“Haunted by the Keres” Chapter Two 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.

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Hello again, beloved readers!  🙂

Sorry about the wait, but I’m currently juggling about three or four separate projects.  Unfortunately, this means that there will be a few long waits in between commentaries.  It doesn’t help that a lot of these chapters are a lot longer than I’m used to.

Chapter two is a long chapter but a fucking exciting one!  This is the chapter where Grenich launches their first attack, so to speak.  It’s kind of done without the Big Bad’s permission, but he knew it would happen.  He recalled the man behind the attack, Nick Chance, knowing how little self-control Chance has.

Nick Chance is the new villain introduced in this novel.  He’s the bastard son of one of the Big Bad’s sons (the main villains in this series trace their bloodlines through patrilineal lines).  Chance is an unapologetic sadist and a psychopath.  He is used to break experiments with exceptionally strong wills.  He was used to break all three Key possibilities (Chance had been banished by then, but he was brought back occasionally to break the more strong-willed shape shifters).  Fun bit of trivia:  Chance is a bit of an amalgamation of really nasty people I’ve had the misfortune of encountering in my life.  Granted, the physical brutality and sadism is made up, but whenever I wrote him, there were a few people I had in mind.

Chance is the one everyone at Grenich fears, including most of the experiments.  It’s because of his volatile and unpredictable nature.  Chance has a sense of entitlement due to his necromancer blood.  Even though he’s illegitimate (blood is massively important to necromancers), Chance still thinks he’s equal in status to other necromancers.  He has become even more cruel and malicious to prove himself worthy of his family name.  Nick Chance was another character I had some difficulty writing.  I’m not great when it comes to cruel characters because I’ve never understood what makes some people so cruel and toxic.  Why in the fuck would you be mean in a world that’s already fairly shitty to begin with?

Okay, well I’m about to go on a rant, so I should probably just get to the commentary 😉

Shall we?

Page 28 – 33

I generally try to make scenes at least five pages and at most ten pages.  I very rarely manage to do this.

This scene:  catching up with the guardians.  Electra, one of the many characters I’d like to use more.

Character print:  Electra doesn’t often sit “properly” in chairs.  She’s usually sitting on them backwards or tilting it (as she is in this scene).  Some of the more old fashioned guardians frown on this, but Electra is her mother’s daughter.

Electra is still looking for ways to distract herself from things she would rather not think about.  She’s quite productive though.  Solving the mystery of the censored history texts is a worthwhile use of her time.  Electra is actually really good at being productive and finding good uses of her time.

[SPOILER!  Electra has a lot of difficulty adjusting to Blitz.  She doesn’t recognize her and it’s eating at her.  Electra really wants to bond with her, but she doesn’t know how.  Blitz is a really difficult individual to talk with]

Phoenix, Electra’s best friend in the Meadows.  She’s another guardian who really doesn’t care what others think about her.  Phoneix is also great at making an entrance 😉

I know I mentioned this in the previous commentary:  Athena is one of the guardians in charge of the library.  She also doesn’t care for most of the women guardians, which is a nod to the Greek goddess.  Her attire is similar to the guards in the Meadows, which is another nod.  I always pictured Athena as either genderfluid or genderqueer.

Ah Lucky.  This is another character who I just love (he’s adorable).  Lucky is a younger guardian (he’s older than Electra since he’s an apprentice).  He lacks a lot of the ethereal qualities of the guardians.  Lucky is a bit of a klutz, easily flustered, and tends to be rather self-conscious.  Oddly enough, he’s one of the most physically attractive guardians in the Meadows.  He’s not yet at courtship age, but he’s definitely gotten offers.  Lucky is a catch:  he’s attractive and also incredibly kind.  He just needs to get a bit more confidence.

Athena really doesn’t care for younger guardians either.  Athena just really doesn’t like anyone (save for the men on the High Council).

Electra and Phoenix have the reputation for being a pair of hellraisers.  They were always up to some kind of mischief throughout their younger years.  They still are troublemakers 😉

Poor Lucky.  They’re going to pull him into their schemes whether or not he wants it.  These two just have him ensnared 🙂

Being Donovan’s apprentice is a thankless position.  For as progressive as he is, Donovan has a very low tolerance for mistakes.  He’s not the most patient guardian and his best mood tends to be sour.  Also, he’s constantly getting into squabbles with the members of the High Council (I have this idea that he frequently refers to them as “that gaggle of morons”).  Needless to say, Donovan is almost always annoyed with Lucky.  He enjoys seeing his apprentice jump and delights in startling him.

Lucky is very easily embarrassed.  Usually, Electra would find it somewhat endearing.  With all that’s going on, it just grates on her nerves.

Phoenix recognizes her friend’s irritation and quickly defuses the situation before Electra says something she’ll regret.  Of the two of them, Phoenix tends to be the one with the cooler head (ironic, considering she’s a fire guardian).

Athena is more likely to be helpful when a guardian man asks for assistance.  This character just isn’t a pleasant person.

Lucky would have helped Phoenix and Electra eventually.  He likes them (even though they occasionally get him into trouble).  These two women are kind of the like the cool ones among the younger guardians.

Electra has been very distracted since the events in From the Ashes.  After all that happened, she mostly sought solitude.  Electra is the kind of person who prefers to sort out her thoughts and feelings in private.

Silver makes a very brief appearance.  It’s very rare that Silver leaves her forge.  She’s also one of the few guardians that doesn’t mind being dirty (her clothes are often sooty and torn.  There’s usually ash in her hair and on her face).  Silver tends to be more comfortable at her forge with her messengers and the apprentices.  She’s not big on socializing.  Silver is one of the oldest guardians in the Meadows but looks like one of the youngest (I enjoy contrasts).

Electra has a lot on her mind, but if anyone inquires about it, her go-to answer is Grenich.  It’s not exactly a lie, but it’s not the entire truth either.

Many of the guardians are still very uneasy about the experiments being free.  Experiments have the potential to upset the natural order of things.  Then there’s the possibility of the Key.  The guardians are strictly against execution.  However, when faced with a threat that could potentially decimate them, the High Council would be forced to take drastic action.

There are also members of the High Council who think that the experiments pose too great a risk and want to lock them away forever in the depths of the dungeons.  This is considered a fate worse than death to many.

The mystery of the censored texts deepens.  Something about censoring books has always unsettled me.  There’s just something about suppressing knowledge that is so wrong.

Page 34 – 37

Experiments have been exposed to a wide variety of settings.  They learned really quickly how to be in loud places (their heightened senses are still being assaulted, but they can compensate for it in different ways).  Blitz has been to night clubs before.  Obviously, she caused mayhem in one in From the Ashes.

If Blitz is venturing out into unsecured locations, she prefers wearing her catsuit.  She’s also never unarmed (Jack has also brought a couple weapons with him).

The two experiments are under strict orders to stay in sight of a protector at all times.  If they hadn’t been, Blitz and Jack would be roaming all over the Lair, identifying weak points.

Jack is slightly more comfortable with “normal” clothing than Blitz.  I have this idea that at the Corporation, Jack had a little more exposure to crowds than she did.  He was able to do a lot more undercover work that required interaction with normals.  Blitz was more frequently used for wetwork and more volatile situations.  The Big Bad recognized early on that she had a knack for survival, especially in dicey situations.  She wasn’t great at teamwork, but she didn’t need to be.

Shae has a moment of doubt when she sees how on edge Blitz is in the Lair.  Shae likes getting people out of their comfort zones, but not when it could potentially harm said individual (or others).  Shae’s very aware of how dangerous experiments can be.

Neither Jack or Blitz is sedentary at the Lair.  When they’re not physically moving, their eyes are darting all over the place.  In an environment like the Lair, they’re going to be extremely alert.

I’m fairly certain no reader is surprised to discover that Nero loves rebels 😀

Jade and Alpha get along despite their differing philosophies.  It’s rare for protectors and rebels to have personal relationships, whether platonic or romantic, but it’s not unheard of and there’s certainly no law against it.  Jade and Alpha do have a history.  At the time of the series, they’re both involved with Sly and so see each other fairly regularly.

Jade has known Jensen practically his whole life.  So they also have an easy report.  They’ve worked together a lot in the past and they respect each other.

Alex is a character who much prefers quieter settings.  Obviously, being the bookworm that she is, the library in the Lair is where she’ll feel most comfortable.

Jack is immediately fascinated by dancing.  This is something he has textbook knowledge of but never learned how to appreciate or enjoy it.  While he’s on edge, Jack is also quite intrigued.

As is typical for her, Blitz is thinking purely in terms of strategy.  She’s not even going to bother observing the rebels until she’s satisfied that the location is secure.  This is actually a really useful personality trait, although it’s really exasperating more often than not.

Experiments are very aware of how attractive they are to normals.  They often used this during missions.

Shae attempts to use a nickname and Blitz just doesn’t get it.  Their exchange makes me laugh every damn time 😀 (when I was working on the outline, I thought about how experiments would react to nicknames.  I came to the conclusion that they would be bewildered.  They’re used to aliases, not terms of endearment).  Obviously Jensen finds Blitz’s response hilarious.

Jensen actually enjoys club settings (not as much as a night in with a good book), but he’s mostly there to help keep an eye on the experiments.  Jensen’s really good at observation and Remington values his insights (Nero tends to cut corners and is often really vague).

“Jack looked positively enthralled, as if he had never seen dancing before.  He took a large step back when a rebel came close to him” [36].  Experiments are very sensitive about their personal space.  They were taught that the closer one gets, the more likely the experiment is to be physically harmed.  Experiments learned the hard way to be in total control of their space (including who enters and/or exits it).  Whereas Blitz is more concerned about her safety when people get close, Jack is starting to be more concerned about harming other people.

Rebels are the epitome of cool 😉  One of these days, I really want to try my hand at writing short stories and I want to write a few about rebels.

Jensen is going to do whatever he can to make Blitz feel a little more at ease.  Right now, her senses are in overdrive and it’s making her go into soldier-mode.  She can’t be on edge around such a large crowd because it will trigger instinctive reactions, which would result in someone getting hurt.

Blitz is a woman who always listens to her instincts.  When put in a situation she can’t entirely control, she’ll fall back on her training.  In this instance, she decides to identify any possible dangers or places ideal for an ambush.  By studying her actions, the protectors can also get an idea of some of the tactics Grenich will use against them.

There’s a difference in how protectors interact versus how experiments do.  Jensen and Shae speak with warmth.  They’re friends and so there’s genuine affection between them.  Blitz and Jack are modified to be living weapons.  They’re emotionless and only concerned with conveying necessary information.  There isn’t warmth or affection (not in the way normals would understand it).  It’s precise and to the point, no time wasted.

Page 37 is an example of how experiments have information but not appreciation (I think there’s an important distinction between the two).  Jack, like almost all experiments, knows everything there is to know about dance.  Technically, he’s flawless.  However, he doesn’t understand anything about the artistic side of dance.  Jack has never been required to dance before, so he hasn’t.  This is one of the first time he has encountered recreational dance.

Jack has been making major strides in his recovery, but is still very cautious about physical contact (especially when it’s initiated by another person).  I knew Shae would be one of the first people Jack would trust enough to allow inside his personal space.  She knows enough to let Jack go at his own pace.  When she offers her hand, Shae is demonstrating that she trusts him and also letting him decide whether or not to take it.

It’s fair to say Jack is much more open to new experiences than most other experiments 😉

Page 38 – 41

There are a couple reasons why Blitz appears mellower when she’s higher up.  She actually hasn’t relaxed at all, but it’s much easier for her to conceal how tense she is when she’s away from a crowd.  Experiments naturally tense up when someone nears their personal space.  Another reason she appears to have relaxed a little is Jensen projecting.  Experiments are incredibly easy to project onto because of how expressionless and unreadable they are.  Normals often project without realizing it.

One ability experiments have that often comes in handy:  their heightened hearing.  They can also read lips.

Experiments don’t enjoy wearing the lenses that conceal their glowing eyes.  They irritate their sensitive eyes.  Wearing special glasses can hinder their vision a bit (even though they still have 20/20 vision by normal standards).  So, more often than not, experiments won’t bother with either.  They’ll only conceal their eyes when absolutely necessary.  The rebels know about experiments and patrons will assume they’re wearing specialized contacts.

Blitz is really baffled by Jensen.  Her instincts are almost solely on surviving and self-preservation.  She doesn’t understand the importance of a name or an identity.  She can shed identities like a snake sheds its skin.  Note:  the first time I wrote that sentence, I accidentally wrote “shake sheds its skin” and laughed like a fool for about five or ten minutes 😀

As I mentioned earlier, Blitz spots things others would miss.  She spots a threat fairly quickly and immediately starts figuring out a number of plans for dealing with it.  As an added challenge, Blitz has to figure out how to keep the casualties down.  She has no fucking idea how to do that.  Blitz has never had to care about collateral damage before and the Corporation never used her as a protector.

The Lair can be an extremely disorientating place.  The lighting alone can muck with the senses.  There’s a trope in a lot of popular media that if you’re in public, surrounded by witnesses, you’re somehow safe (this is especially true of modern settings).  I wanted to play with this a bit.  When you have a Big Bad who can erase people’s memories, play with perception, and has a massive amount of power/sway, public and private don’t really mean all that much to him.

Blitz’s directness is often amusing.  There’s absolutely no malice behind it (she’s not being an asshole, unlike a lot of “direct” people).  It’s really just her not knowing how to be any other way.  Remember, she doesn’t really have emotions (not in the way normals understand them).  So her mannerisms are going to be quite different.

Blitz never moves without purpose.  She’s in complete control of her entire body.  She repositions herself closer to the threat.  By putting herself between it and Jensen, she has also given him a clear path to escape (he can run to the stairway).  At this point in the scene, she has a clear idea of how the threat is going to react and is working on how to counter it.

“Would you mind holding onto this for me?  I don’t want to lose it.”
Jensen stiffened and quickly opened his jacket, attempting to hide the blade from passersby.  “You can’t just wave a weapon around in public.”
“I’m not waving it around, I’m handing it to you” [40].  This exchange makes me laugh every time I read it.  First of all, Blitz is really not great at being subtle (how the hell would she lose a knife!?).  Her nonchalance makes it even funnier.  Of course, there’s also a bit of a sadder reading:  she’s so accustomed to violence that she doesn’t understand the skittishness normals have about weapon.  Poor Jensen is absolutely freaking out (as any normal person would be).

Something that’s kind of funny about this interaction:  there are subtle gestures that show how these characters trust each other.  Jensen is so careful to not cut open Blitz’s hands when he takes the knife from her.  He knows that she would heal instantaneously, but Jensen is still cautious.  He’s treating her like he would any other ally.  Also, Blitz giving Jensen one of her weapons is her way to try to protect him in the only way she knows how.  Experiments will almost never give up a weapon willingly.

When communicating with each other, experiments will often rely on signals and other methods of nonverbal communication.  Jack and Blitz know how to warn each other about a threat without using verbal cues.  Normals tend to rely a lot on speaking, experiments don’t.

Jensen spots what has caught Blitz’s attention.  If it weren’t for Blitz, no one would have given the strange men a second thought (until it was too late).  They’re fairly adept at blending in.

Page 41 – 44

Jet’s kids are celebrating and have no idea of the danger.  It was important that the reader had more information than the characters in order to create the sense of tension I needed for this scene to work.

In regards to how leadership works with protectors:  it’s usually whichever kid wants it.  Age is only considered when multiple siblings are willing to undertake the role.  Jet and Lilly have two older daughters, but they both felt they would better serve the protectors by being their father’s diplomats (Jetta is in Europe and Robin is in Australia).  Declan has absolutely no interest in politics so the position next fell to Devlin.  Also, siblings will sometimes rotate in regards to who rules (if sibling one tires of the position and sibling two is willing to take up the position, they can switch out).

Jack has done a very quick threat assessment and concluded that the attack will likely happen where there’s the highest concentration of people.  Knowing that there’s about to be violence, Jack warns Wylie.  Experiments normally wouldn’t do this, but they’ve had to adjust their usual methods and tactics since they’re now living with normals.

Hunter and Brindy have always been really close.  Even though she’s closer in age to Cassidy, Hunter looks up to her big sister.  Also, age isn’t as important to shape shifters as it is to humans.

Brindy definitely developed a crush on Coop, though she’s perfectly comfortable just being his friend too.  Despite Hunter’s theory, it’s incredibly difficult to be in a romantic relationship with an experiment.  It’s not impossible, but it’s definitely not easy.

I think sudden attacks are absolutely terrifying (it might be my own personal experience talking).  Waiting for an attack you know is coming can be terrible, but at least you can prepare for it.  I wanted this attack to be sudden and brutal.  Hunter and Brindy never see it coming.

Hunter is a very scrappy character.  She’s been in quite a few fights in the past and has very quick reflexes.  She’s a natural fighter.  I always pictured Hunter being the troublemaker of the family (Jet and Lilly have definitely gotten calls about her in the past).  Hunter is also extremely protective of her siblings.

I had a very clear picture in my mind of what the Big Bad’s followers would look like.  For the record, I love lizards.  I think they’re some of the coolest animals.  However, I think if humans had triangular heads similar to lizards . . . well, that would just be completely freaking 🙂

The Big Bad’s followers are like blunt instruments.  They have really thick hides but they’re fairly easy to deal with.  They’re nowhere near as dangerous as experiments (certainly nowhere near as valuable).  The followers tend to rely more on numbers and brute force.  Followers have no free will and are completely under the control of necromancers, similar to revenants.

Followers are purely carnivorous.  This is not something you want to encounter in a dark alley.

Hunter really holds her own in this fight.  She reacts instinctively and manages to disarm her attacker.  Hunter is really adept when it comes to self-defense.

If you’re ever in a fight, you want a rebel watching your back 😉

I was ridiculously excited to introduce another wereanimal (a werelion).  The wereanimals were explained in the previous novel.  Basically, most of the first generations of guardians were terrible, petty dicks.  They frequently used curses when angered, which was almost always.  They did things most modern guardians would never consider.  During the War of the Meadows, some shape shifters were traitors and some fled (because war is really fucking scary).  The guardians were so infuriated by the actions of these few shape shifters that they cursed them and a couple generations of their family.  These cursed shape shifters became wereanimals.  Their inability to control when they shifted caused the wereanimals to become feral.  Wereanimals lack most rational thought, but they are driven by their hatred of the guardians and protectors.

Protectors hunted wereanimals to the brink of extinction (they were much too dangerous to continue to allow to roam free).  The Big Bad offered the surviving wereanimals sanctuary.  He also offered them a chance to exact their revenge on the guardians and protectors.  They just had to submit to intense experimentation, which they did.  To the wereanimals, the Big Bad is a lesser evil than the guardians (who cursed them and then tried to eradicate them).

Even though Hunter has never encountered a wereanimal before, she has an instinctive fear of them.  Of course, if a gigantic mutated lion-type creature busted through a window, I’m fairly sure that would scare the shit out of almost anyone.

Page 44 – 46

Since the rebels allied with the protectors, Jade and Alpha have been able to find common ground.  They’re close to being friends again (something Sly undoubtedly had a hand in).

Both Jade and Alpha are experienced fighters.  They can keep a cool head in high stress situations, including when there’s a sniper taking shots at them.

When I was writing this scene, I was once again reminded that I’d never survive a sniper attack.  If I were in a horror movie, I’d be the person killed during the opening credits.

Alpha employs a lot of women at the Lair (more than men), including a couple engineers.  It can’t be said enough:  rebels are all-around fucking awesome.

“Fucking protectors.  Every time you come, you bring destruction with you” [45].  Alpha doesn’t want to discriminate against anyone, but these protectors are really testing her 😉

The Big Bad’s followers have adhesive palms and feet (like geckos).  They also wear shoes with a similar substance.

Aside from numbers, followers rely heavily on the element of surprise.

“Well there’s a new kind of golden shower” [45].  I couldn’t resist this.  Alpha is the kind of character who cracks jokes in the middle of an attack.  Jade is so not in the mood (she’s switched into her warrior mode).  Alpha just can’t be bothered to give a damn.

Alpha’s first concern is always the rebels.  Rebels are a very tight-knit group who watch out for each other.  Jade’s really concerned about keeping the casualties down and finding her three teammates.

Jade and Alpha are a deadly pair.  These two work really well together (as most of the women in my series do.  Because women kick ass!)

Page 46 – 50

This is the first time the protectors see the experiments in a real combat situation.  I really worried about this scene because it’s really difficult to “show” just how ruthless, efficient, and brutal experiments truly are.  It was easier in From the Ashes when Blitz was focused solely on sending a message.  Now she’s got a few different things to think of, like keeping her allies alive.

Jensen really hates when something happens to his nice clothing.  He can be so fussy sometimes 😉

Blitz never stops moving once she starts fighting.  It’s all moves and counter-moves.  She’s still completely in control though.

The experiments have fought followers like these before.  The Big Bad often uses followers as fodder in training simulations (they’re fairly expendable).

Experiments feel most at ease when fighting.  Part of the experimentation involved conditioning that linked pleasure and fighting (violence).  It’s very difficult to break this link.  They’ll never unlearn their darker instincts and they will always be living weapons.  But Blitz and Jack are starting to learn how to be more than weapons and also how to use their skills for a better purpose.

Blitz and Jack are valuable assets.  As bloody as this fight gets, it would have been a lot worse had they not been there.  Of course, the whole reason why this massacre happens is because Grenich wants its products back.

Wereanimals haven’t been seen since the early 1900s.  They’ve faded into nightmares and scary stories.  Seeing one in the flesh is absolutely terrifying for the shape shifters.  Except to the experiments, who are fearless to a fault.

Poor Nero just gets the crap beat out of him.  He’s a really good fighter, but surprise attacks can take even the best fighter off guard.

Jensen instinctively looks for Jet’s children.  He knows they would make valuable hostages and will probably be targeted.  It’s important that Grenich not gain any further advantage over the protectors.  As I’ve mentioned in the past, Jensen also feels a lot of personal loyalty to Jet and Lilly.  He’ll lay down his life for the Monroe family if called upon to do so.

Blitz saves Jensen’s neck (experiments are often quite exasperated with how easily normals are distracted.  Her killing his would-be attacker is a lot more brutal than many of the other kills.  I wanted it to be a little reminiscent of her kills in the previous novel.  Blitz still sometimes has these flashes of rage that are triggered when she sees something like an ally being attacked (she reacted in a similar way when Naomi Green attacked Alex).

This is also the first time Jensen is a little scared of Blitz (it’s hard not to be).  She has said some unsettling things before, but actually seeing how good she is at killing is another thing.  Jensen has only ever seen the aftermath of Blitz’s killing.  She’s really good at what she does.

Alex is very handy with a fire axe 😉  She’s a capable fighter and I really wanted to show this.  Alex has managed to get through the melee relatively unscathed.  She also managed to find Jensen and Blitz, which isn’t too easy a feat in the dark.

Again, Blitz offers another weapon (this time to Alex).  Alex and Jensen are the protectors Blitz is most comfortable around.  She sees them as valuable allies, but they’re also the normals who treat her the most regularly.  They don’t handle her with kid gloves.  Blitz really isn’t in a place where she experiences bonds or attachments, not yet, but she’s starting to move in that direction.

Blitz’s clothing and sash have been made specially for her by the person behind the Grenich resistance (who readers meet very briefly at the end of this novel).  It’s definitely not normal clothing, as readers have seen.

The Big Bad’s followers have been reanimated, so they always have the stench of death and decay around them.  They’re slowly rotting.  Their blood is putrid.  The odor can be overpowering and it can even mess with an experiment’s senses (though not as much as a normal’s).

Blitz tends to favor her guns.  She only uses her blades when she needs to be stealthy.  In a situation like the one they’re in, Blitz would prefer to use her guns.

Alex and Jensen are both a little uneasy about Blitz’s lack of empathy.  She’s colder than even an assassin would be.  Blitz is completely unaffected by the pain of others.  When Blitz pins the follower to the ledge, she doesn’t care about how cruel it is.  Blitz has been conditioned to be completely merciless.  That’s how she is in the midst of battle.  I didn’t write her as sadistic, but her actions occasionally border on it.

Page 51 – 53

Unlike Blitz, Jack is a bit more aware of the normals.  I always wrote Jack as attempting to mimic protectors.  There’s a small part of Jack that longs to be normal, though he knows he never will be.

Shae and Jack fight well together.  Shae is too focused on fighting to really see how easily Jack fights.  They’re right in the midst of the attack and completely surrounded by mayhem.

Rebels never run from a fight.  Most of the patrons have escaped, thanks in part to some help from rebels, but the rebels themselves have stayed.  They will always stand and fight.  Retreating just isn’t in their nature.

Both Jack and Blitz make sure their allies are armed, even providing them with weapons they brought.

Shae is very young by shape shifter standards (she’s the youngest member of the Four), so she doesn’t know very much about wereanimals.  Therefore while she is quite surprised by the enormous animal, Shae really only feels instinctual fear.  Most other shape shifters are flat-out terrified.

Blitz is the only experiment so far to have fought a wereanimal (the werewolves in book three).  And those were only prototypes.  Grenich is constantly refining the experiments.  The werelion is also a fairly early experiment, but it still manages to send Jack flying.  This was another subtle gender reversal:  too often, women are being thrown around like rag dolls).

Blitz is really getting good at saving the day 😉  I really loved the image of her standing on a ledge, perfectly balanced, guns aimed.  Her expression would be blank.  Experiments tend to have flat affect when they’re fighting.  Their faces are usually really difficult to read anyway.

I found something really nice and subtle about Blitz’s glance towards Shae.  Like I’ve mentioned before, there are layers to Blitz, though she would deny it.  She hides it very well, but she is a complicated woman.

Page 53 – 56

This was a really difficult scene to write.  I don’t like writing these kinds of tragic, emotion-heavy scenes (I’m not good at them.  Emotion isn’t my area of strength).

[SPOILER!  I knew in book three that when Jet refused to hand over Jack and Blitz to Grenich, he essentially sealed the fates of Brindy and Devlin.  I had to kill Devlin for a couple reasons.  Firstly, killing Jet’s heir is a really clear statement.  Secondly, I kind of fucked up when naming the characters:  his name was much too close to Devin Deverell’s.  Brindy was a bit more difficult.  I knew one of Jet’s daughters was going to die because Nick Chance has a thing for symmetry.  I briefly toyed with Grenich taking one of the older daughters hostage and then executing her.  But that seemed a little too cliched and it caused a lot of plot holes.  So it had to be Brindy or Hunter.  Well, I already had a plot line in mind for Hunter, so unfortunately Brindy wound up getting the axe.]

The Big Bad didn’t order this attack, but he knew Chance would do something like this.  The Big Bad keeps Chance on a tight leash, but every now and again, he’ll take that leash off.  The chaos Chance causes invigorates the Big Bad and reminds people the Big Bad is someone to be feared.

The Big Bad was really hoping to take a hostage.  Hunter would be a great bargaining chip.  Though followers aren’t great at capturing people (they’re too rough and likely would have killed Hunter had they gotten her outside).

Followers have the same hatred of protectors and guardians that the Big Bad has.  His will is theirs.

I really wanted to write a scene with Coop fighting.  He’s an odd experiment and it’s sometimes easy to forget that he’s actually like Jack and Blitz, with similar skills and knowledge.

Coop has been on the outside long enough to be able to tolerate brief physical contact.  Had Hunter grabbed Jack or Blitz in a similar way, she probably would have wound up with a broken arm (at the very least).

Strangely enough, I find fear to be one of the more difficult things to write.  This is especially true when it comes to women.  I never want to go into stereotypical territory with a shrieking chick, but most of my characters feel fear at some point.  The only exception is the experiments (obviously), but even they have their moments of unease.  I’m a believer in that saying that courage is being afraid but doing something anyway.  Nobody is fearless.

Coop really only has basic knowledge when it comes to field medicine (Jack would be more useful in this situation but even he wouldn’t have been able to do much).  I needed this scene to have a sense of helplessness.  Coop is fully aware of how bad this is and he knows there isn’t much he can do.  It’s the worst feeling in the world when someone you care about is in pain and you can’t do anything.

The situation is desperate enough that Coop is willing to trust a stranger to watch his back, which is a huge risk.  It’s purely out of necessity that he does this.  He’s almost completely out of options.

Coop is incapable of fear, especially in a fight.  In the midst of battle, there is a massive amount of adrenaline pumping through an experiment’s system.  They also tend to focus solely on survival.

Coop easily recognizes what kind of weapon was used from Brindy’s wounds.  It’s something every experiment would recognize (and it would fill them with something similar to dread).

I wanted this scene to demonstrate one of the drawbacks of lacking emotions:  Coop would like to be reassuring and he tries to be, but he has no idea how to do that.  He knows that he can’t get the help that’s desperately needed.  Whoever is behind the attack has completely outmaneuvered them and there’s not a damn thing they can do about it.

Page 57 – 60

I can’t state this enough:  it’s really unsettling to see an experiment fight.  Violence just comes so easily to them.  By the end of this scene, Jensen and Alex are exhausted.  Blitz never slows down.  The only time she stops is when she notices Jensen and Alex are fatigued.

Fighting comes so naturally to Blitz (it’s as normal as grocery shopping is to non-experiments).  Killing is another thing that comes naturally.  She doesn’t even flinch when followers spring out at her.

Grenich has the ability to make places feel artificial (so that’s why it seems like someone pressed a mute button in the Lair).  Nick Chance has this ability, but it’s a lot more limited.

Blitz is still in battle mode.  She’s compartmentalizing everything.  Her allies are worn out, so she gives them a moment to regain their strength.  Blitz remains completely alert, as she always does.

I had planned to introduce this new villain for quite a while:  Nick Chance.  He’s a Grenich representative, a handler, and an enforcer.  I’ve mentioned his background in the introduction to the commentary (it’s revealed in the next chapter).  Chance is a psychopath.  He lacks a lot of the control and restraint of the Big Bad.  He’s chaotic and unpredictable.  Chance is one of the very few people who can elicit a noticeable reaction from experiments (they’re scared of him).

Chance is the kind of villain who is usually polite and almost always smiling, even when standing in the middle of a massacre.  As I mentioned earlier, some of his mannerisms and personality are based on a few people I’ve had the misfortune of encountering (albeit exaggerated).

Chance is nowhere near as powerful as some of the other villains, but he is much more powerful than shape shifters.  He can also easily take on the experiments.

Character print:  Chance almost always wears white.  I’ve always found white to be very artificial and so I often wrote my villains wearing it (with the exception of Pyra).

Character print:  Chance always paints the masculine symbol over his eyes.  Grenich prizes traditional masculinity and women are completely devalued.  Some of the rough drafts of the symbols for Grenich actually resembled a phallus:

Set SymbolsSymbol #5 is meant to most resemble a phallus (I wound up going with #1 as the official Grenich symbol)

Chance has special privilege because he’s a man.  His masculinity is a source of pride, so he paints the symbol of masculinity on his face.  This little characteristic just fit his personality perfectly.

Nick Chance can be incredibly charming.  There’s a line from Hamlet that perfectly fits the character of Chance:  “That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain—” (Hamlet Act 1, scene 5, 108).  That’s Chance.

This is one of the few times when Blitz is genuinely uneasy, almost frightened.  She has been conditioned to believe Chance is more powerful than her.  This is one of the few situations where Blitz is going to try to avoid a fight.  She doesn’t often hide, but she does in this scene.

I loved writing Alpha in this scene.  Alpha is naturally very bold and gives zero fucks.  This man came into her establishment, attacked her people and customers, and then has the gall to talk about extending an olive branch.  Acts of aggression don’t impress Alpha.  They piss her off.

Chance is a misogynist.  He flat-out doesn’t respect women.  Alpha laughing in his face is blatant disrespect and would normally send him into a rage.  However, the Big Bad is still trying to win a few allies (if only for a supply of future products).  Nick Chance’s hatred of women is not quite as strong as his fear of the Big Bad.

Nick Chance is a creepy motherfucker.  There’s just no other way to describe him.  The dude is just bad news.

Cassidy has managed to avoid most of the fighting.  Out of his siblings, he’s the best at sneaking around (very fleet-footed).  Cassidy is naturally quiet and stealthy.  Unfortunately, Nick Chance works with experiments.  Jensen knows this situation is about to get really bad (if Chance scares experiments he’s got to be pretty damn bad).  When he sees Cassidy sneaking up on the man, Jensen is absolutely terrified.

Chance is a bully.  He does what he can to intimidate those less powerful than him.  He is enjoying himself immensely.  The Big Bad thrives on both chaos and power.  Nick Chance thrives on fear and pain.

I had a very clear idea of how Nick Chance would exit the scene.  This is a man who enjoys theatrics.  He doesn’t have the ability to Appear, but he does have some necromancer magic and can therefore do something similar.  And really, are glowing sigils ever not creepy?


So ends the commentary for chapter two.

I’m not sure when I’ll be able to get to the commentary to chapter three.  The Asexual Artists blogs are eating up a lot of my time, I need to write a couple guest blogs, there are a couple other things that require my attention, and convention season is just about to start (next week is my first con of the season).  So I apologize in advance for the lengthy wait.

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, subscribe to my website and other social network pages, 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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