thinkythoughts

A Reason <3

pexels1Writers do what they do for eleventybillion reasons and then some. I know–I’ve counted. And at least half of those are the same reasons that drive me to keep working towards publishing what I write even when it’s not an easy road to tricycle or bigwheel or otherwise travel. And so it goes, me doing what I do because Reasons. But sometimes, someone gives me a reason or at least provides context for me to articulate one of my reasons for doing what I do. This happened to me last week. I’m neck-deep in edits for a SUPER exciting piece, planning and outlining several more rad projects of win, hammering away at Day Job duties while life happens in its lifey way around me when suddenly, bam—a message from an old friend.

We back-and-forthed for a bit but she utterly floored me when she told me that she had two of my characters in her head, just hanging out with her while she folded laundry, that she had deliberately carved out time to not just read my work, but leave a super!awesome review on Goodreads. Best of all, she told me that she wanted to read more. This friend is a busy woman. She is immersed, as all of us are, in the thousands of big and little things that drive us through these minutes into hours into days of our lives but at some point, she allotted some of that time to my words and then took more time still to tell me that those minutes with my words made her day better.

What grander of a compliment can a writer receive? More of your work, please…more that I will have to make time for (totally not her words, but that is the reality of sitting down and getting a thing done)…

I write to explore, yes. To build worlds. To be who am I not, and doubly who I am. However, in the end, I write to communicate and if what I’ve done takes someone on a journey, provides respite or just a bit of fun then holy wow, I’ve done something right.

So to my friend, and any other readers who have enjoyed my work or to all the other writers and readers out there creating and seeking narratives to enrich their lives in some way—thank you. You are the everything, to quote R.E.M. You are the BEST. Read on, write on, and now that I’ve taken minutes to say these words, back to edits! <3

Strangers–Quote of the Day

Writing sci-fi romance, speculative fiction and sci-fi poetry reminds me time and time again of how I am reaching for light-trails, dreaming through life and living the questions, as Rilke would have it–how I am exploring my realities through narratives. Here’s wishing you all a week full of big, beautiful dreams and luminous realities!

strangers

Out of the blue…

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Monday has not been subtle in providing me a metaphor for itself today. As my good writer-buddy Cassandra Chandler is fond of saying, it’s not subtext when it’s text. Enter me this morning: I am reasonably sure I could not have looked any more put-upon and grim as I stalked out to my car to drag myself to work. As I navigated morning traffic, I noticed how quickly the thick, gray clouds of the morning skidded in the prevailing wind…how magnificently they formed and reformed themselves into cumulus out of shreds of stratus and cirrus, those high-skies, horsetail clouds that are harbingers of weather change.

Within a matter of minutes, the sky had cleared itself to a blue so bright it almost hurt my eyes. I realized that I too was lighter…I had put on music that made me feel hopeful, had (mostly) forced myself not to curse at other drivers or be a jerk in traffic (really, I am thankful to have a car at all, to have mobility and freedom—why treat it with such disrespect?), and I spent the commute centering myself, daydreaming about my next writing project as I’m en route to the Day Job. Out of the blue, Monday was its own metaphor: the world around me shapes and reshapes itself, changes in an instant so why can’t I? The subtle shift in attitude as I let go of the stress I was clutching like Gollum and that stupid ring (I mean really, it is kind of like that) led to a not so subtle change in mood and focus. Today was suddenly not a thing to be dreaded, but another opportunity to do important work, to celebrate being alive…after coffee, of course.

So, any epiphanies about making your world a better place that have hit you out of the blue in the last days? Here’s wishing you all a Happy Monday and a wonderful week ahead! <3

Boot To Earth, Eyes To Sky

I woke up this morning feeling strange, and not an odd-but-interesting kind of strange. The thinkythoughts-noise rattling around my brain on this post-debate morning were tugging me so many different directions (and rightly so–there is a heck of a lot to ponder) and with the added help of stress, allergies and not having taken the greatest care of myself in the last days, I trudged through the first hours of the day in a funk.

20160927_101724-1I drove to a nearby park to get some writing done but before I realized what I was doing, I was parked, off the path, standing calf-deep in dewy grass (yes, I checked for ticks afterward, lol). Then I was walking through said grass towards a little swathe of prairie conservation. The ground beneath my shoes was spongy, monarch butterflies rose and fell on the lazy breeze, flowers nodded a-rhythmically, and a humming buzz of bumblebees blended into the noises of cars, wind, my own breathing. I just stood there for I don’t even know how long. I don’t think I had a thought in my head until I heard the whoosh of a bicyclist close behind me and startled back into the moment. I blinked and realized that the air smelled like cinnamon, probably because of the prairie grass–that I got no writing done, and didn’t care. That the sun was warm but the air chilly. That my shoes were sparkly with moisture that looked like little jewels. That here in this moment, my heart beat with insistence, reminding me that I live and breathe and think and feel.

I-live, I-live, I-live…

20160927_101446-1It might be trite to talk about smelling the roses, about taking time to look around and see the moment exactly as it is. It might be reductive, when the world feels like it is spinning out of all control and goodness and sense, to say, grind your feet a little deeper into that mud–really feel the concrete or sand or grass or pebbles beneath your soles, get to know the skin of the world you inhabit. To absorb its sights, its scents–to remind yourself that you live among its creatures, part of a complex ecosystem. That you live, period.

Boot to earth, eyes to sky. Amanda to Earth. My home. To quote Carl Sagan, who said what I want to say better than I could, this world is where “…everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there—on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”

Sometimes, a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam is beautiful. Sometimes, I need to remember this.

Sidereal

I’m so excited to note that my poem Sidereal is live in the ever-wonderful Apex Magazine…WOO!

I loved writing this piece even more than most. I’d been playing a lot of Mass Effect, reading sci-fi and space opera, watching Star Trek: Voyager, and dreaming about a quietly empty, regenerating, far-ish but not too far-future earth when most humans have gone elsewhere…the constellations the same as ever, the earth fallow, waiting to thrive again with water reclamation plants and careful tending. And in the muted night, an Operator and a Specialist tending the machines that coax the world back to health–a soldier and an engineer in a quiet and generative love.

I remember once hearing someone going on about how romance has no place in science fiction and fantasy writing. That got a legit lol from me–as long as I’m writing about humanity, I’ll do my damnedest to create well-rounded and believable human characters. We (humans) love fervently and dangerously and quietly and unwisely and well; we form attachments, friendships, rivalries, and ultimately rely upon one another when things get dangerous or weird. If anything, these relationships and attachments in fiction make for life-rich characters with hella motivation to do what they do in moving a narrative forward. Now, I don’t expect alien species, every artificial intelligence, or other life-forms in speculative fiction and poetry to behave the way humans do–not unless it’s part of how the writer has imagined the species and world. But my favorite science fiction, space opera, fantasy, anything-I’m-reading humanoid characters often act from places of emotion, making decisions because of their human attachments. And yes, sometimes they fall in love. Exploration of this humanness is why Sidereal was such a joy for me to write–I reveled in exploring how two people in this future full of extensive tech and galactic conquest could grow close in the framework of lonely, dangerous, and sometimes painfully exacting work.

So, readers…any sci-fi romances out there that make you swoon and rock your galaxy? I’d love to hear about them!

hearty

Lilies and Rogue Squadron: Grief Is Weird.

I spent the last days with bereaved (and so very beloved) family and now that I’m back on my home turf and removed from the immediacy of the experience, I repeat what I always say after these things: GRIEF IS WEIRD. The loss of a loved one is a deeply personal experience. Add issues like complicated grief, trauma, or personal history and regret to the mix, and it gets flat-out surreal. Layer this complexity with societal expectations of what grief is supposed to look like and further jack up proceedings with endless social interaction and just…how do we do it?

Back in April of 1998, my mom died of cancer. Since then, her mamma died, and a super-sweet aunt, and my Dad’s dad, and now my uncle Samir. As a couple of friends have noted, we’re getting to the age where more and more of the adults in our life are getting in line to hand over their coins to the ferryman in black. I’m no stranger to grief and therefore I’m no stranger to just how peculiar it always is. Watching my cousins and aunt steel themselves to receive awkward and/or crushing hugs, condolences, remembrances, and on and on while they tried to reign in their tears or confusion or flat-out shock reminded me so much of how nobody really knows how to handle this. Really, we don’t. Like all human experiences, we make it up as we go along.

wedgeSome of us? We laugh. Funeral humor, whistling in the dark, or in my opinion, a healthy release of powerful, almost crippling emotion in the wake of the enormity of loss. Exhibit A, Wedge Antilles. You heard me. Wedge, ace pilot of Rogue Squadron fame (Star Wars reference). At my aunt’s, my hubby and I found him face-down next to a bouquet of lilies. And I laughed–I giggled like an idiot. “Wedge…Wedge Antilles, ” (more gales of idiot laughter), “Wedge and funeral flowers and a deli plate,” etc. It was hilarious. Incongruous. And perfect. It was my family in a nutshell–a wonderful mix of domesticity and nerdery and a penchant for the absurd and for good food. It was perfect enough I had to take a picture–but only after standing him up, because Wedge was a fine pilot and deserves as much.

Now, lilies and Rogue Squadron may not be the model of decorum in grief but in my humble and also correct opinion, decorum is overrated. If someone needs to laugh in the wake of a great loss, let her. If someone needs to go hide in the back room and be alone till that panic attack passes instead of having to put on a good face for others, for crying out loud, let him! If someone is best off doing dishes, losing himself in industry and being helpful, how is that a bad thing? And the girl over there not crying? Don’t judge her for her lack of tears. You have no idea what she holds in her heart.

There is no correct way to grieve. There is no script for loss.

Only, get through it intact. Survive, then soon, get back to thriving.

Samir, you will be missed. And you’re still so very loved. Brenda Jean, my precious mom? I think about you all the freaking time. And my Grannyma. And all those who beat me to the river Styx. And to my loved ones who have suffered these losses, I offer you whatever you best need to get through this. In the meantime, I’ll be over here, posing Wedge next to this jar of mayonnaise because that’s how *I* handle grief.

Wishing all of you readers a lovely day–enjoy all of the beautiful and wonderful weirdos in your life while they are here!

My Hypercolor Heart: Muse/Music, Synth And Swoon Edition

It took me a week to write this post but I have a confession: I’m an addict, and music is my drug. Always has been.

I was that one kid–intense, straight A’s but dreaming through class while movies played out in my head to “Space Age Love Song” by Flock of Seagulls and Thompson Twins’ “Hold Me Now.” I related to Duckie in Pretty In Pink though I was a lot girlier, being a chick and all–splayed on my eyelet comforter, ceiling-gazing while Moz crooned. I was that spaced-out girl at the skating rink, sunburned, my hair too wild to hold curling iron curls. I held my friend’s Coke while she skated backwards– her bangs were so perfect, her makeup sparkling in the light-glitter of the big ball and I just I sat there, my heart giddy from OMD’s “If You Leave” shimmering over the loudspeakers. I was the couples-skate voyeur watching the world spin in punchdrunk circles. And I didn’t care… I was lost in music the way others were lost in grasping hands and kisses that smeared away the glitter-gloss. I lived for New Wave, New Romantic–for the poetry of synth and lyrics of love. And I still do. Synthpop, swoony shoegaze, electronic daydreams…all these years later, I’m still in love.

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I had two very early crushes I can remember–Han Solo, and Bono’s voice. The mile-wide reverb on Bono’s vocals and those Joshua Tree guitars were my little-girl drug (even better when I daydreamed about Han Solo tearing through the galaxy to U2’s music). Soon, mix tapes were my obsession–guys, I was good at it. Cover art and everything. Cyndi, Madonna, Pet Shop Boys, The Cure. Depeche Mode if I was feeling darker, Simple Minds and Crowded House, Tears for Fears, Peter Gabriel, Prince, OMD, Cocteau Twins, Echo and the Bunnymen. Music shaped my aesthetic sensibilities and colored my dreams. Day after day, I sat on the bus with my headphones crushed to my ears. I lost myself in those voices…clean, idealized and distant versions the man or woman behind the mic who was now a totemic symbol of slow dances and borrowed jackets scented with cheap musky cologne, of field trips to the harbor when I smelled late May in my hair and all around me, sunblock and ocean-salt on warm skin.

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Music made the crappiest school day into a movie and we were all important to the plot. Even when I’d been made fun of for earnest nerdiness, or when I’d had to give my meanest murder-eyes to the jerk that was messing with my friend–it was okay when I could escape into lyrics and hooks. (See Donnie Darko and the right-on use of “Head over Heels” by Tears for Fears). Sometimes, it even made the pain kind of beautiful. And those sounds sunk in. They beat in the blood of my nascent writing, tangled like roots beneath my ideas. Like “Push” by The Cure. I swear, half of my thesis bloomed darkly from a dream that song lodged in my psyche.

Music also helped soothed the violence of my youth. Driving home, listening to The Smiths “There is a Light,” or the Pixies UK Surf cut of “Wave of Mutilation” in my piece of crap car with its temperamental tape deck, racing from one orange puddle of street lamp radiance to the next. . .I could face the discord around me much easier with these songs in my life. I could process the vehemence of my own awkward feels. To this day, “Bizarre Love Triangle” is still like that rollercoaster gut-drop of first-blush crush. When they walk by, smiling, sunlight through the windows gilding them and it’s so perfect–

Yeah.

These past few years, to my delight, there are spiritual successors to the music that gave my writing its glimmer–music with splashes of electropop, dreampop. Synth-heavy, open-reverbed, sounding out layered vocals and daydream-swoon. M83 and their soaring, glorious walls of sound, Chvrches’ perfect candy-necklace hooks, Washed Out and vocals like something from a half-remembered dream. Hooray for Earth–“Sails” is a perfect song and their entire catalogue is awesome. And The Chain Gang of 1974–my god, his voice is cotton candy and spiced rum and forever-summer and I’ve put both albums on every writing playlist in the entire world and will add the third when it comes out.

This music Is Important. I’ve been writing to a soundtrack of synthpop since 5th grade. Poems drenched in Love’s Baby Soft, Bonnie Bell mirror-kisses and tear-smudged mascara. Stories I dreamed up with my friends on merry-go-rounds in weedy parks, the sun-hot metal burning our hands while we held tight and spun, dizzy and giggling about the word ‘love.’Maybe it’s the optimism of this music–or something as simple as vocal treatments. This stuff’s mic’ed differently than a lot of 90’s-00’s garagey music (which I love for different reasons) and the new New Wave is no exception–at least as far as I can tell from talks with my hubby who has some pretty good audio-engineering training. Maybe it’s layering of sound that can somehow splash late summer sun over my senses and wash my world in a 35mm memory-haze of wonder. Whatever it is, it’s my best writing fodder and my truest Muse (I’m imagining him in Dockers and Drakkar Noir).

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The other day, I read a forum thread with people whining that so much of ‘music now’ has ‘already been done.’ Whatever–nothing new under the sun is old news. Good new music is a welcome variation on an already awesome theme. New takes, new songs, new styles, new voices–it doesn’t mean that what came before is diminished, or that what has come after is derivative. And people always find ways to mix it up. I love things like the additions of dirtier guitar over clean synth and drum machines, of slinky trip-hop elements that sneak in, of industrial grinding beats with dubstep overlay. I mean, hell yeah. Go on, musicians, mix it up. Make it new. Give me my fix. As long as it’s rad, I don’t care. Maybe it’s that 80’s mall-girl niche of my brain talking, but my Hypercolor heart knows what it wants–more of a good thing. More, more, more…

(If you like any of this music, go buy it. All of it. And buy music like it. It keeps these acts in business, which keeps me in writing music…)

So, dear readers. what music inspires you to do what you are driven most to do? <3