EMBRACEABLE Cover Reveal and an Opportunity for Bloggers!

Source: EMBRACEABLE Cover Reveal and an Opportunity for Bloggers!


Sometimes in life, you meet people who change your life (hopefully for the better).  August McLaughlin is one of these people for me.  We met when August stumbled across my Twitter account.  She was interested in asexuality and of course, I’m a badass openly aromantic asexual feminist.  We exchanged a few messages and I was interviewed for Girl Boner Radio, an experience that remains one of my best interview experiences to date.  When August invited me to write something about asexuality for an upcoming book, I leaped at the opportunity.

So I won’t be releasing a novel in 2015 but I do have exciting news:  I have written an essay for this soon to be released book about women’s sexuality.  It’s a huge deal:  asexuality is rarely represented in feminist books.  We’re lucky if we get a passing mention.  This is doubly true for books that revolve around sex positivity.  I’m so excited about the release of this book, it’s hard to put into words.

So please, visit the link and support the hell out the book!

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Announcement: Pack of Aces

Hello all!

I do apologize for being absent lately.  Between conventions and my activism, I’ve barely found time to sleep.  But, dear readers, all of you are still in my thoughts.  And I promise to resume chapter commentary very, very soon.  I’ll also be starting work on my fifth novel in July!

Anyhow, I wanted to let all of you know about a new blog I’m part of:  Pack of Aces

It’s a group of five openly asexual speculative fiction writers (Claudie Arseneault, Lyssa Chiavari, Darcie Little Badger, Joel Cornah, and myself) blogging about writing, asexuality, and just whatever else strikes our fancy.  The name comes from the shorthand for asexuality:  many asexuals call themselves “aces.”

Each of us is the ace of something:

Claudie:  Ace of Squids
Lyssa:  Ace of Stars
Darcie:  Ace of Horror
Joel:  Ace of Swords
Myself:  Ace of Shifters

I’ve just written my first two posts.

Introduction:  http://www.packofaces.com/2015/06/20/the-ace-of-shifters-lauren-jankowski/

On Writing: http://www.packofaces.com/2015/06/22/the-ace-of-shifters-laurens-writing/

Please check out the blog and give us a follow.  Sign up for our newsletter, signal boost wherever you can, and recommend us to all your friends.

Thank you, beloved readers 😀

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“Haunted by the Keres” Chapter Three 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.

https://laurenjankowski.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/haunted-by-the-keres-front-cover.jpg?w=361&h=566

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.

Shall we?

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” [71].  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.

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, find me at conventions (my schedule page is updated pretty regularly), 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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Asexuality and a Naked Conversation on #GirlBoner Radio

I’m still working on chapter commentary, but I’ve also been dedicating hours and hours into Asexual Artists. Here’s an interview I gave recently on the topic.

Girl Boner

“It’s so important that there’s support for asexuals. There are people who are scared, like I was, and think they can’t be feminist and asexual, or an artist and be asexual, or that they need to perform sexually to have intimacy with another person, and that’s just not the way it is. You can be asexual, human, and do whatever you want.” — Lauren Jankowski

I’m so grateful for every chance to explore important topics with bold, insightful guests each week on Girl Boner Radio. Yesterday was a prime example.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Lauren Jankowski, a novelist and activist, on what it’s like to be asexual, related myths and what she wishes the world knew about the orientation—such as being asexual doesn’t mean you can’t have a life rich with love and creativity. If you have any doubts about that, a few minutes with Lauren would douse them.

I also shared touching highlights…

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“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.

https://laurenjankowski.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/haunted-by-the-keres-front-cover.jpg?w=361&h=566

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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“Haunted by the Keres” Chapter One 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.

https://laurenjankowski.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/haunted-by-the-keres-front-cover.jpgHello, wonderfully awesome readers!  🙂

I apologize for my absence.  I had a sudden deluge of various tasks, this chapter was longer than I remembered, and then my Seasonal Affective Disorder got about a hundred times worse.  I really hate winter.

But enough about that.

Once I realized I would have to start book four over from scratch (after wishing I could travel back in time to punch younger me repeatedly in the face), I quickly thought up and wrote out a tentative final scene.  Then I set about working on an outline before I finally sat down to start chapter one.

Aside from the basic bare bones outline, I had a list of things that needed to happen in the novel (and what chapter they should take place around).  Chapter one was fairly easy:  the main characters needed to be briefly reintroduced and I had to summarize the main conflict without being pedantic (I believe that’s the correct word).  Oh, reminder!  Experiments often refer to non-experiments as “normals,” which is something I do throughout the commentary.

When the novel opens, a short time has passed since the events in From the Ashes.  The experiments are living at the mansion, acclimating to life among the normals.  They’re still planning how best to strike Grenich.  Blitz is the most resistant to adapting to normal life.  She has a head for strategy and is uninterested in what she sees as frivolous activities.

One of the more difficult parts of this novel was writing Blitz.  This character does evolve a bit, but in really subtle ways.  She’s always going to be a closed book and there are so many layers to the character and her motivations.  Blitz isn’t simple.  There’s always a number of reasons for whatever she does and she keeps a lot of secrets.  I also liked the idea of there always being a question about just how much she remembers about her past at the Corporation.  Not even the doctor knows everything there is to know about her.

Writing experiments can be alternately fun and maddening.  Writing Blitz is a continual learning process 🙂

Shall we?

Page 1 – 4

I knew the novel had to open with Blitz.  I wanted to show that she experiences the world differently from most of the other characters.  She can hear, see, taste, feel,, and smell things that others can’t.

Blitz hasn’t been outside much since coming to stay at the mansion.  The only way to convince her to divert her attention from all things Grenich is to ask her to demonstrate her abilities.  It was very important to show recovery isn’t overnight for experiments.  Blitz has recovered from the Omni virus, but she’s still trying to figure out what it means to be a free experiment.  Though it has been a few months, Blitz is still a very isolated character.  She’s always going to be a bit of an outsider.

There’s a couple running jokes in this series.  For example, Jensen’s restrictive clothing.  Blitz is at first confused by his insistence on wearing nice tailored suits (which are such a hindrance).  That confusion gradually morphs into something like mild exasperation.  I don’t know why it cracks me up so much.  Just the visual of Jensen, Mr. Refined European Elegance, brawling in a fucking suit is hilarious (admittedly, I have a very odd sense of humor).

Over the winter, Jensen has made a real effort to learn everything he could about the experiments (as did the Four).  They basically know as much as the doctor.  I may have mentioned in the previous commentary:  as far as normals go, the ones who are best at interacting with experiments to begin with are the doctor, Jensen, and Alex.  The rebels are also incredibly adept at dealing with experiments.

Obviously Blitz is very sensitive to her surroundings.  Regarding the shadow she sometimes sees:  this is another thing I leave up to reader interpretation.  When I was writing Haunted by the Keres, I wanted to demonstrate that Blitz is haunted in her own way.  The Big Bad did get into her head, both metaphorically and physically.  She did some pretty awful things when she was at Grenich.

Blitz is very quick, even when she’s not moving supernaturally fast.  It’s very obvious to most shape shifters that she isn’t a normal protector.

Experiments never learned how to pull punches or kicks.  It’s really dangerous for normals to spar with them because of this.  They will fracture or even break bones.  Poor Remington has just been battered all winter 😉

Another running character print throughout the series:  experiments are extremely literal.  They don’t understand humor, flirtation, innuendo, metaphor, or things along those lines.  They recognize what they are but not how (or why) they’re used.  The interaction towards the top of page 3 is a perfect example of what I’m trying to describe.

Blitz is completely aware of the doctor’s ulterior motives in suggesting she demonstrate her abilities to Jensen and Nero outdoors.  Normals can’t hide their motivations from experiments.  They’re way too perceptive.  Blitz has been conditioned to read people and glean information from them.

Blitz is very gradually learning about the benefits of things like fresh air.  She’s never going to be able to “switch off,” but the occasional change in scenery does provide something like stress relief.

Nero fucking loves watching experiments do really cool shit.  I imagine most of the winter was him asking Blitz, Coop, and Jack to just do incredibly random things.  He’s like a kid in a candy store (to him, the experiments are the closest beings to superheroes).  Nero’s got a wonderful kind of childlike glee to him at times 🙂

Jensen didn’t really have a chance to have a childhood (the massacre of the Aldridges happened very early in his life).  That’s part of the reason why he and Nero became such good friends:  Jensen really enjoys Nero’s lightheartedness.  They’re very close in age, as I’ve mentioned before.  Yet they’re quite different, personality-wise.

Page 4 – 10

I wanted to write a somewhat intimate scene between Jade and Sly, which Blitz would interrupt.  She still doesn’t quite grasp the concept of privacy.  Closed doors, even locked ones, don’t register.  Blitz doesn’t even acknowledge the two women in the room.

Jade really doesn’t know how to feel about the experiments.  She’s horrified at the thought of what the Big Bad is doing to shape shifters.  Jade has a lot of difficulty getting used to Blitz.  Being older, Jade has seen a lot.  Someone like Blitz unnerves her.  Part of Jade feels guilty about this (she doesn’t want to be narrow-minded or prejudice towards experiments).  Yet this is also an evolutionary response:  Blitz is dangerous.  She’s not a normal shape shifter.

Sly is a lot more easygoing.  Her philosophy is to use whatever advantage one has.  She frequently teases Jade about the protectors’ tendency to over analyze everything.  Sly finds most protectors to be incredibly dull (self-righteousness is a turn-off for her).  Sly’s of the opinion that experiments should be utilized whenever and wherever possible.

I had this idea that Jack and Blitz stayed in the mansion for different reasons.  Jack is uneasy about being around normals he doesn’t know (it could very easily turn into an ugly situation and Jack doesn’t want to hurt anyone).  For Blitz, she’s much more interested in coming up with a workable strategy.  I may have said this before, but Blitz has never minded being seen as a monster.  It’s unimportant what others think of her.  She isn’t really concerned with anything other than figuring out how to destroy Grenich.  Blitz doesn’t really believe in redemption, but something about her feels like she owes these protectors.  The least she can do is destroy the biggest threat to their survival.  Blitz is also fully prepared to die if it should come to that.

Sly is one of the few people who knows how to help Jade unwind.  These two have known each other for years.  Jade is one of the very few people Sly actually trusts (there aren’t many people Sly would expose her back to).  Even though they have vastly different opinions on most things, they still respect each other.  Most shape shifters have very healthy relationships, which are almost always built on mutual trust and respect.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, Remington learned the hard way that training with experiments is not an easy (or painless) task 😉

“Remington’s old as time.  I’m sure he can manage” [page 7].  That’s Sly.  In the original draft of this book, Nero made a crack about Remington founding Ireland during the Crusades (completely messing up a ton of dates and historical events, which Blitz promptly corrected).  As I mentioned in another commentary, Remington is one of the oldest protectors (if not the oldest) still living.  Though they’re immortal, protectors rarely live long due to their dangerous lives (500 is considered old).  Remington is much, much older.

In Haunted by the Keres, it has been an abnormally cold winter.  I wrote this novel shortly after the polar vortex in Chicago (sub-zero temperatures for days.  Oh yeah, try having S.A.D and living through that shit).  While trying to dredge up the energy to move, I got to thinking about what Sly would do in similar weather (shape shifters are susceptible to hypothermia).  I considered having her stay at the rebel Lair, but it just didn’t make sense for the character (Sly would never stay anywhere where she’d have to have regular contact with humans).  It made sense that she would stay at the mansion.  When Sly gets sick of the protectors, she goes to the rebel Lair.  Sly is very independent.  She isn’t bound to anyone or any place.

Sly finds routine to be incredibly boring.  It’s part of the reason why she never swore allegiance to any particular shape shifter group.

Jade is a gardener.  She’s one of the few shape shifters who prefers plants to animals.  That’s not to say she doesn’t like animals (like all shape shifters, she has a special respect for all creatures).  Jade has a natural green thumb and finds tending to plants to be relaxing.

I liked the idea of Sly giving Jet and the doctor the nicknames of Doom and Gloom.  Sly’s a woman of action.  Research and planning is not something she’s particularly interested in.  Sly is someone who goes to informants, gets whatever intelligence she needs, and then acts on it.

I was really excited to write a scene between Sly and Coop.  Sly is kind of an anomaly among shape shifters:  she has no loyalty to any group.  Blitz tends to avoid her because she’s still uneasy about anomalies she can’t find a reason or cause behind.  Jack is also a little uneasy though he doesn’t have the same tendency to avoid others that Blitz does.  Coop, having been out longer than the two 7-series, is much better at suppressing some of the less intense instincts.  So he was the one who would most likely talk with Sly.

Sly can’t help but be curious about the experiments.  There was a lot of money and time invested in them.  They’re fascinating individuals, a living urban legend in the flesh.  Plus, if she’s going to be fighting against similar shape shifters, Sly wants to find out everything she can from the experiments.

Coop also struggles with figurative language (he’s extremely literal, like Blitz and Jack).  Experiments on the outside tend to avoid normals and therefore always seem a little out of place.  Coop is slightly more familiar with the nuances of language than Jack or Blitz, but obviously he still has difficulty with it.

Sly is interested in what goes on in the minds of experiments.  Because they tend to be closed books, experiments are rather interesting to normals.  They’re very mysterious.

Sly tends not to be overly concerned about the world at large.  If it descends into chaos, so be it.  Sly is helping the protectors because she recognizes that the Big Bad poses more of a threat to shape shifters than humans do.  Also, she doesn’t want to be made into an experiment.  It’s in her best interest that the Big Bad is stopped.

Coop is going into this battle with Grenich assuming he won’t survive.  He’s very indifferent to this.  It’s just the most likely outcome.  Experiments don’t really think about mortality in quite the same way as normals.  They tend to know their chance of surviving based on various factors.  They are indifferent to death.  They’re driven to do what it takes survive, but they don’t fear death.

Coop has always known his chances of survival were minimal.  I’ve mentioned in another commentary that Coop is a tragic figure.  He has lost everything, been experimented on and turned into a monster (in a manner of speaking), and has even been stripped of his ability to grieve.

Experiments tend to instinctively keep people at arm’s length.  It takes a long time (and a lot of patience) to develop any sort of bond with them.  All Jet’s children have a natural compassion.  His daughter, Brindy, also has a special sensitivity.  She has managed to form a friendship with Coop.  Like I said earlier, all experiments fall somewhere on the asexual spectrum.  I pictured Coop as being either biromantic or demiromantic.  He enjoys Brindy’s company, but he tries to keep her at arm’s length because he doesn’t want her to mourn him.  Brindy has befriended him anyway.  I always pictured her as being a really passionate advocate for the experiments.

Sly has a point:  the experiments need to spend more time with Nero.  The man is fluent in innuendo and double entendre 😉

One of the biggest struggles experiments face is restlessness.  They’re used to working constantly.  Normals don’t operate like this.  They need to unwind (and sleep on occasion).

Page 10 – 13

Picking up with Jet, Lilly, and the doctor.  They’re in the midst of a lull.  Grenich hasn’t retaliated all winter.  The Big Bad is patient.  He never strikes out in anger (his strikes tend to be surgical and planned out well in advance).  He also has a lot of control:  he can instigate a crime spree when he has need for one.  The Big Bad only has to whisper the right words in the right ears.

The problem the protectors are almost always going to have is numbers.  The Big Bad will always outnumber them.  They will not win in a fight without allies.

My overall plan for this series has always been to branch into other worlds and tell a wide variety of stories in the same universe.  There are different worlds with different species, which are connected to both Earth and the Meadows.  Part of what I was super excited about with Haunted by the Keres was introducing these new worlds and races 🙂

There’s a lot of strife between the races, which is explained a little more as the novel continues.  They’re all fairly cloistered and mostly unconcerned with Earth, which acts as a crossroads.  It’s important to remember that most humans are unable to see some of the races (and animals from the other worlds) in their true forms.

The Seelie Court races are able to change their form slightly to appear human.  The fey often used to do this for reason that will be revealed later in the novel (the fey are probably the most unlikeable group when it comes to the supernatural races).

Shape shifters can only Appear on Earth and in the Meadows.  To access other worlds, they need to use gateways.

Cliodhna is pronounced “Clee-na” (if you wanted to know).  It’s a name from Celtic mythology.  In this series, she helps watch over the supernatural races (makes sure there’s no breeches or violations of treaties or rules).

Most protectors have some knowledge of the supernatural races, though many have never personally interacted with any of them.  The knowledge is mostly in the form of stories.  Only leaders tend to learn about them in depth.  The only real interaction the supernatural races have with Earth dwellers is for important events (like when Jet wed Lilly).  However, they are considered allies.

Originally, the supernatural species inhabited the Earth.  They were gifted their own worlds after the War of the Meadows as thanks for their bravery.

The War of the Meadows was kind of all-out chaos.  All the worlds were affected and the lands still bear scars from it.  It’s become a kind of oral tradition that’s passed down through generations.

Page 14 – 27

This practice scene was one of my favorite ones to write for Haunted by the Keres.  The protectors are still trying to figure out how to practice with experiments (page 14:  poor Remington has had a hell of a winter).

Good rule of thumb (that Remington learned the hard way):  never practice with experiments without some kind of protective gear.  No matter how small the activity or how easy, an experiment will hurt a normal (unintentionally).  This is doubly true when it comes to working with Blitz 😉

Nero and Jensen love messing with Remington.  Nero obviously finds the loudest food possible to eat and they saunter into the training room.  I don’t know why, but the visual of them as spectators made me laugh quite a bit.

Blitz has tried to remain isolated while still observing the normals.  There are a few normals who intrigue her, though she would deny this.

I originally wrote a short sparring scene between Blitz and Jensen, but it didn’t really fit into the novel.  Plus it made Blitz act really out of character.

Experiments, when not moving, will often stand at attention.  Also, due to their conditioning, they’re prone to anticipating what the normals will ask them to do (which is quite frustrating for Remington).

I wrote there being a difference between how the experiments treat normals.  Jack’s concerned about harming them and does everything he can think of to avoid doing so.  Blitz doesn’t pull her punches.  She doesn’t even attempt to do that.  Blitz is in control enough to not do any serious or lasting harm.  She’s actually attempting to give them some idea of what experiments are capable of.

This was a good scene to reinforce how dangerous the experiments are.  Remington is ancient, hundreds of years older than either Jack or Blitz.  But they still toss him around like a ragdoll (and without much effort either).

It should be noted that the experiments don’t normally use weapons during practices.  The doctor has told Remington to avoid weapons sparring for a while (because of the experiments not being able to really hold back).  They’d be even more likely to do harm with weapons (even practice ones).

Blitz has no idea why normals insist on practicing in such an ineffective way.  She’s experiencing something very similar to frustration with their methods.  They’re not getting an accurate idea of what a seven series is capable of and that bugs Blitz.

The exchange between Jade and Remington:  Jade doesn’t like using underhanded tactics against an ally.  I also pictured Jade as being really concerned about triggering Jack and Blitz.  She recognizes that it’s very unlikely they’ll be able to push experiments to any sort of limit.

Jack is still trying to learn about the normals.  Blitz can’t even be bothered to give a fuck.  She has her own ideas about how they should train.  She’s still testing out this whole freedom thing 😉

This practice session was rewritten multiple times.  For some reason, the middle of the scene brought the story to a screeching halt.  No matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to make it flow the way I needed it to.  Eventually, I pinpointed exactly where the scene was screeching to a grinding halt:  originally, Blitz leaped up and landed on the flat of Jade’s wooden sword.  I asked my brother for his opinion and he gave me a brilliant bit of advice:  “The scene isn’t working because you’re using movie logic instead of logic-logic.  It’s a cool visual, but it doesn’t work in a non-visual medium.”  I asked if it would work better if Blitz landed on Jade’s shoulders.  He said it probably would.  I rewrote the scene again with Blitz landing on Jade’s shoulders, and the problem was solved.  Thanks Mike!

Experiments, particularly from the same series, can easily fall in sync when fighting.  Jack and Blitz are a lethal pair.  They never worked together at the Corporation (the Big Bad would never send two Key possibilities on the same mission).  However, since they’ve been released, they’ve fallen into a rhythm.  Like I mentioned in a previous commentary, experiments feel most comfortable around those of their series.  Jack and Blitz may not fully trust each other yet, but they understand each other.

Fight scenes are so much fun to write (not to mention cathartic as fuck) 🙂

Blitz is fairly bored during this scene.  Jack is focusing on not hurting the normals.  Blitz isn’t really even trying (and she’s still able to best Jade and Shae fairly quickly).

Neither Jack or Blitz really comprehend the idea of regret or remorse.  Jack understands them a little more than Blitz does, who sees them as inconsequential.  When they reveal the most opponents they’ve fought at once, the numbers don’t seem high to them.  In their Corporation days, people were just numbers.  This is a difficult mindset for them to get out of.  Experiments tend to see normals as statistics.

Jensen is very chill about the experiments.  The other protectors are still struggling to come to terms with these new shape shifters (and their incredibly bloody and violent pasts).  Jensen knows what they did and has some idea of what they’re capable of, but he trusts the judgment of Jet (and, by extension, the guardians).  He has also spent a lot of time with them over the winter, particularly with Blitz.

Experiments are almost never unarmed.  Even though they’re living weapons, they still carry physical weapons (typically a couple blades and at least one firearm).  It’s just common sense for them.

“It is unlikely we killed all of them.  Odds are a few were just permanently maimed” [page 21].  This is one of my favorite Blitz lines.  She doesn’t realize how disturbing this is to normals (this really as close to reassuring as she is capable of being).  This is another one of those lines that just cracks me up every damn time.

Because they’re conditioned to think solely in terms of strategy, experiments don’t quite grasp concepts like good and evil.  Killing is a method that sometimes needs to be employed for a variety of reasons.

Blitz and Jack are still very hesitant to reveal their weaknesses to the protectors, which is a self-preservation instinct.  Remington is asking for a lot from them and he knows it.  Remington wants the experiments to get to a place where they can trust the protectors.  Since the protectors are going to need to trust them (to an extent), it should be a two-way street.

Shae is not going to let Blitz cut herself off from the world completely.  No matter how much she tries to do so.  Shae wants Blitz to see what she’s fighting for and why it’s worth fighting for.  This is a bit reminiscent of earlier scenes from the first two novels.  Shae loves taking people out of their comfort zones.  Shae just loves people in general 🙂

Blitz is always listening to the conversations of the normals.  She’s good at absorbing information in a number of ways.  I wrote her in a similar way to how I would write a spy.

Remington really needs to see how experiments are outside of a controlled setting.  This is definitely a risk, but it’s one they need to take in order to learn more about 7-series.

One of my very favorite parts of writing Haunted by the Keres was creating this language of gestures between Jensen and Blitz.  There are a couple of gestures that are repeated throughout the novel, which all have a specific meaning.  These two have spent a fair amount of time together over the winter.  They’re both curious about the other.

Nero doesn’t think experiments need babysitters (as he clearly states at the bottom of page 23).  He thinks they need to be allowed some freedom to make mistakes.  They should be supervised but they don’t need to be followed around like children.  Nero also knows that Jensen will probably be shadowing Blitz most of the time anyway (and Blitz is more comfortable with Jensen).

It’s important to note that Nero is one of the few shape shifters who trusts the experiments to watch his back fairly early on.  The others gradually get to this point, but Nero’s there right off the bat.

Remington is frequently exasperated with Nero 😀

[SPOILER!  When Blitz kisses Jensen, there are a couple of reasons why.  This is not pleasure, it’s gathering information.  The way the lights brighten is something she would have theorized about.  Her body also responds to certain individuals in certain ways, which Blitz wants to find the reason why.  Obviously, Jensen is completely taken off guard]

Blitz will probably never understand Jensen’s humor.  Their interactions often crack me up.  Because I’m really a massive dork 🙂

Jensen is also one of the very few normals who can leave Blitz at a loss for words.  Blitz is a very confident character, almost to a fault, but there are still some things that completely baffle her and she doesn’t know how to respond or react to them.

Blitz’s room is her space.  She keeps it very dark and very tidy.  It was important to show just how deep her conditioning goes.  She has a routine that she follows religiously to keep herself safe.

Compulsive checking:  Blitz can be read as having a very mild form of obsessive compulsive disorder.  Her ritual of checking every inch of her room is something that she needs to do whenever she enters.  She also has to keep the door locked.  The logical part of her knows the mansion is protected by guardian magic and therefore safe, but Blitz has learned that one can never be too cautious.

The shower scene was another incredibly fun scene to write.  I was watching a horror documentary a while back.  One of my all-time favorite movie critics, Maitland McDonagh (who is about a million kinds of awesome) was talking about how “The Grudge” took advantage of the shower being one of the places we are most vulnerable (much the way “Psycho” did).  When I was writing this book, I was thinking about places that experiments tried to avoid.  Enclosed spaces was right at the top of the list because of how difficult it is to fight or defend oneself in.  Showers have the added disadvantage of being really slippery.  I then thought about how the Big Bad would enjoy using this against Blitz.  It’s the perfect opportunity to toy with her.

As I was writing this scene, I was thinking about all the sensations that would freak me the hell out in the shower.  Even Blitz’s sharp senses can’t pin down the cause of these sensations.

Funny story:  I had absolutely no idea what it felt like to be licked by a human tongue.  So when I was writing this scene, I literally licked my forearm from elbow to wrist.  Like a freaking cat.  I suffer for my art!  😀  (another funny story:  I wrote about this on a social media site and one of my friends actually tried it too).  I just cracked myself up right now 🙂

Even though the Big Bad isn’t there, this is still a violation of Blitz.  It’s a power trip.  He’s showing he still has power over her and can find her wherever she goes.

The Big Bad can’t physically set foot in the mansion due to it being under guardian protection.  He can do a form of astral projection, hence the formless shadow.  Because the Big Bad is somewhat vain, this is kind of a blow to the ego.  Being a shadow is beneath him and he hates it, but he does it just to toy with Blitz.  He can also affect the temperature:  wherever he goes, unnatural coldness follows.

I really love a fairly small moment in this scene:  when Blitz touches the counter and it’s so cold it stings her palm.  She calmly removes her hand.  At no point in this interaction is she afraid or even nervous.

The dialogue between Blitz and the Big Bad was difficult to write, but a hell of a lot of fun.  Blitz doesn’t fear him at all and that infuriates him.

Blitz has nerves of absolute steel.  She’s the only experiment who would call the Big Bad by his name to his face.

“Go away.  You are a nuisance” [27].  That’s another one of my favorite Blitz lines.  I really wanted Blitz to be a badass.  She doesn’t have time for the Big Bad’s games (and she gives literally no fucks).

Even when the Big Bad threatens her, Blitz’s reaction is basically, “Meh.”  Other experiments will always have a certain amount of fear of the Big Bad.  Blitz really never was and she probably never will be.

 

So ends the commentary for chapter one.

These chapters are a lot longer than the previous novels were, so it may take me a little longer to post commentary.  Also, I’ve got a few other projects that require my attention.  I might have to switch to posting weekly.  Apologies for any long, unexplained absences.

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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The New WordPress Blog

A friend of mine has been encouraging me to start a WordPress blog, but I’ve been hesitant for a couple reasons.  The first being that I have no idea what I’d write here (I’ve already got two other blogs, which I don’t update as regularly as I should).  The second being that I’m rather self-conscious when it comes to blogging.  I don’t think I’m a particularly talented blogger.  So many of my friends are amazing bloggers with insightful comments about the world and the arts among other things.  I kind of just haphazardly write about . . . whatever.  I’m not even particularly good at tweeting! Still, I’ve been brainstorming what I could possibly use my third blog for.  I kind of put it on the back-burner while working on my fourth novel.  Now that my book is out, I’ve been trying to take it easy before diving right back into the world in my head.  I started watching “Leverage” (one of my all-time favorite shows) to unwind.  More specifically, I’ve been listening to the audio commentaries.  I love audio commentaries.  There’s something about listening to passionate people discuss their creations that I’ve always found entertaining.  Not to mention fascinating.  I’ve always envied my filmmaker friends their commentaries, which sound like so much fun to record. While listening to commentary today, the wheels in my brain got to turning.  What if I could do something similar for my novels?  Written commentary, similar to the audio commentaries?  Could that possibly work? Suddenly, I had an idea for my WordPress blog.  I’ll experiment with written commentary, starting with my first novel:  Sere from the Green.  What will this commentary look like?  I honestly haven’t the faintest clue.  At the moment, I’m thinking I’ll try to do a chapter a week.  There will be spoilers, which I’ll remind readers of in the post title.  I’ll try to conduct them similar to audio commentaries:  tidbits of process, character, and whatever else I can think of.  I’ve had a couple people tell me this sounds interesting, so I’m hoping for good results. I’m hoping to start with chapter one either tomorrow or the day after.  So, stay tuned.

Sere from the Green (Shape Shifter Chronicles) (Volume 1)

Sere from the Green (Shape Shifter Chronicles) (Volume 1)

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