“From the Ashes” Chapter Ten 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!  🙂

It snowed yesterday, which was why I was absent.  Snow makes me feel like death and slows my mind down significantly.  Snow is horrible awful dreadful stuff.  Seriously, why do people like it?  Plagues are more pleasant.

Chapter ten contains some of the most important reveals in the series.  One established character comes face-to-face with Blitz.  This chapter is when all the story lines collide.  It was really quite fun to write, as reveals almost always are.  Re-reading it, I was pleasantly surprised to find the suspense holds up quite well.

Shall we?

Page 200 – 205

Due to their contentious relationship, Artemis and Passion tend to avoid each other.  There aren’t many times these two are in the same scene.  Artemis is more likely to be found near Adonia.  She has significantly more responsibilities than Passion does.

There’s an interesting switch between these two characters.  Passion is dangerously calm.  Artemis winds up being the one who becomes annoyed with the quiet and breaks it first.

Artemis is a very learned guardian.  She practically knows the history of the Meadows by heart.  Passion, on the other hand, has never had much interest in the subject.  She has studied it and knows the basics, but never really went in depth with it.

[SPOILER!  Artemis reveals some of the background of Pyra, Set’s consort.  Pyra was a fairly important guardian during her time, which made her treachery even worse.  She was the former heir to the lands of fire.]

Artemis wondering how a fire guardian could look so cold is one of the little details my brother really liked.  I have a very clear idea of who Pyra is and why she does the things she does.  She has always looked extremely cold and acted in a similar manner.  Pyra will make more appearances throughout the series.  She’s got a real sense of entitlement and superiority, but she’s also smart as hell.  Pyra never really cared for any other guardians except for Chaos, who had similar ambitions.

Artemis is extremely disturbed that someone would censor the history books without the High Council’s permission.  As I’ve mentioned before, guardians value knowledge above almost all else.  To attempt to suppress or destroy it is unconscionable and goes against almost all they believe in (not to mention their laws).

Passion and Artemis have been civil for a record amount of time.  This was a really difficult relationship to write.  I wasn’t sure how to portray the strife between these two characters without straying into melodrama.  It’s difficult when you understand two characters who just don’t understand each other at all.  Passion has always had this subconscious hope that her mother would one day accept her.  She has never sought her approval as that would go completely against her nature.  Artemis has always been proud of her daughter, but disappointed at the same time.  She worries about Passion and unfortunately that manifests as harshness and disapproval.

Passion and Artemis have a brief discussion about belief systems (I have mixed feelings about this discussion).  It’s important to remember that the Big Bad is good at corrupting systems and people.  Wherever there is structure, he can find the weak spot/point to exploit.  In this series, people aren’t inherently evil but they can be twisted into becoming so.

Artemis makes a very important point about the guardians:  they exist only to make sure nothing gets completely out of control.  They are there to serve the Earth.  They aren’t gods.  They’re not meant to be worshiped, nor do they want to be.

I had to do another P.O.V. switch to end the scene the way I wanted to.  Like I said, I use this method sparingly.

Passion has the tendency to become lost in thought and her mind is sometimes her sanctuary.  She has been grieving the past few years and it has left her somewhat drained.  Her thoughts jump around a lot.  For one of the first times in her life, Passion really isn’t sure what to do with herself.  She’s too distracted to even dredge up the energy to focus on the mystery of the censored history books.

Passion has this really beautiful love of life and has always been able to appreciate the simple pleasures.  She enjoys watching guardians and shape shifters Appear.  The light that precedes those Appearing is something Passion finds to be quite lovely.

I love the visual I get of a very, very young Passion ditching her lessons to sit in the front hall and watch the lights 🙂  It’s quite adorable.

Sly and Alpha could not have picked a worse time to Appear in the Pearl Castle 😉

Page 205 – 209

Sly has been to the Meadows a few times in the past.  She has never been particularly impressed with the place.  Too many guardians in her opinion.  Alpha, on the other hand, has never been to the home of the guardians and is left speechless.

Character print:  Though Sly isn’t overly impressed with the guardians, she does have an enormous amount of respect for the messengers.  Sly has more respect for those who have thankless jobs.  The Meadows wouldn’t function without messengers, who do a lot of the unnoticed work.  Sly appreciates hard work.  Power and status have never appealed to her.  She finds both to be rather pointless (though it amuses her how people fight and struggle for them).

Onyx is still being completely awful.  In truth, she’s relieved to be somewhere Grenich can’t reach.  Onyx mistakenly thinks she’s safe (or as safe as she can be).

Sly is incredibly physical when she needs to be.  She’s grown weary of Onyx’s childish jibes.  Sly really wants to hand her off to Jet and get on with her life.  She has much better things to do with her time.

Sly is involved with both Jade and Alpha.  They all know about each other.  There’s no jealousy (which isn’t overly common among shape shifters.  They’re more likely to experience envy and yes, there is a difference).

Sly knows having Onyx out in the open is an ugly situation just waiting to happen.  She has no idea that they’ve already been spotted.

The scene between Alpha, Onyx, Passion, and Sly changed a bit during rewrites.  Originally, Sly was incredibly annoyed and tried to settle Passion down, after the guardian tackled them.  While editing, my brother pointed out that this wasn’t really in character for Sly.  She’s someone who knows she’s right and it amuses her when a situation like this happens because if they had listened to her, it wouldn’t have.  Also, Onyx has been a headache ever since being apprehended.  Her getting choked is something Sly enjoys.  It’s karma.

I have to hand it to Mike (my brother):  this scene works so much better with Sly not giving a single fuck.  I really love her in this scene.  I got a bit carried away with her taunting Onyx and made the scene a lot longer than it needed to be.  Thankfully, I was able to fix that during final edits.

The messengers are too scared of Onyx to interfere.  Also, it’s difficult for them to know what to do when a guardian is doing something like this.  Passion is their superior and they don’t know if it would be proper to interfere.  This is another instance of tradition really not working.

Alpha tries to be the voice of reason.  Despite some of their more illegal practices/activities, rebels have a very strong moral compass.  Alpha doesn’t think guardians have the right to play the role of executioner.  That isn’t justice.  That’s murder.

“”Passion, no.  Stop,” Sly said lethargically, crossing one leg over the other and briefly examining her nails.” [207].  😀  This is a visual that makes me laugh every damn time.  Sly couldn’t possibly give less of a fuck if she tried.  She figures someone will break them up eventually.

Alpha really tries to reason with Passion (this is one of the very few guardians who the rebels respect), but she’s beyond reason at this point.  This is one of the extremely rare instances where Passion is out of control.  She isn’t thinking about the consequences of her actions.  She’s only thinking of how painful the past few years have been.

Jet shows up right in time, but even he has trouble getting Passion to stop (the situation isn’t helped by Sly, who suggests they let Passion have at it).  Sly is really enjoying herself in this scene.  It’s even more entertaining because Jet is so angry (that will teach him to put her on a team with a ticking time bomb).

Reading this scene again is interesting, knowing what I do about the next novel.  A large part of Haunted by the Keres explores grief.  Passion really tends to externalize the grief she feels.  She’s not usually this violent or destructive, but she lets her grief out in whatever way she can.  In the next novel in the series, the character who grieves the most tends to internalize grief.  I don’t think either way is healthier or preferable than the other.  They’re just different.

Character print (sort of):  Passion doesn’t enjoy being alone.  She prefers to have company with her, even when she’s grieving.  Jet has known her long enough to recognize this but, as much as he wants to be there for her, he needs to question Onyx.  Jet knows that Passion trusts Ajax so he sends him in his stead.

Alpha is not happy with Jet.  Not that she ever is, but that unpleasant situation could have been avoided.  Sly’s her usual nonchalant self 🙂

Jet also treats Onyx rather roughly.  Protectors are compassionate, but nowhere near as much as the guardians.  Onyx has been hunting (and killing) people Jet cares about for years.  Now that she’s in custody, he’s both relieved and angry.  Jet’s angry that this woman has been able to kill without consequence for so many years.  He’s angry that she’s been helping a corporation that tortures countless shape shifters.  Jet’s relieved that they finally captured her, but he can’t help but feel it’s too little too late.

Alpha’s cell phone:  the Meadows is connected to Earth, so it’s possible to get a weak signal on a cell phone.  Also, Copper has worked on the phones of Resistance members.  Using his magic, he has boosted the phones ability to receive a signal and they can get one just about anywhere.  They are still susceptible to jammers though.

Alpha is pretty great at being discreet 😉

Page 210 – 214

There had to be a scene of the doctor and Jack.  These two have been absent for a couple chapters and still have a part to play (a fairly substantial one).

The doctor suffers from PTSD, which often manifests as OCD.  I’ll have more about this in the commentary for Haunted by the Keres.  There was a particularly traumatic experience he had at Grenich that greatly contributed to the doctor developing PTSD.  Years of fighting Grenich and isolating himself has worsened this condition.

The doctor goes out of his way to respect Jack and Blitz’s personal space.  This is difficult for him because of the compulsion he has to clean everything and everywhere.  Blitz hasn’t given him express permission to enter her room, so he hasn’t.

Blitz left without a word and hasn’t returned.  That isn’t totally unusual for her, but the way she has been acting has sent up a couple red flags in the doctor’s mind.  He knows something isn’t right.  Entering Blitz’s space is a last resort.

I felt it would be really eerie if Blitz made her room look almost exactly like her cell at Grenich.  The space is completely bare and lifeless.  She has done everything she could to recreate Grenich.  The hell she knew is better than the one she doesn’t.

The doctor finds the bloodstained tissues and his heart basically stops.  He has this horrible realization that Blitz has been deteriorating right under his nose and he didn’t notice.  Experiments are really good at hiding any kind of weakness, but the doctor still blames himself for not realizing Blitz was sick.

The combination of worry and guilt causes the doctor to snap at Jack.  Being a seven series, Jack is used to be shouted at.  The doctor’s tone doesn’t bother him at all.  Jack is still incapable of most emotions, including anger and/or annoyance.

Jack has suspected that Blitz was ill, but he has been trying to learn how to respect the privacy of others.  He wasn’t sure if either the doctor or Blitz would want him to voice his suspicions.  At Grenich, experiments were expected to remain silent if they were unsure of something.

Unlike the doctor, Jack still has no problem using others property (like phones) without their permission.  Again, he’s still learning.

Alpha has texted the doctor.  He’s still hesitant to reveal himself to the protectors, but he’s completely out of options at this point.  As the doctor tells Jack, he wouldn’t go if Blitz’s life didn’t depend on it.

Jack is still trying to understand the purpose of emotional attachments, but he is reluctant to leave the cabin.  He likes it there, even if he doesn’t entirely understand why.

The doctor has a really nice old bag that he carries a number of medical supplies inside.  This is another thing I can vividly picture in my mind.  It’s worn, looks rather beaten up, and it has a rack inside it that folds up and down.  The doctor has had it for years (even before he worked for Grenich).

Page 214 – 218

Back to the Meadows where Jet is trying to interrogate Onyx.  Passion did a number on her face (though some of that is from her earlier brawl with Jensen).  Jet can’t help but feel some small amount of satisfaction from that.  He hates Onyx but has dedicated his life to being a protector.  He can’t haul off and punch her.  That would be wrong.  However, that doesn’t mean he can’t enjoy it when Onyx experiences some small bit of karma.

Jet is good at maintaining a cool head during questioning (something that took him years of practice).  He’s a very good leader and I wanted to demonstrate that in this scene.  Jet has a fair amount of experience, more than Onyx.

Writing these two was extremely difficult (so much damn dialogue!).  These two characters are both very smart and Onyx believes herself to be a lot smarter than Jet.  I didn’t want either of them to come off as stupid, which is quite a lot harder than it sounds.

Jet questions Onyx about her sudden change in style and she has a very subtle tell.  Again, Onyx has done her best to completely bury everything about who she is  She is terrified of Grenich.

I briefly considered having Adonia interrupt the questioning, but the scene was a little more interesting when it was Artemis who entered.

Artemis hates Onyx with every fiber of her being, but would never show that.  She is a proper and dignified guardian, who shouldn’t experience such things as hate.  Artemis has enough experience to be able to repress whatever she may feel towards Onyx.

Onyx is not in a good position.  She’s surrounded by people who loathe her, most of whom she has wronged egregiously, and yet she still prefers this situation to being under the thumb of Grenich.

Almost all of Blitz’s targets have been behind locked doors.  Locks are nothing to her.

It’s very unusual for Artemis to be so visibly uneasy.  Jet can tell something is wrong just by her unwillingness to answer him and that sets him on edge.

This was another strangely fun scene to write:  Jet’s first encounter with a seven series followed by the doctor’s reveal.  I’m sure a lot of readers were able to guess who the doctor was after the reveal of the 2nd Man 😉

Fun bit of trivia:  Originally I wrote Jack as being related to the doctor.  I could never figure out a way to make it work (one that was both believable and not massively confusing).  So I scrapped the idea.

I had to demonstrate why experiments are dangerous even when not a battle-related situation.  These shape shifters have no off switch.  Without knowing it, Jet entered Jack’s personal space.  This triggered a very violent response from Jack.  Jet could have easily been seriously hurt had it not been for the doctor.  This reaction isn’t something Jack can control.  It’s an instinctive response.  The most Jack can do is learn how to live with it.

Jack is one of the few experiments who learns the importance of apologies.  He feels a sort of regret for almost harming Jet.

The moment when Jack offers a hand to help Jet up is somewhat important.  Experiments have a very strong aversion to touch.  For Jack to put that aside is a huge step for him, even if it doesn’t seem like it.

Jet, however, can’t help but be somewhat fearful of the strange man (who threw him to the ground with no obvious provocation).  He eventually lets Jack help him to his feet, which results in Jet almost being pulled off his feet.  Experiments know they’re strong, but they don’t realize just how strong when compared to normals.

Jet really doesn’t have the time to dwell on the stranger when the doctor finally reveals himself.  Jet is completely taken off guard by him and can barely get words out.

Page 218 – 220

Onyx has been left to her own devices in the interrogation room.  Remember, none of the characters realize that some experiments are capable of Appearing.

Guardians are very compassionate towards their prisoners, but they make sure no one can take advantage of that compassion.

The second that sickly light appears, I wanted readers to be uneasy .  They know what’s coming.  Onyx doesn’t.

I was concerned about going overboard with Blitz’s symptoms, particularly since they’re not based on any one disease or virus.  Then I realized Grenich wouldn’t engineer a virus that didn’t cause the maximum amount of suffering.  The Big Bad wants this virus to kill Blitz as slowly and painfully as possible.

Onyx’s reflection in Blitz’s catsuit:  she’s partly to blame for this situation.  She helped the team that “recruited” Blitz.  Blitz is what she is because of Grenich and Onyx played a part in that.

It’s really difficult to read Blitz in this state.  She’s dying and has pretty much hit rock bottom by this point.  Blitz rejects the notion of hope and especially now, she has none.

I heard the phrase “wept tears of blood” a long, long time ago.  The visual it conjured up stayed with me ever since.  When I was writing this novel, I knew I was going to apply it to Blitz at the end of her sickness.

Another thing about the blood-rimmed eyes was that it provided a really nice contrast to how cold her expression is.  Blitz is about as coldblooded as she gets in this scene.  Her eyes are cold as the arctic and yet blood is often associated with heat.

One of the sadder aspects of this scene, which I hope came through, is that Blitz doesn’t understand why she’s so determined to kill Onyx.  She has no memories of a time before the Corporation.  Blitz knows she hates this assassin but she doesn’t know why.

Onyx tries to bargain with Blitz.  She’s the first target on the list who has attempted this.  Onyx actually tries to treat her like a normal shape shifter.  She doesn’t realize how far gone Blitz is.  The Corporation hollowed her out and Blitz only knows how to be a living weapon.

Another thing about this scene I tried to make somewhat tragic:  Blitz has successfully repressed almost all lingering threads of who she once was.  There are occasional moments (like when she thinks of Jack and the doctor) that she doesn’t understand why she experiences them.  Blitz doesn’t believe herself capable of sentiment, but has these brief flashes that suggest otherwise.

Page 221 – 223

The Meadows has been almost completely untouched by violence since the War of the Meadows.  I needed a short scene to show the reaction to when that peace is broken.  It’s also a bit of foreshadowing.  The violence of Grenich will be experienced everywhere eventually.

This was one of those fun but challenging scenes to write.  I didn’t have any P.O.V. to focus on since I was showing a number of reactions.

The nice thing about a scene like this is that you can reveal a bit of the relationships between these characters.

It’s funny that the only one oblivious to the shot is Alpha, since she’s listening to her music.

Page 223 – 226

This scene starts just a tiny bit early (a few moments before the gunshot).  That’s another writing trick that should be used very, very sparingly.  It can completely throw off your timeline if used too frequently.

Jet reacts with anger to the newest curve ball that has been thrown at him.  He’s really sick and tired of incidents like this happening.  Poor Jet.  He seems to be in a perpetual state of “What the fuck!?”

Jack is really uneasy in the Meadows.  It was a forbidden zone when he was in Grenich.  He’s never been in an environment like this before, so he’s naturally on edge.

Page 224:  Jack is really thrown when normals avert their eyes from him to avoid staring.  Remember, experiments have no idea how to react to civility and politeness.  Jack’s used to being alert and noting every detail that do anything else is unfathomable.  Normals staring at him is something he’s used to and expects.  He is still not used to being treated like an individual with rights.

The gunshot interrupts the confusion in the main hall.  Jack does stiffen instinctively, but he doesn’t react visibly otherwise.  He’s accustomed to violence and the sound doesn’t faze him at all.

Jet has known Artemis all his life and therefore can communicate without speaking.  Artemis and he respect each other.  Though Jet is friends with Passion, he has never taken sides in the fights between her mother and her.  He respects them both and won’t play referee (it’s so not his place).

Jet has no idea how dangerous the situation is that he’s walking into.  He does hesitate briefly before opening the door, but only for a moment.

Onyx is probably Blitz’s most gruesome kill.  The bullet has basically destroyed her face.  Jet enters the room and there’s blood everywhere.  It’s a fairly nightmarish scene.  Even at the end, Blitz is an extremely violent woman and one who is unaffected by brutality.

As horrific as the scene is, Jet almost immediately forgets it when he sees Blitz.  This is probably the biggest shock of Jet’s life (when he realizes who she is).

There’s a lot of stories where one character recognizes someone from their past and stops what they’re doing or stops trying to hurt said person.  That is so not Blitz.  She doesn’t hesitate at all.  She points her gun and pulls the trigger.

Page 226 – 227

My brother thinks this is the most emotional (and saddest) scene that I’ve ever written.  It’s probably because the reader is completely immersed in Blitz’s perspective.

About the climbing temperature:  the reason why Blitz’s mind drifts right as it’s converting her temperature to the Kelvin scale is because I couldn’t figure out how to do that 🙂

When she hears Jet’s voice, it’s strangely familiar.  Blitz doesn’t bother trying to place it though.  There’s a stranger in the room and he is a potential threat.

Blitz doesn’t really care that the gun is empty.  She’s too tired to be bothered by it or to attempt to defend herself if the stranger tries to attack her.  Blitz has reached the end of her rope.

Just before Blitz collapses, she hears the voice of the ghost.  The specter just couldn’t stay away 😉  I purposely wrote her light as warming Blitz’s side.  It’s one last pleasant sensation just before Blitz collapses.

Blitz Symbol Silhouette

So ends the commentary for chapter ten.

I need to start working on these a lot earlier.  These last few chapters are fairly long.  Only four to go.

As always, I rely heavily on word of mouth to spread.  Please, pick up a copy of my books.  Recommend them to friends, leave reviews on websites, etc.  Thank you so much for being a reader 🙂

I wish I were able to think of something else to say, but man alive, that was a long chapter.  I’m completely worn out.  And I’ve got to start on the next one.  Eep!

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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