A successful romp at Easton Book Festival: Sex in the Text

**author’s note: I’m sorry, not sorry, that this piece has become rather long and a tad historical. I will divide the piece with subheadings so that readers seeking particular topics can scan quickly. But for those who love historical context and rambling storytelling combined with my unique chaos, have at it.

It’s a quiet October morning, before the sun rises, and I am sharing my thoughts with you regarding our experience last night at the 4th Annual Easton Book Festival (2022). I’m posting in my personal blog, as I don’t know if I have fully formed thoughts (other than I had my concerns that the grassroots chaos of the festival, part of its charm, might drive my organized self to lose my mind and LO! and BEHOLD! I had a great time. Perhaps the cusp Taurus in me is mellowing into a new calmer self, my Gemini side).

I appeared briefly in the original Easton Book Festival “trailer,” look for me on YouTube with my salmon dress which looks rather orange and my trademark scarf. I join a lot of local celebrities so that tickles me.

The pandemic appeared in the festival’s youth and the city has decided to renovate (and in my humble opinion destroy) Centre Square, where the Book & Puppet Company bookstore is located. They have reduced the circle from two lanes of traffic to one and eliminated all the parking in front of businesses. They have also been toying with the traffic patterns, often closing main streets and making the traditional heart of the downtown one way. As someone who has lived in this community for more than a quarter of a century, I’m annoyed.

My history with downtown Easton

The city has two main parking decks currently in the same basic vicinity, which is good, but they have destroyed one convenient central parking lot and pocket park to build a new deck, which is not open yet. The oldest of the parking structures will soon be eliminated, as are on-street parking permits for residents. As more upscale apartments and multi-story structures join the historic downtown, the footprint of the city is changing. Or perhaps gentrifying.

My first apartment, with poet Darrell Parry, who is on the board of the festival, was an absolute dump but so much fun. We were two recently out of college, engaged kids with a pile of student loan debt and cars that barely ran. I worked at Lafayette College in the Public Information Office and Darrell worked at Caldor, a department store that, like many, no longer exists. It started his career as a shipper/receiver and honed his skill as the master of packing boxes.

Our rent for our strange one-bedroom started at $450 a month, with off-street parking and basic utilities included. We couldn’t afford cable and dial-up internet so we chose internet as we had television our entire lives and the World Wide Web was new. We would often scrape our change together and walk to Coffee and Tea Time Café, which also no longer exists, and I believe the structure is now part of the freshly-reconstructed Hearst Magazine offices that have moved to Easton from New York City. And on spaghetti nights we would order garlic bread from Colonial Pizza, which does still exist, since the restaurant was practically across the street. When we would call to order, they would often say, “Is this the neighbor?”

And then after spaghetti and garlic bread, we would go down to The Purple Cow Creamery, which later had to change it’s name to Bank Street Creamery, but you can still go there for ice cream. It’s not the same owners as it was in my day, but it has remained a hot spot of the downtown.

And since I’m already aging myself, I might as well add that Book & Puppet stands pretty much next to a place called The Crayola Factory. When I was an intern at Binney & Smith (now rebranded as Crayola since that’s the name everyone knows), I was tasked with writing and pitching a then under-construction, exciting new attraction in the former Orr’s building, another defunct local department store, called Two Rivers Landing. It would contain The Crayola Factory and the National Canal Museum.

(And I happen to be a Crayola junkie and a canal aficionado.)

You see, in my day, you could actually walk through the real Crayola factory in Forks Township and follow this blue line through all the stages of crayon and marker production. When you arrived at corporate offices in the morning, if they were making crayons, the air would carry that trademark warm aroma of wax, and if they were making markers, it smelled like burnt plastic.

I can remember sitting in my cubicle in corporate communications pitching my press release about this new family attraction to national magazines. My small, unattributed contribution to history. I did a lot of fun things at Crayola. Including dressing professional dancers in phallic crayon costumes at New York City’s Rainbow Room.

Okay, so now you see why I did not start this in the Parisian Phoenix Publishing professional blog. Because I’ve transformed into an old woman telling you the way it was in my day. And if I want to throw it back another generation, whenever I get off topic, I like to reference Arlo Guthrie‘s “Alice’s Restaurant.” If you don’t know the song, you’re young enough to find it on YouTube, Spotify or Apple Music. “This is a song about Alice. Remember Alice?” the lyrics say, even though the song seems to have nothing to do with Alice for most of the 18-or-so minutes the song goes on.

This is a song about the Easton Book Festival and “Sex in the Text.” Remember the Easton Book Festival?

This is a song about Alice. Remember Alice?

Arlo Guthrie

Darrell hates that song.

Opening Act: Poetry galore

I will not make a James Bond reference off of that title to relate it back to “Sex in the Text.”

Lynn Alexander opened the poetry segment reading from her collection, Find Me in the Iris. Followed by our own Nancy Scott, then Darrell and Rebecca Reynolds. Nancy read from newer work, including a poem about her recent move. Darrell read from his book, Twists: Gathered Ephemera, with a rather stunning introduction delivered by Lafayette English professor and festival board president, Chris Phillips. Rebecca read from each of her books (Daughter of the Hangnail and The Bovine Two-Step) and her work in progress.

And if you ever wanted to watch someone read Braille, here’s your chance.

Sex in the Text: Making Love Between the Pages

So, for some reason GLVWG (Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group) and our (Darrell, the festival board, myself and Book & Puppet) connections did not yield more panelists for this discussion. So, Darrell and I talked about making the panel into a talk show type format where questions could be placed on index cards and William Prystauk, author of the Kink Noir series, and I could ask the questions of each other Oprah-style and discuss.

We had a fantastic time and the questions were thoughtful not only from a literary perspective but also from a societal values perspective.

It was a refreshing night, and I hope the spectators enjoyed it as much as Bill and I did.

Cupcakes at Midnight: A discussion of future plans for Parisian Phoenix Publishing

Yesterday was the launch day for my novel. At midnight, the teenager and I were celebrating with cocktails and cupcakes.

I have so much hope for Parisian Phoenix Publishing.

It’s too early for me to know how many copies have sold, I don’t expect large numbers as I haven’t really implemented my marketing plan. Our small boutique publisher is a partnership— myself and graphic designer Gayle Hendricks— so the work that needs to be done, we do as we can or we ask for help.

We have lots of ideas, so this first novel may be mine, but part of that stems from my philosophy that before I publish anyone else’s book, I want to learn and grow from lessons made bringing my manuscript into the limelight.

Our Fiction

This novel— Manipulations, the first volume of the Fashion and Fiends series—means a lot to me. I believe it breeds chick lit to horror fiction (think what might have happened if Stephen King wrote The Devil Wears Prada) and uses contemporary literature (and the mythic supernatural) to examine social issues.

Manipulations, at its core, is a book about building healthy relationships. And the proverbial lesson of “things are not always what they appear.” And I hope my readers will understand that magic, in this context, allows us to explore domestic violence.

To order Manipulations:

The next volume, Courting Apparitions, (due out in late November) uses a ghost story to examine grief and depression.

And the next, Recovery, (slated for first quarter 2022) tackles disability, motherhood and women’s rights. But don’t worry, magic is still afoot.

Meanwhile, the fourth, Road Trip, is a coming of age novel. With werewolves. I’d like to release that one on June 23, 2022. The day my baby turns 18. But first I have to finish writing it.

The fifth volume, Absolution, looks at the intersection of sacrifice and love.

And the sixth volume, at least half written at this point, is Finding Hooyo— a hybrid romance novel, medical drama and war story. Hopefully that should tie up the original story line but certainly not the Fashion and Fiends universe.

Our nonfiction

Currently our team of authors and interesting people have several projects in the works.

Sometime in 2022, I hope to revisit a book I wrote as part of my research at Lafayette College. I looked at the anti-Muslim laws in France and traced their roots to 19th century colonial stereotypes and considered the thesis that these laws perpetuate stereotypes that started in Algeria.

My love, as a critical theorist, of post-colonial Francophone Africa stems from my view that French imperialism during the colonial era serves as an amazing parallel to contemporary American imperialism and attitudes towards Muslims.

And now, with identity politics very en vogue, I feel like these lessons in stereotypes and prejudice are very relevant.

Speaking of critical theorists and identity politics, I have assembled a group of authors to discuss various identity issues in a special anthology, currently called: Not an Able-Bodied White Man with Money: Expressions of Alternative Perspectives Influenced by Experiences in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania.

Committed so far is Darrell Parry, poet and writer, and my estranged husband; Eva Parry, otherwise known as “the teenager”; William Prystauk of Crash Palace Productions and the Kink Noir series; Maryann Riker, multimedia artist; Nancy Scott, blind author of essays and poems; Rachel Thompson, science fiction and alternative history writer; Joan Zachary, photographer and writer… and hopefully more.

Racing with them toward the finish line is a cat anthology to use as a fundraising book for Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab which will feature cat stories, photos, memoirs of FURR volunteers and academic research on animal welfare, poverty and empowering low-income and diverse neighborhoods to know what resources are available for themselves and their animals.

And with the new “Texas law,” Parisian Phoenix hopes to work with people on the team who have experience in women’s issues and chronicle stories as a fundraiser and historical record for groups in this sector.

Our poetry

Sometime in late fall, Parisian Phoenix hopes to release a full-length poetry manuscript, the poems for which have been assembled and the layout is in process.

I can guarantee this book will be as funny as it is thought provoking.

Our erotica and romance

It’s not quite clear when our erotica and romance will hit the market, but we have authors working to provide stories with real characters facing real life.

In the romance department, we have a manuscript, Trapped, that combines middle-aged love that sparks because of the skunk infestation with the joy of reinventing oneself.

There are hints of a Fashion and Fiends erotic prequel that extends the arousing feel of the horror fiction universe with more sex and no monsters.

And our goal is to offer kink/BDSM erotica, quality stories with empathetic characters who participate in safe, informed and consensual play. We have authors working on those tales, too.


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The non-linear days

PART ONE: GLUTTONY

I had to face my pandemic denial today— due to the stressful nature of my last professional position, I’ve been stress eating more than I’ve admitted the last few months.

(And if you read this blog, you know I’ve been fairly transparent about my ability to each an entire Dominos or Little Caesar’s pizza. So imagine the late night bags of chips and the multiple doughnuts I haven’t told you about.)

Today I hit a new body weight high. And none of my pants fit. So it was sobering.

And I know part of that is my good intentions gone wrong.

Yesterday the morning started with breakfast with my dad and the teenager. I had coffee, a broccoli feta omelette, home fries, dry rye toast and cranberry juice.

I was proud of my choice because I haven’t had vegetables enough recently and I could bring half of my meal home for today. It was too delicious. So I decided I would skip or have a light lunch.

But then I stress ate a doughnut.

Then my dad and step mom invited me to the pub for dinner. My step mom wanted pizza so I thought I’d have a beer and a slice. I think I ate the equivalent of a whole bar pizza.

This year has not been one of discipline

It’s 7:23 pm and I’m watching the marching band rehearse so my daughter can drive home… I’ll make7,000 steps today but not my goal of 10K.

PART TWO: WARLOCK CRAFT BEER REVIEW

At Three Mugs Pub yesterday, I ordered a salted caramel chocolate Saucony Creek, a craft beer label I typically enjoy. Chocolate stouts and porters tend to be my favorite beers.

They didn’t have it. So I ordered a Warlock instead.

Warlock is an imperial pumpkin stout brewed by Southern Tier Brewing Company. It was smooth and not obnoxious in its seasonal flavor. And caused more of a buzz than I was expecting given all the food I ate.

PART THREE: CHICKEN BONE BROTH

Earlier— on Tuesday—while the teenager was still hanging out with my dad…

I finally turned off my crock pot that had been brewing the chicken bones of a whole young roaster I bought at Grocery Outlet on Saturday for $4. I made the chicken in the crock pot that day, returned the bones and skin to the crockpot and kept filling it with water until Tuesday noon.

I carefully poured it all out and squeezed all the goodness out of the now soft bones. I also started a pot of soup on the stove. The yield was nice.

PART FOUR: TRIGGERED

I started my day with coffee— fighting an unusual sluggishness and some unexpected difficulty with my menstrual cycle.

Last week, I had started thinking about my psychological triggers. I have long known that I have an obsessive attitude toward food. Not in the disordered eating way, but in a hoarding kind of way.

I don’t actually hoard food, but seeing a piece of fruit rot or having to throw out an out-of-date food product upsets me far more than it should.

It usually serves me well, but it backfires sometimes and missteps with food can make me unreasonably angry.

Let’s bring this back to that chicken— I didn’t need that chicken. I didn’t even want that chicken. But that was a huge roaster chicken for $4.

I made soup and froze it for the first cold day of the fall season. (I’m not even fond of chicken soup). I separated the white meat and the dark meat and froze that for future use. And I made bone broth.

That’s a lot of food for $4. Good, healthy protein. But… it’s not food I enjoy. So why?

But then this morning as I was drinking my coffee, I heard two people arguing. It was a loud verbal altercation. This is one of my triggers I forgot about— and it’s one I understand. My parents had a lot of verbal arguments and if I’m honest (forgive me for saying so Mom and Dad) if they had enough alcohol the fights could get violent and ugly. There weren’t that many over the years, but enough to create an even more terrifying environment than the mere alcoholism that existed in my childhood home.

So I surveyed my surroundings and couldn’t see anyone. My chest was tightening and my stomach dropping and that odd little internal tremble shook me.

These incidents were frequent when my previous neighbors screamed profanities at each other and threw objects and each other at the walls. It terrified me. They were literally on the other side of the wall, similar to my parents. When I didn’t stand there paralyzed and watch them.

I am not convinced what happened this morning, but I suspect my neighbor had some sort of television program playing in her car.

PART FIVE: THRIFT STORE

I promised the teenager a trip to our favorite thrift store. She bought supplies for her father’s birthday craft and two belts. I bought approximately three skirts, four pairs of business slacks, one pair jeans and one pair corduroys.

Since I can’t try things on, I got everything from size 7 to 10. Far cry from my normal 2 or 4, or my spare/ baggy sizes 6 to 8.

$43.50.

None of the professional pants fit. The red jeans (Old Navy low cut Rockstar 10) fit but are snug. The corduroys fit (size 8). One size 8 skirt fits, the other two did not. The medium skirt fit.

I’m sorry, guys. I also wanted to update you on Aspire to Autonomy, Lady Boss Entrepreneurs Club and some recent make-up unboxing from Dolls Kill and Target.com. But I’m wiped out and this is really long. Oh — and William Prystauk’s third novel appeared on Amazon.com today so now you can read the latest Kink Noir masterpiece and get your mystery/romance/crime/BDSM on.

More tomorrow?

In the meantime: enjoy this unboxing video:

Unboxing a Dolls Kill package

Kicking off my birthday

Many things happen in May that I look forward to, primarily the blooming of my lovely pink roses and Lily of the Valley (both fragrances I adore.)

Lily of the Valley, May’s flower

Warmer weather normally arrives (though this year we had snow). The school year is winding down. And there’s an anticipation akin to the new year that good things are to come.

My birthday arrives smack dab in the middle of this week and I know it’s significance will be dulled by major work deadlines and the pandemic. We do have a three day weekend coming for Memorial Day, all of which was why I had hoped to take vacation the last week of May.

Nala and I: Nala’s New Trick

That issue has not been settled, so I decided to have some mild fun to at least acknowledge to myself my birthday. Which is #45.

I ordered a sit down hot meal last night, instead of my usual stress meal of 2,000+ calories of pizza. My dear friend and editing client William Prystauk of the Kink Noir series suggested that the teenager and I deserved the treat. Ironically, it was the same restaurant my husband picked for my birthday dinner last year, Two Rivers Brewing.

More on Bill and his BDSM-themed crime novels: Sunday evening briefing: My Time of Debauchery Ends

Last time I tried Two Rivers delivery service: Two Rivers Brewing Delivery

I ordered a crowler of the Banker’s Brown ale, the breathtaking peanut butter bacon burger, bacon apple mac and cheese, and Brussel Sprouts. My daughter and I feasted like queens.

Speaking of queens, I started watching Hulu’s The Great, loosely based on the life of Catherine the Great of Russia. The costumes and sets are amazing. The script is witty and allows much thought of life and politics in that time period. I watched 5 episodes yesterday while doing housework.

The teenager had deserved a good meal as she had resecreened one of my bedroom windows.

She’s on the roof

A friend of mine texted early. He said it was a shame that people couldn’t celebrate properly because of the pandemic. But I pointed out that really nothing has changed. The teenager plans on baking me a cake— might be trying lemon cardamom this year. Cards still come in the mail. My friends and family have phones. And most restaurants have curbside or delivery.

I think the pandemic just removes a lot of the pretentious notions of what we need to survive and highlights how outdated the 40-hour workweek is. Employment for a lot of fields could be based on project completion versus time occupied at a desk.

I treated myself to a self-purchased birthday present today and thanks to the pandemic it comes with a free mask!

Dolls Kill

And this morning my mom surprised my with a few fun edibles (not THAT kind of edible) and a pair of tights.

Mom and Nala bonded and she approved of the teenager’s efforts in the garden.

So here’s hoping I can clean up this house and get my spirits to where they need to be to start the work week— and my birthday week— with enthusiasm.

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.

Realities of lemons and tandem bikes

Yes, I know the title is nonsense— but the world has turned a tad upside down as the world tends to do as having billions of people and billions of animals on a planet will erupt into some unexpected situations from time to time.

The teenager loves to eat lemons. I love to cook with lemons. For a while, especially when I first discovered Gaz Oakley the Avant Garde Vegan (Check him out on YouTube—amazing falafel, his own recipe for peri-peri sauce) I always kept fresh lemons in the house.

That was also about the time I would have lemon water first thing in the morning. The juice of half a lemon with tap water.

I did that again this morning. First time in probably a year. Or more.

Today was also the first time in a week I haven’t gained weight. The first month of this pandemic, I was eating better but stopped because… Easter… or so I claim. I am a jelly bean addict and once I start eating the jelly beans I launch onto a sugar and caffeine roller coaster.

This was breakfast. Not ALL of them.

So maybe this post should be called “bad habits.” I originally lost about 5 pounds due to stress in the beginning of the pandemic, but between beer, pizza, Easter candy, homemade cookies and triple jalapeño bacon cheeseburgers from Wendy’s they have found their way back.

But look— I got a salad

It’s been rough. More pressure than ever at work. A good friend walked away coldly without even saying goodbye. A work colleague who often made me smile left unexpectedly. Medical bills still coming in.

But in the end, I still feel inside these struggles help us grow and bring us to the next level— as another work colleague likes to say— we don’t age, we gain experience like in a video game. So I’m less than a month away from my 45th Level with the teenager two months away from Level 16 and a drivers license.

Designated Driver AND babysitter, mom friends out there!!!!

Yesterday was a sunny day amidst a forecast of rain. Last week the teenager did not complete her three weekly gym assignments and she told her teacher in her log that she “got lazy” and he wrote back that sometimes he gets lazy, too. This is a great lesson for our (older) kids in communication and work ethic. Those of you with younger kids, God Bless You and Keep You.

I would be screaming every day if the teenager were, say, six. Our brains are wired too differently.

But back to gym. We got out the tandem bike. (Yes, we have a bicycle built for two— it was a gift.) I wanted the teen to “win” gym this week. And she should get extra credit for captaining a bike with her mom, who has cerebral palsy and no real balance skills.

Then her dad came over and brought his famous hot buffalo chicken dip for dinner, at the teen’s request, and included beer for us grown-ups. And he even got on the bike! (He doesn’t ride bikes.)

I excused myself to work on some more chapters of Bill’s novel Debauchery (and reached the first sex scene— those characters are so in love it hurts). Please don’t be scared by the violence and BDSM in this novel/series. The real theme here is the beauty of acceptance no matter who you are.

And the first of several pet related packages came. So here is a Petco unboxing and some animal videos:

Petco unboxing
Nala eating pretzels with the teen

Let’s see what adventures today brings! Stay well, friends! Let’s crush this day!

Book review: William Prystauk’s Bloodletting

It has felt like ages that I’ve wanted to read William Prystauk’s Bloodletting—  so I purchased this new edition with great anticipation.

The book description and cover make it quite apparent that Bloodletting merges genres and has its own style: part mystery, part love story, quite erotic, yet all romantic. The character of Denny Bowie and his viewpoint present a man who won’t compromise who he is, brimming with intelligence, counter-culturalism, passion and curiosity. 

Denny’s lifestyle won’t appeal to everyone and his fantasies and desires may make some readers squeamish. In the end, Denny merely wants to find the person(s) who accepts him and loves him for who he is. 

The mystery combines murder, sex and greed. Prystauk artfully and ingeniously uses multiple techniques to weave a first-person narrative that includes information and scenes that Denny did not witness.

The characters throughout the story never fall flat. Every one of them has a flaw or a trait that builds them as real people and not the stereotypes they could be because of their involvement in the BDSM community. 

By the end of the book, I had to know the answer to the mystery and even once that was revealed there was still the emotional denouement of what would happen between Denny and his love interest(s).