Let’s Be Average Today

I am in my 40s, and struggling with the effects of a life of always walking crooked thanks to cerebral palsy, a disability I have but, until recently, have known nothing about.

And issues in my spine, while not serious, are affecting my mobility and causing me pain.

But today— in part because we only worked until 7:30 pm at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy— I woke up well rested, only minimally stiff and only minimally hurting. At 8 am no less.

Our charming mutt F. Bean Barker refused to go to bed in the teenager’s room last night because one of our fosters, a former community cat named Georgie, intimidated her. Bean expected me to let her sleep in my room and when I said no she retreated to her crate in the living room. So I let her spend the night. I have spent a lot of time with this dog in the last 24 hours.

I tied a rope around her tire toy gifted to her by my trainer, Dan, at Apex Training and now it’s the best toy ever. See video here.

I was the first one out of bed which meant a swarm of hungry cats outside my door, and I couldn’t keep them all at bay. It was easier to let them in. But our foster Mars totally knows how to knock over the birdcage. Which he did. While I was on the phone with my blind friend Nan and consuming my first cup of coffee.

Nan recently started physical therapy for an issue in her shoulder causing pain and finger numbness. The physical therapist had never worked with a blind client before and was a quick study. He even discovered that some of Nan’s issue might be mobility issues in her neck— because when you’re blind you don’t have many reasons to turn your head or look up and down.

Finally, things settle down and while the parakeet is out he is safe. The teenager and I head to Apex where she gets that barbell and deadlifts 135 lbs. I still felt good at that point.

I came home, showered, and filmed this silly video with Nala, my Goffin’s cockatoo.

And then the matriarch from la Familia Velez stopped by and brought me chili which I had for a late breakfast and we talked about marketing for my Fashion and Fiends books. And my goals for Parisian Phoenix in general.

She left, and I finished proofing Darrell Parry’s soon-to-be released poetry book. I placed a few more essays in the nonfiction identity anthology.

And the poor teenager has had a hectic and exhausting couple days— so I cooked.

She has options for dinner when she returns from the diner. She’s given notice at the diner as she has accepted employment with a local pet care company.

First I made sausage and peppers to put over spaghetti.

Then I also made the Purple Carrot Peanut Tofu Stir Fry which I jazzed up with some edamame and sesame sticks.

Mostly I am just sitting around marveling at how pain free I feel. I miss that.

October 30

My husband and I celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary today and, even though we have been separated for two-and-a-half years, we inadvertently spent it together.

My mother celebrated her 67th birthday today, and I postponed her birthday until next week because one of her brothers died on Thursday. The second brother to die of prostate cancer in about a month. And her ex-brother-in-law died last week, too.

The day started strong with the teenager and I killing our workout at Apex Training with Dan. I also ordered an Apex Training hoodie. The teenager and I benched 70lbs on the barbell, and the teen also did some hearty squats.

We signed five cats up for the “come adopt us” event with Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab. One of them was sweet Khloe. Khloe hid under the blanket with one eye poking out the whole time, until she heard my voice, then she came out. Not bad for a first day out.

Photo of me waking up with a Khloe scarf

So the husband came over to retrieve his car from the teen and do his laundry and assign his ISBN to his poetry manuscript.

He then rewarded us with pizza.

I did some more work for Parisian Phoenix and some more cleaning, and then the teenager asked me to come down to the diner for coffee and my favorite pie.

Photo: waiting for my daughter at Tic Toc Family Restaurant

This morning my legs felt more normal than they have in weeks and everything seemed to be working in coordination. But as the day wore on everything started stiffening up. It was the first time in about a month my right quad wasn’t burning all day.

So we shall see what tomorrow brings.

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.

Could Poetry Journaling be the new Bullet Journal?

My neighbor Sarah asked me to listen to the episode of Ezra Klein’s podcast featuring Jeff Tweedy of the band Wilco. The journalist and the musician were discussing creativity.

Tweedy talked about writing first thing in the morning before anything else— no news, no email, no thought. Just words on a page.

Ezra said when he tries that all he ends up with are to-do lists.

Their discussion got me thinking about my own regular journaling practice which I started 30 years ago. In recent years much of what I have noted is done bullet style with occasional deep dives into the events of my life.

But what if I phrased anything I put in my journal as poems? Horrible terrible poems but poems.

For instance, instead of writing “Foster cats Khloe and Louise are getting closer to liking each other every day. They now sleep on the same bed at the same time with only a foot or two between them” it could be something like…

The fleet foot one is moody,
The clumsy one timid.
The who among them that starts the throaty snarls varies from time to time.
Slowly, their soft warm bodies
draw closer to each other,
ignoring the other princess drifting to slumber in the soft blankets.
When we find them, these insecure beasts of opposing kingdoms, their paws might almost touch.

To learn more about the Ezra Klein Podcast from the New York Times, click here.

March Library Excitement

My family has been involved with Mary Meuser Memorial Library for most of my daughter’s life.

From her preschool days to 2014 I served on the library’s board of trustees, including a couple years as president.

The Pennsylvania state library board urged libraries to enforce term limits on their boards and so I left after my second term, but my husband filled my post for the next six years. He also served as president.

Now his seat is open. So I reapplied. I will be rejoining the board of trustees this month.

In addition, my daughter (with her father’s support) hosts a writing workshop and open mic at the library on the third Thursday of the month. They have asked me to lead the workshop.

To promote myself, I submitted to their weekly poetry blog. See it here: Angel Ackerman featured on Stick Figure Poetry.

I will be hosting an interactive workshop on editing for word count, specifically on how to convey the most meaning with the least words.

The workshop begins at 6 pm, March 19, at Mary Meuser Memorial Library, 1803 Northampton Street, Easton, PA. In the annex.

For more about our library visit: Mary Meuser Memorial Library

21st Century Witchcraft: Books

Originally I had intended to include “personal space” in this section with books, but I know myself and I’m going to babble enough to make that an upcoming entry.

For part one of my “Witchcraft in the 21rst Century” series: 21st Century Witchcraft: Why I’m no longer “Christian”

For part two: 21st Century Witchcraft: Magic in the Everyday

Welcome to my bookshelf.

During two decades of book-hunting, I have amassed (and given away) a lot of books. I also have a fairly extensive collection of tarot cards but that is another topic for another day.

I gave a large amount of books by Scott Cunningham and Silver Ravenwolf. Before the Internet was readily available and put the universe at our fingertips I used to comb used bookstores and new age shops looking for spiritual ideas.

Then I finally ended up on Llewelyn Publishing’s mailing list.

My daughter now has a lot of the Classics, like Buckland’s Book of Witchcraft.

But I kept some in my vintage Crayola stock box that stands beside my bed.

Everything in this photo is precious to me, except the Celtic Myth book. That one was a disappointment though a good reference. I have some characters who worship ancient Celtic gods.

  • The white book on the bottom is the manual to my 2005 Altima. I loved that car. Having the manual close brings back good memories, nostalgia and longing.
  • Solitary Witch by Silver Ravenwolf is the only one of her books I kept for myself.
  • Wicca: A Year and a Day is a fantastic way to study Wicca and a lot of the meditative daily exercises help find your unique connection to your spirituality. That said, I have never finished the whole book.
  • The faded book lying horizontally on top of those books is my personal book of shadows. Yes, I have one.
  • The two books on top of those are pocket guides to graphology and palmistry. I never found anything else as concise and easy to follow.
  • On top of those are two antique prayer books, both more than 100 years old. One is Catholic. I love Catholic rituals.
  • The Oxford Annotated Bible. This was the Bible from my college Bible classes. We wrote in it. It has extensive footnotes and historical context. I take it with me to church services and still take notes in it. With dates. So over time, I can see my travels through the Bible.
  • The United Methodist Hymnal. My childhood church closed. And one of my peers from those days got me one of the hymnals at the last service.
  • The Book of Centering. An influential pastor once told me about the practice of centering. We were discussing prayer, and this is a type of meditative prayer that also focuses on relaxing the body and pulling prayer into yourself.
  • The Way of Chuang Tzu. This book of Taoist poetry radically altered my perspective of my place in the universe.
  • Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery. My favorite book. I even have an image from it tattooed above my breast. This book, by an amazing man, is all the life lessons you need. It looks like a children’s book, but it’s not. It’s happy and tragic.
  • Walden. This book is meaningful to me from a spiritual and a family perspective. This copy belonged to my great-grandmother’s little brother.
  • Dirty Pretty Things. Sexy, beautiful poetry. Because our sexuality is key to our power.
  • Bloodletting by my friend William Prystauk. Kinky, dark, violent, but the most sincere love story. (For my review of Bill’s book: Review of Bloodletting)
  • My first “novels” that I ever wrote
  • Go the Fuck to Sleep. The last book my husband bought me.

30 words

As a newspaper writer, I learned to write tight. A recent call for 30-word poems from Right Hand Pointing got me thinking super tight. The deadline for submissions is the end of the month, but I got mine in tonight and had to write a 30-word bio…

This is what I wrote:

Angel Ackerman left the dying newspaper industry, suspended her master’s program to raise a daughter, has traveled diversely through multiple continents and lives zealously riding waves of passion and agony.

‘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

Holiday Upheaval

The events of the last few months have rendered my life unrecognizable, even to me.I have a suspicion that 2016 may come together in ways I never imagined or be the year that leaves me bankrupt, homeless and destitute in more ways than one.

So far I’m leaning toward and working for the former, but the worrier in me can’t help but fear the latter.

Between my broken ankle and the medical bills I incurred (who knew physical therapy was THAT expensive?) and the fact that I paid for graduate school, car repairs and a euphonium on my American Express, I was forced to ponder refinancing the house. The appraiser comes Sunday, but, again, I’m nervous because the appraisers are never generous in my experience. Last time I did this, they wanted to loan me exactly what I need now. So we’ll see. This new mortgage would shorten the length of our current loan, pay off the car and the American Express AND not add to the cost of our monthly payments.

With this and winter and travel looming, I have decided to defer enrollment at West Chester until next semester. I won’t have to commute in the snow. I can get my finances in order and proceed responsibly and not worry about classes interfering with my travel schedule.

Speaking of travel: January 7 I leave for France; I believe it’s January 8 I leave for Djibouti and January 12 I arrive in Mogadishu. Plus a trip to Lebanon may be in the works for spring.

I’m also working on some book reviews in some World War II era memoirs for Hippocampus.

Now the good news…

My poem “This Paris” has been accepted by StepAway magazine. I don’t consider myself a poet, so it’s a tad funny that I’ve placed a poem.

I believe I got an A in my grad school history class and my professor would like to see me continue some of my work, specifically on the Horn of Africa. That’s the topic, not that she wants me to go far, far away.

Paris Rendez-Vous

Quartier Gare de Nord
October 2010 (my photo)

Paris Rendez-Vous

(A poem from my 2010 trip to Paris)

In the initial flurry of dark coats and

Clunking baggage wheels, my harsh accent that

Does not sing gets lost on the platform. The

Acclimated crowds ravage my coveted Gauloise

While I hesitate.

Emerging, damp silk and cotton clinging to

My skin, my body threatens to fail as I

Pray for her acceptance. The station

Breathes mechanical three-tone chimes

Delineating each train.

Simplicity of metal, glass and concrete,

The station does not yield to the sway

Of engines and cars. This canopy

Protects me from the elements and her gaze.

My reluctant shove opens the door.

I cascade into a surreal apertif of

Flowers, perspiration and urine,

Cigarette smoke and inexpensive red wine

Skimming her flesh. The olfactory assault awakens me

And mocks my freshness.

Redolent of yeast, her warm body embraces

Me. My mouth lusts for her breads and her

Sweets, grime overshadowed, but my first

Need is revival brought by strong coffee

In tiny cups.

At the hotel, I climb a vivid pink and

Worn brown spiral of 85 stairs to a

Corner chamber where imperfect sheets

Remain suspiciously mussed from the

Bodies preceding us.

I step to the balcony, fingers of wrought iron

Restraining me as I stand with no destination

Sandwiched between opposing stations.

In this space, I taste her earnest

Poignancy on the breeze.

From this narrow ledge, she dances

Mesmerizing me with her softness, her angles;

Her age versus her timelessness.

Her caress reaches me and transforms the American

Tension that defines me.

Transfixed, I freeze. Every murmur against

Neighboring tracks rocks my core, screaming of my

Transience. Every siren from the streets below

Thrills me, a tremor for each pin-pon that pierces

My overconstructed fugue.

The passersby below my balcony continue their

Departure, trajectory focused on a shortcut to the

Train. Their nonchalance boggles me. Her touch

Forces amnesia, the mundane discarded in her kisses.

We descend into her streets of rapture.

She leads me through her neighborhoods

Into her flavors. She is not the girl I once knew

But nor am I the same. I desire more than I did in youth

So I chase her as I will chase her for days

Begging for our merger.

The ideologists mandate her purity, concocting paltry laws

While she feigns aloofness. The natives ignore her

Everyday charms but bristle when she shares

Her ardor with Africans, Muslims, and other dark faces

As readily as white skins.

She absorbs the choppy resonance of the Arabic

Laid at her feet and stares at the strange letters

She cannot read, because language constantly

Mutates. She can only preserve her heart and not what the

Populace layers upon her.

My feet blister keeping pace, just the endorphins

Propel me. My mood turns uneasy as she continues beneath

Me, urging me onward into her pleasures. With fats from

Her table and easy-flowing wine, she satiates, sullies

And corrupts me.

Under the haze of alcohol with a belly full of frog,

Snails and rabbit, she lures me to the river Seine,

Tourist-laden boats driving its currents,

Its banks flooded with the silhouettes

Of lovers entwined.

When exhaustion lands me in my bed, I never

Close the window. The bugs nip my soiled flesh

But I continue to expose myself to her.

How else could I monitor her nocturnal movements?

Never have I felt so dirty and free.

But finally, I return to that station, with more

Song in my voice. I laugh and weep as the

RER dashes into the suburbs. Tunnels ascend

Into daylight, sun falling on graffiti, the message too real,

Disconcerting.

My tears draw attention from a tall

Black man with dreads whose soft French comforts

My sorrow. I can only pray that he will

Care for her, as I do, and stay with her

With a permanence I cannot.