PL: TLY, HoH, The Solution, ASZz, BC, Salt, a picture of Shikijou, Merpoleon

TLY — I got some meta stuff done recently. Sister M promised years ago that she would draw my cover illustration, and when I asked her (since I’m on the home stretch finally) if she was still up for that, she said she would be happy to. So I’ve started composing an email with all the details for her. That’s going to take as long as a freaking chapter by itself XD

In addition, I finally got fed up with the timeline I had going in one of my .doc files and made a new one. This story is really difficult to maintain a timeline for, though I won’t get into why, and even the new one is pretty clumsy… but I think it’ll work better than the one I was using before. I tend to create story timelines (when the story takes place on real-world dates) in Google Calendar. I know there are programs designed to make timelines, some of them aimed specifically at authors, but I’ve never found one that fits my needs. Google Calendar works pretty well, so I stick with it for now. (You should see my HoH calendar!)

So this kind of meta stuff is often just an excuse to mess around doing things other than actual writing, but I did also make good progress on chapter 26. Remember how last time I said I was closing in on the climax and bidding goodbye to the everyday events? That’s kindof a massive relief, actually, because I can concentrate just on the one part of the story and not keep jumping back and forth like before. So excited for the ending!

His Own Humanity — I have reached linear completion on the Nine Decades 40’s story! I’ve mentioned before, I believe, how several of these stories kindasorta focus more on original characters than on Duo, resultant upon his being so… incapable of a lot of things? That’s definitely the case here, though we do get a few thoughts from him on the nature of war. I giggled, you may believe, when I used the phrase “the nature of war” in a Gundam Wing fic XD

So then I worked for a bit on Sano and Kaoru’s Phone Log, and guess what. Working with Dragon is a little difficult when you make yourself cry whilst dictating. This happens to me almost never, but, srsly, they’re bonding in friendship over the loss of Kenshin, and it’s harsh sometimes, man. I thought of a great thing for them to do, though, and that makes me happy.

And then I faffed about with the delightful social failures that are Aoshi and Soujirou. Yay!

The Solution — You know how sometimes you work and work and work at a story, and it proceeds by inches, and you’re pretty satisfied because at least it is proceeding but you do kinda wish it would hurry its ass up? And then right in the middle of that some upstart idea suddenly rears its head and you figure you’ll work on that and it proceeds in leaps and bounds and blows a raspberry at the slowbii as it passes?

Yeah, so, The Solution was a really recent freaking idea that I had barely started before I went on vacation, and then all of a sudden it was finished. And Forgivably Wrong is just plodding along like, “There is no hurry. We shall get there some day.” But since some Saitou & Sano is better than no Saitou & Sano, and since we shall get there some day, I suppose I shouldn’t complain.

The most recent time I reread plaidshirtjimkirk’s Tough Love, I found myself feeling really bad for Chou. Because Saitou is the greatest, but it’s totally inappropriate even to consider separating him from Sano, so what’s a broomhead to do? The obvious solution (pun intended) is a poly relationship. I actually thought about writing a direct sequel to psjk’s fic, but the idea that then came to me was tailored to a different situation.

So, yeah, that happened. I don’t have much more to say about it except that I really will write an asexual Sano one of these days.

*

Aku Soku Zan(za) — Sometimes I feel like I didn’t actually get the point of my own damn story back when I wrote the original. It is so crucial in this section that the pros and cons of joining Katsu in his bombing endeavor vs. working with Saitou be clear to both Zanza and the reader, but in the original I was so freaking casual about it. I’m glad I can fix that now.

Just as a point of interest, the only new moon on a Sunday night in 1878 was in March, which is too early in the year both for canon story purposes and ASZz purposes. The only one on a Saturday night (which I actually think is possibly what Katsu meant, referring to the Saturday-night-to-Sunday-morning transition when he mentioned the number of guards on Sundays) was in February. I was going to make an ASZz timeline such as I mentioned above (though I’m not sure if Google calendar will let me go back that far XD), and actually I may still do it and just cheat with the new moon… but that did get postponed for now.

So in canon, of course, Sano recognizes the futility of Katsu’s bombing plan, and the fact that Katsu is a single-minded fanatic, immediately. He decides to go along with him not because he thinks it’s a good or likely to be an effective idea, but because loyalty to the Sekihoutai’s memory and his friend compels him. He’s clearly not invested, though, given how quickly he suggests they bail when he sees Kenshin there and how decisively he then deals with Katsu…. almost as if he wanted to do that all along.

But Sano in canon has been living alongside Kenshin for a while at that point, absorbing his ideas and having abandoned his mercenary activities long before. I don’t think Zanza as he is at this period of this story — just barely having been awakened and an alternative to his previous lifestyle presented, still reeling from that experience, and not knowing how deep he’s in with his new allies — can be expected to immediately reach the same conclusion. Which is why Tokio instead has to make some of the arguments Sano himself brought up in canon.

Blood Contingency part 18 — Aside from having a vacation right in the middle of writing it and dwelling on it obsessively while I was out of town, this part was as tricky as any part of a story that narrates a foregone conclusion must be.

Because of course the reader knows Sano must eventually become a vampire during the course of this story, so the event itself is no surprise — in fact it’s quite possibly something the reader has been holding their breath in horrified anticipation of. And it was directly referenced in the previous chapter, more blatant even than foreshadowing (postshadowing?), so it was more than obvious this was coming. Therefore the challenge was to write this part so it accomplished something beyond describing events that were obvious from the outset, so it wouldn’t make the reader go, “OK, yes, come on, we know this.”

And one of the things I definitely wanted to accomplish (and believe I did) was yet more of that all-important establishing-how-much-they-love-each-other business I’ve never shut up about since I started talking about this story. Saitou didn’t quite break out the L-word, but he didn’t really need to; the extent to which he fell apart was, I think, enough.

Then another challenge arose in finding a balance between giving the tragedy and Saitou’s emotions their due and milking for emotional impact a scene that the reader not only knew was coming but whose general proceedings they quite possibly could anticipate. It would be unfair to Saitou not to give his suffering some description, but it would cheapen that very description to drag it out as if the reader weren’t aware Sano’s going to open his eyes any time. I think I struck that balance pretty well, and it was interesting to think about as I worked on this part.

I’m currently rereading the Twilight Saga. I won’t get into my thoughts about it here (one of these eons I should have an AEL up), and, no, it didn’t consciously inspire any of this story (XD). I just mention it because in New Moon Bella is all fucked up emotionally because dumbass Edward left her dumb ass, so there’s a lot of description of the hole in her chest and holding herself together and shit. And I thought of that as I was writing this part, because I definitely did not want long dripping descriptions of Saitou’s pain at apparently losing Sano.

I mean, yeah, there was some; that was inevitable. But I tried to make the main point by comparing the incident with other, similar moments in his life and establishing that this was worse. I thought that was truer to Saitou’s character. Geez, did I really have to compare Bella Swan to Saitou Hajime here??

Salt — I already mentioned the bemusing and even somewhat frustrating circumstances of a story coming out of nowhere and getting finished right in the middle of working on other stuff that then remains unfinished, right? This is that x100. Still not really complaining, but seriously!!

So here’s the deal with this story: in my recent efforts at regaining a wider audience for my works, I have been posting on tumblr lately. I’ve found it ridiculously fun and somewhat addictive, but I won’t get into that. The point is that I’ve been talking nonsense with this wonderful artist leb that loves the Oniwabanshuu (and the Aoshi & Hannya pairing) so much, and leb got me hooked on this idea of the Tokyo Oniwabanshuu and their AU life that I’d never considered before. I don’t think I’ll ever stop loving the Aoshi & Soujirou pairing, but I’m completely enchanted now by this AUniverse where the Oniwabanshuu all live together in a big house as clueless twenty-somethings that can barely manage adulting.

So I wrote this fic. Totally unprecedented, I know, but it’s always fun to try new things, right? XD It turned out just slightly denser than the complete fluff I had envisioned going in — and of course I had to go all true-love-forevar in one line where I hadn’t really intended to because it was just such a perfect line for that moment — but that’s OK.

Aaaand… there may be more of this. I’ve spent the last few days happily envisioning all sorts of other details about this AUniverse and deciding what else is going to happen there. Of course that’s something I do literally every single time I write any AU evar — not just in long, involved things like HoH, but, like, I have all the details of Trowa’s band from The Test figured out in my head (there’s Dorothy & Relena action), and I know exactly what Saitou’s arrangement with his wife is in The Prevention of Gross Injustice (not to mention how he and Sano work on their issues afterward!), and Sano’s history with gay Japanese guys in Subtext (though that was more of an AU joke than anything XD). Daydreaming about AU’s is just a Thing I Do (as anyone following me on tumblr right now must recognize).

In fact I have a long-standing problem I call Premise Without Plot, wherein I get all these fantastic ideas about the background and trappings of a story but no actual story to go with them — settings, general ideas, feelings, styles of characterization, maybe even a specific event or two… but no coherent narrative I can actually write. That may end up being the case here… and it may not. We’ll see. If I get more proper story ideas, they’ll happen. If not, I’ll just ruminate about leather-jacket-clad-motorcycle-cop-Kaoru and Cousin Misao’s crush on her indefinitely.

A picture of Shikijou — Shikijou has always been my favorite of the Dead Four, and I’ve always thought him very handsome, so when he appeared in HR, I got a hankering to draw him. (This was before leb got me bitten with the Oniwabanshuu bug, by the way; I just like to put visual art at the end of these PL’s because it feels neater.) So I drew him. And I’m more than a little shocked how incredibly happy I am with this picture. Seriously, look how nicely he turned out, especially his face! Like, that cleft in his chin?? Gorgeous!! And see how autumnal he looks with those colors!

The shiiya kinda blocks a lot of his figure, which is sad because I worked hard on it before I had to erase those lines. I tell you what, though: when you’re drawing a ridiculously muscular person using a ridiculously muscular reference, you kinda start to lose track of what the crap you’re actually drawing. Like, I made lines where there were shady spots around the bulging muscles on this guy, and then when I got to shading I was like, What even are these lines? And looking at the reference didn’t help, because this guy’s arms resemble no human appendages I’ve ever seen in my life XD XD XD

Wow, I have a lot to say about this insignificant piece! It’s what I call a casual picture, meaning I tried not to spend too much time on it and it’s more a character portrait than an actual picture with, like, composition. And I busted out my Prismas for the first time in approximately forever, so then I had to force myself not to use a billion colors and get really detailed with the shading. Sometimes, for such things, I wish I could do cel shading. Too bad.

Anyway, Prismas are still just as aggravating as they’ve ever been to work with, for the exact same reason as always. But I’m glad I did this kinda warmup run, because I still think I’m probably going to use them to finish up Merpoleon. Which brings me to…

Merpoleon — I had hoped to have this finished before my Kansas City trip so I could have taken it along with me in the car rather than eventually mailing it to Lee… but that didn’t happen. It’s coming along nicely, though, as you can see!

It’s difficult to trust yourself during projects like this when you’re a mediocre artist. I had decided I wanted to make his fin pink with purple shading so as to create a jewel-tone effect throughout the piece and to contrast sharply with the ocean colors, and what I envisioned looked pretty good… but when I actually started in on the pink, I had serious doubts.

But then I added the blue of his coat, and it really started to bring the whole thing together. I’m pretty confident now that the color scheme is going to look decent when this is all finished. There’s even kindof almost a rainbow look to it, and that, of course, cannot fail to please me.

Anyway it’s nice to be almost done with this, because I’m getting tired of it XD

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