Why You Need to Read Books

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I always find it strange that people need to be convinced to read. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love books. For me, books have always been magic, gateways to other worlds, other lives. They’re adventures and dreams, knowledge and potential, all packed into conveniently portable packages. Forget apps–no matter what you want or need at any given moment in life, there’s a book for it. How could anyone not instantly see the value in that?

 

00 books are worlds

 

And yet… According to the Pew Research Center, 26% of American adults have admitted to not reading even part of a book in the last year (and I’m sure the numbers are similar in Canada). Clearly a lot of people don’t realize they’re missing out.

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If magic, knowledge, and adventure aren’t enough to get you interested, maybe I should also mention that:

Yale researchers found that people who read books for 30 minutes a day live longer than those who read magazines or who don’t read at all.

(This reminds me of an old Twilight Zone episode where someone was reading a book in parts to their elderly relative, always leaving the story on a cliffhanger to keep the person hanging on well beyond a normal lifespan. #goals)

 

Successful people read (and they share some of their favourite books here).

 

People who read short stories are more open-minded and creative, according to a University of Toronto study.

Need a short story to get you started? How about “Tooth & Claw,” available free here, and at other online booksellers…

Tooth & Claw, free short story by Aspasia S. Bissas

And “Blood Magic,” available free here and at other online booksellers!

Blood Magic, free short story by Aspasia S. Bissas

 

You can read more about the benefits of reading books here, or you can just pick up a book and find out for yourself.

00 reading tonight

 

What’s your favourite thing about reading? Share in the comments…

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Wordy: 10 Beautiful Words

gray magnifying glass and eyeglasses on top of open book
Photo by Wallace Chuck on Pexels.com

It’s probably no surprise to anyone that writers love words, and I’m no exception. I have words I like, words that annoy me, and a few that stand out as favourites. Here are ten words that I think are some of the most beautiful in the English language…

10 beautiful words, meander, aspasia s. bissas

Meander has always been my favourite word: I love the meaning (totally appropriate to my own life, I might add) and how saying it sounds like its meaning. Meander is also a name for a winding border design formed by a continuous line:

meander, greek key, most beautiful words, aspasia s. bissas
Meander, also known as meandros, Greek Key, or Greek fret.

 

exsanguinate, beautiful words, aspasia s. bissas

I first heard this word on the X-Files episode “Eve” and it became an instant favourite. What an elegant way for a vampire to tell their victim they want to suck their blood. Keep it classy!

But if bloodletting is too messy for you, there’s always…

defenestration, beautiful words, aspasia s. bissas

I love that there’s a word that describes something so specific. And it’s fun to say–go ahead and try it. Lexico also offers an additional, informal, definition: “to remove or dismiss someone from a position of power or authority.” Clearly a useful word on numerous levels.

susurrate, susurration, susurrus, beautiful words, aspasia s. bissas

I guess I really enjoy onomatopoeical words because susurrate is another one that sounds like its meaning. Every time I hear it I picture gentle breezes in gardens. You could even say the word is…

most beautiful words mellifluous, mellifluent aspasia s. bissas

It just rolls off the tongue.

Spike, Buffy, William the Bloody, William the Bloody Awful Poet, Effuldent, aspasia s. bissas

Sometimes it’s not the word itself, but where you learned it. Any Buffy fan will recognize “effulgent” as the word that earned William (AKA Spike) the mocking derision of several douchey Victorians for his “bloody awful” poem. Personally, I think the real crime was rhyming “’tis grown a bulge in’t” with effulgent, but the man was lovesick–he had bigger things to worry about than mediocre poetry. Effulgent actually has a lovely meaning and I think it needs to be put to use more often. Just watch the rhymes.

luminesce, luminescence, luminescent, beautiful words, aspasia s. bissas

I like all versions of this word: luminesce, luminescent, luminescence. It’s a pretty word with a fun meaning–who doesn’t like glowing things (bio-luminescent mushrooms, for example)?

somniloquay, somniloquism, sleep talking, aspasia s. bissas

You can say you talk in your sleep, or you can use a word that makes you sound like a character from Shakespeare. Am I a sleep talker? No, my good sir; I am a somniloquist. Prithee stay the night and mark my somniloquay!

ensorcell, enchant, enchantment, magic, aspasia s. bissas

Magic, sorcery, enchantment–I like them all, but I think “ensorcell” best captures the awe and beauty of the beguiling arts.

frangible, fragile, breakable, aspasia s. bissas

There’s a delicacy inherent in the word frangible that’s lacking in the more prosaic fragile. Anything can be fragile, but only the most vulnerable are frangible. Or maybe that’s just me.

What do you think? Did I miss your favourite word? Share in the comments…

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Vampire’s Garden: Chamomile

vampire's garden chamomile, aspasia s. bissas
Photo via https://nccih.nih.gov

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.

Uses:

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).

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

 

Further Reading:

Flower meanings

Wikipedia: Chamomile

Wikipedia: Roman Chamomile

Wikipedia: German Chamomile

The Flower Expert

German Chamomile

NIH: Chamomile

What Are the Benefits of Chamomile Tea?

WebMD

23 Ways to Use Chamomile

What Is Chamomile?

How to Grow Chamomile

 

 

Should You Write What You Know?

should you write what you know by aspasia s. bissas

It’s been repeated so many times it’s cliché: write what you know.

But is it true?

Do you agree with William T. Vollmann, who said that you should indeed write what you know, and that you should also have as many experiences as possible in order to expand your knowledge?

Or do you believe Kazuo Ishiguro, who said writing what you know results in writing “a dull autobiography,” and essentially leads authors to stunt their imaginations and potential?

should you write what you know, aspasia s. bissas
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Or maybe you side with Ursula K. Le Guin, who absolutely agreed that you should write what you know, as long as you have a flexible definition of “know” (she happened to know quite a lot about alien planets, dragons, and the distant future).

You might even think Nathan Englander has a good point when he says you should write what you know–emotionally. (This actually is excellent advice–writing about an emotion you’ve never felt might seem like a good idea, but the sentiments will be obviously hollow to readers who have experienced it.)

Should you write what you know, aspasia s. bissas
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For me, I think American author Meg Wolitzer sums it up best: write what obsesses you.

And I’ll also add: because writing should be about passion. When I wrote my first novel, what I knew was English Literature, so I wrote literary fiction. And there was nothing wrong with what I produced (I might even still publish it one day), except that the dark, macabre, supernatural things that warmed my geeky heart kept creeping into my early work. Now, it’s perfectly fine for a little para to mix with the normal, but when I realized those were the parts I enjoyed writing (and reading) most, I decided to focus on what obsessed me, starting with vampires, my lifelong fascination. I think my work is better now, and I certainly enjoy it more.

Should you write what you know, aspasia s. bissas
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Whether you decide to write about what you know or not, you should always start from a place of passion, obsession, or love. Because if you’re not excited about what you’re writing, why bother?

If you want to see more about what authors have to say on this subject, check out this article on Literary Hub.

If you want to check out some of the dark and macabre things I’ve written (including two FREE stories) click here.

 

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas