“From the Ashes” Chapter Six Commentary


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 awesome readers!  🙂

Things are still a bit chaotic with holiday aftermath.  Yesterday was insanely busy, hence my not being able to post yesterday.  I’m actually away from my usual workspace at the moment, so forgive any typos or incoherent wanderings.

I think we’re almost halfway through this novel.  And I’m almost out of spiral pages.  I write this commentary by hand first and then type it up.  I’ll have to split another spiral between the rest of this commentary and then the next.

Chapter six is another interesting chapter (in my opinion).  A new Grenich creation makes a very brief appearance.  One will make an appearance in Haunted by the Keres (the next book in the series).  This is also the first time a target comes close to getting the better of Blitz.  So far, she has gotten through these targets unscathed.  As she continues to get sicker, Blitz doesn’t move with the same ease and grace.  Her fighting ability is also starting to be hampered.  This target has some favor with a few in Grenich, so he has been given training the others didn’t have.  It makes him a much more dangerous opponent.

Shall we?

Page 110 – 113

Caleb Brown was briefly seen in Through Storm and Night with Tracy at Halley’s house.  He’s frequently been used as her chauffeur, but he’s also a retrieval specialist and a seducer.  Caleb sees Grenich as an unstoppable force and he wants to be on the right side of the coming war (i.e. the winning side).  He’s valuable to Grenich because he can be bought.  Caleb has no real morals.  He just wants to survive and be paid.

I wrote Caleb as often being in darkness (similar to Blitz).  However, there’s always a fair amount of soft and warm lighting.  Caleb’s a seducer, which means his surroundings reflect a certain amount of eroticism.  His looks are a weapon in his arsenal.  The darkness about him is not menacing.  It’s meant to be inviting.

Caleb has been with Grenich for a while.  He has mostly worked with Tracy, which is how he can recognize what her wardrobe means.  Even he doesn’t know all that much about her though.

Tracy doesn’t care for subordinate, particularly not shape shifters.  It’s a struggle for her not to show her disdain, but she’s ever the professional and manages to do it.  Caleb is useful to Grenich, which is the only reason she tolerates his presence.

This is the first target that isn’t a revenant, though Caleb will be made one eventually.  Retrieval teams will occasionally have a couple members that aren’t revenants.  Caleb has been on quite a few recovery missions just because he has useful skills.

Many of the people who work with Tracy often forget she’s a telepath.  The only ones who don’t are her superiors.  I always pictured Caleb as remembering it but just not giving a damn.  He’s an arrogant bastard but he’s not stupid and he’s got a fairly good memory.

My brother didn’t like that this new product was from Transylvania, which he thought was more associated with vampires.  Romania has an incredibly rich and diverse mythology, which includes quite a few monsters (strigoi, for example).  It’s not just goddamn vampires!

Caleb is very aware that Grenich sees him as expendable (probably more aware than most employees).  As long as they pay him, he couldn’t care less.  However, as he warns Tracy, he is prepared to do what it takes to survive, including switching sides.  Caleb is a character who could switch allegiances in a heartbeat.

The Corporation is experimenting with this new product and want to see how it stands up against a recent line.  Since Caleb is somewhat expendable, he’s a perfect guinea pig.  He’s valuable, but his loss wouldn’t be devastating.  Whatever the outcome, Grenich will be unaffected.

Tracy is often sent to various employees and investors to remind them of the Corporation’s generosity.  She can be used as both the carrot and the stick, depending on what the situation requires.  In this scene, Tracy’s been sent to make sure Caleb’s going to stay in line.

It cannot be emphasized enough how little Grenich thinks of shape shifters.  I’m very against animal experimentation (that doesn’t make me anti-science, by the way.  Quite the opposite, as a matter of fact).  When I was working on creating the Grenich Corporation, I was doing a lot of research into cosmetics testing.  God, if you want to lose all faith in mankind, spend an hour looking up that subject.  I still don’t understand how someone can accept a paycheck to basically torture animals for a living.  Reading up about animal experimentation . . . well, let’s just say, cynics should never read about that.

Page 113 – 118

I wrote Blitz as being slightly hesitant in this scene.  There are a number of reasons why, one of the main ones being that she knows Caleb is going to be a more difficult target to put down (especially as sick as she is).  It was important to show that both these characters are quite intelligent.

Grenich has set up this gated community.  That’s why Blitz can pretty much guess the schedule of everything.  This is a huge risk for her.  Blitz isn’t really concerned about that.  She’s so focused on killing her target that she disregards everything else.

Blitz knows there’s going to be experiments waiting for her at Caleb’s place, but she doesn’t know what series to expect.  She can’t predict Grenich anymore than they can predict her.  She tries to lure them out to get an idea of what she’ll be up against.  Experiments need to investigate any suspicious activity, hence her throwing cans onto the property.

Blitz’s guns are a last resort.  The noise would attract too much attention and significantly increase the chances of her getting caught.  She also needs to save her bullets for her next destination.  Blitz knows she’s not going to return to the cabin.  She knows her time is very short.  She’s determined to kill her last three targets before dying though.

Writing suspense is one of the most challenging sorts of scenes.  Make it too long and the reader will get bored.  Too short and you won’t get the edge-of-your-seat, nail-biting feeling you want to elicit.

Blitz encounters Grenich werewolves (a very early line, this is the prototype).  I made a bit of an error having Blitz wear the sword on her back.  It’s extremely impractical and almost impossible to draw.  So that’s the last time you’ll see an experiment wear a sword like that.

I wanted to show at least one of the monsters the Grenich Corporation is cooking up.  As scary as Blitz is, there are still some lingering traces that make her seem human.  She has higher thought processes.  Wereanimals have almost no humanity left.  They’re almost entirely feral and incapable of most higher thought processes.  These experiments are pure destruction.

Unfortunately, when you put a creature like this up against a quick thinking, highly intelligent woman (who is also a living weapon), the woman will usually win.  The numbers and brute strength don’t matter.  Blitz has the advantage and she knows how to use it.

[SPOILER!  It’s revealed in Haunted by the Keres, and in a couple pages, that Blitz’s weapons are made from guardian silver.  This is something Set and the necromancers never anticipated.  They had hoped the werewolves would subdue Blitz, even if she killed a few.  This is another reason Blitz didn’t use her guns for her other kills:  all her bullets are guardian silver.  Her last two targets are people Grenich probably won’t sanitize]

I admit, I was quite excited to reveal the history of wereanimals, which ties into the War of the Meadows.  I kind of feel bad for them:  old guardians didn’t curse individuals.  They cursed entire family lines.  These werewolves are descendents of traitors, likely innocent (or would be, had the Big Bad not gotten to them).  A lot of early generation guardians were quite cruel (even Aneurin wouldn’t consider cursing an entire family line for the actions of one).

It’s important to note how Blitz is unaffected by the death of these young men.  Experiments don’t experience any form of sentiment.  She even kicks a body out of the way.  At this point in the story, you’re either her target or you’re in her way.  Neither is a position you want to be in.

Page 118 – 129

This was a scene where I had to shift perspective from one character to another.  I hate doing that.  I got in the really, really bad habit of bouncing from one character’s P.O.V to another early on (this is most apparent in Sere from the Green).  This can make it extremely difficult for readers to connect with characters.  So I’ve really been trying to break this habit, but sometimes I still have to use it for various reasons.  I try to use it as sparingly as I can.

Caleb is almost meant to be a personification of greed.  He has more stuff than he needs and practically everything he owns is meant to show off how rich he is.  He loves possessions.  There are no steady relationships in Caleb’s life because that would probably mean parting with some of his money.

Blitz takes out the lights first because she wants to take away as many of Caleb’s advantages as she can.  She’s at a pretty severe disadvantage.  Blitz knows her failing health is hampering her fighting ability.

Originally, I had Blitz following Caleb around the house, brushing past him in the darkness.  It never quite worked the way I wanted it to.  So I edited most of it out.  I prefer this way:  readers know she’s in the house, but they don’t know where exactly.

I was laughing as I remembered that goddamn fuse box.  It took me forever to figure out what it would look like if a fuse box were yanked off a wall.  This is a detail I wound up having to just guess about.  Writers don’t have to know everything.  They just have to know enough to make it seem like they do 😉

Blitz is doing her best to intimidate Caleb:  killing the lights, leaving her knife (knowing he’ll be able to recognize the material, as any shape shifter would), and now smacking billiard balls together.  She’s really good at using the darkness to her advantage.

Most of the blades Grenich makes (swords, knives, etc.) are serrated.  This is meant to cause the maximum amount of damage and pain.  Very few outside the heads of Grenich have these weapons.  Caleb did such a good job on an important retrieval mission that he was gifted one, which Blitz is unaware of.

The scabbard is gold to reiterate Caleb’s obsession with wealth.  Full disclosure:  I’ve never understood the appeal of gold.  I don’t like the color yellow and gold just strikes me as a deeper yellow.  It’s quite boring, to be honest.  I find silver to be much prettier and more eye-catching.

Unfortunately for Blitz, Caleb isn’t stupid.  He’s a normal shape shifter who has managed to survive the Grenich Corporation.  This is a very dangerous opponent.

Once again, Blitz appears as if out of thin air.  One of these days, I really want to get this scene illustrated.  The image of Blitz standing beneath that domed window, illuminated only by moonlight, glowing green eyes blazing in the darkness.  It’s one of my favorites.

Caleb is a typical arrogant douche bag who thinks everyone else is arrogant but him.  Usually I try to give my villains at least one or two redeeming features.  Caleb doesn’t have any.  He’s just an asshole.

This fight required a ton of rewriting, but actually wasn’t too difficult to write.  I knew what I wanted to happen (I had an outline of important parts of it) and then I just had to fill in what happened between these different points.

The fire that shoots off the tip is obviously not normal fire.  Blitz has never been exposed to this kind of weapon before.  It takes her by surprise briefly, which is all Caleb needs.  Blitz is very nearly killed in this fight.  Caleb is the first target who temporarily gets the better of her.  Blitz gets kicked around a bit.

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I think one of Blitz’s best qualities is her determination.  She never gives up, even when something seems impossible.  Blitz’s shoulder has been sliced open, she has been stabbed through the kidney (ouch), is in agony, and she still forces herself back to her feet.  She continues fighting, even after getting knocked down.  Blitz is a survivor.  I cannot emphasize this enough.

I confess:  her chopping off Caleb’s head was a bit cathartic.  If you’re ever pissed at someone or something, just read that part.  Trust me, you’ll feel better.  Hopefully that doesn’t sound too fucked up.  Writers, don’t piss us off 😉

Blitz is in very bad shape at the end of this scene.  She’s not exactly at death’s door, but she’s getting there.  Blitz can’t even get back to her feet at first.

It was really difficult to figure out how an experiment would experience a flashback.  They don’t have the normal emotional attachments and connections to their memories.  For Blitz, it’s an annoyance to be repressed.

When the ghost appears, Blitz has to physically drag herself across the floor in order to sit against the railing.  She doesn’t have the energy to mind the ghost’s presence.

The ghost mirrors the doctor’s disappointment in Blitz.  Reading this scene, I think I wrote that to demonstrate how Blitz misses the doctor without even realizing it.  There’s a tiny part of her that doesn’t entirely mind companionship, however much she denies it.

As she gets sicker, Blitz’s logic gets a lot flimsier.  She’s just too tired to make sense of things.  She’s not thinking about the consequences if she were to get recaptured.  Her mind is fixed solely on the mission.

I knew that when this chapter ended, there would be a time frame.  Blitz now has an approximate estimate for how much longer she has.  It isn’t much and I hope the reader felt a sense of dread or anxiety.  There’s a ticking clock hanging over Blitz.

Blitz comes up with a really horrible plan, which will probably kill her a lot faster.  She’s desperate and she knows it.  Blitz is completely out of options at this point and is therefore looking for the least awful idea.

The chapter ends with my favorite quote from Hamlet (and one of my favorite quotes in general).

Blitz Symbol Silhouette

So ends the commentary for chapter six.

I’m still working on getting back into my routine.

As always, if you want to be a spectacularly awesome person, purchasing a book can save an indie author’s life.  The links to my shop are always posted above 🙂

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

Until next time . . .


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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