WARNING! THERE WILL BE SPOILERS!
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I’ve been looking forward to writing this commentary since first embarking on this strange little project. A couple new characters are brought into the story, but I finally get to talk about my absolute favorite group of shape shifters: rebels! Rebels are shape shifters who don’t swear allegiance to the guardians. They don’t have as rigid a social structure as the other shape shifter groups. They’re technically led by Alpha, but leadership isn’t exactly something important to the rebels.
When thinking up the rebels, I tried to imagine the opposite of the protectors. Rebels aren’t interested in getting involved in conflicts that don’t directly affect them. The rebels kind of began with shape shifters who were disillusioned after the War of the Meadows (when shape shifters were pretty much used as canon fodder). They gradually broke away from the protectors and there has been strife between the two groups ever since. The rebels see the protectors as the servants of the guardians, little more than pets. Rebels are all about freedom and don’t like the idea of dying for a guardian cause, especially when the guardians refuse to shed their own blood or fight their own battles.
One thing I kept in mind when writing the rebels is that they’re the only shape shifter group who uses proper adoption terminology. Rebels see the individual, not the bloodline or history. Rebels come from a lot of different backgrounds, including quite a few adoptees and some have spent time in the foster system. Rebels recognize the practice of creating a family, which is something they practice.
Well, I’ll comment more on rebels throughout this commentary. Shall we?
Page 68 – 89
This might be the longest scene in the whole damn series!
This scene underwent a ton of rewrites and revisions (unsurprisingly). The Lair changed locations and forms a couple times. In its earliest incarnation, it was located in town and it was a more traditional club, except it had a glass floor (at one point there was a racing strip beneath the club, so patrons could watch races while clubbing. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t find a way to make this work). I came up with the idea of a hotel where every room contained a different desire. My imagination just went completely wild (I could probably write a novella just exploring the rebel Lair) 😀
When I changed the club to a renovated hotel, I moved it to the outskirts of town. I liked the idea of the rebels (and their patrons) being in their own world. In a manner of speaker.
Shae is so giddy with excitement in this scene. The other three really don’t share her enthusiasm 😉
Isis hasn’t had the greatest experiences at raves, as seen in book one. Needless to say, she’s not thrilled to be here.
Jade is a staunch protector. She has a history with Alpha (who is Sly’s lover. Jade and Alpha had an on again, off again relationship). Jade can be a little rigid at times. Her labeling rebels as hedonists is a typical protector opinion. Both groups tend to be very judgmental towards the other.
This is Isis’ first time acting as an ambassador. She’s being thrown right into the deep end 🙂
Alex knows about rebels (no surprise, her being a research fiend). Unlike other protectors, she doesn’t hold strong opinions on other groups of shape shifters. Alex tends not to be as rigid as most protectors. I wrote before that she’s kind of like an observer and this trait makes her more neutral. Her interactions with Blitz in book four were very interesting to write because of this neutrality.
I edited out a lot of dialogue between Isis and Shae. It served no purpose and just interrupted the narrative flow of the story. Also, the racing strip moved to behind the hotel rather than inside (for obvious reasons).
The heated bulbs on the porch area: I got the inspiration for this when my brother and I went to downtown Chicago on a very cold day (I don’t often go into the city and I can’t remember for the life of me why we went). We had to walk some distance to get to wherever we were going and I started shivering quite a lot. We walked under this overhang (not sure what else to call it) in front of this high end hotel and suddenly the cold disappeared. It just vanished. I didn’t think weather could do that. I started looking around, trying to figure out what happened and why I was suddenly warm. I spotted these dim gold bulbs in the overhang right before we stepped out from under the overhang (and were promptly hit with frigid air again). The overhang had practically stretched to the curb, so guests wouldn’t have to experience even a second of cold weather I guess. My brother had a great joke about how the rich can’t be expected to deal with even a moment’s discomfort. This random experience stuck with me and when I was thinking of the Lair, I thought about how the rebels would use these heated bulbs. Alpha would want her patrons to be comfortable, even outside the Lair.
Rebels don’t discriminate and there’s a wide variety of people who frequent the Lair. There’s no cover charge and no overpriced liquor. It’s a place where people go to fulfill desires. A lot of desires keep the place running (the food is made by people who enjoy working with food, for example). The Lair can be seen as a kind of brothel (some desires are sexual in nature), but it’s mostly just a place where people go to be themselves. No one is judged about their fantasy, so long as it’s consensual. The rebels have a strict policy about consent. Whatever fantasy or desire is being pursued/enacted, all participants must give clear consent, which cannot be coerced and can be revoked at any time. If this rule is broken, the patron is banned (and rebels aren’t known for being lenient. Alpha is the kind of woman who’s likely to take a lead pipe to the car of anyone caught bullying).
Like Electra, Isis’ skin glistens in the moonlight. This is a guardian trait (though full-blooded guardians glisten in all natural light). All guardians and shape shifters will recognize it. Since Isis has become more comfortable with this world, she now finds this trait to be a little annoying. It makes her stand out and shape shifters will treat her differently.
The rebel bouncer is a shape shifter who is more comfortable in the form of a large orange tiger (not to be confused with the code word I’m using and didn’t realize might be confusing until just now. Dammit!). Tigers are one of my absolute favorite animals, so of course I needed a shape shifter in this form.
Shae is dragging Isis along. This visual makes me laugh 🙂
Morgan and Tabitha: there are a lot of twins in this series. These two are rebels who man the front desk of the Lair (and they enjoy messing with people a bit). They’re kind of a contrast to Isis and Electra, who have been raised apart and only recently found out about each other. Morgan and Tabitha have been raised together and are definitely sisters.
A lot of rebels were inspired by the strong genre feminists I’ve met, both online and in person. Genre feminists, particularly the badass women in horror, are just incredibly inspiring and talented people. Women filmmakers are some of the best people in the world 😀
Rebels are all about individuality and celebrating differences and diversity. No two look alike (save for twins 😉
The neon hair: I pictured most rebels using their bodies as canvases (making them into works of art). Many are tattooed and have numerous piercings. A few are into body modification. Rebels love bright vibrant colors, especially neon shades that stand out in the darkness of the club, hence their dying their hair.
“I’m sure there’s a room for that” . My brother liked this line, as did I (it was kind of like “that’s what she said” but for the rebel Lair). The problem was I couldn’t figure out what it would be a good response to. I settled on Isis’ “Dali’s imagination” line. Really, Alex’s quip would be an excellent response to just about any observation about the Lair.
I really wanted to show Shae and Isis communicate without words. I like scenes that don’t rely on dialogue (it demonstrates something about the characters and it saves me from having to write dialogue 😉
The drug of choice for patrons of the Lair would be Ecstasy. More harmful substances (cocaine, meth, etc.) won’t be tolerated in the club. However, things like Ecstasy, pot, and mushrooms would be allowed (so long as they’re not pushed on anyone).
I came up with the 20s room as a way to demonstrate that not all desires are sexual. The people in this room simply want to live in the twenties.
At last, the reader meets Alpha. Alpha was another character I thought up very early on. I knew the rebels were going to be mostly women and I wanted the leader to be a woman. I pictured her look being kind of a mix of goth, rock, and punk. The Lair is her business and her home (which is why she frequently walks around barefoot). Alpha is a tough woman, not one to back down from a fight.
“How are things in your life of servitude?” . Alpha is a little like Sly, except that Alpha thrives in crowds. She enjoys surrounding herself with a variety of people and would equate solitude with torture.
The Lair is always crowded. Come on, if this place existed, wouldn’t you want to go? 😉 Yes, I freely admit that there’s probably a bit of wish-fulfillment going on here.
The reader catches a glimpse (blink and you miss it) of another supernatural race: an elf passes by the Four in the hall. Members of the Seelie Court are introduced in book four.
Alpha’s office is meant to be a reflection of her. It’s a very open space with deep rich colors and some other subtle touches. She wears the key to her office around her neck so only she can enter.
Alpha is intrigued by Isis. She values uniqueness and Isis is definitely unique. Isis, meanwhile, is trying not to make a bad first impression (which, as seen in book one, Isis has a knack for).
Alpha isn’t a fan of labels, but she would proudly claim the label of feminist. She really believes in the empowerment of women. Alpha doesn’t like seeing Isis underestimate/undervalue herself.
Like I mentioned in the introduction, Alpha uses proper adoption terminology . Many of her patrons are adoptees or have spent some time in the foster system. Alpha, and most rebels, understand and respect the different kinds of families/familial bonds.
Passion is one of the only guardians who the rebels respect. Her philosophy and approach to life lines up with theirs. Passion is also one of the few guardians who would fight alongside shape shifters if given the chance.
My brother really liked the truce negotiation scene. It was a fairly simple scene, but the challenge was making it interesting. Negotiations don’t exactly make for exciting reading (unless you’re negotiating for hostages or something like that). I really loved this scene because you had seven women sitting around a table and making a truce. This is typically a scene that would involve men. But fuck that 🙂
Alpha has a line about women being more suited to rebel . The majority of shape shifter rebels have always been women. The inspiration behind this came from Virginia Woolf’s quote about anonymous probably being a woman (historically). Women are tough, badass, and just completely fucking amazing. That’s really what I wanted to get across with the rebels (with most of the women in my books, actually).
Alpha is a very astute woman. Her mind is sharp and she’s not just going to blindly agree to a truce, not without hearing the whole reason why. The Four are under strict orders not to tell her about the tiger (though the reader finds out at the end of this scene that she already knows about it). It’s important to note that rebels want absolutely nothing to do with the Key. Rebels don’t desire power and they avoid those who do. A lust for power never leads to anything good. Rebels simply want to be left in peace.
The only group the rebels dislike more than protectors is separatists. Separatists actually kill rebels, who they see as traitors to their species because of their freely interacting with other species. Rebels have always allied with underdogs and their beliefs are almost completely opposite of the separatists. Needless to say, these groups frequently clash.
Page 80 is very important for understanding rebels and their motivations. I’m actually quite pleased with how the exchange between Jade and Alpha came out.
I knew Alpha would have a few conditions before agreeing. I wanted her to have a one-on-one chat with Isis. It really bugs me sometimes when I’m reading a book or watching a movie that has interesting characters who never interact. It seems like such a missed opportunity. Alpha and Isis are interesting women. Plus, Alpha has some valuable information that I needed Isis to get.
Isis is way more comfortable with strangers in this novel. She knows how to handle herself. Still not the greatest conversationalist, but Isis is a fast learner.
If they had met earlier in Isis’ life and under different circumstances, Alpha could have been a brilliant mentor to Isis. I think every woman could use a friend and/or mentor like Alpha 🙂
Isis had to do some quick decision making: how much to reveal about Coop. She ends up deciding it’s worth the risk.
Alpha confirms what Isis already suspected: there are other shape shifters like Coop. She mentions Shocker (who is such an awesome character. He is introduced in book four). Then she reveals some really important information about a suspected seventh group of shape shifters. Thus begins the mystery of the glowing eyes. Reader, the glowing eyes are extremely important in this series (they’re actually the first group I thought of when I started outlining this series).
I purposely wrote Alpha as being a little cagey in this scene. She simply points Isis in the right direction and warns her not to go at this alone. She can’t reveal everything she knows without endangering the ally she’s sheltering.
The scene ends with another important reveal. I knew about this particular connection before I started writing. I have a couple outlines of different alliances.
Page 89 – 93
The Deverells! The Deverells are here! 😀
The Deverells have returned to help Jet sort out the situation with the tiger and the Key. The Deverells are Jet’s most loyal allies (a title they used to share with the Aldridge family, before they were wiped out). Ajax, Malone, Devin, and Nero are the surviving sons of Dayton. They travel Jensen, the last Aldridge, who is kind of like their adopted brother.
Nero’s the youngest and therefore always has to do the unwanted tasks. Like standing out in the frigid cold to open the garage door. I think Nero is my brother’s favorite character in the series (if he’s not, I’m going to get yelled at).
About Nero’s name: I actually stumbled across this name before I knew anything about the Roman emperor. I liked how the name rolled easily off the tongue. Nero’s a bit of a hedonist (like the historic Nero is often assumed to have been). He loves sex and is a total flirt. He lives as if he might die the next day, which is always a possibility for a protector. Nero can lighten up almost any situation, which is incredibly useful. Nero and Jensen are best friends. Nero’s lightheartedness is a good counterbalance to Jensen’s often brooding nature.
Jensen’s wardrobe: Jensen always dresses in fine tailored suits (very dapper). It’s his way of remaining connected to his Aldridge heritage. Unfortunately, these clothes are kind of a hindrance when it comes to fighting. Jensen always dresses like he’s going to some kind of high society function (I find it quite funny when other characters are exasperated by his insistence on wearing such hindering clothing).
The Deverells haven’t been back to the mansion in years. They’re operatives who act as Jet’s eyes and ears around the world. They don’t often stay in one place for an extended amount of time. As stated earlier, they’ve returned to help Jet and the Four untangle all the recent events. The Deverells are some of the most respected protectors (and they’re practically legendary).
Jensen believes himself to be a cursed man (he’s another fairly tragic figure in the series). He’s suffering from survivor’s guilt and probably a mild form of PTSD. Jensen is a character who believes he needs to be isolated. The Deverells give him space, but don’t let him cut himself off from the world. I think Jensen is probably the loneliest character in the series.
I wrote Jensen as a character who has become a master at concealing pain and turmoil. Only those closest to him know when he’s suffering.
Jensen is a very refined and cultured man. He carries books as well as weapons. He has spent most of his life dodging attempts on his life. Like I mentioned earlier, his family has been completely wiped out. He’s a survivor, which isn’t easy.
The scene between Hunter and Jensen always makes me laugh. Surprisingly, it amused my brother as well. Jensen’s inability to remember Hunter’s name and not even attempting to hide the fact is just really funny to me (he has zero fucks to give). Hunter was originally really mean to him but my brother pointed out that her crossing a line would make her a very unsympathetic character. Besides, Jensen leaving her fuming in the hall is an amusing visual 🙂
Jensen goes straight to what used to be his room in the mansion. This was one of the first scenes I wrote of this novel. At the risk of sounding completely cliche, this is a fateful meeting (and one that quickly goes wrong). Jensen finds Isis in his old room, thinks she’s a guardian (because of the glistening skin), and just immediately decides to mess with her. Readers know that’s going to go over so well with Isis 😉
Page 93 – 95
Jet has a really nice bond with his children. Shape shifters tend to have very tight knit families (whether biological or chosen).
The Deverells finally reunite with Jet. This friendship goes way back. In my notes, I wrote that the Deverells were the first to swear allegiance to Jet and Lilly (many protectors were very hesitant to do so because Lilly is a former guardian. That coupled with them being monogamous caused a bit of a scandal). The Deverells are practically legendary, so once they swore allegiance (along with the Aldridges), other protectors followed suit and the scandal quickly dissipated.
I really loved writing this reunion. Reunions are probably my favorite scenes to write. I enjoy friends meeting again after being separated for a long time.
Though the Deverells aren’t related to Jet, his children still see them as uncles.
For a time, Jensen was Jet’s ward (as was his younger sister, Nat, who was originally thought to be part of the Four. That went horribly wrong in book one). Jet saw him as another son when Jensen was living at the mansion. More of Jensen’s background, and his connection to Jet, is explained in the next chapter.
Jet’s sudden realization that Jensen doesn’t know his old room is now occupied always makes me laugh. He knows that’s a situation that is likely to turn ugly 😀
Page 95 – 97
My brother called this the “Jane Austen scene” (because he knows that annoys the living hell out of me).
Isis is completely worn out and her mind is a million miles away, hence her forgetting to lock her room door. She’s half-asleep and then has a rude awakening.
I wanted these two characters to have a really bad first meeting. Isis and Jensen have somewhat similar personalities. They tend to prefer solitude and they’re both rather cynical. Jensen is a bit more playful/mischievous than Isis, which she finds annoying.
There’s really no subtle way to say this: Jensen is gorgeous, even by shape shifter standards. He’s extremely handsome and used to being flirted with, which is why he finds Isis’ anger quite entertaining. After being momentarily distracted, her anger quickly replaces aesthetic appreciation 😉
Jensen is having so much fun in this scene, though he is rather confused. Things in the mansion don’t often change. Again, this had been his room in the past. Now there’s this strange woman (he thinks a guardian) staying there.
Jensen tends to be a very fastidious character (he’s quite neat and put-together). Isis hitting him with a wet towel annoys him to no end, even though he really was asking for it. Jensen gets aggravated when his clothing is messed with. I wanted to try to do a bit of a gender swap. Women are often stereotyped as being very fashion conscious and meticulous when it comes to what they wear. In The Shape Shifter Chronicles, Jensen is by far the most meticulous when it comes to clothing.
Another gender swap (this one somewhat unintentional): Jensen is a bit of a damsel in distress. He’s incredibly skilled and a proficient fighter (particularly when it comes to kickboxing). The Big Bad despises the Aldridge line and so has a vendetta against Jensen. Jensen is often faced with living weapons who are basically modified killing machines. Needless to say, Jensen gets tossed around quite a bit throughout the series 😉
Brindy enters the room and Isis beyond exasperated (dear reader, you don’t even want to know how much I laughed at the visual of her unintentionally splashing herself in the face. I shared Jensen’s reaction). I usually laugh when Isis is angry. For some reason, Isis is really funny when she’s mad. Jensen is also hilarious when he’s messing with people.
Isis really doesn’t like Jensen at this point. I think quite a few readers predicted her eventually softening towards him, which she does eventually.
Thus ends commentary for chapter five. Whew! It took me two days, but I did it. I’m quite exhausted. Apologies for taking so long.
On the bright side, I think that was the longest chapter and therefore this will probably be the longest commentary. Hopefully there will be no more skipped days. Thank you so much for your patience 🙂
Questions and comments are welcome. Spammers can fuck right off.
Until next time . . .