“From the Ashes” Chapter Four 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! 🙂

I apologize for my absence last night.  Christmas Eve is not a pleasant experience for me.  I’m a lot of firsts for my extended family:  aro-ace (which is either shameful or nonexistent to a lot of them), adoptee (and a bastard on top of it), outspoken intersectional feminist (can’t even write some of the things a few of them think of this one), an author (not a screenwriter), and a person who is very upfront and unyielding about her boundaries.  A few members of my family accept me for who I am (a couple even admire these qualities), but they’re often drowned out by the ones who don’t.  A while back, I found a really great quote that pretty much sums up my experiences growing up:

Do you know what it’s like to feel wrong twentyfour hours a day?  Do you know what it’s like to be disapproved of, not only for what you do and say and think but for who you are?” ~ Joyce Roberta-Burditt, “The Cracker Factory” (1977)

There are some relatives who I would very much enjoy seeing and speaking with, but I don’t want to be the cause of friction in the family.  There’s a silver lining to every cloud though:  being the constant outsider has shaped me into the imaginative writer I am today.  I discovered new and exciting worlds in my mind.  I became an author.  And eventually, I found people who love and accept me for who I am.  Yes, even asexuals can be loved (asexual doesn’t mean a life of loneliness and/or solitude).

So anytime someone tries to make you ashamed of how you speak or how you identify or any other asinine reason or thing you can’t change, tell them to go fuck themselves.

But enough of my . . . tangent, I guess is the closest to describing all that 😉

Chapter four is probably the last “quiet” chapter in the novel.  I needed to get the established characters back together.  I used the opportunity to get some more information to the reader as well.

Shall we?

Page 67 – 71

These first three scenes were originally arranged a little differently.  I believe it was just two scenes.  I scrapped that during editing.  The timing was a tad too confusing.  Having a shorter scene between two longer scenes flowed nicely and managed to fix the confusing timing.

Guardians never learn how to drive.  They have no reason to since there aren’t cars in the Meadows.  Come to think of it, not many of them ride horses either.  They mostly just walk everywhere.

There’s a really nice moment between Jensen and Electra here.  I wanted to show that these two trust each other and have become an unlikely pair of friends, though both would deny it.  They would prefer the term allies 🙂

Electra doesn’t often allow herself to be vulnerable.  Unlike Passion, Electra is uncomfortable with her emotions and doesn’t like to reveal them.  She only shows her emotions to people she trusts implicitly.  Jensen and she have this in common.  That they’re willing to show vulnerability to the other is meant to say a lot about their relationship.

Like Jet, Jensen is a man of his word.  If he says he’ll do something, he won’t stop until he accomplishes whatever he swore to do.

Jensen knows Electra wants to help the protectors, but being a protector, he needs to make sure she stays in the Meadows where it’s safe.  This isn’t meant to be a judgement of her.  Guardians aren’t accustomed to fighting on Earth and there has been a lot of unanswered questions recently.  Electra is really too tired to argue.  In Haunted by the Keres, she definitely takes a more active part in the fight against Grenich.

The goodbye scene always makes me chuckle.  It’s not awkward, but neither character is entirely sure what to say.  I always thought it was oddly sweet.  Even though he’s technically older than her, Jensen is still quite young by shape shifter standards and he hasn’t had as much regular contact with guardians.

I had to write a scene where Jensen breaks and I knew he would wait until after Electra went back to the Meadows.  He doesn’t show frustration to others, even those who he trusts, and keeps it bottled up.  I have to admit, frustration was really easy to write (the amount of misogynistic bullshit I was dealing with from agents and publishers, there were plenty of times I was close to doing what Jensen does).

“Witness the breakdown of a cursed man, the last of his line” [70].  Jensen is feeling massive frustration about life.  The past few years have just brought all this frustration to the surface.  It’s about more than the fruitless search he was on.

My brother really liked this dream sequence (I think it’s his favorite one I’ve written).  I kind of stumbled into it.  I was experimenting with different ways to give scenes a more surreal feel.  Originally, this was meant to be a kind of hallucination.  By switching it to a dream, I managed to get the right amount of surrealism to make this scene work.

I wanted the figure in Jensen’s dream to be both warm and cold.  It’s what he wishes warring with what he knows.

Nero and Jensen are finally reunited!  😀  It was a little ridiculous how happy I was to write these two again.

Page 71 – 72

I had to include a scene with Electra returning to the Meadows because it isn’t going to be a happy homecoming.

This was one of the scenes my brother and I fought about during editing.  He really didn’t like that Passion slaps Electra.  I don’t agree with her actions, but I understood them.  Electra ran off without a word and never attempted to contact Passion once in the years she was gone.  Passion has been worried sick about her (even though Jet shared Jensen’s updates with her).  Remember, Passion experiences emotions more intensely than most other guardians.  The past few years have almost been torture for her.

Page 72 – 76

Back to Nero and Jensen.  Nero isn’t even slightly annoyed about Jensen going off on his own.  He’s just really happy his friend is back.

I also fought to keep in Nero correcting Jensen about Frankenstein’s monster.  My brother didn’t like it, but I put my foot down.  This is Nero and Jensen’s friendship:  messing with each other constantly.  If one makes a slip-up like this, the other is going to take the piss out of him.  Errors like this get under Jensen’s skin, so obviously Nero’s going to make a point of correcting it.

In the midst of these two catching up, Nero notices something on the list Jensen brought back.  I really tried to sprinkle a little foreshadowing in this novel.  Foreshadowing is a very tricky thing to do and I’m still learning how to use it in the most effective way.  I’ve noticed that foreshadowing often works better in visual mediums.

Both Jensen and Nero have heard some version of the urban legend about Blitz.  It’s one of those stories that’s spreading like wildfire.

Nero recognizes the names of the paramedics on the list Coop gave Jensen.  Also, Jensen is still a little angry with Nero about the fake paramedics.  Obviously, Nero doesn’t care (he’s got much more important things on his mind).

The reader finds out the Pinkerton sisters have completely vanished (no evidence of their existence) and there has been another uptick in disappearing bodies.  The Big Bad has gotten a little restless and is still growing his army.

People connected to Grenich frequently have a color in their last name.  It makes the alias easier to remember and it doesn’t stand out.

Nero really enjoys annoying people.  His incessant knocking is a visual that always cracked me up.  Jet yanking the door open, like “what the fuck!?” is another really amusing visual.  I have a very odd sense of humor 😉

In my mind, Jet is beyond relieved to see Jensen is back.  He still feels a certain amount of responsibility for the young protector.  Jet has lost a lot of people in his long life.  It has affected him deeply and recent losses are still weighing heavily on him.

I really enjoyed writing the scene between Jet, Nero, and Jensen.  This was one of those rare scenes where dialogue was easy to write.  Also this was one of the times I was able to write Jensen as a bit relaxed.  He tends to be more at ease in the mansion.

There’s always a room available for Jensen at the mansion.  Jet and Lilly make sure of it.

Jensen is exhausted, but he won’t allow himself to rest until he has done one last thing.  Jensen has a habit of putting others before himself.  Even at his most arrogant, Jensen is still a protector.

Page 76 – 78

Another very rare event:  Jensen confronting his grief head-on (albeit very briefly).

Shae and Jensen didn’t have much chance to interact in Through Storm and Night.  I enjoyed the opportunity to explore how they interact face-to-face.  I was also happy to write Jensen and Steve talking.  Like I’ve mentioned before, I always look for ways to utilize Steve.  He’s an interesting character.

I think this is one of the rare times when Shae shows anger.  It’s a really dangerous quiet anger.  This is actually the first time Shae has ever considered revenge.

Jensen has been down the vengeance route before and knows firsthand how destructive it is.  It’s not a path he’d want to see someone like Shae take.  The kind of natural optimism she has is something that’s very rare and therefore precious.  Jensen doesn’t want to see it snuffed out.

I hope readers caught Shae unknowingly repeating Nero’s earlier statement.

One sure sign Jensen is exhausted:  he sleeps in his clothes.  He will never sleep in his shoes however 😉

Page 78 – 81

Catching up with the 2nd Man.  This is a character I enjoy writing because even though he’s a complex character, I have an idea of how he thinks.  Also, complex characters are like catnip for authors.  There’s just so much for us to sink our teeth into.

This was also a good opportunity to remind readers of how well guardians treat their prisoners.  Guardians aren’t perfect, but they do treat their few prisoners with dignity and respect.

Only extremely dangerous prisoners, like the 2nd Man, are kept in solitary confinement (and even that’s not quite how it is on Earth).  He doesn’t particularly mind, being somewhat solitary by nature.  Over the years, he has practiced being still and quiet.  He can escape into his mind and frequently does.

The one thing that really bothers the 2nd Man is that he has no way to communicate with the doctor.  He does not like being sidelined.

I probably mentioned this in the first novel:  the 2nd Man is a pessimist by nature.  There are a few times in the series where he toes the line of nihilism as well.  This is a very Dionysian character.

I was so happy to finally write a scene where Electra and the 2nd Man converse.  These two characters had to talk at least once.

This is probably my bizarre sense of humor, but I tend to imagine Electra frequently standing in one of those Wonder Woman-esque poses (hands on the hips, legs shoulder-length apart, chest out).  She has a lot of confidence and she carries herself with it.

Electra is a very clever woman.  She figures a wise course of action is to ask an assassin about Blitz.  She has absolutely no interest in hearing anything else from him.

Once Electra tells him the legends about Blitz, the 2nd Man quickly deduces that she’s an experiment.  He has a very sharp mind and knows enough about Grenich to connect certain dots.

The 2nd Man has a more realistic view of experiments (and their needs) than the doctor at times.  He does however paint them as coldblooded killers, when in fact they tend to only kill as a last resort.

Electra really has nothing but disdain for the 2nd Man and she doesn’t bother hiding it 😉

After she leaves, the 2nd Man has a sudden realization:  Blitz wouldn’t wear black if she were still at the Corporation.  And experiments are often still uneasy about the color after they escape.  So why is Blitz different?  That’s a question that often comes up in this novel.

Page 82 – 86

The last scene is almost entirely from Ace’s perspective.  This was another tricky character to write.  Ace has been raised by rebels, but her heritage is protector on her father’s side.  She’s a Deverell by blood, but is more Sabina’s (one of the rebels who raised her) protege.  The nice thing about her is that she can act as a proxy for the reader.

Jade is quite mean to Ace, not to mention insulting:  rebels and thieves are entirely different groups.

Alex has become a lot more patient with rookies and she’s really good with outsiders.  [SPOILER!  Alex is revealed to be aromantic asexual in book four, which is almost unheard of in shape shifters.  This makes her a bit of an outsider among shape shifters, which has given her both patience and tenacity.]

Ace is definitely the odd man out in this situation.  She’s surrounded by protectors, many of whom are still quite wary of rebels.  Almost all of them knew her father.  It’s a fairly uncomfortable situation to be in.

I really loved writing a scene involving most of the protectors that readers have met.  It allowed me to show the dynamics of the group.  Also, Nero flicking the paper triangle is something that always made me laugh.  Of course he’s going to annoy Malone.  He’s the youngest brother and he’s Nero 😀

Rebels love Sly.  She’s a strong independent woman.  What’s not to love?  Well, aside from the moral grayness and willingness to use violence when a situation calls for it 😉

Nero’s way of introducing Jensen and Ace was something I wrote very late one night.  It made me laugh like a complete maniac for some reason.

Sly isn’t the sort who will casually dismiss urban legends.  The stories come from somewhere.  Jet is also playing it safe.  He’s never been one prone to taking unnecessary risks.

The shape shifters needed to lay out their plans.  By the way, it’s really tricky to think up two completely separate plans to achieve similar ends.  At least the different groups use completely different tactics and methods.

Jet is smart enough to recognize when he needs to color outside the lines.  In this case, he utilizes Jensen and Sly, who can do things protectors can’t.  Sly in particular is an extremely valuable ally to have in this situation.  As I was outlining this novel, I wrote that Sly would be the only shape shifter who could potentially find Blitz’s target before Blitz did.

There are a couple protectors contemplating revenge in this scene.  Revenge can be extremely tempting, especially when grieving.  The high road is often incredibly fucking difficult and can sometimes feel unrewarding.  Revenge doesn’t fix anything.  It doesn’t heal wounds or lessen pain.  If anything, it causes even more pain and heartache.

Blitz Symbol Silhouette

So ends the commentary for chapter four.

Apologies again for missing yesterday.

If you’re interested in reading my novels, they’re still available.  I’ll love you forever as I do all my readers (who are the most fucking awesome people on the planet) 😀

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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