Clarissa Johal: July 2014

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday-A Photo

Just one of my (older) photos today. This is Lightning, my daughter's 5th grade class hedgehog. And no, they don't make good class pets. I'm not a fan of class pets because, though the intention is there, they never seem to be cared for properly. Hedgehogs in particular require a lot of cleaning, space to run around, and veterinary care from a veterinarian that specializes in exotics.
They are awfully cute, though.

I'll scare you tomorrow, I promise.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

#Paranormal Wednesday-Lighthouse Hauntings

When I decided to research haunted lighthouses there were literally hundreds. I came across two theories as to why this might be. Since lighthouses are surrounded by water, and water is considered a conduit, some felt this trapped a spirit. Others felt that spirits could become trapped due to the proximity and solitude of these areas. What stood out for me (and made more sense) were the number of tragic and violent deaths connected with these hauntings.  The stories were both fascinating and sad. Many of these places no longer serve as lighthouses but have been converted to bed and breakfasts, become historical landmarks or have been abandoned. If you're planning on a vacation, you may want to check these out.

Photo courtesy of L'Aquatique
Barnegat Lighthouse, Barnegat, New Jersey
A man and his wife are said to haunt this lighthouse. In the 1800s the couple was visiting a ship just off the coast when a huge storm struck. The ship was evacuated, including their infant daughter, but for some reason the husband and wife chose to stay and they both froze to death.  It is said that if one is walking a baby in a stroller, the ghosts will appear, compliment them on the baby, and then disappear again.






Big Bay Point Lighthouse, Lake Superior, Michigan
This lighthouse is said to be haunted by its first keeper, H. William Prior. Despondent over the death of his son, Prior went into the woods with a shotgun and a bottle of strychnine, apparently intent on committing suicide. A search party was sent out but he was never found. Over a year later, the skeleton of his body was discovered hanging in a tree. His ghost is said to haunt the property by slamming doors and moving objects. The Big Bay Point Lighthouse is now a bed and breakfast.


Public domain photo
Bird Island Light, Sippican Harbor, Massachusetts
William Moore was the first keeper of this lighthouse. There were two rumors associated with William: he was either a convicted pirate serving his sentence or he had stolen money from the U.S Army during the War of 1812. Regardless, William was known for his bad temper and for being abusive towards his wife. In 1832, he called shore for help and they found her, dead. He claimed she had died of tuberculosis but many felt he had murdered her. Though her grave site was never found, it is believed that William buried her on the property before he fled the area to avoid further investigation. Many claim to see her ghost--weeping and with her hands outstretched in supplication. 

Photo courtesy of Padraic Ryan
Gibraltar Point Lighthouse, Toronto Island, Canada
J.P. Radan Muller, a whiskey bootlegger, was the first keeper of this lighthouse. He was murdered in 1815 by Fort York soldiers who were in search of whiskey. The drunken soldiers threw him off the top of the lighthouse, chopped his body into pieces, and then buried his remains across the island. His body, or pieces thereof, was never "officially" found. In 1904 a jawbone was discovered and reburied but was never identified as Muller's. Strange phenomena have been reported including lights in the windows, a shadowy figure of a man drifting across the sand, bloodstains on the stair case, and moaning and dragging sounds. 

Photo courtesy of HISE Studios
Heceta Head Lighthouse, Florence, Oregon
This lighthouse is said to be haunted by a woman named Rue--reportedly the mother of a baby whose grave was found on the property. Her ghost is said to move objects, steal rat poison, open cupboards (and once) sweep broken glass into a neat pile. Some say they've seen an elderly woman looking down at them from the attic window. 

Photo courtesy of Ebyabe
Old Port Boca Grande Lighthouse, Gasparilla Island, Gulf of Mexico, Florida
Reportedly haunted by two ghosts, the first is the spirit of a child who died of diphtheria or whooping cough. She can be heard playing in one of the rooms on the upper floor. The second ghost is that of a Spanish princess named Useppa (some legends report her as Josefa de Mayorga). Useppa rejected the love of José Gaspar, a Spanish pirate. Legend says that he beheaded her for rejecting him and carried his beloved's head forever. It is said that the headless ghost can be seen wandering the shores. The lighthouse is now a museum.

Photo courtesy Mark
Point Lookout Light, Chesapeake Bay, Maryland
Said to be America's most haunted lighthouse, Point Lookout Light was established as a prison camp during the Civil War. The place soon became overcrowded--a breeding ground for disease and death. Strange noises, disembodied voices and figures have been seen standing at the top of the stairway and in the basement. Some have encountered a woman in period clothing; asking for help to find the grave of her loved one. The apparitions of Union and Confederate soldiers have been seen, though the graves located on the property were moved many years ago. 

Photo courtesy of US Coast Guard
Seguin Island Lighthouse, Georgetown, Maine
Seguin Island Lighthouse is said to be haunted by the wife of the first lighthouse keeper. The keeper had his young bride's piano moved to the lighthouse to stave off her loneliness and depression. Unfortunately, it was delivered with only one sheet of piano music. The wife would play the piece over and over again, even after her husband sent for more sheet music. Her husband was reportedly driven insane and destroyed the piano, his wife, and himself with an axe. Some report that they can still hear her piano music drifting across the ocean. 

Photo courtesy of Paul Brennan
St. Augustine Lighthouse, St. Augustine, Florida
In 1859, the original keeper fell to his death while painting the lighthouse. In the 1873, three young girls--a servant and two daughters of the superintendent of Lighthouse Construction--drowned in a tragic accident. Voices and footsteps of the girls can be heard. Tenants report seeing a young girl dressed in old-fashioned clothing who appears and then disappears. A large, dark male figure has been seen in the basement, where a former caretaker reportedly hung himself. 

Photo courtesy of Andy Stephenson
Point of Ayre Lighthouse, Talacre, Wales, U.K.
A figure of a man in work clothes has been seen on the lighthouse balcony. Dogs have refused to go near the lighthouse for no apparent explanation. Paranormal investigators report unusual sounds, laughter and large footprints on the beach. When one group followed the footprints to the lighthouse, a loud bang was heard and a dark figure shone a light in their faces. The investigators report that the figure and footsteps both disappeared soon after. 
Only accessible at low tide, it was sold in 2012 for the price of  £90,000 and is listed as a Grade 2 building. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tangled Tuesday-Haunted eBay...and Other Misadventures

Sometimes, I like to window shop for "haunted items" on eBay. I love antiques and usually end up looking at those in particular. Would I buy a haunted antique? Probably not--and certainly not from eBay. In my opinion, haunted eBay items generally fall into three categories; 1) seller looking to rip people off, 2) seller claiming the object is haunted but making no promises 3) seller playing with fire.

This week I found objects that fell into categories one and three.

Category 3: Sellers playing with fire.

Photo courtesy of Alejandro De La Cruz 
*Not associated with eBay listing
"Rare Antique-from Island of the Haunted Dolls."

I was very disappointed in this listing. If you're familiar with La Isla de la Munecas (The Island of the Dolls) you know that it was originally created by Don Julian Santana, a hermit who dedicated 50 years of his life to the upkeep of the island. He claimed he was haunted by the ghost of a little girl who drowned in one of the canals around the island. Don would trade homegrown fruits and vegetables for old dolls and place them around his home as a shrine for the spirit that tormented him. In 2001, he was found dead in the same canal the little girl drowned in.
That said, it appears that this eBay seller has NO respect for the dead. She claims a friend "smuggled" two dolls off the island and is using the money to pay for cancer treatment for their child. Huh. Regardless if the dolls are really from the island or not--it's stealing and bad karma.

"Custom Conjured Spirit Guide Haunted Arrowhead"

Photo courtesy of Wessex Archaeology
*Not associated with eBay listing
I had to read this twice. Really? Really?? For $33.33
you can have a stranger conjur a spirit guide and bind it into an arrowhead artifact. You choose the tribe and whether you want a male or female. *sigh* My feelings on binding a spirit...  I won't rant here. I'll save it for another post. 





"Dybbuk Box, Haunted Dibbuk Spirit, Estate Find. Ghost, Sealed, Entity?"
Seller claims the box began destroying his/her life once they opened it. Sooo....why would I want this again? It boggles the mind.

Category 1: Sellers looking to rip people off.

"Haunted Drinking Glass Cup" 
Photo courtesy of Billy Maybray
*Not associated with eBay listing
For $100 you can purchase a drinking glass wherein; "By drinking (from the glass) you gain the power and ability to become anyone or anything at anytime for as long as you like by shapeshifting. Only 5 glasses available."
Uh-huh. 

**Also from the drinking glass seller: "Haunted Gender Sex Change Body Lotion" Lotion reported to turn you into the opposite sex. Seriously?? Seriously. 



As awesome as this sounds--apparently the seller is kicking his/her angel to the curb. 
How sad. The description goes on and on.

Oh look--you can buy the box on Amazon too.
Amazon has the same description listed by the eBay seller: "This soapstone box is routed out of solid soapstone, not glued pieces. The lid is dramatic with a routed image of a charging bull with a raised lightning bolt across its middle. Each stone pattern is unique. one of a kind." Oddly enough, all of the sellers objects can be found on Amazon. Angel and spirit free.

I'm all for selling interesting objects on eBay. I won't say "for sure" that these sellers are ripping people off because I don't know them personally. I will say one thing though--there's nothing worse than those that prey on the gullibility of others. Sir Walter Scott said it best in Marmion: "What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive." On the flip side, David Hannum summed it up even better: "There's a sucker born every minute." 

Monday, July 28, 2014

#Meatless Monday-Lemon Curd Cookies Topped with Fresh Blueberries

Photo courtesy of Mr & Mrs Stickyfingers via Flickr
Cookie:

3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter, softened and cut into small pieces
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
4 egg yolks
1-T vanilla

Add all ingredients in a large bowl and mix until the butter is evenly distributed.
Knead dough until you can form into a ball. You may add some water if you need to. 
Wrap with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Roll out the dough 1/2 inch thick on a lightly floured surface and use a cookie cutter to cut into shapes. 
Bake for 12-16 minutes until lightly browned. 
Allow to cool before assembling.


Lemon Curd Topping

3 lemons
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
4 eggs

Zest the lemons using a fine grater (set aside)
Juice the lemons (set aside)
Cream together sugar and butter 
Add the eggs one at a time and mix 
Add in lemon juice and zest

In a saucepan, cook over medium low heat stirring constantly until the mixture thickens (about 10 minutes). Pour through a fine sieve to remove lumps and large pieces of zest. Cool in the refrigerator.

File courtesy of impure_with_me via morgueFile
To assemble: 

Place a dollop of lemon curd on each cookie and top with fresh blueberries. 
Serve immediately. Can be stored in refrigerator.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Frightening Friday-Taking Another Day Off

For some of you, this photo may be terrifying. For me, it's one of my better photographs. I love getting up close and personal.

I don't have a post today. My 12-year-old goes back to school on Monday and my 14-year-old starts high school in a month. I'm kind of freaking out because I find the high school thing truly terrifying. It seems like only yesterday I was seeing her off to Kindergarten. Time goes by so quickly.

I'll be back next week with my regular posts. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday-No Thoughts

I'm still trying to get back into the swing of things after my trip to Canada so I have no thoughts for you. Oh! I just celebrated my 50th birthday several days ago. And no, my age has never been a secret. I could never understand why women fall into that trap.

In lieu of my thoughts--here's a pretty picture from my trip. It was my favorite place.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

#Paranormal Wednesday-What Lies in the Trees

I'm going to toe the line between paranormal in nature and my writer's brain on overdrive. I know you'll forgive me. Last week, I went on a writing vacation to pin down the location and feel for the book I'm working on, tentatively titled THE ISLAND. My agenda was to take an airplane up to Canada, a ferry to one particular island, then kayak to another, smaller island.

It was quite the trek but totally worth it. I was able to get a feel of being on a remote island--which was crucial for this novel I'm working on. Plus, I spent the day exploring and doing what I love to do--hike.

About two hours into my hike I came across a huge tree in the middle of a grove. Its center was burnt-out and the tree stuck out like a sore thumb (there was no fire damage to any of the surrounding trees). Upon examining the tree closer, I was surprised to find a child's tricycle inside. A child's tricycle out in the middle of nowhere...on a tiny little island. A definite WTH?? moment and one that sent my writer's brain in a thousand different directions.
I combed the area to look for a child but found nothing. No adults, no children--there was literally nobody around. Hm. I walked back to the tree, took a picture of the outside and continued with my hike.
That evening when I got back to the mainland, I downloaded my photos onto my computer.

Now, this is probably a trick of the light but I didn't see it when I took the photo. This is the outside of the burnt-out tree. There's a spot on the tree trunk (where the arrow is pointing) that looks like a tribal mask. It kind of brought chills to my spine in conjunction with the tricycle and my location. But again, this could be my writer's brain in overdrive.

What do you think?










**When I was writing this post, my daughter pointed out yet another face inside the tree (where the arrow is pointing. Scroll up to get a bigger picture). At the risk of being one of those people who see the Virgin Mary in their oatmeal--I'm also going to figure this may be a trick of the light and perhaps "just" the way the wood was burnt. One could even go so far as to consider that both masks were carved by a local.
Regardless, I found the whole thing intriguing.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tangled Tuesday-Guest Author Debra Robinson

Clarissa, first I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to guest post on your blog.

I’m a musician, songwriter and author of paranormal fiction and non-fiction. And I’ve also been blessed or maybe cursed, with a psychic sensitivity that runs in my family. So, inspiration for writing in the paranormal genre comes from all around me.

My first book was published by Llewellyn Worldwide, sort of a psychic memoir.  
A Haunted Life: the True Ghost Story of a Reluctant Psychic is the story of my first haunted house. I may have been partly responsible for the disturbances there by inviting something in with an Ouija Board. I’ve honestly never really figured out what happened. Was it a poltergeist? Was it from the Ouija? Did my budding psychic abilities cause it, as some researchers believe? All I do know is that it scratched on my sheets while I was under the covers, touched me, locked me in the bathroom, and knocked on walls and ceilings to get my attention. It also made three years of my thirteen-year-old life a living hell. My mother didn’t believe in ghosts. So it wasn’t until she began to be awakened in the early morning by an old man bending over her face that she finally began to believe me. We moved soon after.

I’d never given the afterlife much thought before then. But after that house, this changed. My life path was forever influenced, and I began to study the paranormal. Psychic abilities, palmistry, tarot; I somehow needed to make sense of all I had witnessed. What were these terrifying things I’d never been told about? I realized then, I was on my own in a very frightening world.

I’ve also come to believe in good and evil. I’ve recorded an invisible “something” growling and spitting in an empty room, threatening a friend by name. This kind of evidence will simply no longer allow you to be a skeptic.

But because I’ve found so much evidence to support evil, I also believe in good, as a sort of balance to that. I’m a Christian, but I’ve found I’m too psychic for the Christian world, and too Christian for the psychic world. I’m stranded out here on my own somewhere in-between.

I try to help others when I can, but I avoid the readings I used to do. I had a large private clientele, and was hired by the big psychic hotlines. I now believe all this may have painted me with a large bull’s-eye. I now feel that by association, I lost my loved ones—an only child, a father—because of this. I want to hold on to the little I still have left, to believe in what’s good and stop attracting the evil I now know watches and waits. The best advice I like to give everyone is; stay in the light.

My new book will be out in September. The Dead are Watching: Ghost Stories from a Reluctant Psychic contains true tales of investigations and stories of real hauntings. My next three paranormal suspense titles, Sarah’s Shadows, Sarah’s Sight, and The Haunting of Black Tower Mansion, will be released by Permuted Press in 2015. 

Love and light, Debra Robinson
Author Website








BIO
Debra Robinson is an author, a psychic and a professional musician. She was born into a religious, though psychic family through her maternal line. Her ancestress was Alice Nutter, of the infamous Lancashire Witch Trials of England, who was executed by King James in August 1612.

Three years in a haunted house at a young age started Debra on her quest to understand the paranormal, leading to extensive studies in palmistry, tarot and her own clairvoyance. She lends her abilities to paranormal investigations, and lectures on palmistry and psychic abilities.

Debra has thriving careers in live performance and music publishing and has signed publishing contracts in Nashville and LA; and most recently a song from her catalogue was placed in the red band Matthew McConaughey film trailer (Killer Joe), directed by William Friedkin/The Exorcist.

Debra’s first book A Haunted Life: The True Ghost Story of a Reluctant Psychic published by Llewellyn Worldwide, tells the story of Debra’s lifelong battle with evil after accidently inviting something with an Ouija board. Her next non-fiction book of true ghost stories is slated for release September 2014, titled The Dead are Watching; Ghost Stories from a Reluctant Psychic. She recently signed a 3 book deal with Permuted Press for her fiction work, Sarah’s Shadows and the sequel, Sarah’s Sight, as well as The Haunting of Black Tower Mansion, to be released in 2015. She lives in Ohio, performing music regionally and writing in the off-season. 

THE DEAD ARE WATCHING:
Ghost Stories from a Reluctant Psychic 

Discover a reluctant psychic’s terrifying experiences with the paranormal 


A girl convicted of witchcraft in seventeenth century England stalks an ancestor in her sleep. The Children of Death turn an Ohio nursing home into a ghastly playhouse. A long-dead woman’s screams echo in the eerie silence of a decrepit graveyard. These true encounters with the dead will stay with you long after the last page is turned. 

In The Dead Are Watching, psychic Debra Robinson takes you inside her most frightening experiences with paranormal entities. Follow her exploration into the painful lives and often violent deaths of ghosts, spirits, and other bizarre manifestations. With detailed investigations and personal accounts from Debra’s haunted life, this compelling book will shed horrible light on the darkest mysteries of the spirit realm. 

Praise for A Haunted Life: The True Ghost Story of a Reluctant Psychic 


“If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to communicate with the dead, read this. It will blow your mind.” 
—John Kachuba, author of Ghosthunters 

“A venture into a woman’s life that takes you and holds you from the first typed word to the last page turn.”
—Sherri Brake, author of The Haunted History of the Ohio State Reformatory 

Monday, July 21, 2014

#MeatlessMonday-Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins

Makes about 3 dozen muffins

Photo courtesy of jamieanne via Flickr
4 cups flour
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
3 cups fresh blueberries

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt
In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar
Add eggs one at a time and beat until fluffy
Add the buttermilk, vanilla and sour cream and mix.
Add all of the sifted flour mixture to the wet mixture and mix for about 1 minute. Don't over mix.
Fold in blueberries
Fill lined muffin tins about 3/4 full

Bake at 375 F for 25 minutes or until done


Friday, July 18, 2014

Frightening Friday-Wanted: Babysitter

Photo courtesy of Seemann via morgueFile
I was chatting with my daughter last week about my first babysitting experience. I started babysitting pretty young (12-years-old to be exact) and in retrospect, my first job would have been an excellent opening to a horror movie.

We had just moved to a small town which sat on the border between Alberta and NWT. The town has since grown but at the time it was very much out in the boonies. It wasn't uncommon to see bear and moose roaming down main street. Our first week there, my parents met a young couple in need of a babysitter for their one-year-old son. Knowing I was itching to prove how responsible I was (and to earn some money) my mom caved and allowed me to offer my services.

The evening finally came and I packed my backpack with homework and snacks and hiked through the woods to their house. The couple handed me their son, some instructions and off they went to enjoy their evening.

The baby and I played for about an hour. Eventually, he became tired and I put him down in his crib, said night-night and shut his bedroom door. My job done, I settled down in the living room, turned on television and proceeded to do my homework. About an hour went by with not a peep from the little guy so I decided to check in on him. As I walked down the hallway, I heard a "click" at the same time I saw the light go on from underneath his bedroom door.

Okay, about a gazillion things went through my mind at that point.

1) The baby couldn't get out of the crib and wasn't walking yet
2) Even if by some miracle he had started walking between the time I put him down in the crib and now--he wasn't tall enough to reach the light switch
3) Which meant somebody was in the bedroom.

The light turned on and off twice more before I quietly started to freak out.
I could call the police. But by the time they got there (I argued with myself) whomever was in the bedroom with the baby could easily hurt him. I was in charge of that baby. Me.

In retrospect, I should have gotten the hell out of the house and called the police. In fact, in telling my daughter this story, I told her exactly that. But at twelve, I was trying to prove myself and felt like it was all on me. So what did I do?
I opened the door.

Those that have babies know that even when they cannot walk yet, one-year-old's are ingenious. This little guy was no exception. The little munchkin had pulled himself to standing and quietly rocked the crib (which was on wheels) back and forth several feet along the wall to where he could reach the light switch. Best. Toy. Ever.

I don't think he was expecting me to burst into tears once I saw there was nobody else in the bedroom with him. Which got him crying as well. *sigh*

The parents got home late that night after Mr. Happy Light Switch had long dropped off to sleep. When I told them what happened, they laughed it off with a, "Oh, he does that sometimes."

Parents. Please tell your babysitters if your children do weird s**t like this because you may not be so lucky. Your babysitter may decide to run screaming from your home and leave your kiddos to fend for themselves.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday-Priorities

I thought this might be a nice reminder to those who are having a busy week. It's easy to get lost in your job and day to day struggles. There are many versions of this list on the internet but I couldn't find where the list originated from. Suffice to say, I didn't write it but find it extremely helpful when I'm feeling overwhelmed.

Stop. Breathe. Reassess.


10 Questions to Help Focus on What Really Matters


1. Have I made certain that those I love feel loved?

2. Have I done something today that improved the world?

3. Have I conditioned my mind/body to be more strong, flexible and resilient?

4. Have I reviewed and honed my plans for the future?

5. Have I acted in private with the same integrity I exhibit in public?

6. Have I avoided unkind words and deeds?

7. Have I accomplished something worthwhile?

8. Have I helped someone less fortunate?

9. Have I collected some wonderful memories of doing good?

10. Have I felt grateful for the incredible gift of being alive?


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

#Paranormal Wednesday-Imaginary Friends

Photo courtesy of jdurham via morgueFile
Did you ever have an imaginary friend when you were a kid? I did. I had one when I was about four-years-old. He was kind of faceless (well, it was blurry when I would try and look. Eventually I just gave up trying) and was always in my peripheral. I was an only child and he would indulge me by playing tag or hide-and-go-seek. Sometimes, we'd play board games. My mom would come into my room and I'd be chatting away and accusing him of cheating (which he did). She would frown and give me a stern talking to about real vs. imaginary.
In retrospect, I think it used to freak her out.

I know some kids blame their imaginary friends for doing things they'd otherwise get in trouble for. I never did that. I think he kept me out of trouble, truth be told. Kind of like a little voice in your head that says things like, "Do you really think that's a good idea?" or "Really? *sigh*"  Yeah, I was one of those kids.

As imaginary friends go, he eventually stopped showing up. I'm not sure I ever forgave him for that. I had a rough childhood and could have used a friend. Such is life.

There are two theories about imaginary friends. One is scientific and pretty cut-and-dry, the other is a little more complex and open for debate.

Theory One: Psychological
A phenomenon-where a friendship or other interpersonal relationship takes place in the imagination rather than external physical reality. 
This is the standard explanation offered by child psychologists. Most young children socially interact with dolls, stuffed animals and toys. But according to one study, only about 37% of children have imaginary friends. When questioned, the number drops even further--only 2% of these children insist they are real.

Theory Two: Paranormal
Children are much more open to seeing ghosts and other entities. Once they hit adolescence, it is no longer widely accepted by society and the phenomena either disappears or is kept secret. 
There are numerous claims that support this as well. Jason Hawes, co-founder of The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS) states, “Many times, when I am contacted by someone having a paranormal situation, I am informed that their child or children are playing with invisible friends and that they talk to things that are not there." Hawes explains that the child could be psychic, and may possibly be “sensitive,” but a better explanation is simply that children have open minds. “They have not been conditioned by society yet as to what is real and what is not,” he wrote. “Over the years they will be told, ‘Stop playing with your pretend friend Bobby,’ and this helps close them off to what they experience. We have done some investigations into this, and the conclusions are outstanding.”

While I understand Theory One and in most cases support it, Theory Two gives me pause for thought. I was convinced that my imaginary friend was real. It was only through constant reprimanding that I eventually learned to keep my experience quiet and convinced myself that my imaginary friend was...imaginary.
Is conditioning children to deny their experiences a parental obligation? I find that kind of sad, really. I always indulged my children when it came to their imaginary worlds and friends. It's what leaves us open to life--in all it's complexities and unexplained madness.

How about you? Are there any stories you would like to share?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tangled Tuesday-Guest Author Kindra Sowder

Kindra Sowder: Upcoming 2015 Release

Granted, I may not have an actual release date for my first book “Follow the Ashes: Part 1 of the Executioner Trilogy,” but that won’t stop me from spreading the word. I have been working on this for ten years and it went from a partnership with very campy humor, and a five part story to what is now. It is one of the best up and coming urban fantasy series that will have you on the edge of your seat and a knife in your heart. It is tragedy, love, loss, and destruction. All the campy humor is gone, the partnership is history, and the story has evolved to its three parts, much better self.  Now it will be published by Permuted Press, the same publisher who I have the pleasure of working with amazing author Clarissa Johal with. A real up and comer.  So, you guys might be wondering what it’s about.
Well, here is a brief synopsis below:

There is a Gypsy legend of a woman called the Executioner. She is the one who will take on the night and all of the creatures within its dark depths. Robin is this woman and along with her partner Elizabeth, who is a very talented witch, they will fight the darkness. According to this Gypsy legend, they are destined to take their places as the leaders of an army to fight the forces of darkness in the apocalypse. This is the beginning of their journey to that very moment. Robin encounters a man who Elizabeth has foreseen who will forever change her life, but he isn’t quite human. On her way home from this shadowy encounter with this mysterious man she comes across something else in the lonely death of a cemetery. At this moment, little does she know who this creature is who she has witnessed crawling from a small crater in the ground, covered in soot and it is up to them to stop her, no matter what the cost.

And here is an excerpt just for you guys to get you hooked, to become part of the following:

I was swiftly taken through our home and my eyes were able to drift open long enough for me to see our kitchen doorway as I was laid on the kitchen island. I felt very large, warm hands on me that rolled me onto my side. One hand moved to my shoulder and gave a reassuring squeeze as I heard rummaging through a cabinet. I knew what was coming. A holy water shower, followed by a silver nitrate shot. This was going to hurt.

I heard glass moving around and knew Beth had found the bottles of holy water. I was already shaking because I knew what was coming. I had experienced this pain before. We both had, but she wasn’t the one who had almost burned the house down because of it.

Fear gripped me and my eyes shot open and met his. Beth laid a glass syringe and an amber glass bottle on the corner of the island next to the three bottles of holy water it would take for the process. She glanced at me when her eyes met mine I saw pity and concern. She knew exactly what I was about to endure, and she felt sorry for me. I half expected her not to be able to do it herself, but as she picked up one bottle of holy water she removed the lid and gave me a reassuring look. I turned onto my stomach and gripped both side of the island, and braced myself for what was going to happen next.
                
Beth held the bottle over the wounds and hesitated. I could see her arm shaking as well. She didn’t want to do this, but she had to. If she didn’t, I was going to turn and they would be my first victims. I’d kill myself before I let that happen. I would not be one of the monsters.
                
I looked her directly in the eyes and nodded, giving her the okay. It had to be done. I gripped the counter even harder and squeezed my eyes shut, holding my breath. Every muscle in my body tensed up, and she hadn’t even poured anything yet. Then I felt the first sting as a few drops landed on my skin, and I gripped the edges of the counter even harder. Those few drops weren’t as bad as the barrage of acid that was about to be poured onto me.
                
A river of holy water touched my skin and sizzled. I felt like acid was being poured onto me and I was able to stifle a few screams. The river stopped, and then another started. I couldn’t stop it this time. Screams of agony ripped through the air and filled every corner of the house. There was no way to fight it. It stopped again. I opened my eyes and Beth was standing there, holding the bottle but not daring to pour anymore. I gave her another nod and closed my eyes. She then poured the whole bottle and then moved onto bottle number two, then three. I was sweating and soaking wet and could barely breathe by the time that was done. Now came the worst part. The syringe full of silver nitrate.
                
I slowly sat up, wincing, and put my arm out, rolling up my sleeve so she could get to the veins at the bend of my elbow. She touched the very tip of the glass syringe to my skin, looked me in the eyes, and pushed it into the vein right at the surface. I cringed, but held still. I knew once she pushed the plunger down I wouldn’t be as retrained. The man grabbed my shoulders from behind.

She pushed the plunger all the way down and at first everything was okay, then I felt a sensation was starting to build. My veins were on fire and as the burning grew, a glow began in the center of my chest and began to spread through those veins. The pain grew with it. I couldn’t hold it back. My head rolled back and I shrieked, a demonic scream being released with it.
                
The pain was unbearable and my body felt as if it was on fire and I went limp. My vision went black, but I was still aware of what was happening. The man picked me up and I could hear Beth directing him on where to do. As he laid me on what I could only assume was a bed I felt the coolness of the sheets, which was more than welcome as far as I was concerned. I wandered off into unconsciousness again, and everything was gone.


Author Bio:

I am a Los Angeles native and moved to South Carolina with my grandparents seven years after my parent’s divorce. By the time I graduated from high school I was well known by my English teachers for my writing. Once in college, I took a creative writing class to obtain my AA in Psychology. My instructors loved all of my writing and even told me that I should invest more in it. This made me want to finally finish as much of my works as possible while submitting for publishing. I now live in a house in Spartanburg with my husband, step-son, and two cats named Cooper and Felix. I have now earned my BA in Psychology and am currently holding a 3.98 GPA. I also have high praise from a PR representative in Spartanburg who has also encouraged me to seek representation and publication. I am currently contracted with Permuted Press for four books, and I couldn’t be more excited about it. 

Links:

Monday, July 14, 2014

#Meatless Monday-Tabbouleh Salad

Photo courtesy of  cyclonebill via flickr
Creative Commons (CC) license
Now that summer is in full swing here's a great salad to try! If you're not familiar with it, bulgur is made from the groats of several different wheat species, most often from durum wheat. It's a whole grain and a good source of fiber and protein. If you wish this salad to be vegan, omit the feta cheese. Enjoy!

1-1/2 cups dry bulgur
2 cups boiling water
1-1/4 tsp. salt
2 tomatoes, diced
3/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 carrot, grated
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 small cucumber, diced
3 green onions, diced
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 clove garlic, diced
1/4 tsp black pepper
3-T olive oil
1-15 oz can garbanzo beans
8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

1. In a large bowl, mix bulgur, boiling water and salt. Cover and let sit for about 30 minutes allowing bulgur time to absorb the water.
2. In separate bowl, combine tomatoes, parsley, carrot, red bell pepper, cucumber and green onions.
3. Add lemon juice, garlic, pepper and olive oil to bulgur and mix well.
4. Add vegetables, feta cheese and drained garbanzo beans.
Refrigerate before serving

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Equal Rights Blog Hop-July 4th-11th

This blog hop is over and the winner of my contest has been notified by email (congrats Shirley!) Thank you so much for participating!

Hosted by Queer Town Abbey an online magazine and a social networking website, tailored specifically for the LGBTQ community and anyone who supports the rights of its members.

The theme of this blog hop is “Your first experience in the LGBTQ community”

I actually don't remember my first experience. I never had the challenge of coming out as LGBTQ to my family or my community. I'm not gay but was always involved in theatre and went to a high school of performing arts. The culture was there and I never thought anything of it. It wasn't until I hit my 20's that I started to realize being gay was an issue for some. I knew on some level that my gay friends struggled within the community but embarrassingly, I didn't realize how much. One incident brought that "knew on some level" to a more personal one. My friend Gabriel and I had gone out for a night of dancing and fun. At one particular club, a group of guys decided to beat Gabriel up for no reason other than he was gay. I'm not a fist fight kind of girl but I do stick up for my friends. And it got bad. I think that's when it truly hit home (in more ways than one) the struggle he faced as a gay man in a straight community. Not because of the physical fight but because of the emotional pain it caused him afterwards. Emotional pain he didn't deserve. 

I always try and think of the good that comes from a bad situation. What good came from this? (Other than my Doc Martins+Ballet background=Good kicks in a fight) Well, it made me more sensitive and less naïve. Just because I grew up accepting of people's sexuality didn't mean everyone felt the same way. I was unprepared for how violent people could be. I was unprepared for the aftermath. I was unprepared for how much rage I felt at how blatantly unfair the situation was. It's why I'm so vocal about LGBTQ rights today. It's why I'm raising kids who are aware of the struggles and how important it is for people to have equal rights.

I do hope you have a wonderful July 4th and beyond. July the 4th marks the celebration of Independence Day in the United States. Queer Town Abbey invites you to follow the blog hop and celebrate the LBGTQ march toward independence. Onto the blog hop and prizes...

My prize is an ecopy of my latest paranormal gothic horror:

STRUCK
by Clarissa Johal

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.


* To Enter Queer Town Abbey’s Giveaway *

Find the answer to this easy question from my post above: 
"What was the name of my friend?"

Leave the answer in the Rafflecopter widget below.


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If you're hopping please continue to the other participating blogs for a chance to win other author prizes!




Thursday, July 3, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday-My Interview with a (real) Vampire

On June 18th, I shared my thoughts on a recent MTV episode of True Life, Modern Age Vampires. I was contacted by the Queen of the Vampire Court of Austin who graciously offered me an interview. Please welcome Daley Catherine.

Q: How do you address the concept of immortality and how it applies to vampires?

A: Real vampires are by no means immortal as portrayed common mythology. Many of us age slower, get sick less often, and look much younger than our age. However, the only immortality we embrace is the legacy left behind once we leave this world, the imprint you leave on someone, or a change you created in the world/someone's life. That is true immortality. 

Q: The energy you require is more of a life force that people carry with them as opposed to blood. However, on MTVs True Life you do address vampires that drink blood. How do the two differ and what are your thoughts on that? 

A: There are 2 main types of feeding habits, blood feeding and energy feeding.The difference between feeding from someones life energy and feeding from blood could be compared to the difference between having a cup of coffee and eating some coffee beans. For me, blood is much more of a potent source of energy. Certain vampires may require this form over others, while some vampires prefer and require the life energy from the individual. 

Q: Explain the structure and hierarchy of the Vampire Court of Austin. Do you meet or have contact with other groups/courts? 

A:The VCA, despite certain terminology used, is mostly democratic. Every Vampire in this city has a voice and a time and place for that voice to be heard. We have a Council that will deliberate in order to ensure the will of our people and keep our relationships strong. Logan and myself run the court and have the most responsibility out of everyone. We are the faces of the court and organize meetings, events, and community outreach. We are also the ones who form alliances with other communities outside our own. We currently have a very strong alliance with both the Houston Vampire Court and the New Orleans Vampire Community. 

Q: In MTVs True Life episode, there seems to be a Code of Ethics in the vampire community. Can you outline/reiterate that for my readers? 

A: Certainly! The most important rule within our court is that there will be no feeding from an individual without their consent. This goes for both blood and energy feeders. Willing donors are required for direct feeding unless feeding from ambient energy like that of a concert or club. 

Q: There are many ideologies that don't "fit in" with mainstream--the umbrella term of Pagan comes to mind. Do you consider yourself a Pagan and/or vampirism to be a religion of sorts? 

A: While we have many Pagans within our court it has nothing to do with being a vampire. Vampirism is neither a religion or a choice. It is something one is born with and awakens to later in life. Our court has members of many different religions and faiths, from Pagan, Wiccan, and Buddist, to Christian, Catholic, and atheist. 

Q: You work in a veterinary clinic (or did when MTVs True Life was filmed). How do they and the clients feel about you being a vampire? 

A: I would say only a few of the clients knew I was a vampire (before the show aired anyways). It wasn't exactly something that came up in conversation while I was checking them and their pet into the clinic. The ones that did know, were very kind about it. Some had questions, others just accepted it. A small handful called me out on it while I was at work. We would get someone experienced in energy work or psychic readings in, and they could sense it on me immediately and would bring it up. My co-workers however, were very aware of what I was. I never hid it from them the entire 6 years I worked there. During the last few years of me working there, they were very supportive and accepting. 

Q: What advice would you give to people that feel they want to explore the concept of vampirism? 

A: The 2 things I recommend over all is research and self exploration. The #1 book I recommend on the subject is "Vampires in their own words" by Michelle Belanger. It is comprised of many different experiences from many different vampires throughout the world. No one can tell you what you are, that is why it is called an awakening. My advice is to research, meditate, try new things, question everything, and allow yourself to think outside the box and grow. Awakening can be both terrifying and amazing depending on how you see it.

Thank you for the interview, Daley!

You may contact Daley Catherine via Facebook
Facebook Page of The Vampire Court of Austin

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

#Paranormal Wednesday-Spontaneous Human Combustion

Photo courtesy of Dawn Hudson via PublicDomainPhotos.net
Cases of spontaneous human combustion (death from a fire originating without an external heat source) have been recorded for over a century. There are many hypotheses, both paranormal and scientific, but no definitive explanation as to why it happens. In most cases, bones have been completely turned to ash, burns are not evenly distributed but confined to the torso, the fire never spreads from the body, and a greasy soot deposit is left behind on the walls and floor.

Scientific Theories

External heat sources: 
1) The "wick effect." A small external flame source, such as a burning cigarette, chars the clothing of the victim, splitting the skin and releasing subcutaneous fat. The fat is absorbed into the burned clothing and acts as a wick. The human body has enough stored fat energy to fully combust--even lean people have several pounds of fat in their tissues.

2) Ball lightening, sunspots or cosmic storms

Ketosis: Alcoholism or low-carb dieting produces acetone which is highly flammable and theoretically could lead to spontaneous combustion.

Paranormal Theories

God's wrath 

Psychic disturbances: Famed anomalist Ivan T. Sanderson proposed that SHC might be a psychic phenomenon related to cases of severe depression or sedentary lifestyles

Poltergeists: Known to cause spontaneous outbreaks of fires, the psychokinetic activity is internalized

Negative entities: ie. ghosts, demons, or entities from other dimensions of reality. The Spiritual Research Foundation states that "attacks of spontaneous combustion by negative energies last between 5 seconds to 3 minutes" and "the reason a victim of spontaneous human combustion does not move to try to shout for help and put the fire out is because negative energies induce a paralytic state which results in the victim’s mind becoming blank and rendering the person unconscious."

Notable deaths

In March of 1997, 76-year-old John O'Connor was found dead in his living room in Gortaleen, Ireland. An intense and localized heat had left his head, upper torso and feet unburned. The chair in which he was sitting was untouched.

In 1980, 73-year-old Henry Thomas was found in the living room of his council house in South Wales. His entire body was incinerated, leaving only his skull and a portion of each trouser-clad leg below the knees. Only half the chair in which he had been sitting was destroyed. 
On September 13, 1967 a group of female office workers phoned the London Fire Brigade. They had noticed flickering blue flames visible through an upper window and presumed it was burning gas. The first fireman to the scene said: “When I got in through the window I found the body of a tramp named Bailey laying at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the second floor.(...) There was a four-inch slit in his abdomen from which was issuing, at force, a blue flame. (...) The fire was coming from within the abdomen of his body. (...) There’s no doubt whatsoever, that fire began inside the body.”

In December of 1966, the ashes of Dr. J. Irving Bentley, 92, of Coudersport, Pennsylvania, were discovered by a meter reader. Dr. Bentley's body apparently ignited while he was in the bathroom and burned a 2 by 3-foot hole through the flooring. Nearby paint was unscorched.

On May 18, 1957, the remains of 68-year-old Anna Martin were found by her son. She was completely burnt to ashes from waist to head. Fireman predicted that the temperature had to be at 1700-2000F⁰. Newspapers several feet away remained intact.

On September 20, 1938, in Chelmsford, England, a woman burst into flames in the middle of a crowded dance floor. No one was able to extinguish the blaze and within minutes she was a heap of ashes.

On July 30, 1937, a woman was paddling in a small boat with her husband and children. She was suddenly engulfed by flames and in a matter of moments was reduced to ashes. Her family and wooden boat were both untouched by the flames.

In order for a human being to be reduced to ash, temperatures of 3,000°F must be maintained. Even at 2,000°F for eight hours, bodies are not reduced to ash as seen in these cases. Some recorded incidents report the victim was ablaze for minutes to less than an hour--which leaves a mystery indeed. What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Tangled Tuesday-Guest Author Carol Browne

An Elf’s Lament Upon Leaving & Other Tales


BLURB

This little anthology of short stories and poems was originally published as an experiment. I had not been able to find a publisher for my novel and thought self-publishing on Kindle might be the way forward. First of all, I needed to try out the procedure, so I collected a number of stories and poems I had written over the years and put them all in an eBook.

I write about the things that interest me – animals, nature, magic, history, astrology – so there is no set theme for this anthology, but I do like my short stories to have a twist in the ending.

The poem I decided to open with, An Elf’s Lament Upon Leaving, gave me the idea for the title. The cover photograph was one I had taken myself back in the 1980s. I had always liked it and even suspected it might one day be perfect for a book cover. I wasn’t able to correctly format the text, however, although I’ve been told it makes no difference to its readability.

As for my novel, The Exile of Elindel, it did get accepted by a publisher after all.

EXCERPT

Martin found just the spell he needed. It was in a very old book, wedged among countless other volumes at the rear of the occult bookshop.
     
He pulled the book from its hiding-place. ‘Eight Ways to Magic’, proclaimed the title. The book cracked in protest, as Martin pried it open. His eyes flicked hungrily down the list of contents and widened as they reached Chapter Six – Love Spells.
     
Martin glanced warily around the shop, as though fearful of discovery, but, apart from an elderly lady squinting at a book on Flower Magic, he was quite alone. And the proprietor, a raw-boned man whose fuzz of grey hair ringed the summit of his skull like a helm-cloud, was engrossed in a book catalogue at the counter, his long nose like a spike of bone wearing spectacles.
     
Martin’s fingers fumbled their way through age-thickened pages until they reached Chapter Six. And there it was: spell number eight. How to attract the lover of your choice.
     
He closed the book, hugged it to his chest and made for the counter, his heart quickening with excitement.
     
Now, Debbie Starsmore, he thought, you shall be mine.

AUTHOR BIO

Carol Browne first appeared on the planet in 1954. She regards Crewe, Cheshire, as her home town and graduated from Nottingham University in 1976 with an honours degree in English Language and Literature. Now living in the Cambridgeshire countryside with her dog, Harry, and cockatiel, Sparky, when she’s not writing fiction, Carol spends her time as a housekeeper, proofreader, and ghost writer in order to pay the bills. Pagan and vegan, Carol believes it is time for a paradigm shift in our attitude to Mother Nature and hopes the days of speciesism are numbered. Carol's first novel 'The Exile of Elindel' was published by Musa Publishing on 18th April 2014. This eBook is part one of her fantasy series - The Elwardain Chronicles.

BUY LINKS (Elf’s Lament)

Amazon UK


My Review of Carol Browne's book

I had the pleasure of reading An Elf's Lament Upon Leaving and Other Tales. Here's my review:

★ 5 Stars 

Very atmospheric writing. The poetry is steeped in a love of nature, magic and mythology. The short stories hold interesting twists. No spoilers! The Boomerang Effect (dabbling with a love spell, Martin Nevis finds himself having second thoughts) A Force to Be Reckoned With (an outcast with thoughts of being "destined for something great" wants to join the police force) and Transformation (once bullied, Patricia attends a school reunion and emerges victorious) were my favorites.
Give this collection a read, you won't be disappointed.