Chasing a dream in the autumn chill

Sometimes, as members of the human race, we have days that are full of delights from sun-up to sundown. Those days are rare, but often involve a leisurely day with the family, a vacation or a holiday.

Then there are days that are good despite— or perhaps because of — their imperfections and today was one of those days.

Maybe today was my “bones day” after all. If you don’t get the reference, it’s a prognosticating pug on TikTok (read more here).

I was originally going to blog this on the Parisian Phoenix website, but I thought I could be more honest and personal here. So here I am.

I came home from work in a lot of pain last night. I achieved 90% in my work metrics and came home, once again, in the kind of pain that leaves me crying and nauseous. Part of a marker for bad pain for me is if the pain interferes with my sleep and/or does not dissipate by morning.

I did not sleep well and I woke in pain.

But, I got up, got dressed, combed my hair and put on makeup. Because today was the Easton Book Festival. It might have been cold and rainy, but I was putting my best foot forward, even if the discomfort made it hard to put a shoe on that foot.

Now, here’s the thing.

Easton has been a part of my life for more than 25 years. Even now, I live very close to Easton. I can walk there.

Book and Puppet Company has been a part of our lives for quite some time. The teenager’s father connected with the owners of the independent bookstore. The teenager had a career as a contained character there.

Andy Laties of Book and Puppet founded the Easton Book Festival three years ago. I even appeared in the original “Read a Book” video— and they also featured a Muslim student in hijab outside the literacy center at my last non-profit job in development at ProJeCt of Easton.

My supervisor there quickly forgot the things I did well, like that placement and our involvement in the Easton Downtown Association scarecrow competition, in which they still participate. But I digress.

The teenager’s father now serves on the board of the Easton Book Festival, so when they organized a local author’s event, he invited me.

One month into Parisian Phoenix’s launch and I have a promotional spot. I didn’t sell enough books to pay for the small expenses of the event: parking, coffee, book printing (but hey, I would have needed those anyway), and the copy of the inaugural issue of the Lehigh Valley Literary Magazine I bought. And an overpriced breakfast.

But one person not only bought my book, but also came back specifically to hear me read. So that was touching.

I read a scene from the sequel to MANIPULATIONS, COURTING APPARITIONS where the villain performs a magical ritual in downtown Easton.

It was my first “reading out” in years!

I kept it very brief, because some others had run long and we were all tired.

Until the YouTube video drops— you should be able to view the Facebook live here.

I had intended to join the teenager’s father at one of the last poetry events of the festival, but I was frozen so I came home instead.

My neighbor, aka Sobaka’s mom, has now formally joined the Parisian Phoenix team as a proofread. She says we need to talk about chapters 1 & 2 of COURTING APPARITIONS tomorrow.

The teenager’s father received the copyright for his upcoming poetry chapbook so that could be going to press in a few weeks.

And tomorrow I hope to make applesauce, post some new material from Rachel Thompson on the Parisian Phoenix blog, and start typing Maryann Stephanie Ignatz’s material.

I even got to have dinner at my favorite diner with my neighbor to celebrate Jan’s official status as part of the Parisian Phoenix team.

Getting sick of electronic devices and words

I haven’t written in a while and I may keep this one skeletal.

I called out sick from work on Thursday and skipped my workout as I woke up in the same pain I had when I went to bed.

I thought I would rest in bed with my laptop and work more on the Parisian Phoenix website, my erotica collection, or even book four of the Fashion and Fiends series, Road Trip.

But instead I had my first Big Mac ever (which is especially odd since I worked my way through college at a McDonalds), ate too much candy and slept for 12 hours straight. The cats did not know what to make of that.

Are you curious how I responded to the Big Mac? See that here.

Friday I moved a little slow but still got decent numbers in QC folding clothes and after work ate too many cheese curls.

But, in my defense, they were amazing cheese curls— sour cream and cheddar— that I found at my local Dollar Tree.

Speaking of food, I also made my final Green Chef meal. Video here. I cheated a bit, adding beef tips, and forgot the pecans and the vegan aioli but it still tasted great.

Tonight I made Purple Carrot’s Fieldstone sausages with roasted fingerling potatoes and vegetables. Another great dish. I also made a side of “leftover sauce” pasta, mixing up every scrap from the fridge.

This morning, the teenager and I met up with Dan at Apex training and I did some lower body while Dan taught the teen to do barbell squats. He started by giving her the bar and evaluating her form and then he gave her some weight.

I think she used some muscles in her knees and legs that she has never used before, not with that range of motion. Let’s just say she was walking like me on the way home.

Then we treated ourselves to some egg sandwiches, grabbed the dog and went to the Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab Yard sale and cake auction. The child spent all my money— but we didn’t buy any cake. She got dog supplies and the massive dog now has a mermaid flotation device and a puffer jacket. And I have my third tea pot in two years. The teenager kills my tea pots.

Even the cats got goodies. See the new water fountain here.

I never saw a cake auction before and it was certainly more fun than the livestock auctions I’ve seen.

The dog was so tired she couldn’t keep her eyes open in the car on the way home.

Then I came home and made a video I’ve been putting off. I kept planning to get a little dressed up, do my makeup, set up a cozy spot on the sunporch and made a video of me reading a little of my novel.

Instead, I did it in sweatpants on the couch with the dog. See it here.

Even with the psychological weight of pain, my gratitude abounds

Today I did some work on the Parisian Phoenix Publishing website. (I also did two loads of laundry, emptied the dishwasher, edited a press release for anti-trafficking human services non-profit ASPIRE, and cleaned a whole bunch of cat boxes before helping my daughter with her English paper and heading to the Bizzy Hizzy.)

I should type this post a little faster as it is already almost 2 a.m. and I have my alarm set for 9:30 to meet with my personal trainer Dan at Apex Training for our 27th weightlifting session.

But I have to write this, because I had FOUR colleagues approach me about my book today. I gave them my personal business card as I don’t have the publishing company cards ready yet. This oversight was by design as I didn’t plan on printing the cards until closer to the launch of the second book, when the web site would be finished and a marketing plan in place.

So, if you are from Stitch Fix and found your way here looking for information on my novel (including links on where to buy), you can click here.

Fashion and Fiends series

Also, I have to report to the world at large that after two fantastic, fully-performing days at work, my body took a functional nose dive. By the end of the night, I was at a seven or eight in pain physically and quite near my breaking point psychologically.

That is why I am so grateful to my “midnight society” colleagues at work who took the time to ask me questions about my creative ventures. Their interest really did pull me out of my discomfort. And it really makes me feel seen as a person to have so many random people approach me after I told one person about my novel (because she’s a cat person).

Last week, another colleague started reading my book in the break room.

So thank you for boosting my spirits.

More another time.

I like surprising people

I have mixed feelings about surprises. I like good, controlled surprises but I hate when people try to pull one over on me.

But I do like surprising people.

That statement came from one of my bosses tonight after she heard I wrote a novel that had been published by Parisian Phoenix and was available at major online retailers. (Like here.)

“I didn’t know you were a writer.”

I mentioned it to her because I know she adores her cat and she knows I do cat fostering and rehab work. So I wanted her to know I was donating $1 for every print book sold to Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab.

I teased her that there was a lot she didn’t know about me. Like when I traveled to Siberia for pizza. And visiting Yemen and Somalia.

It always makes me feel good to stand out for things I can control— my hobbies, my opinions, my talents— versus the fact that I walk funny and fall a lot.

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 struggle brought bliss: my novel arrives

It’s 1:24 a.m.

My alarm will go off in less than 8 hours.

I will leave for the chiropractor in about 9 hours.

But how can I sleep when I am seeing the print version of my novel, Manipulations,for the first time.

And noticing a few typos in the back of the book.

I was so excited to finally see my baby after 30 years. Click here to see my reaction on YouTube.

If you’d like a copy… and remember $1 for every print book sold benefits Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab

So let me take a moment to say today started out hard. My body was stiff and not functioning well. This made me grouchy because I felt like I should be over last week’s pain by now. (Ultrasound Sunday, BTW).

But my workout went awesome, as it usually does, and I reflected on some of the kindnesses I have noticed lately. The help with the filter from the technician that serviced the furnace and his joy in seeing the little kittens. The consideration of the woman scheduling my mammogram wondering if 6:30 a.m. would be easier than 7:30 because I could theoretically not go to bed.

And I bribed the teenager with munchkins to get my an iced macchiato with an extra shot of espresso from Dunkin.

And then I took a Bang energy drink to work.

Speaking of work, my right leg and back bothered me all night but I still hit 132 fixes QCed. That’s 101.5% by my calculations but by my calculations I got 77% last night and they said I reached 104. So… who knows?

I am thrilled with today and let me leave you with the first page of my favorite chapter…

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.

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Informal weekend update: Canning with the Blind

This weekend was hectic and quiet at the same time.

Saturday Nan and I canned some corn relish/salsa with some farm fresh corn on the cob. My mother-in-law, having grown up on a farm, knows her corn and has a gift for picking delicious corn.

Nan, as a lifelong blind person, has a fascination with all things cooking. She always says that she doesn’t understand how people learn these things. I told her I don’t quite remember how I learned to can, though I do know I always had an interest in gardening and in preserving the rich variety of foods we have in this region.

But it was fun to see Nan respond to the tools involved in canning.

Yesterday, Mars and Minerva attended an adoption event with our cat rescue group Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab. Meanwhile, the teenager and I volunteered with the FURR kitten event and backpack distribution through the Verizon Store in Forks Township. Our foster Touch of Grey came from there. They actually have foster cats free roaming the store!

The teenager and I finally got our FURR t-shirts. I’m very excited. The teenager looks really good in hers.

Meanwhile, at home, our foster tripod Louise has been very cuddly and at my side relatively non-stop.

Louise

And I finished the proof for Manipulations. The book designer (my partner Gayle) will check out the file tomorrow.

My friend Bill sent me the manuscript for his next book in the Kink Noir series, Bondage. I’ll start my review sometime this week.

And finally, I made a list of all the authors and books that I hope to publish via Parisian Phoenix.

I was shocked how many titles were on the list. I hope I have the resources and the marketing prowess to do these books justice.

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.

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.