Looking over fields

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I’m not sure if I’ve used this analogy before, but when I was given the offer to move to Tokyo and take over the Asian division of my company, I likened it to standing on a hill, overlooking fields.

You know that you have to build a city there, but no-one is going to tell you what to do. It’s all up to you; succeed or fail, it’s all your call.

It’s exhilarating and scary at the same time. You have total dominion over what is about to happen there.

But then, when you start, you find out that you are restricted in some ways. A river might run through your perfect housing district. And you can’t put any factories upstream of your commercial districts as the run-off will deter visitors. That kind of thing.

 

Anyway, I used to love games like Sim City, Sim Any, Civilization… but I think one of my all-time favorite games would have been the Dungeon Keeper series. Once I had gotten the hang of it, I would try to make the central part of my dungeon as efficient as possible, whilst taking an artistic, maze-like flair with the approaches so as to confuse enemies. For those of you that haven’t managed to have the life-altering experience of Dungeon Keeper, there are a few “Lets Plays” on Youtube. Or you can probably pirate it somewhere. I’ve bought both full games thrice (maybe more) so that should absolve your conscience. Or maybe it’s free these days. I don’t know.

 

Ok, I’m getting way off track.
Even though The Zemlya Conspiracy has had only a very mild response, I feel compelled to write a sequel. Sure, I might end up abandoning it to write a comic version of “Run” (should I ever find an artist that wants to work with me on that kind of subject. Can you imagine Weee’s cute art doing shape-shifting zombies? Maybe I’ll ask her…),  but for now it’s on my mind.

And again, I’m looking over an empty field. There are a few geographical features that I can’t change (the “truths” of TZC), but there are a lot of ways I can take it. For instance, I was thinking about just not returning to Kate and Dani. I love them, and I think Dani could be more interesting if I worked on her… but then again, I don’t have to. (Current thinking, however, has them in there).

 

I wrote a few weeks ago about getting Scrievener to help with the writing. I’ve been using it for a bit, and it’s great for jotting down ideas, building out characters… pretty much everything about writing except for, well, actually writing. I think I’ve done about 10,000 words of work and only 500 of those are actual ‘script’. Anyway, pre-planning now should hopefully mean that there is a lot more consistency when it comes to the main novel. I’m feeling good about it. I played with the different threads that I want to tie together – the only thing I need to work out now is some killer action scenes, as it seems that this is what people liked the most (after the characters).

Oh shit, I just remembered that I was going to stop writing about writing and start talking about culture.

 

Well, the other thing that I am going to use Scrivener for is a non-fiction book that I’m going to write called “The Invisible Rule-book,” which will go into what I’ve learned about doing business in Japan. I would think that I was pretty qualified to set up a business here, and I did a lot of research on the topic. Yes, I’ll admit that I did also kinda scoff at some of the books and say “Man, this surely only applies to old school Japan…”.

Turns out I was wrong. There is definitely an order to things here, and if you don’t follow the rules, you’ll get kicked in the guts. So I want to possibly help someone avoid that in the future.

 

So, I’ll head back to writing now, but I wanted to leave a couple of questions here: it would be great if I could get your answers in the comments (and, of course, sharing this wherever you can always helps!):

  • Are there any particular cultural things that you wanted to know about Australia, Japan, Germany, or South East Asia?
  • Am I posting enough or not enough about TZC in various social channels? I’ll admit that 90% of the social media I look at (like /r/katawashoujo) is KS-related, and I feel guilty hijacking those forums?
  • Is there anything that you’d like to see in TZC2? Was it really the action scenes that were enjoyable or would you prefer a more “thriller” kind of thing (less fights but more “oh shit he’s gunna get found out” moments)?
  • Are there any artists that wanna do Run as a comic?

 

Last point: I was looking for an image of “fields” and was thinking about Shirakawa-go, but instead I found the “featured image” that you see here. It was a park bench in a private Japanese Garden in Kyoto. However I think you may have seen it before.

Happy 2017!

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Wow, what a week. It started with a trip to my inlaws for Christmas and me feeling incredibly emo about Zemlya, and now it ends with a nice start to 2017.

If you don’t know, the end of the year also brings with it Comiket; the biannual comiket market in Tokyo. Each event attracts about 500,000 people over the three days, and I would say that at least 50,000 of that number is made up of creators. Almost all of the works available there are self-published, and it seems that practically no-one makes any money.

Here’s an 8-minute clip from Lucky Star that sums it up nicely:

Now, I know what you’re thinking; that this is just an exaggeration for television. I can tell you that it isn’t. If you’re hard-core (or, as it has become known within 4LS, ‘Surikocore’) you will be sitting in the cold from about 5 am, waiting to get into the halls and purchase the latest artbooks, doujin manga, and merchandise.

To give you an example of the lines, check the image below. This is the line inside the halls. These are the creators that are lining up to buy other creator’s items. The ‘normal’ people coming into the halls are waiting outside. We had someone come to the 4LS table within 90 seconds and, I shit you not, there were people lining up at Weee’s table before we were allowed to start selling. It took only 2 seconds to sell 4 copies each of her book, Dreamer (a short novel in English and Japanese based on the short story on this blog), and VCR’s collab artbook.

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This is the line in one single hall. There are 11 halls in total…

Everything moves at a crazy pace, and by 1300 pretty much everyone is sold out. But those three hours (1000-1300) are intense. It feels like it’s about 1800 by the time you can stop to take a breather. And the people buying are the same. One of our team managed to hit up 30 stalls in less than 90 minutes (and that is after waiting in line for 4 hours in freezing conditions).

But the attitude there is amazing. It’s a battle, to be sure (one person called it the equivalent of a mosh pit), but everyone is pretty well mannered. The crowds (generally) behave in an orderly manner, people line up correctly (and, more importantly, don’t try and take your spot if you have to hop out for a bathroom break etc) and at the end of the day you can see all the little purchasing teams sitting together and trading their loot.

The greatest thing for me was that I managed to sell 150 copies of Dreamer (at printing cost + booth fees) and 24 copies of Zemlya. That means a lot to me as it is more paperbacks than have been sold in the three months that Zemlya has been on sale. At the same time, the Christmas promotion for Zemlya added another 200 or so downloads, so I hope that this will revive some interest. Maybe. If it is good enough to share that is. And for those of you worried about “buying” 4LS stuff; don’t worry. We didn’t make any profit on Dreamer and I am still in the red for Zemlya! We are still mainly doing this for the fun of it (although Weee and Raide have both managed to launch careers off KS).

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The “Soft Hour” copy that you can see in the back is signed but the Devs/Artists that were present at the show. It’s up for grabs on the /r/KatawaShoujo subreddit!

So, in an attempt to start 2017 on a positive note, I’m happy to report that I’m feeling a little bit less emo about my abilities. I’ll probably put out another short story for Summer Comiket (and hopefully get one of the artists to illustrate it!) and I’ve now put pen to paper on Zemlya 2.

I’ve also decided that I’m going to try and stop doing shitty blog posts about how emo I am and start doing more interesting posts about living in Japan and travelling around the world. I’d love to hear if you have any requests, e.g. “How do you register for Comiket?” “How is X country different from Country Y?” or “is it safe to get a massage in Singapore?”

2016 was a year of extreme highs, lows, stresses and excitment for me. And I hope that 2017 is the same, for me and for you.

 

 

 

Resolutions (I’m putting these here as public declarations are more likely to be followed):

  • No more Emo blog posts – only commentary on my travels/cultural experiences
  • Get more out at Comiket
  • Re-apply myself at work
  • Try and write more and watch crappy youtube less

Merry Christmas! (Free Book)

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Hello everyone!

In the spirit of Christmas, I’m letting you download The Zemlya Conspiracy for free, so long as you do so before December the 27th (I’m not sure when it starts/ends due to timezones, hence the wide window).

https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B01LWUXA6U

 

What I would ask though is that you tell your friends about it, and, if you like it, then please leave a review. Please also share this on your various social media platforms as it will really help me out.

Of course, the paperback version will still be a paid item as it is an item that has to be printed. If you really like it I would appreciate it if you do actually buy the Paperback at some point.

Thanks for your support and best wishes for 2017.

Sequels are hard

So, I mentioned before that I bought Scrivener (and I think I can spell it now), which is a nice writing tool. It has all sorts of folders and colours and such that make you feel like you’re being productive and creative without the need to actually fill up a page (as you need to do when you use Word).

That being said, I kind of like the fact that I’m at least trying to be organised with my next works. I want to have a place that I can throw any idea and work on it with a little more process than just simply barreling along and then spending 9 months in editing. Plus, Word has turned on this “Grammerly” function now which keeps on reminding me that my writing is like speech, even when it’s dialogue (or that I’m using a passive voice instead of an active one, even when that gets better results in emails… whatever).

Side note: it would be really good if that advanced grammar checking would let you know if something were appropriate to a different culture. Could stop a lot of tensions in multi-nationals…

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The Scrivener interface

I’m getting off track. Anyway, I wanted to have some kind of structure and thinking about a possible Zemlya 2. I wanted to keep the focus on the drama within the City; what happens to those that are still around at the end of the story? And what would they do? Would anyone care?

And that’s when I realised why a lot of sequels suck. When you work on something original, you’re usually not planning to make a sequel, so the story can have things just happen that don’t seem to matter. You give your characters the appropriate motivations to move them through the plot, and that’s it.

So, when you start to make a sequel, you need to find a plot that makes sense in the universe you’ve created, and at the same time re-motivate your characters without having any major discontinuations in their behavior. It’s not that easy.

Another problem with me that I’m starting to face is that I usually start a story with a single scene or image. For Zemlya 1 it was Kate standing in the snow after killing a bunch of dudes and the (deleted) fight scene in the Depoc building. For Hanako’s route it was her sitting on top of the roof of the school looking out over Sendai (also cut). So when I’m trying to come up with a lot of ideas at once I start to think it is futile- especially when I have the restrictions on characters and plot as per the above.

 

The upshot is that I’m spending about as much time playing with the features of Scrivener (and there are a lot of them) as I am in actually thinking about a plot.

 

Oh well, at least I have a lot of time to think about what we want to do for C92 in summer…

 

The Creative Process

Just a warning here; I’ll probably be spoiling Zemlya, Katawa Shoujo or anything else here. I’ll put a break in shortly so that if you’re looking forward to those things that you won’t see anything that might turn your temper.

Then again, I think I’ve mentioned that I might spoil something only to not mention anything of note. So it’s up to you. Before you proceed, this is mostly a discussion about the tools I use when trying to write, and how I’m trying new things. That’s not really a spoiler unless you’re really into twist ending in blog posts. tl;dr I bought Scrivener and I’ll let you know how it goes.

Continue reading

Going to Comiket

I realise that my last post was kind of negative. And, I guess that is just kind of how I am. Sometimes I just brain dump here because I know that at least someone will hear it, and that there is only a minimal chance that anyone I work with will find it

 

But I need to be honest with you – I actually am pretty content with life. I’ve had a great run of luck (apart form the Zemlya results…) and I’ve now managed to experience a huge range of things. I should probably drop this fiction racquet and pick up autobiography. But that’s a little too pretentious for me.

Anyway, I’ll be at Comiket this winter, and Weee and I are working on an adaption of Dreamer for the 4LS booth.

 

Because I wanted to get rid of the negativity of the last post, I thought I’d post my comments (and my half-a-bottle-of-wine translation) for you. If you want the updated story, you’ll have to come by our booth at the show!

 

If you had told me 10 years ago that I would have a booth at Comiket, I would have called you a liar. And yet, here we are.

Being a part of 4LS has been a journey for me. When I left in 2009 I thought I would never return. So, even though this is only a short story, it feels good to be producing something with the team again. Unfortunately, I have more ideas that I have time to write them, but I hope that I can at least bring a few more ideas to life in future.

Of course, this wouldn’t have been possible without the support of you; the fans. The reason I write is because I want to make people “feel” like I do when I read a good book or watch a great drama. There is something about the raw emotion in fiction. We root for heroes even though we know they don’t exist. We gasp at the unexpected. We cry when our favourite characters are in pain.

That’s what I hope I can make you feel.

This is only a short story, but I hope to see you all again soon. If you want to get in touch please follow me on twitter @OneillCam or at https://cplcrud.wordpress.com

Thanks to @weee_desu for the illustrations, @ksjpproject for the translation and my friends at @fourleafstudios for providing the support for this work. You’re all great.

Cam “Cpl Crud” O’Neill

 

10年前、俺に「コミケットにブースにある」と言ったら、「あなたはあほじゃない?」と返事することでした。なのに、ここにいるでしょう。

Four Leaf Studiosに入ったから長い旅になりました。2009年辞めた時、絶対に戻らないと思いました。だからこの短編小説はなんか大事にしていました。4LSの皆様と一笑に働いてるのはすごく嬉しいです。俺の頭の中で、書ける時間があるより「Idea」がありますので、将来にまた小説を書ける可能性があると思います。

もちろん、ファンがいなっかたら、この短編小説を書くのは無理です。俺が小説を書くの理由は、他人が、素敵な本を読んだり、感動するのドラマを見たり、踊りたいおんがくを聞いたりしてる俺と同じの「感じ」をさせたいのことです。フィクションは、心からの感じを出せることです。この世界の中がいないの人を応援する。突然ことに喘ぐ。好きなチャラが傷着いたらなく。

あなた、そのことを感じさせたら喜びます。

今回、短編小説しかなかったが、また会えてほしい。連絡したいなら、俺のTwitter は@OneillCamとブログはhttps://cplcrud.wordpress.com です

絵を描いた@Weee_desu、小説を翻訳した@ksjpproject、応援してくれた@fouleafstudiosの友達に、まことに感謝しています。皆がいなっかたら、何も書けないことになるはずです。

Cam “Cpl Crud” O’Neill