PL: BC part and drawing, HR chapter and interlude, ASZz, Kamatari, TLY, not feeling like stuff, Nine Decades

Blood Contingency part 20 — I am not entirely satisfied with this part. I don’t know whether it was more having Christmas and New Year right in the middle of concocting it or issues inherent to the layout of the story (they definitely contributed; see below), but even after some significant wrestling with it, I’m still not very fond of it. Sometimes, though, you just have to post and move on and trust you can take care of the problem with subsequent edits. It’s one of the mixed blessings of this type of publication.

I could still really use at least one more even-numbered part. That’s part of the reason this one was almost twice as long as the chapter standard: I wanted to get through the entirety of this scene in one go, where it would have been smoother to divide it in half, all the way up to the burning of Sano’s hand. Next time we’re going to jump forward by, like, a week, and I needed to get them into position for that. But I would have preferred just a little more time to do it. Ah, well.

Blood Contingency title picture — I’ve been working on this droring easily as long as I’ve been working on this Productivity Log. Part of the problem, oddly, has been the new desk; it’s not nearly as convenient to work on visual art with this setup, and completely impossible to do anything bigger than what will fit on a clipboard. I need that draft table!!

I used double-sided color for this piece in an attempt to achieve a bloody atmosphere, and I’m afraid it didn’t work very well. Way back when I started the double-sided color thing, it was fantastic… but somehow I’ve lost touch with my own technique, and it never seems to work anymore. Here are both sides of the picture:

I believe the problem is that the B-side is supposed to be more general and have stronger contrast than what I’ve been coming up with in my later double-sided attempts. Here I’ve just drawn the exact same thing all over again, and gotten hair-strand detailed. I’ll have to try something else and see if I can’t recapture the old glory.

I do like the finished product pretty well nonetheless, though. In any case it’s an adequate title picture. Obviously it’s not a literal representation of anything that happens in the story, since it’s clearly Saitou and not Joe. Oh, is that a spoiler? Yeah, spoiler: Sano never actually bites Saitou. But that’s fine; it conveys the idea, “Sano is a vampire interested in biting Saitou” XD

Now that I’m finally done with that thing, I can work on another (clipboard-sized) picture I’ve been not working on for, like, 8 months. What I can’t work on is the next big project I have lined up. I need that draft table! It’s going to be a few more paychecks before I can afford it, though, and I may have to get a new computer first. This poor thing is… suffering.

Heretic’s Reward chapter 30 — The original plan was to have this chapter include Sano’s final report (in fact it was going to be called “Final Report”) and the conversation about what-all he’s found out and what they need to do next, but obviously his nightmaring and moping and then the discussion with Hajime and beginning to grasp the truth took too long. I don’t regret it; that’ll give Chapter 31: Final Report plenty of time to touch on all of Sano’s points, let him admire Hajime properly for the first time, deal with his adjusted perspective on Tokio, and get to another Big Reveal in leisurely fashion.

It was great to finally get to the fact that Tokio is Hajime’s sister. I think the only other story still up on the archive where I’ve pulled this stunt is Plastic (in which Heero and Relena are siblings), but it’s something I’ve done or at least planned on doing pretty frequently: completely erasing the traditional pairing by making them related (and uninterested in incest, of course). It’s a nice way to allow for closeness and mutual support without having to deal with the possibility of romance.

Of course Tokio in His Own Humanity is a cat, so maybe that counts as well…

I love all my Tokios, and this one is no exception. I like having a strong religious figure to contrast with Hajime’s agnosticism or atheism (even he isn’t sure which it is), which of course parallels the influence of Sano’s father in his life (and Yahiko, to a certain extent, though he’s more a foil to both guys than just Sano).

But more than that, I like having this badass Tokio around whose faith was only strengthened by a miserable experience with a corrupt church official and who essentially bullied the king into allowing her to jump to the head of the church in response to that corruption. She’s awesome, if I do say so myself, and she does good work, and I think she’s also a great mom to Eiji.

(Yes, please excuse me while I fangirl all over my collection of my own versions of a historic figure we know almost nothing about and that was only mentioned one time in the canon I’m writing fanfiction of.)

Heretic’s Reward >27 Interlude — I like this little story. I’ve been more interested in the Dead Four lately, thanks to friends on tumblr, and I wanted to show this first meeting and how Shikijou ended up as a dedicated Misao devoted serving under Aoshi, and hint at why Shikijou is so loyal to him in this context.

It got a little more positively religious than I was entirely pleased with, but I’m letting it stay that way because it’s another good contrast to the heresy of the main characters. And, as Shikijou himself reflected in the narration, the spiritual experience he had in that shrine could very well have been due to his reaction to Aoshi, or some special ability of same, rather than actual divine power. There’s still room for doubt, which is very important in Heretic’s Reward. Heretic’s Reward is not about certainty.

I’m picturing Hyottoko and Beshimi as Shikijou’s “guys,” but not Hannya. Obviously Hannya’s around, however (as implied by the devoted that mentioned “those four men he brought with him”), and how he got involved in this and why he’s loyal to Aoshi is still a mystery! Probably destined to remain one, too, since Shikijou is kinda the member of focus of the Dead Four in this story. They’ll have another cameo later (probably), but I don’t think we’ll be seeing much more of them in detail.

Aku Soku Zan(za) — There are some places in this rewrite where I’ve considered making much larger-scale changes than just reworking the prose and giving more attention to certain concepts only touched upon briefly in the original. At around this part in the story, for example, I’m overcome with a sneaky longing for a real, lengthy rivalry between Saitou and Tokio over Sano.

I often resolve conflicts too quickly and easily and avoid certain types of tension and confrontation in my stories, and I think that tendency is very much borne out in the way this part of the story goes. It might be very interesting to have the tension between Tokio and Saitou dragged out and their relationship truly strained as they compete for Sano’s attention without ever openly admitting to each other that they’re doing it. It might build up some really good emotions to watch Sano developing an interest in Saitou while involved with Tokio and then finding himself torn when the true nature of his feelings came to light.

However, this would involve too much major rewriting of what I think is a decent setup that doesn’t really need to be tampered with. So we’re sticking with getting the Sano & Tokio thing out of the way relatively quickly in order to move on to a fairly slow-building Katsu & Tokio and Saitou & Sano thing (i.e. the ultimate interpersonal goal of the story). Too-quick conflict resolution is worth it in this case, I believe.

That doesn’t mean I’m not still pretty damn interested in a real rivalry story with a similar setup, though. Maybe someday…

About Kamatari — Because the Dead Author of Rurouni Kenshin, like so many other writers, didn’t seem to have any idea what he was talking about and conflated gender identity with sexual orientation, Kamatari’s specific identity is left largely up to reader interpretation. And for almost twenty years, the interpretation I’ve gone with has been that Kamatari is a gay, cisgender transvestite man. This was because certain moments in the manga seemed to indicate (though never definitively prove) it was the case, and because I wasn’t happy with the idea of changing the only confirmed gay representation in the series.

Now, however, other interpretations that I also always considered valid seem more desirable in light of the following points:

* I give far less of a shit these days about what Dead Author meant with anything he did. Even if he had a clear concept of Kamatari’s gender identity in mind (which I doubt), I really don’t care any more what that might have been.

* I’m writing most of the characters as gay anyway, so Kamatari needn’t be considered the only representation along those lines — and therefore needn’t actually be gay (e.g. could just as easily be a straight trans woman, a type of person that gets far less representation in general). And it’s not like Kamatari was ever particularly good gay representation in canon, what with, as the only explicitly gay character, being a villain in the the first place, repeatedly played for humor in the second, and then shipped off to Europe in a not-exactly-happy ending in the third.

* Kamatari’s canon orientation and gender presentation seems to be largely caught up in what will appeal most to the supposedly heterosexual Shishio. Dead Author always had a reprehensible habit of making the lives of female-presenting characters revolve almost exclusively around the men close to them, and this was yet another example of that. I greatly prefer the idea of Kamatari presenting as female because that’s what’s most comfortable and right to Kamatari wearing women’s clothing solely because Shishio might like it better.

So the long and the short of it is this: I’m not going to write cisgender Kamatari anymore. Specific gender identity may vary from story to story, but it will no longer be “gay transvestite dude.” I don’t think I’m likely to go back and change older pieces, since, as I implied above, I still consider that interpretation valid… I’m just moving on to interpretations I feel are better in general.

Also fuck Dead Author and lack of real consequences for monstrous behavior.

TLY — I reached linear completion on the first book in this series. I’m feeling pretty confident about future installments, so I’m less reluctant to make references to ‘the series,’ heh. Still don’t know that I’ll put the series title on the first edition(s) of the book(s), though, just to be on the safe side. (The problem, which I forget whether I’ve mentioned in the past, is that the series title has to do with a specific length of time that may not actually get completely covered if I don’t manage to write as many books as planned. If I’m eventually forced to change the series title, it’ll suck to have it on the books XD)

There were two scenes I skipped writing as I was going along, and since reaching linear completion I have inserted one of them. There’s also a couple of lines of dialogue that are just sitting there completely blank, with placeholder quotation marks around an empty space, because I couldn’t think what I wanted the characters to say at the time. And after I get all that filled in I have a lengthy list of changes I want to make before I can even try to assess the thing as a whole and see what other large-scale amendments need to happen. I’ve never written a novel-length story in this manner before — not preparing every chapter or segment for individual consumption via serial publication, but plowing through the entire thing all in one go before anyone’s read any of it — so this is a new experience for me.

However, the day I hit LC, I did listen to the entire thing from beginning to end. I keep my read-aloud program at a really fast setting, but it still took 7-8 hours and it was long past my bedtime when I finished. But the point is that I enjoyed the full story as much as I’ve been enjoying the partial story all along, and I didn’t feel there were any glaring issues in construction. We’ll see what impression I get next time, though.

Anyway, it’s currently clocking in at 120k words, which I think is a decent ballpark estimate for the finished product. I’ve still got that last scene I want to insert, but my writing always gets a damn sight shorter in editing.

I’m very excited and happy about this. It never ceases to intrigue me how attached I become to settings and characters… and in this case I invented them all far more than usual XD

Not feeling like stuff — Of course everything I do around here — writings, drawings, AEL’s, PL’s, und so weiter — I do because I value it and get some kind of fulfillment from it. But sometimes, like anyone, I just don’t feel like working on something. And at those times, other people’s value for the shit I do tends to fill in the gap. “I don’t feel like working on such-and-such, but I know some people are interested in it, so I’ll work on it anyway.”

So you can probably see the problem that arises when “I don’t feel like working on such-and-such today” collides with “nobody besides me gives a shit about such-and-such.”

I haven’t felt like working on Blood Contingency part 21 lately, and no other motivator has stepped in to make it happen. I thought I’d just skip ahead to the next ASZz segment and get back on this half-finished BC part next time it comes up in the rotation (and I may still do that), so I reread the previous bit of ASZz and the old version of this next part, and I thought, Damn, this next part is really good; it’ll be a pretty smooth and quick rewrite! Only then I didn’t feel like working on that either, nor that anyone particularly gives a shit about that story either.

I will get back in the groove and feel like working on these stories again — I always do — and I am aware that my nobody-gives-a-shit attitude is unfair to the one incredibly supportive person that comments on all these RK stories and the hypothetical others that also read them (hey, these fics do have some kudos on AO3). It’s just when these two frames of mind coincide that the result is me fucking around in RPG Maker all day instead of writing one single word of the day’s scheduled story. And that sucks.

Nine Decades — This is one thing I did feel like working on recently, somewhat surprisingly (and very fortuitously, since literally nobody does give a shit about this project, so it’s got only my own interest to move it along XD). And I finally reached linear completion on the first (and second-to-last-to-be-written) story in the collection.

This first story is agitating and unhappy, not only because of its specific events but because Duo’s definitely still very bitter about Trowa and the curse at this point. Do I have any desire to go in and change things so the very first story in the collection, the piece that sets the tone for the whole, isn’t quite so miserable? Not really.

The whole collection is bittersweet at best, and, though it does get more optimistic as the decades pass (though in part only because the reader knows the curse will be broken just two years after the final Nine Decades story), and there are some funny and cheerful moments, it’s probably best to start out as we mean to continue. (Especially since the 1930’s story is a FUCKING STAB TO THE HEART if I do say so myself, and it’s better to be somewhat braced for that.) And the theme of the first story is definitely preparatory for the nature of the collection.

I still think these stories represent some of the best writing I’ve ever done, and I’m frustrated already in anticipation of how few people are ever going to read them. I’m going to advertise the shit out of the collection — I’m not putting HoH back up on AO3 until it’s had its turn to be edited, but I may prioritize that a bit higher in order to get Nine Decades up there along with the rest of it — but advertising doesn’t seem to work very well for me.

I see a lot of tumblr posts like, “Hey, guys, you need to leave feedback for stories you enjoy!” and, “Here’s a shoutout to the authors that don’t get feedback!” and, “Mad appreciation for fanfiction writers who pour their hearts and time and effort into these stories we enjoy!” But you know what? These posts are not the same as actually getting feedback, and in fact seeing them just disheartens me all the more because a post about the need for feedback can get 100,000 notes on tumblr while my 400,000 words of fic on AO3 get 40 comments. But I think I’ve complained enough on this topic for today. Probably for all time. I can’t ever seem to stop being petting and demanding about this.

The point is, Nine Decades is damn good, and at least I recognize that. It’s going to have the ultimate set of kickass illustrations, too. I can’t wait.

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