“From the Ashes” Chapter Eight 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 awesome readers!  🙂

Happy New Year!  God, am I glad to see the end of 2014.  I’m fairly certain I say that almost every year but 2014 was a really trying year for me.

Chapter eight, we’re already more than halfway through the novel.  This chapter is probably the most violent in the book.  I was picturing what would happen if Blitz went into an assassin stronghold.  Perhaps unsurprisingly the answer was a bloodbath.  I needed to demonstrate just how dangerous Blitz still is, even somewhat impaired.  If she’s able to do this when at death’s door, imagine what she was like when healthy.

Strangely, this is also the chapter that made me feel the most sorry for her.  Blitz comes very close to feeling something like sadness in this chapter.  She’s completely alone and the last few pages of this chapter have her wondering what else she could have done.  She doesn’t yet understand regret.  Even at the end, the world of normals baffles Blitz.

Shall we?

Page 157 – 159

Here’s a character who hasn’t been seen since Through Storm and Night:  Blackjack.  He has taken up residence in the Obsidian Manor and has been living well since the events in the previous book.  Blackjack knows he’s a target (she has killed almost everyone else who had been part of the retrieval team he was on).  Like I mentioned in the previous commentary, the Big Bad sees this situation as a game.  He has alerted Blackjack, knowing the assassin is going to attempt to flee.  He wants to see if Blitz can catch him first.

Blackjack plans to lay a trap for Blitz, which the Big Bad has warned against doing.  Blackjack obviously disregarded that warning.  There’s a certain amount of pride at play:  assassins like Blackjack get extremely angry when someone tries to kill them.  They believe in blood for blood, obviously.  If you attempt to attack an assassin, you damn well better kill them.

Marla’s another background character who underwent quite a few changes.  I can’t even remember what the first version of her was like.  I know at one point she was an undercover protector (who Blitz severely wounded).  I liked that version, but I just couldn’t make it work in the story.  I already had enough plot lines to keep track of and adding another one would have been ridiculous.  In the end, I decided she worked best as this manipulative and highly ambitious woman.  She may come into the series again at some point.

Blackjack definitely uses his power and influence to get whatever he wants.  He has gone back to his usual wardrobe since he’s no longer working for Grenich (their puppet as Blitz would term it).  He has grown accustomed to a life of decadence and is unwilling to give it up.  Hence his attempting to run.

Page 159 – 161

I had to use a lot of fairly short scenes to set everything up and get the characters exactly where I needed them before the huge fight.

This damn infiltration scene was another one that took me forever to figure out.  Try as I might, I couldn’t get Blitz inside the damn manor in a way that made sense.  I did like the visual of her hanging onto the chassis of a car.  She’s good when it comes to reconnaissance and learning everything there is to know about her targets.

Even though this scene was a real headache, I’m pleased with how it came out.  I like the way Blitz lures guards to her.

I wanted Blitz to use a combination of weapons and hand-to-hand combat throughout the chapter.  Her body is as deadly a weapon as any tool she might use.  She can and will easily switch between both methods.

When she’s fighting, Blitz tends not to see people as individuals.  She sees them as hostiles who are in her way.  As the reader has realized by now, Blitz is quite vicious when she fights.

The killing of the 2nd guard:  this is one of the kills that makes quite a few readers cringe (judging by a couple reactions that I’ve been told).  I almost changed it and had Blitz stab him elsewhere or slit his throat.  While editing, my brother was the one who insisted I left it as it was originally written:  her stabbing the guard in the ear with a screwdriver.  It’s quite a brutal visual.

Blitz doesn’t like having to run across open ground for obvious reasons, but she manages it pretty well.

While rewriting this scene, I had to write in reminders that Blitz was really sick.  The first few drafts had Blitz moving way too easily and quickly.  My brother had to point out that by now, she’d be struggling to remain upright.  Her being sick adds more suspense to the scene, but only if it’s apparent.

Part of what’s keeping Blitz on her feet is adrenaline.  Experiments produce much more adrenaline than normals.  There are massive stores of it in their systems, which gets released when they’re fighting.  Experiments are incredibly efficient killers and it’s mostly due to all the modifications they’ve undergone.

I’m fairly certain this chapter is the reason why a few people have asked me if I’m angry at them 🙂  I think it’s also why my mother is no longer bothered by violent writing.

For Blitz, there’s no turning back at this point and her resolve hasn’t wavered at all.  Once she enters the Obsidian Manor, Blitz knows it’s unlikely she will come out again.

Page 161 – 163

It’s kind of funny reading this short scene again.  Had Blackjack not been such an entitled dick, he could have potentially gotten away (but probably not).

Blitz is more like a destructive force of nature at this point in the novel.  There’s no escaping her if she’s coming after you.  She really is a monster when she kills.

I added a lot of tablets during rewrites.  Thank whatever higher power that be for my brother.  I’m so technologically illiterate that it’s really quite sad.  I think at one point I had this security guard show Blackjack printed pictures, which resulted in an editorial note along the lines of, “What the fuck is this?  Uh no.  He’d have a tablet.  Jesus.”

This is probably the only time readers see an assassin genuinely scared.

I wanted the security of footage to be a bit murky.  She knows how to avoid security cameras, but it also reinforces the idea that Blitz isn’t natural.  She’s like a ghost or phantom, the woman in the urban legends.

Blackjack’s strategy is to use sheer numbers in the hopes of overwhelming Blitz.  This really isn’t the best method to use against experiments.

Originally, this scene was written as a more one-on-one fight between Blackjack and Blitz, but it was just too dull and anticlimactic.  I needed to present Blitz with a seemingly insurmountable challenge.

Marla really couldn’t give less of a fuck if she tried.  Many shape shifters still don’t know a thing about Grenich or the experiments.  The glowing eyes are still just a story to many and Blitz remains mostly an urban legend.

Blackjack has some idea about how dangerous experiments are, but he still thinks he can use brute force to deal with one.  The Big Bad doesn’t give a damn about him and he’d never tell a lowly shape shifter about the highly advanced living weapons he produces.

Page 163 – 169

I had a lot of pent up anger and frustration when I wrote this scene.  I channeled it into the bloodbath.  There wasn’t a version of this scene that wasn’t insanely violent.  This is Blitz at her deadliest, and, in some ways, at her lowest.  Blitz is almost always a dichotomy and this scene is like a last gasp of breath.  She does what she believes she’s best at, perhaps for the last time.

In the next novel, one of the new villains states that the only time experiments experience pleasure, true pleasure, is when they’re fighting and killing.  This is part of their conditioning.  Blitz no pleasure during this fight.  If she weren’t ill, this would be very confusing for Blitz.

Page 163 is the first time Blitz genuinely questions her abilities.  She’s used to fighting numerous opponents at once, but never when deathly ill.  Despite this, Blitz is still her usual cold, detached, indifferent self.  Experiments don’t usually think about whether or not they’ll survive.  Blitz never has, but she’s never been out of the Corporation for so long before.

Blitz will often use an opponent’s weapon against them.  Experiments are brilliant at improvising and scavenging.  One of the more difficult of aspects of writing an experiment is I have to write a character who is infinitely smarter than I’ll (or any human) will ever be.  Like I’ve mentioned before, writers don’t have to know everything but they have to seem like they do.

On pages 163 – 164, the reader gets a glimpse of Blitz’s regenerative ability.  This is also a lot slower than it would be if she were healthy.

This is another fight where Blitz takes a beating.  Not as bad as a normal shape shifter would (a normal shape shifter would have been killed), but she also takes a lot more wounds than a healthy experiment would.

I wanted to challenge myself with fight scenes.  Fighting is a really difficult thing to write.  If you’re not careful, they become boring and repetitive.  I have a massive binder full of research related to fighting styles and weapons.  Blitz is a master in every known style and weapon.  She mixes them so that it almost seems like it’s own style, which usually keeps an opponent on their toes.  Fighting in a controlled setting is completely different from fighting in a real world setting.  Fight scenes in novels should reflect this.

I avoided a lot of description when it came to these assassins and guards because I wanted to keep the focus on Blitz.  I needed to stay in her perspective.  So she’s currently colorblind (which I kept fucking forgetting.  As you can probably guess, it led to much colorful language and expletives).  Also, throughout this scene, she’s in kill mode.  There are no individuals, only hostiles.

Big fights like these tend to work better in visual mediums.  I had to keep a tally of how many guards there were in the manor.  Keeping track of how many Blitz killed also proved to be extremely challenging.

As I was reading through this scene again, I just kept thinking, “Oh my god, I can’t believe my mother read all this!”  😀

As twisted as this sounds, I really tried to write Blitz’s fighting like a dance.  The way she moves is meant to be really fluid and beautiful.  It’s a dance of death (apologies if that’s extremely cliche).

Blitz frequently uses opponents as living shields.  This is a method she would sometimes use out in the field when she was at Grenich.  She didn’t always use hostiles either.  I really can’t emphasize it enough:  Blitz isn’t a good guy.  If this novel took place while she was at the Grenich Corporation, she’d be someone the protectors would fight against.

One really great thing about writing this scene:  almost no fucking dialogue!  😀

I believe this scene is also one of the first times Blitz uses guns.  Her guns (and ammunition) has been made specially for her by Copper, who I love.  Copper makes his first appearance in Haunted by the Keres (the next book in the series).

I just remembered this part of the scene where Blitz uses blood to slide across the floor.  That’s a fucked up version of a Slip & Slide 🙂  (is it weird that I made myself laugh a lot with that?)

Blitz’s sais:  sais are normally a blunt weapon.  Copper has designed hers to be sharp like blades.  The pointes are extremely sharp so she can use them like daggers.  They’re obviously made of guardian silver, so they’ll never stain or dull.  All Blitz’s weapons are capable of causing grievous bodily harm.

This was a very cathartic scene to write.  When life’s got you down, write an increasingly violent fight.

Blitz doesn’t bother destroying the brains of most of the guards.  The likelihood of Grenich attempting to make any of them revenants is nonexistent.  Even if they did, Blitz figures she’s not going to be around anymore and therefore it isn’t her problem.

Blitz’s catsuit (and other clothing) has also been made specially for her.  It repairs itself if it’s damaged and it’s also made from guardian materials (it feels and moves like yoga clothing but is shiny like vinyl).  After this fight, Blitz’s clothes have actually repaired faster than her body, which is a first.

While editing, my brother suggested it would be interesting if Marla told Blitz where Blackjack was.  I wrote the end of this scene just to see how it would read and had a “holy shit, this works really well” moment.  Thanks, Mike!  🙂

Page 169 – 173

If she weren’t so sick, Blitz would have easily dodged the shotgun slug.  This is probably the worst hit she takes in terms of damage.

My brother loved Blitz’s improvised weapon:  she uses the staff of a rake as a spear.  However, I completely fucked up the angle of it piercing the windshield.  Originally, I had it spear Blackjack through the stomach.  My brother had to show me that this would be physically impossible.  His right shoulder was the only place she could logically hit him.  We had diagrams and everything 😉

I’m pretty sure my brother hated the bit with the airbag.  He gets really annoyed with exploding airbags (it’s like a trope that he despises).

Page 170 is the closest Blitz comes to being sadistic.  There’s a lot of overkill when she kills Blackjack.  Blitz feels something akin to hatred for him.  It’s partly due to his shooting her, but it’s a lot more than that.  The last two targets are the ones Blitz really wants to eliminate.  She doesn’t entirely understand why.

Blitz is chillingly cruel in this scene.  I wrote this to show how she still doesn’t quite understand her emotions or motives.  She still lacks sympathy and empathy.  Blitz knows on some level that she hates this assassin, but she doesn’t understand why.  Right now, she just sees him as a threat that needs to be neutralized.

Blitz is completely spent at the end of this chapter, exhausted in every possible way.  I found the image of her curled up against the garage, watching the flames, to be one of the saddest ones in the novel.  She’s so alone and confused and just in a tremendous amount of pain.  The world has pummeled her and she’s literally not able to get to her feet right away.  Who hasn’t felt this way at some point in their life?

Throughout the novel, I tried to bring the reader a little to closer Blitz in each chapter.  She starts off very remote and closed off.  The reader gradually gets closer to her as the story continues on.  There’s a brief glimpse inside her mind and what she’s thinking at this point.  It’s still a bit remote because of who the character is.

Blitz is well aware of how her actions look (or are read) by others.  She doesn’t care.  Blitz still finds introspection to be a pointless endeavor, one more suited to normals.

The climbing flames are a relaxing sight for Blitz, which is unusual considering how flames are the weapon of choice for one of the heads of Grenich.  Experiments aren’t scared of fire, but they tend to be a lot more cautious around it because of this.  I may have mentioned this before but I’m pyrophobic.  So of course one of my main villains uses fire as their weapon of choice.

Blitz is quite indifferent towards death.  The tiredness she has been experiencing is something that has been with her since she was rescued/extracted from the laboratory.  The virus has just amplified what was already there.

This is the first time the ghost doesn’t make an appearance, reinforcing the idea that Blitz truly is all alone at this point.  Blitz hears her voice, but she doesn’t see her.  This is another thing I thought was really sad:  Blitz actually looks for the ghost.

Page 172 is when Blitz experiences something like loneliness for the first time.  She’s sick, in pain, and completely alone.  She’s at her most vulnerable and she doesn’t like it.  Blitz is pretty much done at this point.  She just wants to eliminate her last target, but she’s also pondering other things.  This scene is the closest Blitz comes to introspection.

I wanted to end the chapter with Blitz taking the form of a raven.  Ravens are my favorite birds.  They’re extremely clever.  However, in Western mythology, they are considered to be an ill omen and often symbolize death.  They’re inextricably linked with the horror genre and Halloween.  I liked the idea of Blitz taking on the shape of an animal with such a contradictory image.  If that makes any sense.

Blitz Symbol Silhouette

So ends the commentary for chapter eight.

It’s the new year and my con schedule will be starting up again soon.  I’d really love to sell even more books this year and preferably a few more before my next con in February.  If you’re enjoying these commentaries, please consider helping me spread word of mouth.  That’s how indie authors like myself survive 🙂

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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