“Haunted by the Keres” Chapter One Commentary


This post will make much more sense if you’ve already read the novel.  Help out a little indie author and pick up a copy of her book (or books).  You can find them on Amazon, CreateSpace, Smashwords, or my personal online store.

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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