featherston Book Festival. Image: Stuff

One of the newer book towns, Featherston already has a yearly book fair (featuring a fish ‘n’ chip supper), held in May. The event attracts local secondhand and antiquarian booksellers, and the entire town gets involved with shops setting up special displays and art installations.

Hobart, USA

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Hobart. Image: Hobart Book Village

Located in the Catskills (New York), Hobart was essentially a ghost town not too long ago. Now it’s a dedicated book town with five stores featuring books on topics ranging from African American history and feminism to vintage cookbooks. Massive book sales are held on Memorial Day and Thanksgiving weekends, and Hobart also hosts their Festival of Women Writers every September.

These are just a few of the 40-ish book towns that exist around the world (although most seem to be in Europe, hopefully this concept will catch on elsewhere *cough*Canada*cough*). You can find out about more book towns here and here.

If you’re looking for something to read until you can get to the nearest book town, download my FREE short story “Blood Magic.”

BLOOD MAGIC by Aspasia S. Bissas

Myth and magic collide in this story about choices, transformation, and retribution. Available at SmashwordsBarnes & NobleiBooks!ndigo, and other online book retailers.

My novel Love Lies Bleeding is also available in paperback and Kindle at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and other book retailers. Love Lies Bleeding: a novel about delusion, obsession, and blood. Find out more here.

Dracula!

Happy World Dracula Day! Today we celebrate the anniversary of the first publication of Bram Stoker’s vampire standard Dracula. And how better to celebrate than by sharing some of my favourite versions of the classic character?

I have to start with the original, Stoker’s Count. Although Stoker wasn’t the first to write about vampires, his character (and book) started an ongoing obsession with vampires, inspiring countless variations over the decades, including dozens of versions of Dracula alone. Many of what we now consider essential characteristics of vampires: aversion to sunlight and garlic, lack of reflection, supernatural powers, vulnerable to a stake through the heart–all came from Dracula. A few have been discarded over the years too–how many modern vampires have hairy palms or need to keep the soil of their homeland handy? If you’re a vampire fan and you haven’t read Dracula yet–drop everything and get yourself a copy.

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Nosferatu is an early, unauthorized, movie based on Dracula. The names were changed (Dracula became Count Orlok, for example) but that wasn’t enough to keep Stoker’s widow from suing (and eventually giving up after the film company went bankrupt and copies of the movie got out anyway). You can’t beat Nosferatu, or Max Schreck’s Count, for atmosphere, dramatic visuals, and general creepiness.

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Count Orlok, Nosferatu

Although Bela Lugosi may be the definitive Count Dracula (and no one is disputing that he did a great job), but Christopher Lee gets my vote for best film Dracula. Imposing and intense, it’s hard not to agree that Lee is pretty awesome in this role (I’m not sure he really needs hypnotic powers–he’d do fine all on his own).

I have to admit I’m not a fan of Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula (an inaccurate title, by the way), but I do enjoy Gary Oldman’s performance in it. He seems to embrace the character, especially when he surreptitiously licks Harker’s bloody razor, which is my favourite moment of the entire film:

Here’s the entire scene if you want some context:

One of my absolute favourite portrayals of Dracula is in Buffy in the episode “Buffy vs. Dracula.” It’s a great episode overall (who doesn’t love Xander as Renfield?) and Rudolf Martin does a fantastic job as Dracula. Aside from the show, Dracula makes an appearance in several Buffyverse comic books (scroll down to Appearances for the full list). It’s well worth tracking them down (if for no other reason than to find out whether Spike ever gets the eleven pounds Dracula owes him).

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And lastly (on what is by no means a comprehensive list), what’s not to like about Community’s Troy attempting to put together a cool Halloween costume by becoming a “sexy Dracula”? 😉

What’s your favourite version of Dracula? Share in the comments, and have a bloody good World Dracula Day!

Writers’ Advice on Writing

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As with so many of my posts, this one is inspired by an article I read. In this case, the article shares advice on writing from famous writers. I don’t know about anyone else, but what I find most valuable about advice from other writers isn’t necessarily the advice itself (although it’s often helpful) but the chance to bond over writing, and to affirm that I’m doing something right. Whether you enjoy the advice, the bonding, or the affirmations, here are some of the best tips from other writers, as well as a couple of my own…

Get a Cat (Muriel Spark via her character Mrs. Hawkins, from A Far Cry From Kensington)

As someone with three cats, I can’t argue with this advice 🙂 Cats are a source of joy, laughter, and purrs (and my lap cat makes sure I sit and focus). If you’re not a cat person, you might want to consider bunnies or small pets (rats, mice, hamsters…) They’re equally good company and shelters always have many available for adoption.

Stop While the Going Is Good (Ernest Hemingway)

Stop while you’re on a roll and let your subconscious keep working on it until you start again. The best way to write is to not force it.

Writing Anything Is Better than Nothing (Katherine Mansfield)

Just write. The more you do it, the better you get, even if what you’re writing will never go further than the paper/screen it’s on.

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Some advice of my own:

Keep the TV, music, and internet (if you can) off. Some people can work with distractions; I’m not one of them. But even if the noise doesn’t bother you, words, phrases, storylines, and even rhythms can burrow into your subconscious and end up in your work. That can happen anyway (it’s just part of the fun of having a brain!) but why increase the risk?

Take up needlepoint. Or any craft you can easily do while staring at a computer screen. Crafts that occupy your hands while your mind is free to focus elsewhere are great for writing.

Take an editing class. Not that you should edit your own work, but you should be able to polish it before submitting it anywhere. No publisher is interested in a manuscript full of errors (it’ll also help with other things, like work emails and social media posts).

Do you have writing advice to share? What tip has helped you most as a writer? Let me know in the comments…

 

BLOOD MAGIC by Aspasia S. Bissas

Download your free copy of “Blood Magic.”

On the run from both vampires and hunters, Mara and Lee are forced to confront the bleak reality of their future together. But an unexpected turn of events offers Mara the chance to shift things in her favor–at a cost. Will she walk away or will she embrace the magic?

Also available free at Barnes & NobleiBooks!ndigo, and other online book retailers.

Welcome to Vancouver

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Last month I got to spend a week in Vancouver (Canada) and had a great time. What a beautiful city–mountains, ocean, attractive architecture, flowers in bloom–and friendly people too. What’s not to love? (It probably didn’t help that I returned home to Toronto in the middle of an ice storm–but that’s another story…) I wanted to get more photos, but Vancouver is known for being rainy and the weather didn’t cooperate on the day I had planned for exploring with my camera–or on whale-watching day, either, which ended up being cancelled. Surprisingly, I didn’t mind the rain and I still got plenty of pictures to remember my trip–and to share 🙂

These were taken in the north end of downtown Vancouver and the Gastown neighbourhood. That’s not smoke coming out of the clock–Vancouver has one of the only steam clocks in the world.

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I got these shots (and the “Welcome to Vancouver” sign) on the way to Stanley Park…  Continue reading “Welcome to Vancouver”