WARNING! THERE WILL BE SPOILERS!
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Hello again, beloved readers! 🙂
Long time, no see. Please accept my sincerest apologies for the unforgivably long wait on commentary. “Asexual Artists” has been eating up an enormous amount of my time. It’s an extremely important resource and something that I really should have done a long, long time ago. I knew it was going to be a lot of work (asexual artists deserve a resource that’s done correctly), but I greatly underestimated how much time it would require. Between formatting, linking, and laying out different aspects of the two sites, everything else kind of fell on the wayside. Like I’ve mentioned before, I’m terribly inept when it comes to spinning plates.
Aside from that, convention season has started up again. So that requires even more of my time. Add marketing my novels and then, of course, trying to figure out a good time to outline book five: dear reader, it feels like I’m being pulled in a thousand different directions at once. So I’m afraid there are going to be some rather long waits between commentaries.
But enough of that.
Chapter three is an aftermath chapter: it’s what happens after the attack in chapter two. This was a really tricky chapter to write (not to mention comment on). When writing grief, it is so frustratingly easy to stray into melodrama, which is the absolute last thing you want to do. I’ve found grief to be exceedingly difficult to capture in writing. Seriously, I’m fairly adept when it comes to writing fights. Ask me to write any kind of emotion and I start struggling a bit.
I also had to differentiate between how experiments react to tragedy versus how normals do. Experiments were conditioned to use grief as a tool. They don’t understand the point of it, but like most other emotions, they know how to use it against those experiencing it. This is another slightly new experience for them.
Before we begin, I need to comment on a mistake I’m still kicking myself about: Alex was always written as being aromantic-asexual. I should have revealed this in the first novel and was kicking myself (which I continue to do even to this day) when I realized I had completely forgot to include it. As an aro-ace woman myself, it was important that at least one of my main heroines was a badass aro-ace woman. I probably wrote about this elsewhere, but I wanted to reiterate it.
Page 61 – 65
The rebel Lair is in complete shambles. One of the things I wanted to get across was that Grenich will not hesitate to destroy safe havens (even assassins won’t conduct business at rebel Lairs, which are seen as completely neutral ground). There’s no such thing as sentimentality among the Grenich higher ups. There is no neutral ground or innocent bystanders. They don’t observe things like holy or historic sites. Everything and everyone is fair game. Even if the Big Bad doesn’t directly get his hands dirty, he has subordinates who have no problem doing so. Not to mention all the experiments he has.
This chapter always started with Jet. He’s really trapped in a horrible scenario. Right now, none of this feels real to him. He’s numb, which continues for quite a while.
Because of the truce Alpha has with Jet, the guardians are willing to extend some of the same benefits that protectors have. This is why the healers are dispatched to attend to the wounded.
I also have copious amounts of notes about who guardians can heal and who they can’t (as well as the reasons why).
Amethyst is in charge. She’s one of those guardians you just don’t mess with. Almost all the current healers have been trained by her and the ones in this scene are her personal protégés, and therefore are the best apprentices.
[SPOILER! Steve’s family has always been loyal to Jet, but Steve’s the first to work so closely with the Monroes. He’s acting as Jet’s, and the guardians’, bodyguard in this scene]
Alpha will never a kick a person who’s down (at least not like this). Alpha is a woman who has selective patience. She doesn’t tolerate bullshit but she’s also capable of compassion. In this scene, she’s being very patient. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of rage under her cool exterior.
Alpha is very attentive to rebels, but not in a motherly way (Alpha is one of those women who has absolutely no maternal instinct). She still feels somewhat responsible for the safety of the rebels who call the Lair home. I’ve always written Alpha as being very attuned to others emotions. She’s one of those people who can easily pick up on cues, including those others miss, and has the uncanny ability to stop trouble before it can start.
It was important to show that Alpha is not above revenge. She isn’t a pacifist by any stretch of the imagination. The only reason she didn’t take a shot at Chance was because he was too far away and the risk of hitting someone else was just too great. Alpha will go to any lengths to protect her people. Rebels come first. Just because she has a truce with the protectors doesn’t mean she’ll follow their rules/ways.
Jet is bound by his duty to the guardians. As a protector, he cannot let his personal feelings or desires get in the way of his obligations to the guardians.
Alpha is obviously in favor of giving the experiments the freedom to do what they’re best at. I’ve mentioned before that experiments are always going to be a divisive issue among the shape shifters. There are some who want them on a tight leash and others who want to take the leash off entirely.
Most of the curtains in the Lair have been drawn in case there is another sniper lurking about.
[SPOILER! I knew Coop would be the experiment who would be willing to stand watch over Jet’s children. Blitz and Jack are way too high-strung to remain in one place for very long. This is doubly true after such a violent attack. There’s adrenaline coursing through their systems. Even though Coop is also a highly-advanced solider, he was used for much different purposes. Coop was more a retrieval specialist: he can get into places others can’t (fingers changing into keys). Blitz and Jack are all-purpose fighters. As I’ve mentioned before, 7-series are conditioned to operate in adverse conditions and hostile territories. They’re often used for espionage. Coop is from a different generation. He has evolved with the times, but he does lack some of the advancements of the 7-series. Each generation of experiment is an improvement on the previous ones.]
This was a difficult scene to write. With protectors, grief is a natural part of life (more than it is for the other groups of shape shifters). Still, they are technically immortal. Their reaction to death had to be similar to a human’s, but not exactly the same. I’m not entirely sure I succeeded in portraying this.
Shape shifters tend to be emotional. They’re not as ashamed of showing emotions as we tend to be. Hunter is the exception to a lot of rules, including this one. I picture her as being a lot more reserved when it comes to things like grief and sadness. She doesn’t like showing others her pain. Hunter crying openly like this is almost unheard of. She has just been through an ordeal and now needs familiarity to reassure herself.
Rebels are really good when it comes to first aid (mostly due to the occasional bar fight. Alpha makes sure all her employees know basic first aid).
One of the things I was interested in exploring was how this tragedy would affect some shape shifters opinions of experiments. Because they’re so unreadable and different, a lot of shape shifters have trouble trusting them. This attack really just reinforces the idea that it’s dangerous to be around experiments. They’re dangerous and there’s also some dangerous people after them.
A good part of this novel deals with Jet’s grief. He’s slightly better at it than Jensen (key word being slightly).
Page 65 – 69
Blitz isn’t overly concerned with hiding her abilities. Her dropping from the fifth floor is just her way of saving time 😉
While most rebels are aware of experiments, they haven’t really seen the extent of their abilities. Hearing about something is quite different from witnessing it.
The experiments are the only shape shifters who aren’t experiencing some form of shock. This was quite a mild attack compared to some of the things the Corporation exposed them to (and made them do). Jack and Blitz are more focused on figuring out what their next move should be.
Guardians rarely ever leave the Meadows (Passion and Electra are really kind of an exception and even they don’t gallivant around the globe). Most shape shifters, including protectors, have never seen a guardian in their life, much less been healed by one. Similarly, the apprentices have not often been to Earth. They have studied the guardian healing arts and tapped into their abilities. They haven’t seen rebels before.
I like Eir. She’s a very curious guardian. She’s Amethyst’s personal protégé and heir. Eir is a gifted healer, but she tends to be rather quiet.
I admit, I loved the visual of Jensen sitting next to Nero who’s sprawled out across a bench. Once all the mayhem quieted down, Jensen would have checked on Nero first.
Nero and Blitz’s exchanges on pages 65 – 66 is another thing I included because it made me chuckle. These two characters are almost complete opposites. Blitz doesn’t understand Nero at all. She’s quite sure he’ll never understand experiments.
There is almost no one Nero won’t hit on. However, being flirtatious with a guardian is rather bold, even for him. Nero is one of the only protectors who would do this (even if it’s not entirely serious).
Eir is a professional and ignores Nero’s flirtation. As I wrote this scene, I pictured Jensen being slightly shell-shocked. He’s sorting out his thoughts. Jensen would have helped cover the bodies and bring a few upstairs, then he returned to make sure Nero was okay.
Blitz hasn’t stopped moving since the fighting started. When this scene begins, the reader catches glimpses of her. Since it starts in Jensen’s P.O.V, everything is a little disjointed.
Most shape shifters would be concerned about a the sudden reappearance of a dangerous enemy they thought was extinct. As is typical for him, Jensen’s more annoyed about his ruined clothing 😉 🙂
Jensen briefly experiences a flashback. [SPOILER! Now that he’s aware of the connection between Grenich and the massacre of his entire family, it’s going to be a trigger for him. Jensen knows this and does his best to counter it.]
Eir is very, very young. This is her first time on Earth. Normally apprentices aren’t allowed to travel to Earth when they’re so young. Obviously, these are special circumstances, which are going to become more common. It’s a hell of an introduction for these younger guardians.
Amethyst is a strict teacher. She’s very sensitive to pain and suffering. As a healer, she has a very strong instinct to soothe/relieve hurt. There are still a number of wounded shape shifters who need attention. She has no patience for her students dragging their heels.
Nero has no idea what happened. He knows it was bad, judging from the destruction surrounding them. Jensen is going to have to deliver the bad news, something he really doesn’t want to do.
The Deverells have been phoning constantly since Jet left for the rebel Lair. They are a really tight-knit group, so they’re worried out of their minds for Jensen and Nero. Nero being the youngest brother also makes them incredibly protective of him.
Obviously Jade has had a very long night and therefore has little patience. Poor Nero is completely in dark and doesn’t understand why she snaps at him.
Guardians have an instinctive fear of anything unnatural. This goes back to the first guardians. The guardians are in charge of watching over the Earth and her inhabitants. They have no power/connection to the unnatural. The Big Bad is the archenemy of the guardians. He has modified the experiments specifically to frighten the guardians. To the guardians, especially the younger ones, experiments look absolutely terrifying.
As I’ve probably mentioned before, Coop is written to be the quintessential outsider. He doesn’t fit in with the modern experiments and he doesn’t fit in with the normals at all. He’s a stranger in both worlds.
All three experiments are focused solely on gathering useful evidence. Coop is very aware that the guardians fear him, but it doesn’t bother him. That’s one of the advantages of not experiencing emotions: being an outcast really isn’t too painful an experience.
I’ve always seen Coop as the most conflicted of the experiments. He has been on the outside long enough to see the benefit of having emotions and attachments. He’s a little better at mimicking normals and for longer periods of time. Coop, much like Jack, wishes he could be normal. He knows he used to be a normal, but has no memory of that time. Coop almost wishes he were more affected by the attack on the Lair.
The residue: I could have done a better job with this. This attack was preplanned. Since necromancers can’t Appear, they have to rely on other methods of fast transportation (which have to be as good as Appearing). Obviously, they have their own kinds of magic.
I briefly toyed with having the scene stay in Jensen’s perspective, but I really needed the short scene that follows to be in a different P.O.V to move the plot in the direction that I wanted. This chapter jumps around a bit more than it should, but unfortunately, it was necessary.
Page 69 – 70
I liked the idea of seeing Nero’s reaction from Blitz’s perspective. I find Blitz to be an interesting character because of how removed she tends to be. In this scene, she’s witnessing something she’s incapable of feeling. This is one of the first times Blitz doesn’t have to think about using grief as a tool.
Shape shifters form very intense emotional connections. They don’t rank love the way human society tends to (there’s no hierarchy of love). For them, romantic love is no more or less important than familial or platonic love. Nero has known the Monroes all his life. This loss hits him really hard.
All experiments are fearful of Nick Chance (to different degrees, as will become apparent later in the novel). Jack, like Blitz, also had a very visceral reaction to Chance.
This was a very interesting scene to write. Even though it’s short, there’s a fair amount going on. The Four are still learning how to work together. Right now, they need to know about this enemy who frightens the experiments so much. The experiments, who tend to be forthright about most things, aren’t offering any answers. This is due in part to their conditioning: they were severely beaten whenever they showed or revealed any kind of weakness.
Blitz is unwilling to discuss why she reacted the way she did. To do so would risk putting her at a disadvantage. At this point in the story, Blitz doesn’t see in terms of allies and enemies. She has enemies and not-enemies. The Four are in the not-enemy category, but that doesn’t mean she trusts them. Blitz still doesn’t have the ability to trust (she is capable of allying with others and that’s really it).
Blitz is really uneasy about Nick Chance making an appearance. It’s something she never would have anticipated and it has reminded her that the Big Bad has a pretty big advantage over her. She’s unwilling to reveal this, so she retreats when Jade pushes the topic. Experiments don’t often withdraw from situations (not unless they’re given specific orders to do so). This is certainly not something Blitz would normally do. I have a note in my profile of people who could elicit this reaction from her. Aside from Chance, there’s only three other names on the list.
This was one of the earliest scenes I wrote for this novel. I’m fascinated by the idea of memories without emotions. It seems like so many of our memories are tied to our emotional responses. Blitz is a very stony character and doesn’t often have noticeable reactions. She’s modified to excel in high-stress situations and has a lot of experience with battle. This is one of those exceedingly rare instances where she lets herself crack just the tiniest bit (and only for a split second).
For the most part, Blitz has buried the very, very few memories she has of being broken. She has no memories of being normal and has no idea of when exactly she became an experiment. Before the events in From the Ashes, she assumed that she had always been a 7-series. Since she believes it’s unimportant, Blitz doesn’t dwell on it and at this point, is completely uninterested in what she was like as a normal. This flashback is one of those rare instances when she’s confronted with a memory she had buried.
This also serves as foreshadowing one of Chance’s more gruesome character prints.
Page 70 – 73
The mansion is abnormally quiet. The shape shifters are all in a state of shock (most of them).
The Doctor tends to be an extremely nervous, borderline neurotic, character. The stress of constantly fighting Grenich often manifests in physical tics.
I wanted there to be an obvious contrast to how Sly and Remington reacted to what happened. Sly is fairly world-hardened and unashamedly cynical. She has learned to conceal a number of emotions in order to survive. She’s not loyal to the protectors (from my notes, I wrote that one of Sly’s mottos would be, “Loyalty is for select individuals, not groups”). Remington, even though he’s significantly older than Sly, has served the Monroe family for most of his life. He has known many of Jet’s ancestors and every time a Monroe falls, it’s a blow. Remington is closer to Jet than he was to most other Monroes, so that makes the grief even more intense. Sly, although she does have sympathy, is more concerned about the brashness of this new enemy. She has been in wars before and knows there’s always chaos, which the Big Bad thrives on.
Blitz’s entrance is silent. She’s trying to regain her composure and isn’t interested in answering pointless questions. The thing to remember about Blitz is that she’s always thinking in terms of survival and strategy. Also, the wheels in her mind are always turning. She’s still kind of in this state where she’s not really living, only surviving. Nick Chance represents a threat, one that could take away her control of any given situation.
Coop also enters silently. Like Blitz, he immediately seeks isolation. It’s for different reasons, obviously. Jack naturally turns to the Doctor, which has become almost a habit.
The Doctor has a very visible reaction to Chance’s name. It almost paralyzes him. I’m really fascinated by fear and how people not only react to it, but how they learn to deal and live with it. There isn’t much that scares the Doctor, but Nick Chance terrifies him. Unlike the experiments, the Doctor experiences a range of emotions. He can feel fear intensely on occasion.
“It’s difficult to explain, but the best way I could put it into words is Tracy’s more akin to a surgeon whereas Nick is a butcher” . This was one of the earliest lines I wrote for this series and it sums up the difference between these two villains in a nutshell. Tracy is always professional. She’s cold and detached. She’s 100% loyal to the Big Bad. She never questions her place or position. Nick is sadistic and often unpredictable. I’m not sure which is more dangerous or scarier. You wouldn’t want to encounter either of these two.
I had to write a nice little moment between Remington and Alex. These two don’t often have scenes together, unfortunately. Remington adopted Alex at a very early age (she was an infant) and raised her as his own. Of course he worries about her, but knows she’s completely capable of taking care of herself.
Remington is always kind of in the background. This was one of the few opportunities I had to have him in the front, so to speak. He’s acting as a proxy for the moment, since both Jet and Lilly are indisposed.
Blitz doesn’t trust secondhand intel or reports and will only use them if she has absolutely no other choice. Because of how conditioned/modified she is, she can pick up on small things that normals miss. Words are only part of a story/report.
Character print: experiments never sleep (as explained in the previous novel). They also never show signs of weariness (the only exception being if they’re extremely sick or severely wounded).
When I was writing this scene, I wanted Blitz to have a different reaction than Jack and Coop. All three of them have been rattled by Chance’s reappearance. Coop and Jack try to isolate themselves. Blitz had a very different experience than either of them on account of her gender and she’s always been a bit different in general. Instead of isolating herself, Blitz is going to find an advantage so she can be prepared for his next attack.
Remington has learned a lot about experiments over the past few months. He has a general idea of how they operate. He also appreciates Blitz’s ability to glean information he would miss. Taking Blitz to question the 2nd man (remember him) is worthwhile. Especially since she’s probably one of the very few shape shifters who’s completely indifferent to the 2nd Man.
As I mentioned above: I made a massive error in the previous books when I didn’t reveal Alex as being aromantic asexual. It was always so obvious to me that I didn’t think it could be read any other way. As an aro0ace woman, I sometimes forget that not everyone knows about asexuality (or they have a very inaccurate idea about it).
I liked the idea that the experiments would respond most to Alex. She’s the one teammate Blitz would trust if she were capable of it. Alex is easy to read and a very valuable ally. She also never expects Blitz to act like a normal (she doesn’t ever see Blitz as someone who needs to be fixed). Alex is another character who has been an outsider for most of her life, so she can sympathize with Blitz (even more than the Doctor can).
Touching foreheads becomes Jensen and Blitz’s gesture. I wanted to find a way for them to communicate support while still being aware of (and respecting) Blitz’s discomfort with constriction and most forms of physical contact. Outward affection tends to confuse her. This simple gesture allows these two characters to communicate while still respecting their boundaries.
It was important to show that the touch aversion of experiments doesn’t mean they’re unsympathetic. It’s just how they are. Too often characters are seen as cold just because they’re not extroverted or physically affectionate. I think that’s absolute bullshit. People have different comfort levels.
Page 73 – 80
Confession: I really love writing scenes with the 2nd Man. He’s a useful character and a very complicated one, which makes him interesting.
One thing I wanted to reinforce was the sleeping difficulties experienced by everyone connected to Grenich. Even for someone like the 2nd Man, who was way more complicit in the Corporation’s crimes than the Doctor ever was.
I wanted Blitz and the 2nd Man to come face-to-face at some point. There’s an interesting dynamic to be explored between these two.
Blitz always approaches a situation from a position of strength. Wearing her catsuit is a way to project that. The 2nd Man sleeps in the nude and has just woken up. He’s in a cell. He could not be at more of a disadvantage. She has all the power in this interaction and they both know it.
The 2nd Man recognizes a similar darkness in Blitz. She has more in common with assassins than with protectors and likely always will. These two characters are both killers. They’re also both survivors. When approaching these two, I look at them like apex predators (even though Blitz is obviously more powerful and skilled than the 2nd Man, who is a normal).
Blitz isn’t intimidated by anyone. The funny thing about these scenes with the 2nd Man is that he’s used to intimidating those around him. He has earned his bloody reputation for being merciless. In the situation he’s in, being imprisoned, he’s quite out of his element.
The 2nd Man is also very perceptive. Part of what makes him as dangerous as he is, is that he’s very intelligent and very cunning. I hope that’s not repetitive.
Very, very few characters aren’t afraid of the Big Bad (he’s one of those characters where just his name is enough to strike fear in the hearts of most). The 2nd Man and Blitz aren’t. The same goes for most of the guardian High Council and many of the Grenich higher ups.
I really loved the idea of the 2nd Man being one of the few Nick Chance was genuinely afraid of. It helped reinforce the idea that the 2nd Man is a really dangerous person. Also, the Grenich Corporation operates on massive amounts of fear.
Because of his history, the 2nd Man is the ideal one to talk to about Chance. He had a much different experience at the Corporation than the doctor or the experiments.
I very rarely go into detail about the experimentation. Dropping clues here and there lets readers come up with their own ideas. Also, I’m not really comfortable writing extremely graphic violence.
Character print: Chance decorates the walls of his office and home with the skins he collects from experiments. He’s a sociopath that revels in death. To him, shape shifters are just animals. I fully admit to have taken some information for this particular trait from hunters who mount dead animals on their walls.
Chance being scared of the 2nd Man is another thing that should tell you the 2nd Man really isn’t a good guy. In the past, he was just as much a monster (if not more so) than Chance.
Unlike Chance, the 2nd Man does care about a few people (very, very few). He knows the Big Bad can, and likely will try to, exploit that. There’s not much he can do about it, other than help the protectors.
The experiments weapons are guardian silver (obviously). In a few chapters, it’s revealed where these weapons are from and who makes them 😉 Oh, I’m really looking forward to commenting on that.
P. 79 – 80: I was intrigued by the idea that killing is like an addiction for assassins. The 2nd Man is a junkie and he’s always going to be looking for his fix.
I really loved writing the brief exchange between the 2nd Man and Blitz at the bottom of page 80. They both exist in a morally gray area, although she was kind of forced into that space whereas the 2nd Man chose it.
Page 82 – 86
Nick Chance oozes entitlement. He doesn’t do work he sees as beneath him (like hanging his gruesome trophies).
Chance is an extremely volatile character who is prone to sudden outbursts of rage. This is partly why experiments are fearful of him. He’s powerful and incredibly unpredictable.
Tracy and Chance hate each other. There really isn’t a word that can accurately capture just how much these two characters despise each other.
Page 82: my brother pointed out that the word “cock” appeared 27 or 28 times in the rough draft of the manuscript. This was the only page where it referred to a phallus (all the other times, it referred to an eyebrow or head tilt). Dear reader, you don’t want to know how much that makes me laugh.
I wanted to reveal some of Chance’s background while also showing the dynamics between Tracy and him. Chance is illegitimate, but still thinks of himself as equal to pure-blooded necromancers. He’s very sensitive about this topic (obviously).
Tracy dismissing the workers: she’s very condescending and speaks to them as she would dogs. Tracy knows her place in the Corporation and would never challenge it. I wrote her as being almost the opposite of Nick Chance, although they both have sense of superiority. Tracy doesn’t have the same sense of entitlement that Chance has.
Chance and Tracy have different philosophies about how Grenich should operate. Tracy’s lines up with the heads of the Corporation (obviously): a mix of bribery and intimidation, but never losing diplomacy. They’re civilized professionals after all. Nick’s all about instilling fear and he’s not above a scorched earth strategy.
Tracy loathes messiness. Chance is like a hurricane of destruction. He always leaves a huge mess in his wake. He’s basically a spoiled child who never learned right from wrong.
Grenich has always been years ahead of the modern age. When I was making up the corporation, one of the main ideas I wanted to explore was the idea of a place that would hoard knowledge and advancement. The Big Bad suppresses any kind of advancement from those he deems to be lesser species.
The little moment where Nick hands Tracy his drink was something I always liked. It shows just how much contempt he has for Tracy without words. She’s basically little more than furniture to him.
Nick Chance does have a fixation on Blitz. She’s the only experiment who ever came close to getting the better of him. Had she not been a Key possibility, he would have likely killed her (or tried to).
Chance doesn’t bother trying to differentiate between experiments, but he does play twisted games with them and sometimes remembers them that way (as is the case with Coop).
Chance is power-hungry, but he’s not stupid. Still he’s the last person who should be given any kind of power. He’s not the kind who could be corrupted. He’s more the kind who could corrupt others.
The Big Bad is essentially using Tracy as a leash. Through her, he’s going to keep Chance under control.
So ends the commentary for chapter three.
I’m not sure when I’ll be able to get to chapter four. The posting schedule is going to be a bit unpredictable for a while. Between cons, “Asexual Artists,” and writing, it’s tricky finding time to work on commentary. So I do apologize for the lengthy waits between chapters.
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Until next time . . .