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.

The quotidienne details of launch day

Today is “book day”— my novel, Manipulations, the first volume of the Fashion and Fiends series went on sale at midnight.

Today, Parisian Phoenix Publishing is a real thing.

Today is the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Today my estranged husband turns 47.

And it’s the annual Mary Meuser Memorial Library Book Sale.

I intentionally made my book launch on Darrell’s birthday as he always encouraged me to keep writing.

I got up this morning and found the book for sale on Barnes & Noble.com (click here), Amazon (click here) and Target.com. Even FNAC in France. Although currently, it’s no longer turning up at Target.

My books have shipped from their distributor, Ingram.

First Book from Parisian Phoenix Launching Soon

Anyway else feel the universe going haywire?

The full moon is a few minutes away but its pull has been evident for a couple days. My recent health struggles, my employer giving us random time off, and today the dog ate my latest set of AirPods that I bought less than a month ago and emptied my favorite Coach leather wallet I bought in 2010 for my first excursion with my beloved M.

It took about 30 minutes to locate my money, shopping club cards, credit cards and various ID. Not to mention she destroyed my AmEx.

The teenager got a toll violation in the mail for her Cape May road trip. The toll officer yelled at her for stopping to pay the toll because the equipment read my old transponder from the Altima. I had meant to return the damn thing but never got around to it.

She also broke her phone charger.

I also had the misfortune of having to cut off someone who left room for me to merge and then changed his mind. The situation had me worried he was going road rage-y.

But let’s celebrate all the good news.

It was an amazing day. I went to Grocery Outlet and bought my favorite Cabot cottage cheese. I got a free soda at Wawa.

I had dinner with my favorite nurse from Stitch Fix who left the company to “do” hospice. It was so nice to see her.

I came home and registered my first two ISBN numbers to Manipulations (print and ebook). This is the first novel in the Fashion and Fiends series.

I edited some bios, created at Ingram Sparks account, updated my ISBN info at Bowker, downloaded a bunch of user guides and wanted to vomit.

I approved the cover concept. The proofreader signed off.

I assigned prices.

And I pledged that I will donate $1 to Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab for every print version of the book sold. One of the minor (but very key characters) in the novel is Zut the tabby, modeled after Zoot, my tabby of 16 years. Zoot was my familiar as it would be called in witchcraft terms.

The official publication date is September 11, which is my husband’s birthday. Even though we’ve been separated two years, he had always been my most loyal supporter when it comes to my fiction.

I have received encouragement from published authors Jonathan Maberry and Kathryn Craft, but no one encouraged me like Darrell did.

So thank you. There are so many good aspects to the 20-plus year relationship I had with you and that is only one.

And the goal is to get the next one out on my partner Gayle’s birthday.

Flexing Creativity: Leveraging the talents of those around you

As some of my loyal readers may know, my long-time friend and partner-in-creativity-crime, Gayle, and I have moved forward after five years on our publishing project, Parisian Phoenix.

Our initial launch will feature my Fashion and Fiends chick lit style horror novels. The first three novels are part of the debut. Gayle is the graphic designer in charge of all things visual whereas I handle the words.

We have ordered the ISBNs and barcodes. I have filed for copyrights. We have begun research on various publishing platforms. Gayle has drafts of all the text.

We needed to get an updated headshot for my author photo. Coincidentally, my good friend Joan is starting a photography portrait class. So I asked her to take my headshot and she asked me if she could use the residents of my menagerie as subjects.

Working together with other local artists generates a sense of community that can be a lot of fun.

These are two of my many favorites that Joan took before the start of her class, traditional and non-traditional compositions:

To see more about Joan and her photography adventures, visit her web site: Joan’s Portfolio.

Lost in a book

Yesterday, the teenagers spent time out of the house— which meant after chores I had some free time. Especially since teenager #1 took her dog.

I sent manuscript #1 of my old Fashion and Fiends series (Manipulations) and sent it to my friend Gayle for design. I last shopped these books to agents and publishers five years ago. At this point, I want my ideas and words recorded and preserved.

I decided to sit down with a slice of coconut cake (from Tic Toc Diner) at Rosie the new MacBook Air.

I wanted to read the second book of the series, Courting Apparitions. I couldn’t put it down. Gayle found it very amusing how much of my own story I had forgotten. But that is the point of putting a story away for a long time. To judge it with new eyes.

I read all 90,000 words— in six hours.

And for the second time this week set a meal on fire. Which, since it was salmon, actually gave it a nice crisp.

One of the main characters of the series, fictional fashion designer Étienne d’Amille, turns 62 this week. In the series, he is 43 and his significant other, investment banker Basilie, is 45. I am currently 45. And Basilie and her sisters represent some of the strongest women I know, so great homage to Women’s History Month.

The series is a feminine version of horror fiction, or a darkly intense psychological version of chick lit. Manipulations focuses on a supermodel who has uncontrollable water magic, which leads to her fashion world success and gives her healing powers, but also attracts supernatural forces.

Because of the industry and her own past, no one sees the danger of her body image issues and lack of self-esteem instead only seeing her as “the girl in the pictures” which allows her to fall into otherworldly domestic violence.

Courting Apparitions is a ghost story. The characters involved have to cope with their own emotions and relationships as a ghost, and the witches who want its power, haunt them. It’s as much a story about recovering from depression and reconnecting/forgiving loved ones as it is about the supernatural.

Author Jonathan Maberry once told me that if I wrote my stories as paranormal romance, or pitched them as such, I would find success. But as funny and poignant and incredibly sexy these stories are, the romance has a gritty reality to it that I can’t tone down.

Gayle always said I like to torture my characters, but I really just want them to overcome terrible things so I can bring out there strength and admire them. They become my heroes in addition to the heroes of their own stories.

This manuscript made possible by a loving husband

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On Friday, one of my college acquaintances, now an editor of a mystery imprint at a small press (and one I love!), posted a call for manuscripts for the Quirk Books “Looking for Love” contest. The postmark deadline of the contest is today. And despite an overly busy schedule I thought, what the heck I’ll submit.

Quirk Books is a small press that for the last ten years has published, well, quirky books. I’ll refer to their web site to summarize their company: “Quirk Books is an independent book publisher based in Philadelphia. Founded in 2002, Quirk Books publishes 25 strikingly unconventional books every year. Our bestsellers include the pop culture phenomenons Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. We also publish award-winning cookbooks, craft books, children’s books, and nonfiction on a wide range of subjects. Learn more about us and explore our books here on QuirkBooks.com.”

I’ve known that my paranormal fiction set in the high fashion industry doesn’t quite fit the genre norms for paranormal romance, chick lit or women’s fiction. I also know that if Quirk is looking for love, I got love.

I use the supernatural in my fiction to explore what makes a healthy relationship. The supernatural love interest in my manuscript turns out to be a bully, and the ingenue’s experience mirrors that of a domestic violence victim. Meanwhile, the divorced guy… Perhaps this would be a good place to insert the 250-word synopsis I prepared for Quirk.

Weird stuff happens to Adelaide Pitney, house model at couturier Chez d’Amille. It always has. When she meets Galen Sorbach, an aspiring photographer, she thinks he’s cute.

For once, she hopes to have a normal boyfriend. 

Galen recognizes Adelaide for her latent healing powers, magick she’s accidentally used in large quantities. As a fire mage, Galen never mastered water magick so he wants Adelaide’s power to gain immortality.

Galen’s sister Kait has spent 400 years as elemental water guardian. She has been assigned to subdue Adelaide’s magick, but Kait delays. Adelaide is the last mortal from Kait’s family line with healing powers. Kait’s reluctance allows Galen to manipulate Adelaide into believing her magick presents a danger.

 The incident that attracted the attention of the guardians involved Étienne d’Amilles’s ex-wife, Basilie. Adelaide healed Basilie and made it possible for her to conceive Étienne’s child. 

Magick explains so much in Adelaide’s life, like how she seduced Étienne a decade earlier and he never realized it was her. Galen shares this secret, threatening the peace between Étienne and his pregnant ex-wife. The fall-out leads to a car accident that Étienne survives because of Adelaide’s help. 

 These five people– a 400-year-old Irish witch, her adopted brother, the American supermodel, a French fashion designer, and his rich ex-wife– find their lives intertwined as they explore just how far they will go for love and just how much they can forgive. 

So I struggled with this synopsis as only a writer can struggle, and the only day I had to print the manuscript was Sunday. Then I got called into work early.  And my husband, he volunteered to print it for me. I had one manuscript box left.

And yesterday, it went into the mail. It almost didn’t since the money I gave my husband to mail it has somehow disappeared.