Clarissa Johal: 2016

Thursday, November 3, 2016

#FolkloreThursday - Fairy Rings

A "fairy ring" is a naturally occurring ring of mushrooms. Found in forested areas and grasslands, there are two different kinds; free and tethered. Free rings are usually found in meadows, fields, or lawns and aren't connected with any other organisms. Tethered rings show up in forests, usually with one or more trees in the center, and have a symbiotic relationship with the roots of the tree. A fairy ring is caused by mycelium, which advances away from the center of the ring at about 6-18 inches per year. In Belfort, France, one such fairy ring was estimated to be over 700 years old and spanned a quarter of a mile in diameter.

Fairy rings are the subject of worldwide folklore—particularly in Western Europe. Thought to be the result of elves or fairies dancing in the grass, straying into a fairy ring was often seen as dangerous. It could bring on disease, bad luck, or put one at risk of being captured and enslaved within the fairy realm. On the lighter side, the dew from the grass of a fairy ring was prized as a cosmetic skin treatment, and used as an ingredient for love potions. In some cultures, building a home within a fairy ring would bring good luck to the family. In other cultures, it was believed that fairies buried their treasure within the fairy ring itself.

Beliefs such as these have been around for hundreds of years - some still believe in them today.

So, next time you see a faerie ring, will you stray inside, or give a wide berth?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

#Free Until October 30th! - POPPY by Clarissa Johal #paranormal

FREE Until October 30th!

A red-headed, pink-loving mortician who speaks to the dead.
A moody, unsociable funeral director.
Poppy and Dante from Struck are back.

Something is lingering around Skyview Funeral Home—and it's stealing souls of the dead.
With Dante in tow, Poppy is determined to put a stop to it.
Can she protect those who are trying to cross over, or will her soul be next?

(Poppy is a standalone novel)


Monday, October 24, 2016

#MeatlessMonday - Apple Cider Cake with Salted Caramel Glaze #dessert

This may seem like a complicated recipe, but it isn't. You can use whatever apples you wish (Granny Smith or Honeycrisp apples work well). If you don't like pecans (or any nuts) you may omit those. Enjoy!

Apple Cider Cake with Salted Caramel Glaze


Streusel topping:

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup pecans, chopped
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/3 cup vegetable oil


4 medium apples, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch chunks
1 cup + 2 Tbs all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup apple cider

Salted Caramel Glaze:

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 cup whipping cream
2 Tbs butter, cubed
1/4 tsp salt



For the streusel topping:

Combine all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside.

For the caramel glaze:

Combine sugar and water in saucepan. Without stirring, cook on medium-high until mixture comes to a boil and begins to caramelize (5-10 minutes.) Once the mixture shows streaks of gold, stir a couple of times and remove from heat when it turns a dark amber. Immediately pour in the cream and whisk. Add butter and salt and whisk. Return to medium-low heat for 5 minutes, until slightly reduced.

Set aside to cool completely

For the cake:

Preheat the oven to 350F
Grease a 9-inch spring-form pan.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, nutmeg, ginger, and salt.
In a large bowl, whisk eggs and sugar together until the mixture thickens and becomes pale. Whisk in oil and apple cider.
Combine egg mixture with dry ingredients. 
Fold apples in gently with a spatula.
Pour the batter into the greased spring-form pan.
Sprinkle with the streusel topping.

Bake at 350F for 55-70 minutes until golden-brown on top and toothpick comes out clean.
Allow to cool completely.
Drizzle with glaze and serve.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Frightening Friday - The Living and the Dead - The Veil Between Worlds

It's ten days before Halloween!
I love this time of year, but things always go a bit haywire once October hits. We go through more lightbulbs, appliances break, unexplained things happen, and I catch more movement from the corner of my eye. This month is no different. The first week of October, we went through four lightbulbs. By the second week, our piano had taken to playing random notes, even though the cover is always closed. It's week three, and I'm still waiting for a major appliance to break. Let's hope it isn't my coffee maker, because then, we'd have some issues. No coffee=a very unhappy writer.

So, why is October so "busy?"  It is said that the veil between worlds becomes thin this time of year. Spirits are able to make contact and cross over from their world, into ours. Because October 31st marks the time between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice, ancient peoples thought it was an optimal time for communion with the spirits. The dead were welcomed in from the cold, and invited to feast with their loved ones. Ancient customs ranged from placing food out for dead ancestors, to performing rituals for communicating with the dead.

Historical origins aside, we definitely have more activity this time of year, and our house has plenty going on. I oftentimes wonder if we don't have some sort of "spirit railway" running through property. 

How about you? Do you notice more activity this time of year?

Follow up: the next morning after this was written, the touchscreen on my iPad stopped working. Better that, than my coffeemaker, I guess. :(

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Tangled Tuesday- Guest Author - The Unknown Fear by Stan Hampton, Sr. #giveaway #horror #scifi

The Unknown Fear
by Stan Hampton, Sr. 

            “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” (H.P. Lovecraft - Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown – Full Movie / Snagfilms.)
            Many people enjoy scary stories and movies—and no, I am not referring to those who enjoy a jolt from reading fiction or seeing gruesome and detailed slasher movies. Real life examples abound if someone tends toward that. I am referring to scary stories and movies of the unknown that go bump in the night, of the unknown that you may sense, or think you catch a glimpse of, out of the corner of your eyes.
            To set the stage, if you are taken out of your usual environment, you examine everything around you with curious, perhaps cautious eyes.
            Imagine leaving your safe and secure apartment or home and, oh, going camping in a rocky, forested area—the daylight fades and the shadows lengthen. The sound of night insects is loud, somehow reassuring. The campsite is lit by moonlight. The wind picks up and the trees rustle loudly. One end of the tent bulges inward from the wind while the other side bulges outward as if the tent is breathing. Perhaps you see the shadow of a tree or brush against the tent wall because of the moonlight. The air becomes colder. An uneasy feeling fills you as you listen to the night. Your eyes go to the sealed opening of the bulging tent door. Maybe you think you hear something, a stealthy movement that disturbs small rocks.
            You tell yourself that it is only the wind, perhaps the rustle of bushes.
            Besides, if there is something outside of the tent, the insects would lapse into silence, as if afraid of attracting the attention of something.
            You think, “Keep making noise. Please, dear God, keep making noise.”
            Then you realize that the moon has disappeared into the west and the windy night is even darker. You may even curse yourself for enjoying the delicious fear of reading about or watching movies of something unknown moving through a forest, or a desert, or a deserted street, or lurking outside of your kitchen window. You might even swear off of such reading or watching such stuff—scary stuff is so very different when you are alone, in the middle of windy darkness.
            You measure the hours until the night gives way to the warmth and safety of daylight.
            You curse the cot for the noise it makes when you shift position.
            Did something outside the tent hear you?
            You might start to doze off but every unfamiliar noise awakens you. And right away you are reassured, sort of, by the insects still serenading the night.
            Finally, you realize the hours have passed, the darkness is not so absolute as before. The birds are singing to the rising sun that is bringing warmth and safety.
            You did it! You made it through the night!
            Gratefully you get up from your cot and look outside at something in the sudden silence—


Monologue, Melange Books. Forthcoming April 2017.


TAG LINE: You can run, but what if you find yourself aboard a space faring Flying Dutchman?

BLURB: Luther Raynor is a son of one of the world’s wealthiest and politically influential families. When the Etava Virus appeared and spread across the world, mankind’s very survival was in question. Luther used his family’s wealth to construct a sleeper spacecraft to take the family into space, to orbit in safety around Jupiter for a thousand years while in suspended animation. At the last minute he changes the plan after calculating that upon awakening, survival supplies for one would last far longer than for two dozen or more people. He flees into space alone except for the Mobile Artificial Intelligence Image—May, responsible for operation of the spacecraft. But, Luther had no idea of what awaited him out there.

EXCERPT: The dream was always the same. He was floating alone in an unknown darkness until a pale dot emerged in the distance. He wrinkled his nose at the smell of burning wood and something else, something that smelled like sizzling bacon. His hand opened, fingers spread wide toward the dot that became a blue-green world, blanketed with dirty white clouds that sailed across a starry blackness. Dark, smoky clouds with a flickering yellow heart trailed the world whose colors were fading as if losing their vitality. An unfamiliar low, deep keening sounded from an unexplored deep…
* * * *
            “This is the Deep Space Sleeper Spacecraft Hope. Can anyone hear me?” After several moments of silence he closed with the by-now routine, “Hope out.”
In the cramped dimly lit cockpit cabin Luther Raynor covered his mouth with a trembling hand. Beyond the surrounding windows above the numerous instrument panels was a primordial night deeper than that of an unlit cave.
He listened intently. Beyond the dull hiss of circulating air he knew a stealthy creak issued from the narrow corridor through the open hatchway behind him. The sound would have been more at home on a haunted wooden sailing ship drifting aimlessly on a mysterious ocean rather than in a brightly lit spacecraft of which he was the only occupant. He was sure, after several frantic searches, that he was the only one aboard. But still…
Luther swallowed uneasily and ignored a faint groan. He touched the screens set in the control panel before him to activate another sensor and visual scan.
He was lost in the depths of unknown darkness, but knew he was a long way from Jupiter and the four moons discovered by Galileo Galilei - Callisto, Ganymede, Europa, and Io. After a months long journey the Hope was supposed to slide into position behind Europa, the moon with a possible planet wide ocean beneath an icy crust, and thought to have the best possibility for life outside of Earth. From there the gas giant, almost 700,000 kilometers distant with its myriad of misty blue, gray, orange, white and purple pastel bands, would fill the windows of the spacecraft. He would have a bird’s eye view of the mysterious Giant Red Spot, the hurricane-like storm that always was and always would be, as it grew and shrank according to its whim.
For a thousand years the five Galileans would circle that failed sun, after which the automatic flight systems would activate the return sequence and with a flare of rockets the powerful Zama Drive, descendant of the early 21st century Cannae Drive, would fling Hope away from its companions. Because of the speed generated by the Zama Drive, the world of his birth would soon appear in the spacecraft windows again.
            At least, that was what was supposed to happen.

* * * *
The darkness was fading before a kaleidoscope of spinning colors. A biting cold made moving difficult and painful.
Luther opened his eyes and after several moments of blinking against dim, yet painful lights, and blurriness, he realized he was still firmly secured within the titanium alloy suspended animation chamber.
            Elation filled him—he was alive! The emotion was replaced by confusion—where was he? But then, there was elation again—at least he was alive.
Luther examined the inside of the chamber with its maze of monitoring wires, electrodes, suspension fluid tubes, chemical nutrient tubes and waste tubes—the Personal Environmental Control and Life Support System—all connected to him through a layer of protective clothing by implanted plugs. There was a thick glass window above his face and one to either side of his head. Through the window all he could see was the ceiling of the cargo bay.
Luther frowned at a dim memory of being thrown around violently, but perhaps it was only a dream.
He had no idea how long he lay in the chamber lit by tiny lights from small instrument panels. When no one peeked through the chamber windows, he fumbled with the communication switch and in a hoarse voice painfully whispered, “Hello?”


 Author Bio

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.

He has had two solo photographic exhibitions and curated a third. 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.

 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.

 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). He is currently studying in a double major in Art and English at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.

  After over 14 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.

Hampton can be found at:


The Giveaway 

The award winning question, whoever correctly answers first in the comments, for which the winner will receive a free copy of MONOLOGUE, when it is released next year by Melange Books:

"What are the five Galileans?