Clarissa Johal: April 2014

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tangled Tuesday-You Know You've Played Too Much Skyrim When...

...you write a post about it. Non-Skyrim players--walk away because this won't make a bit of sense to you. Skyrim players--grab a mug of Nord Ale and read on...

It's no secret that I'm a HUGE fan of Skyrim. It's the only Xbox game I play. I was lucky enough to Beta test the Elder Scrolls online game, which rocks, by the way. I'm not fond of playing online (I'd rather play solo for free) but the game is addictive and my character is a level 12 Nightblade right now. Saffron Faerieflame lives on!

I still play "old" Skyrim, though. I miss the gameplay and the option to have followers. My favorite followers are; Marcurio (his arrogant dialogue makes me laugh), Cicero (how could you not love an insane assassin with mother issues?), and Faendal (he was my first). Lately however, I've been favoring Teldryn Sero, a follower you can hire in the Dragonborn add-on. The only thing that bugs me about Teldryn is his headgear. You can't get it off. It's not that I'm obsessed with unmasking him (ahem) but I find myself mistaking him for an enemy. There are a series of things you can do to "trick the game" into unmasking him, and they may or may not work. One of my other characters did it, so I know it can be done. Underneath the ugly chitin headgear is kick-butt, mohawk'ed Dunmer with awesome face tattoos. Why would the creators go to the trouble if they hadn't intended him to be unmasked? It makes no sense.

One night, after my family had gone to bed, I managed to get Teldryn's headgear off and was elated--only to have him pull on another as soon as we entered a dungeon. In a fit of frustration, I killed him, yanked it off...and had to go back a couple of saves. Bad Teldryn, go sit in the corner. And bad me for killing my follower. After messing around with trying to up my pickpocket skills to 100, improving a set of Morag Tong armor, and trying every other roundabout thing I could find online, I realized it was 2am in the morning.
Yeah...hung my geeky head in shame and went to bed with a big fat L on my forehead that night.

Anyways...

If you haven't tried Skyrim Elder Scrolls online, it's fun. I wish they had made an Elder Scrolls VI you could buy outright, because at $14.99/month, I don't see me paying for it much longer. No matter, I always have my "old" Skyrim.
Look out, Teldryn. That headgear is coming off.


Monday, April 28, 2014

#MeatlessMonday-Urad Daal

Photo courtesy of foodrecipe360 via Photobucket
To be cooked in the crockpot

1 cup urad beans
1 onion, chopped
Handful of fresh spinach, chopped
1/4 c chopped carrots
1-14 oz. can chopped tomatoes
2-1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. ginger, chopped fresh is best
1/2-tsp. tumeric
1/4-tsp. garam masala
1 tsp red chili powder
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1-T chopped green chilies
1 tsp lemon juice
2 cups water


Set on high for 6 hours. Add water as needed.
When urad are soft, add 4T butter and 1 cup of yoghurt. Heat through and serve with naan or flatbread.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday-Loch Ness Monster

Photo courtesy of girbakalim via Photobucket
Recently, there was a story in the news claiming that the image of the Loch Ness monster had been captured by satellite. The image has since been debunked as composite of several different satellite images of...a boat wake. This is a huge disappointment for believers, as you can guess. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed myself.

Reports and sightings of the Loch Ness monster go back as early as the 6th century. Why no hard evidence? Some would say Nessie, as the creature has come to be known, is nothing more than folklore. Others claim that the elusive cryptid is there, we just haven't been lucky enough to find it yet (or manage a good photo).  But does it matter? It kind of runs along the same lines as proving the existence of ghosts or fairies. Proof isn't necessarily required. People need to believe in something. When we hit our pre-teen years (or sooner) adults take away our Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. What's left? Taxes, bills and mowing the lawn. Nothing fun. As adults, we read of Nessie being debunked and nod our heads sagely, because we know monsters "can't possibly" exist. It's kind of sad, really.

I think I'll choose to turn a blind eye to all this debunking, thank you very much.

I support you, Nessie devotees. Regardless of this latest story, the Loch Ness monster is out there, swimming wild and free. We just haven't found her yet.
Sometimes adults need to believe in something too.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

#Paranormal Wednesday-Excerpt from BETWEEN

How far would you go to redeem yourself?

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.

Excerpt:

Lucinda rode her bicycle home, heeding a sudden pull to take an alternate route. The wind scraped her cheeks as she rode on, lost in thought. Past the edge of town, she hit fields and found herself veering down a dirt foot path which led toward an old church. Crows took off from the surrounding fields, complaining loudly of the intrusion.
The one-room church stood alone. White-washed and peeling, the building was flanked by a small, forgotten graveyard. A single tree reached out with dead branches, sheltering the gravestones from the light. Circling the graveyard was a rusted, wrought-iron fence. The gate sagged on its hinges and squeaked quietly in the breeze.
Leaning the bicycle against the graveyard fence, Lucinda walked up the church’s rickety, wooden steps and checked the rusty door knob. Finding the door to be open, she walked in. The door shut quietly behind her, shrouding the room in silence.
From the corners of her eyes, Lucinda saw spirits scatter.
Walking slowly down the middle aisle, she passed the wooden pews, one by one. Stained-glass windows stared down like eyes over the pulpit. Ablaze with the light from the setting sun, the windows cast shades of scarlet and crimson across her skin.
As a child, Lucinda had attended church with her parents. Every Sunday, they had gone out of a sense of routine or faith — she wasn’t sure which. It was a routine that she hadn’t continued. Any remnants of her faith had died after the accident.
Movement continued in her peripheral vision. It was only a matter of time before they would grow insistent. Lucinda sat in the front pew, hands clenched into fists. The only sounds she heard were her breath and heartbeat, counting out the mortal seconds. She sat in the stillness, ignoring the activity around her. She had no idea how much time had passed before she finally stood to leave.
Once outside, Lucinda saw that twilight had fallen over the area. Still lost in thought, she walked over to her bicycle and placed her hands upon the cold handlebars. She had entered the church to do some- thing — something she felt was important. Had she done it? In her heart, she felt unsure.
An almost inaudible sigh broke the silence. Startled from her reverie, Lucinda was surprised to see a dark form standing in the graveyard, head bowed.
“Cronan?”
Cronan looked up. His face seemed to be contorted in grief. As she walked through the gate and into the graveyard, she realized she must have imagined it. The mocking smile was there, as usual.
“Fancy you here.”
“My friend is in the hospital. I came here…” She looked away, uncertain.
“To pray?”
She let her gaze wander over to the forgotten church.
“Did it help?”
Lucinda frowned. “What are you doing here?”
“I am here — ” he paused as he ran a hand along the top of a head- stone “ — to visit the dead, of course.”
Lucinda narrowed her eyes at him in disbelief.
Cronan returned her look, unflinching. His dark coat stood in stark contrast against his pale skin. “Was your friend hurt badly?”
“Yes, she was. Is. I’m worried about her.” She took in the gravestones and shuddered. “She was in a car accident.”
A chilly breeze blew through the clearing, causing Cronan’s coat to flap behind him like dark wings. The breeze pushed the dead, wet leaves aside that had collected between the headstones. Crows cawed in the distance.
“Can I ask you a question?”
He raised an eyebrow.
Lucinda hesitated. “My friend. Marny. The one in the hospital. She said she heard whispering before she crashed. She was the only one in the car. What do you think about that?”
“I think that if she heard whispering, then that is what she heard.” He studied her thoughtfully. “There are many things in the world we do not understand. That does not mean they do not exist.” He took a step toward her and took her hands, intertwining his fingers within hers as if in prayer. “Is that not what faith is based upon?”
She shivered involuntarily and pulled away, dropping her gaze to the ground. “Can I ask you another question?”
“Ask.”
“You saw that woman on the cliff.”
“Yes.”
“She’s…”
“Dead?”
Lucinda nodded wordlessly.
“As I said, there are many things in this world that we do not understand.”
She turned away from him, pondering the faces of the headstones reflecting the dying light. The names had long-ago been weathered and forgotten. “I know what I see. I don’t know what I believe.” She sighed. “I mean, I always thought it was just me.”
“Just you?”
“That sees them. I usually only see people I’ve known. Or animals. I don’t know why I see that woman on the cliff.”
Cronan moved in closer behind her. “Death exists whether people see it or not,” he murmured.
“I understand that. And I know that some spirits — ” the words caught in her throat “ — get stuck. Like in churches, and graveyards. They seem so empty.”
“Ah, that is where you are mistaken. They are not empty. They are full.”
She turned to him. “Full?” She stepped back, putting some space between them.
“Yes,” Cronan replied. “Full of rage, fear, confusion, loneliness.”
“Loneli — nobody wants to feel those things, Cronan.” Lucinda frowned. “Especially after you’re — ”
“Dead?”
“Yes.” She was quiet for a moment, listening to the wind blowing across the fields. Her thoughts wandered. Looking up, she was startled to see him scrutinizing her. Lucinda flushed. “I have to go.”
Pushing past him, she exited the graveyard and made a grab for her bicycle. A small rustle off to her side caught her attention. “Oh!” Lucinda bent down. Naked and helpless, a baby brush rabbit lay in a cluster of grass. Its eyes were closed and its breathing labored.
Cronan peered over the fence. “Nature’s plan. I am sure the crows will take care of it.”
Lucinda looked up at him, shocked. “That’s a terrible thing to say, Cronan!” She ran her hands over the baby rabbit. “It looks like a cat got him or something. Teeth marks here and on the other side. He’s cold.” She picked the rabbit up carefully.
Cronan studied her quietly, running his thumb along one of the wrought iron spikes that topped the graveyard fence.
She looked across the silent fields. “We must have scared it off, what- ever it was.”
“And now it waits for its prize.” Ignoring him, she cradled the rabbit in her hands, trying to warm it.
“All life depends on death. It is hopeless, Lucinda.” His eyes flickered over her. “It will die.”
“I’m not letting that happen, Cronan,” Lucinda replied firmly. She unbuttoned her coat and rolled the baby rabbit up in the bottom of her T-shirt. “Everything can be saved.”
“Everything?” Cronan replied solemnly. “I have my doubts about that.”
“Well I don’t.” She set her jaw stubbornly. “I’m taking him back to the hospital. I can save him.” She carefully buttoned her coat and took her bicycle by the handlebars.
Cronan watched as she walked with determination across the empty fields. As he watched her, his hands gripped the iron fence, emotions warring within him.

***

*Second place in the Preditors and Editors Readers Poll 2012

*Paranormal Reads give BETWEEN 4 out of 5 Bats


Musa Publishing

Celebrate Earth day to get a 50% rebate! Purchase BETWEEN today on OmniLit

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tangled Tuesday-Rhea Rhodan-The Legacy of Buchanan's Crossing Book Tour

Rhea Rhodan has a virtual book excerpt tour going on right now via Goddess Fish for her new release, The Legacy of Buchanan's Crossing. It's a fabulous book and one you should definitely check out! Her tour stops are listed below and each stop offers a new excerpt exclusive to that blog. Leave a comment or question with your e-mail address to be entered in the $30 GC drawing at the end of the tour. The more blogs you visit and comment on, the better your chances!


What price will destiny demand?
Warding the Crossing has always been Cayden Sinclair’s destiny. With her beloved Gran growing weaker, it’s time the little witch took her place. Juggling substantial curves for her frame and an inconvenient inability to control her power has always been a serious challenge. But not until discovering her fated Keeper is the extremely hot, tragically clean-cut insomniac who’s ignored her for months, does she truly fear failing her legacy.

Now that he’s finally on the road to the top with an offer from a big developer, Clint MacAllen can’t allow his struggling construction company to be threatened by a vicious nightmare, or his inexplicable attraction to a goth clerk working the graveyard shift at HandiMart—no matter how potent they are.
J. Milton Developments has its own agenda for Buchanan’s Crossing, and they’ll spill blood to get it.

Available now from Musa Publishing in a variety of e-book formats (including direct-to Kindle), or at Amazon Barnes & Noble All Romance e-books, and other fine e-tailers.
Rhea's website




April 21: Deal Sharing Aunt
April 21 SECOND STOP Our Wolves Den
April 22: Books and Other Spells
April 23: Laurie's Paranormal Thoughts and Reviews
April 24: Room With Books
April 25: Romance Novel Giveaways
April 28: Wicked Readings By Tawania
April 28 SECOND STOP: Rage, Sex and Teddy Bears
April 29: Susana's Morning Room

May 1: The Pen and Muse Book Reviews
May 2: Books to Light Your Fire
May 5: Reviews by Crystal
May 6: Magic and Mayhem
May 7: Long and Short Reviews
May 8: Bookgirl Knitting
May 9: Booklover Sue

Monday, April 21, 2014

#MeatlessMonday-Vegetarian Samosas

Photo courtesy of ljsmooth1 via Photobucket
A samosa is a popular fried or baked Indian appetizer filled with a savory filling, such as spiced potatoes,onions, peas, and/or lentils. I was first introduced to them by my mother-in-law (who can turn out a gazillion in no time flat). They're definitely a family favorite for dinner around here! 




Pastry:

2 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoon oil
6 tablespoon water

Mix flour and salt in a bowl.

Add 4T oil and rub until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Slowly add about 6T water and knead the dough for about 10 minutes or until it is smooth.
Rub dough with oil. Cover it and set aside for 30 minutes or longer.

Potato Stuffing:

5 medium potatoes
4T oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 carrot, diced
1 cup green peas
1 tablespoon ginger, grated
1 green chili, finely chopped
3T fresh cilantro, chopped
1-½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon *garam masala
1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds

Cube peeled potatoes into 1/4 inch cubes and boil until cooked but still firm.
Saute onion and carrot. Add peas, ginger, green chili, and fresh cilantro. Add potatoes, salt and all spices.
Mix and cook on low heat for 3-4 minutes.

Assembling Samosa:

Knead the dough. Divide it into about 10 balls.
Roll ball into flat round shape about 5 inches in diameter.
Cut in half. Make the half into a cone by sticking seam together with a little water.
Fill the cone with about 2-½ tablespoons of the potato mixture.
Seal the top of the cone together with a little water.

Cooking (fry or bake):

To fry
Heat about 2 inches of oil for deep frying or use deep fryer.
Turn samosas until they are golden brown and crisp.
Drain excess oil and serve hot with chutney for dipping.
I like to use hoisin sauce. :)

To bake
Coat samosa lightly with oil and bake at 400°F for 12- 15 min.


*Garam masala is usually a mixture of turmeric, black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, cumin and cardamom. You can purchase it as well.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Frightening Friday-Dolls

Photo courtesy of xandert via morgueFile
There's nothing quite so freaky as dolls. Yes, yes, I know there are tons of people who love dolls. I'm not one of them. Perhaps it's the frozen look of manic happiness on their faces or their soulless eyes, but seeing them staring at you from a shelf across the room is enough to make me want to run screaming.

My dislike of dolls turned into fear when I saw the movie Trilogy of Terror as a kid. Remember that one? As if blank-faced Barbies weren't freaky enough, the movie was about a little tribal doll who comes to life when its evil spirit is unwittingly released. The movie is laughable by today's standards of horror, but to an 11-year-old, it was terrifying.

After I saw that movie, my Malibu Barbie was banished into the closet. My stuffed animals could stay because I knew they'd behave, but Malibu had to go. This crushed my mother. My mother loved dolls. In fact, she made and collected dolls.  Rag dolls, clay dolls, even those labor-intensive bisque dolls that took weeks to make. She was always trying to give them to me. I tolerated Malibu Barbie because she had a tan (something I'd never have) but any other doll was a definite no. That was irony laughing at the two of us, I suppose.

So, here you go--a clip from Trilogy of Terror. Laugh away....or not.







Thursday, April 17, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday-10 Things to Do with Peeps

...because they aren't for eating.

1) Use them in a ritualistic circle to summon the Peep Demons.

2) Three words: Flaming. Sugar. Bombs.

3) Toss them off a cliff and set them free.

4) Stick them on the dog. Pretend he's a stegosaurus.

5) Hang them around your bird feeder. Voila! Brightly colored birds that don't require birdseed.

6) Sticky wind chimes

7) Use them as shuriken. Run around the neighborhood pretending to be a ninja.

8) Throw one into the water to see if it floats. If it does, it's a witch.

9) Stick them to the walls. Take pictures. Call it art.

10) Catch your very own gargoyle...because as you know, gargoyles are sugar junkies.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

#Paranormal Wednesday-Excerpt from STRUCK

The shadows hadn't been waiting.
The shadows had been invited.


After a painful breakup, Gwynneth Reese moves in with her best friend and takes a job at a retirement home. She grows especially close to one resident, who dies alone the night of a terrific storm. On the way home from paying her last respects, Gwynneth is caught in another storm 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, the stranger visits her at will and offers Gwynneth a gift--one that will stay the hands of death. Gwynneth is uncertain whether Julian is a savior or something more sinister... for as he shares more and more of this gift, his price becomes more and more deadly.

Excerpt:

She stared into his pale eyes, which were the color of storm clouds. A scream welled up in her throat. He pushed her against the wall and shook his head in a warning.

“Do not scream.”

His voice was low and soothing. She nodded quickly, with every intention of screaming her lungs out as soon as he removed his hand.

“Do not scream,” he repeated.

Gwynneth could hear her breath heavy against his hand. He wore finely made black leather gloves. Why would he be wearing gloves inside? She thought frantically. It wasn’t cold enough to wear gloves. Dressed in the same black material from top to bottom, except for a white, high-collared dress shirt, he looked archaic. She tried to match him with a time period. Mid-eighteenth century? His demeanor, too, was somehow…archaic, proud. Small silver buttons ran the length of his jacket. They pressed sharply against her thin hospital gown.

“Do you trust me?” He studied her intently and removed his hand.

“You were there when I got hit,” she whispered.

“Yes.”

“Why didn’t you bring me to the hospital? You left me at the funeral home.”

“I had no transportation. I left you where you would be found.”

“Why didn’t you stay with me?”

“I have my reasons. I am here now.”

“Well, thank you for saving me.”

“I wish something in return.”

“I-I don’t have anything.” She flinched as she felt a small tug from deep inside. It was as if probing fingers were searching for something. Fear bloomed within her. The probing stopped.

“Are you saying no?” His voice held an edge.

“I don’t understand.”

“Are…you…saying…no?”

Confused, she nodded slightly. Suddenly, Julian grabbed her and they fell into blackness. Something powerful swirled around them. Something malevolent. She panicked and clung to him. There was pressure on all sides of her, as if the air was folding around them and becoming heavier and heavier. And then, everything stopped.

“Open your eyes, Gwynneth,” he whispered.

They were in a house. A Victorian. Fire burned in the fireplace. She could smell the burning wood. The light reflected off elaborate, but worn, wallpaper and furniture. A half-eaten biscuit lay on a delicate-looking plate. An empty teacup lay on its side.

Julian took her by the hand and led her up a winding staircase. She studied him from behind. Tall and lean, he was quite broad-shouldered. Fine white hair draped across his back like silk. His form-fitting, tailored jacket hit mid-thigh, and matching black pants were tucked into knee-high leather boots. He walked with catlike grace, his boots making light sounds on the stairs.

Otherworldly, her thoughts whispered. Still in her hospital gown, Gwynneth felt vulnerable and naked. Her bare feet pressed against the wooden floor. Grit stuck to her toes.

He led her down a hallway lit by fluted glass light fixtures along the walls. At the end of the hallway was a door.

Never taking his eyes off hers, Julian opened it.

Dark figures scattered like exploding glass. Red, so much red. There was blood everywhere. Blood-soaked sheets, pillows; blood pooled onto the wooden floor and soaked into an ornate carpet.

A woman lay across the bed. She wore an old-fashioned white nightgown, which was plastered to her body. Her long dark hair spilled across the sheets. Gaping wounds covered her chest. A knife lay on the floor. The windows were open, and white curtains fluttered in the evening breeze.

The creatures writhed in the corners as light from the hallway shattered their darkness.

A strangled sound escaped Gwynneth’s throat. Julian wrapped his arms around her and urged her forward. The figures that had fled into the corners seeped into the scene once more.

“They come for her. I want you to watch.”

Gwynneth shook violently, and he gripped her tighter.

The figures swarmed over the dead woman’s body, into her hair, along her bare legs. They snaked up and down her torso and made her body shudder. Gwynneth felt their need, burning and relentless.

“Oh my God, she’s not dead,” she moaned.

Her vision went black. 

***

BUY LINKS:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Musa Publishing


Monday, April 14, 2014

Tangled Tuesday-Guest Author James Garcia Jr.

Please welcome guest author James Garcia Jr. today! Take it away, James...


Have you ever been in bed late at night and thought that you might open your eyes and find someone sinister sitting there, staring at you? I have. Usually it only happens after I’ve watched the classic film, The Exorcist. I tend to watch that every few years or so. It’s really the only film that stays with me long after I have turned the television off. It makes you wonder why I put myself through that, doesn’t it? A post for another time, perhaps…
So, let’s get back to the original question. You open your eyes and find an old woman sitting on a chair at the end of the bed. Her hands might be in her lap or they might be placed casually atop the arm rests. In any event, she’s staring a hole through your forehead as if you’ve done something really terrible to her. Or perhaps she wanted you to do something for her – something really important to her – and you failed her.
How about that?
That is precisely what happened to Paul Herrera. Paul is a friend of mine, you see. Okay, he’s actually a character of mine, but he’s got a lot of me inside him. My characters tend to be fleshed out that way, whether I like it or not. Paul lost his young wife and unborn child a few years back. He’s doing okay, but not great. Do you blame him? Now, I have never been in his shoes, so it wasn’t easy to write him. What I did, however, was channel all of those teenage years when I was a lonely stick figure of a kid, just laying on my bed and passing the time listening to every sad rock song I could get my ears on. I took those feelings and stretched and shaped them into Paul’s life.
Even though I grew up watching 80’s slasher films and write horror/paranormal books, what you will find me watching most days are romantic comedies or dramas. Tear jerkers? I love them. Don’t know why. With that in mind, after penning two vampire books about good versus evil and whether a vampire could be used by God or not, I decided to try something more romantic. I took a lonely character who was just a little bit fragile, added the ghost of a dead relative and served him an old haunted farm house. The result was something that really pleased me, and I hope it will you too.
But wait? Wasn’t there something about Aunt Flora wanting something from Paul? Oh, yes. That’s her name, by the way. Flora. Paul had never met her before, as far as he could recall. But there she sat just the same. Here, take a look as the book begins…


I suppose you can say this whole thing began and ended with ghosts. Not all my life, of course, but only all that ever really mattered. Everything before meeting Angie happened simply to get me prepared for our life together. No real living had occurred until that moment. After Angie died, I was left only with ghosts. Now tonight I lie beside another woman who is not my wife, and who I have yet to touch. I marvel at her even, peaceful breathing as I stare at the awful ghost that sits calmly, but menacingly, near the foot of the bed.

Aunt Flora is dead and has been for several months. There’s really no reason on God’s green earth why she should be here, in my home, a place she’d never visited in life, but here she sits just the same, and I’m sure I know why. Perhaps it has everything to do with her not having a home of her own any longer, or because she’s lost her husband once again. She seems to grin at me as if she can read my thoughts.

Now she nods dramatically to say that she can, indeed.

“What do you want, Flora?” I finally ask, whispering. I try to be as quiet as possible. It seems like a useless proposition. Peace is an illusion to me at this point; like something so far out of my grasp as to be laughable.

“You know what I want, Paul.” Her voice is low and calm, but seems to reverberate against the walls. “You know very well what I want,” she says as the all-too-familiar lightning flashes outside probe into the bedroom and illuminate her. A gust of wind rattles the window briefly. It must’ve been the reason I awoke in the first place. I’m pretty sure it was just wind, but who could know at this point? In any event, there’d be no more sleeping.

I see Flora’s terrible features—that aged and deep-wrinkled skin pulled over high cheekbones; and that profound smile that brings no pleasure, but only sets me on edge. Thunder roars in the distance as if on cue. I am intimately familiar with this particular storm. Both it and Flora seem to have followed me.

“I can’t help you with that, Flora,” I say.

“Yes, I know. All you can do is bring everything to ruin.”

I stare at the ghost and say nothing further, taking in the sight of her with her long-sleeved white blouse, dark slacks and black shoes. It’s incredible to me that I’m having another conversation with my aunt. It’s clear she holds me to blame for what’s happened. If I wasn’t afraid before, there’s no denying it now.

Flora reclines against the winged-back chair that was Angie’s favorite and smiles. Her arms remain atop the arm rests, the perfect picture of quiet. Another bolt lights up the sky and my eyes immediately find her claw-like fingers as they seem to be digging into the upholstery. Now I know better and I shiver at this apparently perfect culmination of events.

“It’s not over, Paul,” Flora says. Her tone is firm and reminds me of a wild animal’s growl. “You know damn well what I want! It is all that I have ever wanted. But you have taken that from me. You have taken far too much. Now I shall do the taking. Do you hear me, Paul? Do you understand what I am telling you?”

Now I’m the one who leans back. I sit up first, positioning myself against the tall headboard. Here is a trend I can’t shake free of—me being awake as the night wanes. Another burst of lightning flashes across the Central California sky and then disappears, casting the room back into shadow. Thunder sounds. The storm is fast approaching. I say nothing more as I recline and simply stare at my dead aunt who sits and stares back, composed for the moment. It would seem I’ve become quite comfortable with ghosts, doesn’t it?


Thank you so much, Clarissa. I really appreciate you allowing me the opportunity to grace your site and share what I do with your readers. Obviously I am in the business of selling books, but making new friends is the next best thing as far as I’m concerned. If nothing else, I hope I’ve done that.


James Garcia Jr.

Author of the vampire novels, Dance on Fire, Dance on Fire: Flash Point and the paranormal romance Seeing Ghosts.
Stalk him at his blog, Facebook, Google +, Twitter and Crushpath.


#MeatlessMonday-Vegetarian Polenta Pie

I love polenta. Baked and topped with tomato and fresh basil--simply divine!


Here's a variation that's a bit more substantial and "dinner-like." This recipe has four layers: the polenta crust, the tomato sauce, the vegetables and the cheeses.
Everything can be adjusted according to taste, so have fun with it!


Polenta Crust:

1-1/2 cups course cornmeal
1 tsp. salt
1-1/2 cups cold water
2 cups boiling water

Combine cornmeal, salt, and 1-1/2 cups cold water in a bowl.
Whisk into the 2 cups of boiling water. Cook 10 minutes over low heat, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and let cool.

Oil an 9x9 glass dish. Press polenta (with a spatula) into pan to make crust. Brush with olive oil and bake at 375F for 45 minutes

While that's cooking, prepare the other layers...

Tomato Sauce:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped fine
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

Sauté onion. Add to tomato sauce and spices and simmer for 10 minutes.

Topping:

1 zucchini, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
5 large portobello mushrooms, sliced
Sun-dried tomatoes
Fresh basil

Sauté in 1-T olive oil

Cheeses:

Mixture of mozzarella, Parmesan and feta--according to taste. 

To assemble:

Once the polenta crust is done, spoon in the tomato sauce, add your veggies, and top with cheeses.  

Bake at 375F for another 15 minutes. 
Let sit for another 15 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday-Work Life Balance

...of which I've been trying to juggle, as of late. My kiddos are tracked out of school this month and I've promised to stay off my computer unless they are sleeping or otherwise engaged. The writing, blogging and promoting has been relegated to the wee hours of the morning, or done late at night. It's difficult because, as a writer, work usually exceeds an 8-hour day/40-hour week. The computer is always there, the ideas are always in my head, and book promotion is never-ending. But, I intend on keeping my promise because my kiddos are more important to me than anything.


Check back tomorrow for a sneak peek of The Island, my novel in progress.

Have a great day *:) happy

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

#Paranormal Wednesday-Excerpt from STRUCK

The shadows hadn't been waiting.
The shadows had been invited.


After a painful breakup, Gwynneth Reese moves in with her best friend and takes a job at a retirement home. She grows especially close to one resident, who dies alone the night of a terrific storm. On the way home from paying her last respects, Gwynneth is caught in another storm 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, the stranger visits her at will and offers Gwynneth a gift--one that will stay the hands of death. Gwynneth is uncertain whether Julian is a savior or something more sinister... for as he shares more and more of this gift, his price becomes more and more deadly.


Excerpt:

“She’s not sleeping, Dante. She passed out, duh. Why do you have to be such an asshole? Hey there.”
Gwynneth opened her eyes. Red hair blazed against the light.
“Well, hello.” Red ponytail sat back on her heels and smiled. She would have looked like a model in any other surroundings.
The stark room was lit by florescent overhead lights and contained a single stainless steel sink and table. It was the same room Gwynneth had walked into moments ago, except she was acquainting herself with its concrete floor. A sheet had been pulled over Hannah’s body. She focused again on her attendant.
“You’ve never seen a dead body before?” Earnest blue eyes made the question less ridiculous than it sounded.
“No.”
“You can sit as long as you need to.” She patted Gwynneth on the arm. “I’ll just finish up, and then you can have your time. My name’s Poppy, by the way.” She held out her hand.
She shook it and tried to not think about where Poppy’s hand had probably been moments ago.
“This here’s Dante. He’s an asshole, but he grows on you, like most of them do.”
Gwynneth glanced up at Dante and scrambled to her feet. He scowled back at her.
“My parents were professors of Medieval Literature,” he intoned.
I’m sure they were, Gwynneth thought.
“Be nice, Dante. She didn’t say anything about your name. Honestly, you think everyone is laughing about you behind your back. And they aren’t, you know.”
Poppy picked up a make-up brush and dabbed it into a glass jar. Beige powder dusted her pink mini-dress. The dress had little white flowers scattered across the hem and looked completely out of place in the somberness of the surroundings.
Gwynneth glanced at the sheet and Poppy stopped, mid-pull.
“Do you want to wait in the hall until I’m done? I don’t mind staying later while you have your time alone, but I do need to get this make-up finished. This job is anything but nine-to-five.”
“I-I don’t want to take up your time—”
“Everyone else does. Why not?” Dante grumbled.
“He’s just grumpy because he had to stay late,” Poppy said. “People don’t die just to inconvenience you, Dante.”
“Oh yes, they do.”
“He doesn’t mean it.”
Gwynneth caught Dante’s glare. “I’ll just pay my respects while you finish up. Thank you.”
“Calm down. It’s not going to smudge, if that’s what you’re worried about,” Poppy said as she pulled the sheet back.
Hannah looked different, Gwynneth noted. Younger and…wrong. At the retirement home, she’d always had dark circles under her eyes and wore no make-up. Here, the dark circles were gone and she had on mascara, rouge, and even lipstick. “She would never have worn red,” Gwynneth murmured.
“Well, that’s what she told me earlier, but I think it looks best with her skin tone.”
“Excuse me?”
Poppy continued dusting around Mrs. Engle’s mouth and nose. “She’s been complaining for the past hour, telling me she looks like a harlot.”
Gwynneth glanced at Dante, who seemed unruffled. “But Mrs. Engel is dead.”
“They talk to her,” Dante said.
“Yes, they do,” Poppy added emphatically.
“I’ll be upstairs, finishing up the paperwork.” Dante made a show of checking his expensive-looking watch. “Let me know when you’re done.” He gave Gwynneth the evil eye.
“Right now,” Poppy continued, “I’m pretty sure Betsy’s telling me that I need to have my make-up license taken away.” She waved her make-up brush at Hannah’s face. “And don’t think that because you’re speaking in German, I don’t understand that you’re using cuss words, because I do. You don’t shock me a bit, missy.”
“Her name is Hannah.”
“What’s that now?”
“You called her Betsy? Her name is…was Hannah. Hannah Engel.”
“She says they called her Betsy when she was a child. It makes her happy.”
Gwynneth wondered if she was the butt of some sick, funeral home joke. She forced a small smile.
“So, which color, then?” Poppy wiped the red lipstick from Hannah’s mouth and pulled a plethora of other lip colors from her make-up kit. “Anything to stop your belly-aching. I may not understand German, but I know you’re upset right now. Your children want to see some color on your face. It gives them a good impression of the afterlife.”
Gwynneth’s reality was in danger of shifting ever-so-slightly, and rather than admit that even crazy people needed to work for a living, she chose to ignore Poppy’s oddball behavior. If she worked with dead people all day long, Gwynneth imagined she’d probably end up talking to them too. “Actually, Hannah never wore any make-up. She said it was too much trouble.” Once again, shock threatened to overtake her, along with the coldness of the room. She shook it off with a shudder.
“Most of them feel that way once they get checked into those retirement homes. It’s like they give up. But like I was telling Betsy,” she persisted, “the ones left behind like to see you at your best. A little blusher here, a smudge of eye shadow there… It’s all good.” She waved her make-up brush at Gwynneth. “Now, when we get an accident or murder victim in, there’s a challenge. Their face is like a puzzle.” Poppy stopped herself. “I’m sorry. I forget you’re not used to this. Okay, we’ll go with a lighter pink, then. Is that okay with you, Betsy?” She waited for a beat. “We’ve already discussed the eye shadow, and it stays,” she continued firmly. “I’ll concede with the light pink, but if I don’t do some eye shadow, your eyes are going to look flat.” Poppy pulled a brush from its cover and softened the lipstick down. “You have to stand firm with the dead, or they’ll just push you around. Last week, we got this gentleman in that was so afraid I was going to put make- up on his face that he yelled at me the whole time I massaged his arms and legs down and pumped him full of fluid. Thought I was going to make him look like a drag-queen. I was tempted, trust me. I couldn’t wait to wire his mouth shut, for all the good it did.” She snapped her make-up kit closed and turned her attention back to Gwynneth. “I think she is glad you’re here, by the way. I don’t know what she’s so upset about.” She glanced over her shoulder. “She’s paying her last respects, Betsy. It’s what people do.”
Poppy gathered her sixties-style coat and handbag and paused, as if listening to something. “Gwynneth? Right. She kept a diary, Gwynneth. Under the fifth wood plank in her room. You need to get it. Don’t give it to her children. They wouldn’t understand.” She cocked her head and winced. “Darn it. There was something else. She had to go.” Poppy dragged the ponytail elastic from her long red hair. “Anyway, have your time together. Come get me when you’re done. I’ll be upstairs. Close the door behind you so it stays cool in here.”
Stunned speechless, Gwynneth watched Poppy shut the door, leaving her alone with the body. 

***

BUY LINKS:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Musa Publishing

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Tangled Tuesday-Five Fabulous Authors

When I'm writing, I can't read works of fiction by other writers. As odd as it probably sounds, I have to keep other styles and ideas out of my head in order to "hear" what my characters have to say. I can read mythology and non-fiction, but everything else has to go bye-bye until I come up for air. This makes for a very tall and teetering stack of books beside my bed!

I do have a list of authors whose new releases I'll buy, regardless if I'm in the throes of writing or not. Here are five authors that have recently moved from the teetering TBR stack to my bookshelf. I found them inspirational within my genre of horror and paranormal and wanted to share!

1) Simone St. James  Excellent example of gothic horror and mystery, with a hint of romance. I just finished Silence for the Dead, which I loved. I also enjoyed An Inquiry into Love and Death and The Haunting of Maddy Claire. 

2) Amanda Stevens A twisted blend of paranormal and mystery, The Graveyard Queen series is well-worth reading. Start with The Restorer, if you're interested.

3) BROM  In addition to being a talented artist, he's also a very talented story-teller. If you haven't read his books and you like horror tinged with mythology, pick up or download a copy of Krampus: The Yule Lord or The Child Thief: A Novel. BROM is excellent at creating sympathetic antagonist characters.

4) Melissa Marr I really enjoyed her paranormal novel, Graveminder and look forward to more adult novels from her. If you like faerie mythology, the young adult Wicked Lovely series is good too.

5) Neil Gaiman I would buy anything from Neil. Don't tell him that, but I would. The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel was fantastic.

Monday, April 7, 2014

#MeatlessMonday-Falafels, Tzatziki and Hummus

Photo courtesy of Nikodem Nijaki 
Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution

Spring has sprung--which makes it a perfect time for lighter recipes and outside meals. Here's a very simple Greek-inspired dinner to share around an evening campfire (if it's still chilly where you live) or at the dinner table.
There are three ways to enjoy these recipes.
1) If you haven't tried falafels before, they make a good pita stuffing topped with tzatziki and chopped tomatoes.
2) You can spread the hummus on a pita and add grilled or raw vegetables for a healthy pita sandwich.
3) The hummus and tzatziki can be enjoyed as simple dips for falafel, raw vegetables, and sliced pita bread.
Enjoy!

Falafels

2 cans garbanzo beans, drained
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
3-5 cloves garlic, chopped
1-1/2 T flour
1-3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Pinch of ground cardamom

Blend everything in food processor until course consistency, don't over-blend.
Fill a skillet with vegetable oil to a depth of 1 ½ inches.
Fry about 2 tbsp of mixture per falafel

Tzatziki
(cucumber yoghurt dip)

1 quart Greek yoghurt
2-3 cloves garlic
3-T olive oil
1-T red wine vinegar
3/4 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and grated with excess water squeezed out
salt to taste

*Mix and serve

Hummus

2-cans garbanzo beans, drained
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/3 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
2-T olive oil
1 tsp salt
2-T chopped parsley
1/2 tsp paprika

*Blend in a food processor until smooth.


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday-Clowns

Photo courtesy of patriciaegreen via morgueFile
Has anyone been following the news stories on random clown sightings? One was from last September and the latest was from March of this year. I would be creeped out if these clowns were welding a knife or had blood dripping from their mouths, but no. Both clown sightings were just clowns minding their own clown-business. Maybe handing out a balloon or two.
Okay yeah, a little creepy.

The first clown sighting was in Northhampton, England and apparently, it went viral. A viral clown. Ew. There were several reports of him standing on street corners, hanging out at random places, and even knocking on people's doors and offering to paint their window sills. You know, just being a general clown nuisance. They tracked down this viral clown and he denies such activity, stating the clown offering to paint window sills was a "copy cat clown."

Clowns. Can't trust them as far as you can throw them.

America has it's own clown now. Because as you know, we can't possibly be one-upped when it comes to something like this. Dressed in a satin clown suit, he was spotted standing on the street corners of New York's Staten Island. Again, sightings of this clown waving at passer-byes and grinning like an idiot went viral. New York citizens tweeted, Facebook'd and hashtag'd their way into a frenzy for the clown to unmask itself. I'm surprised pitchforks weren't involved. It turned out to be a promotion for a horror movie studio and "was just a joke."  Thank you, Fuzz on the Lens Productions for whipping Staten Island into a frenzy with your clown. As if clowns weren't attention seeking whores already.
Next clown I see gets hired to stand on a street corner to promote my books.
Viral indeed.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

#Paranormal Wednesday-The Tooth Fairy

My older daughter's baby teeth
You know the drill, moms and dads (no pun intended). Tooth Fairy Rules state that when a child loses a baby tooth, the child places it under their pillow. The Tooth Fairy will then visit as the child sleeps and replace the lost tooth with a small payment. I kept my kiddo's teeth and glued them in a shadow box. My girls used to think it was cool that the Tooth Fairy allowed mom to keep their teeth (due to a special agreement she had with faeries). Now, they feel mom was a bit macabre. The teeth are smiling, so I really don't see the problem.

During the Middle Ages, there were many superstitions surrounding children's teeth. In England, children were told to burn their baby teeth in order to save them from hardship in the afterlife. Children who chose not to do so, would spend eternity searching for those teeth. In the Norse Viking culture, children's teeth (and anything belonging to children) were said to bring good luck in battle. Warriors hung children's teeth on a string around their necks. In medieval Europe, it was thought that if a witch were to get hold of one of your teeth, it would give them total power over you.

The folklore surrounding an actual tooth "Fairy" didn't emerge until 1927 when, The Tooth Fairy: Three-Act Playlet for Children by Esther Watkins Arnold was published. By 1984, 74 percent of people surveyed believed the Tooth Fairy to be female, 12 percent believed the Tooth Fairy to be neither male nor female, and 8 percent believed the Tooth Fairy could be either male or female. In addition to a small payment in relation to the tooth loss ($3.70 per tooth on average) some families leave a note with the payment, praising the child for good dental habits. More children report a positive reaction to the myth even after they discover that the Tooth Fairy doesn't exist.

While we're talking Tooth Fairies....I highly recommend The Tooth Fairy by Graham Joyce. Not for children, this is a Jungian, darker take on the myth and not for the faint-at-heart. Happy reading!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tangled Tuesday-Inked

My Pictish Wolf from The Book of Kells
 Done by Errol J Cathcart

As writers, sometimes our characters mark us in ways that go beyond the psychological. It's probably a weird, writer thing, but when you create a character, it's kind of like evoking a real person. You take something that's indiscernible, perhaps just a glimmer of thought, and bring it into focus on the page. Is it any wonder that something you create would in turn, leave you something in return?

I was watching Ink Master the other night, which I like to do while practicing my ballet. An odd combination perhaps, but that's what I end up doing. It's an interesting show because you see the artistic work that goes into creating a tattoo. (You see a lot of fighting between the artists too, but I swear that's not why I tune in!) I'd love to be a guest "canvas" but would probably be a tattoo artist's nightmare. Some of the "canvases" are talked into things they hadn't planned on, and there's no way I'd agree to that. I put a lot of thought into my tattoos and ponder on them for months before making a commitment. To date, I have three--one on my ankle, one on the back of my neck, and one on my belly.

Right before BETWEEN was released, I got a Pictish wolf (above) tattooed on the back of my neck. You can read about why here (in the last two paragraphs), if you're interested. The warrior I dreamed of has gone into my character file, where he will make an appearance in a future novel, as he's already marked me in a physical kind of way.
The Pictish wolf is from The Book of Kells. It accompanies a poem about a warrior who has lost everything/everyone he loves. The warrior questions his life, faith, and dedication to his king and country as he wanders alone. The poem is a very sad one and stuck with me. Aside from my dream which led me to get the wolf, the poem seemed to represent Cronan from my paranormal book BETWEEN.  So, in a roundabout kind of way, I have Cronan at my back. If you've read BETWEEN, that may sound a little unsettling!

Image via Art Imagery via The Book of Kells,
7th Century Scotland/Ireland 
This is a companion piece to my wolf. I haven't gotten this one yet, but it represents Lucas, another one of my characters from BETWEEN. (I'll definitely omit the flower) I haven't decided where it will go.

*The Book of Kells states this is a lion, though it's listed as a hound on most websites, for some reason. I'm not particularly religious, but I've become obsessed with the artwork in this book.

As far as my latest novel, STRUCK, I've thought about getting a tattoo to represent Julian, one of the central characters. The only thing I could come up with would be a Lichtenberg figure on my back. Not only would this be quite an involved tattoo, but I'm not sure I'd want it! (The caused-by-lightning figure "brands" the character Gwynneth, in a "dark spirit attachment" kind of way.)
Julian may have to wait to leave his mark. In a physical way, anyways... *;) winking