“From the Ashes” Chapter Seven 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 wonderful amazing readers! 🙂

My brother keeps making fun of me for these commentaries.  Apparently, I lack any kind of filter.  (Shrugs)  Oh well.

Chapter seven is a fairly quiet chapter.  Sometimes I need these chapters to remind myself and the reader of the various plot threads.  When you have a lot of characters, it can be difficult to keep track of all of them.  Blitz is fairly straightforward when it comes to her storyline.  The established characters don’t have anywhere near as much information as she does.  They’re also using vastly different methods to achieve similar goals.  They also have some information that Blitz would disregard as unimportant.

This is one of my information heavy chapters.  The story is going to start wrapping up and the protectors need just a little more information before going after those final two targets.  The next few chapters go quite fast, so I wanted the reader to be caught up before then.

Shall we?

Page 130 – 133

There’s a bit of the aftermath of Green’s murder that needed to be addressed.  Not a lot, since her existence has been wiped from memory (human memory).

Remington is not a character who is easily rattled.  Alex is not often wounded, certainly not as severely as she was during the retrieval mission gone awry.  Alex is Remington’s daughter, so of course he’s going to react like any father would.

There’s an important bit of information on page 131:  the Four, Jensen, and Nero were the only shape shifters at the ball.  Even though humans outnumber shape shifters, this is still practically unheard of.  This is a sign of Grenich machinations.  They can’t “adjust” shape shifters’ memories and perception as easily as they can humans.  They can’t make shape shifters forget the existence of people they make disappear.  Lilly points this out on page 132.

I’m fairly certain Jet would forget to sleep if Lilly didn’t remind him.  When I’m working (whether on a novel or a project, like oh, chapter commentaries), I tend to lose track of time.  I can’t remember the last time I went to bed before 2 a.m. and I wake up around 8 a.m.  I’m supposed to be getting at least seven hours of sleep (doctor’s orders).  I need a Lilly 😀

This scene changed a bit.  I tried to put a small moment of foreshadowing during the walk down the hallway.  Unfortunately, it wound up reading like a massive spoiler and the more I rewrote it, the more ridiculously confusing it became.  I wound up cutting it and replacing it with this more ambiguous moment:  Jet thinks he sees movement out of the corner of his eye.  It’s a lot smoother and gives the scene a nice bit of spookiness.

I often hesitate when adding a reference to the legend of Selene.  I worry about getting repetitive.  Shape shifters revere her because she was one of the first guardians who saw (and argued for) shape shifters as equal to the guardians.  She felt the same about humans and the other supernatural races.  Asking for her help or guidance is a tradition in shape shifter culture.  It’s not something they believe in literally, but rather something they do to comfort themselves when in difficult or trying situations.

Page 133 – 138

Alex is a fun character to write.  She can be impatient and when she’s impatient, she fidgets a lot.  I don’t know why, but I really like writing fidgety characters.

Oh god, this interaction between Alex and Electra was one of my favorites to write.  Electra is just so irritated and Alex is too happy to finally get her hands on that guardian tome to notice.  She pays no attention to Electra once she has that book 🙂

Oh Athena.  I wanted to include a few nods to the Greek goddess.  In this series, she’s one of the heads of the library (goddess of wisdom).  Another nod to the myth:  Athena doesn’t like most other guardian women.  She hates Passion (and Electra by extension).  Electra would rather have her fingernails pulled out than talk to Athena for even five minutes.  That’s why Electra’s somewhat peevish in this scene.  You know those people in life where just interacting with them can potentially ruin the rest of your day?  That’s Athena to most guardian women.

I knew I was going to introduce another mystery at this point, which was tied to the Meadows.  This is touched on more in Haunted by the Keres, but the mystery won’t be solved until book 5 (and probably resolved in book 6 or 7, depending on how long the series winds up being).  There’s potentially a guardian traitor in the Meadows.  The history books are censored and that is a huge no-no among guardians.

In the Meadows, the library is one of the very few places where men and women guardians can interact freely (or as my brother likes to joke, “So it’s where young guardians go to fuck.  Just like in college.”  Um, no).  I pictured the library as being large enough to be considered its own land.  Guardians value knowledge above all else.  It’s available to all who seek it.

There’s a callback to the dead plants in the first two books.  Every now and again, there has been a place where all the plant life is dead.  This motif is shown again in the very last scene of the novel.

Alex is not a person who enjoys being hovered over.  She’s the kind of person who doesn’t get the whole appeal of doting 🙂

Alex is really smart.  She’s the one who has managed to find some common links between the glowing eyes, disappearing bodies, and dead plants.  The wheels in this woman’s mind are always spinning.

Death needs to eventually make an appearance.  I’m not sure when or where to fit him.  He’s a difficult character to introduce due to his being a shut-in, thanks to his brother being an egomanical dickhead (as he would put it.  I’ve got a very clear concept for this character in my mind).

Both Alex and Jade are getting extremely frustrated by the feeling that they’re missing a fairly big part of this puzzle.  They have most of the pieces, but there’s still some they’re missing.

Shae’s speech about scary creatures in stories:  Grenich manufactures monsters.  As the series continues, more creatures will be shown.  The Big Bad has the stuff of nightmares in his facilities and he’s just waiting for the opportunity to unleash them on the world.  So far, readers have mostly seen “successful” experiments (those meant for infiltration, spying, other covert-type missions as well as battles).  They’re deadly and scary, but visually, they look normal.  More or less (as long as they conceal their glowing eyes).  There are a lot more experiments like the wereanimals:  beings of pure destruction.

Page 138 – 141

Passion and Electra haven’t spoken much since Electra returned.  I wrote this scene imagining there still being a little tension between them.

Passion is one of the guardians who must be consulted if someone is going to make changes to any of the books in the guardian library, which is why Electra goes straight to her.  She knows her mother will answer her truthfully and won’t give her the run-around.

Passion loves the written word.  She loves all artists, but she has a special fondness for writers 😉  Passion often writes with extremely fancy pens.  Dip pens are her personal favorite.

Even though there is a bit of tension between these two, Electra can still go to her mother with questions.  Passion would never turn Electra away, even if they’re fighting.  Like I mentioned in an earlier commentary, Passion is like a safe haven in the Meadows, especially to the younger guardians.

Passion does have a nostalgic side.  She’s mostly a character who looks forward, but she finds value in good memories.  I tend to find the word “nostalgic” to be problematic (perhaps it has to do with my wariness of people who look back to the “good old days,” when life sucked for about 90% of the population).  But I can’t think of another word that quite captures the idea of fond memories.  Damn sleep-deprived brain!

I have a very clear idea of why the history books have been altered and who’s behind it.  This is part of why I fucking love being an indie author.  Traditional publishing doesn’t put many resources (or effort) into promoting newer authors.  If your first novel isn’t a smashing success, you’re pretty much fucked.  As an indie author, I can set up things that will happen in future books because I know there will be future books 🙂

There’s an uneasiness that’s starting to creep into the Meadows.  The guardians are more nervous about the possible return of an ancient foe.  There’s a nuclear option that’s briefly mentioned in the next book in the series.  Should that come to pass, odds are it would be disastrous for both worlds.

The 2nd Man often paces when he’s feeling unsettled.  He knows about the darkness in the world, having been part of it for so long.  He can sense when something’s up.  Not being able to take an active part in the fight against Grenich is driving him up the wall.  It’s important to note that the 2nd Man can sense a lot of evil, but he can’t really see into anything connected with the Big Bad (including experiments).

Page 141 – 147

When I was writing this chapter, I knew Jensen would feel some amount of remorse about his actions at the hacienda.  Jensen is a protector and he has sworn to protect the innocent.  He has kind of just played judge, jury, and executioner by letting Blitz go.  Jensen feels like he has betrayed Jet by letting her go.  Worse, Jensen knows he’d do the same thing if he had to do it again.  He kind of hates himself for that.

The Deverell brothers just chilling out.  I really liked the simplicity of this image. These guys are usually running about.  It’s nice to write them taking it easy 🙂

Nero is a lot younger than his brothers.  Shape shifter children tend to be really spaced out in age (as I imagine immortals would be).  I picture Malone and Devin being fairly close in age.  Orion and Roan were too.  Ajax was kind of the odd man out:  much younger than his elder brothers but quite a bit older than his younger brothers.  I have notes about shape shifter sibling dynamics (which I need to dig out and go through again, just to refresh my memory).

Nero calling Ajax a rabbit:  full disclosure, I’m vegan.  I don’t make a huge deal of it, but sometimes people around me do (for some reason I can’t even begin to fathom).  I’ve been called rabbit (or some iteration there of) so many times I’ve lost count.  Also, my brother gave me so much shit about the vegetable wrap (which he called food porn).  I wanted to reiterate Ajax kind of being the odd man out every now and again.

I imagined the Deverells having the same father but a couple different mothers.  They were all raised and loved with their parents.  Their father was killed, but their mothers may make an appearance at some point down the line.  Like I mentioned in an earlier commentary, shape shifters don’t experience what humans would term relationship drama.  They may bicker and argue occasionally (like normal people do), but they don’t have massive blow ups.

Ajax is one of the few shape shifters Jensen will confide in.  Though he thinks of the Deverells as brothers (and they think of him the same way), Ajax is the leader due to his being the eldest.  Jensen respects him.  Ajax can also read Jensen’s tells.  He knows when Jensen is trying to hide something.

[SPOILER!  The necklace Jensen keeps in his pocket is like a lifeline for him.  It’s a memory and it reminds him of why he still fights.  It keeps him going.  Plus, he has this idea that it’s the one thing he can keep safe.  Jensen feels like he has failed as a protector so many times and he carries that guilt.  He wants to keep this one thing safe (as it says on page 144)]

Jensen lied to Jet about how his encounter with Blitz ended and he feels really bad about that, as I mentioned before.  He confesses to Ajax because he just can’t keep that secret anymore.  If Blitz kills an innocent person, Jensen feels he’ll be partly to blame.

Though he doesn’t really believe it, Jensen voices an opinion many shape shifters would hold:  Grenich is torturing and experimenting on shape shifters, so why not let Blitz do what the protectors won’t?  She’s killing those who are killing shape shifters (even if only indirectly).  Jensen’s sentiments on page 144 are what a lot of shape shifters would argue.

Ajax is an experienced protector.  He’s very dedicated to justice and protecting the innocent.  He has seen a lot of good protectors give their lives for this, including a lot of close friends and even some family.  So he gets rather angry when he hears Jensen saying things that are closer to an assassin or vigilante perspective.

Ajax’s speech at the top of page 145 is really important to understanding his character.  It’s what he believes.  Also, it was important that he acknowledge what was done to Blitz was wrong.  Too often when protagonists are talking about villains or antagonists, they gloss over what made them the way they are.  For a character like Blitz, you have to remember what was done to her and understand how that led her to react the way she does.  You don’t have to agree with her actions (you shouldn’t) but understanding doesn’t mean agreement or excusing.  It is is important to understand why she’s doing what she is.

Character print (sort of):  Bringing up Jensen’s late sister, Nat, is one of the only sure ways to make Jensen listen.  Jensen hates that people know this (even if it’s only a select few).

Page 145 gives readers a glimpse of Jensen’s inner pain.  He hasn’t allowed himself to grieve and it has left him feeling completely hollow.  Jensen only has this fury left, simmering just under his skin.  He’s using that anger to motivate him, to keep him going.  The problem is that he doesn’t know what to do without it and that’s not healthy.

I really enjoyed writing this moment between Jensen and Ajax (even though it took me forever to get the damn dialogue right.  Fucking dialogue).  These two characters are family in all but blood.  They have saved each others lives quite a few times during their travels.

Peyton, ah Peyton.  She’s a background character who is another fun one to write.  She’s a shape shifter, a thief, and she mostly lives among humans (because they make the best marks, but she also finds mortals to be fascinating).  She’s one of Jensen’s sources and she’s a damn good one.

Peyton is another woman who is always in control.  She decides the meeting place, the time, and she always leaves the conversation first.  I hope to bring her into the series again at some point because there’s an interesting back story to her 🙂

Page 147 – 153

I wanted to show one way shape shifters interact with humans they see on a somewhat regular basis (they try to avoid this because of their immortality).  The Deverells have known the local small theater owner for some time.  He has mentioned their not aging, but it has become a bit of a joke between them.  Obviously, this isn’t a method that would often work and it only works in certain situations.

The charming old movie house, a dying breed if ever there was one.  This one is so damn archaic (I should have scaled it back just a teensy bit).

Peyton is an extremely smart woman who takes pride in being good at both her jobs.  She’s a pediatric nurse (she has gone to college and medical school).  Jensen met her when he was much younger.  He recognized her as a thief, which almost no one does.  That impressed Peyton, enough for her to befriend him.

Peyton’s another playful character.  She’s flirty and enjoys playing games (not in a bad way).  She and Jensen has a very brief fling in the past, but neither is hung up on the other.  They had fun but found they preferred a platonic friendship.

Peyton finds Jensen to be incredibly boring when he’s in a gloomy mood.  They’re a lot like how Sly and Jet were when they were friends.

My brother suggested that at least one of the people on Blitz’s list should have some kind of tragic back story.  They all have back stories, but I chose to reveal Green’s because it was the most sympathetic.  Most of the others were lured to Grenich because of their greed.  Naomi Green was different.  She sold her soul to save her young daughter.

I had to look up the history of chemotherapy to get this time frame right.  I do like looking up history, but I usually only get approximate dates (or estimates).  It’s freaking awesome when there’s an actual concrete date for something.

I liked the idea that the Big Bad affects perception a little more than reality.  There are a ton of pictures in my house.  I was looking at a picture one day and I thought, “It would be really creepy if there were more people in this photo that I couldn’t see.”  Then I started looking up old pictures online and that idea started growing:  what if there were people in this pictures that nobody could see?  That’s I thought up the idea of pictures that had people in it that humans couldn’t see but shape shifters (and other supernatural races) could.

Peyton has uncovered a lot of valuable clues about the Grenich Corporation and how it operates (page 152).  As the fight against Grenich intensifies, it’s good information to have.

[SPOILER!  The biggest reveal is how Grenich froze the accounts of the employees on Blitz’s kill list right around the time the stories about her first started.  They were able to predict her actions.  The Big Bad knows Blitz is dying and after he figures out her targets, he wants to see how far she can get.  He puts obstacles in her path to see if she can get through them.  This is a game to him.]

Jensen is worried about Peyton’s safety.  She’s already decided that this is the end of the search for her.  Peyton owed Jensen a favor and now they’re even.  Peyton doesn’t work for free and her time isn’t cheap.

Page 153 – 156

I needed to proved a bit of back story for Ace.  She’s mostly been in the background for the story.  I didn’t use this character as much as I would have liked (still learning how to juggle a lot of characters).

Ace is a woman who knows more than she lets on.  She’s another slightly unreliable narrator.

Ace’s back story is revealed.  What’s interesting is there’s a small spoiler in here if you’re paying close attention (if you reread the novel, you’ll probably catch it).

Ace enjoys being a rebel.  This was fun back story to flesh out because I got to explore some of the dynamics of rebels (they’re really into the families they choose).  It was one of the easier ones since I had already outlined it before I started writing this book.

It’s funny that Ace has been practicing flair bar tending since before she legally could.  Ace has never drunk alcohol in her life (according to my character notes).  She finds the smell vile and it has always repulsed her.

My brother’s editorial note on this whole scene:  “See.  This is how you do emotion without being overdramatic or sappy!”  🙂

There’s a story behind Ace’s mother that I’m debating when to reveal it.  It probably won’t be in a commentary.  I swear to god, I have a stack of index cards with various plot points that I haven’t yet decided where exactly they fit.

Originally this scene ended with Ace asking Jade about the Deverells and her other family.  It always read really clunky and forced.  I preferred this somewhat melancholy end.

Blitz Symbol Silhouette

So ends the commentary for chapter seven.

Things are still quite chaotic around here, but I’m getting back in the swing of things.  Oh dear, the next chapter is quite bloody.

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 (I’d write something new, but I’m quite tired at the moment) 🙂

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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