Carousel 2019

My 2019 Philcon Schedule

I've just received my Philcon schedule for 2019, and I'm excited! As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts on these topics. Are there specific things I should mention? Specific movies and/or TV shows to bring up in the "Why, Hollywood, Why???" or "Cancelled Before Their Time" panels? And what SF and fiction books for children would you recommend (either ones you remember loving or ones that children you know enjoy).

Sat 12:00 PM in Plaza IV (Four) (1 hour)

[Panelists: Hildy Silverman (mod), Richard Stout, Christine Norris, Alyce Wilson]

July gave us quite a ride with the third installment of this "SF meets horror meets D&D in the 80's" themed series. How has the combination of nostalgia, homage, and original story working to give us a tale that feels both modern and era-appropriate? Will the fourth season open the rift again, or give us a new antagonist

Sat 5:00 PM in Plaza IV (Four) (1 hour)

[Panelists: Jeff Warner (mod), Daniel Persons, Matt Black, Tony Finan, Daniel Kimmel, Alyce Wilson]

Our childhoods are being plundered by Hollywood as networks and studios are rebooting, remaking, and re-imagining anything they can without apparent care for the quality of the resulting product. Why do this instead of developing original properties? Are any of the recent rehashes worth watching

Sat 10:00 PM in Plaza IV (Four) (1 hour)

[Panelists: Tony Finan (mod), Chuck Rothman, Anastasia Holt, Daniel Persons, Theodore Krulik, Alyce Wilson]

Firefly, Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies, Dead Like Me, FlashForward, Jericho... So many shows deserved more than season or two they had- didn't they? How do fans deal with the failure of a show to reach its full potential or proper conclusion

Sun 2:00 PM in Plaza III (Three) (1 hour)

[Panelists: Vikki Ciaffone (mod), Russ Colchamiro, Scheherazade
Jackson, Chris Kreuter, Muriel Hykes, Alyce Wilson]

What's up and coming in YA fiction, what classics are an absolute must, and how do you gauge what's appropriate for your child's maturity level?
Carousel 2019

LJI 11 Week 2: Stay

This is my entry for Week 2 of LJ Idol, Season 11 ([Bad username:]. This week's topic is "Living rent-free in your head."

Cradling his too-small body in my arms, I suspected something wrong about this tactile memory. Like a real-life flashback, I held his still form, stroked his oversized alien head. Only a moment before, I had been in a doctor's office, learning disturbing information. He reminded me that before I'd had my son, I'd had a miscarriage and lost a boy.

"Why don't I remember it?" I demanded.

His answer seemed too easy. "Because you got pregnant again so soon afterwards and carried that child to term."

None of it made sense, until I awoke and realized whose dream I'd been having. For several years, since her death, I've been slowly turning into my mother.

Me in October 2019, wearing a pink shirt and looking a bit sad

My mom in December 2013, wearing pink. Those blue eyes, that smile. I see me.

The boy had a name: James. And though he'd only grown inside my mother for about six to eight weeks -- the size of a fingernail, she told me -- I'd always been fascinated by him. My mother got pregnant with me only a short time after the miscarriage. He was the boy who died so that I might live, because if he'd been carried to term, I never would have existed.

For years, I felt my ghostly older brother following me: a protective presence just behind my left shoulder. Once, on a magical night in college, walking through dark trees on a shortcut to my apartment, I thought I glimpsed a being of light, like an outline, behind me. A benevolent young man, slightly older than me.

"Hello, James," I'd said.

I haven't thought of him for years.

In these days since Mom's sudden exit, I've traversed grieving passages -- from sleepless weeping to more normal routines. Always, she lurks beneath surfaces: sometimes, a bon mot she shared with me, sometimes the desire to photograph scenes she would have painted in bright, impossible colors.

Only now I'm realizing the impact of these last several years. I've eaten so much grief I see her in the mirror: from those last days when my sister, brother and I tried to push her past her knee pains to get healthier. I've caught myself biting my lip in thought, the way she did so often.

For months, initially, she'd come to me in sleep, exactly as she'd been. Too painful, upon waking, to remember her gone. So at last, in slumber, I told her, "You're dead!" as one might tell a pesky child.

"I know," she said, sounding hurt. "But I wanted to see how you're doing."

Nothing will ever be the same, I wanted to tell her, hugging her close.
Carousel 2019

LJI 11 Week 1: Mind/Trip

This is my entry for Week 1 of LJ Idol (therealljidol), Season 11. The topic this week is "Resolution."


A tilted view of a lake and a wooden bridge, as if the photographer is falling down


Who reads a story's ending
first? Abhorrent practice. To leap
past process into knowing. Yet,

how often I wish to fast-
forward through life's
bruises. To reach a point
where I'm knitted together. Healed. Perhaps
stronger. Nearly

a year since a bicep tear
turned my right arm inky blue,
my strength burgeons. Shoulder
twinges still burr my sleep. (An orthopedic
pillow helps.) So unfair, then, how --
in sweaty August -- uneven
pavement twisted
my knee with a pop,
the moment I lifted my eyes from
my path to watch my son
open a gate. By now,
I should have learned. Lately,

when I hurt myself, I have my eyes
on him. My consciousness flies
from my body, a protective cushion
around his movement. Bouncy
and incautious, he sails
over obstacles, living
in the present.

                     - September 26, 2019
Carousel 2019

LJ Idol Week 0: Meet Mead

This is my LJ Idol (therealljidol) entry for Week 0. The topic is Introduction.
My Mead Five-Star notebook with the aqua vinyl cover could tell stories about me. Nearly as old as my fourth-grade son, my aqua companion has followed me anywhere a keyboard couldn't for the past nine years. Usually with a pen (black ballpoint preferred) tucked into its spiral, Mead is beat-up, heavy with ink and still open to new experiences.

Flipping through the first section of the two-subject notebook is like a Cliff's Notes of my life. The first entry, dated June 14, 2010, chronicles an odd dream I had shortly after my husband and I brought our son home. The handwriting is even worse than my usual cramped mess -- loose and light, the pen barely kissing the page. A sure indication of both sleep deprivation and, most likely, the painkillers I was still on to deal with postnatal pains.
Next page contains a list of ingredients for the three dishes my Mom and sister had made and stuck in the freezer for me, to last me through the baby boot camp that is a newborn. This was after my son began to suffer from gas pains so severe that the pediatrician recommended I cut out foods that are known to produce gas. All the food had onions in it, which was forbidden, so my husband had to cook every meal for me, as I recovered on bed rest. We had no TV in the bedroom, and in those days, no streaming sites on the computer. I listened to the local public radio station all day long, wrote, nursed, napped, and watched the undulating leaves in the trees outside our rented rowhouse in suburban Philly.

Then, some pages of notes during Otakon 2010 (the annual convention celebrating East Asian culture, particularly anime), when I ran Press Relations while my sister served as a live-in nanny in our hotel room. After that year, I took a couple years off as the head of Press Relations, feeling guilty about all the attention it had taken away from my new baby.

A couple of pages of food tracking, before I moved to an app on my phone. I lost 20 pounds almost immediately, still above my pre-pregnancy weight, but I've since gained it all back plus 40 more. I blame age and stress.

Pages of notes from writing panels I attended at that year's Philcon (the annual science fiction convention where my husband and I are panelists) were followed by a handwritten LJ Idol entry, the first of many filling my buddy Mead in these past nine years of parenting. I often find myself writing on the sidelines of my son's activities, like today, in the library as he participates in LEGO Club.

Then, seven pages of poetry, with lines crossed out, but not so much you can't see them. I prefer to write poems by hand, so you can see what you cut out. Sometimes scrapped lines turn up in another work later.

A jump, then, to five years later, notes from a parent meeting before my son, whose online nickname is Kung Fu Panda or KFP, started kindergarten. Mead has chronicled many such events, and since I jump around between the sections in the two-subject notebook, Mead lacks chronological cohesion, flitting about like memories.

Next, a couple short personal narratives about my parenting experience. I don't remember now whether they were for LJ Idol or for the parenting book I shelved indefinitely because of what comes next.
In extremely sober print -- the way I write when I need to make sure someone can read it, unlike my nearly indecipherable crazy-grandmother cursive handwriting -- is the first draft of the obituary for my mother, Vivian Starr, who died suddenly, just before Thanksgiving 2015. After that begin pages and pages of notes dealing with estate business: talking to my lawyer, a list of things to do, finances and expenses, the phone number for the pastor who would perform the funeral. So many people attended the service for my 72-year-old mom that I wished she could have seen how many people showed up to honor her.

More Philcon notes, because we attended it in 2015 anyway, between her death and the funeral. I simply needed something normal away from the misery. (But misery followed me.)

Three more pages of estate notes, an inventory of the valuables within her house. Then a letter to my Mom, and a poem inspired by her. At the bottom of that page, more estate notes.

A page of notes from the first-grade preview, where the school administrators spent more time talking about disciplinary programs than about academics. This marks the date I decided for sure to move us into a better school district. We found an apartment in a nearby suburb with a much better school by late summer, just in time for first grade.

A page of catalogue numbers corresponding to my Mom's hundreds of art pieces, listing the ones my Dad felt should make it into the retrospective art show we hosted a few years after her death, on what would have been my Mom's 75th birthday.  My parents had remained friends, and Dad's apartment above his osteopathic practice served as long-term storage of my Mom's artwork until the show, after which my siblings and I divided them up. Mom would have been a little irked by the way my Dad roamed the art show, talking to visitors about her work. But by then, her wife had taken her bitterness to the opposite end of the country, so there was no one present to object. As I watched him lauding the ethereal light of Mom's pastels and watercolors, I could tell my Dad had never stopped loving her.

That's the last page in the first section of the notebook, and a good place to stop. If I kept going, you'd discover more poetry, the catalogue of my mother's art, a few haphazard journal entries, and notes from my genealogical research. In the past four years, I've found comfort in unraveling the ever-fascinating tapestry of my family's past. Like an archeologist, delving into the details of the people who made me me, and the me that writes in Mead.
Otakon 2016

LJI Second Chance Vote and Other Stuff

First, very importantly, please pop over to LJ Idol's Second Chance poll to read and vote. It closes tonight at 8 p.m., and half of us are being permanently eliminated!

You can use Open ID to sign in and vote with your LiveJournal. As it stands, I am in the bottom half by one vote.

In other suckage -- I mean, news, I am currently actively seeking freelance writing, editing and transcription jobs with the ultimate goal of stepping back from the transcription job I've held for 17 years. The low pay, terrible hours and stressful deadlines gave me enough to deal with, but recently, a new-ish editor has been treating me like dirt (doing things like denying me payment for an entire 12-page transcription file of a half hour of video because I misspelled one name). I've decided that, both for my mental health and for my family's wellbeing, I need to seek other secure funding options. So far, I've identified one job writing product descriptions that is a six-week contract, and I'm applying for lots of other jobs, as well. Wish me luck and let me know if you have any tips. FYI: At this point, I don't want to sign up for anything that involves a cash layout on my end, including any writer's associations.

And finally, I had my first actual car accident since I moved to Philly in 2000. Yes I've found dents in my car before by hit-and-run individuals, but this was an actual fender bender in our apartment parking lot. The damage was minor, but Progressive is treating me the way they'd treat someone with a major wreck, even asking me if everyone in the car was fine and expressing relief when the answer was yes. They will even make the appointment for us to get it fixed at the shop of our choice, and every person I've dealt with has been friendly, even cheerful. That aforementioned editor could learn a lot about how to talk to people from them.