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.


Find Angel Ackerman on WordPress, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Follow Parisian Phoenix Publishing on LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook.

A note on my site pages and approaching updates

This web site started as a portfolio of my professional writing. I added some photos, some creative work and used it as a platform to blog my travels in France, Tunisia, Djibouti, Somalia, Yemen and Russia.

I added some pages for the cats we foster.

And soon I will be connecting a web page or two for the publishing house my friend Gayle and I are launching (egads! as my fellow author friend William Prystauk says) my first novel publishes in a week!

So coming soon… Parisian Phoenix Publishing and the Fashion and Fiends series. We have some other titles in the works— erotica, romance, poetry, thought-provoking identity politics/philosophy and hopefully even a book on cats.

Subsequently Gayle designed this logo before I started fostering cats and painted my bedroom this exact pink.

A little bit of life updates: from warehouse work to cat fostering

This particular blog post will touch on brief updates of multiple areas of my life.

1. My new phone: The refurbished iPhone Xs sent to be my Square Trade has developed a green line in the display. I went to report it and their website is down for maintenance.

2. The laundry room project: The teenager has selected a color with the help of her grandmother, polka dot skirt.

3. Hungryroot and Purple Carrot: Yesterday’s meal kit was Purple Carrot’s Palestinian Spiced Peppers with Crispy Seitan and Tomato Caper Relish and Lemon Dill Rice. We also cooked the Chicken Bruschetta Burgers from Hungryroot. Everything was amazing.

4. Work and/or Disability: starting Thursday night my body was stiff and my right leg is giving me so much trouble. It appears to be the perfect blend of weather (tropical storms), hormones (ovulation) and disability (cerebral palsy). I was very uncomfortable.

But my numbers at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy have been consistently decent— I QC’ed 46 fixes from 3:30 to 6:30ish, and then picked an M cart in 20 minutes before clocking out at 7:05. The night prior I was on “mailer machine” (a folding machine that operates with a lot of compressed air) that they call creased lightning.

5. Foster Cats: someone expressed interest in Louise. Here’s a video of her last night: Louise

FURR Khloe
FURR Shady

6. The Gym (Apex Training): I did my first one plate barbell deadlift. I’ve always wanted to do barbell lifts. So far I’ve done bench press and deadlifts. Today I did four sets: one of three so my trainer could evaluate the weight of the lift, a set of five, another of eight, and a final of five.

He didn’t tell me how much weight that was— but my research from Mr. Google says the bar is 45 pounds and the plates are 20 kg. That together it’s 135 pounds?

FURR’s first ever kittens and coffee “pop-up cat café” raises nearly $2,500 and yields adoption applications

OMG.

We planned this event in a little more than a month.

We received donations from Wegmans, Target #2536, Wawa, Easton Baking, Philly Pretzel and Keystone Snacks. Just Born also offered candy but the pick up is next week. We will use that for a future event.

So many friends and family members baked. I have leftover coffee cake and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for breakfast. I bought sweets, coffee, a cutting board, a t-shirt (don’t declaw!) and a mug.

When we “opened” at 2 p.m., a horde of people charged the room! There was a line more than half way through the building and no spaces left in the parking lot!

And everyone was patient and polite. The room was so full we couldn’t do all the activities we had planned— there wasn’t space. We only sold about ten cups of coffee but made almost $400 in food and drink donations, as we let everyone set their own prices.

A man came in from the basketball game next store and asked if we took Venmo. I said I had Venmo and had plenty of cash or I could get the card reader. He Venmoed me $20— I gave him $20 from my own pocket. He took a cupcake and a can of Sprite and gave the organization the whole $20!

People just wanted to pass around kittens and cuddle them. And the kittens all laid peacefully in strangers’ arms!

And everyone loved playing with kittens!

We made almost $1,500 in admission donations. Hundreds of people came.

In 2.5 hours, our unofficial count says we raised almost $2,500 for these kittens.

Photos to come.

I just keep picturing in my mind the faces of all these people of all shapes, sizes and ages cuddling kittens. Everyone turns into a softy when those babies curl up against you.

At the end of the event, the teenager’s father and I were taking stuff to the car when I saw a group of teen boys— I assumed athletes— coming out of the gym/the basketball game. We had soooo many cupcakes left I told them to go into our room and tell the people there Angel said they could have cupcakes.

And as we left the event some other young men asked if we needed help. So all in all, it was lovely to see polite & friendly young people. Especially since this last pandemic year has been so hard on our youth.

I am grateful for all the FURR volunteers who staffed the event. I am super proud of my daughter for her hard work. And I loved working with my partner in crime, Janel.

What a success!

The Caturday before Coffee and Kittens Pop-Up Cat Cafe

Are y’all totally sick of me talking about this yet?

So excited. And terrified. And excited some more. People are so supportive and I am amazed at the kindness of my friends, neighbors, relative strangers and local businesses.

I used to work at Target #2536 in Lower Nazareth. My co-conspirator, I mean fellow event planner, Janel, brought them a solicitation letter at my urging. The person who took it from her said it looked like a great event.

We didn’t hear from them. Until Wednesday.

I answered the phone while at work because Siri read me the number and I recognized it, it was both alien and really familiar. Then the caller introduced themselves.

Which explained why the number looked important.

They had held a collection for us and team members had donated some cat supplies to make a cat basket. And the actual store gave us a $50 gift card. If you know anything about me, you know I can work these store gift cards.

The teenager had gone down to Mary Meuser Memorial Library where the children’s librarian gave her a pile of cat children’s books that I will test-read to her tonight.

We did some shopping with our donated gift cards and now have some of the following for the event:

  • Fruit cups: mandarin oranges, diced pears, and diced peaches
  • Water
  • Juice boxes
  • Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite
  • rice krispie treats
  • Sandwich crackers

And that’s in addition to baked goods, veggie crisps from Keystone snacks, the teenager’s homemade Rice Krispie peanut butter candy, coffee cake, zucchini trail mix muffins, cookies, cupcakes, chocolate cake and I heard there will be key lime pie! And pastries from Easton Baking and coffee from Wawa and pretzels from Philly Pretzel Company.

And thanks to Wegmans, Giant and Target, we have supplies to make an auxiliary coffee station. With tea and hot chocolate, too!

The fun starts at 2 p.m.!

We should have 30 Kittens to cuddle and lots of activities and cat items for sale.

AND a photographer to send you photos of you and your family having a good time.

The cat basket and a chocolate pizza from Chocolate Works Lehigh Valley and a $20 gift card for Chocolate Works from my neighbor Sobaka’s Mom will be available for silent auction.

The eye of the storm: the kitten cafe launches Sunday

I have had so much fun and have so much anticipation for Sunday’s Pop Up Kitten Cafe to benefit Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab.

It’s 2 a.m.

I need to be at the gym at 10 a.m.

But I just finished a salad from Wawa with spinach, chicken salad, carrots, apples and feta. Trying to combat stress with nourishing food.

After all, yesterday was Friday the 13th.

I sent N.J. EZ Pass a copy of my check from my daughter’s violations from her vacation. Apparently they need the front and back and I only sent the front.

I took my phone to Best Buy for repairs as Square Trade told me too. The screen repair would be $379, and my deductible is $129. But my phone is an old iPhone X (purchased in April 2018) and the battery is only at 84% and the face sensor is dead. So Best Buy does not recommend repairing it. They sell replacement iPhone X for I believe it was $549. But they didn’t have any.

So I had to go home, call SquareTrade and have them ship me a replacement. They are sending an Xs. Via FedEx. That is supposed to come today while I am running for the cafe. I hope I’m back in time.

[Edit: 2 p.m. No phone. No note from FedEx. Just a Chewy.com box.]

By the time I went to work last night, I was frazzled. I’ve been part of a small cohort in QC this week while most of the « Midnight Society » team has gone to inbound processing. Because of body stiffness I only made 113 fixes Tuesday and Wednesday night. I’ve lost my mojo.

Last night I started strong, doing 9 fixes every 30 minutes. But by lunch I had slowed down and couldn’t get my speed back up.

I was stressing way too much about the numbers— not in a mental way, as I knew the number who improve from my two “bad nights” and life happens. Physically though it was harder to breathe, my heart quickened and my stomach quivered. And I knew it was a panicked feeling from the stress of everything.

I opened my Ginger Mental Health app. I reached out to a counselor who said something about a mental vacation and that sounded like an amazing idea. (Stitch Fix offers free access to Ginger for its employees.)

She sent me a meditation but my mind had already drifted away to my own memories of vacation in Yemen and Djibouti. I thought about how soothing the call to prayer on the loud speaker was. Video: Call to prayer Djibouti City and if you want some Afar dancing and singing: Afar dancing (only snippets because on Lac Abbé we didn’t have electricity and I didn’t want my phone to go dead.)

And I thought it would me beautiful to hear that right now. I found this on Spotify: Life of the Prophet. That brought me peace.

When I got home I recorded this: Midnight Vlog

Stress, leg day, wins for the cat cafe, taste testing and EZ Pass Drama

In 45 minutes, I need to leave for work. It’s Thursday and I feel like I haven’t stopped moving all week. I’m behind on my own commitments and starting to feel panicked.

The pop up kitten cafe fundraiser for Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab is this Sunday.

Although it has required effort from many people, in the last few days this has become my baby.

In the last 24 hours, we received commitments from Just Born candy and Target #2536 (the same Target where I used to work and that experienced a fatal shooting in the parking lot last weekend).

This brings our list of supporters to:

  • Many individual bakers
  • Easton Baking Company
  • Philly Pretzel
  • Wawa
  • Wegmans
  • Giant Food Stores
  • Keystone Snacks
  • Chocolate Works
  • Target
  • Just Born

Today the teenager and I will be heading to Keystone Snacks to get the Veggie Chips donation.

So that’s the fundraiser but meanwhile real-life goes on. I haven’t worked on William Prystauk‘s upcoming novel in his Kink Noir series, Bondage, in several days. Our personal cat, kitty cancer survivor Opie has a very goopy, wet eyes. This is very unusual for Opealope so I gave him a couple treatments with a chamomile tea eye wash for cats grown and prepared by our fellow foster, Granola Cat Lady.

Despite all this (and only 5 hours sleep from sharing my bed with the teenager’s dog, F. Bean Barker), I still made it to Apex Training for leg day and some warm-up core work. My body was very stiff after that, not really from the workout but because my period is late and doing things to my body.

Although I have to admit I fell on the way to the gym and broke the screen to my iPhone. After 3.5 years I now get to test my SquareTrade insurance.

The other big news is that the teenager installed a new toilet seat in the upstairs bathroom. The old one had screws so stripped it kept falling off while you were sitting on it. Bad news is: our bathroom is 1950s Flamingo Pink. The new toilet seat is white— the only one they had. I hate white toilet seats on colored bowls but I also hate “falling in.” And now that she’s seen it, the teenager agrees.

I finally tried my Emmi Roth cheddar cheese snacks from Hungryroot which were supposed to be for tuna artichoke melts but I couldn’t bring myself to use such fancy cheese on a grilled cheese sandwich. A colleague and I were talking about snacks & cheese so I brought her some and we tried it at the Bizzy Hizzy.

She loved it so much she googled where to buy it. Apparently it’s only available in Wisconsin and Switzerland. It literally melts in your mouth.

After work I went to Sheetz and ordered a pina colada lemonade with immunity boost with my bonus points. It tasted like candy, too thick to be refreshing but definitely very summery. I added some mango vodka when I got home. (Here’s a video if you want to see me talk to myself in a parking lot at midnight.)

And finally, not sure if I mentioned it on the blog, but I’m another step closer to resolving the great EZ Pass Drama of Summer 2021. Did you ever procrastinate something so long it bit you in the ass?

Yeah, so that’s what happened to me.

So, our Nissan Ultima (oh how I loved that car) died suddenly. My husband and I were still together and only had one car. He replaced the Ultima was a used Nissan Juke— a car he had wanted for a while. We moved everything from the Ultima into the Juke.

I had ordered an EZ Pass when I started work on my master’s in world history at West Chester University and was driving down the turnpike at least once a week.

So I knew that the EZ Pass was connected to my car— the Ultima— but I never really used it. I forgot about it. And then I bought my Jetta because I hated the Juke. Our family didn’t really go anywhere. I worked retail so I never really got time off. I had stopped working on my master’s as money got tight and my marriage continued to fail.

I neither returned nor updated the EZ Pass.

My husband returned the box of random things from the Ultima and I, with other things on my mind, tossed the transponder in my car hoping to remember to update it.

I never did.

At this point, I don’t even remember how to access my EZ Pass account.

This summer, the teenager took her grandmother to Cape May. She pulled up to the first toll booth and the toll collector yelled at her for trying to pay the toll.

Being a dutiful child, she trusted the toll collector who told her she had an EZ Pass.

Two weeks later, we get two violations from NJ EZ Pass. $30 in missed tolls and $55 in administrative fees. My daughter and I send a check, but I also send an email stating that I understand I hadn’t updated the EZ Pass, but my daughter had tried to pay the toll and the toll collector yelled at her.

They cashed the check.

Then a couple weeks after that I get a letter from PA Turnpike EZ Pass stating I had insufficient funds in my account and they were threatening to ticket me. Now, my EZ Pass was on a credit card. That credit card expired one month before my daughter’s trip.

I call the number. Because I don’t know my account pin or my transponder number, I am forced to leave a message and they say they will call me back. That was Monday.

A couple days ago I get another letter from NJ EZ Pass. They claim I didn’t pay one of the two violations. I send another email and send them a screen shot from my banking app of the cashed check.

It’s now Thursday. I go to PA EZ Pass and try to remember all my account info. I easily succeed. I look at the “insufficient funds.” $5.37 cents. They also demand $35 to load my account fully. Even though I haven’t used it in three years.

And you can’t just pay what you owe.

I then go to the “manage vehicles” tab, add the Jetta and delete the Ultima. That took five minutes. Had I done that years ago, I could have avoided the whole drama.

Stories about cats, cat rescue and health insurance

The pandemic has prompted a lot of discussion about job loss, job growth, and changes in the economy. Other discussions have talked about the impact of various lockdowns and work from home situations on animal welfare, adoption and rescue groups.

** disclaimer: I am not an expert on any of these issues and the following blog post is a collection of my anecdotal experience during my life and in the last year.

In mid-July last year (2020), I lost my job at a small local nonprofit with an operating budget of more than two million dollars annually. My job loss stemmed from my supervisor’s dissatisfaction with my performance after she asked me to move from a job I was extremely good at to a job I had absolutely no experience in. (Forgive these excess prepositions because this experience was so stressful I don’t want to waste time perfecting my grammar because even writing about it gives me great anxiety.)

Around the same time, we had asked Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab for help neutering the two about 9 month old brothers, Misty and Fog, that we had trapped at our neighbor’s house.

Now, during my newspaper layoffs and even when I left other jobs, my health insurance lasted until the end of the month as the premium at been paid. Forgive my snarkiness, but at this particular human services non profit agency, the powers that be (as there is no human resource department or trained human resource professional) cancel your medical benefits on your last day to save money for the agency, because if they dispose of you before the 15th (or so I was told) the insurance agent refunds the monthly premium.

As soon as I learned I was losing my job, I asked my husband (at that point we had been separated for a year) if he could put me on his medical insurance as of August 1. After all, my July premiums had been paid.

So you can imagine my surprise when I was suddenly without medical insurance for two weeks.

Now, from what I understand, COBRA benefits can be purchased retroactively. And our local hospital has a good charity care program.

But still.

So that’s the background. We’re in a global pandemic, I’m unemployed and have $5,000 to my name, no medical benefits, and two male kittens coming of age.

Enter FURR.

When they helped us get low-cost neutering for our “greybies,” we thanked them and I said the fateful words, “I wish I had the money to give a nice donation but I just lost my job. But if you ever need a foster, I’m willing to help.”

Foster cat godmother gave us our first batch of kittens July 31.

Yes, we have been fostering with FURR for a year and a week. Foster cat godmother can’t believe that and says it feels like we’ve been around for an eternity.

Now, if you are one of my friends or a regular reader, you may recall that on August 1, our sassy little black kitten, Hades, bit me as I tried to medicate her infected eyes.

I went to urgent care that day as the finger was growing redder and redder. This was the very first day I had medical benefits and honestly I was scared that they might give me trouble as my insurance had lapsed. Was that fear rational? No. But was in understandable in American society? Hell, yes.

About six a.m. August 2, I went to the ER because the finger had swelled (despite antibiotics) and I could no longer bend it.

On my second day of renewed medical insurance.

I was in the hospital for four days. First time ever, other than during childbirth.

My neighbor— an economics professor at a local community college— and I had the discussion this winter: Who should be responsible for healthcare?

I abhor the idea that this is the domain of the employer. Your access to affordable medical care should not be tied to your job. I believe— even without “socialized medicine” (which I 100% believe in but think certain improvements are attainable without it)— with proper regulation from the government and this system abolished, individuals could find their own health care.

Insurance companies would have to shift their market to individuals instead of employers, and they would have to adapt and market more affordable products but would make their money by attracting as many individuals as they could.

Anyway, the teenager and I were talking about insurance and I was thinking about all of this.

Second Hungryroot Box and final week before the FURR pop up kittens and coffee event

The second Hungryroot box arrived and I was very excited to have it delivered on a Saturday when I would be here to open it and have more time to cook it. Unboxing here.

Gayle, my graphic design support system and Parisian Phoenix business partner, brought me the photo frames and the pin-the-bow-tie-on-the-kitten game.

We took some shots for social media to thank our corporate sponsors: Wegmans and Giant Food Stores, and product donors Wawa, Philly Pretzel, Chocolate Works and Keystone Snacks.

Wednesday Fostering Update: Touch of Grey had an adventure

Fostering cats with Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab involves a lot of love, a lot of patience and, often, a lot of common sense problem solving skills.

It’s like babysitting— having responsibility for someone else’s living creatures.

Touch of Grey

Touch of Grey has some balance issues and can be very agressive. She can also be a sweet cat, but she has several triggers which lead us to believe she may have been abused or mistreated. For instance, she freaks out when you are handling blankets.

Yesterday, as I was bringing the laundry up from the basement and Touch of Grey ran full force into my legs and bounded down the stairs.

Now if TOG doesn’t want to be handled, she will attack. So I tried to coerce her upstairs. She didn’t want to.

There’s a big tote of old blankets in the basement and she likes to sleep in there so I figured she would take a nap and come up at meal time.

But she didn’t turn up.

So we checked around the basement and didn’t see her in any of the usual spots. But it’s a basement. Cats have expert hiding skills.

We put out a bowl of kibble.

In the morning, still no TOG. We heard a rumbling in the ductwork. Now we know there is a spot under the stairs where the cats can get into the bottom of the hardwood floor and make their way into the cool air return.

In the past, I have already lifted the grate in the living room to let her out. But even there we couldn’t find her.

And we heard metallic grumbles.

The teenager asked our firefighter neighbor to come help her check the ducts.

Touch of Grey was in the bottom of a duct, with a freshly dead mouse. We suppose she chased it and fell into the lower ductwork.

Thank goodness, she is safe.

In other news, one of our other FURR cats, Khloe, decided to attack the vacuum cleaner while I was tidying today. I immediately turned it off. Let her think she defeated the large plastic mechanical animal.