Guest Post: Disrespecting the Gods

Kneeling Aphrodite at the Louvre, Aspasía S. Bissas
Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas

New guest post I wrote on Druid Life. Take a look…

I blame Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson & the Olympians) and Neil Gaiman (American Gods).

All right, I don’t really blame them, but they and a host of other fiction writers and TV showrunners aren’t helping. By turning the Gods into mere characters, showing no real regard for the beings that inspired and populate their stories, they’re setting the stage… (Read more)

The Writer’s Tag

person having tea while working
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Another tag snagged from the lovely blog A.M. Molvik’s Ramblings 🙂 If you’ve ever wondered about what it’s like to be a writer (or what I do), this post is for you.

1. What type of writing do you do?

Over the years I’ve written pretty much everything, from magazine articles to poetry to blog posts to novels. If I had to choose only one type, though, it would be novels. I have a lot of stories inside me, waiting to come to life.

abandoned ancient antique arch
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

2. What genres/topics do you write about?

My writing is a mix of literary fiction, gothic fiction, and fantasy, with hints of horror and magical realism. My clouds tend to have dark linings.

3. How long have you been writing?

I started when I was about six and never really stopped (although there were a few long breaks).

Love Lies Bleeding by Aspasia S. Bissas

4. Are you published?

Yes! I went the independent route with my novel Love Lies Bleeding and short story Blood Magic, but I would consider traditional publishing if the right publisher came along.

beautiful bloom blooming blossom
Photo by Gru on Pexels.com

5. What was the first story you ever wrote?

The first story I wrote (when I was around six) was a tale of woe about a flower that doomed anyone (in this case, Mary, Queen of Scots, although I have no idea how I knew about her) who picked it. Clearly, my literary influences started early in my career. I also drew said flower with a pen and coloured it with a pink highlighter. Side note: I still have a particular fascination with Tudor history, although I haven’t written about it since.

6. Why do you write?

I don’t feel I have much of a choice. That’s what I love, it’s what I’m good at, and it’s what I feel I was meant to do. As already mentioned, I have stories that need to get out.

kafka

7. How do you find time to write?

You find time for the things that are important to you. If someone “can’t find the time” to write (or to do anything else), it really doesn’t matter that much to them.

8. When and where is the best time/place to write?

For me, the best times are in the morning and late at night. Where doesn’t really matter as much, as long as there isn’t too much noise.

coffee computer cream cup
Photo by Nguyen Nguyen on Pexels.com

9. Favorite foods/drinks while writing?

It used to be iced coffee; unfortunately I’ve had to cut it out. Between the sugar and the caffeine, it wasn’t doing me any favours (alas). If I do drink anything now, it’s tea, but mostly I don’t eat or drink while I work (I have no idea how those crumbs got all over my keyboard).

10. Your writing playlist?

Silence. I’ve tried to listen to music while I work, but I can’t. Music interferes with rhythm and the lyrics get into your head, unconsciously influencing how and what you write. I don’t know how anyone can concentrate with music (or the TV) on–it’s some kind of super power.

11. What do friends/family think of you writing?

I think it ranges from “that’s cool” to “whatever” to “but what does she do all day?” My partner is completely supportive, though, which is what really matters.

close up of hand over white background
Photo by Lum3n.com on Pexels.com

12. What parts of writing do you enjoy the most?

I love it when the words come together and flow out of you. Best feeling in the world. (It’s also pretty satisfying when you’re stuck and finally figure out the perfect solution). That’s why first drafts are fun and after that, it’s work .

13. Parts of writing you find challenging?

I wish I could be one of those writers who can get a book out every year (speaking of super powers). I’ve got a limit on how much I can write or edit in a day before my brain turns to mush. Hopefully the results are worth the wait.

14. What do you write with/on?

First drafts are usually by hand. The editing starts as I transfer the manuscript to my laptop, where I use MS Word.

silver macbook pro
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

15. How do you overcome writer’s block?

I’ll think/meditate about it. I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I love anything that keeps my hands busy while freeing my mind; that’s how I do a lot of my writing, including overcoming writer’s block. Sometimes I’ll also talk about it with my partner–he’s pretty great at helping me figure things out.

16. How do you motivate yourself to write?

Deadlines are motivating. My anxiety is highly motivating (it gets worse if I don’t write for a couple of days). Mostly having a story I need to get out motivates me 🙂

woman reading a book
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

17. Author(s) who inspired you to become a writer?

I think the existence of books inspired me to become a writer more than any specific author. My love of stories started early, so maybe I should give the credit for my current vocation to Aesop, Hans Christian Andersen, Charles Perrault, and the Brothers Grimm.

19. Writing goals this year?

Aiming to finish my next novel and get it ready for publication (follow me to make sure you don’t miss any news or updates).

20. Best advice you’ve gotten as a writer?

Never to give up (I’ve heard that from a few people). Stephen King’s advice to “kill your darlings” isn’t bad either.

 

What do you think? Do you have any questions or comments? What are some of your thoughts on the writing process? Share in the comments…

 

IWD: The Sexism That Writers Endure

man wearing suit jacket sitting on chair in front of woman wearing eyeglasses
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From the start, women writers have had to endure an unending slew of sexist attitudes and commentary. Pick a writer and she’ll tell you about comments claiming women aren’t serious writers, that they don’t write “important” works, and aren’t worthy of awards or acclaim. Women writers can tell you about how there is a constant assumption that they must write romance or “chick lit,” that they don’t write anything a man would want to read, that they can’t write certain genres, or that women’s fiction is fluffy and sentimental. We can tell you about how we’re questioned in a way male authors never are about work-life balance, how we can possibly work and take care of our children and homes and partners. The list goes on. And when we dare complain about any of it, we’re accused of being “whiny” and “privileged.”

On this International Women’s Day, I’m sharing a few of the sexist remarks said to, or of, women authors:

Sci-fi author Gérard Klein about Ursula K. Le Guin: ” … her art is the product of ‘a happily resolved childhood, an active feminine genitality, and her intellectual indebtedness to her historian husband.'”

 

Audience member at a reading, to Julia Fierro: “Who is taking care of your children?”

 

A reader, commenting about The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris: “The novel is ‘capitalising on the fandom of Tom Hiddleston.'”

 

Author David Gilmour, on not teaching women authors in his class at the University of Toronto: “I’m not interested in teaching books by women. Virginia Woolf is the only writer that interests me as a woman writer, so I do teach one of her short stories. But once again, when I was given this job I said I would only teach the people that I truly, truly love. Unfortunately, none of those happen to be Chinese, or women.”

 

Author V.S. Naipaul about Diana Athill: “I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not… My publisher, who was so good as a taster and editor, when she became a writer, lo and behold, it was all this feminine tosh. I don’t mean this in any unkind way.”

 

Interviewer to Victoria A. Brownworth: “I don’t think women should be writing about this kind of violence.”

 

A lecture attendee to Joanne Freeman: “How does your husband handle your wit?”

 

A one-time boss of hers, about Clarice Lispector: “She was ‘a smart girl, an excellent reporter, and, in contrast to almost all women, actually knows how to write.'”

 

Random people, to Lis Harris: “Oh, you’re a serious writer? But you’re so pretty!”

 

N.S. Willis, to his sister, Fanny Fern: “[…he stated that] her writing was ‘too vulgar’ and she should continue with her needlework instead.”

 

To these I’ll add a quote from Charlotte Brontë, which she wrote in response to harsh reviews. This is (or should be) the unofficial motto of women writers everywhere:

“It would take a great deal to crush me.”

person using green typewriter on brown wooden surface
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

The problem of sexism in publishing is improving–the fact that it’s finally being acknowledged is an important first step. Will it be solved anytime soon? As with other forms of inequality, probably not in my lifetime (although I live in hope). But there are things everyone can do to help get us there:

  • Read books by women (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, comic books, essays, articles…)
  • Review books by women (whether on a book site, store site, social media, or your own blog)
  • Buy books by women (let publishers know what you want to read)

If you want to start right now, you can download my free story Blood Magic. One reviewer wrote about it: “A sign of the times, this short story should be folded up, put inside an envelope, and slid inside the goody bags ready for the male attendees of the next Golden Globe Awards.”

Happy International Women’s Day. Show your support by reading more women.

Find Out More:

‘How to Suppress Women’s Writing’: 3 Decades Old and Still Sadly Relevant

Women Writers Are Over Hearing These Sexist Comments

Women’s Fiction Is a Sign of a Sexist Book Industry

Canadian Author David Gilmour Sparks Furore Over Women Writers

7 Breathtakingly Sexist Quotes by Famous and Respected Male Authors

A Woman’s Place

Sexism in Publishing: My Novel Wasn’t the Problem

Female Authors Are Speaking Out About the Everyday Sexism They Experience

The True Glamour of Clarice Lispector

I talked to 39 Women Who Write Nonfiction, and Here’s What I’ve Learned

The Evolution of Female Writers

5 Things Sexism Deniers Say to Woman Writers

 

Library Inspiration

books filed neatly on shelves
Photo by Ricardo Esquivel on Pexels.com

If I weren’t involved with books or publishing, I’d be a decorator/interior designer (not sure I have the artistic skills for it, but I would try). I love putting a room together and my tastes are highly eclectic–everything from Gothic Revival and Art Nouveau to  Amélie’s apartment and the Gryffindor common room. I’m drawn to spaces that are comfortable, warm, colourful, and with some whimsy. In my own home, most rooms need to include books too. Minimalism? No thanks. (The only books for my donate pile are the ones that tell me to get rid of my other books.)

I thought I’d share some pictures of home libraries I find inspiring. I don’t own any of these photos–I saved them all from Pinterest (follow me). If you see your photo here and would like me to credit or remove it, please let me know.

 

I love the cozy feel of Vita Sackville-West’s library. And you can never go wrong with a tower.

library 1
Author Vita Sackville-West’s Tower Library / photo: Writers´ Houses

 

Bookcase art, flowers, and comfy couch inspiration here:

library 2
Via toocutethings.blogspot.no

 

Floor-to-ceiling books and an old-fashioned library ladder–these are my goals. The arched doorway is a nice touch.

library 3
Via ablogwithaview.tumblr.com

 

So many books…

library 4
Via oldhousedreams.com

 

This is just the definition of cozy. I would never leave.

library 5
Via bookshelfdiary.tumblr.com

 

Happy colours, orchids, and built-in shelves. I’m not a fan of the books being used to prop up the coffee table, though.

library 6
Via myidealhome.tumblr.com

 

Based on the way the shelves are set up, this is probably a bookstore, but I don’t care. I would love a room packed with shelves and featuring a window seat. Great floor too.

library 7
Via @gisforgeorgina on Instagram

 

This is the perfect reading spot: plenty of books, a comfortable window seat, and a table for working.

library 8
Via bookbub.com

 

Cozy and comfortable.

library 9
Via My Domaine

 

Everything about this. I need to get a blanket like that for my boring grey couch.

library 10
Via frommoontomoon.blogspot.com

 

For those of us who can’t afford a Parisian apartment like this one, the look could probably be emulated with wallpaper, paint, and similar furniture. And a whole lot of books ❤

library 11
Via @primeplaces_ on Instagram

What do you think–do any of these appeal to you? What do you look for in a home library? Minimalism or maximalism? Share in the comments…

5 Bittersweet Real-Life Love Stories

close up of tea light candle against black background
Photo by George Becker on Pexels.com

It’s Valentine’s Day, the romantic holiday with pagan roots. Although love may be grand, it’s not all sunshine and roses (sometimes it’s rejection and hard time). Here are 5 love stories from history that are equal parts romance and tragedy…

Cleopatra and Marc Antony

cleopatra and antony
Cleopatra greeting Antony, A.M. Faulkner

She was Queen of Egypt, he was co-ruler of the Roman Empire. He envisioned himself as  Dionysus, Greek God of wine (and drama), and she captured his heart by presenting herself as Aphrodite, Goddess of love. Their relationship was based on passion and ambition, and it reached mythic proportions. Their twins were named Alexander Helios (the Sun) and Cleopatra Selene (the Moon). Circumstances kept them apart much of the time, and Antony was even forced to marry his rival Octavian’s sister, but Antony and Cleopatra met when they could and celebrated triumphs (and failures) together. Unfortunately, their actions led to war, invasion, and ultimately, defeat. Anthony fell on his sword in an honourable suicide. Cleopatra, knowing she would be paraded through the streets of Rome in humiliation, arranged to have an asp (an Egyptian symbol of divine royalty) smuggled to her. With a bite from the snake she committed what is possibly the world’s most famous suicide, while at the same time attaining immortality for her and her love.

Héloïse and Abélard

heloise and abelard
Abélard and his pupil Héloïse by Edmund Leighton

In 12th century Paris, an intelligent, inquisitive young woman named Héloïse was introduced to Abélard, a philosopher and teacher enlisted by Héloïse’s uncle to tutor her. Their intellectual bond soon deepened into love. Héloïse became pregnant, and to avoid a scandal they secretly married after she had the baby (a son named Astrolabe, which goes to show that geeks have always existed). Unfortunately, scandal found them anyway (mostly thanks to her infuriated uncle). Héloïse was sent to a convent, while Abélard was viciously attacked and forcibly castrated. He went on to become a monk, and she a nun. Although they never saw each other again, they did resume a correspondence, and their letters stand as testament to their feelings. After they died, their bones were moved so that they could finally be together (there’s a dispute as to whether they’re buried at The Oratory of the Paraclete, or in their famous tomb in Père Lachaise Cemetery).

Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas

wilde and douglas

Lord Alfred, or ‘Bosie,’ as he was known, was Wilde’s love and muse at a time when LGBTQ rights were not only nonexistent, homosexuality was illegal. Their relationship was tempestuous, and marked by arguments, separations, and reunions (the latter, thanks mostly to a forgiving Wilde). Bosie’s father (the Marquess of Queensberry), angry about the relationship, denounced Wilde publicly. When Wilde’s libel suit against the Marquess failed, he was arrested and ultimately sentenced to two years of hard labour for “gross indecency.” Wilde and Bosie were reunited after Wilde was released, but it should be no surprise that their friends and families forced them apart. Then again, Bosie was a selfish and reckless person, and it’s debatable how much he really returned Wilde’s feelings. Interestingly, the phrase “the love that dare not speak its name” was coined by Bosie, not Wilde, as most people believe. Maybe a better love story was the one between Wilde and Robert Ross, who was possibly his first male lover and also a lifelong friend. Ross was with Wilde at his deathbed, and later commissioned Wilde’s tomb at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. Ross asked the artist to include a small compartment in the tomb for his own ashes, which were transferred there in 1950.

Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley

elizabeth and dudley
Robert Dudley and Queen Elizabeth I

Sometimes genuinely loving someone isn’t enough. Elizabeth and Dudley’s story is a complex one, further complicated by rumours that have persisted through centuries. Dudley earned Elizabeth’s love early in her life, when he stood by her at a time when she was in trouble and it would have been easy to abandon her. Although Dudley wanted to marry her for many years, she could never allow it. As Queen, Elizabeth was averse to marriage, not least because marrying would have transferred her power as monarch to her husband, while she would have been relegated to quietly producing heirs. But even if she had wanted to marry, she couldn’t have married Dudley. There was no strategic political advantage to marrying him, he was generally unpopular, and he was a commoner (whatever position he had in society was directly thanks to her). He was also already married. After his wife died under mysterious circumstances, he was ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing, but belief persisted among many that he’d had her killed. Eventually, Dudley accepted that Elizabeth would never marry him, but since he wanted heirs he went on to (secretly) marry twice more, for which Elizabeth never entirely forgave him. Still, he was her clear favourite and she gave him titles, prestige, and power; in turn, he gave her companionship, support, and devotion. They shared an emotional bond that even most married couples at that time could only dream of.

Dante and Beatrice

Dante_Gabriel_Rossetti_-_Salutation_of_Beatrice_-_2
Salutation of Beatrice 2 by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Dante Alighieri and Beatrice Portinari’s story is one of unrequited love. Dante claimed he fell in love when he met Beatrice at the age of 9 (she was 8). Despite his intense feelings for Beatrice, Dante married Gemma Donati when he was around 20, while Beatrice married Simone de Bardi when she was 21. She died three years later. Although they barely knew each other and met only a handful of times, Beatrice would be Dante’s idealized love and muse for the rest of his life. She was his inspiration for Vita Nuova, and his guide to heaven in his Divine Comedy. Despite the lack of any real relationship between the two, the love Dante had for Beatrice has sparked imaginations to this day. There are paintings of the pair and poems written about them, references in books and on TV, and even an asteroid named after Beatrice.

Some of these stories may be more bitter than sweet, but perhaps that’s why they continue to inspire. Love isn’t love without a touch of the tragic. Or as the immortal Shakespeare put it, the course of true love never did run smooth.

What do you think? Do you have a favourite historical couple? Share in the comments. And happy Valentine’s day ❤

Read More:

Cleopatra and Marc Antony

Héloise and Abélard

Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas

The Life of Elizabeth I

Dante and Beatrice