“From the Ashes” Chapter Eleven 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 readers!  🙂

I do apologize for the long wait.  This chapter was so much longer than I remembered.  It’s the longest chapter in the book (a whopping thirty pages), so it took me a few days to get through it.

Chapter eleven is a monster of a chapter, one I really should have split into two chapters.  Live and learn.  There is a massive amount of information in this chapter.  I was skimming the fourth novel and it looks like I broke that particular habit.  I really hope I have.  It’s kind of sloppy writing.

The nice thing about chapter eleven is that all the characters know each other, so I don’t have to worry about introductions.  Almost everything is revealed, which helps move the plot forward.  The doctor has a very long story to tell.  He also has a lot of history with a few of the established characters.  The doctor is a very tortured character, as readers have undoubtedly deduced by now.

Shall we?

Page 228 – 232

This chapter picks up exactly where the last one left off.  Jet manages to catch Blitz before she hits the stone floor.  His main concern is her well-being, but he can’t help but think about how she almost shot him in the face.

Jet and the guardians want to treat Blitz like they would any other protector.  The doctor prevents this, knowing that will lead to a very dangerous situation.  If he’s able to save her, Blitz will probably react negatively.  The doctor has already deduced that Blitz didn’t expect to survive.  If she wakes, there’s a good chance she’s going to lash out at strangers (and probably the doctor himself).

No one really trusts the doctor at this point (understandably so), but they kind of have to.  At the moment, he’s the only one who has any idea what’s going on.

Jet is at a complete loss about what to do next.  After the doctor takes Blitz away to care for her, Jet’s left in the main hall, thinking, “What the fuck just happened?”  Artemis is feeling something quite similar.

Jet’s good at compartmentalizing, but he has forgotten someone in the excitement.  Artemis quickly reminds him that Passion should be told what happened.

The droplets of blood on the floor:  even in the Meadows, Blitz leaves a trail of blood in her wake.

[SPOILER!  As I’ve mentioned before, I really love writing the friendship between Jet and Passion.  They’re both very loyal characters.  Jet knows Blitz might not have very long left and so he puts things on hold temporarily to talk to Passion]

The poor messenger who has to clean up Blitz’s most recent kill.  Jet almost forgot about that.  Remember, barely any violence touches the Meadows.  That is not going to be an enjoyable job.

Ajax has absolutely no idea what happened.  I had almost forgotten about this part.  Strictly speaking, it’s considered improper for guardians to have someone of the opposite gender in their personal quarters (outside of someone they’ve been courting for a while).  Shape shifters certainly shouldn’t be in the personal rooms of the guardians.  As usual, these are rules Passion doesn’t give a fuck about.  Since it’s not a sacred law, the High Council doesn’t strictly enforce it (elder guardians tend to pick and choose their battles when it comes to Passion).

Ajax really isn’t sure how to feel about what Jet tells him.  He’s left in a state of disbelief.  When Jet tells him who Blitz is, it’s like a nightmare.  Ajax’s reaction to the news about the doctor is rather subdued, all things considered.  He actually really wants to speak with the doctor, but remains quiet.  There are more pressing matters to be dealt with first and Ajax puts the most important things first.

When editing, my brother thought it was hilarious that Jet mentioned Jack without bothering to explain who that was to Ajax.  Ajax is really quite confused (like, “who the fuck is Jack?”)  🙂

I debated writing the scene of Jet talking to Passion, but it would have been repeating what he had just told Ajax.  Plus, I like leaving some things to the readers imagination.

Page 232 – 236

My brother called this scene “E.R.:  Shape Shifter Edition.”  That still makes me chuckle 😀

This scene takes place in the oldest section of the dungeons.  It’s a lot darker and not quite as pleasant as where the 2nd Man is being held.  Prisoners are still treated with dignity and respect, but there’s a different atmosphere.  It’s a bit more isolated.  This is where the most dangerous prisoners would be kept.  It’s the only place where an experiment might not be able to escape (as the author, there were a few things I thought up that Blitz might attempt, one of which readers see in the next chapter).

The doctor really isn’t sure if he can save Blitz during this scene, but he doesn’t allow doubt to creep into his mind.  She’s at the end stage of this virus.  The doctor has never encountered an experiment this sick before (he has seen a lot of maimed experiments, but viruses were a lot rarer).  He stays focused on saving her.

The Omni Virus:  this is the Grenich manufactured virus, designed by the corporation for viral warfare.  The different strains of the virus are identified by number (Omni 1, Omni 2, etc.).  They spread easily among normals but experiments have to be injected with specific strains to suffer any symptoms.  No one save the heads of Grenich knows how many strains there are (there could be an infinite amount).

This virus is rapidly shutting Blitz’s body down.  I didn’t base this strain on any particular disease.  I thought of a bunch of symptoms that made me shudder and combined them.  I did look up how to draw blood though.

Blitz’s regenerative abilities are still functioning, albeit slowly, which is rather surprising.  Usually an experiment who has deteriorated this much wouldn’t still have their regenerative abilities.  Blitz can survive things that most other experiments can’t.

The doctor still has a few sources with access to Grenich laboratories, which is how he got strains of the early viruses.  He also smuggled some out when he was still working for the corporation.

I also researched how to administer an injection.  I hope I got most of the details right.  I’ve never been able to stand the sight of needles, so I couldn’t base these details on personal experience.

Jack’s a good nurse.  Most experiments have a fair amount of medical knowledge (particularly when it comes to working in field conditions).  The doctor has also taught him a little about Grenich viruses, whatever he knows, which the corporation wouldn’t have taught him.  Jack has been able to draw his own conclusions and estimates.

I enjoy playing with gender expectations and roles in my writing.  In this scene, Jack is in a role that’s normally reserved for women.  He’s a caregiver, a nurse.  Jack has a lot of traits that are often labeled as feminine (his natural gentleness, for example).

The doctor isn’t sure what Blitz is going to do when she wakes up, but he knows her well enough to know she’s not going to react well.  Chances are good she’s going to lash out, which is why he instructs Jack to leave the cell before she wakes up.

Character print:  experiments are very used to using aliases and codenames.  They have trouble letting go of this habit.  So Jack calls the doctor “Doctor” instead of his name.  Jack attempts to break this habit when the doctor asks him to.

At this point in the story, Jack is still not quite sure how to be free.  He’s really following what the doctor says.  It takes experiments a long, long time to become less mechanical (for lack of a better term).  They’re very intelligent, but they’ve been broken and reconditioned to only follow orders without question.

The Big Bad nearly outmaneuvered the doctor.  He’s a master strategist and treats everything like a game of chess.  Even the freed experiments find it nearly impossible to out think him.

Jack, being a typical experiment, can think about multiple issues at once.  The doctor doesn’t share this ability.  Right now, he has to focus on exactly what to tell the protectors.

The experiments will never be able to fit into society completely.  They can learn how to blend, but they will never be normals.  They are all very aware of this.

The doctor feels genuine affection for Jack (and also for Coop and Blitz).  He doesn’t like every experiment, as readers find out in the next novel Haunted by the Keres.  It was important for me to show just how important these experiments are to the doctor and vice versa.  The doctor always sees the experiments as individuals first and he never tries to use them (he tends to feel rather uncomfortable when they go out to fight).  For a very long time, the experiments have been the only company he has had.  They’re an odd little family.

Jack is gradually learning about emotional attachments.  Death has never bothered him before, but he finds that he doesn’t want Blitz to die (and not just because she’s a good soldier and valuable ally).  Remember, she’s the only other free seven series.  Experiments are used to being around their own series.  They don’t seek out familiarity, but they tend to prefer it.

On page 236, Jack has a bit of an introspective moment.  The sad thing about Jack is that he’s becoming more and more aware of why the normals are scared of him.  He wants to be free and live among the normals, but Jack knows many will think of him as a monster.  He’s not as self-aware as Dane, but he’s close to becoming so.

Page 237 – 248

Another long-winded story:  the doctor’s tale of Grenich.  He knows some things that the 2nd Man doesn’t (and the 2nd Man has some info the doctor doesn’t).  Grenich can be quite nebulous:  none but the heads of the corporation know everything about it.  You only get bits and pieces from these explanations.

This is the first time the reader sees Adonia act somewhat coldly towards someone.  She’s very reserved.  Adonia will wait to hear the doctor’s explanation before making any kind of judgment, but she’s not happy with his actions so far.

The doctor seems like a chastised child when he enters the meeting room.  The protectors and guardians really can’t think any less of him than he already thinks of himself.  The doctor knows he’s fucked up and he’s prepared to accept the consequences.  He knows they’re going to be extremely suspicious of him.

Nero remains his typical carefree self.  Nero’s an optimist.  He’s seen a lot of horrible things in his life, but it has given him an appreciation for all the good things he’s seen.  Things may become bad, but it always passes eventually.

Page 239:  Beware of smiling villains.  We all need a certain amount of cynicism to get through life.  Anyone who tells you the key to life is being positive 24/7 is lying or just completely full of shit.  One shouldn’t become bitter but irrational optimism is just as destructive.  Wide-eyed idealism does have some drawbacks and this was the doctor’s downfall.  He was optimistic to the point of naïveté.  That’s a very easy thing to exploit, as he learned the hard way.

There is some information the doctor doesn’t reveal to protect some of his sources.  He’s not the mastermind behind the resistance, but he has to convince the protectors he is.  The mastermind has to remain hidden from the eyes of the corporation.  [SPOILER!  She is revealed very briefly in the next novel.]

The story of how the first resistance fell apart is going to be revealed over the course of the series.  Needless to say, the doctor’s account isn’t entirely accurate.  Or rather, it’s an oversimplified account.  He leaves out a lot of important details for a number of reasons.

There’s a reason why there will always be tension between the doctor and the 2nd Man.  It’s partly due to the incident the doctor relates to the protectors.

I really needed the doctor to reveal important information about the Key.  I wanted to get this out of the way so the plot could continue moving forward.  That’s why this scene wound up being so long.

The Grenich Corporation has been spreading like a cancer under the protectors’ noses.  Its influence goes further than even the doctor realizes.  I’ve mentioned before that the corporation has numerous tentacles (it’s pretty much everywhere).  The Big Bad has been gradually and meticulously building his empire for longer than most of the guardians have been alive.

Electra remains cool and collected throughout this scene.  She sometimes uses an icy demeanor as a kind of defense mechanism.

[SPOILER!  It’s going to be incredibly difficult for the established characters to adjust to Blitz.  It was very important to me that this didn’t clichéd reunion.  Blitz isn’t who she once was.  She never will be again.  That’s the tragedy of this situation]

Page 244 – 245:  It was really quite difficult to figure out exactly how much the doctor would know about the experimentation.  Obviously, this is another thing that’s going to be somewhat shrouded (only the heads of Grenich know exactly what experimentation entails).  This is one of those things where the readers’ imagination can provide a better story than my simply telling them would.

Funny story:  I have a legal pad full of ID numbers and names of experiments.  Some will eventually be brought into the series and some won’t.  Grenich employees refer to experiments by their numbers or simply by their series (seven series, for example).  Generally it’s not a great idea to throw a ton of numbers at readers, but I had to show just how dehumanized the Grenich experiments are.  They don’t have names, only numbers.

Page 245:  Coop is the last Lock series (his fingers turn into keys or cards when he touches locks).  Originally, this series was called the Key series.  I quickly scrapped that idea when I realized how damn confusing it would be with the main Key storyline (of which the Key series had absolutely no part).  That’s called a bonehead move 😉

Blitz has a long road to recovery.  The doctor is really at a loss about how to snap her out of the state she’s in.  Blitz is almost at war with herself.  She’s acting contrary to her instincts but doesn’t know why.  There’s a part of her that doesn’t want to return to Grenich but she represses it because she doesn’t know where else she belongs.  If there is a world outside of Grenich, Blitz doesn’t know where she would fit in it.

I knew one of the Deverells would treat the doctor with compassion rather than suspicion.  I decided it had to be Ajax because these two characters were close in the past.  His getting the doctor a glass of water was a really simple (but still nice) gesture.  It’s a bit of an olive branch moment, a way to show he’s not going to judge the doctor.

Jensen is very quiet in this scene.  He’s a character who often goes silent when his mind is racing.  Nero would be the opposite:  he enjoys chattering when processing information.

Page 247 explains experiments’ memories.  I really wanted to explore how memory would work without emotion.  Experiments can remember bonds but lack the emotion that normally goes with them.

The doctor really doesn’t like dredging up all these unpleasant memories from the past.  He’s a very scarred man.  Also, he still has a patient who needs his attention.

There’s some tension between Jet and the doctor.  This will continue throughout the series.  These two will often butt heads.  They have different outlooks on life and therefore differ greatly in their approach to various situations.  What’s funny is that when they work together, they accomplish a lot.  The one thing Jet and the doctor do agree on is the experiments:  they are individuals who need to be freed and given a chance to rehabilitate.  Neither of them ever looks at experiments like tools or weapons to be used.

It was important to me that I tried to portray the doctor and Jet as allies to the experiments.  They don’t speak for them or over them (which is kind of difficult  because experiments tend to be rather quiet and aloof).  I could rant for days about the problematic portrayals of allies, which is unfortunately reflective of reality.  That’s a huge pet peeve of mine:  allies being given way more credit than the actual group who is being oppressed.  And also, allies are not infallible (despite what some people think).  But that’s a whole other rant 😉

Once the doctor finishes his story, he goes back to see to Blitz.  Jet isn’t finished though and the two have a small confrontation out in the hall.  Jet is very tempted to throw the doctor in the dungeons, next to the 2nd Man.

The doctor is a valuable ally, but he can be uncooperative and stubborn at times.  He’s also somewhat unpredictable.  Throughout the series, Jet will question whether or not he can really trust him.  It’s easier with the 2nd Man, who has never been trustworthy (or an ally).

Page 249 – 251

This is a bizarre thing to admit:  this scene was one of my favorite ones to write.  Blitz shows some steeliness, which is very in line with the character.  This scene marks another step in her recovery, though it probably doesn’t seem like it on the surface.

Very few of Blitz’s memories are pleasant at this point.  She is sick to her stomach upon awakening and it’s not completely due to the strong antidote.  I actually thought up a memory she would have had that elicited this response.  Again, it’s up to the reader to imagine what it was.

Blitz being locked in a cell is as much for her protection as it is for others.  She doesn’t like it at all and soon begins pacing about.

The doctor has been patiently waiting for her to wake up.  He knows the risk of complications is quite low, but she will need something to focus on once she’s awake.  As I mentioned before, experiments tend to prefer familiarity.  Blitz would react very poorly to a stranger, especially if she feels at a disadvantage.

To be sedentary and without anything to do is equivalent to torture for experiments.  This is something non-experiments (normals) can never really appreciate.  The mind of an experiment is always buzzing, always sharp.  They need something to occupy it.

I’m really pleased with how the exchange between the doctor and Blitz came out (page 250).  There are consequences to her actions and she has to understand that.

Whenever the doctor uses her actual name, Blitz reacts angrily.  She even threatens him.  The doctor remains patient with her.  He had been expecting this reaction and it doesn’t bother him.  He understands it.

On page 251, Blitz physically grabs him when he gets within reaching distance (as she warned him she would).  At this point, she declares in no uncertain terms that her decisions are her own.

This was a bit of a tough moment to write because these two characters mean a great deal to each other.  They’re both in a lot of pain, though neither will admit it.  For one to hurt the other is a sad moment.  Blitz has always felt something like respect for the doctor and would never have thought of harming him in the past.

The doctor will never give up on Blitz.  At the time I first wrote this novel, I didn’t completely appreciate how powerful this gesture is.  Being where I am today, having had more experience, there are a lot of people who I owe so much to.  Sometimes you need someone who won’t give up on you.  It makes a world of difference when you know someone is in your corner 🙂

Page 251 – 260

Jack often stays near the doctor, in case he’s needed.  He’s learning trust and he does trust the doctor in his own strange way.  Jack also doesn’t want to scare the normals.  He’s not used to being around them for so long.

The doctor is a little dismayed about Jack’s unquestioning obedience.  He’s still not demonstrating independence.  The doctor wants the experiments to be able to fight their own battles against Grenich and lead as normal a life as they possibly can.  The protectors can’t rely solely on them and the experiments can’t go through life expecting to be given orders.

According to my brother, the most hilarious part of From the Ashes is how bored Jack is when observing the Meadows (page 252). What most find relaxing, experiments find quite dull 🙂

Jack is really curious about normals (most experiments would not be).  He wants to engage in conversation with them, but has no idea how to go about doing that.  Luckily for Jack, the first normal he has a chance to speak to is Shae.

The conversation between Shae and Jack was really fun to write.  Shae, being an extrovert and optimist, is very understanding with Jack.  His oddness doesn’t bother her at all.

Jack shakes her hand like he would a diplomat.  He often uses a lot of mission experience (and simulations) to figure out how to interact with normals.

When experiments notice an injury, they often fixate on it briefly.  This is due to conditioning when the corporation taught them to identify and exploit any weaknesses.

Page 254 – 255:  The reader gets another glimpse at the heightened senses of experiments.  It’s meant to be somewhat unsettling (the Big Bad has hundreds and hundreds of shape shifters like this and he creates more every day).

Shae and Jack briefly discuss Blitz (including how she got her name).  Jack is a good source for information about experiments.  He has insights that the doctor doesn’t.

Shae isn’t jaded like the doctor is.  She’s a different normal, which is interesting to Jack.  These two can learn a lot from each other and Shae recognizes that.  Remember, there are very few people Shae actively dislikes.  She’s one of the few shape shifters who doesn’t automatically fear the experiments.

Page 256 – 257:  Shae is surprised when Jack asks when he’s going to be locked up.  Jack is so used to being treated like a dangerous animal that he assumes the protectors will need to imprison him to keep the peace.  It doesn’t bother him at all.  Jack’s mostly concerned that he won’t have anything to keep his mind busy.

I had to switch P.O.V again to end the chapter.  The doctor returns and I wanted to end with him, but I really wanted to leave Shae and Jack in this nice quiet moment.

The doctor has tried so many ways to lessen the knee-jerk reactions that make experiments so dangerous (using Coop).  Nothing has worked.  These reactions are permanent and experiments have to learn how to live with them.

The conversation between Ajax and the doctor was another thing I really enjoyed writing.  [SPOILER!  These two are brothers and were close in the past.  Ajax has always looked up to his big brother.  No matter how much time has passed, Ajax can still read the doctor like a book]

Ajax is really kind to the doctor, who appreciates the gesture (making him coffee just the way he likes it).  Ajax is a diplomat and a peacekeeper.  His brothers tend to be more fighters, but Ajax often relies on his mind.  He’s also quite used to patching up his brothers, both physically and emotionally.

The doctor is still blaming himself for being so blind, but Ajax is the voice of reason.  Ajax’s personality is very similar to Remington’s (obviously he’s much younger than the trainer).

Ajax makes a really good point about how Grenich is much too big for any one shape shifter to dismantle.  The doctor needs the protectors’ help, which he has.

Nero’s theory about the doctor being a cyborg:  sometimes he enjoys saying ridiculous things just to annoy his brothers.  They roll their eyes so often and he finds it fucking hilarious.

Poor Ajax.  His brothers tease him mercilessly 😀

The doctor and Ajax have a really nice moment at the end of this chapter.  The doctor won’t give up on Blitz and Ajax won’t give up on the doctor 🙂

Blitz Symbol Silhouette

So ends the commentary for chapter eleven.  Whew, that was a doozy!

I hope to have the next commentary up by tomorrow, but it might take me until Monday.  We’ll see.

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 🙂

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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