September 12, 2017

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:11 pm by vrtrakowski

I’ve seen a post going around about how bland British food is. And having spent eight months there long ago, and never finding a burger that wasn’t cooked halfway to crisp but in the American restaurant, I can agree on some things (granted, this was the height of the mad cow scare). You think pineapple on a pizza is weird? Try canned corn.

But every time someone claims British food is bland, I remember stepping into a bakery in Bath and buying an eclair made that morning, a crisp shell filled with fresh whipped cream (none of that yellow pastry-cream goo, feh) and glazed with a sweet dark layer of rich chocolate.

I could get piping hot pasties stuffed with fluffy potato and just enough sharp cheese to be a delicious meal in itself; the pastry would crumble into thin buttery flakes. Or sausage rolls with sausage that was sausage, all the way through, and not laden with old pepper the way the American stuff is. In fact, the sausages by themselves were mellow, subtly flavored links that were just greasy enough and not too greasy.

I could sit down in a teashop and get raisin teacakes slathered in melted butter, sweet and salty and oh so good. Or a plate of scones; delicate, dense rounds just barely sweet, to be split and spread with the heavy richness of clotted cream and topped with the garnet sharp-sweetness of strawberry jam. Nothing will ever match scones and cream; I dream about it.

More varieties of cheese than I knew existed, and all locally made. Good chocolate, not some poor excuse that has only enough cacao to meet the legal minimum–chocolate that came in textures. Golden, crunchy filled cookies that bore as much resemblance to an Oreo as fresh-made mousse does to canned pudding. Candy bars with layers of chocolate, caramel, and delicate wafers that had actual flavor, not just a blast of sweetness. The indescribable weirdness of the Crunchie bar.

If you think British food is bland, you just haven’t tried the right thing yet.

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August 31, 2017

Your assistance, please?

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 8:52 pm by vrtrakowski

My fanfic Website, such as it is, may be shutting down soon, and in any case it’s showing its age. I’m experimenting with a Weebly site to host the stuff. If you’re interested and feeling kind, would you please visit it and tell me if it’s working? There’s very little there just yet, but I’ve got a basic framework roughed out.

Thank you!

August 28, 2017

Posted in Uncategorized tagged at 8:49 pm by vrtrakowski

I dream more vividly and clearly if I leave off my CPAP machine. Which I try not to do, even though I usually enjoy the dreams, but this past weekend I kept drifting off without it.

The landscape set in trees, with ancient buildings half built into the ground, was stunning enough, but the colors–the sky was so deep a blue as to be almost upper-atmosphere, and the air was so clear.  And the light was brilliant.  There was a mud-edged road running past, that had a trick of looking like a tall cliff when one peered over the edge.  My mother had a guidebook about the place and we laughed at the illusion of the road.

And then it deteriorated into something that wanted to be horror but didn’t quite make it, invoking Labyrinth and The Princess Bride and voluntary sacrifice.  Which just shows my age, really.

But the colors.

August 12, 2017

Dilemma

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:56 am by vrtrakowski

I just got word that my fanfiction site is being moved to a different parent domain next month.  Now, I haven’t updated that poor thing in probably two years, due mainly to moving to a laptop and away from my nice WYSIWYG site-building software.  But I’m still writing fic (really.  I am).

I have no idea if this move will break all the links on my pages.  If so, fixing them all is cause to shudder; HttM alone has forty chapter pages, with about forty-five links per page (so my HTML skills are minimal.  Bite me).

The site does get a few readers every month.  I’m sure lots of people have old links and bookmarks from the CSI/GSR heyday.

As it is, I’m gradually copying fic over from FF.net to AO3, partly because it’s an easier site to use, partly because it offers the downloading option, which is very handy; partly because FF.net is just kind of annoying.  But I haven’t been copying everything.  Some of it doesn’t seem worth the effort, due to age or quality or length or context.*

Up until I stopped updating my site, it was the complete public collection, minus a few bits that were only posted on LJ.  There’s something to be said for having everything in one place, yet not cluttering up public feeds.^

I considered, briefly, renting server space somewhere and designing my own site.  But that’s outside my budget and considerably outside my coding skills, not to mention my visual imagination.  Cincoflex has very generously offered to host my stuff on her site, but I’m not sure that’s the answer either.

Are individual fic sites still a thing?  Is it possible to post stories on, say, WordPress, and still make it easy to search and access?  I kind of want something that’s under my control, but I don’t think I have the ability to make it happen.

I suppose I’ll have to redesign the whole thing, and I am very bad at visual design.  *grumble*  And it’s a project that’ll take months, no matter how I go about it.

Y’know, if I’d been just a year or two younger, I might have gotten into computer programming.  But when I was in high school that sort of thing was for the magnet students, not us regular plebes, and I don’t think my college offered courses like that.†  I suppose I could take a course on site building now, but see above statement about $.

*sigh*

*It’s a sliding scale anyway.  Most of these fandoms are pretty dead.  They get a few hits on AO3, but it may just be curiosity.

^I assume that someone rummaging around on my site is interested at least marginally in my writing.  Nobody wants to have to pick through little irrelevant bits while searching for a particular topic.

†This was still the early days of the personal computer.  I think HS had Apple IIs or some such, and college was very proud to own some of the first NeXTs.  My own PC was pre-Windows.

June 4, 2017

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:21 pm by vrtrakowski

Thursday morning, I put off work to go purchase the new Lego Saturn V rocket, since the employee I talked to thought it might sell out before the end of the day.  It’s a meter high when assembled, with just under 2000 pieces and an instruction book that has almost 200 pages.  The interior is a Lego equivalent of what was actually inside the rocket.

Today, I gave it to my godson as a birthday present.

Six hours later:

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He had to get technical help once, and physical help a few times (his fingers weren’t strong enough).  Aside from that, he put it together by himself, steady and busy and often standing on one leg like a stork.

He’s nine.

It’s almost as tall as he is.  It’s a set designed for adults, that took two grown men four hours to put together in tandem.

His fingers will hurt tomorrow.  My brain hurts now.

His verdict?  “The best Lego set ever.”

April 19, 2017

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:59 pm by vrtrakowski

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So, today I got one of these things.  

I spent an interesting few minutes torn between my inner nine-year-old and my mature this-is-silly self, and almost didn’t give into the marketing, in large part because it would have been embarrassing to go in and ask for it.

But the more I thought about it, the more that attitude seemed to be misogynistic–because it was brightly colored with pink, and fantastical and frivolous, it was therefore not worth my attention?  Pah.  And it looked kind of fun.

(I avoided the embarrassment factor neatly by doing a mobile order.  First time, too.)

Plus, I grew up in the ‘80s, when unicorns were a Thing.  I always preferred pegasi, because they can fly, but unicorns were close behind.  I never really believed in fairies or trolls, but unicorns…well.  Can you prove that they don’t?

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(Look, it matches my shoes!)

It brightened my day a little.  And I thought–I need to chase unicorns more often.  Not necessarily bright pink-and-blue drinks, but the small elusive moments that make me laugh.  Rare, beautiful, whimsical.  Bumblebees.  Nifty clouds.  Terrific book covers.  Exquisite puns.  You know.

I realize that sounds like a dippity-doo inspirational Pinterest article, but who cares.  They’re my unicorns to chase.

January 29, 2017

What squeak, mouse?

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:57 pm by vrtrakowski

Once upon a time, about twenty-five years ago…

Let’s call it autumn of 1991; that was always my compromise, because it had to be sophomore year.  Nice mild night, and the stars were magnificent.  I was outside the dorm, don’t remember why, and was watching them, and he came by.  

We started talking that night, beginning with the stars–we both had an interest in astronomy, though he knew far more than I.  We talked for at least an hour, standing at the gate in darkness and looking up, and we had so much to say.  

Then one of us went inside, and we didn’t speak to each other again for about a year.  Not until the dorm won the campus Olympics and had a pool party.  He had a nifty–and chilling–trick of exhaling until he could sink to the bottom of the pool.  

He was reclusive, and had a rep for being difficult, but I thought he was interesting.  So a day or two later I went down to his room and knocked and asked him up for tea.  And he came.    

Thus began a friendship.

We’ve been friends through a lot, starting with growing up, even if we were almost legal adults when we met.  We helped each other with depression, and he helped me pass Pre-Calc; I watched my mother take him in, and wept when he discovered he was gay, because I knew it would be so very hard for him.  

He always said our friendship was unequal, but he could see through me like no one else, and he helped me through some dark times just by being there.  Maybe I was the more stable one, but no two people are exactly the same, are they?  

Our relationship ebbed and grew, as time and life and other relationships came and went.  Sometimes things weren’t easy, but few things are easy all the time.  

And now, it’s over.  

He doesn’t want to be friends any longer.  And he has the absolute right to end things.  

Nothing lasts forever, even friendships.  That’s a lesson it took me a long time to learn.  So I’m prying my fingers loose.  Gonna be a grownup this time.  

It’s not the end of the world, but I’ll be sad for a while.  There will be reminders–images of palm trees and hot blue seas, a particular strain of music, and always the stars.  

My life is richer because of him.  It always will be.  

I’ll keep looking up.  

 

January 8, 2017

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:18 pm by vrtrakowski

This is very interesting!  http://unuttered-questions.tumblr.com/post/155605282181/gingersnapwolves-transcthulhu-dabe-strudel

As a (white, straight) writer, I’ve found myself becoming more aware of my characters and how I create them over the years–due in no small part to Tumblr and its like (never let it be said that online activism doesn’t have an effect).  And I’ve found it goes both ways for me.

For instance, I’ve got a original/non-fanfic story going where I started out with two white main characters.  And when it finally dawned on me that there was no reason they had to be white, I took another look at them both.

My heroine, the focus of my story–she was easy to change.  Her characterization was very fixed in my head, but I could alter her race without issue (helped along, certainly, by the fact that it’s a fantasy world and she doesn’t have to be a minority as such).

My hero–not so much.  For whatever reason, my brain simply would not let me alter him.  He was short, white, and blond, and the moment I tried to change that, it killed the story dead.

I have no idea why.

So I changed the heroine and her city and her culture, and probably improved the story thereby.

The same thing happened a few years ago during NaNoWriMo; I changed one character’s appearance–not even his race, just his height and hair–and the story was dead in the water.  It’s weird. My brain is a mysterious place.

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May 18, 2016

Prey

Posted in Uncategorized tagged at 10:01 pm by vrtrakowski

Okay, to follow up yesterday’s post…Prey used to be available unofficially on YouTube, but I can’t find it any longer.  It was never, as far as I know, released in any commercial form.

The idea was that the next step in human evolution had taken place, and that the new version was operating on the principle that no two species can occupy the same ecological niche.  It starred Debra Messing, Adam Storke, Vincent Ventresca, and other people you’d probably recognize.  And it’s one reason I can’t watch Will and Grace–too painful after seeing Ms. Messing portray a brilliant scientist.

The science was interesting; some of it was accurate, some of it wasn’t, and some of it has since been disproved.  As often happens with sci-fi, too, something that was done on the show later became reality–excavating graves from the 1918 Spanish influenza epidemic to obtain the virus.

The writing was a little choppy, and many questions remained unanswered, but the acting was superior and the concepts were intriguing.  If you want to watch it, you can find it here.  I think that’ll work; let me know if it doesn’t.

Be warned–as I said, the show ended on the second-worst cliffhanger I’ve ever seen.  Hence, fic.

*raises glass to Larry Drake*

May 17, 2016

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 10:54 pm by vrtrakowski

Sixteen years ago, give or take a day or so, I posted my first fanfic.

Fandom’s really always been a part of the Internet, but in 2000 it wasn’t as organized online as it is now.  Fanfiction.net existed, but it wasn’t yet the go-to source for fic; stories were mainly hosted on individual fan-run sites, and bulletin boards were the order of the day.

I’d been a fan long before I knew what fandom was, but my venture into Prey was only my second attempt at online fandom as a social thing.  I’d read stories for Space: Above and Beyond and sought out factoids about the show, but I didn’t participate in the community, as such.  In the Prey fandom I found a small but welcoming community willing to speculate endlessly about the universe of the show and how the plotline might be resolved (second-worst cliffhanger ending ever, I swear).

And there were writers.  Not many, because even in its heyday Prey never had a huge following, but there was fic.

I’d been writing fanfic for years for my own pleasure, but for the first time I really wrote a story, or the beginning of one, rather than isolated scenes.  And I took my heart in my hands, and gave it over to be posted (thank you, Joxer!).

I don’t remember, any more, exactly what I expected.  I don’t think I hoped for anything more than a lukewarm response–it was my first attempt in the fandom, after all.

Sixteen years ago exactly, I got my first review.  And then another, and another.  And I was stunned.

They loved it.

It was alchemy.  It was magic.  It quite literally changed my life.

Because of the Prey fandom, I had the courage to write for U.C. Undercover, and then Firefly and Law and Order: Criminal Intent.  And then I hit CSI and GSR, and never looked back.

The Prey fandom presence online faded away, as so many do, and the message board has gone the way of most such outmoded sites.  But I remember.  J.K., I have no idea where you are now, but yours was the first e-mail I got, and I have it still.  Every so often I re-read it, to remember the thrill and the joy of knowing I got it right.

In honor of this, and to remember, I’m reposting that story.  It was online for a while, but then I took it down when it was turned into a hard-copy ‘zine.  Apparently the press that published is no longer active (the site’s still up, but nobody’s home?) so I doubt anyone will object.  Skein is now up at AO3 and will be posted at FF.net as soon as I can get the latter to behave is finally up at FF.net argh.

If you choose to read it, and I don’t suggest you do so unless you saw the show, please be kind.  I do like to think my writing’s improved over the years, and I had to seriously resist the impulse to spruce it up in places.

Thank you, Prey fandom.  You showed me that my work had value; more, you proved to me that I did actually have a gift.  1.5 million words later, I am a writer.

(Also, I have a thing for emotionally damaged half-aliens and the women who save them, but we knew that already…)

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