Clarissa Johal: 2019

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Excerpt - The Lighthouse by Clarissa Johal #newrelease #paranormal #ghoststory

Sent to cover the haunting of Pelican Rock lighthouse, Riley Murdock vows to write a historical piece instead. Ghosts aren’t real. And she wouldn’t ruin her reputation as a serious journalist by writing the contrary. Photojournalist Dillon Page loves anything to do with the paranormal. Carefree and open-minded, he’s happy to treat their assignment like a ghost-filled vacation.

​But there’s more to Pelican Rock than either expected.

​When night falls, the mood in the dilapidated lighthouse shifts. Unexplained sounds, fleeting shadows, and icy breezes keep them both awake. And when Dillon starts acting strangely, Riley fears something is going on that she can’t explain.

From the author who brought you bestsellers Poppy, The Island, and Struck; comes a haunting tale that will keep you awake long past lights out.

Excerpt from The Lighthouse:

Riley woke to a loud “thump!” resonating across the floor. Followed by several more, the thumps were in succession. The door in the entry room probably blew open. Her tired thoughts began to wander before there was another thump, followed by yet another. Heavy, purposeful footsteps were coming up the lighthouse steps. Riley sat up, instantly awake. It looked like Dillon was burrowed in his sleeping bag. Weak moonlight traced the rumpled edges.

“Dillon!” she whispered.

The footsteps became louder and louder before they finally stopped at the door. Riley fastened her gaze on the broken handle, holding her breath. The door slowly swung open.

“Dillon!” She shot out of her sleeping bag and made a grab for him.

Dillon’s sleeping bag was empty. He’d left his sneakers behind, along with a rumpled hoodie, ripped-up jeans, and T-shirt.

What the hell? Riley turned with a frown, ready to tell him off for scaring her. The doorway was also empty. Confused, she crept forward and peered down the stairwell.

He probably went to the bathroom, she thought with a sigh of relief. I must have heard him going down, not coming up. Her bare foot brushed against something cold and she bent to pick the object up. “You forgot your flashlight, dummy!” Riley waited for him to respond. “For someone who’s afraid of the dark… You’re going to break your neck without your flashlight!” Her voice echoed against the walls of the lighthouse. She turned it on and shone the flickering beam of light down the stairs. The sound of footsteps echoed from below. “Jack-ass.” Riley slipped on her boots and trench coat and went to follow him.

The weak beam of light bounced erratically off the brick walls. It was pitch-black, and she grasped the railing to keep herself from tripping. As she rounded the curve, she caught a shadow disappearing around the corner. “Slow down!” When Riley reached the landing, she stopped to catch her breath. The footsteps continued down the stairs before they too stopped. “Dillon?” she called down. The footsteps started again. Angry, she debated whether to leave him on his own. The footsteps faltered. And if he breaks his leg, then what?

Riley descended the second flight of stairs, anger growing with each step. Every time she reached a landing, the shadow slipped down the stairs, just past her. And every time she stopped, the sounds of footsteps also stopped, as if Dillon were goading her on. By the time she reached the bottom, she was sputtering with white-hot anger.

The front door to the lighthouse stood open. Muted moonlight fell across an empty beach like an afterthought. Confused, she shone the flashlight in the outhouse’s direction. There’s no way he could have run that fast. I would have seen him. Riley scanned the rocks, expecting to see Dillon crouched beside one, laughing at her. Nothing but normal shadows lurked in the crevices.

She started towards the outhouse when she caught movement at the cottage. Anger again pricked at her insides. She marched toward the doorway, shining the flashlight needlessly on her path. The moonlight was enough to see by but she felt better holding the flashlight in front of her, like a club. I’ll clobber him over his dear little head when I catch up with him. She stopped and pointed the beam of light inside, like an accusing finger. Dillon’s quiet singing sounded from the bedroom. Continuing inside with a scowl, she found him sitting beside the cradle, rocking it slowly.

“What are you doing?”

Dillon paused, his attention still focused on the cradle. 

“It’s the middle of the damn night.” Unbridled anger washed away threads of fear. “You woke me up stomping down the stairs like that—”

“Shh,” he interrupted. “I’m singing to my baby.”

“This isn’t funny, Dillon! You could have broken your neck running down the stairs like that! Worse, I could have broken my neck running after you.” She waited for him to explain himself, her heart thudding in her chest. Instead, he continued to sing quietly, as if it was perfectly normal to sing to an empty cradle. A sudden realization dawned on her. Oh, my god, he’s sleepwalking. She inwardly rolled her eyes. Of course, he is. She felt the muscles in her neck relax a fraction as her anger dwindled. “Dillon, it’s time to go to bed. I’m going to take your arm and we’ll walk back together—” She made a move towards him and his gaze snapped to hers. There was something in his expression that made her stomach lurch. For a moment, he didn’t look like himself at all. His features were too soft, too feminine. And his eyes… They didn’t even look blue in this light. Riley took an involuntary step away. 

The Lighthouse by Clarissa Johal #paranormal #ghoststory #newrelease

Sent to cover the haunting of Pelican Rock lighthouse, Riley Murdock vows to write a historical piece instead. Ghosts aren’t real. And she wouldn’t ruin her reputation as a serious journalist by writing the contrary. Photojournalist Dillon Page loves anything to do with the paranormal. Carefree and open-minded, he’s happy to treat their assignment like a ghost-filled vacation.

​But there’s more to Pelican Rock than either expected.

​When night falls, the mood in the dilapidated lighthouse shifts. Unexplained sounds, fleeting shadows, and icy breezes keep them both awake. And when Dillon starts acting strangely, Riley fears something is going on that she can’t explain.

From the author who brought you bestsellers Poppy, The Island, and Struck; comes a haunting tale that will keep you awake long past lights out.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

July Charity Event! #books #paranormal #nonprofit #cats #shelter @SafeHaven4Cats

July Charity Event

My birthday month has crept up on me!
This marks the 7th year I'll be donating 100% of July royalties. 
It's my way of giving back to causes I care about.
This year, all royalties from the sales of my books will be donated to Safe Haven for Cats, a non-profit, no-kill rescue organization.
Please check them out, they do amazing work.
Happy reading!


 We adopted Dusty from Safe Haven in November.
He's my constant writing companion! 



This year I've decided to donate my royalties to sponsor  
Nurse Jackie who has been at Safe Haven for Cats 1130 days (as of July 27, 2019). 

If you are looking to adopt, please consider checking out 
the cats waiting for a forever home at Safe Haven for Cats.

Monday, May 13, 2019

#MeatlessMonday - Spiced Cupcakes with Chai Frosting #dessert

Spiced Cupcakes with Chai Frosting


1/2 teaspoon each ground ginger, cinnamon and allspice
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups cake flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup buttermilk


6 tablespoons butter, softened
3 cups confectioners' sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-4 tablespoons half & half


1. In a small bowl, combine the ginger, cinnamon, allspice and pepper; set aside.
2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and 1-1/2 teaspoons spice mixture. Gradually add to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk, beating well after each addition.
3. Fill paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full.

Bake at 350° for 24-28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.


In a large bowl, beat butter until fluffy; beat in the confectioners' sugar, vanilla and remaining spice mixture until smooth. Add enough half & half to reach desired consistency.
Pipe frosting over cupcakes and decorate as desired.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

#Paranormal Wednesday - #Haunted Theatre #ghosts

Victoria High School of the Arts, 1962
This week I'm going to share my story of a haunted theatre (cue in scary over-the-top theatre music). Specifically, a school theatre in the Victoria School of the Arts located in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. I graduated from this high school in 1982. Back then, the school was known as Victoria Composite High School and was just that; a school divided in half.
The newer half of the building was dedicated to vocational students, while the other half, aka the "old" building, was where the theatre students were relegated. We didn't mind. The old half of the building was cool and we loved it.

Our theatre arts department housed not one, but two stages; a main stage and smaller "black box" theatre. Under the main stage in the basement, was the make-up, costume and dressing rooms, plus several storage rooms for props. Spooky? You bet. Especially if you had to go down there alone.

The main theatre and basement were notoriously haunted and rumors abounded as to whom the ghost might be. One rumor said a student was killed in an accident involving a stage light, another said they hung themselves in one of the dressing rooms, and yet another said they'd slit their wrists in the bathroom. Regardless, there were several incidents that fueled these rumors.

Early one Saturday morning, our cast was rehersing and the only ones in the school (yes, we were that dedicated). While standing at the back of the theatre to see how the stage lights looked, we saw the stage trap-door rise and fall with a bang. We ran downstairs to see if someone was in the basement. With only one set of stairs down and no other way out, we would have come face-to-face with someone had they tried to leave. There was nobody down there. All the prop, costume and dressing room doors were locked, including the door with access to the stage trap-door. Needless to say, any treks into the basement that Saturday were put off until later. Not that we were scared or anything... 

Even though the basement held a spooky vibe, we'd often hang out in the dressing rooms during lunch. We were "supposed" to be rehersing and we were...80% of the time. The other 20% we were doing what high school kids do - talking, napping, sometimes we'd even catch up on homework. Once, we smuggled an Ouija Board past our teacher and spent the afternoon trying to contact whatever would listen. Yeah, we were that dumb.

The girls dressing room and ajoining bathroom seemed to be the hub of activity in the basement. The bathroom shower would turn on-and-off by itself (the first time this happened, I ran to catch the culprit but the water turned off as soon as I entered). While studying lines in the dressing room, out of the corner of my eye, I'd see someone behind me, floating about two feet off the ground. I'd find out later that this same experience happened to many of the students. Because of that, I always felt the rumor of someone hanging themselves in the dressing room was plausible.

On-stage during rehersals, I'd see someone sitting in the back right corner in the audience. If I stepped to the apron to get a better look, the person would disappear. It wasn't a shadow due to stage lights because I'd see the same when house lights were on during non-dress rehersals. Several other students experienced the same phenomena.

There was a brick hallway where students as far back as the early-1900s had signed their names with quotes from plays they'd been in. It was a genuine piece of history and, not to be forgotten, I signed mine too. But if I stood for any length of time to read the other signatures, I'd always feel someone standing behind me. It would become so uncomfortable, I'd have to leave. Again, I found out later I wasn't the only person who'd experienced this.

The school has gone through many changes and by what I see on their website, been upgraded to a performing arts school only. Maybe some day I'll visit the school again, just to check it out. If any current students come across this blog post, leave a comment! I'd love to hear if the ghost/s stuck around. 

Monday, January 28, 2019

#MeatlessMonday - Butternut Squash with Mushroom Gravy #vegetarian

Butternut Squash with Mushroom Gravy


1 large butternut squash, about 3 lb.
4 tablespoons of clarified butter
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup coconut milk

16 oz. mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast
½ tablespoon of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 tablespoon flour
salt and pepper to taste


Halve an unpeeled butternut squash, remove seeds and place both halves face down on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking oil. Roast in a 450-degree oven until soft, about 35-40 minutes.

In a large skillet on medium high heat add 2 tablespoons of the clarified butter and minced garlic. Sauté the garlic until lightly browned. Add the sliced mushrooms and sauté for about 5-6 minutes until they are soft and begin releasing their juices. Add the rosemary and nutritional yeast. Stir in ¾ cup of the coconut milk. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes. Remove about 3 tablespoons of broth and whisk in the one tablespoon of flour. Whisk mixture back into gravy. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer until thickened.

Once the squash is cooked, carefully remove the skin. In a bowl, mash squash with 2 tablespoons of clarified butter and leftover 1/4 cup of coconut milk. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve the mashed squash with mushroom gravy on top.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Frightening Friday -- Isla de las Muñecas (Island of the Dolls)

Photo courtesy of Esparta via Flickr
Dolls. I've never been a big fan of dolls because I think they're creepy. Their blank stares, frozen expressions, predatory smiles...yeah, it's creepy.

Just south of Mexico City and between the canals of Xochimilco, there is a small island known as Isla de las Munecas (Island of the Dolls). As if one doll wasn't creepy enough, here you have a whole island of decapitated doll heads, arms and bodies; weathered by the elements and home to spiders and everything else. Oh, and did I mention? The dolls that populate the island have been put there to appease the spirit of a dead little girl and are reputedly haunted.

Don Julian Santana Barrera was a hermit who lived on the island. The story goes that he witnessed a little girl who drowned and was unable to save her. Seeing a doll floating in the canal, he hung it in a tree as a way of showing respect for her spirit. Shortly thereafter, Don Julian claimed he was haunted by the little girl and began hanging more dolls in an attempt to appease her. After 50 years of collecting dolls and hanging them around the island, Julian was found dead, drowned in the same spot where he found the little girl. 

After Don Julian’s death in 2001, the island became a tourist attraction run by members of his family. Local legend says that the dolls move their arms, heads and open their eyes. Some witnesses claim to hear the dolls whispering to one another. There are even those who claim the dolls have lured them to visit the island. 

Here's a short video to get an idea what the island looks like now. A trip to the Isla de las Muñecas is not on a regular tourist route. If you want to visit, you'll have to hire a private boat and the trip takes about two hours. Any takers?

Monday, January 21, 2019

#MeatlessMonday - Tofu Burritos #vegetarian #vegan

Here’s a recipe you can start several days ahead of time and pop in the oven when you’re ready. This recipe can be vegan, just omit the sour cream and use vegan cheese for topping. Easy-peasy. Enjoy!

Tofu Burritos

Photo courtesy of Zlatko Unger via Flickr

1 package of extra-firm tofu

¼ c. soy sauce
¼ c. apple cider vinegar
2T. brown sugar
4 tsp. sesame oil
½ tsp. ginger
½ tsp. cayenne
½ tsp garlic
½ tsp. cardamom
½ tsp. coriander
½ tsp. cumin

Mix ingredients together to make the marinade. Drain and rinse tofu. Cut into 1-inch cubes. Marinate tofu for 2-3 days.

When ready to bake, pour off marinade. Lay tofu on an aluminium foil-lined baking sheet.

Bake at 375F for 30 minutes or so, turning with a spatula a couple of times.

Wrap tofu in warmed tortillas with rice for a complete protein. Add tomatoes, fresh spinach, and top with avocado, grated cheese and sour cream.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Hello #NewOrleans

I recently took a trip to New Orleans and fell in love with the city. Their history is fascinating, there are lots of things to see and do, and the people are wonderful. The city has a definite "live and let live" vibe. 💓

We stayed in the French Quarter.- there's nothing better than waking to the sound of live jazz and tugboats. I felt more than a little guilty I was there to have fun, though. Homelessness is a huge problem in New Orleans, as it is in most cities. There’s a distinct demarcation between frivolous tourists and those trying to eke out a living. This year, I'm going to donate my July birthday royalties to a New Orleans homeless shelter rather than my usual animal-related charity. My thoughts keep going back to the people I saw on the streets.

You could literally spend an entire weekend shopping in the French Quarter but what I found more intriguing was the vibrant street art & music community. Every morning, they'd set up along the streets. Every night, they'd pack their wares and walk back to their homes. Art is never easy - in any form. It was obvious these artists were busting their butts just to make a living. One morning, we left our hotel at 6am and walked through Saint Louis Cathedral Square. There weren't many tourists out yet but a street performer was already playing his guitar and singing his heart out. When we walked back to our hotel around 7:30pm, he was still there. Kudos to this guy and the rest. Following your dream is never easy.

If you're wondering about the Voodoo Scene there are plenty of voodoo shops for the tourists, much like Salem and its "witch" shops. My advice is to do a bit of research so you don't embarrass yourself. Don't be "that" tourist and go crazy stocking up on voodoo dolls and gris-gris bags without knowing what they are. I saw too many tourists making asses of themselves and being flat-out disrespectful. It was weird. Voodoo is a polytheistic ancestral religion. A religion - not something to make fun of or screw around with because you think it's "spooky." Just my two-cents. 
The cemeteries are a photographers dream. There are many photo opportunities but again, don't be "that" tourist. Be respectful of the deceased and their families if you go tromping around. In the Garden District's Lafayette Cemetery there were plenty of tourists climbing the headstones and oddly, a street vendor selling Ouija boards to contact the dead. (I get everyone is trying to make a buck but it made me wonder who would buy one!)

Cemeteries aside, let’s talk ghosts. New Orleans is noted for its hauntings and given its history, including Hurricane Katrina, I can understand why. From a paranormal writer's perspective, this leaves the door open to all sorts of writing inspiration. This wasn't a writing trip, however, it was my daughter’s birthday. She doesn't like ghosts. I know, I know. Go figure. I honestly made an effort to book a hotel in the French Quarter that wasn’t haunted. In a city that prides itself on hauntings, it was almost impossible.

We stayed at the French Market Inn. I’m reasonably sure the landing where this photo was taken (above) was occupied by the ghost of a dead soldier. Every time I walked past this particular area, it felt like I'd walked through someone. I felt light-headed and got an image of a man wearing a military uniform. At night, I woke to the sound of someone pacing our very small room. There was no living person, of course, and the hotel grounds were silent. Another thing - I usually don't have nightmares but, yikes! I had several in which I was drowning and a very intense one where I lost my memory. That particular one still haunts me.

Walking the streets of the French Quarter, there were only two places that gave me pause for thought. After exiting the Voodoo Museum, my phone battery was completely dead (it was charged before we went in). In the Pharmaceutical Museum, there was an old bed that felt "off" to both my daughter and myself. In my mind's eye, all I could see were bloodied sheets and as you can see by my photo, the sheets were clean.

Photo courtesy of Darjeelingtea at English Wikipedia
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
To end on a (lighter) foodie note - 'cause New Orleans is known for its cuisine - it was difficult to find vegetarian eats! Lots of seafood but I don't eat fishies. C’est la vie. I lived off grits and pasta. I tried King Cake for the first time and loved it. I’m not a cake person but omg, I’m going to have to try and make it myself. What’s not to love about a rainbow-iced cinnamon cake with sugar sprinkles? Laissez les bon temps rouler!