Clarissa Johal

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

On Hiatus #amwriting #paranormal #darkfantasy

I haven't posted in a while (and may do some re-posts) but I'm still here!

I've been working hard on Whispers in the Wood, my new paranormal dark fantasy. It's been a few rough and busy months for my family but never fear! The novel is being fine-tuned before it goes off to the publisher.


Join my mailing list or follow my Amazon Author Page to stay in the loop.


Whispers in the Wood - Coming 2018


It all began with an acorn.

There are some places you shouldn’t disturb, places where history lingers. When Rowan travels to England, she finds a remote village, hidden in the shadow of an ancient forest. Vague warnings from the local people aren’t enough to stop her from venturing into the trees, or from picking up a single acorn. It seemed a simple action. But when a stranger emerges from the forest claiming the acorn belongs to him, Rowan finds herself pulled into something both centuries old, and deadly.

Monday, March 26, 2018

#MeatlessMonday - Umeboshi Onigiri (Japanese rice balls with salt-pickled plums) #vegetarian #vegan

Umeboshi Onigiri

Yield: about 6 onigiri
I had these in Hawaii recently and fell in love with them. They are the ultimate grab and go food and super-easy to make. Umeboshi isn't for everyone, it has a strong salty-sour flavor (on the level of Sour Patch Kids) but if you like those flavor profiles, you'll be hooked! 

Read about umeboshi and its health benefits HERE.

Photo courtesy of alexxis vis Flickr
Ingredients:


2 cups sushi rice

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

Umeboshi paste (this ingredient is usually much cheaper if you purchase it at your local Asian grocery store)

12 strips of dried seaweed/nori (See picture) You can purchase nori specifically for onigiri or cut the sheets into small or large strips, according to taste.)

Directions:



1. Cook rinsed and drained rice in rice cooker according to instructions.

2. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine vinegar, sugar, and salt. Microwave for 20 to 30 seconds until sugar is dissolved.

3. Transfer warm rice to a glass dish and spread into a thin layer. Sprinkle with vinegar mixture and gently fold into the rice until evenly coated.

4. When the rice is cool enough to handle, form into a rice ball (about 1/3 cup of rice) or triangle around a small dab of umeboshi paste. (Have a bowl of water next to you to wet your hands. It will keep the rice from sticking!)

5. Wrap in nori and press lightly to adhere.

6. Serve immediately so seaweed remains crisp. Unwrapped onigiri can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Wrap in seaweed just before serving.

Enjoy!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Frightening Friday - Creepypasta and Channel Zero #horror #paranormal

Creepypasta is quite popular with the young adult crowd - my teens included. On Creepypasta.com, you can submit your short horror/paranormal stories for (unpaid) publication, get reader feedback and ratings, explore writing prompts and participate in discussions. The site is a perfect venue for the budding horror/paranormal author and beyond. Their top stories have inspired the SyFy television series, Channel Zero, which just finished its third season. Channel Zero scored 98% on Rotten Tomatoes and if you haven't seen it yet, you're missing out. It's what American Horror Story used to be before it crashed and burned.

If you haven't checked out Creepypasta.com, I encourage you to do so!

Creepypasta
Twitter @creepypastacom
MrCreepyPasta via YouTube

You can catch up with Channel Zero here:

Channel Zero 
Twitter @ChannelZeroSYFY

Season One: Candle Cove (2016) based on Candle Cove by Kris Straub
A child psychologist returns to his hometown to determine if his brother's disappearance is somehow connected to a series of incidents and bizarre children's television show that aired at the same time.

Season Two:No-End House (2017) based on NoEnd House by Brian Russell
A young woman and her group of friends visit a house of horrors only to find themselves questioning whether it is a tourist attraction or something more sinister.

Season Three: Butchers Block (2018) based on Search and Rescue Woods by Kerry Hammond
A young woman moves to a city haunted by a series of disappearances. After learning the disappearances may be connected to a baffling rumor, she works with her sister to discover what is preying on the city's residents. 


Thursday, March 22, 2018

#ThoughtfulThursday - Top 10 Twitter Tips


Feeling snarky today. Uh-oh.

Thought I'd share some tips regarding Twitter. These are part of a larger, personal list (compulsive list-maker here).
See if you agree with my Top 10.






1. Don't send a direct message with something like, "Thanks for the follow. Like my FB page! Review my book! Buy my product! Have my baby!"

Um...can I get to know you first? All that awesome stuff usually comes after someone has read your book or discovers your product. Personally, high-pressure tactics make me want to run in the other direction. Quickly. It's worse when an author DMs another author. Really? You do realize I'm also writing/editing/promoting, right? How about you like my Facebook Page? How about you buy and review my book? Yeah...that's what I thought.

2. I can't say this enough: If you follow me and I go to your Twitter page and see an endless string of self-tweets, I'm probably NOT going to follow you back. Twitter is all about give-and-take. Tweeting about yourself 24/7 is obnoxious. Do you talk about yourself 24/7 too?  Yikes. I feel sorry for your friends and co-workers.

3. Don't try and pick someone up on Twitter and don't send naked pictures. That goes for Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, pretty much anywhere on the internet. Tacky as hell and I'm pretty sure it won't get you laid.

4. Don't ignore someone who mentions you (unless they're trying to start a fight). It's flat-out rude. Would you ignore them in a face-to-face conversation? Hopefully not.

5. Pay it forward. I'll return the favor if somebody retweets my books (unless I find their tweets distasteful). For the people who don't return the favor, I wonder what your relationships are like. Ditto for what goes on in your bedroom. Yeah, I'm kind of twisted like that. Sue me.

6. Don't announce how many people you Followed or Unfollowed. Seriously, who the f*%k cares?

7. PLEASE pin a tweet to the top of your page if you want a decent retweet. Don't make people go through your feed to find something relevant. Odds are, they don't have the time.

8. Be mindful of the profile picture you post. Selfies in the bathroom, duck faces, and boob shots make me think twice about following you. They also make me wonder what you're selling.

9. Don't start fights or get personal. In fact, here's a Golden Rule: Say nothing online you wouldn't say face to face. Don't be a coward and hide behind your computer. There's this weird thing called reputation. Just because you're online, doesn't mean you don't get one if you act like an ass.

10. Maybe it's a writer thing, but please spell check your tweets. Please. It makes you look oh-so-much smarter if you can spell correctly and manage a sentence.

Now...go tweet something. Or better yet, go outside and enjoy the day.

@ClarissaJohal


Thursday, March 1, 2018

#FolkloreThursday-Spring-Heeled Jack #England

English penny dreadful (c. 1890)
Image Use: Public Domain, Expired Copyright
Stepping from the shadows of Victorian folklore, Spring-Heeled Jack, as this entity came to be known, is one of the most unexplained mysteries to come out of Victorian England. He reputedly scratched, slapped and attacked his victims and then bounded away with a supernatural ability. The attacks began in 1837 in Southwest London and continued well into the 1920s.

Wide-spread accounts of Spring-Heeled Jack describe him as wearing a dark cloak over a tight-fitting white oilskin suit. He had a hideous face, glowing eyes like balls of fire, claw-like fingernails made of iron and the ability to spit blue and white flames from his mouth, paralyzing his victims. Eluding capture, the entity could jump incredible heights and distances--a reported 20-30 feet with ease.

The first reported victim was Polly Adams, a pub worker. In September of 1837, a group of four people were accosted by a 'Devil-like' creature. All of the victims ran but Polly was left behind. The creature allegedly tore at her clothing, scratching her skin with iron claws, before bounding off into the night. In October of 1837, a servant by the name of Mary Stevens was walking to work. The creature sprung from an alley and attacked her, ripping her clothing and kissing her face. The next day, the creature jumped in front of a carriage and caused it to crash. It then bounded over a nine foot wall. Vigilante groups were formed but the creature managed to evade them.
English penny dreadful - (c. 1886)
Image Use: Public Domain, Expired Copyright

In February of 1838, 18-year-old Lucy Scales and her sister were returning home when Spring-Heeled Jack reportedly jumped in front of the sisters and vomited blue flames into Lucy's face, temporarily blinding her.
Two days later, he appeared at the door of another victim, Jane Alsop. Dressed in a black cloak, he stated, “I’m a policeman. For Gods sake, bring me a light, for we have caught Spring-Heeled Jack in the lane.” When she returned to him with a candle, she saw it was Spring-Heeled Jack himself. He immediately attacked her, spitting blue and white "gas" into her face. Thankfully, her sister was able to pull Jane from his grasp and, once again, he bounded away into the night.

The only known fatality connected with Spring-Heeled Jack occurred in 1845 on a bridge in New York. In broad daylight and in front of witnesses, Spring-Heeled Jack grabbed a prostitute and spat blue fire into her face. The girl was thrown into a sewer where she tragically drowned.

In August of 1877, Spring-Heeled Jack appeared before a group of soldiers in Aldershot’s North army camp. Private John Regan was standing sentry when he heard the noise of someone dragging something metallic down the road. When he went to investigate, Spring-Heeled Jack leapt on him and spat blue flames into his face. Witnesses claim that the attacker, tall, thin and wearing a helmet and oilskin suit, jumped over them, clearing them by 10 feet or more.

In September 1904, Spring-Heeled Jack appeared on the roof of a church in Liverpool, England. Onlookers claimed he fell from the church's steeple to the ground. Thinking that he had committed suicide, they rushed to his aide only to find a man clothed in white, wearing a helmet and completely unharmed. Laughing, he ran away from the crowd and disappeared into the night.

The final recorded event occurred in 1920 at the Central Railway Station in London. A man in a white cloak was seen jumping from various rooftops to the street below.

Who or what was Spring-Heeled Jack? Some claim that he was a demon or supernatural entity. Others speculate it was one or more persons with a diabolical sense of humor, causing mass hysteria. The only physical evidence left behind was a set of footprints in 1837, the depths of the prints suggesting that a "spring" mechanism was used in the shoes of the assailant. But in this case, it was argued that a jump of that magnitude would break the ankles of the jumper.
Regardless, the legend lives on.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Top 10 #Anime Picks #paranormal #horror

I've been a fan of anime for 20+ years. I love the artwork, complex themes and the fact that they glean from Japanese folklore and mythology. Take a peek...

**All links go to Hulu, except for Vampire Hunter D (movie site) and Tactics (AnimeHere).

My top 10 picks in paranormal horror anime...in no particular order

Photo courtesy of Keng Susumpow via Flickr
1) Death Note (2006-2007)

Manga written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata.

Plot:
Yagami Light is a bored A-student with great prospects. One day, he finds a notebook (Death Note) from the realm of the death gods or shinigami. The book has the power to kill people in any way he desires, he merely has to write their name in it. Light decides to create his perfect world, one without crime or criminals. However, when criminals start dropping dead one by one, the authorities send the legendary detective 'L' to track down the killer. A battle of wits, deception and logic ensues, much like a chess game. 

My thoughts: This the crème de la crème of anime. The story is complex and the concepts of good and evil are challenged.

Fave character: Ryuk. Gotta love an apple eating shinigami with a sense of humor.

*I prefer sub-titled anime, but this dubbed version of Death Note is quite good.



2) Blue Exorcist (2011)
Manga written and illustrated by Kazue Katō. 

Plot:
Humans live in the world of Assiah, and demons live in Gehenna. The two dimensions are not meant to interfere with each other. In spite of this, demons still possess creatures in Assiah. The humans who can fight these demons are known as exorcists. Rin Okumura bears the curse of being Satan's illegitimate son. His foster father sacrificed himself to save him from demons. To avenge his foster father's death, Rin decides to follow the path of an exorcist.

My thoughts: This anime has many similarities with the current television series Supernatural. See if you can spot them!

Fave character: Mephisto Pheles. He enjoys chaos and is always ahead of the game. Plus, he dresses fab.

3) Vampire Hunter D (1985 Film)
Manga written in 1983 by Hideyuki Kikuchi and illustrated by Yoshitaka Amano. 

Plot:
Technology and the supernatural have overtaken the world. What's left of the human race live in fear of vampires, who keep werewolves and mutants to protect them. Doris Lang trespasses into vampire territory and encounters Count Magnus Lee, who tastes her blood and chooses her to be his next wife. Doris hires a vampire hunter by the name of 'D,' a dhampir (half human, half vampire), to rid her of this fate. 

My thoughts: Vampire Hunter D remains a cult classic.

Fave character: Carmilla. This vampire is deliciously evil, cunning and intelligent...and her clothes are awesome.

4) Black Butler (2008-2010)
Manga written and illustrated by Yana Toboso. (The second season, Kuroshitsuji II, aired in 2010 and did not feature in the manga.) 

Plot: 
In Victorian-era London, a young boy sells his soul to a demon in order to avenge his family's death. The demon takes the form of a loyal butler and is required to protect, serve and arrive whenever summoned by his young master until the deal has been completed.

My thoughts: I love the Victorian costumes and artwork in this series--flat out. I will drop a warning however, the relationships between the butlers and their underage 'masters' toe the line.

Fave character: Grell Sutcliff in his Grim Reaper form. Over-the-top, flamboyant and outspoken. What's not to love?
 
5) Mushishi (2005-2006)
Manga series written and illustrated by Yuki Urushibara. 

Plot:
The story follows Ginko, a man who dedicates himself to keeping people protected from supernatural creatures called Mushi. The Mushi are beyond the shackles of the words "good" and "evil." They can exist in countless forms, and are capable of mimicking things from the natural world such as plants, diseases, and even phenomena like rainbows.

My thoughts: This anime is beautiful to watch and the concepts are very thoughtful. It's paced very slow, so if that's not your thing, it's not for you.

Fave character(s): Technically, there's only one main character (Ginko) but I really liked the concept of the Mushi

6) Vampire Knight (2008)
A shōjo manga series written by Matsuri Hino

Plot:
Yuki Cross is the adopted daughter of Kaien Cross, the headmaster of Cross Academy. Yuki's earliest memory is of being attacked by a rogue vampire and of being rescued by Kaname, a Pureblood vampire. Ten years later, her adoptive father is the guardian of the vampire race and leads a group of vampires at the elite boarding school. At Yuki's side is Zero Kiryu, a childhood friend whose hatred for the creatures leaves him determined never to trust them. The coexisting arrangement seems all well and good, but have the vampires truly renounced their murderous ways? 

My thoughts: This series gets a bit Twilight'ish towards the end. Turning a blind eye to that--if only because of the artwork and story arcs.

Fave character: Zero Kiryu because he always tries to do the right thing.

7) Boogiepop Phantom (2000)
Manga written by Kouhei Kadono.

Plot:
The story takes place a month after a pillar of light appears in the night sky, and five years after a string of serial killings. High school students have started to disappear and the blame is placed on Boogiepop, an urban legend who is said to be the personification of Death. Each episode centers on a different character who had a short involvement in the major event. Some episodes are out of sequence and scenes are shown from different perspectives. Through this non-linear style, the characters are used to develop the central themes of Change, Escapism, Memory and Relationships.

8) Ghost Hunt (2006)
Manga written by Fuyumi Ono. The last novel was published in 1994 and the story was left incomplete. 

Plot:
The story follows the adventures of the Shibuya Psychic Research Center as they investigate mysterious occurrences all over Japan with a team of other spiritualists and assistants.

9) Tactics (2004-2005)
Manga written by Sakura Kinoshita and Kazuko Higashiyama.

Plot:
Supernatural sleuth and writer, Kantaro Ichinomiya, spends his days fighting demons and writing about his adventures. Accompanied by a mysterious Demon-Eating Goblin and a band of demons, Kantaro travels the Japanese countryside in search of ghostly mysteries and the paranormal.

10) xxxHOLiC (2006)
Manga written and illustrated by the group of manga artists known as Clamp. The manga was adapted into an animated film, xxxHolic: A Midsummer Night's Dream which premiered on August 20, 2005. It was followed by two anime series which ran from April-September 2006.

Plot:
The story revolves around Kimihiro Watanuki--a high-school student disturbed by his ability to see the supernatural, and Yūko Ichihara--a witch who owns a wish-granting shop. When Watanuki asks Yūko to remove his ability to see spirits, she grants it--on the condition he pay for his wish by working for her.

That's my list! What are your favorite anime?


Monday, February 26, 2018

#MeatlessMonday - Hungarian Mushroom Soup

I love to cook with mushrooms. They’re versatile, add a heartiness to a dish, and they’re good for you—high in protein, low in fat, and filled with potassium. You can’t go wrong!

Here’s a vegetarian recipe sure to please your palate.

Photo courtesy of su-lin via Flickr

Hungarian Mushroom Soup


3 cups milk
2 onions, diced
1 tbsp. plus ¼ cup butter
1 tsp. salt
2 pounds mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
4½ tsp. dill
2 tbsp. paprika
2-3/4 cups vegetable stock
½ cup flour
1 tbsp. lemon juice
2T soy sauce
1½ cups sour cream

Warm milk in saucepan at low heat.

In soup pot, sauté onions in 1 tablespoon of butter. When they are translucent, add mushrooms, dill, paprika, lemon juice and 1 cup vegetable stock. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

In separate saucepan, melt remaining butter. Slowly whisk in flour, forming a roux. Add warm milk, whisking to eliminate lumps. Add this mixture to soup pot. Add remaining stock and simmer for 10 minutes.

Just before serving, whisk in soy sauce and sour cream.

Yield 10 cups