Clarissa Johal: September 2014

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tangled Tuesday-Author Interview with Permuted Press

I had a guest lined up today but unfortunately, they had an emergency and had to cancel last minute. These things happen.

I'm busy writing this week so I'm going to share my author interview with Permuted Press as a stand-in. If you're interested in horror, paranormal and things that go bump in the night--sign up for their newsletter and stay updated on new releases, author interviews, events, news and promos.

My next novel VOICES will be released via Permuted Press on April 28, 2015. Here's a peek:

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.


Monday, September 29, 2014

#MeatlessMonday-Veggie-Cheese Enchiladas #vegetarian

Photo courtesy of jeffreyw via Flickr
The days here are finally growing cooler. (yay!) Here's a hearty dish you can make ahead of time and even freeze. I'm all about one-dish meals and hiding adding vegetables to family dinners, so I usually add spinach to this recipe. You can omit the spinach if it truly disturbs you--I know it's not "traditional" when it comes to this cuisine. Enjoy!

Red Chile Sauce

2 tsp oil
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup chile powder
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup water
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt 

Saute 1/2 chopped onions and garlic. Add chile powder, broth, water, oregano, and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until thickened and reduced by about one-third, about 20 minutes.


1 can (15-ounce) refried beans
2 T plain yogurt
1/2 cup chopped fresh spinach
12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese, divided 

1/4 cup green onion, chopped
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup olives

Preheat oven to 400F.
Coat a 9x13 glass baking dish with cooking spray. 
Combine beans and yogurt in a small bowl. 

Compose dish in 4 layers 

**You can either roll the bean mixture in the tortillas and layer with sauce/cheese/onions (like in the photo) or layer the tortillas flat like I've outlined here (the easy way). 

Layer one: 1/4 cup sauce, 4 tortillas (laid flat), 1/2 the bean mixture, 2/3 cup cheese and 2T onions.
Layer two: one-third of the sauce, 4 tortillas (laid flat), remaining bean mixture, 2/3 cup cheese and the remaining onions.
Layer three: Spread half remaining sauce and chopped spinach on top and cover with 4 tortillas
Layer four: Top with remaining sauce and cheese

Bake the enchiladas for 15-20 minutes until hot and bubbling. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Top with green onions, olives and sour cream

Friday, September 26, 2014

Frightening Friday-Haunted Colosseum, Rome, Italy

Photo courtesy of Nina^ via Flickr
Built between 70 and 72 AD, the Colosseum in Rome, Italy became synonymous with the Roman Empire and served as the location where gladiators, slaves and Christians fought for their lives in front of blood-thirsty fans. It is estimated that roughly 500,000 people and 1,000,000 animals died in the Colosseum over the course of its use. With that much bloodshed and intense emotion, it's no wonder that the Colosseum is considered one of the most haunted places in the world.

Visitors have heard whispering in the tunnels and some have seen lights floating around where many gladiators waited to die.
Others report that they've been touched and pushed. Some have heard the clash of swords, the roars of lions and sounds of weeping and moaning. On hot days, it has been reported that the Colosseum has unexplained cold spots. Tourists also report seeing ghostly figures walking up the stairs of the stadium and ghostly Roman soldiers standing at the exits.

Tickets to visit the Colosseum are priced at $25 pp and up.
If you're feeling brave, Dark Rome offers a Colosseum Night Tour for $100 pp.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday-The Glimmerings of Autumn

Autumn is coming, I can smell it. That waning golden light-warm breezes with a touch of impending chill-dried leaves falling from the trees kind of smell.

It's the time I drain my pond and winter my turtle inside for the next six months. A sad day for both of us.

It's the time that my daughter and I revel in $5 Starbucks Pumpkin Spice lattes. I know, I know.

It's the time my ghost makes his appearance by the oak tree.

It's the time I pay close to $3.00/pound for Honeycrisp apples because there's nothing worse than a bad apple. Well-worth the price paid.

It's the time Halloween decorations start to show up. My advice to the stores? Quit displaying Halloween with Christmas decorations because that totally kills the mood.

It's the time my dogs can expect longer walks with more "stuff" to snuffle.

It's the time I finally get to put away my mosquito repellent. Mosquitoes love me. I can't say the feeling is mutual.

It's the time when I start buying pumpkins simply because I love the color--and then scour the internet for pumpkin recipes because I can't stand wasting food.

I hope whatever season is coming your way that you revel in it!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

#FolkloreThursday - Ursula Sontheil (Mother Shipton)

Public domain photo
Mother Shipton was said to have been an English soothsayer and prophetess from the 15th-16th century. The story goes like this:

Ursula Sontheil (1488 - 1561) was born in a cave beside the river Nidd in North Yorkshire, England. Some reports say that her mother gave her up to live in a convent, while others say the woman died in childbirth. Ursula's father was unknown.

The child exhibited prophetic and psychic abilities from an early age. Fostered by woman who lived on the outskirts of town, many stories were told of her odd childhood. In one, Ursula and her crib went missing from the house. When the villagers were called upon to look for her, they were attacked by supernatural forces. Ursula was eventually discovered in her crib half-way up the chimney, unharmed.

At 24 years old, she married a local carpenter and became a village prophetess and healer. To avoid persecution for the crime of witchcraft, she wrote her prophecies in rhyme and verse. Her fame soon spread and she became known as Mother Shipton. In 1559 she wrote an epic poem that would become famous down through the ages.
Many of her visions came true within her own lifetime and in subsequent centuries, including these:

The dissolution of the Catholic Church under Henry VIII
The fall of Cardinal Wolsey
The untimely death of Henry’s son Edward VI
The reign of “Bloody” Mary I
The ascent of Queen Elizabeth to the throne of England
The Great Fire of London in 1666
The defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588
The advent of modern technology.
Her own death in 1561.

Many of her prophecies were composed by others after her death. The most famous version was published by Richard Head in 1641. Head later admitted to inventing almost all Shipton's biographical details. Since 1641 there have been more than 50 different published editions of her poems.

Gleaning the real from myth and folklore in this case is difficult. Her original poetry is difficult to find and supposedly kept from being viewed by the public. With the passage of time and lack of historical evidence, there is debate as to whether she existed at all. Village wise-women certainly existed and were called upon for simple cures and herbal remedies. It's not a stretch of the imagination that there may have been one who was famed in her local area for having exceptional powers. Regardless, the real truth about Mother Shipton will probably never be known. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tangled Tuesday-The Beginnings of a Story

I'm writing this on a Sunday morning. I had a terrible time sleeping last night. I kept waking with sentences in my head and the distressed feeling I'd forget them. The beginnings of a story though I'm unsure where it will go. I'm sure the characters will tell me later. Two points of view. They haven't told me their names yet--but give them time.


She wandered the castle ruins. The breeze brought with it what sounded like the distant murmur of voices. She settled on a pile of stones, listening to them.
The stones exuded warmth borrowed from the day's sun. She touched them, the heat soaking into her fingertips. If she could just make out the words, a story would be told.
Pictures from long ago flashed through her mind's eye. The pictures flipped through like a shuffled deck of cards until they slowed, each card a frozen snapshot of a point in time. Fractured sentences and fleeting emotions followed. One stood out. The most insistent one.

He watched as she tilted her head to one side, seemingly listening to his silent plea. Thousands of years had passed and he was used to silence. He moved through time like a forgotten and unimportant memory. He had been important once. He had been loved. But now...he was silent. He approached her and she edged away, making room for him beside her. A sliver of hope pushed its way into his heart.

He sat and began to tell his story...

Monday, September 22, 2014

#MeatlessMonday-Blue Cheese Polenta with Chickpeas & Vegetables #vegetarian

Photo courtesy of rusvaplauke via Flickr
Polenta is my comfort food. There are many ways to prepare polenta but I think it tastes best with cheese. If you don't like blue cheese, you can substitute any kind you'd prefer. Add your favorite vegetables too--the recipe is quite versatile. Enjoy!

Blue Cheese Polenta with Chickpeas & Vegetables

2 T olive oil, divided
8-ounces mushrooms
1 tsp basil
1-1/2 cups spinach, chopped
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 can chickpeas, drained
1 can chopped tomatoes, drained
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp salt, divided
1/4 tsp black pepper, divided

3 cups milk
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup quick-cooking polenta
3/4 cup (3 ounces) crumbled blue cheese

1) Sauté in olive oil: mushrooms, basil, spinach, red bell pepper, chickpeas, chopped tomatoes, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper. Set aside.

2) Combine milk, 1/2 cup water, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/8 teaspoon black pepper in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil.

3) Stir in polenta; cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and stir in blue cheese.

4) Top with sautéed vegetables and chickpeas

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday-Pancake Hypnosis

I have no thoughts today.
I'm working on my book which means they're being All. Used Up. 

Stare at the pancake instead

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

#Paranormal Wednesday-Green Children of the Woolpit

Photo courtesy of Rod Bacon
Creative Commons Licence 
I came across this story while watching a You Tube video "Top 20 Unexplained Mysteries" with my kiddos. I found it very interesting and had to look into it further. The 12th century story originates from the village of Woolpit in Suffolk, England and it goes like this:

It was harvest time and reapers were working in the fields when they discovered  two children--a girl and a boy--in the wolf pits. Their skin was green, they spoke an unknown language, and their clothing was made from strange material. The children were taken to the home of Sir Richard de Calne, a local landowner. They were offered food and drink, but refused both. This went on for several days until the children came across some raw beans, which they consumed eagerly. The children gradually adapted to normal food and in time lost their green color.

After learning to speak English, the girl explained that they came from a twilight land where the sun never shone. She called their home St Martin's Land and claimed everything was green, including the inhabitants. She wasn't sure where her homeland was located, but said another 'luminous' land could be seen across a 'considerable river' separating it from theirs. She remembered that she and her brother were looking after their father's cattle. Following the cattle into a cavern, the children heard the sound of bells. When they tried to follow the sound, they appeared inside the pit and didn't know how they got there.

Interesting story, isn't it? There are different reports as to what happened to the children after they were found. One states the boy became ill and died a year later. The girl, on the other hand, became a servant and later married. Another report states that the boy died soon after he was baptized and the girl died five years later.

Many theories have been put forth regarding the tale, as it has all the trappings of a myth. Some say the children were fairies, other believe they were aliens from outer space or from a parallel dimension. The "accepted" theory is that the children were from a distant Flemish village. Many Flemish immigrants arrived in England during the 12th century and were persecuted. The parents may have died and the children fled Fornham St Martin and ended up in the village of Woolpit. Disoriented and dressed in unfamiliar Flemish clothes, they would have presented a very strange spectacle to the Woolpit villagers. The green skin may have been caused by hypochromic anemia, a dietary deficiency (historically known as chlorosis or green sickness).

There is a mix of evidence that both supports and undermines this "accepted" theory.

* It is unlikely that an educated man such as Richard de Calne wouldn't have recognized the Flemish language spoken by the children.

* It is also unlikely that the children's clothing would have been unrecognizable, since there were many Flemish immigrants at the time.

* The closest cavern to Woolpit would have been a flint mine, some 32 miles away--much too far for two young children to walk. If the children came directly from Fornham St Martin (10 miles away) there were no caverns in the area. So, what cavern could the children have gone into, only to find themselves at Woolpit?

* What of the girl's claims of being from "twilight land where the sun never shone" or that "everything was green, including the inhabitants" ? (Twilight lands and the color green are associated with faerie lore) Interesting indeed.

Regardless, we'll probably never know. But it makes for a good story.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tangled Tuesday-A Pep Talk for #Writers and #Artists

I'm going to offer a little pep talk to anyone who needs it today. This past month three of my very talented friends have questioned whether or not they've made the right career choice. Two were quite depressed over receiving bad reviews on their books. Another sold a painting online--only to have the buyer "change their mind" once they received it.

Let's face it, you can't please everyone. What concerns me is knowing that things like this can literally destroy an author or artist's self-confidence. I get it--artists feel things deeper than most. But why would you want to give ONE person that much power? Or two...or even three?

Remember when you were a kid in school? Did you get bullied? I think a lot of people were--myself included. There was always that one bully that felt the need to point out that I had freckles. Well, duh. Like I didn't see them in the mirror every day of my life. Regardless, I let it get to me and went home (more than once) in tears. I hated school. I hated the kids that bullied me. Even more--I hated my freckles.

Now, I'm not saying that a person giving a bad review or returning an art purchase is a bully. Everyone is allowed an opinion. But how much power do you want to give these people? None.

Keep writing. Keep making art. Move on. There are many readers and art lovers out there. Do what you're driven to do. Without you--the world wouldn't be a very interesting place.

Monday, September 15, 2014

#MeatlessMonday-Satan's Wings #vegetarian #vegan

Photo courtesy of Darwin Bell via Flickr
Har-har. Bad joke, sorry. The vegetarian recipe I'm going to share with you today is for Seitan Wings. My husband jokingly refers to my seitan as Satan, so there you go.  Enjoy!

Seitan Wings

8 oz. Seitan, cut into strips
2 T olive oil
1/4 cup hot sauce
1 tsp honey or molasses
1 tsp paprika
1-⅓ cups panko breadcrumbs

Whisk together olive oil, hot sauce, honey or molasses, and paprika in medium bowl.
Add seitan and stir until coated.
Cover, and marinate 2 hours.

Heat oven to 350F.

Coat seitan with breadcrumbs.
Place on oiled baking sheet. 
Bake 15 minutes, turn and bake 15 minutes more (or until crispy).

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday-JIBO: The First Family Robot

Sometimes I'll read a news story that will stick with me.  Back in July, there was a bit of buzz about a new form of technology called JIBO. The infomercial starts out like this:

"This is your house. This is your car. This is your toothbrush. These are your things.
But these (close-up of family photo) are the things that matter. And somewhere in this guy."

JIBO is touted as a helpful robot that isn't just "an aluminum shell" or "motor system" or "a connective device" of the family. The infomercial goes on to state that he's a hands-free helper that will take family photos and remind you of appointments. He's also "an entertainer and educator" for your children. He can read to them and tuck them in at night...

Wait. Back it up because this is where the infomercial lost me. Shouldn't parents be doing that?

The next scene goes something like this. Mr. Working Guy comes home to an empty house after a hard day. But wait! The house isn't empty at all! There's JIBO. 

"Welcome home, Eric."
"Hey, buddy. Can you order some take-out for me?" 
"Sure thing. Chinese, as usual?"
"You know me so well."

No...that's not creepy at all.

At the end of the infomercial, the creator of JIBO addresses the viewer.

"What if technology actually treated you like a human being?...What if technology helped you, like a partner?" 

Listen to what she says because it speaks volumes about our society. Ironic that this company is trying to "humanize technology" by creating more technology. Do we need to humanize technology or dig a little deeper and rediscover our own humanity?

My thoughts on technology probably reflect my age. I'm part of the Generation X crowd. Defined as a self-reliant generation that reject rules and mistrust institutions, we have our issues. But we grew up interacting with real human beings.

My kiddos are part of Generation Z. They've never known life without personal computers, mobile phones, gaming systems and the Internet. Unfortunately, technology has also contributed to this generation's multitasking obsession. And while they are able to complete many tasks at once, the generation has ended up with a self-imposed version of ADD. Nothing gets their focused attention. Nothing. I've witnessed Gen Z 'tweens and teens "getting together" only to have their faces crammed into their iPhones with scarcely a word between them. WTH.

So, is JIBO needed? Apparently so. We need something to take family photos, interact with our children and make calls for us. We can't possibly manage these things ourselves because we're multi-tasking, after all. And multi-tasking not with human beings...but with technology.

Learn more about JIBO here and tell me what you think.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

#Paranormal Wednesday-Skipping Around the Maypole

Photo Courtesy of Gabi Witthaus via Flickr
Last March, I was fortunate enough to speak at my daughter's middle school on Career Day. They had the usual questions one would expect: "Do writers make lots of money?" (hahahahaha!) "How did you get started?" (I wrote a play in high school) "Which classes were the most helpful?" (all of them) "Have you ever seen a ghost?" (Yes, right behind you) and the big question: "What advice would you give to someone who wanted to be a writer?"

The most important advice I can give to someone who wants to be a writer isn't "just write" or something equally as ridiculous. It's to let your mind wander and "what-if?" Writing is kind of like a maypole--you grab one ribbon of an idea and skip around and around until it starts to weave itself into something coherent. I think the middle-schoolers were somewhat surprised at this advice. A grown-up telling them to day-dream? Shocking.

My mind wanders and "what-ifs" constantly. Some "what-ifs" grow into stories and some remain on the back-burner. And some skip around the maypole until they get dizzy and fall over. Here are a few "what-ifs" that were skipping around in my head as I was writing this post.

What if everyone had amnesia at the same time?
What if the leaves that fell from trees were the souls of faeries? 
What if the ghost of an unknown writer couldn't "move on" until someone read their book?
What if our universe were a glob of sand on a beach?
What if I'm dreaming?
What if everyone on the planet were granted one wish...and one minute to make it?
What if you were a ghost's sole form of entertainment?
What if UFOs were really angels dabbling in technology?

And yes, it's a weird place in my head sometimes.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Tangled Tuesday-The Good, the Bad...and the Anticipated

I have a handful of television shows I watch. Thank goodness for the ability to record and fast-forward through commercials because I don't have the patience for those. In the spirit of Tangled Tuesday (and mostly because I'm busy working on my novel and couldn't think of anything else to write about) I thought I'd share my list; the Good, Bad and the Anticipated.

The Good:

The top of my list is Defiance. This show just gets better and better. I love Datak and Stahma. They're complex and wonderful--as well-written characters should be.

Hemlock Grove on Netflix. I just watched the last episode and WTH?? The next season doesn't start until 2015. I'll be glued.

The Dead Files. Amy Allan is one of the few psychics I respect. She helps people (the living and the dead) rather than exploiting them for entertainment purposes.

The Bad:

True Blood ended on a whimper (sorry True Blood die-hards, the finale was lame). We followed Sookie and all her liaisons through seven seasons of awesomeness and she ends up with a faceless man we've never seen before? Um...okay.

The Anticipated:

Bates Motel, which doesn't start up again until 2015. *sad face* Again, it's all about the characters.

My most anticipated is American Horror Story: Freak Show. October 8th can't come fast enough. Bring in the clowns...

Monday, September 8, 2014

#MeatlessMonday-Death by Garlic #vegetarian #vegan

Photo courtesy of Smallest Forest via Flickr
Garlic is well-known for its antiviral and anti-bacterial properties. Research also indicates that the herb has cancer-fighting potential. There are many different ways to introduce garlic into your diet--roasted garlic is one of them.

Roasted garlic is easy to make. Yes, your breath will smell. Yes, vampires won't give you the time of day (or night, as the case may be) but sometimes you have to cast caution to the wind. As yummy as roasted garlic is, mind you don't overdo it. Garlic in large quantities can cause stomach problems for some--even when it's roasted.


Heads of garlic
Olive oil

1. Preheat your oven to 400°F (205° C)

2. Peel and discard the outer papery layers of the whole garlic bulb. Leave on the skin. Cut the top off the bulb, exposing the individual cloves of garlic (see picture).

3. Place the garlic bulbs (individually) in a muffin pan. Drizzle olive oil over each exposed bulb, saturating them. Cover muffin tin with aluminum foil. 

4. Bake at 400°F (205°C) for 30-35 minutes, or until the cloves are soft.

5. Scoop out from skins. Use it in cooking or as a spread on bread or crackers. This is also delicious on pasta or baked potatoes! 

Monday, September 1, 2014

#Writing Week

It's Labor Day and the schools are closed. I'm spending it running around with my kiddos and doing all the things we didn't get to do over the weekend. A day of rest? I think not.

To top it off, our schools have scheduled a half-day this Friday which means my writing week will be tight. Don't get me started on half-days--such a waste of time for everyone involved.


I'm cramming in as much editing as I can on THE ISLAND this week and taking a hiatus from blogging. See you next Monday!