Moving Forward on Fashion and Fiends

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— Tomorrow is Étienne d’Amille’s birthday. He is the fashion magnate in the series. He will be 62. Where does the time go?

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.

Initial thoughts on “I am not an easy man.”

The other night I finally took the time to watch the French comedy I am Not an Easy Man on Netflix.

I am writing now in a few stolen moments between my nail appointment and my father stopping by to deliver some wood to my daughter. These are my reflections three days later without notes.

The basic premise is this: a single guy with a rich sexual history with women suddenly wakes up in a world where females are the dominant and stronger sex.

My almost-fourteen-year-old daughter watched bits of the film with me and I think it made her look at gender roles and gender expectations in a new light.

Women wore suits. Women initiated sex. Women went topless and didn’t shave.

Men waxed. Men stayed home with the children. Men carried purses.

Breasts became the power symbol.

The script was funny, but seriously thought provoking. I hope to watch it again and provide a more thorough analysis.

Goodbye, Paris. Hello, Moscow.

Our traveling companion M took us on a walk through Barbès where my daughter made some French/Algerian friends in one of the shops. The people there tried to get her to speech French and Arabic and gave her a piece of candy. She noted the difference between standard touristy Paris and the so-called immigrant presence in the outer districts, seeing Africans and Arabs. I use the term so-called immigrants because of how the French consider even second generation citizens “immigrants.”

We walked up to Sacre Ceour. Lil Miss didn’t realize it was on the top of a hill. She just thought it was tall. But she was a trooper walking up the hill. And M showed her the Eiffel Tower in the distance.We wandered half way down the hill and she spotted the funicular. We had a metro ticket for the day so we actually walked back UP to Sacre Ceour and rode the funicular down.

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Funicular to Sacre Couer

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View from Sacre Coeur

Dinner was at Le Magenta, another place where I have eaten before. I ordered a two course meal for each of us, with Lil Miss trying to overcome her fear of using French words. I suggested the restaurant based on past experience and as soon as she saw they served escargot she was in.  She ordered six escargot in a bourgogne sauce. In the photo, she looks a tad intimidated but in reality she was merely focused on getting those snails out of their shells. I asked her why she liked them and she said it was because she loved getting them out of their shells. I suppose she’s like a cat and needs to play with her food.

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She also had a duck thigh which came artfully arranged on potato wedges and slivers of tomatoes that resembled flower petals.

The walk back to the hotel was exhausting, not because it was far but because of the jet lag and the nine miles we had walked. Lil Miss showered, collapsed into bed. In the morning, we were on the RER early returning to CDG-Roissy.

In the Air France lounge, Lil Miss made an amazing discovery. 1. She LIKES croissants. She has insisted for years that she doesn’t like plain croissant. I have countered, for years, that it’s because she hasn’t tasted one in France.

She ate five or six plain croissants and two pain au chocolat. She also learned how to read French jam labels, though she thought the “orange” was orange marmalade and it turned out to be bitter orange. An adjective makes a big difference.

IMG_3928.JPGThe plane from Paris to Moscow was on an Airbus A318, a big change from the Boeing 777. I discovered this morning a lovely note from the TSA that apparently gave my bag a check before it left the States. Not that I noticed.

We navigated the Moscow airport with no problem and child kept trying to compliment the female customs agent on her pretty eye makeup. Overall, she’s a good kid but we’re working on NOT spurting out every thought in her head to the entire universe.

We even navigated the Moscow subway. The majestic tunnels, architecture and details in the stations. Every train looks completely different. Some old, some new. Very colorful.

We had Russian-style beef dumplings with a butter and sour cream sauce for dinner in a little restaurant off Red Square where to Lil Miss’s delight they had American music videos playing. Calvin Harris and the Disciples: “How Deep is Your Love?”

Child compared Moscow to an urban New York feel. Paris seems smaller and offers more recreation. She thought Moscow was more exotic while Paris felt more like an American town.

And the best so far–

“All I know about Russia is what I see on CNN and they don’t have nice things to say.”

That’s my baby. Now when you go back to school, set them straight.

 

 

Tarts and bonnets

The afternoon passed quickly. Any piece of Parisian real estate needs to capitalize on space, so you experience many spiral staircases. I’ve already had at least one friend picture me falling down them. And breaking something. Or many things.

We headed up to Barbès and out the metro to Couronnes. I am looking for a more effective way to prepare my hijab. There’s a lot of Muslim shops in that neighborhood, but before we even got too far I noticed a bakery that suited my fancy.

This bakery had a raspberry tart that looked appealing. As I perused the case, the contents just got better. I decided on a chocolate bread and impulse bought a raspberry and also a pistachio scone. They were 50 cents each. And they were scrumptious. I spent 3.50 Euros for a Diet Coke, the bread and the macaroons. It was all truly delectable.

Then we stopped in a women’s Muslim dress shop. I wanted some sort of secure underscarf so if my scarf moved I would still be covered. In Africa, I want to find some kind of niqab/dress. M encouraged me to converse with the shop owner in French.

She had some lovely scarfs and even walked me through her dress selection. But when I mentioned I wanted a head covering that didn’t move, she showed me the bonnet.I fell in love with the pink one because it matches the color scheme of clothes I packed for the Horn of Africa. Two Euros fifty. And right now the dollar is darn near equal to the Euro.

We went to Leader Prix on the way home to get envelopes for M and I snapped a photo of the pink sky.

Good surprise, bad surprise

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This hardly getting any sleep and doing a lot of walking and traveling takes a toll. I was so exhausted on the RER into Paris.

Luckily M knows we’re not as young as we used to be so he booked us a hotel room at Mercure-Gare de Nord. We always stay in this neighborhood, but usually in little m0m-and-pop establishments deeper in the side streets. This hotel is across the street from Gare de Nord.

That was a great surprise. I flopped onto the bed and took a nap.

But… speaking of small establishments… the coffee shop where M and I have taken coffee for the five years we have been traveling together has changed hands and it’s now a STARBUCKS. Sigh. So sad.

But… more news… We are here during the January sales! France only has sales twice a year. And I managed to show up during the sales. Went shopping already.

And since I am interested in youth disenfranchisement, immigrant politics in France and French rap, I bought Diam’s two books.

‘This Paris’ in StepAway Magazine

It thrills me to share with you my first official creative byline, a milestone despite my fifteen years as a professional print journalist.

My friend Nancy and I were reviewing markets in September when we discovered StepAway, an online literary journal honoring flâneur style poetry. I submitted what I call “my Paris poem,” which captures a walk through multi-cultural, post-colonial influenced Paris. The poem comes from my return to Paris, fifteen years after I first met her.

We had both changed.

I see Paris as a bewitching, urine-stained whore and the details in the poem are real. They had put us in our room before housekeeping cleaned it. They did have 85 pink and brown stairs. We were sandwiched between Gare de Nord and Gare de l’Est.

The man in dreadlocks really existed. And my tears were also real.

I will find myself in Paris again Jan. 8, on my way to East Africa (Djibouti and Somalia). It’s a common stop-over for me now, but in 2010 I wasn’t sure I would ever see Paris again.

When I submitted the poem in late September, I didn’t know what would happen November 13. I think my poem speaks to inclusion, and if I wrote it now perhaps Paris herself would cry and the man in dreads would soothe her. 

The editor’s note in StepAway offers a great sentiment and lead in to my poem:

StepAway Letter From Editor

And my poem itself:

This Paris in StepAway

Some of my Paris photos:

Angel’s Paris photos

The illiterate have reached Moscow

Before I begin with our adventures in Russia, let me summarize a few things from our last hours in France. I have a habit of following eateries from around the world on Instagram. It usually begins because I make an ethnic dish and post a picture on Instagram. Then, I check photos of other people’s versions of the same dish. On an African food kick recently, I discovered La Riziere in Paris.

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I had a hard time sorting out the menu, but I decided, with much assistance, to have a beef dish in peanut sauce.

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My companion got chicken.

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I had a great night’s sleep and in the morning we quasi-enjoyed our final Paris breakfast. It had started to rain (we had great weather while there) and had decided that the coffee kept getting worse every day. I did enjoy the rattle and hum of the metro train as it passed beneath the building. I have mixed feelings about our hotel room on the sixth floor that was at the top of a spiral staircase. With all the miles we walked yesterday, the stairs were tiring.

We flew from CDG to Moscow. The flight was uneventful. My scarf, MacBook Air and toiletries were pulled aside for a security check. Which is funny when you consider I’m not a big toiletries girl and I don’t wear make-up. Then in Moscow, customs pulled me to the side. Again, a seemingly random check.

We almost thought we broke Russia like we broke France. Oh, wait, France was broken. We didn’t do it. They had technical issues getting the bags off the plane.

And then we decided to use public transport into town. First, we withdrew rubles from the ATM. M forgot their was a terminal-to-terminal shuttle that we could have taken from where we landed to the other side of the airport where the train departed. He had me jogging for about 1/2 to 2/3 of a mile. He has a longer stride than I do. He used the machine to purchase tickets.

And we were fine coming into Moscow. The outskirts of Moscow looked very industrial and full of identical highrise apartment buildings. The initial views of Moscow were basic. We followed the crowd to the subway. We even got tickets. When the seller heard M speak English she even held up a calculator so he could read the price.

But we realized, as we went down this fast and clunky escalator in this gorgeously clean and gleaming tunnel, that we can’t read or speak Russian. I thought I had learned to speak some. He had tried to learn to read some. Our grown up boring lives intervened and we have realized our Russian language skills are useless.

But we did it! We did ask for some help, but I think we could have done it on our own. We also think we’ve determined how the system works. I suppose tomorrow will tell.

We also asked for help finding our street. But we got here!

And the hotel is way fancier than anything M usually stays in, only because of the falling value of the ruble when he booked it. When we turned the corner from a side street into the main area of downtown Moscow, I could not believe how visually stunning Moscow is. Prettier than Paris.

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We’re a tad concerned because it looks like Red Square might be closed for next week’s parade. This was as close as we can get:
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But hey, thank goodness for zoom function on the old iPhone 5c:
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After a brief walk, we went for dinner at an Italian cafe. They did feature Russian food so I had pelmeni (Russian ravioli with meat filling, in a butter sauce with sour cream) and redberry mors (a very tart and sweet homemade juice). It was extremely yummy.

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France is broken

The past 28 or so hours in Paris have been… unusual. I am sitting in a dark hallway, because the lights in the hotel are on a timer and only stay on in the hall for about a minute. We’re having a problem with electricity. We’re not sure how it happened, but either my new travel adapter blew a fuse and caused a surge that burnt out M’s phone charger OR something in the hotel wiring keeps causing a fuse to blow in our room. The only electronic items we have our his iPhone 4, my borrowed iPhone 5c (left the six at home), an old French cell phone and my two year old MacBook Air.

I am sitting in the hall because I have blown a fuse for the second time and we’re trying to determine what works, what doesn’t and what caused the problem. We’re also too embarrassed to alert the front desk (just in case we did it). So I am on the floor in the hall. Funny part is, that being in the hall in the dark isn’t even the end of the story. I tried to move into a lit area of the hall and realized if I move even a fraction of an inch, everything falls out of the wall and I lose connection. And it’s not easy to get everything plugged in again.

I won’t mention the name of the hotel, because it is a decent place and I don’t want you to think it’s their fault. I don’t know whose fault it is. The toilet doesn’t flush very well. The coffee was fairly terrible but hey, it was reasonably priced in Paris and has wifi. M had some intestinal difficulties so all in all I think France is turning out more Third World than Djibouti last year.

So, we went to the catacombs last night. After 17+ hours in transit. I had a fancy blog entry planned but then I blew that fuse. Instead we used the power remaining in my laptop to charge our phones. And I was exhausted.

But the catacombs were amazing. I didn’t realize that the bones were so artfully and carefully arranged, nor that they were piled and labeled by the cemetery of origin. Saint Nicholas de Champs was one of the first heaps.

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We walked about two miles looking at bones. For dinner we visited our favorite shawarma place and had ourselves in bed by nine. I had a delightful night’s sleep, even despite my daughter accidentally texting me at 3 a.m. Paris time thinking she was texting her father. After all, we did switch phones.

Breakfast here at the hotel. Followed by a trip to some pharmacies looking for a medical device for migraines that is supposed to be available here in France, then a stop at an internet café while we waited for the mall at Les Halles to open. At Les Halles, we ended up taking the train from one side of the station to the mall because with construction we could not find the right door.

I wanted to go to FNAC for French military history books. Bought a memoir of one French soldier’s experience in Afghanistan. We finally made it to the sewers, which were a bit of a disappointment because M remembered them being more. But he was young the last time he visited. (I might be thankful they were a disappointment. I don’t share M’s passion for poop.) From there we went to the museum of the French Health Services (Service de Santé des Armées). That was so fun. Hopefully more on some of these individual events later.

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Then we visited some Muslim bookstores. And it made me want to increase my hijab accessories. And visiting the more multicultural sections of Paris makes me want an African dress.

The church above is Saint Denis. We went out there and the area had a very diverse feel and reminded me a lot of Marseille. There were many women covered. Churros for sale in front of the post office. We searched the area and found M his dream man purse but he’s too cheap and uncertain to buy it. Eventually, we decided to go for coffee and I found a cheap coffee house. It was 2.50 euros for a coffee cream. The server was a woman of color, the men beside us drank espresso and spoke arabic. The discarded wrappers from sugar packets littered the floor. Some men exited the tram outside and the server automatically placed their coffee on the counter. The whole area had the atmosphere of a street fair.

We walked a total of 11.25 miles so far today and we have dinner yet to go…