PL: HR, ASZz, TLY, BC, NQF, Forgivably Wrong, Merpoleon, Uhura

The same thing that happened to my AEL’s happened to my PL’s on a smaller scale (i.e. tumblr ate my attention), so now it’s time to catch the fuck up once again. I can’t really truncate here, though, so this may get pretty lengthy…

Heretic’s Reward chapter 28 — Who would win if Aoshi and Saitou fought all-out?? This is a question I very deliberately avoided in this chapter. Aoshi’s reluctance to fight properly is valuable in that sense as well as in the development of his character in this setting.

I’ve long had a map of Akomera that I work off of for this and other stories in the same world, and it’s always been adequate… but it’s extremely ugly. This time when I opened it up to get a good handle on where my friends would flee after leaving the shrine, I thought, Surely there must be a better option than this. I did a brief search for map-making programs I didn’t have to pay for, and came across Inkarnate, a very addictive online map-maker that’s fairly versatile and mostly a lot of fun. And I made the following map:

Not everything is on there, but some locations important to Heretic’s Reward are. Though Inkarnate does offer a grid, it’s still rather difficult to draw one’s map to scale, so don’t even ask me about distances on here. I had a lot of fun making that thing, and may use it in lieu of the ugly old one in future.

Heretic’s Reward chapter 29 — And then I punched Sano in the gut. In my original plan, there wasn’t nearly so much time between Sano noticing the family resemblance and getting a chance to talk to Hajime about it, but the way I had it set up didn’t make sense. Which means an entire chapter of Sano’s bitterness. Oh, well… it was probably best to give him some time to think about this in any case, since now he’s a little more familiar with his own feelings.

Heretic’s Reward >10 Interlude — Usually I’m pretty strongly opposed to writing out dialect or accents phonetically beyond a few easy words like “gonna,” and I especially can’t stand dialogue littered with apostrophes — seriously, I won’t fucking read it — but in this case I made just a bit of an exception for the Ayundomei accent. I figured Soujirou’s impression of the scene — of his kidnappers as particularly foreign and disconcerting — was more important than actually comprehending anything they said.

So as a reminder, the interludes in this story arose back when the story was a comic and the interludes were the only prose parts in the midst of visual chapters. As such, when I switched entirely to prose, I made the interludes sortof optional and didn’t include them in the story’s overall wordcount. However, with this one about Soujirou (and a couple more I have planned), the interludes are becoming more important to the development of story and character. So I’ve changed the links that suggested they could be skipped, and included their 11k-odd words in the wordcount.

Of course the interludes are weird to begin with because of their origins, and making them a more official part of the story leads to more weirdness. Like, Seijuurou has two interludes early on, but it’s likely that never again will any character have more than one. Also, making them mandatory makes the >9 faery tale feel a little out of place. However, I’ve spent this entire fic doubling down on weirdness caused by its medium change and strange decisions I made early on, and I suppose now is no time to stop XD

Now I just have to decide whether/how to tag for all these P’sOV other than Sano’s that are now official parts of the story.

Aku Soku Zan(za) — So of course in canon, Sano and Katsu get over the wall, Kenshin demonstrates briefly that Katsu simply cannot fight him, and then Sano basically goes, “Yeah, I thought this was a bad idea all along; let’s get out of here.” In the anime, however, Sano gets all angsty or something (too long since I watched that nonsense to remember clearly) and decides to fight Kenshin because whatever moron made the anime thought another fight scene IN A SERIES FULL OF FIGHT SCENES was more desirable than retaining Sano’s intelligence.

But however hard this makes me roll my eyes and lament lost nuances of character, I have to admit, in this situation, I was somewhat grateful for the existence of the anime version of the story. Because it adds further possibilities to the big question of what Zanza will choose to do and how the scene will play out, especially when you realize Saitou alone is going to deal with the bombing. Will Zanza fight Saitou again, a la the stupid fight with Kenshin in the stupid anime?? That sort of thing.

But, no. Zanza does not fight Saitou again a la the stupid fight with Kenshin in the stupid anime. Just as in canon, he’s figured out that Katsu’s idea is a bad one, and he does whatever he must to stop his friend from going through with it. Saitou’s presence is incidental (and specifically conducive to his growing appreciation of Zanza and their bonding).

Saitou himself wishes Tokio were present, and as the author I kinda wish that too. Yeah, it would get in the way of the bonding, so obviously it couldn’t happen, but Tokio is very good at reading emotions, and that ability changes every scene she’s in. There were a number of reactions on Katsu’s part that Saitou simply missed but Tokio would have picked up on, making his thought process throughout this business clearer.

It was agony to have to leave those interpretations out of Saitou’s witnessing of the scene (actually I had to go back and delete a lot of them that I’d written without even realizing I’d done so), because the reader is left with so little idea of what’s going on in Katsu’s head and how he’s truly responding to Zanza’s urging. Then of course the scene in Katsu’s apartment doesn’t help at all, with him just sitting there mostly in silence like that.

The scene outside Katsu’s apartment, however, leaves me extremely satisfied. It’s a little more complex than it was in the original, giving the “Sano abandons being Zanza” moment the weight I think it deserves rather than brushing right past it the way the original did (as it did with so many other important scenes XD) Also the bonding is better this time around. I can’t wait to get to the part where Saitou thinks back on what they discussed over breakfast, because that’s going to be better too.

The aforementioned ignorance, on the reader’s part, of what’s going on in Katsu’s head led me to wonder whether I shouldn’t insert a description of Katsu’s thoughts here. I spent an entire week debating the matter.

To start out with, there are no Katsu POV sections in the original story, and adding one seems like a larger change than those I’ve enacted thus far — especially if I never do another one, so it ends up just sitting there all by itself the way lonely Katsu has most of his life. On the other hand, having one kindof opens the possibility of having more if I need them in future. There may be some spots — I know for a fact there’s at least one — where, because the story previously had chapters, one character’s POV happens twice in a row (previously as the ending of one chapter and the beginning of the next); it may be convenient to be able to insert a Katsu segment in there to separate them.

Next, I know I sometimes have a tendency to TELL EVERYTHING and leave nothing whatsoever to the reader’s imagination. Like, we don’t always need all the details about every freaking thing, you know? Is it really important to have a Katsu section here and hammer out every last bit of this part of the story? On the other hand, as mentioned above, the reader really doesn’t know what’s going on in Katsu’s head at this point, and elaborating on that is pleasant and informative. Plus, in the original, Katsu kinda… heel-faced here? Like, he changed his mind about his plans and forgave Sano for destroying them almost immediately, and that was kinda… silly. Giving him a POV so we can see how confused he is and the beginning of a thought process we know will end with him deciding to publish a newspaper feels more natural.

Also! (And you’ll notice I’ve come up with more pros than cons here, which is why this section ended up happening.) One of my major motivations in this story was to give the Zanza-Sano transition more pagetime than it was given in canon. The thought processes and emotions and resolutions Zanza went through after having his world shaken by Kenshin (or, in this case, Saitou) deserved more attention than they got. And at this juncture (as hinted at in the previous part), Katsu is having a similar if not parallel experience. I thought it only fair to give his crisis some time and detail, if not equal to Sano’s, at least something like what his got.

Lastly, I thought up a couple of little items for Katsu’s history that I really wanted to put in there. I just couldn’t resist. So I wrote the part. It’s pretty dense going without any action or dialogue, but that’s not really out of character for this particular fic, so I don’t mind. And it’s pretty sweet and sad, too, what with the whole “Sano and Sagara were my only family and I live in the dark” theme. Poor Katsu.

TLY — I think the type of villain I’ve written for this first book is one I would kinda rather have saved for a later installment, but there’s no changing him now. A first book’s villain can do with being pretty straightforward and easily understood, but this guy isn’t, so much. In fact my main character spends a lot of time agonizing over what the hell his motives and desires might be. Too bad!

I decided to switch to chapterless for this book and any others in the series. I thought about it a lot, and I believe the chaptered format adds nothing in this case. Of course I’ve kinda started to think that about every book evar, so there you go XD I’ll retain my list of chapter titles (the ones I’ve come up with, which is 17/28 of them) just in case I want to switch back, but this is happening.

Chapters are a strange and arbitrary device in the first place, and it kinda weirds me out that they (and titles for them!) seem to be considered more essential in children’s or young adult literature. Like, younger people can’t deal with long books without chapters, but as you get older you get a handle on things? That’s silly.

I’ve gotten into some really important endgame content lately, and it’s hella exciting. I feel freer without chapters already.

BTW, that email to my sister about the cover illustration? Not finished yet. It’s very tedious to write, and will probably be very tedious for her to read as well XD

Blood Contingency part 19 — Regardless of whether a story has numbered chapters, titled chapters, short chapters I arbitrarily refer to as “parts,” or just scenes divided by asterisks or something in place of chapters, I have a little ritual when I set out to write one. It’s simple and brief and very obvious, but no less important for that: I ask, “What does this chapter aim to accomplish?” That is to say, “What is the point of this chapter?”

And when there’s an entire laundry list of answers — “1) Convey certain information about vampires, 2) Establish that Joe has a positive emotional reaction to Sano’s presence, 3) But that he’s also still uncomfortable around him, 4) Start to establish a new domestic relationship between the two, 5) And lay the groundwork for future interactions, 6) Convey some details that will be important for Megumi stuff later, 7) Give indications of how Sano’s character has changed and why he is the way he is now, 8) And how much hope there may be for him, 9) And show Joe’s reaction to that” — the chapter tends to be very easy to write. It may sometimes turn into the conversation checklist problem, but that’s a different matter. It’s when I reply to that all-important question, “Uhh…” that I’ve got some tedious work to do.

Anyway, I think this part is really sweet. Joe’s tentatively getting to know Sano all over again, learning about Sano’s new life and world, and it really is, as he points out at the end, like a first date. I’m extremely pleased with it, and believe I did well hitting all those points on my list up there :D

Blood Contingency part 20 — OK, I don’t actually have all that much to say about this part specifically, but in general here… maintaining these two different stories is fucking hard, man! I anticipate its becoming harder, too; every time I go through my summary I think, I could sure use just one more even-numbered part in here. But I absolutely cannot have one if I don’t have another odd-numbered part (the story is planned to end on odd except for an epilogue, and that can’t be altered), and the odd-numbered parts are not likely to want to expand enough for that. I mean, we’ll see, of course, but I am kinda holding my breath as I move forward here to see if I can squeeze into the available space.

November Quick Fics — I think I’d actually better do an individual write-up for each of these. All I really have to say about the activity as a whole is that I had fun and I’ll try it again next year.

Time For This — I haven’t done a lot of this kind of “give me prompts” writing thing, mostly because it’s never worked very well in the past. But every time I have tried anything of the sort, I’ve found that my first output is always… awkward. As if “writing a story for an activity” is somehow so different from “writing a story not for an activity” that I can’t get a handle on it right away. It’s kinda funny, really. I mean, seriously, why is this difficult all of a sudden? Have I not written plenty of Saitou & Sano fics before? XD

Well, the answer to that last question is glaringly obvious in this piece, since I copied bits and pieces of quite a few of them to write this. And I think I took an overall feel from, rather than one of my own stories, the unfinished fic Zombie Girl was writing once upon a time for which I drew these three pictures, despite its setting and style of organized crime being completely different from this one’s.

Despite all of that, this piece is cute. Some of those elements I recycled are among my favorites of Saitou & Sano fiction: Saitou worried about Sano’s safety, Sano eager to help him with whatever he’s doing, Sano’s moral state improving due to his proximity to Saitou, and so on. The day is distant yet when I won’t enjoy writing or reading about Saitou and Sano in infinite minute variations on the same themes over and over and over and over and over…

It’s Curtains For You — I hope never to fall into the trap of thinking that a character simply acting differently than usual can be a sole basis for entertainment (looking hard at you and your constant betrayal of Spock, STTOS writers), but I have to admit it’s fun to orchestrate situations that bring out different (already extant) sides of Saitou.

Playing with him right at the beginning of what he obviously sees as a long-term relationship with Sano — when he’s still in that giddy (for Saitou) new-relationship mood, willing to make allowances during the course of his own business, going a lot easier on Sano before returning to his standard level of harshness and uprightness — is extremely engrossing. It’s fun to watch Saitou having fun. And of course it’s always the best thing in the world to give little hints about how much they love each other and how great the coming years are going to be for them.

Prison of Their Own Making — Oh, man, what an adorable little thing this is! I know I enjoy writing just, like, real-life stuff happening, but I had no idea this would be so much fun or turn out so damn cute. I’m very glad my mom thought of the prompt for this. (She only even did it because I was expressing concerns about not getting enough prompts, and she had to have the whole activity explained to her first, and then she kept coming up with prompts that would have resulted in novels instead of ‘quick fics’ XD)

I’ve never written RPF before, nor felt inclined to, nor probably ever will again on this scale, but when it comes to Harry Potter (books, obviously, not movies), I am full of ideas. Ideas that, again, I will probably never write, but the point is that I have a headspace ready for Harry-Potter-related fic, and, as mentioned above, I love writing this kind of real-life stuff. So this was a great experience for me, unexpected and unusual though it was.

Unboxing Party — And this is one of the cutest damn things I’ve ever written, hands down, and probably my favorite of these November fics. Can I point out that Saitou wasn’t entirely on board with his own plan, but went through with it anyway for Sano’s sake? And that they’ll be sharing a suit as well as fucking handkerchiefs monogrammed with an ‘S’?????? I’m still drowning in fangirl squee over this story I wrote.

Part of it is definitely the unboxing, though. There’s just something so satisfying about this opening of multiple packages each with a lovely surprise within. In general, gift-giving is a really delightful trope, and I could stand to write more of it. But of course, beyond that, it’s the deep and eternal love of Saitou and Sano, my forever favorites *__*

An Unexpected He Could Deal With — “Hilarity ensues” is an evil and deceitful phrase, because it only ever gets applied to situations that couldn’t possibly lead to hilarity. As such, I didn’t truly fulfill the prompt with this one, though I did wrack my brains trying to come up with a scenario that fit.

The problem was that for hilarity to properly ensue, I would have to betray Katsu. I would have to make him transient in his political agenda or his artistic endeavors or something along those lines. To keep him as serious as canon would dictate he be about anarchy required a far more serious story than would ever lend itself to hilarity. So I made the best I could of what I had, and ended on a note of confusion rather than abandonment of principles. It’s kindof a cute story.

Youma — One of these days I really need to make a definitive list of the stories I’ve written that have made me cry. As a matter of fact, let’s do that right now. To the best of my memory, they are as follows:

* And the Moments Drift Like Snow (It’s a crappy fic, or at the very least the sequel to an extremely crappy fic, but that “if you– if you still love me” moment gets me every freaking time.)

* Condition of Learned Helplessness (The ending where Kenshin takes charge of his own destiny but it hurts because secretly he may actually be in love with abusive Saitou? Yikes, man.)

* Seeing Red (KAORU IS SO STRONG AND SO HURT.)

* Sano and Kaoru’s Phone Log (In-progress and a HoH story, so dealing with exactly the same tragedy as Seeing Red.)

* Blood Contingency (This one’s a no-brainer, methinks.)

and finally

freaking Youma.

That’s a damn lot of stories to make me cry for someone that likes happy endings. Of course, I’m also someone that cries over literally everything in life, so actually that’s damn few stories compared to the number of stories I’ve written XD And I feel there are probably one or two more I’m not remembering, too.

The point is that Youma made me cry while I was writing it. The bonding of these two brilliant women for more reasons than just the romantic and the sexual (though those were good too!) was just too much for me. psjk apparently teared up while reading it, and that touched me deeply because it was exactly the same reaction I had to writing it.

It is, of course, the first active-pairing Kaoru & Megumi fic I’ve written, and as such I spent extra time and effort on it (though I didn’t necessarily intend to going in). I think it’s a great debut in the pairing, even if nobody but psjk read it or ever will read it, and I’m excited to write more of them. I’ve liked the idea of together for a while, but only with Youma did I realize their potential for serious OTP status.

There’s always the question of which long RK fic I’ll get into next when any of my big three are finished, and at the moment I’m inclined to think it’ll be one with them as the main pairing (with Saitou & Sano on the side, of course :D) In fact just today I got started on the detailed summary for that one, so………..

Stumped — I don’t remember at what point I stopped watching MLPFiM… somewhere near the end of season 4, I believe. It always had excellent potential and interesting characters, but consistently poor execution and at times some irritatingly problematic elements. That doesn’t mean I don’t have several fic ideas I never wrote and never will write kicking around, though. Mostly Discord & Pinkie Pie, but side pairings abounded, you know?

Anyway, I’ve never really shipped Applejack and Spike — I tend to like A.J. with Rarity best, or as MY VERY OWN WAIFU — but I know brother is fond of them together, so I wasn’t surprised when he gave me a story prompt concerning them. I did not, however, do any research at all in order to write it; it’s entirely from memory, and obviously set during some early season I’ve actually seen.

Its layout is very, very typical of my writing in general and an initial foray into an idea in specific. As such, it’s just OK: nothing to write home about, though I don’t think it’s particularly bad. Maybe a little boring. I did have fun with that stump, though.

Getting this prompt immediately in the wake of the big bad news in the RK fandom made for an interesting challenge. Of course it would always have been important for me to establish that a Spike involved (or in this case just interested) in romantic relationships has the emotional maturity of a young adult no matter how Twilight refers to him, despite retaining some childish mannerisms at times that may simply be the poor writing of the show (of which there is no shortage), but just at the moment I wrote this story it was absolutely, painfully crucial to make this point to my own satisfaction.

I don’t know whether I made it convincingly for others (though if Applejack’s musings on the subject in the story don’t do it, I’ll point to series evidence of how long dragons live and what kind of span their “childhoods,” proportionally speaking, must have), but since I don’t expect an audience for this fic, and, as I mentioned, I satisfied myself on the matter, I’m cool with it. And actually two people read this story, which was not something I anticipated! Hopefully they both took away a non-pedophilic vibe from it.

I Like Your Face — The idea for this fic sprang fully formed like Athena from my brain when I read the prompt, and that’s always very exciting. Technically Saitou is perfectly stoic when Shishio orders Sano gunned down during the Rengoku scene (though in the anime he does, at least, smile when he sees how Sano deals with the problem), but I’ve always read more into his expression than is actually there… and building this story up around that was an instant draw for me :D

The idea that Sano would go so far as to claim he’d slept with Megumi to achieve his goal is absolutely horrible, and it’s terribly unkind of me to have made him do that; but at the same time, that he would go so far in order to see a new expression on a face he loves is also kinda sweet. He’s an idiot, but he loves his man.

P.S. Is this set in the same continuity as Youma? Probably.

Forgivably Wrong — Remember how I worried a little that Tokio might steal the show in Naked Rooftops? I love my Tokios and I will never complain if they are interesting, but sometimes they do rather threaten the spotlight that’s supposedly fixed on Saitou and Sano. And the one in this story makes me chortle. I’m so glad I thought of her.

Actually I kinda really really want a visual lineup of all my Tokios that I can add to whenever I come up with a new one. Like, wouldn’t it be cool to commission a different artist for each one but have them all standing in a line together? And then get a new commission for each new Tokio???? When I am finished with the current batch of commissions I’m saving money for, I’ma have to think about that…

This hasn’t really been about Forgivably Wrong, has it? Well, Forgivably Wrong is coming along OK. Still kinda slow, but steady. I’ve heard that wins the race.

Merpoleon — Here are the last two progress shots; obviously the finished piece is already posted.

I got lazy near the end and just stopped taking progress shots, so you don’t get any idea of how his hair progressed. The details on the medallion and the buttons are less important.

Seriously, the hair was the second moment of “oh, shit, this really brings it all together,” and I wish I’d gotten some progress shots of it. But I was so tired of the project by then, I didn’t even have energy to take pictures XD Ah, well. All done now.

Uhura — For my first real Star Trek fanart, I consider this picture a success. I do have some issues with it, though. It’s one of those pieces I started drawing very casually, thinking it would just be a sketch and therefore not worrying about composition much… and that’s sad, because I put a lot more work into it (and think it turned out a lot better!) than I had anticipated, and it could have been a better piece if I’d just planned it out a little.

I was also originally planning to… OK, have I described the process? I don’t have a name for it. It involves the same picture twice with different colors and then combineytimes. However, I liked the shading/coloring I did on her face so damn much that I couldn’t bear to change it at all, so I only ended up doing combineytimes for the nebula (which turned out great, by the way).

In hindsight, though, her mouth needs more delineation. It bugs me more every time I look at the picture.

That nebula tho

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