Clarissa Johal: June 2014

Monday, June 30, 2014

#MeatlessMonday-Quinoa Zucchini Burgers #vegetarian #vegan

Quinoa is a complete protein superfood. It's seeds contain essential amino acids, calcium, phosphorus, and iron, which makes it a perfect choice for vegetarians. Packed full of nutrients, this recipe also happens to be gluten-free. Burgers can be baked or grilled.

As a side note, this recipe got a thumbs up from my family--which is saying something! I'm the only vegetarian and they usually give me the "yucky face" when it comes to my food. Enjoy!

(Makes 8 patties)

1 cup vegetable broth
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
1/2 cup quinoa
1/2 cup canned chickpeas
1 small zucchini, grated (1/2 cup)
1/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
3 T ground flaxseeds
2 tsp. finely chopped fresh basil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp thyme
1/2 T olive oil

1) Bring broth, diced potato and quinoa to boil in saucepan. Cover and reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes until quinoa and potatoes are tender. Transfer to bowl
2) Stir in chickpeas, zucchini, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, and spices. Mash together leaving some chunks
3) Shape into patties
4) Heat a small amount of oil in pan. Cook patties on low-medium heat for about 2-3 minutes on each side--enough to get a crust. Be careful, quinoa burns easily.
5) Bake for 15 minutes in 400F oven, carefully turning once (or) cook on grill 8-10 minutes, carefully turning once.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Frightening Friday-Haunted Alcatraz

Photo courtesy of kconnors via morgueFile
Long before Alcatraz became home to some of the most notorious criminals in America, it had a bad reputation. The Ohlone believed it to contain evil spirits and often utilized the island as a place of isolation or banishment for members violating tribal laws. 

After serving as a military garrison and military prison in 1868, the Federal Government decided to turn the island a maximum-security, minimum-privilege penitentiary in 1933. For 30 years the prison kept the country’s most notorious criminals separate from the rest of the world. The heavy fog, cold winds and icy waters makes Alcatraz Island one of the most isolated of places. 

It's also cited as one of the most haunted places in America. 

During its time as a penitentiary, both inmates and guards reported a wide range of ghostly activity. When the prison reopened in 1973 as a tourist attraction, many park rangers and visitors have also reported paranormal experiences. Alcatraz is reputedly haunted by the ghosts of Native Americans, military prisoners and inmates--all who perished on the island.

The Ghost Stories of Alcatraz

Cell block C-The Utility Corridor 
In 1946, after a very bloody riot and failed prison escape, inmates Bernard Coy, Joe Cretzer and Marvin Hubbard were killed in this area. Employees have reported hearing unexplained eerie clanging sounds coming from the corridor at night. When they check, the clanging stops only to start up again as soon as they walk away. Others have reported hearing disembodied voices and seeing the apparitions of men wearing fatigues.

Hospital Ward
The hospital is now closed to tours but park rangers have often heard voices and screams coming from within. When they check for trespassers, they find the ward deserted. A few park rangers have reported seeing hazy apparitions on the stairwell leading to the hospital.

The Cafeteria
When the tourists have gone and the place is quiet, park rangers have heard the muffled sounds of voices and the clanking of silverware coming from the empty cafeteria.

Cell blocks A, B, and C
Visitors have claimed to hear crying and moaning from within. Heavy cell doors have been reported to slam shut on their own. There are several specifically haunted sites within the cell block, but park rangers often report strange sounds echoing throughout: coughs, laughs, whistles, and the playing of a harmonica. After the last of the tourist boats have left for the day, night watchmen say that they have heard the sounds of running from the upper tiers. Thinking that intruders are inside the prison, they investigate but always find nothing.

D-Block "The Hole"
D-Block was comprised of 42 cells with varying degrees of restrictions. Thirty-six of the cells were standard 5x9 cells with a sink, toilet and a cot. Prisoners were allowed one visit to the recreation yard and two showers each week. Five of the remaining six cells in D-Block were known as Strip Cells and often referred to as "the Hole.” Reserved for the most serious of offenders of prison rules, they contained no windows and only one light in the hallway which could be turned off by the guards. The last Strip Cell, known as the “Oriental,” was the most severe punishment the prison could assign. Assuring complete deprivation of all senses, the dark steel-encased cell contained no sink or toilet, just a small hole in the floor for prisoner waste. Inmates were placed naked in the cell, given a restricted diet, and confined in a totally pitch-black, cold environment. 

Today’s visitors and staff often report cold spots and sudden intense feelings within D-Block. Cell 14-D is the most active and reported to be almost 20 degrees colder than the rest of the cells. These cells are so eerie, some park rangers refuse to go there alone.

 Al Capone
Al Capone spent 4-1/2 years in Alcatraz. Visitors and employees have reported hearing the sound of a banjo coming from the prison walls and emanating from the shower room, where Capone used to practice his playing.

The Warden's House
Since the 1940’s, apparitions have been seen at the site of the now burned-out shell of the warden’s house. During a Christmas Party, several guards say a man suddenly appeared before them wearing a gray suit, brimmed cap, and sporting mutton-chop sideburns. As the startled guards stared at the apparition, the room suddenly turned very cold and the fire in the Ben Franklin stove was extinguished. Less than a minute later, the spirit vanished.

The Old Lighthouse
It has been reported that the old lighthouse, which has long been demolished, appears out of a dense fog. The appearance is accompanied by a whistling sound and a flashing light. The light passes slowly around the entire island just as if the lighthouse was still active. Witnesses say the spectacle vanishes as quickly as it appears. 

Other Paranormal Reports
When Alcatraz was still a working prison, guards tell of hearing phantom cannon and gunshots, accompanied by screams. Believing that prisoners had somehow escaped and obtained weapons, the guards would investigate and find nothing. Another often reported experience was the smell of smoke coming from a deserted laundry room. When guards went to investigate, the smoke was so thick it drove them from the room. However, just minutes later, the room was complete smoke free. Other events experienced over the years include ghostly voices, people being touched, and claims of seeing the ghosts of prisoners or military personnel.

My Experience

Photo courtesy of Lori Manning via photobucket
I've visited Alcatraz Island twice. Both times, I was struck with the "weight" of the place. I challenge even the most hardcore sceptic to ignore that feeling of heaviness because it's tangible. I didn't see any ghosts but had one experience that I can't explain.

I was eighteen at the time and had driven to San Francisco for the day. Wandering Pier 39, I decided to buy a ticket to Alcatraz Island--I was unfamiliar with its history and thought it would be interesting.

During the tour (and only if you wish) you can be locked in "the Hole" for several minutes to see what it was like. I opted in with several other brave souls. First of all, solitary is pitch black and you can barely hear anything outside of the cell. After several moments, I became a bit claustrophobic and murmured something to that effect. A man standing behind me said, "Don't worry, kiddo. It's not for much longer," which made me feel better because several minutes seriously felt like hours. I consider myself quite comfortable with being "solitary" but I would have gone nuts in there. Well, when they finally opened the cell door, I turned to thank the man for his comment. Turns out there was no man. I had been locked in the cell with four other women. I asked the women about the voice and none of them had heard it. But I swear, it was a man's voice and a man's presence behind me. I would have staked my life on it.

If you visit San Francisco and decide to take the ferry ride out to Alcatraz Island, make sure you reserve your tickets way ahead of time because tours fill up fast.
Alcatraz Cruises
Alcatraz Tickets
Alcatraz Island Tickets

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday-Travel and Indecision

If you could go anywhere on the continent where would you go? That's the question my husband asked me last week. He does a lot of business travel and has enough miles to purchase an airplane ticket anywhere. And surprise! He's decided to give me that ticket for my 50th birthday. Yeah, my husband rocks. It seems like an easy enough thing for me to decide as I'm not a picky person. An awesome "me" vacation would consist of 1) ocean 2) cooler weather 3) a remote location.


I'm overwhelmed with such a gift! There are SO many places I want to go--some for relaxation, some for sightseeing, and some for novel research. Novel research is pushing first in line but requires the longest airplane travel. I've changed my mind more times than I care to admit, even going as far as to tossing all the places into a hat and picking one. Yeah, that worked for maybe an hour until I started over-thinking it.

So far I've come up with:

Salem, Mass
Clyde Harbor, Maine
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Vancouver, B.C

I'm lingering at Vancouver, B.C because it's closest to where my novel in progress takes place. It requires 8 hours of airplane time, plus driving, plus a ferry ride out to where I want to go. Oh, and did I mention? I only have 5 days because July is a busy month for everyone. But shoot, I'll take it. I can do a lot in 5 days. I have the essentials: backpack, laptop, coffee.

I just need to make a decision...

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

#Paranormal Wednesday-Phone Calls from the Other Side

Many people have reported being on the receiving end of a telephone call that appears to have come from the deceased. The communication is usually simple and brief, and it is nearly always a one-time occurrence.

Ordinarily, EVP's are obtained by those who try and communicate with the dead by means of a recording device (intentional paranormal research). The recipients of phone calls however, are seldom involved in paranormal research. There are numerous documented cases such as these from all over the world and they seem to fall into three categories.

1. The call is from a person who has just recently died. Occasionally, the person receiving the call does not know at that time that the caller is dead and believes he/she is talking to the living person.

2. The call is an urgent message from a friend or relative who explains that they are placing the call for the deceased. Later, the recipient learns that the friend or relative never made the call, although he or she thought about doing so. The phone voice will often mimic that of the living person perfectly. However, a few recipients have described these voices as mechanical or flat.

3. A phone call and conversation with the person whom the caller later discovers was dead at the time the call was placed.

Many years ago I received a phone call from an older lady. It was a very bad connection and sounded far away. She gave me her name and asked to speak to Robert. When I told her she had the wrong number, the woman seemed confused. She said she needed to tell Robert something and could I please go get him. I politely told her again that she had the wrong number. Eventually, she hung up. Later, I mentioned the phone call to a neighbor of mine. She got a funny look on her face--the name the older lady gave me was someone who had died in the house many, many years ago. Robert was her husband and had passed away six months after his wife. I thought this was odd because my phone number would have not been known by the old lady or anyone in her social circle.

Unfinished business? Explainable? If it was a message from the other side, I wish I could have helped in some way. I guess I'll never know. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tangled Tuesday-Guest Author Latashia Figueroa

Please welcome horror author Latashia Figueroa.

This Way Darkness is a short story collection of three tales of terror.

Wrapped in Small Flesh and Bone:
Robert and Linda desperately want a child but are unable to conceive. Linda will do anything to get pregnant. Robert’s love for his wife brings them to an unconventional decision. They put the miracle of making a baby in the hands of a witch.

The Alternative:
After her mother dies from cancer, Lorna Powel realizes she does not just fear death, she hates it. But there is someone who understands Lorna's disdain for her fragile mortality. He knows because he has been watching her for a long time, waiting in the shadows to offer an alternative to death.

The Retreat:
Brad Levee has joined eleven others on a life-changing spiritual retreat that was promised to bring them closer to God. But the charismatic leader, Aleister, has a different plan for his followers that will shed blood. And Aleister isn't the only one Brad should fear.

“Latashia Figueroa is an exciting new voice in horror. Her dark fiction lures you into a world that seems normal, captivates you with characters you can root for, and then, before you know it, her stories wrap icy fingers of fear around your heart and pull you deeper into a chilling darkness.”
―Brian Moreland, author of The Devil’s Woods and The Girl from the Blood Coven

Purchase Links:
Barnes and Noble

About the Author

Latashia Figueroa gives two reasons for her love of horror:
One, the house she grew up in was believed to be haunted. Two, as a child, Stephen King often told her bedtime stories. Pet Sematary was the first.

Latashia Figueroa’s first fan was her High School English teacher who told her she would be a writer. But life happened and she ended up in New York City’s fast paced fashion industry for over ten years. Though the job was exciting, it was not fulfilling and when the company downsized Latashia used the opportunity to write again.

THIS WAY DARKNESS is her debut short stories collection.
She lives on the east coast with her very supportive husband and overly friendly mutt, Ruffles.

Latashia has a fondness for the arts, is a thrill seeker and would spend a great deal of her time on roller coasters if she could. She is working on her next book and promises it will be a creepy one.

Author Links:


Monday, June 23, 2014

#MeatlessMonday-Burnt Sugar Caramel Cupcakes #dessert

Photo courtesy of Candace via Flickr
For the burnt sugar syrup:

3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup hot water

Add sugar in a skillet over medium-low heat. Shake the pan to spread the sugar and let it melt, shaking again to keep the syrup browning evenly. Once it becomes the deep bronze color and begins to smoke, gradually add the hot water. Stir until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool.

For the cake:

3 cups unbleached cake flour, sifted
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs, separated
2/3 cup of the burnt sugar syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350. Sift together flour, salt, soda, and baking powder. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, cream butter, adding sugar gradually until light and fluffy. Add one egg yolk at the time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Add the vanilla. Stir in cooled burnt sugar syrup.

Alternately mix the flour and the buttermilk into the batter, beating until smooth.

Beat egg whites until stiff. Fold into batter.

Fill lined cupcake tins 1/2 way with batter.
Bake for 15 - 20 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.
Let cool completely before frosting

For the caramel frosting:

3/4 cup butter
2 cups light brown sugar, firmly packed
Dash of salt
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

Mix butter, brown sugar and salt in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Let bubble for 15 minutes, stirring constantly. Mix in cream. Cook and stir for another 10 minutes.

Remove from heat, stir in vanilla. Transfer to another bowl. Beating at high speed, gradually add confectioner's sugar until it comes to a spreading consistency. Add more cream if necessary.

Once cupcakes are frosted you can drizzle caramel over top if desired.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Frightening Friday-Haunted Hotel and Unsolved Deaths

Lobby Cecil Hotel
Cecil Hotel, East Los Angeles

On February 21, 2013, a maintenance worker discovered a decomposing body at the bottom of the hotel water tank. For 19 days hotel guests had bathed, brushed their teeth and drank the water despite its “funny, sweet, disgusting taste.” The body was identified as Elisa Lam, a 21 year old Canadian undergrad and tourist on her way to Santa Cruz.

After combing through hotel surveillance tapes, police uncovered an extremely disturbing video of Elisa taken from the night she died. At first, Elisa enters the elevator and presses all of its buttons. The elevator door doesn’t shut and she looks around, as if waiting or hiding from someone. She then appears to be talking to someone and moving in a strange manner. At 2:47 in the video, Lam leaves the elevator. From 2:47 to 3:59, the door to the elevator opens and closes several times for no apparent reason.

Right after the events of the video, Elisa apparently gained access to the rooftop of the hotel, climbed into its water tank and drowned. Hotel employees said doors to the roof were locked and had alarms. It is unclear how Lam gained access to the roof. High school classmates called Lam's death shocking. Elisa did not have a history of drug use and her autopsy concluded that no drugs were involved. The death has been ruled as an accidental drowning. Take a look at the video. 

The Cecil Hotel has had it's share of tragedies. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Cecil had a reputation as being a place where people would commit suicide. In 1954, Helen Gurnee leaped from a seventh floor window and landed on the Cecil Hotel marquee. In 1962, Julia Moore jumped from her eighth floor room window. Moore left behind a bus ticket from St Louis, 59 cents and an Illinois bank account book showing a balance of $1,800. In another 1962 suicide, 27 year-old Pauline Otten jumped from her window and landed on a pedestrian, killing both of them.

But not every death at the Cecil was by suicide. It's widely rumored that Elizabeth Short, aka the Black Dahlia, was seen at the hotel shortly before her notorious disappearance in 1947. In 1964, Goldie Osgood, known by some as the Pershing Square Pigeon Lady, was found raped and strangled at the Cecil. The crime has never been solved. 

It Cecil Hotel has also served as temporary home for two serial killers. In 1985, Richard Ramirez, avowed Satanist and dubbed the "Night Stalker," lived at the Cecil unnoticed while he murdered 13 women. In 1974, an Austrian serial killer by the name of Jack Unterweger, murdered several prostitutes while staying at the Cecil. 

Bad luck? Negative energy? Or is the hotel haunted and waiting to possess it's unwitting victims? For about $73 a night, you can judge for yourself.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday-5 Ways To Embrace a Writer's Block

They can last for weeks or months. They can totally muck up your writing schedule. They can knock down your self-confidence and make you question your career choice. Plain and simple: writer's blocks suck.

But every writer gets them--they are an unavoidable aspect of the creative process. Instead of putting up a fight I've learned to embrace mine. Here's what they force you to do (with good outcome).

1) Take a break. This is not a bad thing. Personally, I tend to hyper-focus and can write for twelve hours at a time. What comes from that? Good writing...sometimes. Often, I'll end up with a big fat headache due to lack of food and pages of nonsense "to be deciphered" when I'm coherent.

2) Edit. If you can't add to what you have--you can always make what you have better. Once your complete draft is done you'll be editing a gazillion times over. Why not start now?

3) Apply yourself to something else. This can be personal or professional. My last writer's block spurned me to clean house. I needed to clean house, trust me. I also needed to catch up with my friends, bathe the dogs, mow the get it.

4) Start from the beginning. The best way to get back into the flow of your story is to read it! Start from page one and read what you have. Let it settle for a couple of days. It's too easy to get caught up in a particular scene.

5) Daydream. Stop obsessing over what you're working on and make up another story. You may end up with a kick-butt idea for your next book. If you're like me and can only work on one project at a time--make up back-story for the book you're working on. You don't even have to write it down. At the very least, daydreaming is a good way to get your creative juices flowing again.

So, go on....surrender yourself to the Dark Side and embrace that writer's block.
Good luck.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

#Paranormal Wednesday-Modern Age Vampires

Photo courtesy of cgiraldez via morgueFile
I came across a show called MTV True Life recently. The show seems to cover a plethora of interesting topics but in this particular episode it was vampires. Specifically, vampires in Austin, Texas. Not the "rise from the dead" vampires or vamps that sparkle (thank gawd) but people who claim to be bona fide vampires

According to the the group, "a vampire is essentially an energy feeder or blood drinker that may display various levels of psychic ability."  They don't drink blood without permission and health screenings. They shun sunlight and tend to favor the night. They have a great respect for life and give back to their community. They have a Facebook Page, throw a yearly Austin Vampire Ball  and Twitter @VampireNews.
Oh, and they're global, folks. The Vampire Court of Austin is only one faction of their organization. 


My intention is not to mock as I'm sure they get plenty of that day-to-day. I always try and be respectful in my blog. I do wonder about the immortality aspect. Perhaps an immortal spirit? I'm unsure. Much like the general public's belief and understanding of witches (flying on broomsticks and other silliness) my guess is that vampires are subject to general misunderstandings by the public as well. Perhaps even more so. Regardless, the program was an interesting one, albeit a bit dramatic. Such is MTV.
I encourage you to watch the episode if you're interested. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tangled Tuesday-Guest Author SS Hampton, Sr

Please welcome my guest this week, SS Hampton, Sr.

So, Why This Genre?

       I write in a variety of genres—horror, supernatural, military fiction, erotica, erotic romance, science fiction, fantasy, and even a bit of dabbling in Classical Greece and Rome, and the Old West.
       Now, as for horror or supernatural, that is a little difficult to explain. Deep down inside maybe we all like to be scared once in a while. Perhaps it is in our genes, a left-over from the prehistoric when our ancestors huddled around campfires telling stories to pass the time. And keep the surrounding predators at bay. The prehistoric was definitely a time when the world and its working was filled with mystery and spirits.
       That time is gone now except for some “uncivilized” areas of the world. Science has seen to that.
       But still, science doesn’t know everything.
       That being said, I love a good horror story or horror movie, or supernatural story or movie. Forget all of the slasher and torture and kill stories and movies. If I want to read or see that I will look at the news.
       Nope, good old horror or supernatural entertainment for me. I still enjoy a chill or a fright from time to time. Especially at night or when there is a full moon.
       Then too, true horror or supernatural can appear even in broad daylight. That might be the scariest of all. In our stereotypical, label-based world, such things are supposed to happen in darkness. Not in broad daylight. But what if you encounter a handsomely dressed man or enticingly dressed woman in broad daylight? What if you are drawn to them? And then, alone with such a person in broad daylight a sudden chill ripples through you? And you realize, you feel, that there is something “wrong” with the person in front of you? You realize there is a darkness within them that no one but you can sense. Your gut is screaming “run” and you want to—but where? It is bright and sunny out. Every move you make can be seen, anticipated, and reacted to.
       And worse, the darkness realizes that you can see it for what it truly is.
       Yes, it is bright and sunny out and something dark stands before you, close to you, and is beckoning you to join it. Or be consumed by it if you refuse.
       Science be damned—faced by a real darkness in front of you, what then?

“Dancing in Moonlight” 
Ed. Stephen Morgan. Musa Publishing, May 2012.
ISBN: 978-1-61937-264-1


While on much-needed R&R leave from Iraq, Corporal Ronnie Edson enjoyed a night with a beautiful woman. He thought that would be the end of it, but on the flight back to Iraq he sees an impossible sight: the woman dancing on the wing of the plane. She’s come for him, and she won’t leave without him.


       A yellowish glow flared in the living darkness like a newborn sun; the hiss and sputtering of the flickering glow sounded like the background static of the prehistoric universe.
       The soft footsteps of an enraptured, puzzled voyeur emerged from a darkness that pulsed with hidden life, desires, needs, and temptations.
       A nude woman sat on a silk-cushioned bench in front of a large, dark vanity table and ignored the silent voyeur. Her long blonde hair with purplish highlights fell to the small of her back. She looked into the central mirror and a pair of movable side mirrors that were shaped like Gothic cathedral windows. By each side mirror, a candelabra with a trio of tall scented candles bathed her pale flesh in their soft glow.
       She felt his eyes studying her as she applied, with slow measured strokes, black and red eye shadow to her upper eyelids, and under her eyes; at the outer corner of her eyes the eye shadow narrowed to a point, like Minoan or Egyptian eye decoration on wall paintings. Her blue, almond shaped eyes were brighter than a cloudless sky at high noon. Black eyeliner highlighted the brightness of her eyes while mascara deepened the blackness of her eyelashes.
       Her deep blue eyes blinked once as she looked into the Gothic mirrors and caught a glimpse of the silent man. She listened to the murmuring shadows in the mirrors, while an even deeper, sensual darkness, like a black satin ribbon, twisted around the unsuspecting man and flowed through him.
       A hint of a smile came to her face as she shifted on the silk cushion and lazily ran a red fingernail along a length of her dark thigh high stockings. She sensed his growing lust for her. Her hand trailed up her hip to a garter belt decorated with ruffled silk, then across a topless black and red velvet and lace corset. Her seductive smile deepened as she peered into the Gothic mirror at the man, now shrouded within the ghostly, satiny ribbon.
       She applied dark lip liner to her full lips, followed by blood red lipstick. The young woman paused and chose a brush that sparkled in the candlelight. She carefully applied gold glitter to her eyebrows...

Buy Link:

Stan Hampton, Sr. is a full-blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a divorced grandfather to 13 wonderful grandchildren, and a published photographer and photojournalist. He retired on 1 July 2013 from the Army National Guard with the rank of Sergeant First Class; he previously served in the active duty Army (1974-1985), the Army Individual Ready Reserve (1985-1995) (mobilized for the Persian Gulf War), and enlisted in the Nevada Army National Guard in October 2004, after which he was mobilized for Federal active duty for almost three years. Hampton is a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle (2004-2006) and Iraqi Freedom (2006-2007) with deployment to northern Kuwait and several convoy security missions into Iraq.
His writings have appeared as stand-alone stories and in anthologies from Dark Opus Press, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy, Melange Books, Musa Publishing, MuseItUp Publishing, Ravenous Romance, and as stand-alone stories in Horror Bound Magazine, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others.
In May 2014 he graduated from the College of Southern Nevada with an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Photography – Commercial Photography Emphasis. A future goal is to study for a degree in archaeology—hopefully to someday work in and photograph underwater archaeology (and also learning to paint).
After 13 years of brown desert in the Southwest and overseas, he misses the Rocky Mountains, yellow aspens in the fall, running rivers, and a warm fireplace during snowy winters.
As of April 2014, after being in a 2-year Veterans Administration program for Homeless Veterans, Hampton is officially no longer a homeless Iraq War veteran, though he is still struggling to get back on his feet.

Hampton can be found at:

Monday, June 16, 2014

#MeatlessMonday-Spinach Garlic Gyoza #vegetarian #vegan

The gyozas are simple to make but require some assembly. If you aren't a fan of salty flavors, use a low sodium soy sauce or 1/2 the black bean sauce in the filling. When it comes to steaming the gyozas, there are many different ways to do that. I have a rice cooker but use whatever method you have.

Gyoza Dumplings

Photo courtesy of rhyn06 via photobucket

Spinach Garlic Filling

2 tsp. hot sesame oil
8 cups spinach greens, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup minced green onions
6 cloves garlic, minced (2 Tbs.)
2 Tbs. black bean sauce
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. honey
32 gyoza wrappers
Cornstarch for dusting

Heat oil in large wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add spinach greens and cook until wilted. Stir in green onions, garlic, bean sauce, soy sauce and honey. Cook, stirring occasionally until no liquid remains.

Dust baking sheet with cornstarch. Arrange several gyoza wrappers on work surface. Put 1 Tbs. filling in center of each and brush water on half of edge. Bring edges together to form half-moon shape, and press to seal. Place dumplings on baking sheet and refrigerate while making the sauce.

Once you're ready to steam: For a rice cooker: use cooking spray on the metal steamer insert. Place several gyoza on insert and steam for about 8 minutes. Spray metal insert every time because they do stick! Serve with dipping sauce.

Sesame Dipping Sauce

¼ cup vegetable stock
2 Tbs. tahini
1 Tbs. peanut butter
1 Tbs. honey
1 Tbs. grated ginger
2 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. rice vinegar

Whisk all ingredients in small pan, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and whisk until thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool, and serve in small dipping bowls.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Frightening Friday-Friday the 13th

Happy Friday the 13th!

Did you know the superstition of Friday the 13th didn't occur until after the 20th century? The phobia is known as friggatriskaidekaphobia (there's a mouthful for you).
I've never had a reason to be superstitious about the date but I know many people are. Some people skip work, others won't go out, and many wouldn't think of scheduling an important event. My oldest daughter was born on the 13th, so I consider the date to be extremely lucky.

Here's a list of what "not" to do today:

Don't start a new job 
Don't travel 
Don't cut your hair 
Don't cut your fingernails
Don't cook
Don't start a new relationship
Don't go out to eat
Don't go outside barefoot
Don't give birth

That's a lot of "don'ts!" But much like breaking a mirror, spilling salt, or having a black cat cross your path, Friday the 13th has never been scientifically proven to bring bad luck or mishaps. So here's my challenge. Go enjoy your day. Go somewhere new and exciting. Get a new haircut, trim your nails and buy new outfit. Bake a cake, make a new friend and take them to lunch. Walk barefoot. And for heaven's sake, if you're in labor please don't wait until tomorrow to have that baby.

Enjoy your life.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday-Useless Writing Advice

You've all read it, heard it...maybe even given it.

Forgive me. I'm feeling quite snarky today.

1) If you want to be a writer, just write.
Really? I have no idea why I didn't think of that.

2) Read. A lot.
If you write, I assume you read. Heck, you may even like reading. A lot.

3) Become a Social Media Junkie.
Yes...and no. Yes, it's nice to have a webpage and a place for readers to buy your books. No, you don't need to OD on social media to become a best-selling author. You need to write. And sometimes you don't even need to write well. Let's face it, 99% of having a best-seller is timing and luck. Sad but true.

4) Go Buy a Fancy Software and Editing Program 
I know authors who still write by hand and use a dictionary and thesaurus (gasp!). When they're done, they type it into Word and voila! A book is born. It happens.

5) Pay for (insert a plethora of services here)
There are tons of companies looking to make money off authors. They offer services, promotion opportunities and will even publish your work for you. They will also rip you off if you don't do your homework. Rule of thumb: money should flow into the author, not away.

6) Sign Up for a $$$ Workshop or Writer's Retreat
Sigh. See #5. Yes, it would be lovely to take a vacation and learn to become a better author.  Most of these workshops and retreats are given by other authors, which means you're funding their careers. Hmm...

Now that you've wasted your valuable time on this post--go write something. *;) winking

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

#Paranormal Wednesday-Dream Languages

One of my most useful writing "tools" are my dreams. I keep a pen beside my bed to write notes on my arms and legs (I've given up on the paper thing). Sometimes I find sentences the next morning that make no sense at all, simply because I don't remember writing them. Other times, the sentences themselves are indecipherable. Not because my handwriting is awful but because my dream people were speaking in a different language. Those dreams are more perplexing because I really can't explain why I have them.

In one particular dream a woman was speaking to me in Spanish, which is a language I don't know. I knew it was Spanish and I could tell she was very distressed but seriously, my dream needed subtitles.

Several years ago, I dreamed a man was sitting on my bed and speaking to me. It seemed important because he repeated himself several times, quite emphatically. I woke and phonetically wrote what he said down so I could make sense (or no sense) of it the next morning. After doing a search I figured out it was Gaelic. Even more perplexing was that the sentence actually made sense and ended up being very helpful in what I was writing at the time.

So why does this happen? It could be that I've heard the language before and it got stored in my brain. Or it could be that our brains are far more complex than we think.

My husband was watching a movie several months ago. I was in the kitchen and busy with something else. Half-listening, I heard and understood what was being said...until I realized they were speaking a different language and then, I didn't. It was like I had it for a split second and once my brain adjusted itself, it was gone. The movie was a Welsh Indie with subtitles. I asked my husband if the actors had switched to English at some point and he said they hadn't. Which left me with a big ??

So here's my idea: maybe our brains have the capacity to comprehend all sorts of languages, regardless if we've studied them or not. Maybe somewhere deep inside all the languages are there--like stubborn, inaccessible folders.

But again, maybe this is one of those unexplained things.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Monday, June 9, 2014

#MeatlessMonday-Soba Noodles with Spicy Peanut Sauce #vegetarian #vegan

Photo courtesy of himenotable via photobucket
I love vegetarian Asian food. When my youngest was little, she was a huge fan of noodles. (Lucky her that she got a mom who has ten kinds of noodles in the pantry!) This peanut sauce works well on almost any noodle. Soba is a favorite but you can use rice noodles, bean thread noodles, udon, pretty much anything. Add some baked tofu and you have a meal! Enjoy!

Spicy Peanut Sauce 

1/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp lime or lemon juice
1/2 tsp chili garlic sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced and crushed
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1/2 cup chopped spinach

Whisk all ingredients in saucepan. Bring to a boil, constantly stirring, until sauce is thickened.

Prepare noodles according to directions. Drain and top with peanut sauce. Add veggies, tofu, or whatever strikes your fancy!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Frightening Friday-Haunted Mirrors

Photo courtesy of frenchantiquemirrors
via photobucket
Throughout the ages, reflective surfaces of all kinds have been linked to the supernatural world. In ancient Greek legends, the gods observed mortals in a pool of water and reacted accordingly. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, spiritual visions, divination or fortune-telling via scrying mirrors was all the rage. Some cultures believe that mirrors reflect a person's "true" nature, or their shadow soul, and avoid them altogether. And we've all heard that breaking a mirror brings seven years bad luck.
But can mirrors be haunted? 

There are many stories that tell of haunted mirrors. One of the best known is of a mirror located in The Myrtles Plantation. The mirror has been in the Louisiana home since it was built in 1796. It is said to hold the trapped souls of Sara Woodruff and her two children, who lived at the plantation in 1894. An old Southern tradition holds that when a family member dies, mirrors in the home are covered in order to keep the soul of the deceased from becoming lost. According to legend, when Sara Woodruff and her children died, all the mirrors on the plantation were covered--except the one. Hand prints--from the back of the mirror--appear in the reflection no matter how often the mirror is resurfaced. 

A more recent story occurred in February 2013. Two men pulled an antique mirror from a dumpster outside their London home. The men stated that since acquiring the mirror, they've suffered financial problems, illness, pain and a sense of impending doom. They also claimed to see "flickering shadows" reflected in the mirror itself. The final straw was that one of the men woke covered in red scratches. The mirror sold on eBay for $155 in spite (or because of) their claims that it might be haunted. 

Speaking of, here's a couple of haunted mirrors currently for sale on eBay. I'll let you decide if they're worth a bid.

Haunted Victorian antique mirror ghost portal

Vintage haunted vanity mirror

Haunted clock/compact mirror

Haunted vintage mirror

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday-Falling Into Suburbia

I had a dress dry-cleaned last week. That may seem commonplace to most of you but for me, it marked some sort of decent into suburbia. Kind of like Alice falling down the rabbit hole.
How terrifying.

I didn't intend on buying a dress that had to be dry-cleaned. I found it at Ross, actually. A Calvin Klein dress for $20--what a steal! The excitement must have short-circuited my brain from the common sense to check the washing label. When I got the dress home however, there it was--Dry Clean Only. Crap. Dry-cleaning is something that grown-ups do. Grown-ups with money that live in suburbia and drive BMWs. Right? Right? *sigh*

After I kicked myself repeatedly, I searched online for the tiny possibility that the dress could be washed by hand. Several sites said that hand-washing rayon/spandex was fine, while others said it would be disastrous. As much as I hated to spend extra money on dry-cleaning, it looked like hand-washing would be too risky. I loved the dress and it did fit perfectly...damn.

Off to the dry-cleaners I went, which was weird. And in weird situations I say ridiculous things.

The conversation went somewhat like this:

Me: "Hi! I bought this dress for $20. I usually check labels beforehand but it says to dry-clean only. What do you think?"
Counter Person: "We are a dry cleaners."
Me: "Um, right. I usually don't dry-clean stuff. Do you think it could be any chance?"
Counter person: *Silence*
Me: "I'll just dry-clean it then. When can I pick it up?"
Counter Person: "6PM."
Me: "Wow, that's fast. Is everything done by machines or do you have to do it all by hand? Do you use chemicals?" *glancing at a row of suits* "They look like they're in body bags. Maybe the chemicals killed them. Haha."

Yeah, I don't think she was impressed either because the conversation kind of degraded from there.

Anyways, I picked up right at six. Didn't want to keep my dress waiting because that's just rude. $7.50, thank you very much. And it was wrapped in a body bag of its own. Somebody let it out because I don't think it can breathe in there.
When I came out of the gym that evening (don't get me started on how weird it is to belong to a gym and live in suburbia) I walked past several cars and noticed that they too, had clothing in body bags. It was like I joined some sort of freaky club. Gawd, shoot me now, I've fallen down the rabbit hole. Excuse me while I go mow my lawn and arrange my flamingos.

In the words of Alice from Lewis Carroll's, Alice in Wonderland:
“It's no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”

Yes, indeed.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

#Paranormal Wednesday-Cursed Islands

I've been working on my next novel tentatively titled The Island. The novel is set on an island (duh) that has "a history." There are demons and all sorts of other fun things going on...I can't tell you any more or I'd have to kill you.
So anyways, I decided to do some research into cursed islands and if there were any. Turns out there are several! Take a look at these...

Public domain photo courtesy of Baku 
Island of Gaiola
Located in the Gulf of Naples, it was originally known as Euplea and held a small temple dedicated to the Roman goddess Venus. It became known as the cursed island because of the premature deaths and misfortunes surrounding many of its owners. In the 1920s, it belonged to the Swiss Hans Braun, who was found dead and wrapped in a rug; a little later, his wife drowned in the sea. The subsequent owner died of a heart attack in the island's villa. The owner after him committed suicide in a mental institution.

If owners of the island didn't die themselves, they experienced other calamities. In the 1990's, the island belonged to the head of Fiat, Gianni Agnelli. When Agnelli's only son committed suicide, his nephew stepped in to take over the company. The nephew ended up dying of a rare cancer at the age of 33. Island owner and multi-billionaire Paul Getty endured the kidnapping and subsequent death of his grandson. Gianpasquale Grappone, the island's last owner, was jailed when his insurance company failed.

Today, the villa is uninhabited and abandoned.

Permission to use photo courtesy of Clarkma5
Palmyra Island
Located south of the Hawaiian Islands, Palmyra Island is reported as having a "not quite right" feeling by those who have visited. A long list of disasters have been associated with Palmyra since its discovery in the late 17th century. Though it seems to be a paradise and offers an abundance of fish in its surrounding lagoons, many of those fish are poisonous because of ciguatera, a type of algae that grows on coral.

In 1816, the Spanish pirate ship Esperanza was loaded with treasure--gold and silver from Incan temples in Peru. The ship came under attack and wrecked on a nearby reef. While surviving crew members managed to move the treasure onto the island, they were stranded for over a year. They finally managed to escape on rafts. One raft was rescued by an American whaling ship while the other raft was never recovered. The sole survivor died of pneumonia shortly after and the Incan treasure has never been found.

In 1855, a whaling ship was reported wrecked on Palmyra's dangerous reefs. Attempts to locate the ship and its crew turned up nothing.

During WWII, Palmyra Island functioned as a refueling station. A former Navy officer who was stationed from 1942-1944 reported several odd events. Patrol planes that went down near the island could not be found, he reported it was "like they had dropped off the face of the earth." One plane that took off from the island's runway climbed to a couple hundred feet, and then turned in the wrong direction. The two men aboard the plane were never heard from again. The Navy officer also reported that a plane sent to Palmyra to pick up the stationed officers, crashed before it could even find the runway.

Permission to use photo courtesy of Clarkma5
In 1974, the double murder of a sailing couple on Palmyra Island became the subject of the book And the Sea Will Tell . Several odd circumstances and events surrounded these murders are attributed to the island itself.

To this day, the island remains unoccupied.

Peche Island 
Photo courtesy of Angela via flickr
Permission to use Creative Commons License
A French-Canadian family by the name of Laforet established a homestead on this island located off the coast of Ontario, Canada. In 1883, the Laforet's were involved in a property feud with Hirum Walker, a whiskey distiller. A group of Walker's men forced their way into the home of heiress Rosalie Laforet and forced her to sign over the property deed. As the family left Peche Island, Rosalie Laforet (who claimed to be familiar with "the ways of the natives") placed a curse upon the land stating that, “No one will ever do anything with the island!”

At the age of 28, Willis Walker died not long after he had handled the island purchase. Hiram Walker suffered a stroke and passed away in 1899. His son, Edward Chandler Walker, died at a young age in 1915. By 1926, when prohibition saw an end to the family distillery business, the Walker dynasty had faded from history. In 1929, the Walker mansion burned to the ground.
And so the island sits, desolate and uninhabited.

Photo of Rarotonga Beach 
GNU Free Documentation License
Cook Islands
Located in the South Pacific. In 1911, New Zealander William John Wigmore leased a plot of land from More Uriatua, a Cook Islander. Later, Uriatua decided he wanted his land back and refused to give his approval to the intended coconut copra plantation. They argued and Wigmore shot Uriatua, killing him. Wigmore was deported. In 1913, More's daughter was said to have placed a curse on the island stating “no business activity operated on the land Vaimaanga 4 would succeed unless the land was returned to Ngati More and the rightful owners.”
Plans to construct a commercial citrus orchard in the 1950s and 1960s fell flat, as did a proposed herb plantation and (later) a pineapple plantation. In the late 1980s, the Sheraton hotel chain bought the land and invested more than $60 million into an intended holiday resort. The project was plagued by setbacks. In 1993, with 80% of the Sheraton project finished and an estimated $120 million invested, the construction came to a final halt. Designed to be a palatial 200-room holiday complex, the Sheraton resort lies abandoned to decay in this island paradise.

Cursed? Odd series of events? What do you think?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Tangled Tuesday-Guest Author Stephen Kozeniewski


Braineater Jones wakes up face down in a swimming pool with no memory of his former life, how he died, or why he’s now a zombie. With a smart-aleck severed head as a partner, Jones descends into the undead ghetto to solve his own murder.

But Jones’s investigation is complicated by his crippling addiction to human flesh. Like all walking corpses, he discovers that only a stiff drink can soothe his cravings. Unfortunately, finding liquor during Prohibition is costly and dangerous. From his Mason jar, the cantankerous Old Man rules the only speakeasy in the city that caters to the postmortem crowd.

As the booze, blood, and clues coagulate, Jones gets closer to discovering the identity of his killer and the secrets behind the city’s stranglehold on liquid spirits. Death couldn’t stop him, but if the liquor dries up, the entire city will be plunged into an orgy of cannibalism.

Cracking this case is a tall order. Braineater Jones won’t get out alive, but if he plays his cards right, he might manage to salvage the last scraps of his humanity.


Stephen Kozeniewski lives with his wife and two cats in Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the modern zombie. He was born to the soothing strains of "Boogie With Stu" even though The Who are far superior to Zep, for reasons that he doesn't even really want to get into right now.

During his time as a Field Artillery officer, he served for three years in Oklahoma and one in Iraq, where due to what he assumes was a clerical error, he was awarded the Bronze Star. The depiction of addiction in his fiction is strongly informed by the three years he spent working at a substance abuse clinic, an experience which also ensures that he employs strict moderation when enjoying the occasional highball of Old Crow.

He is also a classically trained linguist, which sounds much more impressive than saying his bachelor's degree is in German.


Barnes and Noble 



Monday, June 2, 2014

#MeatlessMonday- #Vegetarian Penne Pasta

Photo courtesy of Sandra S. Stone via photobucket

2 large onions, chopped
6 T olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
10 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
I cup chopped fresh spinach
1 cup vegetable broth
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 package (16 ounces) uncooked penne pasta
24 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-in. cubes
1 cup black olives
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup feta


Sauté onions in oil until tender. Add garlic, stir in tomatoes, veggie broth, spinach, basil, pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened.

Cook penne according to package directions; drain.

Stir the mozzarella cheese, olives and cooked penne into the sauce.

Transfer to a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish; sprinkle with Parmesan and feta cheese.

Cover and bake at 375° for 20 minutes. Uncover; bake 5 minutes

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Announcing the Winner of the "Is it Summer Yet?" Blog Hop!

Thank you to all who entered "Is it Summer Yet?" Blog Hop!  I hope you had fun! The winner of my contest for an ecopy of STRUCK and Cooking with Musa (a gift from my publisher) is Theresa N.

I've sent you a notification email, Theresa--look for it! (If it went to SPAM, please leave a reply here and I'll resend)

If you would still like to win an ecopy of STRUCK or more great books and prizes, please take a peek at The Romance Reviews Sizzling Summer Reads contest which runs the whole month of June.

June 1-June 30th
Sizzling Summer Reads Party
More than 250 participating authors and publishers

More than 200 prizes up for grabs! Grand Prize is a $100 TRR Gift Certificate

Login and join the TRR Sizzling Summer Reads Party! Play games, join the fun and win prizes! You must register and login to play the game

My Q&A is up on June 25th to WIN an ecopy of my paranormal gothic horror STRUCK