Author chatter: Why did I launch Parisian Phoenix Publishing?

Last night, I was blessed to spend the evening with William Prystauk, author of the Kink Noir series, podcast host and reviewer of all things horror at Crash Palace Productions.

Buy Bill’s books here: William Prystauk on Amazon.

Buy my book here**: Buy Manipulations on Amazon.

Or buy my book at Barnes & Noble

Or even at Target.com

Or if it fits your values better, ask your independent bookseller to order it from Ingram.

But back to last night…

Bill and I got together for dinner and chatter— in part to celebrate the publication of Manipulations and the launch of Parisian Phoenix Publishing (working on the web site ParisianPhoenix.com and social media channels a little every day) and in part because Bill just really really really loves sushi.

Over a wonderful wide selection of sushi (including salmon roe and sea urchin, I did not partake in the urchin as it looked like radioactive cow tongue and I wasn’t sure how I felt about the salmon caviar) at Jasmine (read about our last visit there here), Bill and I started what ended up being an hours and hours long conversation about our hopes and dreams for our lives and our careers.

The conversation continued over cocktails at County Seat Spirits (Easton) and the ice cream at Ow Wow Cow, both at the Silk Mill.

The bar at County Seat Spirits

Bill and I have exchanged writing in the past and encouraged each other so I suppose he wasn’t horribly surprised when he received his copy of the book this week and opened it. But he asked a lot of good questions— why didn’t I go the traditional agent/editor/publisher route. I love that he believes in me and believes in my writing but I have shopped this manuscript.

Every few years I dust it off and send it out and every agent I have queried asks for pages. And every rejection I have gotten features personalized statement of the first 100 pages merits but how it doesn’t fit a proper genre or have the type of structure readers want.

And I know my writing can be dark, and literary from time to time. The fashion aspects are very feminine in a chick lit way but the supernatural elements are more horror than paranormal romance. My writing can be flowery, the emotions intense, but the situations can be very gritty and real.

And I don’t want to sacrifice that.

I don’t want any editor to have control over issues I discuss in my work: marriage/divorce, jealousy, domestic violence, self esteem, body image, self confidence, infertility… and those are just the first book. And I honestly hope you don’t outwardly notice these topics in the story but that they steep into your subconscious and slowly transform you like cold-brewed iced tea.

Meanwhile, as Bill and I are talking about upcoming books ( for those of you who have read Bloodletting, Punishment, and/or Debauchery— I have not only read the fourth book in the series but I also know the title of the fifth!), I am receiving texts and Facebook posts from people who have received their copies. And poor Gayle is left working on the poppet that will adorn the cover of the sequel to Manipulations, Courting Apparitions.

Courting Apparitions is a ghost story that examines the effect grief and depression has on our lives.

** $1 of every print copy of Manipulations sold goes to Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab.

“Vacation” continues, starting the Karen books, and wondering if the quest has stalled

Yesterday I had hoped to do more editing on the bits and pieces left of the near-final manuscript of Manipulations, the first of three novels by me, coming soon from my little publishing imprint, Parisian Phoenix.

But then my graphic designer partner in crime (and this endeavor) encouraged me to start Karen by Marie Killilea. The book was in its 11th printing by the mid-sixties and I am reading a copy from about 60 years ago.

It’s part of my recent quest to understand my cerebral palsy, which ironically led to me discovering that my anemia has reared its ugly head. So maybe this quest isn’t addressing physical needs as much as emotional ones. And the neurologist’s office did return my call. My appointment is January 13. Yes, in six-and-a-half months.

While I certainly understand what these parents must have gone through (Karen was born in 1940 and died in 2020), this certainly was a different era. An era of institutions, a lack of knowledge and families and doctors sitting around smoking cigarettes together.

But so far, and I believe Karen is now 4, Karen is described as beautiful, but presented as a thing in the background. The memoir so far is about the mother and her thoughts and parenting techniques and her interactions with the medical community.

To me, the way Marie describes placing her in the backyard and going in the house to do chores… well, Karen slowly pulls herself by her arms inching toward whatever is of interest. The current chapter describes her playing in a mud puddle. She sounds like a fish caught between land and sea.

Honestly, to me it sounds cruel. I’m sure it fostered independence and strength but damn it sounds grueling for Karen. This is the beginning of the ideology of mainstreaming kids with disabilities— toss them in and let them adjust. And as young people with disabilities, emotions and intellect are still immature. So it is cruel in my opinion to let these children struggle with the physical, too. It’s this weird we get that we are different but we don’t have the life experience to understand why or how and while allowing a child to figure it out raises a fighter and someone not prone to accept help or pity, it would be nice to have some framework other than you can or cannot do something or are or are not like everyone else.

I see a potential multitude of nonfiction book projects in my future. My memoir will need to be three volumes: my childhood, my “squiggly” career (yes there is a term for people with eclectic careers like mine), and this health quest.

Speaking of non-fiction, I would like to publish my honors thesis from Lafayette College and do an anthology where I have select authors/artists to explore what I will refer to as identity politics. I have mentioned it to Nan, my blind friend, and Bill, my horror-loving freak friend, and both love the idea. I encourage you to read Bill’s novels, The Kink Noir series, which blend a dark 1940s detective vibe with kink and erotica while exploring some topics about what it means to be human.

My review of Bill’s most recent book is here: Debauchery

More posts including Bill here: Bill on the Blog

Speaking of Bill, my flower workshop got postponed last night, so Bill, fresh off of jury duty, came down to catch up and have dinner at the always charming Porter’s Pub in Easton, Pa.

Rib eye with Jameson’s Demi-Glace

Armed with the news that my iron is low, he bought me a steak and a lemony-smooth gin martini.

Upon arriving home, I finished taking out the garbage and recycling including two more 13-gallon trash bags from teenager two’s room. It looks like she’s officially ghosted me, and that makes me sad.

And I let the dog sleep with me. And as my room is the front room, she heard every noise in the neighborhood.

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!

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

Stroudsburg Saturday Night

It’s a little before 9 a.m. and the creatures in my bedroom, which probably could more accurately be called an aviary as there are more birds sleeping there than people, let me sleep in until almost 7 o’clock.

I have a load of laundry started and I washed and cleaned some floors, with roomba’s help. The cats are fed and the dishes are going.

I had the pleasure of hanging out last night with my good friend Bill, also known as Billy Crash from Crash Palace Productions.

Bill has a horror-themed blog focused on horror movies and I don’t hesitate to say he is an expert on the genre. He was just lamenting last night that he hadn’t seen a movie worthy of inclusion on his “best of” lists since 2016.

To read more of Billy’s work—he has lots of degrees, used to be a college professor and has enough eclectic interests to either intrigue or piss off just about everybody, visit Crash Palace Productions.

I’ve written for him a few times: Search results for me on Bill’s site.

He and his partner-in-crime have a podcast, too.

So, anyway, there I go getting sidetracked again. Bill and I had dinner and drinks last night as I’ve been dying to try Banter’s Hard Cider which is in Stroudsburg, Pa. I think Bill might be their biggest fan.

First of all, being a good cockatoo mama, I got Nala a new toy to entertain her while I was gone.

After Bill and I had the preliminary getting-caught-up chatter, we headed downtown. Stroudsburg is an odd little university town that thanks to the influx of people from higher priced housing markets has struggled with a clear identity in the 40+ years of my life.

Banter’s is a very small establishment with various home-concocted ciders. The service is excellent, the atmosphere jovial and the staff knows their stuff, which in this case is cider.

The first time you visit, Banter’s suggests a tasting flight. They serve the flight from dry to sweet to dessert, and currently one peppery oddball in the middle, Green Drank.

The first selection was Bön, a dry cider with a flavor reminiscent of champagne. Of the unflavored ciders, I prefer Bön to the sweeter more typical Overcast.

The third selection was Jack Horner, so named for the plum in the mix. I enjoyed this definitely more than Overcast, as at this point sweet hard ciders have become a boring norm.

But Green Drank blew them out of the water. It starts as a semi-dry cider with kiwi, jalapeño and bell pepper. It smells peppery, but the spice was milder than it sounds. It was like a tickle in the throat versus full-out heat. Loved it, contemplated bringing home a growler.

But I didn’t. Because I’d have to drink it. And with the stress I’ve been under I didn’t think a growler in the house was a good idea.

Next came Dippins, the salted caramel cider. Delicious. Amazingly delicious. But I don’t think I could drink a whole glass unless I got one of the cocktails where they cut it with chocolate vodka. But… I’m not a fan of vodka. Or chocolate.

That left Deez Coconuts. Probably my second favorite after Green Drank. Coconut and chocolate notes. I couldn’t taste the chocolate, but I didn’t really want to. My favorite beer ever is Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout, and I think I prefer my chocolate as stout, not in cider.

As I finished the flight, Bill asked if I had picked my favorite and if I was ready for a glass or a cocktail to which I promptly responded, “Not without dinner.”

So we went to La Morena BBQ, which is Mexican-influenced Portuguese food. And I had a tender, flavorful beef Baracoa sandwich and the French fries Bill has proclaimed the best in Stroudsburg.

Then we returned to Banter’s where I met some of Bill’s friends. It was incredibly delightful to meet Bill’s housemate, because he had told me so many wonderful things about her. The other gentleman was nice, too, but he dissed Eminem and I was too tired to start defending one of my favorite public figures.

Which that might be a great post for another day.

Happy Sunday, everyone!

**This post got interrupted and started again at 11 a.m. as my mom and I had a really lovely coffee date in my kitchen. Hey, Mom. That was really nice. Can we do it again soon?

21st Century Witchcraft: Books

Originally I had intended to include “personal space” in this section with books, but I know myself and I’m going to babble enough to make that an upcoming entry.

For part one of my “Witchcraft in the 21rst Century” series: 21st Century Witchcraft: Why I’m no longer “Christian”

For part two: 21st Century Witchcraft: Magic in the Everyday

Welcome to my bookshelf.

During two decades of book-hunting, I have amassed (and given away) a lot of books. I also have a fairly extensive collection of tarot cards but that is another topic for another day.

I gave a large amount of books by Scott Cunningham and Silver Ravenwolf. Before the Internet was readily available and put the universe at our fingertips I used to comb used bookstores and new age shops looking for spiritual ideas.

Then I finally ended up on Llewelyn Publishing’s mailing list.

My daughter now has a lot of the Classics, like Buckland’s Book of Witchcraft.

But I kept some in my vintage Crayola stock box that stands beside my bed.

Everything in this photo is precious to me, except the Celtic Myth book. That one was a disappointment though a good reference. I have some characters who worship ancient Celtic gods.

  • The white book on the bottom is the manual to my 2005 Altima. I loved that car. Having the manual close brings back good memories, nostalgia and longing.
  • Solitary Witch by Silver Ravenwolf is the only one of her books I kept for myself.
  • Wicca: A Year and a Day is a fantastic way to study Wicca and a lot of the meditative daily exercises help find your unique connection to your spirituality. That said, I have never finished the whole book.
  • The faded book lying horizontally on top of those books is my personal book of shadows. Yes, I have one.
  • The two books on top of those are pocket guides to graphology and palmistry. I never found anything else as concise and easy to follow.
  • On top of those are two antique prayer books, both more than 100 years old. One is Catholic. I love Catholic rituals.
  • The Oxford Annotated Bible. This was the Bible from my college Bible classes. We wrote in it. It has extensive footnotes and historical context. I take it with me to church services and still take notes in it. With dates. So over time, I can see my travels through the Bible.
  • The United Methodist Hymnal. My childhood church closed. And one of my peers from those days got me one of the hymnals at the last service.
  • The Book of Centering. An influential pastor once told me about the practice of centering. We were discussing prayer, and this is a type of meditative prayer that also focuses on relaxing the body and pulling prayer into yourself.
  • The Way of Chuang Tzu. This book of Taoist poetry radically altered my perspective of my place in the universe.
  • Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery. My favorite book. I even have an image from it tattooed above my breast. This book, by an amazing man, is all the life lessons you need. It looks like a children’s book, but it’s not. It’s happy and tragic.
  • Walden. This book is meaningful to me from a spiritual and a family perspective. This copy belonged to my great-grandmother’s little brother.
  • Dirty Pretty Things. Sexy, beautiful poetry. Because our sexuality is key to our power.
  • Bloodletting by my friend William Prystauk. Kinky, dark, violent, but the most sincere love story. (For my review of Bill’s book: Review of Bloodletting)
  • My first “novels” that I ever wrote
  • Go the Fuck to Sleep. The last book my husband bought me.