“From the Ashes” Chapter One Commentary

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.

From the Ashes Official Front CoverHello, beloved readers!  🙂

In the first chapter, the reader is officially introduced to Blitz (in a very bloody way).  This novel is really her story and journey.  When the story opens, Blitz doubts the validity of a concept such as freedom (she doesn’t think it exists).  In chapter one, she has been out of the Corporation for almost a year.  Without the structure of the Corporation’s strict schedule, she’s lost.  Blitz responds to this by giving herself a purpose.  Unfortunately, that purpose is hunting down people connected to Grenich.  As the reader soon finds out, Blitz is a killer.  She has been trained and conditioned to kill, quickly and efficiently.

Over the course of this novel, Blitz does some really terrible things.  She’s violent and merciless.  The concept of right and wrong isn’t something she’s aware of and relies more on her machine-like logic, which is sometimes extremely flawed.

Shall we?

Page 11 – 12

I enjoy exploring the evolution and importance of stories.  I liked the idea of this urban legend springing up about Blitz.  I screwed up the first couple drafts and made the story way too uniform.  I realized that urban legends have a number of versions and variations.  The story of Blitz had to be the same.

Blitz wears a special catsuit made of guardian material that looks very similar to vinyl but feels smoother and allows full range of motion (so it looks like vinyl but moves and feels like yoga clothes).  It’s skin-tight and repairs itself if damaged.  It’s black, which is important.  Blitz’s trademark colors are black and silver (she doesn’t usually wear anything that isn’t black).  She doesn’t realize it right away, but this is kind of a subconscious “fuck you” to the Grenich Corporation:  black is forbidden at the Corporation and the Big Bad has an almost irrational hatred of the color.

Blitz is meant to seem like a living ghost.  She has that out of place impression that experiments have.  However, she’s also meant to be very much like an apex predator.

Page 13 – 21

There were a couple things I wanted to do with Blitz’s introduction.  I knew it was going to be a relatively quiet night, shortly after a storm.  I wanted the mood outside to be a complete contrast to what happens inside the club.  Blitz is a chillingly calm character.  I think part of why experiments are unsettling is because they’re capable of violence (as living weapons, it’s part of who they are) but they’re completely calm and detached.

Blitz’s clothing is specially made for her.  She wouldn’t ever wear anything that could potentially impede her movement.

I had a lot of trouble figuring out just how much of Blitz’s thought process I wanted to show.  She is, by far, the most difficult character to write in this series.  It’s almost impossible to get inside her head and figure out how she sees the world.  It’s completely different from any other character I’ve created.  Maybe it’s because of how removed she tends to be.  Interestingly, it’s a fuck lot easier to write her when she’s with other characters.

Blitz knows how to use intimidation.  The costume isn’t accidental.  She doesn’t understand metaphor or figurative language, but she knows how to play on people’s fears, especially when it comes to fears of the mysterious or unknown.

One ability of the seven series is the ability to move extremely fast for very short periods of time (maybe two minutes at most).

Blitz is very rarely unarmed.  The only time she doesn’t carry a weapon is when she’s trying to send a message and/or intimidate an enemy.  In this scene, she is sending a very clear message about how dangerous she is.  Pursue her at your own peril.

I tried to write Blitz as always being in darkness or shadow.  That’s where she feels the most comfortable.  She doesn’t like being seen.

In the club, the crowd are just bodies to her.  They’re potential shields, but for the most part, they’re just an obstacle to get through.  She doesn’t see people as individuals.  They’re either threats, targets, or unimportant.

When Blitz is moving through the club, her heightened senses are drinking in every last morsel of information and her mind is processing it.

I wrote Blitz moving very similar to a shark.  She weaves through the crowd as if it weren’t there.  She knows this club like the back of her hand, just from studying blueprints.

When I first wrote this scene, I tried to use a lot of dance-related imagery.  Death is a dance for experiments like Blitz.  She’s deadly, but also unnaturally graceful.  Unfortunately, this imagery took away from the scene.  My brother pointed out that it kind of softened the brutality of what she does, which is definitely not what I wanted.

Grenich is built on lies.  The protection they provide their allies tends to be substandard against experiments.  They’re highly trained, but they aren’t a match for the experiments’ expertise and modifications.  Experiments are much more valuable than most of the Corporation’s allies.

When she was in the Corporation, Blitz never created pandemonium when she killed.  Her normal method would be to blend into a crowd, quietly take out any guards and then the intended target.  Creating a melee is a last resort because of the amount of clean up and sanitizing it requires.  Almost all the kills in this novel are extremely messy, which is intentional.

As I was writing this, I had to find ways to show the notion of collateral damage isn’t one Blitz is familiar with.  She attacks innocent bystanders as well as guards (mostly to keep the chaos going).  She’s using the panicking crowd as a shield to give her an advantage over the guards.

God, when I was writing this, I was extremely pissed about/at something.  I’ve spent most of today trying to remember what it was but for the life of me, I can’t recall what it was.  This is going to drive me nuts!

Blitz has been conditioned to react violently to physical contact.  Most experiments have been conditioned this way and they have to struggle throughout their lives to quell these instincts.  It’s impossible to unlearn it entirely, but they can lessen it to the point where they don’t react as violently (their best hope is to reduce the reaction to just tensing up completely).

Just before Blitz fakes out one of the guards [pp. 17 – 18], there’s a split second where she does consider letting them win and recapture her.  Blitz is an extremely damaged character in this novel.  For most of this book, she wants and tries to die (though not with conscious effort).  However, Blitz is unable to stop fighting.  Her reflexes and instincts too survive are too strong.  It’s very similar to how someone who can’t swim a stroke will still flail about in an attempt to keep their head above water.

The women Blitz targets here are the two sisters who were paramedics in Through Storm and Night (as the reader finds out in a couple chapters).  I’m always terrified I haven’t been clear enough when I reintroduce characters briefly like this.

Blitz lets the bouncer go because he’s not on her target list.  She only kills when she has to (she didn’t kill any innocent bystanders.  The guards did).  The bouncer is no concern of hers.

People connected to Grenich will occasionally refer to experiments as “it.” (Not a lot because when you keep saying “it,” it gets really fucking confusing).  When they do, it’s a way to dehumanize the experiments and justify the way they’re treated.

Blitz is pretty vicious when she kills.  She doesn’t kill any of her targets from afar, which she did on occasion when she was in the Corporation.  I wanted her to be in close proximity to all her targets when she killed them.

Blitz always destroys the brain or the brain stem of the people she kills.  She doesn’t always destroy the body, only when the opportunity arises.  The reason she destroys the brain is revealed in Haunted by the Keres (I might mention why in this book too, but can’t recall at the moment).

Originally, I had Blitz just walk out of the club, but I thought about how much blood she would have gotten on herself and realized that might have drawn a bit of attention.  So I had her wipe her face, but then I thought about how she wouldn’t want to leave physical trace evidence of herself.  Hence she creates a Molotov cocktail of sorts (I hope that’s the right term).

Page 21 – 28

In this scene, I needed to reintroduce the reader to the doctor.  I also needed to briefly summarize the fight with Grenich and who the experiments were.  That’s a fuck lot easier said than done.

The doctor is in hiding and has had to isolate himself from the world, especially now that he’s sheltering two experiments.  He dedicates his life to these two, hoping to help them readjust to normal life (like Coop has for the most part).

Jack was one of the earliest characters I thought up for this series.  I was going through some recent notes on my laptop today and I wanted to put up an excerpt of what I wrote about Jack:

When I was working on rewrites of the third novel, to try and get a better idea of Jack’s motivations and what made him tick, I was doing a lot of research concerning how people react to traumatic incidents. In particular, I was trying to find out why some people respond to violence with further violence and others dedicate their lives to trying to help victims with similar experiences. I was fascinated by the idea that someone could take a negative experience and use it to help others.

Jack is an interesting experiment. He is a seven-series, not quite as anomalous as Dane is, but he has this amazing gentleness to him. He has endured unimaginable torture, somehow survived being on experimented on, had his identity completely stripped away from him, and yet managed to keep this gentleness. Jack wants to be part of the normals’ world, though he is very aware he never can be. Not entirely. Despite this, he does want to help them. If it requires revisiting his traumatic past, Jack will do it.

There are a couple rules when it comes to interacting with experiments.  I’ll list them as we continue along in commentary.  There’s one here though:  stay well out of striking distance unless you have their permission to be closer.  The doctor probably could have sat closer to Jack, but he respects his personal space and autonomy.

In keeping with the theme of revenge, I included a brief conversation between Jack and the doctor about the death penalty (that’s a fun minefield to go waltzing through).  Jack is completely clueless about why people would protest it and the doctor has to explain it to him.  Of course he still doesn’t understand it even after the explanation.

When Jack asks the doctor about his plans to defeat Grenich, he unintentionally exposes the contradiction between the doctor’s feelings on the death penalty (he’s against it) and his plans regarding taking down Grenich (he might kill some of the higher ups).  I admit, I’m quite a cynical individual.  I think every human being is a hypocrite in one way or another.  Granted, some are way more hypocritical than others.  But we’re all still hypocrites.

Blitz is a pretty unreadable character.  She often seems to be observing other characters, but would never reveal why.

Experiments have much sharper senses than regular shape shifters.  This is why Jack can smell blood on Blitz but the doctor can’t.

After experiments have their epiphany (and “wake up”), they’re still very quiet but are more likely to vocalize observations and thoughts.  This can lead to some rather funny statements.

The doctor knows he can’t stop the experiments from going out and acting on their instincts.  That’s one of the biggest risks when it comes to rehabilitating experiments:  they can easily turn around and start slaughtering potential threats.

There’s an exchange between the doctor and Blitz on page 27 where Blitz states that there are worse scenarios than being returned to the Grenich Corporation.  This is a glimpse of how lost this character is without a rigid schedule.  Freedom is alien to her.  Blitz doesn’t know what she is, other than a weapon.  She lacks a purpose.

This scene with Jack watching the reflection of Blitz and the doctor is one my brother really liked  🙂  My brother doesn’t often like what I write, so I get excited when he likes a scene or image.

Blitz doesn’t consider what she’s doing to be revenge (she sees it as neutralizing threats).  Yet her kills are incredibly vicious.  So is it possible for revenge to be subconscious.  Blitz never considers what she’s doing is revenge, even when her actions contradict that belief.

Page 28 – 29

We finally meet the ghost!  Special thanks to my brother who helped me get her just right during editing 😀

This is also the first time the reader is shown that Blitz is really sick.  The doctor and Jack don’t realize it, but she’s actually dying.

In an extremely dark book, there had to be some kind of relief.  Not necessarily comedic, but something to give the reader a bit of break.  Why the fuck read a book that’s just going to make you miserable?  A fiction book, I mean.  Anyhow, this ghost provides that relief.  She’s very lighthearted, almost playful at times (like here).

The ghost also points out flaws in Blitz’s rather flimsy logic.  But of course Blitz isn’t going to listen to what she sees as a hallucination.

And so ends the commentary for chapter one.

What do you think of Blitz?  Like her?  Hate her?  Not sure what the hell to think?

Readers are fucking awesome and I love them all.  If you’re interested in picking up a novel to see what the fuck I’m going on about daily, the links are up there 🙂

As always, questions and comments are welcome.  Spammers can fuck right off. 

Until next time . . .

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About Lauren Jankowski

Lauren Jankowski, an author from Illinois, has been an avid reader and a genre feminist for most of her life. She holds a degree in Women and Genders Studies from Beloit College. In 2015, she founded “Asexual Artists,” a Tumblr and WordPress site dedicated to highlighting the contributions of asexual identifying individuals to the arts. She has been writing fiction since high school, when she noticed a lack of strong women in the popular genre books. When she’s not writing or researching, she enjoys reading (particularly anything relating to ancient myths) or playing with her pets. She participates in activism for asexual visibility and feminist causes. She enjoys speaking about genre feminism, a topic she is quite passionate about, and hopes to bring more strong heroines to literature, including badass asexual women. Her debut novel was "Sere from the Green," the first volume in her ongoing series "The Shape Shifter Chronicles." The sequels, "Through Storm and Night," "From the Ashes," and "Haunted by the Keres" are also available. All books can be purchased through Amazon, CreateSpace, or Smashwords.
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