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.

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.

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.

Overextended: Update on the Boring Stuff

This weekend was a strange blend of trying to catch up, trying to get ahead and trying to touch base with friends I haven’t seen in a while.

Love Boat

Bill Prystauk (the author of the Kink Noir book series) took the teenager and I to Jasmine for sushi and sashimi. We had a love boat where I tried and enjoyed sashimi for the first time: white tuna, salmon and some clam thing that tasted like a seafood gummy bear.

This week I have a commitment every morning and the Bizzy Hizzy every night. I don’t anticipate voluntary time off because the warehouse won’t have computers on August 2 so that will be another 3-day weekend.

The FURR Pop Up Cat Café is reaching some critical mass as FURR volunteers get more involved and excited. Tomorrow I have a 7:45 phone conversation scheduled with my cat foster godmother and an event planning meeting at 9 will Janel. Still no update on a coffee provider… I’m getting nervous.

But Joan Z agreed to take photos, Gayle is helping design some games.

Then at 10, I’ll be meeting Nan. And at 1, I’ll cook lunch and get ready for my Stitch Fix shift.

This week, I have two training sessions with Dan at Apex Training. Tuesday and Friday. As part of my recovery after these workouts, these might be my main days to do my edits and proofs on the final file for Manipulations. Official launch date is September 11.

Wednesday I visit the chiropractor (and I can’t wait to see what she thinks about my new fitness routine) and Thursday I see my primary care physicians and his residents about my anemia.

I mention all of this because these are the weeks when one has to focus on food prep, proper rest and activities to maintain mental balance.

So we shall see.

Lessons I Have Revisited This Week

For a while, I was writing everyday on this platform. Recently, life has gotten busy and I shifted my focus to more organized blog entries than random posts.

So I slowed my writing down to times when I am rested and focused— which sometimes isn’t that often. But seriously, this week brought me great joy and also sorrow. In those emotions, I revisited some favorite life lessons. Many, but not all, involve cats.

First, there is Louise, the freshly amputee cat. She spent two weeks under my bed. Probably still confused and uncomfortable from her surgery, but also scared and scarred from her experiences before someone contacted Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab to get this injured apparent stray some help— both material and medical.

After two weeks under my bed, she’s trusting me. She’s super affectionate, cuddly, purrs like a machine and playful. She’s gentle and sweet and doesn’t have a mean bone in her body.

Louise tested my patience and rewarded me with her love.

Hermes, yes another foster, got adopted yesterday. He came to us as a very sick kitten on July 31, 2020 as part of the Greek Pride. His sister Hades sent me to the hospital. But that’s another story.

Hermes was terrified of human hands for most of his life, and he’s still a quirky cat. His new family knows his flaws, but they are confident that he should be their cat.

Hermes reminded me that some growth is slow, but can transform everything about how you live your life. And that we are all on a different timeline.

Touch of Grey, a four-year-old owner surrender, has been with us about two weeks because of her tendency to be bitchy and nasty. She’s been an angel with us, even going so far as to try and convince Hermes’ parents to take her home instead.

Sometimes we only thrive in certain environments. What nurtures me might not work for you.

The hardest part of this week was caring for the Ten Little Kittens who were starving and probably have distemper. Only two survived the week. (More on that here: Ten Tiny Kittens) To see some kitten cuteness: Parker Playing.

Sometimes there is beauty and divinity in the briefest of lives, and knowing you did something, even if it leads to heartache, is better than doing nothing.

Okay. No more cats. I had a conversation with someone whom I’m known for a long time— decades. She has had a good career with the same employer the entire time I’ve known her. She’s my age. She asked where I landed after last year’s job loss. I mentioned the Stitch Fix warehouse and expected the conversation to drop or to get that sense I get from people that my job makes me less important or less of a person now.

Instead, she asked if we were hiring and if I thought it was a good job. I explained the pay, the good and the bad. Apparently she has no holiday pay, no paid time off, and ten hour days. Her job is taking a toll on her body and she just wants to move on.

This country places too much emphasis on our jobs and careers as the definition of who we are. And it’s upsetting how basic quality of life items like health care and paid time off are regulated by/ reliant on corporations and small business owners. Your worth is not based on your occupation.

I went to the diner last night to have pancakes and see the charming teenager #1 at work. One of her regulars asked her to help with his dogs so he and I have been talking. He’s a conservative Christian Trump supporter and I am a liberal with socialist leanings. I told him right off we probably had very different opinions on a lot of issues. But we had a polite discussion and did not attack each other.

Listening and sharing information has to be a polite and earnest exchange. People can have different opinions but respect each other and, even so, cooperate.

FURR: The latest tragedy of ten little kittens

As many of you may already know, my daughter (otherwise known as teenager #1) pet-sits for our cat foster godmother.

I think it was on Monday, with my daughter scheduled to start pet sitting today, that Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab ended up with ten four-week old starving kittens who may or may not have distemper as three adult cats associated with them had mysteriously died.

They were taken to our cat foster godmother’s house and she texted teenager #1 to ask if she could handle syringe feeding them formula five times a day. And if we could take them home if needed.

Two kittens passed yesterday. When we arrived today to feed them two more were gone.

So we set to work with the syringe.

I helped clean up the dead kittens, which will be stored in a sealed plastic bag in the freezer until taken for cremation. Teenager #1 was willing to do it but her witchy empathy made it uncomfortable for her to touch the recently dead thing.

She explained it like feeling a black void. She says living trees feel “fuzzy” and that dead trees feel empty. But this is more intense because of the sentience of the animal.

The little gray kitten in this photo almost died in my daughter’s arms— but he hung on until we put him down with his siblings. We named him Rufus because he has been refusing to die. But I’m told from another FURR volunteer that he is gone now.

Although our foster cat godmother would probably chastise us for going so with creatures that will probably die, we named three others: Parker, Spunky and Extra Crunchy.

Parker kept climbing all over everything like a parcour athlete. Spunky tried to climb out of the playpen. And Extra Crunchy is cover with food and who knows what else so his/her fur is extra crunchy.

It’s going to be an emotionally draining next few days, but this is what happens when domestic animals aren’t properly cared for. Sometimes a rescue group is too late.

Feeding Spunky on YouTube

Rufus and Parker

The adult cats in the house probably died of distemper and passed it to these kittens. So while the owner did not abuse or technically neglect his cats, a vet visit for vaccines and spaying/neutering could have prevented the suffering.