“From the Ashes” Chapter Thirteen Commentary


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! 🙂

Sorry for being absent again:  I’m hard at work getting Asexual Artists up and running.  I’ve never been a good multi-tasker.  Give me more than one plate to spin and watch me make a complete and utter mess.  I hope to finish up commentary either tomorrow or the day after.  I might have to take a couple days off before diving into Haunted by the Keres commentary as my schedule is starting to pick up again.  We’ll see.

Well, we’ve reached the 2nd to the last chapter 😥  So sad.  This has been a very fun commentary to write.  I hope you’ve been enjoying reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.

This chapter was all about wrapping up a few loose ends.  The High Council has met and decided what to do about Blitz and Jack.  Not all guardians are happy with the decision, but they recognize the benefit of having these two as allies.  There are quite a few conditions with their release into Jet’s custody, as there should be.  These two are kind of on parole and need to be on their best behavior.  However, experiments often find ways around rules they see as pointless.

There’s a very interesting contrast between Jack and Blitz that I completely forgot to mention in the previous commentary.  Jack was willing to be imprisoned.  He would have let the guardians and protectors lock him away (so long as he had something to keep his mind busy).  Blitz was never going to be confined for any measurable amount of time.  Even after her epiphany, she will not tolerate being bound, locked away, or imprisoned.  Blitz may not fully understand freedom yet, but she won’t allow someone to take control of her ever again.

Shall we?

Page 283 – 286

[SPOILER!  The 2nd Man often goes into these somewhat meditative trances.  He can sometimes “see” glimpses into those connected to Grenich.  The Big Bad and a few other higher-ups have the ability to dream walk (enter another’s unconscious), which is such a violation.  This isn’t an ability they use regularly because when they go into the mind of another, they have to open a bridge and bridges can be crossed.  The 2nd Man is really good at taking advantage of this:  he can’t initiate the contact, but he can easily take advantage of it]

The 2nd Man feels a chill:  remember my feelings on the cold 😉

I knew the Grenich Corporation would also “recruit” from their employees.  The Big Bad is very smart and can easily talk people into doing things they normally wouldn’t even consider.  His voice can sometimes act as anesthetic, other times it can feel like a knife to one’s throat.  The Big Bad can sometimes use his voice to hypnotize.

[SPOILER!  This current Grenich resistance includes Ace.  She’s a very good actress and it’s part of the reason I didn’t often tell things from her point of view.  I do have plans for this character later in the series]

The 2nd Man and the doctor have very different approaches to Grenich and the experiments.  The 2nd Man is in favor of a scorched Earth strategy (in regards to the experiments:  the damage has already been done, so now they should be used as the Corporation intended, only against Grenich).  If it were up to him, the 2nd Man would drop a bomb on the Grenich laboratories around the globe (he believes putting the experiments inside out of their misery would be more merciful).  The doctor has always been more concerned with releasing the experiments and helping them reintegrate into society.  He wants to take down the Grenich Corporation, but refuses to sacrifice his humanity in order to do so.  The doctor couldn’t bring himself to slaughter that many shape shifters.

Ace is still a relatively young shape shifter (she’s younger than Jade and a little younger than Alex).  She doesn’t like the idea of others fighting her battles for her.  Ace fights her own battles, always has.  She volunteered for the resistance.  Ace can be a little brash:  she’s one of the few shape shifters who never fears the experiments.

Bold though she may be, Ace isn’t stupid:  she’s willing and wants to fight Grenich, however she recognizes that the Corporation (and especially the Big Bad) are incredibly powerful and dangerous.  She’s not going to rush headlong into a fight all on her own.

Jet isn’t always going to be in the dark.  He’ll learn bits and pieces as the series goes on.  Right now, the resistance members are being more secretive to protect a few members and their sources (readers will meet more members of the resistance in the next novel, Haunted by the Keres).  I have an idea of when Jet will meet the person who has organized all the resistances against Grenich.  I’ve actually written the scene, which I’ll tinker with every now and again, but when it’s going to happen isn’t set in stone.

The 2nd Man tends to be a lot more pessimistic about the fight against Grenich.  He knows they will always be at a disadvantage.  He warns Ace about this and cautions against being flippant or overconfident.  The 2nd Man knows from experience just how dangerous that kind of attitude can be.

Ace is one of the very, very few shape shifters who can slip by the guardians unseen.  She’s also one of the very few who would be ballsy enough to even think of sneaking by Astrea (who was on one of her very unusual breaks).

The voice the 2nd Man hears after Ace leaves:  it’s up to readers to interpret who (or what) that was.  Obviously as the author, I have my own ideas 🙂

The 2nd Man isn’t often unsettled (he can be indifferent to a fault, see above his preferred strategy), but the disembodied voice really startled him.  The 2nd Man is a very alert character and tends to be a very light sleeper.

I wanted this scene to have a little eeriness.  The 2nd Man is all alone in this cell block (the guardians don’t have many prisoners).  It’s peaceful, but rather quiet.  I hope the reader gets a sense of how alone he is.

Page 286 – 294

Blitz and Nero:  this was another scene that I was looking forward to writing when I started committing this novel to paper.  These two characters couldn’t be more different, so whenever they talk or interact, it’s quite funny.

Right off the bat:  Nero is a natural chatterbox and lighthearted whereas Blitz is silent and reticent (or perhaps withdrawn is a more accurate term).

There’s always going to be conflict among the guardians regarding the experiments.  It was important to write this debate as not having a right or wrong side (though some guardians are obviously a bit more extreme).  Experiments are dangerous and it’s possible that Blitz or Jack could be a weapon capable of destroying the guardians.  On the other hand, should they be punished for something that was done to them without their consent?  Experiments will always be a very thorny issue (and not just in the Meadows).

p. 287:  Jack and Blitz actually agreed more with the guardians who argued against their release (remember, emotion and sentiment isn’t something that they’re familiar with.  They’re pure logic).

Jack and Blitz are on an odd kind of probation/parole.  They’re free, but not without conditions.  This is a trial to see if experiments truly can be reintegrated into society.  There’s no three strikes.  It’s zero tolerance:  they slip up and they’ll need to be confined to the dungeons in the Meadows.  This is also a kind of test for protectors.  They need to learn what they’re up against and become used to experiments (especially if they want to try rehabilitating the ones still being held in Grenich laboratories).

Experiments are not pack rats.  Blitz and Jack have very few belongings.  They don’t like being weighed down.  Everything they own serves some sort of purpose.

[SPOILER!  p. 288:  This is really the tragedy of the story.  The protectors, most of them, are looking for some evidence of the woman Blitz once was.  Part of the inspiration for this series came from one of my random musings.  I was once wondering what would happen if I became a completely different person but physically looked the same.  Yeah, I tend to think about really strange things.

“They all carried memories of a person who was no longer there, a woman who once had her face” (288).  That’s one of my favorite lines that I’ve ever written and yet, I think it’s possibly one of the saddest]

Blitz and Jack will always prefer the mansion to places like the Meadows.  They’re more familiar with the environment, which makes it easier for them to navigate.

The doctor cracks me up sometimes.  He’s kind of like a nervous parent, watching the kids leave for the first time.  The doctor acts like a bit of a helicopter parent at times 😉

p. 289:  The final appearance of the specter (or is it?).  This is one of the first times Blitz is genuinely startled.  She assumed this specter was a hallucination caused by the virus.  Now that she’s recovered, this makes absolutely no sense.

Nero is another character who is just plain adorable 🙂  Him preening in the mirror is very in character for him.

It’s very difficult for experiments to be around normal when they’re not jumpy.  Nero is doing his best to respect Blitz’s personal space, but he’s still learning.  He flinches whenever he slips up, which makes things more difficult.  This situation is going to take a lot of getting used to for both sides.

I imagine Nero jumped at the opportunity to show Blitz to her room.  He’s almost happy-go-lucky and wants to show Blitz she’s home, safe.  Nero’s really very sweet in this scene.

Blitz is quite curious about this new space (normals have such an odd habit of going out of their way to give her personal quarters).  [SPOILER!  Blitz is experiencing a strange state of being where she’s surrounded by people who recognize her but she doesn’t recognize them]

“Your words and conflicting emotions are confusing” [289].  Experiments tend to be extremely blunt, which can be quite comedic.  Blitz is particularly prone to this.

“He was an odd normal, but she found him amusing, like a small dog” [291].  Experiments are conditioned to see normals as naturally weaker, very fragile and easy to break.  Blitz has a lot of trouble seeing normals as being the same species as she is.  This is common among experiments.  They’re not elitist or arrogant.  The Grenich Corporation has warped their minds and ways of thinking.  They don’t think in terms of superior or inferior, just different.

Experiments are incredibly literal.  They don’t understand metaphors or figurative language.  This also leads to some entertaining moments with normals.  I was interested in writing a group of characters who were fluent in basically all languages, but not all the ways it’s used.  For example:  if you were to tell an experiment they had their mother’s/father’s eyes, they would assume you meant they were literally in possession of their parent’s physical eyes.

Experiments obviously don’t enjoy being hugged.  They don’t like being constricted or physically restrained.  A few gradually become more open to physical affection, but they never seek it out and only allow it from people they know and are used to (very few ever learn to trust).

[SPOILER!  I pictured Jensen visiting Isis’ old room to say goodbye to the woman he once knew.  One thing that continues to be interesting to explore in this series is the relationship between Blitz and Jensen.  These two have been broken and somehow managed to put themselves back together.  They’re both survivors.  Jensen is one of the few normals Blitz is intrigued by.  Their interactions in Haunted by the Keres were really fun to write.  Most of Blitz’s interactions are fun to write, but the ones with Jensen are just really entertaining]

Even though shape shifters have superior senses, experiments’ ridiculously heightened senses still easily surpass them.  Nero doesn’t pick up the same faint scents Blitz is able to.

Normals will never be able to hid things from experiments.  We have too many tells 😉

Blitz and Nero’s brief exchange about being an anarchist versus believing some rules are fundamentally unjust was a way to show how Blitz sees laws.  The Corporation forces the experiments to embrace blind obedience (at first, it’s a way to make the pain stop).  I’ve written a couple scenes from early in Blitz’s recruitment, which I’m not sure if I’ll find a place for them in this series.  Blitz fought tooth and nail against this conditioning, longer than any other experiment ever had.  She’ll never be the person she was before the experimentation again, but readers will occasionally see shades of that spirit and tenacity as the series progresses.

It’s important to know that Blitz is fully aware of the conditions of her release.  That doesn’t mean she’ll hesitate to break them if she needs to 😉

Once again, experiments always need to keep their minds busy.  They can’t veg out or relax.  Even when they participate in leisurely activities (very rarely), their minds are processing every last detail.  Experiments never do anything without purpose.  They don’t wander without a specific destination or purpose in mind.

Page 294 – 299

Like I’ve mentioned before, Alex belongs in the STEM fields.  She’s so excited about the possibilities experiments present in regards to knowledge and advances in the world.

I have a real fondness for writing scenes of the Four just hanging out together.  There’s a genuine love and camaraderie among these women.

Jade is a very tactile woman.  When it comes to reading, she prefers things she can physically hold as opposed to digital copies.  Jade’s not a Luddite.  She frequently uses modern technology out in the field when she’s working.

In terms of how these three feel about the experiments:
*Jade is concerned about going up against an enemy who has an army of modified shape shifters.  She doesn’t know how she’d fair against a living weapon, even with the amount of experience she has.
*Shae is thinking about the shape shifters being tortured by the Big Bad.  She’s always going to think of what’s in the experiments’ best interest (Shae is very much about human rights)
*Alex is thinking about after they win the war how many advance the experiments might help them make.  Aside from being the morally right thing to do, she believes freeing the experiments will lead to a better world.

p. 296:  Blitz makes another one of her mysterious entrances.  I wrote about this earlier:  I try to write her as appearing out of nowhere and exiting in a similar manner, almost like a ghost.  Like all experiments, Blitz will always seem slightly out of place.  She’s still trying to figure out how she fits into the world.

[SPOILER!  Shae is prone to nostalgia.  She’s always going to look for signs of the woman Blitz once was and will always feel a little sad when she can’t find any.  Shae will struggle with these feelings and feels guilty for having them]

Blitz obviously has perfect aim when it comes to throwing knives (she could pierce a fly while blindfolded).  It’s kind of hilarious how difficult it is to discourage her from throwing real weapons indoors.  Experiments are expert marksmen and will often demonstrate this skill as an intimidation tactic.

Blitz is fully aware of how nervous she makes normals, but doesn’t know how to put their minds at ease (she’s meant to intimidate).  She has not yet figured out how this situation is ever going to work.

Alex is the protector experiments tend to be most at ease around.  She never tries to shelter them, respects their boundaries, and she never treats them differently (aside from respecting their boundaries).  Alex learns what they need and does her best to accommodate them.  Her natural curiosity allows them to talk about subjects they know about.  My brother pointed out that Alex and Nero probably have the best approach to dealing with experiments.

I like writing Shae sticking up for Blitz.  Being as outgoing as she is, Shae has a lot of different friends and they all have different experiences.  Some are trauma survivors.  Shae understands that different people heal in different ways (and have different needs).  No one can tell Blitz how to heal.  She has to find her own way and they need to support her in whatever way they can.

Aside from fighting Grenich, the Four are going to be fighting prejudices normals will inevitably have against experiments.  Not all experiments are going to be like Coop, Blitz, and Jack.  There are some who are incredibly destructive (like the wereanimals).  There are some that have lost the ability to reason, some have been broken beyond repair.  Experiments always pose a moral and ethical dilemma.  It’s part of what makes them so challenging and fun to write 🙂

Page 299 – 303

I admit:  after writing so dark a novel, I needed to write a nice scene.  I think readers needed a bit of a release too.  I have a philosophy about fantasy:  it can have tragedy in it, it can have darkness and cynicism, but it should never lose all sense of hope.  Things can get bad, but there should always be a reason to keep fighting (one that isn’t entirely selfish).  Too much modern fantasy turns to nihilism and naval gazing, which is a shame.  Fantasy should be an escape from reality, not a pessimistic diatribe.  You should never be depressed after putting down a fantasy story.

It probably doesn’t surprise readers to learn that Jensen sometimes suffers from bouts of insomnia.  With his background, it’s a wonder sleeps at all.

This was one of those very rare scenes that was really easy to write.  Not much has changed from the first draft of this particular scene.

It’s not an accident that Blitz is illuminated by firelight.  There’s still a fierceness that burns in her.  Fire’s a very interesting kind of light:  it tends to soften the features and it’s very warm.  It makes for a beautiful visual (firelight has always made me think of chiaroscuro).

Jensen skipped showing Blitz to her room partly because he wanted to spend some time learning everything he could about experiments so he didn’t do anything to make them uneasy.  Jensen enjoys fucking with people, but he never punches down.  He knows the experiments are going to have a difficult time adjusting and doesn’t want to make things even harder for them.

Though he knows Blitz is aware of him, Jensen clears his throat to let Blitz know he’s there, which gives her control.  Experiments don’t like initiating conversation, but they do want to be in control of whatever situation they’re in.  Blitz can either acknowledge Jensen or not.

Jensen doesn’t sit until Blitz tells him she’s not seeking solitude.  He doesn’t believe she’s a danger to him, which isn’t entirely accurate.  This is a bit of a gender swap.  Usually in the speculative genres, the man is the brooding and dangerous one.  Blitz is very much in this role:  she’s the more powerful, dangerous one.

Blitz was used as a thief on occasion at the Corporation.  By the time this scene takes place, she has done a cursory sweep of the mansion and appraised most of the artwork and furniture.

Experiments could potentially cause conflicts with other groups of shape shifters.  After all, they could easily take business from them.

Jensen attempts to apologize for the hacienda, which really bewilders Blitz.  She doesn’t understand why he feels regret for something that wasn’t really his fault.  Her stating that she would have just killed him is true (she would have), but in a really strange way, Blitz is thanking him.  She didn’t want to kill him and he unknowingly reawakened her curiosity.  Blitz is always going to remember that.

Blitz does remember bits and pieces of her life before Grenich, but they’re so fragmented and vague that they’re not even like memories.  It’s more like trying to remember a dream a week afterwards.

I really loved this moment between Jensen and Blitz.  These two characters have really been through the ringer.  Jensen is one of the very few normals that Blitz actually feels somewhat comfortable around (or at least a little less on edge).

I wanted to end this chapter with Blitz feeling empowered.  This girl is ready to kick some major ass and dismantle an empire 🙂

Blitz Symbol Silhouette

So ends the commentary for chapter thirteen.

Just one chapter left (sniffles).  I’m actually a little sad.  This has been a really fun commentary to compose (even when it was completely maddening).  I’m actually going to miss it 😦

I’m not sure when the next commentary will be up, but I will try for tomorrow.

As always, I rely heavily on word of mouth to spread.  Please, pick up a copy of my books and automatically earn about a thousand awesome points.  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 . . .


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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