An Evening with Amanda Palmer

Paramount Theater, Austin – April 14. Doors 7p, Show 8p.

“If you’re not allowed to love people alive, then you learn how to love people dead.” – The Thing about Things, AFP

I left work and walked north on Congress.  I wore a blue dress with pink polka dots. A woman at the burger bar called to me, “I love the dots!” “Thank you,” I called back, utterly surprised at this new burger bar, and at not being invisible. I am still getting used to the fact that people can see me. I don’t think I understood that until much later than most – maybe when I was twenty-eight? I knew the optics and the physics and the biology of them seeing me, but that’s not the same as SEEING. It’s SEEING Amanda Palmer means when she says, in her TED Talk, “I see you.” That’s more than just light waves, perhaps it’s a side effect of the enigma that is wave-particle duality.  As I walked down the street on the night of the concert,  evening sunlight brightened my path in an exact replica of my anticipation. I was going to meet a writing friend, T., who I hadn’t seen in almost two years, and we were going to see a woman with a controversial approach to making art. We were going to spend an evening with perhaps one of the most influential musician-philosophers of our generation: Amanda Palmer. At one of the smaller cross streets, I saw a woman wearing a great pair of boots. She had a confidence to her stance and there was something about her that seemed familiar. Her large sunglasses obscured her face, and as she passed me, I heard a rich, contralto voice say, “And the venue was…” I didn’t hear the end of the sentence. I don’t know what the venue was, or where it was, or if the venue has been devoured by Cthulhu. What I do know is that the woman with the great boots was Amanda Palmer. I saw the artistic arabesque of her eyebrows behind the rim of her sunglasses. I had a moment where my step faltered, and I considered calling her name. Then I remembered that she has no idea who I am. And I remembered that T. was waiting for me and I kept going. I had a small moment of horror when it occurred to me that one of us, either Amanda or me,  was headed the wrong way, and maybe it wasn’t her…

T and I stood in line for tickets, catching up on the last couple of years of life. A woman sat at a small table, typing poems for cash donations. We discussed rotary phones with our line-neighbors, and then we were inside the sumptuous and aged elegance of The Paramount. T treated us to plastic cups of wine (sauvignon blanc for her, chardonnay for me). We went to the second floor and stood at a balcony overlooking the lobby. We discussed the particular, agonizing decisions we face as women. We moved into the theater, talking there of times when the bruises from writing transmogrified into in to an inability to read. It is the worst kind of paralysis, to be a non-practicing writer who is unable to read. The Smiths played in the background, reminding me of college and the overweening rush of being young and not yet realizing I could be SEEN, or even that there were people who wanted to SEE me. I got us a second drink (more chardonnay for me, water for T), saying, “This will guarantee the show will start because I won’t be in my seat.” I was right, and entered  the theater just as Amanda Palmer took the stage; I was her shadow, cast in a dark room.

Amanda didn’t say a word. She wore a gold dress that flowed like water over the curves of her pregnant body. Her feet were bare.  She touched her keyboard lightly, and innocent notes floated out like heaven-bound souls. Then she raised raised up, Kundalini energy personified, before slamming her hands on the keys. A harsh, angry sound swept through the hall. The show went on like that, rolling waves of contrast flowing through the high-ceilinged, classically painted theater. Abortion, pubic hair, statutory rape, fear of how her art will change with motherhood, more abortion, several songs about the nature of love – all of these topics were channeled through Amanda, into songs, and received by open, hungry souls. There was transcendence. There is always transcendence when we are emotionally vulnerable and humble enough accept and follow our calling. Amanda Palmer incarnates her calling with a purity that is untouched the number of f-bombs she drops (a lot!). She is the archetype of the artist. She’s completely human, and completely supernatural – all at the same time. I can’t help but wonder what the world would look like if we were all brave enough to stop playing as if being our own shadow was enough.

Amanda is funny. The show was in Austin (still weird), so of course there was a lounge upstairs for cuddling – by professional, “non-rapey” cuddlers. At one point Amanda discussed that after the show there would be cupcakes, and the cuddlers would be back in their lounge. She said, “This is a nice night. Cupcakes and cuddling. The days of blow and hookers are in the past!”

My favorite part of the show was when Amanda answered questions from the audience. Someone asked if Amanda knew how she could stop being afraid to make eye contact with strangers. Amanda had the house lights brought up, and had us each pick someone sitting near us who we didn’t know. I smiled awkwardly at the slender girl sitting to my left. Amanda told us that now, we’d spend thirty seconds just looking at one another. Not laughing. Not making a joke of it, just really SEEING. My partner said, “I can do this all day. I’m in customer service.” I said, “I’m in software, Engineers don’t look at people!” Then, for half a minute, we looked each other in the eyes. Blinking. Smiling, but not laughing. Two strangers, who, for thirty seconds took the time to really SEE one another. She cried. It was incredibly overwhelming. There is something that resonates when you strip bare the act of looking, and it’s beyond words. In the silence, we saw it together. And, yes, at first it felt really, really strange. Overly intimate. But it was worth it. If more people took the time to SEE “strangers,” I think the world would be more loving, less cruel, and the horns of impatience would stop blaring at every crossroads. If one person following her dream can inspire one moment of transcendence and truth, maybe if all the millions and billions of us followed our dream, the world would become the welcoming, compassionate paradise it yearns to be.

May you find your inner Amanda Palmer.


The Fear of Asking

So. I entered a raffle to win tickets to see Amanda Palmer at the Paramount Theater in Austin. I’m not sure why I did it, except that I know that when someone or something disturbs me, that means I have something to learn. When I first heard Amanda “Fucking” Palmer’s TED talk, The Art of Asking, my initial reaction was one of … disquiet. I thought I didn’t like her. I thought, “She’s too brash, too – herself?”  That startled me. Can a person be too much of who they are? It’s taken some introspection to realize what makes me uncomfortable about Amanda Palmer is that her way of being challenges my way of being. I feel like there are certain immutable requirements governing how I need to be; for instance, and very trivially, I feel like it’s a requirement to shave my arm pits. It is a requirement to feel like my body is something that must be hidden because it’s not “perfect.” It’s a requirement to feel like I should bottle up my emotions or repackage them so as not to seem like a “bitch.” It’s a requirement to have a traditional job. It’s a requirement to keep my yard looking at least as nice as the neighbors. And on and on and on. Amanda Palmer throws away every single one of those “requirements,” except maybe the one about the yard. I don’t know if she has a yard. The point is that Amanda Palmer decides for herself how she’s going to live life, rather than letting society tell her how to be.

I didn’t dislike Amanda, but myself. Of course, it’s easier to blame her. It’s really scary to think that maybe all these requirements that guide and order my life are only optional. This doesn’t mean I want an open marriage (I don’t), or that I want to be naked on stage (I don’t), or that I want hairy armpits (I don’t). The point is that I can CHOOSE what I want, and how I want to live. How has it taken me thirty-seven years to finally realize that!?

A lot of my fear, and my knee-jerk loathing of Amanda came from my own sense that I’m not being enough of an artist. I know that to write is my calling. It is not a requirement, but a personal, deeply embedded categorical imperative. Amanda’s way of living makes me realize I’m a coward. I’m too scared to take a chance and put writing first. I’m too afraid to trust. I’m afraid of having to ask for help.

My mother in law passed away a little over two months ago. Her death was sudden, and entirely unexpected. It shocked me to realize that her years ticked past, my years are ticking past… it was upsetting to realize I’d never taken the time to ask her the real questions about who she was. It was upsetting to realize I’d never asked myself those same questions.

I’m asking now. I’m still afraid. But, I’m asking.

And I won those tickets.


My Honest Author Bio

As I was traipsing through the wilds of the internet, I came across a post about the idea that most author bios are polished to a reflective, not necessarily realistic sheen. It seemed like a fun exercise to write my own “honest author bio.” Yes, I am five years late to this party, but this was a lot of fun to write!

And Now, the Bio

Aniko Carmean is a writer masquerading as a software tester. She is convincing in this role, having achieved sixteen years tenure and the level of “Senior Engineer.” There are days when she suspects someone might be onto her, and she distracts her interlocutor by cracking puns like the one she told on the eve of a co-worker’s visit to not one, but two bank clients, when she said, “We’ll get more bank for our buck!” Aniko is a water sign, and has the tenacity to prove it. She is married to an air sign, and between the two of them, neither has their feet firmly on the ground. This keeps things interesting. When Aniko is not acting in her capacity as diplomat in the Software Development Life Cycle, she can be found navigating Austin’s public transportation system, trekking through suburbia with three dogs, or being friendly on Twitter. Aniko writes surreal stories. They are strange and lovely chimeras who wish you would take them home with you. Care and feeding of the stories is easy, and after several professional edits, they are guaranteed housebroken. No messes! You’ll have less trouble reading them than Aniko had writing them, and after some of the dreck you’ve read recently, won’t that be a nice break? The next fact is not related, but is simply jammed here because this is an honest bio, and the wildflower garden of Aniko’s thoughts is disorderly. She once spent several days confused by the apparent apocalyptic disappearance of all the other thirty-seven year old women, only to discover all the women her age were trying (and succeeding) at looking nineteen. A stubborn proponent of caring more about the quality of her soul than her appearance, Aniko decided to stop dying her hair. You can spot her by what her hairdresser politely calls “sparklies,” but which are really the silver hairs Aniko has earned through the pain, grief, and disillusionment that come in any well-rounded life. In spite of this, Aniko smiles all the time. She is quick to laugh, often at her own jokes. If you buy her books, she will laugh at your jokes too!

As ever,

Get three free stories, all of which are housebroken, vaccinated, and looking for a good home!

Get three free stories, all of which are housebroken, vaccinated, and looking for a good home!

Amazing, amazing!

My last post was heavy. It was so heavy, I almost didn’t have the strength to publish it. I feared being vulnerable. I was worried that people would be annoyed by a post that was more personal and less like a nice, safe essay. I even thought some people would be mad that I foisted my anxieties and fears on them, or disgusted that I mentioned anything to do with spirituality.

None of that happened.

Instead, the whole world reached out to me. I got thoughtful comments on the post. A friend I haven’t seen in years contacted me directly, with kindness and care. Others sent direct messages, and one lovely person even sent me a beautiful travelogue of  a recent adventure. And, as if the effect of being brave enough to admit to having lived through some darkness spread beyond the digital expanse of the post, another friend who knew nothing about it chose last week to remind me she’s always here for me, no matter what. It was the best week. I felt so loved.

Thank you all for being there for me.

With love,


Beautiful blooms near my bus stop - gorgeous as your friendship!

Beautiful blooms near my bus stop – gorgeous as your friendship!

Flipped Bit

Sometimes, I flip a bit.

This is what we say at my day job when our software doesn’t behave as expected. “It flipped a bit!” In the past year, I’ve flipped almost every bit I have – and came close to a full crash. There are so many details I want to share, but what I want to share encroaches on the privacy of others. In some cases, it would be hurtful. I considered starting an anonymous blog, but then I realized that if I have to do something in secrecy, I shouldn’t be doing it at all. What I can give you are moments, images.

A look of pure hatred from a person I wanted nothing more for than happiness and light. The choice of betrayal or jail. Sobbing in the bathroom at work when I received news that made me feel like my DNA was unraveling. The thought of stepping in front of a city bus. There was also the dry air in Las Cruces, the dust rising like ghosts down the long road on a Sunday morning. Funerals. Too many losses, one so sudden and shocking. A year spent with people desperate to save their own lives, only to end up realizing I was the one who needed to be saved.

I am the person that those things happened to, but I am not the same.

I’m better now. Stronger. Whole. I have become a prayerful person, awakened to an unending source of love. When I am walking the path meant for me, joy and kindness are what I bring. Truth is what I speak, even when it is uncomfortable. I understand that this life is an opportunity to give with complete abandon of self.

I am a happy woman, quick to laugh. I love to write. I love to read. I love to be helpful to my co-workers, to care for my husband, and to walk the dogs given into my custody. I even love Twitter, and the conversations I have with friends I may never hug because we are time zones and continents apart. I’m finding my way back to the joy. I’m planning a return to classes at the Writer’s Studio (NYC-based, but I take the online class), and would love to work and, someday, be admitted to the master class. I want to be the best writer I can be. I want to be able to move from my particular pains and into sharing the universal hope and promise. I know there are bad days (bad years!), but without all of that bad, I would never have reached the spiritual deficit I needed to experience before I could be open to another way of being. The intense experiences of 2014/early 2015 taught me that it is true: blessed are the poor in spirit.


As ever,


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Prolific Publishing for Success and Money: Or What I Learned By Trying

Had I Found the Blueprint for Success?

Last year, I read every book on writing and marketing that I could find. I subscribed to a handful of webinars, ‘attended’ email training sessions, and became a rabid devotee of any author with great branding and a promise of how I could succeed in publishing. Even though most of what I heard was not new to me, I felt like I had discovered a blueprint to success. All I had to do was publish prolifically, be helpful, and give away samples of my writing. Although the adjective “prolific” made me a little nervous, I decided to give the approach a try.

The journey hasn’t been all s’mores and champagne for me.

Attribution via  123RF Stock Photo

Attribution via 123RF Stock Photo

Initial Doubts Blasted by One Strong Outlier

I felt the first doubts about the method when I tried reading several works produced in the paradigm I was eager to emulate. It struck me that while some of these authors are doing well for themselves from a monetary standpoint, and were often quite the social media darlings, I didn’t feel their writing was good. The stories were competent in the way that food at a national restaurant chain is predictable: it won’t make you sick, but it won’t inspire you, either.

There are outliers, of course, and not everyone who publishes abundantly writes formulaic books. My friend Hunter Shea is very prolific, and offhand I can think of at least three new books he released in fairly quick succession (THE MONTUAK MONSTER, ISLAND OF THE FORBIDDEN, and HELL HOLE). Hunter’s work is consistently high-quality and fun to read, but for each one of his books that I enjoyed, there were at least two by other prolific authors that fell flat and ended up on my “didn’t finish” pile.

Despite my doubts, and with Hunter as a positive example, I remained determined to try publishing frequently. I started by drawing up a five year writing plan. In it, I scheduled myself to produce four new works a year. Each publication would have a free introductory “hook,” and at least one of the four publications would be novella-length or longer. I’d churn out works like my name was Krispy Kreme and the stories were 2AM hot donuts! Such was the plan, in any case.

What Happened When I Tried

I did manage two releases in six months (MIXED MEDIA and SPILLWAYS), but I discovered that having an excellent editor means I’m called on my authorial laziness, plot sloppiness, and continuity misfires. To be blunt: I do a lot of rewriting during edits. Getting MIXED MEDIA and SPILLWAYS right was a time consuming process, but I stayed on schedule – barely. At this point, I should reveal that both of those works were already drafted and “just” needed editing.

Long term, my personal slush pile couldn’t be my only source of material. I needed to be able to produce new works at a rate commensurate with my publication goals. To this end, I decided that I would experiment with writing a new work in a compressed timeframe. I blasted out the rough draft in a few weeks, which is amazing given that the only time I have to write is my hour-long bus ride to work. It wasn’t any worse of a first draft than most, but it was also not dazzling. I employed no challenging points of view, nor did I craft within a non-standard form. When the overarching goal was to publish at a frenetic pace, literary merit felt like a “nice to have” rather than an imperative. Under those conditions, my writing devolved to chain restaurant quality. I won’t publish a work that isn’t my best, and I’ve spent multiple editorial cycles improving the story. It is finally worthy of my readers, but getting it that way meant I missed my publication deadline for this piece by two months. So much for writing a “fast” story!

It was an interesting experiment. I think that if I were a full-time writer, I could have better luck with making quicker production turnaround, but my boundary conditions are decidedly not those of a full-time writer. For now, I’m done with attempting a frenetic publishing pace. I can’t honor my literary calling when the focus is on growing my shelf space rather than on the joy of creation.

Author Fatigue is One Thing, But What About Readers?

In a blog post Ania Ahlborn points out another possible downside of rapid-fire publication: reader fatigue. I can’t think of anything more fatiguing than reading masses of sub-par novels… well, other than writing masses of sub-par novels! I love that authors I enjoy have multiple books, but sometimes a year or more will pass between when I read those works. This, for me, is even true with series. There are so many voices to experience, and because my reading time is just as scant as my writing time, I’m apt to drift between genres and temporarily abandon even my favorite author.


I’m glad I tried the approach of fast publishing. I am pleased with the works I produced last year. SPILLWAYS, in particular, contains my best writing, with stories that challenged me as a writer. It is also my least read work – so far. I think that is partly because I am waiting to do a strategic campaign to advertise it, but it might also be a symptom of reader fatigue. If you are curious, you can read MOON SICK, the first story in the collection for free. All you need to do is sign up for my author newsletter at After you subscribe, you’ll receive a follow-up email with a link to download the story in the format of your choice.

What about you? Have you tried writing at a multi-book per year pace? Do you read everything by your favorite prolific authors as soon as the books hit Amazon’s Whispernet (or the newstands)?

Ghosts & Chapbooks

It is wonderful to be able to connect with the authors whose works have moved me. That is one of the true gems of the internet age. At the end of last year, I read two works that moved me enough to write about my experience with them. I sent my pieces to the authors, and offered that – if they wanted – they could post them on their blogs. Both agreed! My delight is now threefold: the original story, the ability to express gratitude to the authors, and the honor of having my words appear on their blogs.

I read Hunter Shea’s latest work, ISLAND OF THE FORBIDDEN and was transported back to the time when I lived in a haunted house. Yes. You read that right. I believe ghosts exist, just as much as I believe in the chair where I’m sitting or the coffee I’m drinking. If you want to read some of the supernatural events I experienced, please visit Hunter’s post, A True Haunting in Belgium.

I had the rare and blissfully tactile experience of reading Mary SanGiovanni’s chapbook, NO SONGS FOR THE STARS. To quote myself, which is probably a first for me, “It feels good to feel, not just with our imaginations and our hearts, but also with our hands. Neither e-books nor mass produced pocket editions can provide the beauty I experienced sitting quietly and reading this slim chapbook.” The story is an enthralling addition to Mary’s (multi)verse. To read more of my thoughts about the chapbook medium and the story, please visit Mary’s post, Guest Post – Aniko Carmean – No Songs for the Stars.

Hunter and Mary, you are both amazing writers and wonderful human beings! I am so glad to have read your works!


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