Building from nothing involves time-consuming baby steps

It is 1:15 a.m. and I worked a full shift in QC at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy where I folded clothes with my quads and knees burning in addition to my lower back/lumbar region.

Sometimes the pain wears me down, grinds at me, gnaws; and other times—like today—it fatigues me but it does not impact my day, a certain resignation comes over me.

So here I am, sipping a beverage, rubbing CBD arthritis cream on my lower body and fretting that I can’t find my coaster.

Barbell Apparel, the company that sold me my #BestStrong Nick Best Strongman “Age is Just a Number” t-shirt just called me an inspiration on Facebook!

In the random Parisian Phoenix Publishing news department:

  • I gave my therapist a copy of my novel, coincidentally author copy #8 which is one of my favorite numbers, and I wrote in it something like, “Thank you for being one of the people who gave me the confidence and courage to publish this.” He was touched by the gesture in a way I did not anticipate.
  • I have been spending several hours a day mapping, drafting, and uploading content to ParisianPhoenix.com. It’s slow going because there are so many branches of this business in my head that I have to translate to the web.
  • Parisian Phoenix now has an official email: ParisianPhoenix@gmail.com.
  • Parisian Phoenix is on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Twitter is the only one where I had to tweak the name, @ParisBirdBooks.
  • I also reached out to some representatives of GLVWG (Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group) about renewing my membership and promoting Parisian Phoenix.
  • I launched the Parisian Phoenix blog.
  • I set the deadline for the identity politics anthology, October 31.
  • I am considering compiling a short book of my own erotic fiction and poetry.

Sunday evening briefing: My Time of Debauchery Ends

Yesterday was a frolicking good day of silly adventures and hearty chores— I feel the after effects of hauling all that trash from the garage yesterday burning in the tops of my thighs.

This morning I enjoyed coffee with my mom in my home and then sat in the morning sun and read more of William Prystauk’s manuscript, Debauchery. He asked me to edit the final manuscript before it heads to the printer as his regular editor was unavailable.

Bill and I have been friends for more than a decade now and I told him I’d love to take a look if he didn’t mind as I’m a HUGE FAN of his previous Denny Bowie novels— it’s just the right blend of counter-culture, dark crime, intelligentsia and erotica.

Bill takes on some kinky themes. His characters experience the best and worst of the human condition. They ooze love. They survive trauma. They admit their weaknesses and accept their fetishes. They explode in rage and sometimes toy with pain.

Everyone seems vibrantly alive yet always on the precipice of tragedy.

And while one person might look at the words, the events, the violence and the various expressions of sexuality and squirm in the face of its counter-mainsteam manifestations, the way Bill has crafted the tale makes the more disturbing twists easier to stomach and nothing is ever gratuitous.

The first book, Bloodletting, focused on love and acceptance— that a real relationship won’t ignore any part of a person or their desires. In Debauchery, the antagonist examines not only the motives of the people involved in his current missing person case but also challenges his own world view and his connection to his own unorthodox living arrangements.

Bill has made a valiant effort to keep each novel in the series a stand-alone, but please don’t start with this one. I think the reader needs to read at least one of his previous books to appreciate the depth of Denny Bowie’s angst.

Or shall I call him Dennison?

I know Bill was pleased with my one week turn-around on this just slightly more than 80,000 word manuscript. But when the story is this compelling, and has such a strong, unique voice, you can’t put it down easily.

Editing a new novel

I’m so excited. My dear friend William Prystauk has asked me to edit his upcoming novel, Debauchery, the third in a detective/erotic series that crosses genre lines and pushes boundaries while exploring themes about human relationships, our need for acceptance and love, and exploring our sexuality.

It’s some well-written, nail-biting stuff with a heart-wrenching gooey side. At least, that was my experience of his first two novels.

So when he lamented that his regular editor was too busy to serve him, I quickly raised my hand. Pick me! Pick me!

The manuscript arrived today.

Bill and I met more than a decade ago at an after-party for a book signing. A typical strange six degrees of separation story connecting us with mutual interests with intersecting paths.

I still remember the first time we exchanged samples of our written work. Sharing literary endeavors is the true test of whether a friendship between writers will work.

He sent me a chapter from Bloodletting which featured a murder via crucifixion in a church; and I sent him what was then chapter two of my working manuscript which featured two witches performing violent, bloody sex magic on an altar in a church.

Neither one of us knew the other was sending such sacrilegious work. Yet, we both sent samples of the most disturbing things we could think of to do in a church.

So Bill can trust me with his baby. Working on this manuscript will be my reward. And if any of you have questions for Bill, drop them in the comments. He’ll be glad to take a look. He also has a very cool podcast that has won some accolades.

For more on some of my adventures with Bill: see Samples of projects with Bill.

For my work on Bill’s horror movie web side: see Reviews by Angel Ackerman

Indochic— Target’s New Home Line celebrates colonization or as they call it, “French-Vietnamese fusion.”

My husband and I started brainstorming our weekly household needs and while he worked on meal planning and a grocery list, I opened the Target app on my phone to see if they had any amazing deals on things we needed. We all know a trip to Target is dangerous and needs to be carefully and cautiously plotted.

Otherwise, the money can disappear.

I immediately found myself drawn to this luscious teal blue chair.

I mean, I seriously see this chair as part of the renovations to our master bedroom here.

But then I read the description: “Indochic: Think French-Vietnamese fusion, full of elegant shapes and sophisticated jewel tones.”

Now, this is my version of when people cry sexism when parents put little girls in clothes that focus on cuteness or certain traits our society sees as feminine. Like the t-shirts that say “I’m too pretty to do homework” or something like that.

“Indochic” is the exploitation and the ignorant perpetuation of the stereotypes that allowed colonialism and the “civilizing mission” to destroy cultures. If you understand my outrage… Well, may the sun shine upon you. We are kindred spirits. If not, let me see if I can calm down and rationally explain the root of my indignation.

First, let me start with the term “Indochic.” It’s a play off of the term “Indochina,” a strongly European word describing the region between India and China. The term became prevalently used in the 19th century and eventually referred strictly to the French colony of what is now Vietnam.

The French called its colony in the region “Indochine” so already Target has managed to make a playful pun, and a French pun at that by combining the French term “chic” with the prefix “Indo.” It’s Indo-great! Indo-cool!

Now, let me rant about the idea of “French-Vietnamese fusion.” The mix of French and Asian style occurred when the French colonized this region. I am no expert on French colonization in Asia, so I can’t address this in depth. But let me offer a few ideas.

Any fusion between the French and the Vietnamese was not voluntary. So should we celebrate it?

Is a pun like “Indochic” okay because the reference dates to the late nineteenth through mid-twentieth century? Is it a forgotten pain? Can it be compared to referring as certain styles as “urban” as opposed to African-American? Would people feel differently about this type of style if the ad featured an Asian woman and a French man?

What I also find interesting about the concept of Indochic, French-Vietnamese fusion connects to my interest in miscegenation. The French developed strict plans for breeding between the civilized French man and the indigenous woman. In French Indochina, French men in the colony were encouraged to make local women their concubines specifically to purify and civilize by producing children with Frenchness.

But remember, the women in these unions would come from poverty by French standards and would be servants or laundresses to their colonial master before they caught his eye. Young native women and older French men, the women unable to say no because of the power exchange.

In colonialism, native cultures lose their land and their resources to the more powerful nation. Their men lose the chance to earn their own living. People who had independent lives become dependent on a foreign system. Tradesmen become servants. Women become housekeepers and sex objects. Native traditions and languages bend, twist and often break or are forced broken by the more powerful, dominant presence.

So when we advertise a sophisticated, elegant French-Vietnamese fusion and give it a cutesy name, we are perpetuating the idea that the cultures on the peninsula between India and China did not have anything to contribute to the world before the French came along and subjugated them.

It’s not Indochic. It’s not cool. It’s contemporary Orientalism.

If anything it’s Asian-influenced French design. Influenced. Because fusion implies an intentional attempt to blend two strong styles.

Editorial: Bad Behavior of Bethlehem School Board (2007)

When we launched the Lehigh Valley News Group, the Lehigh Valley branch of Berks-Mont newspapers (a Journal Register entity), I served as managing editor for the five new newspapers and the one previous-existing, The Saucon News. In addition to managing editor duties, I served as editor of the largest of the new papers, The Bethlehem News. We headed into a territory that had been abandoned by my previous employer (Chronicle Newspapers, a division of The Morning Call, a Tribune Company newspaper). In addition to those Chronicle weeklies that had just closed, most of our proposed territories were also served by The Press weeklies, an entity that still continues today.

I attended the school board meetings of the Bethlehem Area School District. After more than five years of covering the Phillipsburg School District, the differences between the two boards fascinated me. Bethlehem was a larger school district, had more schools and more students. But let’s just say the people who sat on the two boards were also different. I’m sure everyone had their good intentions, but the interactions on the Bethlehem board were often tense.

I wrote this editorial after one board meeting where the disagreements between board members, and their unwillingness to move forward after a vote, scared not only me but also drained the color from the superintendent.

BASD board behavior

BASD board behavior