Currently Reading

Currently Reading, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas. Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips. Greek Gods, Greek mythology.

The last book I read was purportedly a retelling of Faust, but seemed far more interested in Greek mythology (and conflating Hell with Hades, which is personally infuriating). So I thought I’d follow that up with a book that doesn’t pretend to be about anything other than Greek mythology. I read this several years ago and liked it at the time. I hope I’ll still like it.

What are you reading these days? Share in the comments…


Aspasía S. Bissas

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Vampire’s Garden: Hawthorn

Vampire's Garden: Vampire-Repelling Plants, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas,
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on

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.


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,

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


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


Aspasía S. Bissas

5 Dreamy Book Towns

5 Dreamy Book Towns, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Pixabay on

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)? At a time when so many events have been cancelled and travel is difficult, if not impossible, for most of us, dreaming is more important than ever. Here are five book towns to dream about (and where one day, hopefully, you’ll be able to live your dreams).

Have you been to any book towns? Which are your favourites? Share in the comments…

Hay-on-Wye, Wales

5 Dreamy Book Towns, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

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, a literary event that (normally) travels to other cities throughout the year (click the link to watch this year’s events online). There’s also a castle.

St. Pierre de Clages, Switzerland

5 Dreamy Book Towns, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

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 that’s described as a must for “book lovers, amateur readers, history buffs or fans of comic books.” (No word on what’s happening with the festival in 2020, but it’s probably safe to assume it’s cancelled.)

Featherston, New Zealand

5 Dreamy Book Towns, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

One of the newer book towns, Featherston has already established itself as a place for book lovers. Its annual Featherston Booktown Karukatea Festival, usually held in May, was postponed, but a Words in Winter event is currently taking place until August– key features include author talks and book signings.

Hobart, USA

5 Dreamy Book Towns, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

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

Sidney, Canada

5 Dreamy Book Towns, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

Sidney is Canada’s only book town, as far as I can tell (something they’ve apparently been claiming since the 1990s). Located on beautiful Vancouver Island, Sidney bookstores include new, used, and antiquarian books on everything from military history to classic children’s fiction. There’s a special focus on local authors and culture, and many stores hold regular events. Most books are in English, but you can also find a good selection of Japanese and Chinese titles. There’s also the annual Sidney LitFest (returning in 2021).

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

Aspasía S. Bissas book covers png
If you’re looking for something to read until you can get to the nearest book town, download my books FREE…

Love Lies Bleeding: SmashwordsBarnes & NobleKoboApple Books
Blood Magic: SmashwordsBarnes & NobleKoboApple Books
Tooth & Claw: SmashwordsBarnes & NobleKoboApple Books

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



Aspasía S. Bissas

Did You Know…?

Did You Know...? Blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

The Canadian House of Commons Chamber (modelled after the British Chamber in Westminster) was built so that “The distance across the floor of the House between the government and opposition benches is 3.96 metres, said to be equivalent to two swords’ length.” The reasoning behind this was to prevent duels between members of opposing parties.

Distancing: saving lives since 1866*!


Aspasía S. Bissas

*Or, 1801, when the British House of Commons was originally built (Westminster itself has been around since 1016).


10 Stunning Writers’ Homes

I love old houses (old buildings in general, actually). While I can appreciate the practical benefits of a new house, they leave me, well, bored. Old houses have style. They have personality. They have soul. Throw in a resident writer and you’ve got a house worth living in (or at least visiting). Here are 10 writers’ houses that are worth checking out…

WH Thomas Hardy

Higher Bockhampton, Dorset, England: The cottage where Thomas Hardy was born. I love the thatched roof and garden.

WH Agatha Christie

Galmpton, Devon, England: Greenway Estate, home to Agatha Christie, was designated a World Heritage Site in 2004. Christie set several of her novels in the area.

WH Eugene Oneill

Danville, California, USA: Eugene O’Neill wrote The Iceman Cometh and Long Day’s Journey Into Night at Tao House.

WH Virginia Woolf

Rodmell, East Sussex, England: Not only is Monk’s House where Virginia Woolf worked on Mrs. Dalloway, it was also where she hosted the Bloomsbury Group.

WH Emily Dickinson

Amherst, Massachusetts, USA: With a house like this, I can understand why Emily Dickinson was a recluse. The poet didn’t spend her entire life at the Homestead, but she was born here, and after moving back as a young woman spent the rest of her life here.

WH Alphonse Daudet

Draveil (former village of Champrosay), France: Can I just go ahead and move into Alphonse Daudet’s home, located a few kilometres south of Paris? Daudet finished Letters from My Windmill here, and also held famous weekly gatherings of the luminaries of the French arts scene (Zola, Proust & Rodin were among the regulars).

WH George Sand

Nohant, Indre, France: More gorgeous French style at George Sand’s home. Sand wrote many of her books here, as well as hosting artists, musicians, and writers (Frédéric Chopin lived, and composed, here for several years). The house has been classified as a National Historic Monument of France.

WH Mark Twain

Hartford, Connecticut, USA: Mark Twain wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in this house’s billiards room, which also doubled as his study.

WH Edith Wharton

Lenox, Massachusetts, USA: Edith Wharton’s grand home, The Mount, was where she wrote most of her novels, and where she presumably implemented the advice from her first book (co-authored with Ogden Codman), The Decoration of Houses. 

WH Louisa May Alcott

Concord, Massachusetts, USA: Orchard House, where Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women.

What’s your favourite writer’s home? Share in the comments…

Further Reading:

Orchard House

The Mount

The Mark Twain House and Museum

George Sand House

Alphonse Daudet House

Emily Dickinson Museum

Monk’s House

Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site

Thomas Hardy Cottage

Architectural Digest


New England Historical Society

Air France

Boston Globe