“From the Ashes” Chapter Two 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 there, my awesome readers!  🙂

I’m so sorry for my sudden absence.  I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (better known as S.A.D.) and it hit me so hard on Friday.  Saturday and Sunday I was so lethargic I could barely move, much less write.  My brain was just completely full of cobwebs.  I always think I’m going to be prepared for when my S.A.D. flares up but it always manages to knock me on my ass.  It’s like winter rolls around and suddenly I’m like, “Oh yeah, part of my brain is broken and now I’m going to be miserable as fuck for the next few months.  Not just sad, but it’s going to be struggle to move and write.  Fun times.”  I actually went to see a movie last week and I can barely remember it.  Oh yeah, and couple this with the grief I’m still experiencing.  Needless to say, it’s a very volatile mixture.

When I get through the winter, I need to write something about common misconceptions about S.A.D. and the stigmatization that tends to go with it.  It’s on my topic list that I keep on my desk.  Right now, I’m just a little too foggy to make any kind of coherent explanation and/or arguments.

So if I disappear for short periods of time, chances are I’m struggling with my own mind.  Also, the commentaries may get a bit spacey every now and again (this commentary is almost certainly going to be quite spacey.  I’ve been struggling with it for two days).  For that, I sincerely apologize and ask for your patience.

Anyhow . . .

Chapter two was kind of a recap chapter.  I needed to show what established characters have been up to since the events in the second novel.  It also had to set up where many of these characters were, physically and emotionally.  It begins setting the stakes.

I found it to be somewhat tricky to write a relatively calm chapter after the violent bloodbath in chapter one.  Also, a fair amount of time has passed since the events in Through Storm and Night.  It was more difficult than I expected to figure out where the characters would be after so much time.  From the Ashes almost became a reset novel, only not really.

I was also still struggling with writing fading grief.  Fresh grief is so much easier to write than fading grief.  When you’re writing fading grief, you have to walk such a fine line.  One the one hand, you don’t want your characters to be dwelling.  On the other, you don’t want them to just act like the individual never existed.  It’s tricky and I really had to work on it during editing.

Shall we?

Page 30 – 32

The mansion is often reflective of the mood of its inhabitants.  Throughout most of this novel, I wrote the mansion as being rather dreary.  A lot of time has passed, but there’s still a certain amount of sadness.

Shae is about as miserable as she has ever been in this first scene.  It’s bizarre to write a happy character in a state like this.  But Shae’s the kind of person who would embrace grief.  She accepts loss as a part of life.  If you truly love life the way she does, you need to accept that sometimes there’s pain.  A friend of mine recently said that grief is the opposite of weakness.  It’s actually a strength.  I could not agree more.

Shae also tends to be a very reflective character, which is awesome for me as a writer.  It allows me to give important information to the reader in a way that feels natural.

One of these days, I really want to try writing a short story about Steve.  He doesn’t often have a chance to do much, but he’s an interesting character (not to mention adorable).  Out of all the shape shifters in this series, he’s probably the one who has the most regular contact with humans.  He works with them and basically lives among them in a way that most other shape shifters don’t.  Steve’s family has always been more familiar with humans.  They’re one of the shape shifter families who live among (and protect) humans.

Page 32 – 37

I think from now on, every novel will have to have at least one scene set in the Lair.  It’s just too awesome a place not to utilize.  And Jade is never thrilled to be there (she likes Alpha well enough, but most other rebels tend to get on her nerves) 🙂  The Lair will always be available as a sanctuary for all, even Jade.

When describing the Lair, readers are often seeing it through the eyes of protectors.  So they often get a somewhat biased view.

Jade is normally very indifferent to humans (there are some she likes and others she doesn’t).  When she helps Steve and Loman with cold cases, Jade tends to adopt a rather bleak view of humanity.  This is based in part on something I’ve noticed about myself:  if I watch or read too many things about real life crimes, my natural cynicism becomes even more pronounced.

On page 33, there’s a “blink and you miss it” glimpse of Shocker.  He’s a character, a pretty cool experiment, who is introduced in Haunted by the Keres.

Jade has been experiencing a lot of work-related frustration in the years since the events in Through Storm and Night.  As a result, her fuse is a lot shorter than it normally is.

For some reason, the visual of Cassidy dragging the clubber back to their table was always one that made me chuckle.

Chloe is a character who serves a couple purposes.  She’s a survivor of Blitz’s massacre at the nightclub, so she provides the protagonists with important clues.  She also helps reinforce the spread of the urban legends about Blitz.  These are stories that are starting to become familiar to shape shifters in particular.

Jade is really quite mean to Chloe.  She doesn’t like tiny yappy dogs or people who remind her of tiny yappy dogs.

I always pictured Jade as having absolutely no tolerance for urban legends.  Like most shape shifters, she is very interested in myths.  However, stories like the one about Blitz are just boring to Jade.  They’re like junk food or reality TV:  briefly entertaining, but really bad for you.

This is the first time since being extracted from the laboratory that Blitz has physically attacked anyone.  Chloe was lucky to have gotten out alive.  Although she wasn’t on Blitz’s list, so Blitz wouldn’t have targeted her.  More likely she would have just gotten trampled or shot by one of the guards.

When Chloe points out the table to the protectors, Alex is the one who goes to examine it.  Her curious nature makes her incredibly valuable when investigating and she can often pick up on things others would miss.

There’s an important clue on page 36, which pertains to altered memories (whose memories can be altered).

There’s also a clue about the strength of experiments:  Blitz was able to kick a table with a weighted base some distance.  That’s not something normal shape shifters can do.

Jade is the first to consider the possibility of Blitz being one of the “glowing eyes.”  I had actually forgotten about this, but rereading it, I’m glad I wrote it that way.  Wow, don’t say that too often.

Page 37 – 45

There are some characters who I seem to torture a lot.  Jensen is one of these unfortunate souls.  He doesn’t even have peaceful dreams (and I actually like this character.  What the fuck is wrong with me?)

The river of blood nightmare was an image I thought of and then couldn’t get out of my mind.  Something about it disturbed me on a very visceral level.  Even now, I can clearly picture this scene and it still sends a shiver down my spine.

Jensen and Electra are in the dirtiest, cheapest motel imaginable.  My brother and I disagreed about this (I think).  He thought Jensen would stay in upscale places.  I always pictured Jensen staying in cheaper places to maintain a bit of anonymity.  Also, they’re going to sketchy places to meet shady contacts.  This isn’t a vacation.  They only stop when they absolutely need to.

This scene was originally a little different:  Jensen woke up, noticed he couldn’t see Electra, realized there was someone standing between the beds, and a fight ensued.  While editing, my brother pointed out how it wasn’t really working (it was really fucking stupid for Coop to approach them like this).  After rewriting this scene, I liked the way it read a little better.  Still, I kind of liked that shadowy entrance a bit.  I like writing shadowy scenes.

Electra and Jensen are both very strong-willed and they frequently butt heads as a result.  It’s interesting that this trip hasn’t been a particularly pleasant experience for either of them (they’ve been at each others throats for most of it).  Yet for as much as they bicker, they’ve actually grown to respect each other and are quite protective of one another.

I rewrote this scene so that the first thing readers see are the glowing eyes.  This is a character print that I really need to stick.  The minute readers see that descriptor, they recognize the character is a Grenich experiment.

Jensen is about to get his ass kicked again.  Poor dear.

Coop is strangely polite.  He’s a well-mannered living weapon 😉

If Coop wanted to, he could easily kill Jensen at any point in this fight.  In this scene, he never once goes on the offensive (he uses purely defensive moves).  Jensen puts up a good fight, but he’s completely outmatched.  This fight originally ended with Coop tossing Jensen into a mirror, shattering it and slicing up his back pretty good.

In all drafts, Electra is the one who breaks up this fight and that was important to me.  Electra is fearless and she’s definitely someone you want watching your back.  Over the years, Jensen has taught her a couple things (like more self-defense and shooting).

This is the first time Jensen actually meets Coop.  He really doesn’t care for him throughout most of this scene.  It only gets worse when he finds out Coop is the one who was in his apartment.

Experiments are extremely straightforward.  I wrote Coop as being fairly blunt in this scene, which is typical of many experiments.

Coop is still on the run.  Most experiments would go to ground (hide).  Coop has taken it upon himself to help the resistance in the hopes of helping the other experiments.  He has been tasked with pointing the protectors in the right direction.

Coop probably seems like a very lonely character.  He would be if he understood the concept.  Coop has been alone since being experimented on.  The isolation is a kind of defense mechanism for him.

Coop’s speech (starting on page 43) was one of the more difficult dialogues to write.  I never want to be a kind of “mallet to the head” writer where I explain every last goddamn thing through dialogue.  I really wanted to figure out how an experiment would answer the question “what are you?”  An experiment would have a lot of trouble with it and even an experiment like Coop isn’t entirely sure what he is.  He does his best, but even he’s not entirely sure what he is.

Coop reveals that the glowing eyes are the Grenich brand.  It’s something that shows they belong to the Corporation, they’re property.  They can never get rid of this brand (unless they gouge their eyes out, which no experiment would ever do).  The glowing eyes are a reminder to experiments:  they can’t hide what they are, not really, and they will never be able to.

There’s a brief mention about experiments being unable to experience emotions being a blessing due to their extremely vivid memories.  They can never forget what happened to them, but they are mostly indifferent to it.  I was thinking a lot about how an experiment would experience flashbacks (how they would manifest).  Blitz has a flashback-like experience in a later chapter.  Those are really tricky to write.

It’s important to keep in mind that Coop has been on the outside for years.  He knows how to communicate with normals, but he still struggles with it.  It’s still really difficult for him, which is why he prefers solitude.  This is something to keep in mind for future books in the series.

Jensen doesn’t normally get his ass handed to him.  He’s had a price on his head for decades, hunted down some of the most skilled assassins, and emerged relatively unscathed (physically).  That Coop was able to best him without even breaking a sweat makes Jensen incredibly uneasy.  Coop’s wounds healing by themselves within seconds is also quite unsettling.  Both Jensen and Electra are having a “what the fuck are we up against” kind of moment.

Electra is so exasperated with Jensen getting so worked up about Coop trashing his place (which technically wasn’t his fault.  It was fucking Dane).  That’s really the least of their concerns at the moment.  Coop really tries to be apologetic, but Jensen is looking for reasons to distrust him at this point.

Coop showing up with the information Jensen and Electra are looking for is part of what sets the protectors on a collision course with Blitz.

Coop won’t even write in black ink if he can avoid it.  That’s how strong the experiments’ aversion to the color black is.

At this point, Coop knows their paths are going to cross again.  He’s still trying to stay off the Corporation’s radar and he’s also helping the resistance with other tasks.

I really wanted to show Coop isn’t entirely without hope.  Because of their rather aloof demeanor and lack of emotions, experiments can sometimes seem really nihilistic.  It takes them a very, very long time to understand a concept like hope but they are capable of it.  Coop has managed to understand it and explains why he continues to fight (page 45).

Page 46 – 50

The scene I like to call “Catching up with the Deverells” 😀

As I mentioned in the previous commentary, Ace was originally written as a man.  I changed her to a woman because it fit the story better.  I didn’t change any of her dialogue or mannerisms, just a couple descriptors and the pronouns.  I really liked the idea of Orion’s daughter being a very androgynous woman.

Ajax tends to be the most mature of the Deverell brothers.  Sending him to question rebels isn’t a great idea.  It’s just not going to work, truce or not 😉

The lesson of this chapter:  Orion was exceptionally good at hiding people.  Also, Nero’s really good at talking to rebels.

I forgot about this scene:  all Ajax has to do is mention their brothers have been a while and Malone’s sheepdog instincts kick in 😀  He does try to keep the mood light to keep Ajax from worrying.

And Nero suddenly appears with a woman rebel.  Nero is in a perpetual state of horniness.

Being brothers, the Deverells frequently take the piss out of each other.  I can’t even describe how much I love writing them when they’re teasing each other (Malone and Devin making fun of Ajax was so much fun to write).  I fucking love writing sibling relationships.  They’re more interesting than romantic entanglements.  Siblings are probably the most fun to write 🙂

Ajax finally finds Ace, purely by chance.  He happens to be looking in the right direction at the right time.

Ace has been a rebel most of her life.  She’s not inclined to just trust random protectors.  Ace has also been instructed to hide her parentage no matter what.  The Deverells haven’t been able to find her because Alpha didn’t have her permission to tell them where she was.  Rebels live by a fairly strict code and will protect each other at all costs.  It’s up to Ace whether or not she wants people (even family) to know where she is.

Blitz Symbol Silhouette

I’m including the silhouette of Blitz’s symbol because I like it and it makes me happy. 

So ends the commentary for chapter two.

Again, I apologize for the wait.  I’m going to try and keep my routine, but I can’t make any promises.  Rest assured, if there’s any kind of wait, it’ll usually only be a couple days.  You won’t have to wait months for an update 🙂

I’ll be posting my 2015 schedule as soon as I can.  I’ve submitted panels to most of the ones I’m going to be attending, so hopefully some followers can say hi in person.  If not, you can always buy a book from my online store, which is linked above 😉

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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