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.

Prelude to Wheels

Yesterday indeed was Monday. Or shall I say the day before yesterday. When I started this entry it was 1 a.m. on Wednesday.

I started with household chores on Monday and felt very productive. Teenager #1 and I took the dog for a 5,000 step walk around the neighborhood.

Here’s a video of Bean eating icy snow: Bean and the ice

I sat down after lunch to spend some time with Nala the Goffin’s cockatoo and read more of book three of my Fashion and Fiends series, this one called Recovery.

Teenager #1 decided she wanted to go to her dad’s for the afternoon. I wanted to go get my $1 medium coffee at Dunkin. By the time we got organized we were leaving later than I would have liked. And then the dog pooped on the floor. And then the dog peed on the floor.

I decided this meant I needed coffee to survive the night. The line was ridiculous but I had already made the order via mobile so I was committed.

And then the teen forgot her keys. So I had to drop her off at her dad’s office instead of apartment.

Somehow I made it to the Bizzy Hizzy on time.

And I was assigned to pick. I hit 144 and walked about 25,000 steps in the Stitch Fix warehouse.

The big news yesterday was taking teenager #1 for her driving road test, which due to Covid is a swing around the parking lot with the testing official watching from the curb. She passed.

I ended up in pick again last night, but got moved to QC at 10:30 pm.

And now, with Zoom classes and homework done, the teenager has taken my car to run errands— mostly shopping for her pets.

And yes, she’s going to stop and fill up the car with gas and get coffee for mama.

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.

Our own Walking Purchase: Forest Bathing

I asked Gayle if she could think of an outdoor, quarantine-appropriate activity for the three of us— herself, me and the teenager.

She suggesting “forest-bathing” at Salisbury Township’s Walking Purchase Park.

According to Gayle’s research, forest-bathing is:

Forest bathing is the practice of slowly moving they the woods involving all senses. As you gently walk you breath deeply and it reduces stress, increase positive thinking, and energy levels.

Why not?

The park features several trails. We walked part of the yellow “Sweet Delight” trail and part of the red “Lenni” trail.

Gayle was disappointed we only walked about 2.5 miles, but I think the last mile was straight up hill— about 18 flights of stairs according to the Apple Health app.

Forest-bathing yielded a very Thoreau sounding journal entry for me.

I am surrounded by unblooming May flowers hearing the buzz of gnats as they swarm into my ears. There are birds chattering like squealing monkeys. The train hollers in the distance: a choo-choo bird.

A breeze cascades across the woods, a floral wave of rain drops and sunlight. I revel in the stillness.

The woods around me has a conversation, but as a human, can I learn the language?

When we got home, the teenager baked her grandmother’s famous corn bake— a recipe I believe she got in high school home ec classes. So it’s got to be 50+ years old.

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.

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

A challenge for my readers

I keep a list of potential blog topics on my phone. That way if I feel like writing and don’t have an idea— there is one waiting.

But I’ve had a bad stomach ache for a while (I blame the food choices I’ve made over the last 24 hours) and I just don’t have the motivation to write.

For dinner last night I had half a medium pizza from Dominos (spinach feta), with Cheezy Jalapeño sauce from Little Caesars, half an order of BBQ bacon wrapped specialty chicken, half an order of Parmesan bread bites, Sweettart jelly beans, Yuengling, and Diet Coke. (While watching Hoarders.)

I had chocolate coconut cookies and peanut butter eggs for breakfast and the remaining half of the pizza smothered in crushed red peppers for lunch. And dessert was several handfuls of Tums and have a bag of generic jelly beans.

And several cups of coffee.

I have my first official library board meeting tonight, of my official library comeback tour, via Zoom but first a challenge…

First person to suggest a topic in the comments— I will write it.

You can take an idea from my list OR suggest your own.

Some of my ideas:

  • Anything related to Tarot
  • My parenting philosophy regarding teens and behaviors like drugs & sex
  • Eminem
  • My daughter’s observations after having her adenoids removed (hint: she “regrets” the surgery)
  • Cute cards with cats
  • Cats vs dogs
  • My stuffed animals
  • an overarching review of Gordon Ramsay’s television shows

Ready… Get set… GO!

March Library Excitement

My family has been involved with Mary Meuser Memorial Library for most of my daughter’s life.

From her preschool days to 2014 I served on the library’s board of trustees, including a couple years as president.

The Pennsylvania state library board urged libraries to enforce term limits on their boards and so I left after my second term, but my husband filled my post for the next six years. He also served as president.

Now his seat is open. So I reapplied. I will be rejoining the board of trustees this month.

In addition, my daughter (with her father’s support) hosts a writing workshop and open mic at the library on the third Thursday of the month. They have asked me to lead the workshop.

To promote myself, I submitted to their weekly poetry blog. See it here: Angel Ackerman featured on Stick Figure Poetry.

I will be hosting an interactive workshop on editing for word count, specifically on how to convey the most meaning with the least words.

The workshop begins at 6 pm, March 19, at Mary Meuser Memorial Library, 1803 Northampton Street, Easton, PA. In the annex.

For more about our library visit: Mary Meuser Memorial Library

Stream of consciousness: real talk

It’s almost 8:30 on a Saturday morning. This post will probably be babble, but I have a feeling it might resonate in a “real life” way. Like let’s not talk about Facebook perfect lives or fun on YouTube.

This is life with a teenager, a stressful job, three cats, three budgies and a Goffins cockatoo.

This is life. I have had the divorce papers in my possession for months but I just don’t want to sit down, fill them out, and file them. Not because I want to save my marriage but because it’s one more thing to do. It sometimes feels like my choices boil down to “file for divorce” or “do the dishes.” Neither situation will resolve without me taking the lead.

I can’t even articulate the chaos swirling around my head right now, let alone the chaos in it.

I have two parakeets flying around my head. One still timidly standing in his cage singing, not ready to come out. Wink, the blue budgie, has decided to eat the molding above my bedroom door (luckily not the visible side but the top) and fling chunks to the floor.

The big dumb cat raced into my room to sleep on my bed, and he looks just as perplexed as Nala does that critters are flying over head.

I did learn parrots can be potty trained. If you’re interested in that: Parront Tip: Potty Training. I also learned parrots need a lot of sleep. I should probably move my supper time to 6:30 or 7 so I can spend time with her and then put her to bed before I eat.

Today, I crawled out of bed at 6:30ish. In part, because Nala already knows when I get up for work and plucked a feather and screeched. The night before I had a bout of insomnia, not sure if it was hormones, work-stress or home stress but I only got five hours sleep. So getting seven hours last night felt magnificent.

Nala pooped on me right away, and all I had on was a t-shirt and underpants. We went to make coffee, feed the cats, and I made her tea. She pooped on me again. Time for a clean t-shirt.

I stepped on the scale and saw that I am almost back to my pre-holiday weight. I’m happy with that. I’m in a comfortable range. Now I just need to get back into routine with my weights.

I read one page of Zazi in the Metro (which I bought more than a month ago). The book club meeting is Friday. So much for that new social activity.

Booboo keeps investigating Nala. Speaking of Nala, between her and the kitten (whom the teenager now firmly believes is a boy) I think I have to cancel the trip to DC I was planning next weekend. I’m really disappointed. I know the teen can stay home and care for the pets. But it’s too soon for me to leave Nala. And I can’t take her to be boarded because that’s where I got her and she’ll think she’s been abandoned.

And I also noticed she’s not banded. Most birds are registered and have a band on their ankle. Nala does not.

Update: The progress of 2019

In late October, I made a list. There were several progressive steps on that list.

1. Buy a car.

The Monday before Thanksgiving, I purchased a 2015 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8t with 21,000 miles on it. That car has been 95% as comfortable as my Nissan Ultima 3.5se. But exponentially better in the snow. The trunk is ginormous. My phone syncs.

2. Find a professional job.

I recently accepted, started the paperwork and applied for my fourth set of clearances to work with ProJeCt of Easton as their development coordinator.

I have had a great time pulling my professional wardrobe out of storage.

3. Write (and publish) more.

Okay, so my most recent publishing success was my ditty on Dime Show Review’s “Ten Word Stories.” I also have a recent essay on the horror website Crash Palace Productions. And more in the works.

In an editing related endeavor, my friend Gayle and I are advertising our joint services, editorial and graphic design, to the attendees at the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group The Write Stuff Conference.

4. Eat more fruits and veggies.

This one has been hit or miss. I eat pretty well, but I like going for the extra vegetables and more fruit. I’m not a big fruit eater.

And on the honest side, I need to stop stress eating refined carbohydrates.

5. Get more serious about bodybuilding.

Now I will never be athletic, and even my most competitive side would never have the dedication and patience it takes to truly body build. But I like working on it, and since I am changing jobs I need someway to maintain my muscle tone and weight.

6. Be consistent with the pets.

I have parakeets now. And we need to brush the cats’ teeth more.

And poor Opie, he recently had his left front leg amputated. So, yes, I now have a three legged cat.

How’s your 2019?