“From the Ashes” Chapter Twelve 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! 🙂

I apologize once again for my disappearing.  I have just started a new project that I’m quite excited about.  I’m aromantic-asexual woman (aro-ace).  One of the most offensive rejections I’ve ever received was a literary agent who told me that asexuality was too niche and wouldn’t sell books.  This is the overall feeling in most of the artistic fields and, as a result, most asexual narratives are told through a cis-hetero patriarchal lens.

To combat that, I’ve begun a blog on Tumblr called Asexual Artists: http://asexualartists.tumblr.com/

Eventually, I’m going to pair it with a WordPress site.  My plan is to interview and profile a variety of artists in different fields who identify as asexual.  My hope is to create a kind of reference site so when the argument is made that there just aren’t many asexual artists, people can point to these sites.  This is a project near and dear to my heart and I feel it’s important enough to throw myself into it.

Unfortunately, this might mean the occasional wait between chapter commentaries.  I spent all yesterday setting up that Tumblr and putting out the call for any asexual artists to interview.  I’m trying to divide my time evenly, but I may have to push back posting to every other day (and there might be times when I have to put off posting even longer).  However, I promise that I will finish these commentaries.  They’re just too much fun not to 😉

Speaking of chapter commentary . . .

This is the chapter where readers finally see the awakening of Blitz.  When I first started this series, I had a very clear vision for Blitz’s character arc.  From the Ashes is a reference to the myth of the phoenix, which reflects Blitz’s own journey.  Obviously she still has miles to go (she does experience setbacks every now and again), but she does have a really powerful epiphany in this chapter.

Random bit of trivia:  the experiments in this series all fall somewhere on the asexual spectrum (they can be read as such).  In the next novel, it’s interesting how a couple experiments are most comfortable around Alex, who is aromantic asexual by human standards.

Shall we?

Page 261 – 265

This is the first time I describe the Meadows as having a grim feeling.  Blitz’s appearance has thrown the peaceful atmosphere off a bit.

Blitz is still quite defensive and on edge, which causes her to frequently lash out.  More often than not, she’ll just ignore whoever comes to her cell.  The doctor is really the only one who she reacts physically to.

Character print:  experiments will never eat food they haven’t prepared unless they see someone take a bite of everything first.  They will also rarely eat in public.

The High Council must meet to decide what to do with the doctor, Jack, and Blitz.  The doctor is under suspicion for his actions, which could possibly be seen as breaking guardian law.

Lilly is handling matters on Earth while Jet tries to sort out everything in the Meadows.  She returned after the doctor’s story.

It was surprisingly fun to write a scene with Jet, Adonia, and Artemis.  These three characters don’t often share scenes although they do frequently have to work together.  Artemis and Adonia are the two members of the High Council that Jet interacts with the most.  He knows and trusts them.  He’s really concerned about the High Council and the overall situation, so he seeks their advice.

It was important to show that these three characters haven’t overlooked how dangerous Blitz is.  Jet’s right:  she almost short him in the face.  She would have had she not been out of bullets.  If Blitz doesn’t snap out of the state she’s in, she will need to remain in the dungeons indefinitely.

There are a lot of understandable concerns voiced in this brief discussion.  Experiments are an extremely difficult group of characters to write for a number of reasons.  One of them being that I want readers to feel some amount of sympathy for them while also remembering that they are extremely dangerous.  Jet’s questions on page 263 covers these concerns.

For one of the first times, readers see Artemis’ warmth.  Artemis is a very compassionate guardian, even though she comes off as quite rigid.  She has a fondness for protectors, even an admiration of them.  She’s not one for open displays of affection (being more stoic and reserved by nature), but that doesn’t mean she’s cold.  She has faith in Jet and Lilly.

Artemis basically says, “Look, we knew shit was going to get bad.  But we’re not helpless.  We need to roll up our sleeves and kick some Grenich ass.” (obviously not in those exact words.  She’s much more eloquent).  It leaves Jet a bit speechless.  Adonia is quiet, but that’s more due to pride in her daughter.

I really liked the image of Passion sitting out in the hall and listening in.  I wanted to give the impression that this is a habit of hers.  Though Passion isn’t part of the High Council, she has ways of getting the information that she wants.

This is one of the rare times Artemis and Passion aren’t argumentative.  Over the course of the series, their relationship gradually becomes less tumultuous.  There will always be a certain amount of strife between them, but they gradually do start to understand one another and become much more civil.

The exchange at the top of page 265 always makes me laugh.  Passion often has the most overdramatic threats.  “I will burn this place down.”  I can imagine messengers rolling their eyes when they hear that.

Passion tends to fidget when anxious or upset.  She has learned over the years that keeping her hands busy helps calm her.  So, when she doesn’t have a lover to distract her, Passion will work on her nails or toss a ball or write.  Something along those lines.

Funny story:  I was trying to describe a ball bouncing off the wall and I wrote, “rolled up the wall.”  That sparked an argument between my brother and I.  He claimed it defied the laws of physics.  I shot back that it didn’t actually physically roll up the goddamn wall, it just fucking looked like it!  I then demonstrated what I meant.  In exasperation, he told me to just write that the ball bounced off the wall 😀

Page 266 – 273

Jensen is adorable.  Sorry but he just is 🙂

The conversation between Jensen and Jack was one of the early random scenes I wrote after outlining From the Ashes.  Jack is very curious about normals, though he tries to avoid them.  He likes studying them from afar.  Jensen has been sleeping on this uncomfortable bench for almost a week.  He dresses differently from the other normals.  These anomalies would intrigue Jack.  Experiments always look for patterns and anomalies.  They work to find the reason behind anomalies.

Poor Jensen.  He’s really not wild about being startled (understandably so) 😀

I find Jack to be quite interesting in this scene.  He’s framed in sunlight, very quiet as usual.  I don’t know if it’s because of his gentleness, but Jack always seems to have an almost ethereal quality.  Not like the guardians.  As I wrote earlier, Jack wants to help normals.  He’s a trauma survivor who wants to use his experience to make sure no one has to go through what he did.

Page 267:  I love this bit of the conversation between these two because Jensen tends to fuck with people, but that doesn’t work with Jack.  Jack is too literal and he’s also basically impossible to offend.

Because their eyes glow, experiments have a very intense piercing gaze.  It’s very unsettling to have them looking right at you.  Jensen gets really uncomfortable and it’s extremely difficult to rattle him.  The funny thing about his wondering if Jack’s telepathic:  many normals mistakenly believe this.  Experiments have been modified to be extremely perceptive.  They’re not telepathic, they’re just very observant.

Character print:  once again the reader sees Jensen’s avoidance of grief.  Only a few remains of the Aldridges were ever recovered and interred.  Jensen hasn’t gone to the guardian mausoleum yet to visit the final resting place of his family.

Jack makes a very peculiar statement.  This is an odd habit of experiments:  they observe contradictory states.  A man can be the last but not alone.  There’s something almost poetic about that.

Jensen has lacked closure about the murder of his family.  He was able to track down most of the assassins behind the hit but was never able to learn who masterminded the whole thing (and someone had to be with that complex and targeted a strike).  Jack provides that closure:  Grenich did orchestrate the whole thing.  The Big Bad had a personal vendetta against the Aldridges and it was also strategically beneficial to strip Jet of a valuable ally.

The Big Bad doesn’t see shape shifters as sentient beings.  They’re either potential products or vermin.  The entire race he sees as pieces on a chessboard.

Jensen is so used to being in danger that one more threat to his life doesn’t even faze him.  He’s basically like, “Yeah, whatever.”

Character print:  Jensen observes that it’s very difficult to hear when an experiment asks a question.  Normals have to pay very close attention to their tones to figure out when they make a statement or ask a question.  Even then, it’s rather difficult.  The doctor still has trouble deciphering between the two.

[SPOILER!  Jack easily figures out Jensen’s attachment to Blitz.  He’s intrigued by it.  A normal having such an attachment to an experiment isn’t something he has encountered before]

On page 269, Jensen notices that Jack seems laid back.  One of the more dangerous aspects of experiments is their ability to blend in.  They have strange mannerisms, especially when they have to interact with normals for extended periods of time, but they know how to cover this up mostly and can blend in when they need to.  Jack is way more alert than he appears.  He has adopted this posture to put Jensen at ease.

In contrast to Jack’s relaxed demeanor, Jensen becomes quite uncomfortable and appears restless.

On page 270, Jack mentions something important about experiments:  they can never forget what happened to them.  Not only have their brains been modified to strip away the ability to repress and forget, but they also have the brands and trademarks of the Corporation seared into their bodies (the glowing eyes, for example).

Without realizing it, Jack is incredibly kind to Jensen.  He’s reassuring.

The guardians have to be extremely careful about not giving Blitz access to breakable material.  She can make a weapon out of anything, especially things like glass.  Even though she doesn’t have glass, she still manages to drench the doctor.  He has hit a brick wall with her.  Every time he tries to reach her, she responds by lashing out.  Blitz has already figured out that she can’t manipulate him, so she needs to find someone she can.  That will only work if the doctor isn’t around.

I really enjoyed writing the scene between the doctor and Jensen.  The doctor basically says Jensen is full of himself and Jensen responds with, “Well, duh.”  There’s no malice in their words though.  They’re just taking the piss out of each other.

I briefly considered having Jensen visit with Blitz, but I just couldn’t come up with a way to make that scene work.  Also, it took some of the impact out of a later scene.

The doctor suffers from chronic nightmares.  Whenever I’ve experienced nightmares, they’ve been really intense and awful.  I can’t imagine having them regularly like the doctor does.  The doctor would actually prefer to not sleep at all.

Out of all the experiments, Jack is probably the one who can adjust the most to life among normals.  He will never fully recover, but he does attempt to live with the normals in a way most experiments don’t.

Not many people aren’t suspicious of the doctor.  Everywhere he goes, he seems to be isolated.

The only time the doctor isn’t completely miserable is when he’s helping others.  Jack sees shades of the man he believes the doctor once was when the doctor thinks of something that might help Blitz.

There’s a brief exchange between Electra and the doctor.  These two characters don’t often have a chance to interact.  For her part, Electra really isn’t keen on talking to the doctor.  She’s quite suspicious of him.  Electra doesn’t even bother to hide this.

The doctor asks Electra to help him with his idea by keeping the dungeons clear for a couple hours.  This is a sort of olive branch, a show of faith, one that Electra reluctantly accepts.  She agrees to try but warns him not to expect any miracles.

Page 273 – 280

Blitz is taking advantage of her surroundings (and proving that guardians would not be able to keep an experiment confined for very long).  Being an experiment, Blitz knows how to make weapons.  Even if the guardians didn’t treat their prisoners humanly, Blitz would have found something else to use.  If she didn’t have a chair, she would have used the sheets to strangle someone.

At this point in the novel, Blitz still has a slightly feral quality.  This is a woman who is going to do what it takes to survive.  That’s a big part of what makes Blitz so dangerous:  she relies on violent tactics more often than not.

Blitz doesn’t recognize the stranger right away.  He’s obviously an experiment, but at the moment, he’s a potential threat and he’s in her way.  Blitz is prepared to deal with this obstacle.

Writing a fight between two experiments is a massive pain in the ass.  For one thing, personally, I really only know basic self defense (though I have a pretty strong kick).  Experiments are modified living weapons who are proficient in every form of fighting.  Another thing, experiments tend to know the same basics.  They can predict each others tactics and strategies.

Blitz is still suffering from a few minor after effects of the virus and antidote.  Her physical responses are slightly off.

They manage to disarm each other.  Blitz has a bit of an advantage:  she’s a newer series and therefore has more knowledge and experience when it comes to fighting (particularly hand-to-hand).

Experiments tend to avoid fighting with each other because it’s fairly pointless (and will end in a draw more often than not).  Blitz has to work hard to get the upper hand in this fight, even though her opponent is an outdated series.  They’re still fairly evenly matched (if she were at full capacity, chances are she would have wiped the floor with him).

I knew this would be one of the few fights that would end in a draw.  Blitz’s opponent doesn’t want to do her lasting harm.  He’s there for a specific purpose.

Her opponent reveals himself to be Coop.  Experiments won’t listen to normals in the same way they’ll listen to other experiments.  This is why Coop is a valuable ally to have:  he can understand what Blitz is going through and can think of a different approach to get through to her.  Both Coop and Blitz are good to have around for more difficult experiments.

Coop had an extremely difficult time after escaping the Corporation.  For years, he had no one (the doctor was in hiding and therefore couldn’t reach out or even try to find him).  Before Coop found a safe place, which readers will see in the next novel, Coop had to wander about on his own.  He didn’t know what to do.  He just knew he didn’t want to go back to Grenich (although he considered it more than a few times).

Only an experiment can completely trust another experiment.  It’s because they have some idea of what the other will try.

I knew that in order for Blitz to snap out of her belief that Grenich controls everything (including herself), she would have to encounter an environment completely out of their control.  This would be somewhere in nature.

Experiments with the ability to Appear hide it since it results in further testing (and possibly death).  There aren’t very many who have the ability.  Blitz has never encountered another experiment with this ability and actually believed she might be the last one to have it.

Experiments are unnaturally quiet.  This leads to both humorous and eerie moments.

Page 279 is when Blitz actually starts to see the world (and how colorful it really is).

The very, very first thing I wrote for From the Ashes, was a rough draft of this scene with Blitz standing in the rain.  It’s also the one I worked on the most.  I needed this moment to be powerful.  This is an extremely important moment for Blitz.  She’s finally woken up.  I still really love this visual (it’s another one I need to have illustrated one of these days) 🙂

Page 280 – 282

The Deverells are prone to pacing 😉

I really liked the idea of ending this chapter with Blitz taking back control.  She’s going to take charge of this fight.

Blitz is now going to focus on striking Grenich (even though she doesn’t have the numbers and her resources are limited.  She excels when faced with adversity).  She’s tired of planning without action.  Blitz is going to dismantle this empire, brick by brick if she needs to.  Her last statement at the end of the chapter is kind of what makes her totally badass.  Blitz doesn’t run away from a fight.  She runs right into the thick of it 🙂

Blitz Symbol Silhouette

So ends the commentary for chapter twelve.

I’m going to be working on the Asexual Artists project for a couple days, so I may not be able to get to the next commentary until the end of the week.  Since I’ll be dividing my time between these two projects, posting may not be as regular as it was.  My apologies for any waits.

Just two more chapters left of this book.  I’ll probably take a short break once I finish this book before diving into “Haunted by the Keres.”

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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