Clarissa Johal: December 2014

Monday, December 22, 2014

On Vacation...but not really. #amediting

Happy holidays everyone! I'm enjoying it with my family. I'm also working through final edits of VOICES via my publisher and the final draft of THE ISLAND to submit to them. It's been a busy month! I'll be back on January 5th. Have a safe and happy holiday.




Here's a sneak peek at VOICES
A paranormal psychological horror
Coming from Permuted Press May 19, 2015.

**Cover art TBA


VOICES

Sometimes the ghosts from your past...are real

Moira Flynn is arrested for attacking a door-to-door solicitor with a knife. She claims a voice told her the man was intent on assaulting her. The trouble is, she was the only one that heard that voice. Moira strikes a plea bargain and is sent to a psychiatric hospital for voluntary treatment. Dr. Richard Cassano is hesitant to treat her as schizophrenic, as she does not show the standard symptoms. As their sessions progress, Moira confesses there are two voices—and they aren’t voices in her head, but the voices of ghosts. Are they imaginary? Or are they actual spirits, attached to her for reasons of their own? As Moira’s doctor uncovers more of her past, he begins to realize that her ghosts are real. And one of them is determined to drag Moira into the afterlife with him.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Frightening Friday-Storm Clouds Ripping Through My Eyes

Continuing with my flash fiction month. The photos this week are my own. I had the stories in my head when I took them. I watch clouds a lot, especially storm clouds. I find them mesmerizing.

Storm Clouds Ripping Through My Eyes

The movement began in the clouds. Nothing out of the ordinary. Little movements, like tendrils of smoke. It was only when you looked away that the tendrils coagulated into shapes and forms. Some were human-like and some...were more beastly. The beasts ran wild like horses. Their feet pounded the grey clouds like heartbeats. Their faces contorted into soundless screams as they reared their heads in tortured ferocity. The human-like figures ran behind them. Sky clad. Formed and unformed. A cacophony of darks and lights pressed together like clay.

And then...they fell from the sky. One by one, the shapes fell. They screamed and plummeted to earth. They swooped down upon those who had been unlucky enough to notice them.

But one held back. One. It was different than the others. It held a greater temperance. The others would fall upon whomever had noticed them. They would rip unfortunate souls to shreds and satiate their hunger without pausing to think.

But this One would wait.

A man lay dying in a field. The cloying smell of death lay over the area like a grasping hand. The field was soaked in the blood of many. The man's time had come.

It swooped down, a swirling mass of black, white and grey. Descending upon him, it triumphantly captured the man's last breath. Whether it was a breath of relief or a breath of loss didn't matter to it. It had waited. It could return to the clouds. The others would be forced to satiate their hunger. But it? It would be free, once more.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday-Behind the Door

Continuing with my flash fiction month, the photos this week are my own. I had the stories in my head when I took them.

Behind the Door

The door knob rattled. It was a worn-out skeletal sound, like the knob had been rattled many, many times before.

She reached for it, unsure whether she should commit to seeing what lay on the other side. It would be easy to walk away and pretend she'd never seen or heard the door knob move at all. There was nobody around, after all. Nobody to call her a scaredy-cat. Nobody to make fun. She could simply...walk away.

Except she couldn't. She was too curious. The door knob continued to rattle, the seductive sound echoing in her head. It was as if something was trying to tempt and draw her in. As if it dared her to see what lay on the other side. But I've been on the other side, she thought. And there was nothing there. 

She grabbed the knob and the rattling stopped. The metal was cold in her hand. Cold and still. What now? She contemplated opening the door quickly--kind of like ripping off a band-aide. Or maybe she'd open it slowly--like the many times she'd opened cupboards in the house she'd left behind. She was never one to do things slowly. Turning the knob with finality, she yanked open the door.

The ghost was unprepared for the bright light that lay behind it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

#Paranormal Wednesday-Cottage of Butterfly Wings

Continuing with my flash fiction month... The photos this week are my own--I had the stories in my head when I took them. I took this particular photo in a cottage we stayed at in Cumbria, England. The cottage had been built in 1693 and I fell in love with it. As to the photo--I found the butterfly in a closed-up larder. Initially, I thought the butterfly was dead. My daughter poked at it and the poor thing flopped this way and that, seemingly lifeless. But for some reason (I'm actually afraid of butterflies) I felt compelled to keep checking on it. By the next day, it started to move and I opened the window and let it out. A strange miracle, I guess.


Cottage of Butterfly Wings

The butterfly lay dead on the window sill. The room had been closed up for some time. It had taken all her effort to open the door, and she was greeted with a small, empty space made of stone. A single, closed window overlooked the garden. The stone was cold under her hands and the dead butterfly lay upon it.

She had listened to the desperation in the woman's voice for the past hour. Forgotten but still present, the voice echoed throughout the cottage, sticking in the corners like residue. Flashes of the woman's life had come to her: once in the garden (it was bitterly cold that winter) once in the bedroom (her domain, choose the other room to sleep in) and the strongest one at the back door (Mary? Where are you, child? Mary!).  The strongest one bothered her the most.

The woman's ghostly presence had been persistent. It had lingered alongside of her as she moved from room to room. Do not disturb my things. This is my house, not yours. Once she reached the back door, the screaming would start again. Mary? Where are you, child? Mary!  The woman would forget her altogether, caught up in her own desperation.

The butterfly remained lifeless and she halfheartedly poked at it. She suspected the child had drowned, though there were no ponds or streams around that she knew of. The child had long, blonde hair. She liked to run and play in the sunshine. She was always laughing and getting into things. She wore a long, white dress and leather shoes. These thoughts came to her like heartbeats.

The space around her became silent. The woman wanted her to remember. Remember the child I lost.

She blew on the butterfly's wings and the insect began to stir.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tangled Tuesday-What Gets Left Behind

Continuing with my flash fiction month, the photos this week are my own. I had the stories in my head when I took them. I went inside this abandoned building after I took the photo. It pretty much contained what my character found...with the exception of a thing or two.


What Gets Left Behind

The place was an eyesore. Abandoned, the only thing the building was good for was housing drunks and prostitutes. It stood for the past thirteen years on her father's property. Now that he was gone, she had every intention of leveling it.

She picked her way through the refuse, kicking aside the empty beer bottles, used condoms and needles. Her father always made her promise to stay away from this place. Even on his death bed. Now she could see why. Not only was it cluttered with the darker side of human nature, it smelled like something had died.

She spied a dark form huddled in the corner. Crap. Thinking it was a transient, she started to tell him to leave. Before the words could pass her lips, the form dissolved to the ground. She blinked. Must be a trick of the light. Suddenly, a form darted to the other side of the room. Her heart raced. What the hell? A cat? No cat moved like that. As a matter of fact, no animal she could think of moved like that. Quick. Fluid. Without gait.

The chain of her necklace slid along the back of her neck. Whipping around, she faced nothing. Her breath quickened. Calm down. She turned back, her gaze searching the room. A small noise like a whisper arose from the corner. Taking a quick step backwards, she caught her foot on the handle of a shovel and tripped. The darkness slid to the other corner. Hair stood on the back of her neck. Her eyes watered. That wasn't right. Nothing moved like that. Nothing from this world, her thoughts warned. Get out of here. Now.

Backing away slowly, she kept her attention fastened on the corner. She could see whatever it was, still huddled there. It was watching her. Gauging her movements. Waiting for her to drop her guard. Which I have no intention of doing, she thought. One move and I'll run so fast, you'll be eating my dust. And trust me, I can run pretty damn fast if I'm scared enough. Her stomach churned. And I'm pretty fucking scared right now.

Little did she know while backing away...that there were two of them.
And the other one was right behind her.

Monday, December 15, 2014

#MeatlessMonday-Versatile #Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

Photo courtesy of Amber Karnes via Flickr
This recipe is versatile because the vegetables can be adjusted to what you like or what you've got "on hand." It may seem like a complicated recipe but it's actually easy: make your mashed potatoes and set aside, saute veggies of choice, mix in the gravy with the veggies, top the veggie mixture with the mashed potatoes and bake. Enjoy! 

Versatile Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie


Mashed potato layer:

1-1/2 lbs (about 6 potatoes) Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon milk (or more)

1/2 cup Cheddar cheese

Directions:

Place the potatoes in a pot, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to medium-low, and boil the potatoes until tender, about 25 minutes; drain.
Stir in cream, butter and salt. Mash with a potato masher, adding the milk, until smooth and fluffy. Set the potatoes aside. 
Cheddar cheese will be used as topping later.

Vegetable layer:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 teaspoon basil
1 clove garlic, minced, or more to taste
1 tsp ground black pepper

6 cups of chopped fresh vegetables of your choice.
Some to consider are: mushrooms, carrots, corn, celery, green beans, zucchini or squash of any kind, red peppers, green peppers, parsnips, peas, and/or spinach. 

Directions

Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, basil, garlic, pepper and sliced vegetables of choice. Cook until vegetables are softened but not overdone. 

Vegetarian gravy:

6 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped onions
2 tablespoons finely chopped mushrooms
2 minced garlic cloves
3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 cup water
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp basil

Directions

1. Saute the onions, mushrooms and garlic with the butter.
3. Make a roux by gradually adding the flour. Make sure you continuously whisk to avoid lumps!
4. Still whisking, add soy sauce and water to the mixture.
5. Add salt and pepper and cook until it reaches the desired thickness.

Add to vegetable mixture

To assemble: 

Preheat oven to 400F and spray a 15x10 glass baking dish (or 3-qt casserole dish) with cooking spray.
Spread bottom layer mixture into the the baking dish and top with the mashed potatoes, smoothing them into an even layer. 

Sprinkle the potatoes with 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese.

Bake in the preheated oven until the cheese is melted and slightly browned and the casserole is hot, about 20 minutes.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Free today via Musa Publishing - STRUCK by Clarissa Johal

In celebration of the Twelve Days of Christmas, STRUCK is free on December 13th via Musa Publishing. Grab your copy!

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.

5-star reviews from Lovely ReadsStraight from the Library and Bex'n;Books.
4-star review from Bibliophilic Book Blog



Friday, December 12, 2014

Frightening Friday-Kentucky Fried Revenge

The photos this week are my own. I had the stories in my head when I took them. This one was a bit silly but here goes...

Kentucky Fried Revenge

He liked chickens. He liked them better fried but he didn't mind when they strutted about making chicken noises either. The sound was kind of relaxing. But what had woken him wasn't relaxing. What had woken him sounded like a fox or a coyote getting into his hen house.

One of the chickens plucked its way towards him and began pecking at his slipper.

"Knock it off." He nudged it away with his toe. "Bird! Knock it off."

The lone chicken was followed by several of its brethren. Clustering around his feet, they too, began to peck at his slippers. And it hurt. He was wearing velvet slippers his grandma had bought him. Nice slippers but they did little to ward off sharp beaks. He stepped away from the flock.

Shining his flashlight into the darkness, he couldn't see any sign of a predator. "Scared it off, did you?" He glanced at the flock of chickens, all lined in a row and facing him. It was probably a trick of his flashlight but their eyes were glowing. Frowning, he shone the light directly on them. The chickens scattered like roaches.

He followed their trails to the edges of the chicken pen. The coop fence had been damaged. Tufts of fur scattered the area.  It looked like something had been dragged through the gap, and it wasn't one of his chickens. Blood and fur clung to the wiring.

"What the hell?" The chickens huddled in the corners, shying away from his light. "What's gotten into you birds?" He shone the flashlight directly on one. It lunged at him, its beak opening in a soundless shriek. "Back off, bird!" The man kicked at it. The chicken lunged again.

One by one, the other chickens turned towards him. This time, there was no mistake, their eyes were glowing red. They came towards him as a flock, hissing.

He fell with a cry and landed flat on his back. The flock descended upon him, their beaks sharp and unforgiving.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday-Do Angels Bite Their Nails?

The photos this week are my own. I had the stories in my head when I took them. Enjoy!


Do Angels Bite Their Nails?

The graveyard was still and silent.

"I don't know what to do." He wrung his hands fitfully. Then stop, his inner voice argued. Your time has passed.

Jumping over grave markers, she ran through the cemetery. She stayed in the shadows, dodging the dappled sunshine. Twirling in ecstasy, the young woman laughed up at the blue sky. Her attention was captured by a bouquet of white lilies. Plucking them from the gravestone's stone urn, she scattered the flowers across another marker.

Wild as she was, he couldn't deny a part of him hoped she'd never change. He chastised himself for his weakness. "Why did you do that?"

Her look of surprise was quickly replaced to one of defiance. "The other had the flowers long enough." Turning her back on him, she continued up the hill.

"Where are you going?"

"To the top of the hill."

"I can see that," he said, wringing his hands. "There's nothing up there."

"I'm up there," she replied. "Are you calling me nothing?"

He ignored her remark. "You're not supposed to be out, you know."

"They can't keep me trapped forever." She glanced back at him, a mischievous sparkle in her eye. "I know how to get out."

They stood next to each other and took in the view. The hill overlooked a pastoral valley dotted with trees. The slope dipped steeply and ran into shadows below.

"I'm going to run as fast as I can," her voice echoed.

He grabbed her arm. "No you're not."

"I am." She shook him off. "And you can't stop me."

He watched her tear down the hill. Faster and faster she ran until her feet couldn't keep up with her velocity. She tripped and tumbled, a tangle of red hair and hospital gown, until she landed in a broken heap. If he could have uttered a curse and gotten away with it, he would have.

She stepped away from her body before he could reach her. The sparkle was gone from her eyes. Ghostly traces of defiance trickled away like sunlight.

"I-I tried." His sense of failure weighed heavily upon his shoulders.

"You couldn't stop me then and you can't now," she said to him, her expression serious. "We need to stop doing this."

"I can't." He watched her body dissolve into nothingness.

***
The graveyard was still and silent.

"I don't know what to do." He wrung his hands fitfully. Then stop, his inner voice argued. Your time has passed.

Jumping over grave markers, she ran through the cemetery...


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

#Paranormal Wednesday-Phone Box of the Dead

The photos this week are my own. I had the stories in my head when I took them. This particular story came to me complete with music. Hit play (down at the bottom) and read on...


Phone Box of the Dead

The door wouldn't budge. Desperate, she pounded on it. Peering down the empty alleyway, she was doubtful anyone would be coming by soon. It was late and the shops had been closed for hours. Outside the phone box, the night was still.

She rooted in her purse for a coin and came up empty-handed. "Figures," she murmured.  She could call 999. But this hardly ranked as an emergency, the door to the phone box was merely stuck. She pushed on it again to no avail. An icy breeze slipped through the cracks, chilling her to the core. Her breath plumed in the night air.

A distant sound of music broke the silence. Mournful, the music threaded its way down the alleyway.

Pressing against the glass, she tried to see where the music was coming from. Maybe a car or someone's iPhone?  "Hello?" she called. Thank God. I thought I'd be trapped here all night.

The movement began far at the end of the dark alleyway. Mere glimpses at first; the curl of a fingertip and the flash of pale skin. But slowly, the movement coagulated into something tangible. A form emerged from the darkness like a moth from its cocoon, followed by another, and another. Moving in slow motion, they drifted with the music in an unspoken unity.

Bare feet skimmed over puddles of rain, leaving not a trace. Vestiges of cloaks, tattered like spiderwebs, clung to what was left of their ghostly bodies. The music increased in tempo. The procession danced in joyless abandon as they continued past her, their faces contorted in sadness and despair.

"What the hell?" she murmured.

A tall, shadowed figure trailed in their wake. Gently guiding those that strayed off the path, he seemed to be herding them towards their destination.

She backed up as far as she could inside the phone box. Hoping the door remained stuck, she jammed it shut with her foot. He didn't seem to notice her, at least she didn't think he did. The others continued in their unearthly procession. The icy breeze continued to blow through the cracks of the phone box, bringing with it the smell of stone, decay and ashes.

The tall figure's stride was seemingly pensive. Shadows curled around his feet like smoke. His cloak dragged behind him with a tangible heaviness. Walking past the phone box, he kept his distance.

She was about to breathe a sigh of relief...when he suddenly turned to face her.


The Music



Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Tangled Tuesday-Faerie Ring

The photos this week are my own. I had the stories in my head when I took them. Enjoy!

Faerie Ring

She lay on her stomach and contemplated the mushroom. It was only one, she reasoned. There were so many of them. The faerie ring would still be a ring, regardless of what the man had warned.

Inhaling its scent again, she wondered if it was edible. She knew all the varieties that grew in the forest; which ones were poisonous and which ones weren't. These were unlike any she had come across. They smelled different. Not earthy like most mushrooms--but like wildflowers, sunshine and honey. Like magic.

It was only one...

Holding her breath, she plucked the mushroom from the ground. Dirt clung to the bottom of the stem and she brushed it off. The mushroom was flawless and beautiful, its scent like a heady perfume. "See?" she breathed. "Nothing happened. The man was making a fool of you."

The mushroom turned black and withered in her fingertips. Its scent changed from one of summer breezes...to one of death.

Tossing it aside, she sat up, her heart racing. Trepidation pricked at her insides. Grabbing a handful of pine needles, she covered the blight she'd left in the dirt. Her gaze darted around the ring. She tried to ignore the gap and couldn't. The ring was broken now. The mushrooms grew in a perfect circle until you reached the place she'd defiled. What had the man said? Break the ring and betwixt you'll be. Betwixt what? Just thinking about it gave her a headache. In fact, her head was throbbing quite painfully. She closed her eyes to ward off an onslaught of dizziness.

Falling onto her back, she looked up at what had been a blue sky mere moments ago. She was unprepared for the darkness that enshrouded her.

Monday, December 8, 2014

#MeatlessMonday-Earl Grey Tea Shortbread

Photo courtesy of t&t bild(A)welt via Flickr
Starting on Tangled Tuesday, I'll post another week of short stories-- a gift from me to you. Happy Holidays!

I'll share a shortbread recipe today. You can substitute any tea leaves but Earl Grey has that nice scent of bergamot. Make sure you grind the leaves well--a mortar and pestle works best. Enjoy!

Earl Grey Tea Shortbread

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp salt
1-T Earl Grey tea leaves, ground
1 cup flour, sifted

Preheat oven to 325F

Lightly butter 8 inch round pan
Beat butter with electric mixer until light in color, about 1 minute
Gradually mix in sugar, salt and tea leaves. Mix in flour until just combined

Press dough into pan. If desired, sprinkle with sugar and make patterns with a fork before baking.

Bake 30 minutes
Cut into 12 wedges

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Frightening Friday-Doll Parts, A Christmas Story

Continuing with my "photo-inspired" short story week...


Photo courtesy of Moyan_Brenn via Flickr
Doll Parts, A Christmas Story

"I think you'll like this piece." The shopkeeper led Nick into the dark recesses of the antique store. "It was from an estate sale. Took us forever to find the key for the cabinet. It was in a sealed vase. Even so, we never could get the lock to open."

He pulled a threadbare quilt aside. A worn, wooden cabinet stood. Inside the cabinet, was a plethora of dolls. Naked bodies were missing their appendages; the ripped-off arms and legs in savage disarray. Eyes stared lifelessly through the glass. Tufts of hair littered the corners. Plastic skin had been flayed from several skeletal structures. It was if the dolls had been cast aside by some masochist child. Or they had been stacked and put on display; the unfortunate trophies of a serial killer.

"My wife says it's 'objet d'art.' "  The shopkeeper gave a tired shrug.  "I think it was just someone's collection. But they'd be a good start if you're looking for toys to fix and resell."

"Not resell," Nick corrected. "To give away as gifts."

There was a small rustle from within the cabinet. The doll heads turned to face him, their lips moving in a silent plea. Let us out, Nick. Let us out.

Nick stepped back, his thoughts in disarray. The doll parts continued to twitch and shudder. Bent legs kicked at an invisible assailant. Clasping fingers were frozen in supplication.

"Did you want to try the key yourself?" The shopkeeper reached into the pocket of his over-sized sweater. "Maybe you can get it to work."

"No." His strangled reply barely escaped his lips.

Let us out, Nick. The glass on the cabinet shook, as if the dolls were seeking escape. Please!

Nick glanced at the shopkeeper, who seemed unmoved by their pleas. Maybe he doesn't see. But how can that be? He's looking right at them. 

Only you can see, Nick. The doll's child-like voices whispered desperately against the glass. Their torsos shifted, spines twisting this-way-and-that. Dismembered arms and legs rolled to the sides. Fingers scratched against the wood of the cabinet in an attempt to escape. Let us out. 

"You seem like you're a nice guy." The shopkeeper pursed his lips thoughtfully as he eyed the cabinet. "Let's say...fifty even. Clean them up, snap them back together, a little plaster to cover the damage. Good as new."

Nick turned and fled. The doll voices followed him, worming their way into his brain like beetles.

Thoughtful Thursday-Wildflowers

Continuing with flash fiction based on photo inspiration...
A peek into something biggermost likely, they will come together as a full-length book later. Enjoy!


Photo courtesy of Neal. via Flickr
Wildflowers

It was the wishing that kept her alive.

She lay in a field of wildflowers. Plucking a petal from one, she flicked it away. “He loves me.” She plucked another, crushing its soft smoothness between her thumb and forefinger. “He loves me not.” She rolled over onto her side. Her hair, once secured around the crown of her head, was now tangled with leaves and trailed in a loose braid.

He appeared seemingly from nowhere; walking through the field and crushing wildflowers under his boots. Dressed in black from head-to-toe, his crisp, white button-up shirt stood in stark contrast. He looked as if he were off to a wedding. Or a funeral.

“What are you doing out here all alone?” Removing his top hat, he dusted it across his knee. Long, dark hair blew in the breeze.

“I’m lying here.” She didn't bother keeping the resentment from her voice. He was not the first to disturb her peace, though this one hadn't come the same way the others had.

“I can see that.” His eyes flashed annoyance. “You're in my field.”

“It isn't your field. ‘Tis mine. I've been here longer than you've crossed it.”

“Indeed?” 

She studied his clothing and demeanor; a curious mixture of old and new.

“Well, then. I apologize.” A bemused smile traced his lips. “Perhaps we may share?”

She sat up, the lace trim at the neck of her dress suddenly binding. “Perhaps.”

He settled beside her, long-legged and taking up what seemed like the last available space. “I didn't expect to see anyone else.”

“Nor did I.” She couldn't stop her gaze from travelling up to his face. It was an interesting face. Dark eyes, made to appear darker by the eyeliner he was wearing. A proud nose. Well-shaped lips. A silver ring hung from one of his earlobes. Only one. It matched the silver buttons along his black velvet coat. She gathered her long skirts closer.

“I started to turn back…” His gaze slid towards the line of trees. “But then I saw you from the woods.”

She caught the confusion on his brow. “There is but one path from here.”
It was the wishing that kept her alive.

He turned his attention to her face. “Seems a lonely path.” 

“I suppose it is…for some.”

“Will you walk it with me?” 

She worried her long braid and dropped her gaze.  “I am not ready to leave.”

"Neither was I," he replied. “I suppose we shall sit here and take in the scenery until we're both ready.”

“I suppose we shall.” The crushed petal she held between her thumb and forefinger slipped away like an afterthought. 

The wildflower-scattered graveyard once held headstones. They had crumbled to dust long ago, the dead now forgotten.

It was the wishing that kept them alive.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

#Paranormal Wednesday-The Whispering Woods

I found this photo last month while looking for one of Irish Colcannon. The photo stuck in my head and is included in my week of photo-inspired flash fiction. Again, think of these as a peek into something bigger. Most likely, they will come together as a full-length book. Enjoy!


The Whispering Woods
Photo courtesy of Davi Ozolin via Flickr

The darkness was like a veil.

Slipping her feet from the bed covers, she winced as the lace from the hem of her nightgown scratched her ankles. She sat and listened. A barely audible whisper drifted from the open window. It was almost as if it was calling to her. The cottage was otherwise silent and still, the embers from the evening fire still burning in the fireplace.

She searched for her woolen cloak and found it dumped unceremoniously on the floor. Draping it over her shoulders, she fastened it. The sound started again and she froze, waiting for it to dissipate. Quickly slipping her bare feet into well-worn leather boots, she struggled to light the candle beside her bed.

The night held the impending breath of winter. A breeze slid through near-bare branches, stripping them of their leaves and stirring complaints. A full moon shone overhead, surrounded by a luminous fairy ring. Stars dotted an otherwise inky sky.

Following the now-distant sound, she made her way through the thicket of trees. Forest animals darted from her path, startled from their nocturnal activities. Her feet made shushing sounds through leaves that scattered the forest floor. She held the candle in front of her. Wax spilled onto her fingertips. The candle's flame hesitated before it went out with a puff.

An unattended fire burned in a clearing. Its flames licked up into the star-dotted sky. The burning wood crackled with delight. The fire's fevered intensity beckoned to her. She made her way towards it, if only to warm her icy hands before deciding if she should return to her cottage.

A whisper sounded from behind her. She whipped around, searching the forest with her gaze. The glow from the firelight rendered her blind.

Silence. The forest was still, almost as if it too, was holding it's breath.

She stepped from the comfort of the fire. Little by little, her eyes became accustomed to the darkness. The whisper started again. Two green spots flashed, like eyes. Startled, she suddenly felt the presence behind her.

It was the last thing she remembered.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Tangled Tuesday-Something About the Trees

This week, I'll be writing flash fiction based on photo inspiration. Think of them as a peek into something bigger. Most likely, they will come together as a full-length book later.  Enjoy!


Photo courtesy of Tijs Zwinkels via Flickr
Something About the Trees

She placed her hands on the trunk. A warmth emanated from the tree. It was a welcome warmth and she took comfort in it. Shivering and lost, she had spent the past few hours wondering if she would ever find her way out of the forest. The tree smelled good too. Not like oak or the green moss that veiled its trunk, but something else she couldn't define. She lay her cheek against its rough bark.

Someone was trapped inside the tree. 

The feeling hit hard and she pulled back. Her heart sped up. "That's ridiculous," she said aloud. "How can someone be trapped inside a tree?" Tentative, she scratched at the moss with her fingernail. It came away in a chunk and left a raw spot.

Suddenly, she heard a voice. She froze. Her stomach went in knots. The forest was silent except for the sound of her own breathing. That wasn't a voice, her thoughts chattered. That was somebody else's thoughts. 

"You've been wandering for too long," she whispered. "You're starting to hallucinate." She took a step back, unsure of what to do. The desperate plea started again, assailing her brain. And it was coming from within the tree.  My God, I have to get him out. "Hello?" She hit the trunk with her fist.

A bitter wind invaded the forest. Leaves sliced down from the branches overhead. Brushing against her bare arms, they left a trail of blood. Her blood.

She stared at the wounds, confused. Blood trickled down her arms and along her fingertips. The ground was splashed with crimson.

The pleading stopped.

Backing up, she tripped and fell over the roots that undulated from the forest floor. Her breath came in gasps as she scrambled to her feet. More leaves rained down on her, slicing through her skin like knives. The trees seemed to close in on her eagerly.

She was certain of two things; the man in the tree had been there for quite some time...and he wasn't the only one.

Monday, December 1, 2014

#MeatlessMonday-Roasted Mushroom Vegetable Stock

Update on Tofurky. I decided to follow the instructions on the package for my first experiment with this food. There are recipes out there, including the one I posted last week, which may have made a difference. My unbiased vegetarian opinion:

-It tastes like plain seitan--which you can make at home much cheaper and better tasting.
-Kind of dry. I added some vegetarian gravy and it was "just okay,"
-Doesn't taste like turkey. I have no idea why it's called Tofurky (other than the fact it has some pretty good stuffing inside).
-There are better protein substitutes/meat alternatives out there for $8/pound.

***

Keeping it basic today. With the holidays coming, here's a good veggie stock to make and freeze in batches. Feel free to add extra vegetables of choice to this recipe. Can be used for soups, gravies and sauces.

Photo courtesy of Veganbaking.net via Flickr
Roasted Mushroom Vegetable Stock

2 onions, sliced
2 carrots, sliced
3 stalks celery, sliced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
1/8 cup yeast flakes

Preheat oven 450F

Coat shallow baking dish with olive oil. Add sliced onions, celery, carrots and garlic. Top with salt and pepper.

Roast uncovered in 450F oven for 15 minutes. Add mushrooms and stir and roast for 15 minutes longer.

Transfer to a large stock pot and add 3-1/2 cups cold water.

Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer uncovered for 1-1/2 hours. Strain and add yeast flakes.

Yields 2-1/2 cups broth