#atozchallenge: Q is for LGBTQ in the Mendaihu Universe

It took me a bit to think about this particular entry.  I wanted to do it justice, and I definitely didn’t want to make it sound like I was saying Hey, I have [certain kind of person] in my books!  Ain’t I progressive?  Where’s my gold star?

I try to give my characters some kind of depth when I’m creating them.  Some of them pan out, some of them don’t*, but most of the time I’d like to think I give them some kind of unique personality.  Someone I’d run into on a random day, have a conversation with, get to know as a coworker, and so on.  I’m fascinated by the quirks and habits of people, their strengths and their weaknesses, and how they use those bits of their personality throughout their life.

I didn’t set out to include any token characters when I started writing A Division of Souls.  In fact, I was doing my best NOT to do that.  Almost from the beginning my game plan was “Nah, that’s a trope/stereotype, it’s an easy out.  How do I take that one extra step to make it different?”  It’s kind of funny, really; each time I did try to write a stereotypical character, I completely failed at it.  I’d get a ways down the road in the story and get completely bored by this flat-minded idiot I’d created.  It’s the nonconformist in me, I guess…heh.

Anyway, when it came time to write the Bridgetown Trilogy, I wanted to create the most realistic characters I could, so I decided to pick up on various personality traits of people around me.  I was working at the candle warehouse by the time I started A Division of Souls, and it was quite the large warehouse, so I met and worked with a LOT of people of different stripes.  No character is based on a specific person from that time; it was just various traits I borrowed from quite a few people.

Did I plan on Caren and Sheila having a short romantic relationship?  I don’t believe I did…it was just a background thing that I’d come up with when I wrote the Questioning Room scenes in ADoS.  Caren was there to calm her friend down, and I knew they had a long and very close friendship, but it wasn’t until I wrote that scene that it just seemed right; it felt right to have them be very close physically and emotionally just then.  I thought about it for a few moments: what were their sexual preferences?  Sheila’s loud and free-spirited, and would probably be open-minded on that subject, so I felt she should at least be bisexual.  As for Caren…she’s more tense, more reserved, but she’s also quite open and honest with her emotions, so she might not have been truly bi, maybe just curious.  They never show any romantic feelings towards each other in public, but the reader can tell there’s still a deep connection there, even after the relationship is over.

As for Saone and Kryssyna…that was a little more deliberate.  I wanted Saone to be someone who did not fit in at all.  She’s intelligent, but not as smart as her sisters.  She’s Shenaihu, but she doesn’t measure up to her father’s high expectations.  She’s resourceful, but no one bothers to ask her for help.  She has all this great potential, but it seems everyone she’s supposed to impress won’t give her the time of day.  The only person who sees her for who she really is, is Kryssyna.  But why?  Because Kryss is honest, both with herself and with others.  She’s an ARU agent who has no time for judging others by their status.  She sees past Saone’s rank and place, and sees that potential.  This relationship, then, was going to be less about any sexual attraction than it was a personal one.  Kryss loves Saone for her drive and determination, especially when it’s to do the right thing.  And Saone loves Kryss because she’s always there to take care of her; she inspires her to keep going.  I knew then that was going to be a very strong, very long-lasting relationship.

I have no idea how other writers decide how to build their characters, to tell the truth.  I just know how I do it to my satisfaction.  There are a few other LGBTQ characters in the Trilogy, because it just made sense to put them there.  I won’t set out to write a specific type most of the time, I’ll just choose one at random and roll with it.  I’ll admit there is a bit of self-conscious selection: I may deliberately want to have a character be gay or lesbian, but I’m not going to shoehorn that trait in if it’s not true to the character.  Nearly all the characters in the Bridgetown Trilogy came to me at the inception of the scene, really.  I just choose to keep a very long and extremely varied list of possible traits to choose from and go with what seems to fit.  And that seems to work out just fine.


* – My trunked novel Love Like Blood was a good example of flat characters.  I had some neat ideas in that story, but it was my attempt at completely commercial fiction.  Most of the characters ended up all flash and no depth.  It was definitely not one of my best works.

#atozchallenge: M is for Mendaihu and Shenaihu

Yin-yang.  That’s the theme of the stories within the Mendaihu Universe.

It’s about balance.  There is both evil and good within us.  We rarely like to admit it, but we are all full of conflicting morals and ethics.  We are driven both by our own emotions and thoughts, and what we are taught or expected to feel and think, and quite often they are all at loggerheads with each other.

I wanted to play around with this idea:  what, ultimately, is the right thing to do?

This question is posited throughout the Bridgetown trilogy.  Every character faces this same dilemma at some point in their arc.  Each character is given some kind of ascension in their spirit, some form of advanced knowledge, and they must choose how to utilize it.

They are also given an advanced awareness as well: they are now conscious of other spirits around them, whether they like it or not.  And ultimately this means that if they are to use their new knowledge, they are acutely aware of how it would affect not only themselves, but those around them.

The Mendaihu are the watchers, the protectors, the saviors.  And what of the Shenaihu?  They’re the keepers of the ethereal: the mind, the heart, and the soul.” — Matthew Davison, The Persistence of Memories

The Mendaihu are often seen as having the upper hand, as they are more physical in their presence.  They are the ones quietly doing their rounds, fully and completely aware of nearly everything and everyone around them, ensuring that every person out there is at peace.  They are the ones willing to lay down their lives for those around them, if necessary.  They may see the Shenaihu as troublemakers, the ones who are too quick to cause problems.

The Shenaihu are acutely aware of how the spiritual realm works.  They are the ones keeping to themselves, uncomfortably too aware of nearly everything and everyone around them.  They wish everyone could find their own peace, but are willing to assist if and when necessary.  They may see the Mendaihu as too quick to involve themselves in everyone else’s problems.

Both are liberal in their thoughts and actions; both are conservative in their thoughts and actions.  Both have faults, both have strengths.  They may be coming from completely opposite sides, but they both crave the same thing: peace of spirit.  Both are driven by the same goal: to do the right thing to achieve that peace.

The only answer, ultimately, is to find a perfect balance of both.  This is the cho-nyhndah [cho-NYEEN-dah] spirit.  Equally Mendaihu and Shenaihu in thought, heart, and deed.


On Peace, Love and Light

In the Mendaihu Universe, a very common greeting between spiritual-minded people is “Peace, Love and Light to you.” It’s meant purely as a blessing of good will and open mind and heart. Depending on the situation in which it’s said, it can either be a blessing (“I wish you the best of worlds”) or as an honoring, such as a follower to an Elder. Its creation was inspired by a similar phrase used in certain new age beliefs I read up on during the creation of the Mendaihu Universe, and its meaning is quite similar. The three elements of this greeting are considered strong energies present in universal life–peace is the balance of energy, love is its strength, and light is its physical and ephemeral existence that feeds us.

Peace is quite possibly the most important in the Mendaihu Universe.  Our alien kin are highly spiritual–that is, their connection to the universe is not just an understanding of their physical place within it, but an understanding of their soul’s ties to it.  Their extrasensory abilities have given them a keen awareness of balance and imbalance within themselves and within others, and as a result they are drawn to maintaining balance.  This is not to say that they avoid wars, far from it; they have had many civil and multi-world wars during their long history.  Additionally, there has always been a tenuous relationship between the two major factions of the Meraladhza…the Mendaihu and the Shenaihu.  There will occasionally be a civil war between the two (the latest of which is part of the main plot of the Bridgetown Trilogy), which has long been thought of as a spiritual imbalance within the Meraladzha race, and these wars are often seen as an attempt to regain this balance.

Love is used as a strength or a source of power in many stories, and it’s seen in many different forms.  I find the most interesting use of love is when it’s used for compassion and strength instead of romanticism. This kind often takes a familial form. At the end of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Dumbledore mentions that it’s “love” that kept Harry safe from Voldemort’s touch; it was his mother’s selfless protection that formed not just a bond but a barrier. In Naruto, it’s in the form of the title character’s parents Kushina and Minato; their love not only protects him from the Nine-Tailed Fox, it also serves as part of the lock that keeps the unwieldy spirit deep within his body, keeping it safe from everyone. In A Division of Souls, this is seen very early on when Caren’s first reaction to an unsanctioned city-wide ritual is to protect her younger sister Denni from its backlash.  Love is also a driving force within the Mendaihu Universe novels.  The relationships of family, friendship and partnership are strong and important, and serve as the backbone for the Bridgetown Trilogy.  It is often seen and utilized as a spiritual anchor, a reminder of the connection between all living things.

Light is the power itself, and it takes many forms and levels.  Using Naruto as an example again, this could be the use of chakra for offensive and defensive purposes.  In the Mendaihu Universe, it is used both as a tool and as a destination.  As a tool, it’s thought of as the energy behind the Meraladhza abilities such as soulhealing and innerspeak.  It’s also used in forced-extraction form known as Lightwork; both creative (healing, cleansing and moving) and destructive (fighting and shielding).  As a destination it’s the non-space or “Null” between two fixed points.  Only the strongest of Mendaihu and Shenaihu (both Meraladhza and human) have the ability to move in this manner.  The movement entails gathering Light energy to one fixed point–say, the space in front of you–and stepping into the Light.  The sensation is very much like stepping into complete whiteness (usually Mendaihu) or blackness (usually Shenaihu) (I say “usually” because cho-nyhndah–those who are both–can move either way).  The exit point is the reverse–knowing the fixed point one wants to get to, and releasing the same Light energy at that point.

When awakening as a Mendaihu or a Shenaihu, knowledge and use of these powers are essential, and are part of the training soon after the awakening ritual has been performed.  It is not exactly dangerous to avoid or prolong getting trained, but the longer one waits, the harder it is to learn how to wield these powers, and using them without proper training can prove dangerous, even fatal.

Granting or wishing “Peace, Love and Light” to others is considered one of the highest forms of praise, but it’s also a high form of compassion as well.  In giving Peace, Love and Light, one gives a part of their own spirit; one offers spiritual balance, spiritual strength, and spiritual being.