Clarissa Johal: March 2015

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tangled Tuesday-Book Bloggers and Reviewers Who Steal

Photo courtesy of Paul J Coles via Flickr
The title says it all but let me clarify. Two scenarios:

One) A book blogger or review site advertises something like this: "Fill out the form, send us your book, and we will post a review."

Two) A book blogger or review site signs up for a tour, receives a free copy of your book with the understanding they are to read, review and post in their blog.

Outcome of Scenario One and Two: Nothing. No review. No further contact. Crickets chirping. Snow falling. The sound of breezes blowing through empty pages. You get it.

Most book bloggers and reviewers are quite upfront. Some will go ahead and post the review whether it's good or bad.  Others won't review the book if they don't like it and email the author with an explanation. That's completely fair.  I'm talking about the ones who take your book...and then fade into the woodwork. Yeah, they suck. It takes little effort to send out an email stating, "I'm sorry, I couldn't finish your book because I had to walk the dog. Because my house was destroyed in a fire. Because I had to boink the milkman. Because I'm a kleptomaniac and couldn't help myself." See how easy that was? No hurt feelings, no harm done. Both reviewer and author can move on.

What's an author to do? Too many authors are afraid to follow up for fear their books will be trashed via social media in retaliation. So they let it go. The "reviewers" get a free book and go on their merry way. Which makes them no better than the pirating sites authors rage against.

Let me just clarify what goes into "writing a book" for those who aren't authors:

In my case, writing a book takes a year of hard work. We're talking more than 40 hours a week with no pay. After I finish the book, it may take me up to nine months to query and be accepted by a publisher. After that, it may take up to another year for the publisher to edit and release the book on their schedule. I get paid when I sell the book--and even then, royalties (per book) are less than a $ cup of coffee. When someone steals my book, either by pirating or agreeing to read/review and then not doing so, quite honestly--it pisses me off. Do I go into their homes and steal from them? No, I don't. Maybe I should. "Dear, So-and-So, I thought your cat looked intriguing, so I decided to take him. I'm sure you won't mind." Oh wait. That would be leaving a note. Okay, strike that. No note. No explanation. I'll just steal your cat. I like cats and only have three so...

Recently, I searched for a blog or site where you can report book bloggers/reviewers who habitually steal books. You want to know what I found? Nothing. Authors are either too afraid to make a fuss or write it off and shrug their shoulders. We get screwed over by 'bad' publishers, why shouldn't we get screwed over by 'bad' book reviewers? We've come to expect it. But guess what? Authors talk. If you're one of these people, you will get a reputation. Authors can be devious. We spend half our time of the internet. We will find a way to destroy you. Okay, that may be overly dramatic.

But we will.


Monday, March 30, 2015

#MeatlessMonday - Orzo Salad with Feta and Cherry Tomatoes

Photo courtesy of joannova via Flickr
Orzo Salad with Feta and Cherry Tomatoes  

Ingredients:

8 ounces orzo pasta
1 pint red cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 pint yellow cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1/4 cup olive oil
8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1 large cucumber, peeled and chopped
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Black pepper to taste


Bring a pot of water to boil. Add the orzo and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes until al dente. Drain the pasta and rinse with cold water.

Toss the pasta with the olive oil in a large bowl. 

Add sliced tomatoes, feta cheese, cucumber, green onions, parsley, lemon juice, and black pepper. 

Chill through and serve.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Thoughtful Thursday - Rite of Spring

Ah, spring! The time when all the trees in our neighborhood pop like popcorn. The time when the chill in the air becomes tinged with the most melancholy of breezes. The time my favorite oak struggles to make a comeback from icy vestiges of winter--and the Magnolia tree we planted in memory of our dog Oberon, blooms.

I always do something special to mark the seasons. The "something special" changes from year-to-year, but marking the season in a reverent way is important to me. This Spring Equinox weekend, I decided to have a go at making myself a resin ring. I've never made resin jewelry before (I'm not crafty) but saw this via Faerie Magazine. Cool, isn't it? I thought it was a ring when I first saw the picture, but turns out it was a bracelet--and one I couldn't afford. The design stuck with me, but the price...maybe I could make it? I did some research, bought a silicone ring mold, resin and release spray, and...they sat on my counter top for the next few weeks. Enter Spring Equinox weekend. Perfect timing! I gathered some greenery from the base of my oak tree, mixed it with the resin, poured the mess into a silicone ring mold--and voila!

My Rite of Spring ring.

It was very difficult to get the tiny bits of plant matter into the tiny mold. Unfortunately, it turned out cloudy! I read that if your materials are damp (my plant matter wasn't dried or sealed) it can react with the resin. I will definitely be trying this again--next time, with just moss and clover because the dandelion doesn't work for me. Perhaps I'll get it right by the Summer Solstice.


Follow up: Spring Ring #2




Wednesday, March 25, 2015

#Paranormal Wednesday - Fauns and Nature Spirits

Photo courtesy of daniel.stark via Flickr
In Greek mythology, fauns were associated with the god Pan. Fauns were connected to nature, particularly the forest, and reputed to be quite unpredictable. Travelers were said to encounter these spirits in lonely, wild or remote places. Depending on their mood, fauns could either be helpful or a hindrance.

Some feel fauns transcend the mythological horned and goat-legged creatures. Fauns have also been equated with unseen nature spirits. Such deities are present in many cultures. They are effectively the “living soul” of a tree or place. These spirits are thought to be otherworldly, often glimpsed in a darkened wood or flash of sunlight through the forest canopy. Nature spirits are said to act as the guardians and life force of an area. They are not necessarily bound to one spot, but can venture a short distance away. Legends tell of people becoming unsettled in certain forests at night. It is said that nature spirits roam those woods, searching for unwary travelers.

Happy Spring, everyone. Enjoy that walk in the woods...


Monday, March 23, 2015

#MeatlessMonday - Lime-Glazed Cookies

Happy Spring! Thought I'd start the week off with some cookies. Enjoy!

Photo courtesy of nsdis via Flickr
Lime-Glazed Cookies

Ingredients

2 teaspoons lime juice
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons lime zest
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Combine the 2 teaspoons of lime juice with the milk. Let stand for 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and 3/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then stir in the lime zest and milk mixture.
Combine the flour, baking powder and baking soda and blend into the creamed mixture. 
Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto the ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until the edges are light brown.
To make the glaze, stir together the remaining lime juice and sugar. Brush onto cooled cookies.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Thoughtful Thursday - Church for Sale

Photo reposted from Smithsgore
My husband came across this church for sale last weekend. It's no longer used as a church, so for £70,000, you can own a grade II property north of Yorkshire Dales and turn it into whatever you wish.

Knowing how much I love this particular area of England, my husband "jokingly" asked if we should buy it and move. He's a British citizen and I've mentioned (more than once) if he were to ever considered moving back, he'd hear no protests from me.

Usually, I find churches contain too much residual energy to consider living in one. And while I'm not particularly religious, the thought of turning a church into residential property seems disrespectful. But this one calls to me. Why? Because I'm working on a novel with an abandoned church as a key component. It's located in a pasture just like this one...in the heart of Yorkshire Dales. My husband didn't know that, by the way.  He knows I'm working on a new book, but I never tell him details until the book is "done." So literally, it's as if someone plucked the church from my brain and put it up for sale. Coincidence? Most likely.

I have to say however, the place intrigues me.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

#Paranormal Wednesday - Little Ghost Stories: Part Two

Photo courtesy of Jose M Vazquez via Flickr
Welcome to part two of my Little Ghost Stories. Because of Musa Publishing closing its doors (and consequently, its blog) you may see a couple of recycled Musa blog posts this week. This is one of them. I've gone into greater detail on this particular one because I don't have space/word count constraints in my blog.


Little Ghost Stories: Part Two

I grew up moving yearly. My step-dad was always in search of the "perfect" teaching job, which didn't afford us the stability of a white-picket fence kind of life. In one particular instance, I remember being relegated to a walk-in closet as my bedroom because that's all we could afford. I suppose it has given me issues, but my parents did the best they could. Most of our rentals were older places, and with these older places, came a ghost or two. It's something I learned to accept. A new rental meant a new "something" to coexist with--and sometimes they weren't so nice. This experience is one of many. You can believe me or not, it's totally up to you.

When I was 13-years-old, my parents rented an older house near the woods. It had a garden, a tree-house, a large yard to do cartwheels in—everything a kid could want. It also had ghosts. I would lay awake for hours and watch a white cat walk through my bedroom wall. Over and over again. No explanation for that, it just was. During the day, and out of the corner of my eye, I would see an old lady. She would follow me down the stairs to the playroom and back up again. She would follow me into my bedroom. Sometimes, I would see her in the living room, sitting in my mom’s rocking chair. I wasn't afraid, she was something I came to accept. Out in my tree-house, there was another presence. It wasn't the old lady and it wasn't the cat, but something else entirely. Whatever "it" was, made me vaguely uncomfortable. I'm not afraid of heights in the slightest, but I always felt I needed to watch my back in that tree. I had the strong feeling there was an opportunist who would be inclined to give me a shove, should my attention wander. Yet another presence lingered in the basement, but only when it rained. Another stood beside our mailbox, waiting. Let's just say the house was full! It wasn't until we moved, that I overheard my parents discussing the fact that a lady had died in the house just before we bought it. That was news to me (and unfortunately, taught me the joys of eavesdropping). As far as the other presences went, I'm unsure about them. As a kid, I learned to shrug my shoulders and move on.

If you missed it, part one of Little Ghost Stories is here.


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

#Paranormal Wednesday - Little Ghost Stories: Part One

Because of Musa Publishing closing its doors (and consequently, its blog) you may see a couple of recycled Musa blog posts this week. This is one of them.
Forgive me for being lazy but its been a crazy week. 

Little Ghost Stories: Part One

I grew up being moved yearly. My step-dad was always in search of the "perfect" teaching job, which didn't afford us the stability of a white-picket fence. In one particular instance, I remember being relegated to a walk-in closet as my bedroom because that's all we could afford. Most of the rentals were older places, and with these older places, came a ghost or two. It's something I learned to accept. A new rental meant a new "something" to coexist with—and sometimes they weren't so nice. The following experience is one of many. You can believe me or not, it's totally up to you.

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

Now, I know what you’re probably going to ask me. Do I make stuff up because I write paranormal fiction? No. I’m a writer. I write fiction and draw the line between fiction and real life. However, the best fiction is when writers “write what they know” and a little of "what I know" creeps into my novels from time to time.

Next Wednesday, I'll share Part Two of my Little Ghost Stories.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Tangled Tuesday - #

#amwriting #amediting #amtalkingtomyself #ampromoting #amsocialnetworking #amblogging #amsubmitting #amnotsleeping #amgoingtothegym #amcooking #amataxiformykids #amhelpingwithhomework #ampullingmyhairout #ambusy

Excuse my alter ego while he #hashtags himself. You know how gargoyles are.

Monday, March 9, 2015

#MeatlessMonday - Wickedly Healthy Pizza

Because my teens do not willingly eat vegetables, I’m forced to hide them in my cooking. I've been known to sneak spinach juice into brownie batter, a shot of wheat-grass into smoothies, and parsley into cookie dough. Over the years, my daughters have become suspicious to my wicked ways.  But here's a recipe they've grown to love. If your kiddos like "cheese pizza only," you can use the food processor on the veggie toppings, add them in with the spinach, and cook it all down in the sauce.
*evil laugh* They'll never know.... Enjoy!

Photo courtesy of Foodies via Flickr

WICKEDLY HEALTHY PIZZA


Crust

2¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110°F/45°C)
1 tsp. sugar
2 cups bread or wheat flour
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt

In a bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water.
Let stand 10 minutes until creamy.
Stir in flour, salt and oil. Mix until smooth. Let rest 5 minutes.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a round.
Transfer to oiled pizza pan or baking sheet.

Pizza Sauce

1 cup fresh spinach, chopped extra fine in food processor
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt
1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
½ tsp. oregano
1 tbsp. olive oil

Combine all ingredients and simmer for about 10 minutes. Makes 1½ cups.

Toppings

Mozzarella cheese, grated
Feta cheese
Sliced zucchini
Sliced tomatoes
Sliced yellow peppers
Mushrooms
Sliced red onions
Olives

Spread pizza sauce over pizza dough crust. Add cheese and toppings.
Preheat oven to 450°F or 230°C
Bake for 15-20 minutes.


Friday, March 6, 2015

Cover Reveal and Re-Release of PRADEE

It's been 10 years since I wrote PRADEE. Since then, I've had two books published via Musa Publishing, have another due out May 19th via permuted Press, and yet another I've submitted to several publishers for consideration. I've learned a lot in 10 years about writing, editing, cover design and the business of publishing. It's been in the back of my mind to "someday" re-edit PRADEE and give the cover a face-lift. Which is exactly what I've been doing for the past two weeks! With no further ado...welcome to the re-lease of my very first book.

In the tradition of The Dark Crystal by Jim Henson and Frank Oz, PRADEE will pull the reader into an exciting, otherworldly adventure.

*Second round finalist in Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award Contest 2012


Pradee


What if there were an artifact that had the power to change the future? Would you use it?


Three friends are accused of poisoning an Elder in their village. They escape to the mysterious region of Vel to search for the Guardian of a mythical artifact, one with the power to see the past and change the future. If they find the artifact, it could prove their innocence. However, if it falls into the wrong hands, it could destroy the future of their world as they know it. 



BUY LINKS



Wednesday, March 4, 2015

#Paranormal Wednesday - Strays from the Spirit World

I’ve always been a half-way house for every stray animal that roams the neighborhood. There was a time, before kids and my husband, that I housed no less than twenty cats. Sad, but true. The downtown area I lived had a huge stray problem and for some reason, they always ended up on my back porch. I worked hard to assure they had proper veterinary care, and yes, it helped that I was in the veterinary field.

Nowadays, with my kiddos and husband, I seem to get less strays coming my way. Different neighborhood, I suppose, but we do get them. There’s the four pound cat that followed my husband to his car after work, a goldfish with a defective swim-bladder that needed to be hand fed, freshwater crabs that came to us as ex-classroom pets, a dog that had been chained in someone’s back yard for years and hadn't the slightest idea of what “inside” meant, an iguana that had broken every bone in her body because she was fed iceberg lettuce for years, the list goes on.

But what about attracting strays when it comes to writing? Is that possible? I've talked before how my paranormal novel BETWEEN came to me. I was working on my fantasy series when I was hit by two characters that didn't belong. Though I kept setting them aside, they wouldn't leave me alone and seemed determined that I write their story. Which I did. In retrospect, the novel came “out of the blue.”

This gives me pause for thought. Can writers attract “strays” when it comes to the spirit world? Is that possible? We’re open to ideas and thoughts and commit them on paper. Given that there are probably many people in history with stories to tell, would it not make sense that the spirit world would take advantage of that? I guess we’ll never know but it’s certainly up for debate.


Monday, March 2, 2015

#MeatlessMonday - It’s All in the Sauce Vegetarian Lasagna

These past two months, I've been on virtual tours for both BETWEEN and STRUCK.
I let my blog ride on the shoulders of my fellow authors and would like to extend a huge thank you to them. I hope you discovered some awesome talent.

Last week had its share of ups-and-downs (see posts below). I'm slowly rising from the ashes and moving on. Let's get this blog back on track! This recipe is very versatile and great for teens/children who hate vegetables. Feel free to hide add vegetables of choice into the sauce.


Photo courtesy of Martin Cathrae via Flickr
It’s All in the Sauce-Vegetarian Lasagna

Sauce:

1 can (14.5 oz) tomato sauce
1 can (14.5 oz) chopped tomatoes
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. oregano
1 clove garlic, minced
1-2 cups fresh spinach chopped
¼ cup carrots, chopped
¼ cup mushrooms, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 small onion, diced

Combine all ingredients. Simmer until vegetables are cooked through. Blend in a blender until the sauce is smooth.

Pasta: 

9 sheets of lasagna noodles

Boil lasagna noodles for 10 minutes or until al dente. Rinse in cool water and set aside.

Cheeses:

2 cups mozzarella cheese
½ cup Parmesan cheese

*1 can chopped olives

Instructions:

Layer sauce, noodles and mozzarella cheese in a 9x12 glass baking dish. Top with Parmesan cheese and olives (if you wish). Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 10 minutes more.

Serves 8-12

Sunday, March 1, 2015

BETWEEN and STRUCK New Cover Reveals!

Musa Publishing closed its doors as of February 28th. It's been a joy to work and grow with them. I'm sad to see this happen but publishing is a very competitive business. The good news is that both BETWEEN and STRUCK have been re-released and are available on Amazon as ebooks and in print.

My Amazon reviews should transferred soon to the re-releases but you can read reviews for both titles HERE.

Stay tuned for availability on Barnes and Noble.


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.

BUY LINKS: Available in ebook and paperback
Amazon

*********


STRUCK

Struck by lightning...claimed by shadows

Caught a storm, Gwynneth is struck by lightning. She wakes in the hospital with a vague memory of a mysterious stranger. Following her release, the stranger visits her at will and offers Gwynneth a giftone that will stay the hands of death. Gwynneth is uncertain whether Julian is a savior or something sinister... for as he shares more and more of this gift, his price becomes more and more deadly.

BUY LINKS: Available in ebook and paperback
Amazon


BETWEEN Virtual Book Tour - Winner of the Giveaway

Thank you everyone for following my tour for BETWEEN.
The winner of my ebook giveaway is.... Michelle F.
I sent you an email, Michelle!

Thank you to everyone who entered the contest! And a special thank you to my publicist, Amber Marr of Sapphyria's Book Blog. She did a fabulous job at organizing my book blog tour and kept things running smoothly.