WARNING! THERE WILL BE SPOILERS!
This post will make much more sense if you’ve already read the novel. Help out a little indie author and pick up a copy of her book (or books). You can find them on Amazon, CreateSpace, Smashwords, or my personal online store.
This past weekend, I had someone tell me they wouldn’t buy my books because one of the main characters is a woman who would be considered a lesbian by human standards. It’s really sad that the only thing that surprised me was that it hadn’t happened earlier (I’ve got a couple rejection letters from publishers and agents who freaked the fuck out about the inclusion of queer characters). I hesitated to apply labels to my characters genders and sexualities because in my books, that’s a very human thing to do. Hence my often saying “by human standards.” Shape shifters don’t tend to categorize orientations quite so much, or rather they’re not as important to them. That’s not meant to be some kind of cop-out: most shape shifters would be considered queer by our standards. I tried to make shape shifters somewhat different from humans, particularly when it comes to labels.
So yeah, if you take offense at equal rights (or if you hate intersectional feminism), my books will almost definitely rub you the wrong way. And chances are I will royally piss you off at some point on this blog 😀
Oh, another thing: I’m trying not to get into symbolism so much because I prefer to leave that up to the reader (and also, I don’t want to come off as massively pretentious. Symbolism isn’t something set into stone, there’s no right and wrong. No two people read a book in the same way. That’s part of the magic of reading a novel). I might think of something as symbolic of one thing while a reader may read it in a different way. That’s part of the dialogue between reader and author.
Onto the commentary (the return of scene breaks. YAY!) . . .
Page 138 – 139
Oh yeah, I really need to dial down the emotion a few notches. Interestingly, now that I have a better grasp of the overall story, I’m reading these scenes a little differently than I did originally. Adara’s anger is covering up her fear of her new employer: the series Big Bad. As readers of the series know, the Big Bad doesn’t like women in any kind of position of authority. He doesn’t like shape shifters either. Adara can feel the noose tightening around her neck every time she displeases him. She doesn’t realize yet that he has set her up to fail. It’s a rigged game. No matter what she does, Adara will lose.
I knew Onyx would have some kind of connection to Draco, the assassin believed to have killed Roan (Isis’ biological father). In the earliest draft, Onyx was his lover. This didn’t have the symmetry I wanted. So I changed it to Onyx being Draco’s daughter.
“It won’t undo the feeling of betrayal, Onyx” ~ another line that cracked me up when I wrote it. Gia will never pass up the opportunity to goad Onyx. She enjoys being an entitled asshole.
Assassins vs. thieves: this is an ancient rivalry among shape shifters. Thieves steal from everyone, including assassins and their clients. It is an extremely bad idea to get between an assassin and their money. Assassins have been known to hunt thieves for sport.
Onyx and Gia working together: in no universe would this be a remotely good idea. When I was in school, I noticed teachers (and even professors) had the tendency to assign students who hated each other to work together on projects. I never understood this. Occasionally, they found common ground. But more often than not, they found a whole new set of reasons to hate one another. Admittedly, I tend to lean towards cynicism.
Page 139 – 140
This is a short scene that changed completely during revisions. Originally, I had Adara summoning Blackjack (who entered through a mirror). While it was an interesting scene, it never read quite right. I thought it would be an interesting character print if the reader rarely “saw” Blackjack enter a scene. He’s a predator: you don’t know he’s there until it’s too late.
Blackjack is a bad dude. I think he was slightly younger in earlier drafts (it has been so long since I wrote this that I’ve forgotten a couple alterations). His being a pirate in the past was the result of word association: the first word that came to mind when I thought of “ruthless” was pirate.
The ring with the drop of blood in it: Blackjack enjoys his job. I have a very clear idea of whose blood it is, but I won’t tell. Readers can speculate to their heart’s content 🙂
Fuck, there’s another mistake: Blackjack would never break eye-contact.
New writers, here’s a bit of advice: don’t be insanely specific when it comes to weapons. Gun or knife will usually suffice. The more detail, the more distracting it will be and the more likely it will interrupt your narrative flow. Not to mention you’ll probably make a mistake or get something wrong and wind up looking like a jackass.
It’s cold again. Uh oh! 😀
Page 140 – 145
An Isis and Steve scene. I have a bit of a soft spot for Steve (which I’m fairly certain I’ve said about almost every character by now).
Isis refers to the town’s founder as “some random guy” because of course she does 🙂
This scene is meant to drop a few more clues about Steve before a fairly big reveal. Sprinkling clues throughout a narrative is a skill that you can only learn there a fuck ton of trial and error.
Like Isis, Steve isn’t really fond of being sedentary. He’s a very active individual.
When you write a book about shape shifters, every animal will be looked at as a potential shape shifter. As a writer, I always need to know which are and which aren’t, but I don’t always have to reveal it 😉
I wanted Steve to tease Isis a bit. I wrote a note to myself that the character should never seem dour, but I didn’t have many opportunities to show his sense of humor.
Isis is a little on edge. Learning a whole bunch of new things, including a ton of new dangers and threats to her life, is bound to have that effect.
I’m somewhat relieved at how easy the dialogue between Isis and Steve reads. I really wanted this to read as a genuine friendship. There has never been any kind of romantic attraction between these two characters nor will there ever be (by human standards, Steve is bisexual with a preference for men), but they are close and do love each other in the platonic sense of the word. Not all love is romantic and some of the strongest bonds are purely platonic.
This scene was a newer addition. After changing Isis’ occupation and editing out a character, I had to make a few adjustments and write a couple new scenes, including this one.
It’s funny that Steve is worried about Isis passing along information. Who the hell does she talk to aside from him and Shae?
When writing up her character profile, I made a note that Isis had a pitch black sense of humor.
Another important thing about Isis: she doesn’t like being touched. She only allows people she trusts to touch her, one of whom is Steve.
And Isis once again must run off, which she really isn’t pleased with.
Page 143 – 145
I went a bit wild with scene breaks (I’m actually having a bit of trouble coming up with things to write about).
Jet has a few human contacts. The majority of the human population has no idea shape shifters exist (outside of stories), but there are a few people who have passed down knowledge of their existence through the generations. And I just realized I explained that in the book.
Obviously Blackjack has been around for quite a while and Jet has been aware of him for years. I’ve really got to make a timeline of shape shifter ages (I have a general idea of them, but it never hurts to write that shit down).
Isis really has issues with authority. After this interaction, it’s not too difficult to believe she’s lost a few jobs. Jet takes it in stride. He’s always very patient with her. My favorite interaction between these two characters happens in book two, which I’m really looking forward to writing about.
Unlike most other shape shifters, Isis is almost completely desensitized to violent images. When she encounters it first-hand, it’s still disturbing to her (like in the factory at the beginning of the novel). For shape shifters, death is extremely upsetting, even more than it is for mortals. Violent deaths are horrific to them and so Jet is quite disturbed by Isis’ blase attitude towards it.
Assassins are extremely secretive for obvious reasons and a lot of older ones, like Blackjack, no one really knows how old they are. Not much is known about them outside their work.
And the big reveal [Spoiler! Steve is Isis’ protector, a shape shifter]. I had always planned this. It made sense that Jet would assign a protector to watch over Isis.
Character print: when guardians Appear, it’s usually in a flash of gold or silver light. When shape shifters Appear, it’s usually in a flash of dark blue light.
Page 146 – 147
This was originally set in a human hospital. Than I realize how nonsensical that would be. Guardians don’t often travel down to Earth, way too many risks.
Amethyst is another character I really love. I love healers. They fascinate me. Amethyst is the top healer in the Meadows. She doesn’t take shit and very few people would back-talk her.
Amethyst is one of the few guardians who has a duel job: she’s the head healer and also watches over the gem she’s named after. She’s one of the oldest guardians in the Meadows, around Adonia’s age (not thousands of years. My sense of time was a bit . . . off in this novel. I had so many ideas I wanted to get out that I kind of just tossed down random spans of time. Newer writers, don’t do that).
Only protectors personally connected to the guardians are allowed in the Meadows. Appearing is a very rare ability among protectors.
Having been friends with her for so long, Steve has developed an almost sixth sense for when Isis is going to do something dangerous. There’s no way he’s going to sit by when there’s an assassin hunting his friend.
And of course Isis chooses the most inopportune moment to go off on an errand 🙂
Page 148 – 150
This scene changed quite a lot. It was originally a lot more violent. Isis and Blackjack were in a full-on brawl at one point. Then I realized an assassin is going to be carrying a firearm at almost all times. It kind of makes it difficult to brawl when the opponent has a gun. That’s a brawl that’s going to end real quick.
The apartment is mostly empty. Isis is starting to embrace her new life and let go of the old one.
Okay, this sentence is probably not going to make any sense, but I’m going to try. This is a moving chess piece scene: something more is happening (behind the scenes, so to speak). I always wrote this scene as having been arranged for a very specific purpose. Blackjack was a bit of an unexpected hiccup, but the people “behind the scenes” were able to deal with it.
I stumbled across the song “Isis” and had to include it. It’s a fucking great song.
I love the way the confrontation starts. I had such a vivid picture in my mind of Isis reaching for the stereo, only for it to suddenly turn off.
Once again, Blackjack seems to appear out of thin air. He’s really toying with Isis in this scene. And as usual, Isis responds to danger by being a smartass. That’s kind of her thing.
I always tried to write Isis as bold, but not suicidal. She’ll never intentionally bait an armed opponent. If she sees a gun, Isis is going to use her mind to get out of the situation.
Isis does evolve quite a lot in book two. Right now, she’s still quite inexperienced and trying to get her feet under her. She’s a bit more inclined to hide and escape, particularly when confronted with an experienced assassin.
The mysterious man in the shadows returns. I will write a lot more about him in book two. I have always tried to write him similarly to how I’d write a ghost. He moves through the world without being noticed, only affecting certain people and situations.
Isis never looks a gift horse in the mouth. This mystery person has given her a way out, so she takes it.
And chapter eleven ends with a mini cliffhanger. Tomorrow I’ll get to write a bit more about Coop and his strange mannerisms 🙂
And thus ends chapter eleven commentary. I’m exhausted and about to drop. It’s time for bed. Hopefully, I’ll post tomorrow’s commentary just a bit earlier 😉
As always, questions and comments are welcome. Spammers can fuck right off.
Until next time . . .