I have a lot of little things to say that problem don’t belong together but today is the Lehigh Valley Book Festivalat Bethlehem Area Public Library and I’m excited, a tad nervous and a bit super-focused and scatter-brained at the same time.
So the teenager and I finally came to the current end of the Marvel Comics Universe movies with Spider-Man: No Way Home. Watchingthem sequentially, and for me, many for the first time, actually made a lot more sense than when I saw some of them the first time.
I got a strange déjà vu that I had seen some of these villains before, but at the same time I was confused because the memory was vague and distant.
So let’s just say, trying not to spoil it for others like me that are woefully behind in their pip culture, that this film incorporates some older films that will be familiar to Generation X.
The primary theme of this movie, in my opinion, is time travel. The actual plot is a tad weak and melodramatic but the homage made to the previous generation of Marvel movies, and the humor employed in this movie, make it worth it.
My favorite Spider-Man is Toby Maguire. I got to see him again. And that made my heart happy. (Toby is also the Spider-Man adored and referenced by supermodel Adelaide Pitney in my chick lit/horror fiction novel, Manipulations, the first in the Fashion and Fiends series.
I had a very good visit with my chiropractor Nicole Jensen of Back in Line. She’s impressed with my progress and got things to pop and move (my right ankle that I broke more than five years ago) that haven’t popped and moved in a long time.
My Later, Andrew at Apex Training worked out every muscle he didn’t the day before (okay that’s an exaggeration) and the teenager set a new personal record in deadlifting: 225 lbs.
Finally, I get to the part I’ve been waiting for: PIE! If only I weren’t trying to be so health conscious… Because I have been visiting the amazing pie ladies Anne and Lisa at Pie+Tart for three(?) years now and their pies (and flat white coffees) have nurtured my soul through some difficult times— and a very very toxically difficult boss.
I receive their weekly email and saw their “freezer section” of leftover discounted pies included a steak and Guinness pie and a matcha custard pie. A meal inspired by two of my favorite drinks.
I was so beyond excited to eat these pies I was vibrating at “the pie hole” which is what they call their window/doorway. It has allowed them to stay in business safely during Covid because how would we survive sans pie.
I can improvise plenty of solutions for lack of toilet paper but I can’t make pie like this— not even with my Pennsylvania Dutch family connections.
I couldn’t even wait for the matcha custard to thaw. I sawed at it with a knife, broke it in pieces with my hands and microwaved a slice for 30 seconds. It was delectable.
And the steak and Guinness pie? So rich and full of meaty goodness I didn’t even have a chance to take a photo.
Oh how I love my pie friends.
And finally the updates regarding some of the cats we are fostering through Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab, Mars has taught Khloe to play and Minerva is becoming much more social. As is Louise.
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.
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.
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.
So last night I finished reading the final polished manuscript of my Fashion and Fiends series of horror novels.
There are probably at least six books in the series, though I totally believe the possibilities of the universe I have created are endless.
Recovery is the third novel in the Fashion and Fiends series. My friend Gayle and I are publishing the series as part of our little boutique “press,” Parisian Phoenix Publishing.
I copyrighted all three novels that are print ready tonight. It’s been… oh… 25 years since I copyrighted last. I was surprised to see it’s now $45 versus the $20 it was in the 1990s. And you can upload everything electronically now.
But interestingly enough, the Library of Congress website doesn’t appear to have changed at all since those days since the interface looks like this:
So to recap:
The name Fashion and Fiends refers to the mix of the high fashion world and the supernatural.
The first book, Manipulations, follows a 400-year-old witch as he tries to absorb a supermodel’s water magick in hopes of becoming an immortal being. The story mimics the realities of domestic violence, and the fantastically successful supermodel actually fights her own insecurities and body image issues.
The second book, Courting Apparitions, is a ghost story. The subtext explores grief, depression and impotence and their effects on human relationships.
The third book, Recovery, blends some supernatural craziness with sex and romance, while also diving deep into medicine, the military, and the African landscape. The subtext here looks at the ramifications of French colonialism and explores the complexities of how to blend Islam, multiculturalism and race in the modern environment. And a certain character comes face to face with the monster of Ghoubet.
But when I finished the third manuscript, I was shocked to see some of the rather dramatic things I thought happened in the novel Absolution happening in Recovery. One of my favorite characters was left in serious trouble. So, I had that special author distress where you know you need to save him.
But here lies the kicker— the next manuscript in the series no longer exists except for two large sections of the final two chapters.
So now I have to sit down and write.
Wish me luck.
PS— Tomorrowis Étienne d’Amille’s birthday. He is the fashion magnate in the series. He will be 62. Where does the time go?
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.