Clarissa Johal: 2012

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Shameless Self-Promotion



...which I cringe at, but am going to do anyways.

Some very nice 5-star reviews for BETWEEN have shown up on Amazon.com. Reviews are crucial to a writer's success. Authors live for reviews, we want to please our readers and make them happy. Bad reviews? Well, bad reviews are unavoidable because you can't please everyone. It's amazing how a good review can recharge you, however. Like a battery.
I'm extremely thankful for these nice reviews. My battery has been recharged and off I go to work on STRUCK, my paranormal horror in progress....

Have a great New Years everyone! See you in 2013.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Holidays Are Coming...


Yes, they are. In six more days,Yule will be here and everyone can calm down and enjoy it.

I caught myself this week spending far too much time promoting BETWEEN and missing out on all the pre-holiday fun. I've been blogging my fingers off, setting up book tours, sending out press releases, and making sure all my free and review ecopies of BETWEEN are sent off to whomever they were promised.

This morning, however, I didn't feel like doing any of these things...and I didn't feel very festive.
Most of my shopping was done, the tree was up and decorated, the fireplace lights were twinkling, the stockings (all 14 of them, which included the dogs, cats, gerbils, rats, turtles and fish) were hung on the stairwell banister. Everything that screamed "Yule is coming!!" had been done.
But, I still woke feeling kind of burned out and empty.

So today, I took a day off from what it takes to make a book successful--the promoting craziness.
And you know what?
I had fun.
I'm starting to feel the growing excitement that Yule is only six...days...away!

Tomorrow, I shall take off another day. I'm going to do some baking, stop by World Market for last minute stocking stuffers, and then, I'm picking my daughters up from school and taking them out for a Starbucks. It's their last day before they track-out for the holidays. They both have a penchant for Peppermint Mochas and I have every intention of leading them down a tawdry path of caffeinated, chocolate bliss.

To all my friends who take the time to stop by and read this post, enjoy your holidays.

Unless I have something really exciting to share, I'll see you on 1/04/13 on Laura Hardgrave's blog; Stars Dive Into Sunlight

BETWEEN
Available from Amazon.com
and Musa Publishing

Thursday, December 13, 2012

It's Release Day!


Today is release day for BETWEEN and I'm very excited!

I'll be running around (in Virtual-Land and for real) and having a family celebration at the end of the day.

You can purchase BETWEEN through Musa Publishing, Amazon.com  and other online retailers.



Tagline:

How far would you go to redeem yourself?

Blurb:

As a young girl, Lucinda was able to see spirits, a gift that didn't come without its problems. Now, a dedicated young veterinarian, she is committed to the idea that every life can be saved. 
After a devastating accident, Lucinda tries to escape her past by moving to a small town. There, she meets a newcomer and feels an immediate connection with him. But there is another mysterious stranger to the small town, one that stirs within her a mixture of unease and desire. 
As Lucinda is drawn into a bitter tug-a-war from the forces around her, she is likewise pulled into a dangerous twist of past and present events. Forced to make difficult choices, she finds that the two men are locked in not only a battle for her life...but a battle for their salvation.


In Virtual-Land 

I'm here, in Southern Writers Magazine, Suite T blog:

Southern Writers Suite T button









Here at Samantha Combs Writes

And here, with Sara Daniel, Romance Author










and with  Liz DeJesus, Author and Poet


Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Musa Publishing Guest Post

Musa Publishing: Cronan and Lucas Are into Soup: with Clarissa Johal Please welcome Cronan and Lucas, both from my paranormal novel BETWEEN as they share favorite recipes from their resp...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Roger Rabbit, you say?

 
My publisher just made a deal with author Gary K. Wolf for his third Roger Rabbit novel, Who Wacked Roger Rabbit?. This is big news for Musa Publishing and the authors currently signed with them. Why? Because Musa is an independent e-publishing company and Roger Rabbit is iconic! Musa has already accepted and published two of Gary Wolf's novels, The Late Great Show! and Typical Day but never expected him to submit his long awaited third installment to the Roger Rabbit series. You can read details on the Musa Publishing Blog and on Gary K. Wolf's website.

So, what does this mean for myself as an author? A bit more exposure, for one! Musa Publishing is a small publishing company with a stellar reputation. It's one of the reasons I was happy to join their family. But because of Gary's reputation and willingness to jump into e-publishing, it's a nice boost for Musa and the ground breaking business of e-publishing both. And the collaboration between Musa and Wolf is coming at a significant time. The 25th anniversary of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is coming up in 2013 along with the confirmation of a completed Roger Rabbit 2 script by director Robert Zemeckis. It's definitely stirring up excitement among Roger Rabbit fans.

I was initially surprised to see that Gary Wolf joined the Musa family. Musa is constantly growing and adding new genres (another reason I sought them out with my paranormal/horror novels) but Roger Rabbit?  That just makes me smile. Plus, it proves that Musa Publishing has a little something for everyone.

BETWEEN will be released on December 14th, folks!

If you, or someone you know, like the paranormal genre, it would make a great holiday gift.

Tagline:
How far would you go to redeem yourself?

Blurb:
As a young girl, Lucinda was able to see spirits, a gift that didn't come without its problems. Now, a dedicated young veterinarian, she is committed to the idea that every life can be saved.

After a devastating accident, Lucinda tries to escape her past by moving to a small town. There, she meets a newcomer and feels an immediate connection with him. But there is another mysterious stranger to the small town, one that stirs within her a mixture of unease and desire.

As Lucinda is drawn into a bitter tug-a-war from the forces around her, she is likewise pulled into a dangerous twist of past and present events. Forced to make difficult choices, she finds that the two men are locked in not only a battle for her life...but a battle for their salvation.

Here's my Musa Publishing buy link
Once BETWEEN is released on December 14th, Amazon and barnesandnoble links will follow.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Writer's Block Ballet


Writer's block. There, I've spoken the dirty words. Forgive me.
A month ago, I thought I finished the complete draft of Struck, the paranormal horror novel I've been working on. In spite of my initial happy dance however, my characters tell me that the ending just...isn't...right.
So into the Otherworld it goes. One chapter, weeks of writing, deleted with the click of a button.
I trust my characters. Yes, yes, I'll rewrite their stupid ending, but I'm at a loss right now. I know my epiphany will come while cleaning my fish tanks, practicing my ballet, or brushing my teeth. Doing something mundane. But for now, I'm quite mad at them.
Weeks of writing, deleted.

Do any of you have moments like this?

*insistent tap on your writerly shoulder*
"Yes, hello. The other characters and I have decided to inform you that we don't like the ending you wrote. At all. Oh, and that thing you made us do in Chapter 5? Yeah, that's garbage as well. What were you thinking?"  

I can't be the only author who gets bossed around by their characters.

Anyways. My lead antagonist isn't speaking to me, and the ending is kind of up to him. As much as I threaten and cajole, he mocks me with his silence. I've considered baking him cookies, but he'd probably see right through that.
So, writer's block it is.
What to do in a situation like this? I've known some writers that let it roll off their backs like water. I've known others who are thrown into a fit of despair.
For me, it means more time spent on my ballet. I figure if I manage several hundred relevés, I will be in so much pain, that the ending won't matter. Or my paranormal demon will take pity and tell me what I need to do with him.

But for now, I'm still waiting. Excuse me while I work on my pliés. A couple hundred or so should do it.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Friday, November 30, 2012

A Shift in Perspective.


It's been awhile and time for a post here. I've decided to make posts a bit more casual. The reason why I've found blogging such a challenge, is that I've looked upon each post as something to be researched, edited, and re-edited. To death.
No more, I just don't have the time.
I've been working on finishing my next novel while tying up Between, which is due to come out on December 14th. I've just received my cover art and it's finally hit me, "Oh my god, I have a novel coming out!"  I have no idea why this hadn't occurred to me before: the writing, the editing...the re-editing with a professional editor. Hmm, that should have been my first clue. As I go into line edits here pretty soon, the "not so fun" part of writing will be at the top of my check list.
The promoting. Yep, that bad boy.
I know few writers who like promoting. Gone are the days where we could sit in our writerly cave, write what the voices in our heads tell us to, and have somebody else publish and promote our drivel. With the onset of self-publishing, small presses, ebooks and the like, it's a dog-eat-dog world out there. Short of stripping down naked and running through the nearest mall waving my book over my head, I have no idea how to garner the attention I need to make Between a hit. I've been told to blog my fingers off, set up local interviews, join reader/writer groups, and discuss that I have a book coming out with anybody who will listen. And a plethora of other things I can't even imagine doing. You know, generally be a pain in the butt.
My favorite.
Not.
Anyways, onto the next leg of my journey. If you see me making a fool of myself blogging, interviewing, or bothering some stranger on the street who has merely asked for directions, forgive me, for I am new at this.

Between
Coming December 14th from Musa Publishing.
Mark it on your calenders. 

Genre: adult paranormal fiction.

Tagline:  How far would you go to redeem yourself?

Blurb: 
As a young girl, Lucinda was able to see spirits, a gift that didn't come without its problems. Now, a dedicated young veterinarian, she is committed to the idea that every life can be saved.
After a devastating accident, Lucinda tries to escape her past by moving to a small town. There, she meets a newcomer and feels an immediate connection with him. But there is another mysterious stranger to the small town, one that stirs within her a mixture of unease and desire.
As Lucinda is drawn into a bitter tug-a-war from the forces around her, she is likewise pulled into a dangerous twist of past and present events. Forced to make difficult choices, she finds that the two men are locked in not only a battle for her life...but a battle for their salvation.

Lip service for Between will be appreciated. I will send anyone that chooses to give me lip service a puppy. Your puppy is in the mail.

(Please no hate comments about sending puppies via postal mail. That was a joke. I realize that puppies don't fit into envelopes. They pee way too much and it would just get messy.)


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Musa Publishing: Welcome to the Family!

Musa Publishing: Welcome to the Family!: We're excited to have our newest author with us today to discuss her life and soon to be released debut novel with Musa Publishing. Please g...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Shadow Figures


I thought I'd write today about shadow figures. I've been putting it off at the risk of sounding like a loon, but I figure I've talked about so many other paranormal things in my blog--I'd give this topic a go.

I discovered there was such a thing called shadow figures about six months ago. I was watching a program on television and the subject of shadow figures came up. The description gave me the chills. Further reading on the topic left me speechless because it related to several experiences I've had in the past. Experiences I've shrugged off as "weird stuff" because "weird stuff" just happens and there's not a thing you can do about it.

For those of you that haven't heard of shadow figures, they are supernatural shadow-like humanoid figures that, according to believers, are seen in the viewer's peripheral vision. They are often reported moving with quick, jerky movements, and can move through walls or mirrors. They are believed to be evil and aggressive in nature, although a few people consider them to be a form of guardian angel.
Common characteristics reported by those that have seen shadow figures are:
  • Male
  • Usually seen in a trench coat/cloak
  • Usually have a hat, fedora or top hat
  • Usually very tall
  • No facial features
  • They have a sinister aura
  • Extremely fast
  • Silent
  • Seem to have mass
  • They can move through walls

There seem to be two classifications of shadow figures.
  • Bedroom Invaders or Sentinels: They stand in corners of rooms and watch you.
  • Omens: They are associated with bad luck, or death. They are attached to people or families. Omens may show up in your bedroom.

About fifteen years ago, my husband and I were renting a duplex while we attended university. I would wake in the middle of the night and see a man walking through our closed bedroom door and around the foot of the bed. He would walk up to my side and stand there, looking down at me. He would continue to stand there while I screamed. I thought somebody had broken into the house. When my husband would turn on the lights in a panic, the man would disappear. This happened several times. I'm a very light sleeper, so I have serious doubts that I was dreaming. A neighbor told us that our duplex was built using old timber from a barn that had been dismantled in the 1920's. My thoughts were that we had a ghost in our house. A very persistent and sinister one.
In retrospect, the characteristics of this figure give me pause for thought. Male, moving quite swift, no facial features, a sinister aura, wearing an overcoat and fedora. Now, I am unsure whether it was a ghost, or a shadow figure.
A year ago, I had another experience. I was lying in bed, trying to sleep (insomniac) and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a very tall male figure rush across my bedroom and disappear into the wall. Again, no facial characteristics, a very sinister feeling to him, tall and moving very fast. And the one detail that stood out? He was wearing an overcoat and fedora. The following week, I received a letter that my step-father had died of a stroke the very night I had seen this shadow figure. Coincidence? Perhaps. But I slept with a light on for quite some time, and I don't scare easily.

What are your thoughts on this phenomena? Crazy talk? Ghosts? Or something else? 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Winner of the Coffin Hop



Thank you everyone for stopping by and participating in the Coffin Hop!




 Winner of my Prize drawing, a $5 gift certificate to my publisher, Musa Publishing, and an ecopy of my novel BETWEEN, to be released on December 14, 2012 is.....(bone-rattle please)

Gina!!
I will contact you via email


Monday, October 22, 2012

Welcome to the Coffin Hop


Prize drawing just for stopping by and following my blog OR Liking my Author Facebook Page:
A $5 gift certificate to my publisher, Musa Publishing, and an ecopy of my novel BETWEEN, to be released on December 14, 2012.

Be sure and leave your contact info in the comments section! 
Prize winner will be announced on November 1st
*Please visit other Coffin Hoppers for more chances to win cool prizes.

*Coffin Hop Art by RL Treadway

Journey into the Paranormal
by Clarissa Johal

People often ask me how I began writing in the genre of paranormal. I’m not brooding or scary or running off to join the latest séance, which I think is what they expect. And my silly sense of humor oftentimes gets me into trouble, especially with my two daughters. The topic of paranormal has always interested me. As a kid, we moved almost yearly. It seemed we were always living in older places and with those older places, came a ghost or two. Now, before you chuckle and roll your eyes (or not) let me tell you, I walk the line between skeptic and 100% believer. On the surface, I may be rolling my eyes with you, but inside, I believe in a plethora of things I won’t even begin to discuss until I’ve known someone a very long time. I know what I’ve experienced, and I know what my rational mind tells me. Believe me, there’s a lot of arguing in my head over those two things. But we are a collection of what we’ve experienced in our lifetime.

When I was 10-years-old, we moved to an island and lived for several months in an old house. I’m an insomniac and have been since I was a kid. Consequently, being awake while the rest of my family slept was nothing new. One evening, and after hours of tossing and turning, I decided to get up. While I sat on the couch trying to figure out what to do with myself, I heard singing in my ear. It was as if a woman was sitting right next to me singing Time in a Bottle. The song was popular at the time (and yes, that dates me) but I didn’t know the words. At that point, I did what any kid would do if they weren’t compelled to run away screaming--I politely sat and listened until she finished. Afterwards, I went back to bed and proceeded to have the worst nightmare. I dreamt that I walked into our bathroom and found a naked, young woman wrapped up in a shower curtain in our bathtub. She was blonde, had a bullet hole in her head, and was quite dead. It was graphic for a 10-year-old, I never watched television and rarely had nightmares. I had it for weeks until we finally moved. Each time, it became more intense--it had gotten to the point where she was clawing her way out of the tub and trying to speak to me through the shower curtain. Needless to say, I was a bit of a wreck by the time we moved. Years later, I found out from my parents that there was indeed, a murder at that house. They didn’t elaborate, but I always wondered of the details.
Parents, tell your kids these things ahead of time, because if they ever experience anything, they will always wonder.

So, back to the genre of paranormal. I began writing fantasy fiction when my kiddos were younger. It's what we were reading at the time so it made sense that I would choose that genre. While working on the second installment to my Pradee series, I was interrupted by two characters that truly didn’t fit into fantasy fiction. I kept setting them aside, but they would return, stronger than ever. Finally, I gave up and began working on BETWEEN, a story of the paranormal. While Pradee took me ten years to complete, I had the rough draft of BETWEEN finished in several months and a year after that, the full novel was complete. Six weeks after I submitted, Musa Publishing offered me a contract.

The novel I’m working on now is paranormal/horror. I have to say, I’m hooked. I love presenting this genre in new and interesting ways. Now, I know what you’re probably going to ask me: Do I write of my experiences or make stuff up? I’m a writer and I write fiction. I know the difference between fiction and real life. However, some of the best fiction is when a writer “writes what they know” and a little of what I know creeps into my novels from time to time. I hope you will enjoy reading them.

BETWEEN 
by Clarissa Johal

How far would you go to redeem yourself?

Blurb:

As a young girl, Lucinda was able to see spirits, a gift that didn't come without its problems. Now, a dedicated young veterinarian, she is committed to the idea that every life can be saved.

After a devastating accident, Lucinda tries to escape her past by moving to a small town. There, she meets a newcomer and feels an immediate connection with him. But there is another mysterious stranger to the small town, one that stirs within her a mixture of unease and desire.

As Lucinda is drawn into a bitter tug-a-war from the forces around her, she is likewise pulled into a dangerous twist of past and present events. Forced to make difficult choices, she finds that the two men are locked in not only a battle for her life...but a battle for their salvation.

 
BETWEEN will release under the Thalia imprint of Musa Publishing on December 14, 2012.


Clarissa Johal has done everything from working as a veterinary assistant and vegetarian chef to volunteering as a zoo-keeper aide and swimming with six foot sturgeons. Writing has always been her passion. She shares her life with her husband, two daughters and every stray animal that darkens the doorstep. One day she fully expects a wayward troll to wander into her yard, but that hasn't happened yet. 
Author website 
Amazon Author Page
Facebook 
Twitter

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Shape-shifters and Werewolves



Werewolves. Probably the only thing that scares me besides butterflies...
and we won’t go there. I believe my fear stems from an incident I experienced at six-years-old. It was Halloween and I was making my way up a neighborhood driveway to trick-or-treat. As I got to the front door, a werewolf jumped out of the bushes and scared the bejeezus out of me. It wasn’t a real one of course, but a costumed teenager who was counting on a bit of fun. My parents tell me I went flying down the driveway at 90 miles an hour, with no intention of stopping. 
Apparently, the teenage boy was mortified. 
And I was made to go back and “face my fear.”  
The boy took off his mask, apologized profusely and filled my pillowcase with candy. Unfortunately, I don’t remember that part because I think I blanked out.
And so a phobia was born.

Werewolves and shape-shifters are a hot item these days. You can't turn on the television or pick up a paranormal novel without encountering one in some form or another. They have been populating mythologies and literature from all over the world since the dawn of time. Historically speaking, those with the affliction of lycanthropy, or werewolves, were usually cursed. Shape-shifting however, was a different story.


Shape-shifter: Also called metamorphs, skin-walkers, mimics, and therianthropes. A human with the ability to change its shape into that of another person, creature, species, or entity. It could be voluntary or the result of a curse, magic potion or object. Some shape-shifters were able to change form only if they had an item, usually an article of clothing.

In Norse mythology, warriors or berserkers, were said to change into wolves and bears in order to fight more effectively. The tradition of wearing the pelt of a bear or wolf into battle and penchant for fighting into an uncontrollable fury may have given rise to these myths.
In Greek mythology, shape-shifting was often a punishment from the gods to the humans who crossed them. Zeus transformed Lycaon into a werewolf as a punishment for killing his children. Athena transformed Arachne into a spider for challenging her as a weaver. Artemis transformed Actaeon into a stag for spying on her while she was bathing. And so on.
Early Mayan texts speak of the shape-shifter, or Mestaclocan, who had the ability to change his appearance and to manipulate the minds of animals.
Selkies, found in Scottish, Irish and Icelandic folklore, were magical beings said to live as seals in the sea, shedding their skin to become human on land. In order to change back into seals however, they had to keep their seal skins in a safe place.
Japanese kitsune (foxes) were said to be intelligent beings. They possessed magical abilities that increased with age and wisdom. Among these magical abilities was the ability to assume human form at will.
In Korea, a gumiho (nine-tailed fox) was a creature that could transform into a beautiful woman with the goal to seduce men and eat their heart or liver.

Werewolves, on the other hand, have slightly different mythologies. Many authors have speculated that werewolf legends may have been used to explain serial killings.

Werewolf: a human, through either a curse or will, with the ability to shape-shift into a wolf or wolf-like creature. The idea that werewolves were able to be killed by silver or infect another with a bite or scratch wasn’t popularized until the appearance of modern literature.

Werewolves in European tradition were always considered evil. Usually said to be men that terrorized people (in the form of wolves) at the Devils command, there were few stories of people being transformed involuntarily.
In Hungarian folklore, the concept of werewolf goes back to the Middle Ages. It was thought that the ability to change into a wolf was obtained after suffering abuse by parents or by being cursed as a child.
In Latvian folklore, a vilkacis was someone who could transform into a wolf-like monster. In some instances, it was a human who could send their soul into that of a wolf. Vilkacis were considered benevolent, however.
In Armenian mythology, sinful women were condemned to spend seven years in wolf form. A condemned woman would be visited by a wolfskin-toting spirit who ordered her to wear the skin, thus causing cravings for human flesh soon after.

Werewolves and shape-shifters: both with similar abilities, but perhaps different origins and reasons for utilizing them. I've toyed with writing a horror novel focusing on werewolves, but every time I begin it, I have nightmares. The story stays on the back-burner until I stop being such a weenie.

In spite of my werewolf phobia (and oddly enough) I have a tattoo of what you could call a shape-shifter. A friend of mine, knowing how much I like history and art, gave me a copy of The Book of Kells as a gift. I started reading it and came across this gorgeous illuminated drawing of a wolf. Wandering across the page, it seemed completely out of place within the illuminated scripts. I couldn’t stop looking at it. I researched the the wolf online and found that they think it represented a Pictish 6th century clan of people. Its twin, the Ardross Wolf, is located in Inverness Museum and Art Gallery. My husband joked that I was obsessing over the drawing, which I probably was at that point.
One night, I had a dream that my wolf was getting lost in the Celtic knots on my bedspread, weaving in and out of them. I tried to catch him, but he kept slipping in and out of my fingers and jumped off the bed; shape-shifting into a warrior. I could see him in great detail—his weapons, his beard, the animal skins he wore. I could smell him, everything. I woke up and thought, “I’m getting that wolf as a tattoo.” And so I did. 
Shape-shifter? Kind of. But definitely not one I’d be afraid of. And oddly enough, the 6th century Pictish clan in question lived in northern and eastern Scotland, which is where my family history can be traced. 
Perhaps this is a sign that I need to let my fear of werewolves go. 
Or perhaps, that the shape-shifter has my back.
 

Ghosts


The other day, I took a break from writing to do what I rarely do--watch television.  It's not that I hate television, it's just there are very few shows I have the patience to sit through. While channel surfing, I came across not one, but seven different shows on something that's always fascinated me--ghosts. My paranormal novel, Between, is about a woman that can see ghosts. They don't necessarily frighten her, spirits are a part of her "normal" world, but they do pose problems from time-to-time.
One thing I noticed was that a common theme in these television shows, save for Ghost Hunters and Ghost Hunters International, was a "scare" factor. I've always been confused by the thought of ghosts being scary. I don't understand why they would be, at one time they were human. Are humans scary?  Not usually.
Unless they're wearing polyester and eating tuna fish sandwiches.

I'm also amazed with the amount of effort people put out to quantify and prove their existence. Once they prove ghosts exist--then what?
I'm going to go out on a limb here and just say; "Yes. I believe in ghosts." I've seen them, I've heard them, blah, blah, blah. And after ruling out every logical explanation, I'm still left with; "Yes. I believe in ghosts."  Is it scary to see a ghost?  Not really. I've always been of the ilk, "It is what it is." Do I believe that ghosts can harm the living?
I have to say "no" to that too. But then, I've never been harmed by a ghost so perhaps it's a mindset. Maybe if I had been, I would feel differently.

So why people afraid of ghosts? In this culture you could attribute a fear of the unknown as the main reason. Not helpful either, are claims of people being harmed by ghosts and overly-dramatic television shows. Different cultures define ghosts different ways. There are the ghosts that were once human, and ghosts that are something else entirely (which would be another blog post). And while most cultures regard ancestral spirits as innocuous, they can also be regarded as undesirable if they continue to be present.

Definition

Ghosts: the soul or spirit of a deceased person or animal that can appear to the living. The belief is wide-spread in most cultures and dates back to pre-literate cultures and folk religions, animism and ancestor worship. It can also reference a good or evil spirit (ie. angel or demon) in some belief systems. 

The appearance and ideas of ghosts vary according to culture.

The ancient Egyptians believed that ghosts were created at the time of death. They took on the memories and appearance of the dead and traveled to the Netherworld to continue a life similar to that of the living.
Historical writings of pre-5th century Greece mentioned that ghosts could appear as vapor offering advice and prophecies to the living, but they weren't to be feared.
The Aztec believed that souls of the fallen warriors and women who died in childbirth would be transformed into hummingbirds that would follow the sun on its journey through the sky. Spirit and soul were two different things, however. The soul of a woman who died in childbirth may be transformed into a hummingbird, but the spirit became Cihuateteo. For five days out of the year, the Cihuateteo descended to earth and haunted crossroads to steal children. 
In India, ghosts or bhoots are restless spirits with unfinished business. They can shape shift into various animals. Most appear human, but with one telling trait: their feet are backwards and sometimes certain features are upside-down. They also tend to lurk in trees and wear white clothing.
Ghosts in many Asian cultures are often seen as harmful. Ancestral ghosts can be helpful as long as they're appeased and rewarded for their help. Hungry ghosts, however, are seen as beings driven by intense emotional needs in an animalistic way. They are the ghosts of greedy or jealous people who were unable to appreciate what they had in life.
In the Amazon rainforest, the Wari believe that the spirits of dead people may appear as jima. The jima have cold, poisonous hands and can pull a person's spirit away.
In South Africa there are many beliefs about ghosts and evil spirits. The Bantu people speak of the tokoloshe. An evil spirit summoned by those wanting to make trouble for others. The tokoloshe can create illness or even death.
The Indigenous Australians believe that after death, relatives or close friends must sit by the grave of the deceased to ensure that the spirit of the deceased would go to the spirit place. Once this was completed (or the mourning was completed) the persons name was never to be mentioned again.

In view of this, one can see that there are many different beliefs pertaining to ghosts. In this culture, ghosts seem to break down into three categories; ghosts with unfinished business, ghosts that repeat a moment in time, and then the third; the ones with issues. Ghosts with issues choose to scare or annoy the living for various reasons. I look on these entities as bullies of the spiritual playground. Stand tall and they tend to leave you alone. Let them push you around and you are setting yourself up to be bullied.

So, what are your thoughts and experiences with ghosts? Real or imaginary? Scary or something we have yet to discover?

Reincarnation


I thought I’d write today on the topic of reincarnation. Between, my paranormal novel coming out in December, touches lightly on this subject and it’s one I find fascinating. Whether or not you believe; you have to admit, it’s an interesting idea.
I consider myself pretty open-minded. My parents were agnostic and atheist but the door was always open to discuss religious ideology and how it pertained to other cultures. It was something I was grateful for because it allowed me to discover and follow my own path. Religion was fascinating to me, but religion as it applied to different cultures, even more so.
By the time I finished college and university, I had taken so many classes in cultural anthropology that my curiosity had led me into receiving an unintentional minor in that field. As a student, I'd been lucky enough to participate in a ceremonial Native American sweat-lodge, observe a voodoo ritual connecting with ancestral spirits, experience a Wiccan banishing of negative entities and participate in a Pagan fire-walk. (And no, I didn’t get burned. There were others, however, who did)
At that point, I knew what I had experienced but was unsure of what I believed. Nothing fell into one religious category.
One day, a friend of mine was telling me about a physics professor who was conducting a class on reincarnation. The local university offered a series of extension classes that were always off-beat and educational. It sounded interesting so I thought I’d give it a try.
The class met at the professor's house and the first meeting was basically him outlining the concept of reincarnation and how it applied to different religions. I was familiar with the concept from the anthropology courses I had taken, but I politely listened. He went onto say that he would be offering a past-life regression hypnosis session to those that were interested. Now, that was something I hadn’t counted on! He made no promises, nor did he say what we could experience was fact, but the offer was there. Always open to new experiences, I was the first to sign up.

Here’s a definition for those who are unfamiliar with past-life regression. 

Past life regression a technique that uses hypnosis to recover what practitioners believe are memories of past lives or incarnations, though others regard them as fantasies or delusions.

So, there you have it—both sides of the spiritual coin, so to speak.

The evening of the meeting, I showed up expecting everything and nothing. Would hypnosis be like falling asleep? Would I know what was happening around me? Would it be like the movies where you were pulled into an alternate lifetime you couldn’t escape from? Well, it turned out that being hypnotized was much like being talked through a relaxation exercise. You are aware of everything around you. You aren’t asleep. You do, however, get pictures in your head that come without thought. They come fast and extremely detailed. Did I have any past lives to speak of? I'll let you be the judge because here's what I experienced.
I experienced a lifetime in 7th century Japan. I was looking at myself in a polished bronze mirror of some kind. The image wasn’t very clear but I could see that my teeth were blacked out. Not gone, just dyed black. I fact-checked afterwards and found that this was called Ohaguro. It was something I was unfamiliar with and apparently, it died out by the Meiji Era. In this particular lifetime, I had fallen in love with a village artist who was hired by my husband to paint my portrait. Our affair was discovered and my husband sent a group of his men to behead me. Oddly enough, when I saw this happening, I rose above the scene and watched them toss my body in a river before the scene went blank. The experience was not only disturbing, but completely unexpected.
Another life I experienced (in the same session) was one in 18th century America. Not quite as violent as the one in Japan, but extremely detailed. I was a woman living in a very nice manor house. My set of silverware had handles of animal antlers which I found out later was popular at the time. In another scene, I saw myself fighting with a gentleman who was pulling my hair from where it wound around my head. I do remember feeling extremely angry when I experienced that. Fast-forward to me as an old lady. I was in my bedroom, my maid was closing all the curtains, and I was floating over the scene observing my own death. Fade to black on that one. 

After the regression, I met with the professor to ask his opinion on what I had experienced. In typical professor fashion, he answered my questions with more questions. “Have you ever met someone you feel you’ve known before? Have you known facts about something you have had no experience with? Some would say those are past-life experiences.” Um, okay. Thank you, Professor. 
I decided to stop at one session because I found regression to be fascinating, yes, but too much to wrap my brain around.

Both experiences gave me pause for thought. Certainly, these "lifetimes" were nothing I would have thought of or expected and I’m still unsure what to think of them. But it’s what I experienced and I file it away under “Things I’ve Experienced but Cannot Explain.”
That file seems to get bigger and bigger the older I get.

So, the subject makes it’s way into my novels. I don’t do it consciously, but when I go back and read what I’ve written, it’s there. The concept has been around since the Iron Age and in Indian and Greek philosophical traditions of 6th century BCE. To this day, it endures in many tribal societies; places such as Siberia, West Africa, North America, and Australia, and many religious philosophies around the world.

What are your thoughts? And more telling, how would those thoughts change if you experienced something you couldn't explain?

Vampires


Due to a recent rash (nest?) of self-professed vampire followers on my Twitter, I thought I would write this week on vampires.

Vampires.
Personally, I worry the entertainment industry is past the point of saturation on vampires but I could be wrong. It used to be that these creatures were scary and could seriously, oh I don’t know, kill you. In the past fifty years, however, vampires have been simultaneously sexualized and emasculated. There's a new list of traits they share in literature and on film. They no longer terrify but instead; their spit heals wounds, their fangs grow in response to sexual desire, they worry over moral choices, fall in love and have babies. We’re not going to even talk about vampires that sparkle.

So here is comes…my definition:

Vampires: mythological or folkloric creatures who subsist by feeding on the life essence (generally in the form of blood) of living creatures, regardless of whether they are undead or a living person/being. Belief in such legends became so rife that in some cultures it caused mass hysteria and even public executions of people believed to be vampires.

In European folklore, vampires were usually reported as bloated in appearance with skin that was ruddy, purplish, or dark in color. In the coffin, they would be clad in the shroud they had been buried in and their teeth, hair, and nails would continue to grow. Blood was seen seeping from the mouth and nose and their left eye was often open. In general, however, fangs were not a feature. 
The origins of these physical attributes can be attributed to what we now know of forensic pathology: remaining bacteria in the body cause it to swell; which in turn, cause blood vessels to rupture and ooze blood out of the mouth, skin and gums shrivel; which in turn cause the hair, nails and teeth to look like they’ve grown, etc.  The process of decomposition.

Dead sexy.
But not very romantic.

Vampiric entities exist in many cultures and go back as far as prehistoric times. These blood-drinking, flesh-eating entities were associated with demons or evil spirits. The term vampire was not popularized until the early 18th century.

Ancient Greek mythology contains several precursors to modern vampires. Empusa, the daughter of the goddess Hecate, was described as a demon with flaming hair, a serpentine tail and one leg of brass and the other of a donkey. She would transform into a beautiful woman and seduce men as they slept...before drinking their blood and eating their flesh.

Aztec mythology described tales of the cihuateteo; skeletal-faced spirits of women who died in childbirth. Childbirth was looked on as a battle in Aztec culture, and those that died in the process were honored as fallen warriors. The spirits of these women were said to haunt crossroads at night; stealing children, seducing men and causing sickness, seizures and madness.

Various regions of Africa share folkloric tales of beings with vampiric abilities. The Ashanti of southern Ghana tell of the sasabonsam, or forest vampires. They are said to be hairy and man-sized with short stubby arms, a wingspan of 20 feet, blood-shot eyes and teeth made of iron. They hang from trees utilizing hooks on their feet, making it easy for them to swoop down on their prey from above and drain their blood.

Vetàla are vampiric entities from Indian Hindu mythology. Inhabiting the zone between life and afterlife, they are the hostile spirits of the dead whose children neglected to perform funerary rites in their memory. The vetàla can move from corpse to corpse, stopping decay and existing indefinitely. Victims reanimated by a vetàla would always have their hands and feet pointed backwards. They can haunt the living, kill children, cause miscarriages, and drive people insane.

In China, it is the jiāng shī, also known as a “hopping vampire” or reanimated corpse. The jiāng shī are said to have long, white hair, greenish-white skin, (due to rotting and mold) and a stiff gait. In the daytime, they hide in dark places, but at night, they move, arms outstretched, by hopping. To kill living creatures, they must absorb their qi (life energy).

So why are we not scrambling to read about getting down-and-dirty with these kinds of vampires? Vampires are, after all, the new aphrodisiac. Sadly, romance with something leaking fluid and hopping about just isn't sexy. It would be the ultimate hurdle to overcome for an unfortunate couple, however. Live Girl falls in love with Dead Boy. Their romance is ill-fated because Dead Boy can't seem to stop himself from doing what vampires do. On their second date, Dead Boy rips Live Girl apart, drains her dry and eats her.
The End.

Few authors and novels hold onto the idea of truly scary vampires. Stephen King's Salem's Lot, Richard Matheson's I Am Legend and the classic Dracula by Bram Stoker are ones that come to mind. Stephen King even goes so far as to state, "Here's what vampires shouldn't be: pallid detectives who drink Bloody Marys and work only at night; lovelorn southern gentlemen; anorexic teenage girls; boy-toys with big dewy eyes. What should they be? Killers, honey. Stone killers who never get enough of that tasty Type-A...Those vamps got hijacked by a lot of soft-focus romance."

The concept of vampires obviously polarize readers and writers both.

Personally, I prefer my vampires just plain scary. Handsome and sexy vampires are fun, don’t get me wrong. John Mitchell from BBCs Being Human, Eric Northman from Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series (HBOs True Blood) and Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer are some of my favorites. But there's something to be said for delving into folklore and mythology and tapping into what terrifies us. 

What are your thoughts?

Guardian Spirits, Angels and Totemism


Guardian spirits, angels, totemism, whatever you wish to call them, they are the gentle nudges or voices in your head said to guide you throughout your life. My paranormal novel, Between, touches on the concept of guardian spirits but personally, it's been a topic I rarely discuss. Why? Because people give you "that look" when you talk about intangible things. And even though I should be used to "that look" (I'm a writer and as you know, we all have whack-a-doodle things going on in our heads) it makes me self-conscious.

My father was a brilliant math professor and logical thinker, my mother a dental hygienist and devout atheist. Growing up in my household, things like guardian spirits just didn’t figure into the equation. But it was always in the back of my mind. As a child, I was convinced that somebody was watching over and guiding me. Whether it was a voice popping into my head to “make another choice” or a stray thought, I always managed to avoid dire situations. And there were plenty of them because that’s just the type of kid I was.

Perhaps it’s wishful thinking but recently (and maybe because I’m getting older) I’ve wondered if there isn’t something in the concept of guardian spirits.

My trusty definitions:

Guardian spirit: a benevolent spirit who guides an individual throughout their lifetime. The concept of guardian spirits is shared among many different cultures and belief systems. In some traditions the guardian manifests itself through dreams or other portents. In other traditions it is the individual who sets out to discover his guardian by undertaking a vision quest.

Guardian angel: an angel believed to have special affection for a particular individual.

Totemism: a system of belief in which humans are said to have a connection or a kinship with a spirit-being, such as an animal or plant.

I’ve had a number of things happen over the past few years which have led me to re-examine the concept of guardian spirits; I'll share two of them. This isn’t to say that I couldn’t attribute these experiences to my “inner voice” or some such thing, but my inner voice is telling me it isn’t my inner voice.

Several years ago, I went through a period of nine months where I was convinced I had cancer. Obsessed, I found myself opting for medical tests, including an MRI, and probably saw my doctor more within that time period than I had in the past ten years. The thought was quite literally, making me sick. I rarely get sick, nor do I give it any energy if I do, so this kind of thinking was highly unusual for me. One day, I noticed a small spot on the part of my hair which I thought was a bug bite. After a couple of days of seeing that it wasn’t going away, I decided to have it checked. It turned out that it was cancer. Not the “bad” kind but the kind that could be removed through a process called Mohs surgery.  A week later I was missing quite a bit of hair and had 32 staples in my scalp. Though it had looked small, the cancer had covered a larger area than they expected and had probably been there for awhile.
Do I attribute my obsession with having cancer to a guardian spirit tapping me on the shoulder? I don’t know. But I can say, I’ve never had health anxiety issues before and they disappeared after my surgery. (I'm happy to say too, that my hair grew back and hides a killer scar)

My second experience was a bit different. One evening, it was pouring with rain and I decided on a quick trip to the bookstore. I was sitting at a traffic light with the choice to turn left or right, either way would get me there. Suddenly, the voice of Austin Powers popped into my head, "Left, baby!"  Kind of amused with the fact that apparently Austin Powers was paying me a visit out-of-the-blue, I turned left. Immediately, I heard a loud screech and crash and looked in my rear view mirror. The car in front of me had turned right and was involved in a five-car pile up.
One that I missed completely.
Which means that one of my guardian spirits is an Austin Powers wannabe. Kind of funny and fitting because I can totally see that if I had a guardian spirit, Austin would be my guy.

These experiences can be shrugged off, sure. But things that have happened over my lifetime do add up and give me pause for thought: What if?
If there are such things as guardian spirits, let me just take the time now to apologize to mine because seriously, I've probably kept them very busy.

How about you? Have you ever had that “little voice” in your head nudging you in another direction? A thought to do something different that ultimately kept you out of trouble? An animal affinity? A brush with death? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Friday Guest Blogger Winner

The winner of Sloane Taylor's free download of Czech Mate is India-Jean Louwe. 

Congratulations, India-Jean!  
Please check your Facebook messages for further information

CZECH MATE by Sloane Taylor is available on Amazon.com

Synopsis:
Life isn't easy for aspiring interior designer Lacey Blake when she finds herself stranded in Prague dressed like a dolled-up hooker for her fetish-minded, soon-to-be-ex, boyfriend. The cash-strapped American traveler, boasting a feather boa and stilettos that would make a dominatrix cry, is saved by an intriguing offer proposed by a staid giant in a sleek Armani suit. It doesn't take long to convince herself there's nothing like a sex-fest to get the most out of a free vacation.

Dragan Petrovic is determined his 5-star hotel will retain its unblemished reputation and no prostitute will kickoff her career in his lobby. But one look into her eyes and he knows there is more to her than a micro mini and a push up bra. The urge to protect her drives him to madness when he suggests an unusual scheme that stirs up deep desires and alters their lives forever.

Lacey is hot and ready for action when she accepts Dragon's offer, and to relieve the sexual tension between them, takes the matter in hand...

The Author Look Challenge

The Look Challenge is this: find the word look in your latest work in progress and post the neighboring paragraphs. Then, go tag five authors to do the same. Easy-peasy.

My fellow authors who started this:

Sharon Ledwith, author of The Last Timekeepers and the Arch of Atlantis










and  Sloane Taylor  author of Claire De Lune, Masquerade and Czech Mate

(trouble makers, both of them) will be immortalized in my next novel and subjected to a million different tortures for throwing this Challenge my way.





Struck, my latest paranormal horror novel work-in-progress, had 222 occurrences of the word look when I ran a check.
Curses, Batman.
And back to edits to see if all 222 of them stay. 
So, which paragraphs to choose, which to choose...?

Here's a synopsis (also a work in progress) and paragraphs/excerpt from my paranormal horror titled, Struck
You are the only ones allowed to peek as I just finished the first draft--so no telling anyone you saw it. 
Or I may have to set my minions on you.

Synopsis:

After a painful breakup, Gwynneth Reese moves in with her best friend who gets her a job at a retirement home. One evening, she learns that one of the residents has died and goes to the funeral home to pay her last respects. On the way home, Gwynneth is caught in a thunderstorm and is struck by lightning. She wakes in the hospital with a vague memory of being rescued by a mysterious stranger. Following her release from the hospital, Gwynneth is visited by the stranger who seems to appear at will. He shares with her that he has a gift to bestow. At first, Julian seems to be offering a true gift, one that will stay the hands of death. But the gift comes with an exchange that Gwynneth is unsure of, something she can't define. As time progresses, Julian’s price for his gift becomes more demanding. Is he all he claims to be or is there something more sinister to his motives?

Excerpt:

“I really appreciate this.” I shut the door hastily and hurried along behind him. “I didn’t really know her family. I wouldn’t feel comfortable inviting myself to the funeral.” Liar, my brain scolded. I knew them. They had visited Mrs. Engel twice and that was all I needed to see. “I just wanted to…” I stopped, catching my breath, “say good-bye, I guess.”

“Yep, got it,” he dismissed my ramblings. “Poppy’s finishing up her make-up for tomorrow. All the way down the stairs. Last door on the left.” 

He gestured with a neatly manicured hand toward the general direction of a door which I presumed led to the basement or cellar...or wherever the dead bodies were stored for safe-keeping. So nice, Gwen. Just keep those thoughts coming

“Thanks.” I followed his gaze to the puddle I was making on the wood floor. “Sorry. It’s raining outside.” Duh. You can shut up now. I slipped out of my worn jean jacket and hung it on one of the mahogany coat racks that flanked the foyer.

He glared at me. “Whatever.”

I watched as Mr. Compassion sauntered down one of the hallways into the darkness. Maybe he saved his best manners for the dead. “Not everyone has to be nice, Gwen,” I murmured. “Just pay your respects and leave.” Warily, I opened the door that led downstairs. It was dark down there and distinctly uninviting. Of course it is. My hand felt for a switch light. Finding none, I headed carefully toward a lit room at the end of the hallway. How ironic. The light at the end of the tunnel is in a bright yellow Addams family house with an asshole for a caretaker. As I made my way down the hall, I could hear talking coming from the room.

“Now you’re just being rude. I didn’t put too much on at all. You look fine. Stop being so persnickety.”

I peeked into the room to see a young woman with a long, red ponytail high on her head, holding a tube of red lipstick and talking to a corpse. Except it wasn’t a corpse...it was Mrs. Engel.  
Oh, good god, my brain whispered. 



For this Look Challenge, I'm going to tag five of my fellow authors--and then I'm going to run away laughing.


Rhea Rhodan, author of romance with a twist of magic and touch of the paranormal.
Author webpage
Amazon Author Page
Rhea's blog







Laura Hardgrave, author of LGBT science fiction and fantasy.
Debut novel; Captive by the Fog coming from Musa Publishing October 26th
Laura's blog






 
Liz DeJesus, author and poet.
Author website
Amazon Author Page
Liz's blog







Peter Lukes, science fiction and fantasy author.
Author website
Amazon Author Page
Peter's blog