Category Archives: Characters

We’re at the three week mark, y’all!

We’re inching ever closer to the Island Of Exiles release day! Only three weeks left now

My first countdown thread was all about  why I’m so excited to be releasing a fantasy novel.

Next, I talked about how one character became the anchor for my worldbuilding & revisions.

My third thread delved into how desire, kinks, power dynamics, and monogamy are perceived in Itagami.

I talked about magic last week and how it’s woven into the fabric of Itagamin society.

Today we jump back to sex and society, specifically orientation, gender, family, polyamory, and normalization.

While the word “bisexual” isn’t used in the book, I make it clear in character actions that this is a common and accepted orientation. It is, in fact, the most commonly claimed orientation in the clan. The whole spectrum of orientations exists, but bi or pan is “normal.” I make a point of the characters’ sexuality in the book partially to prove a point–that an accepting society can exist.

It’s strange to me that there are people who think accepting–NOT just tolerating–others’ choices would destroy the world. Normalization of acceptance has to happen to combat this, and currently, the easiest method is proof of concept media.

What do I mean by “proof of concept media”? Books, movies, TV, music, & art displaying cities & societies NOT destroyed by difference. Sagen sy Itagami isn’t a utopia by any means, but Island Of Exiles is definitely a proof of concept novel.
No one is ever shamed for their sexuality or their libido. Teased by their friends, sure. Taunted or mocked? Nope.

There is no word for slut or whore in Itagamin. There isn’t even a word for promiscuous. On the other hand, no one is ever laughed at or bullied for NOT having sex either. Ushimo is their word for asexuality.

All this is taught AND practiced. Children learn it alongside a very important reminder: Attraction is instinct. Action is a choice.

Consent is a crucial concept in this culture; you’re not allowed to even casually touch someone else without it. There are backstory reasons for the strictness of this societal law, but I never get a chance to go into them in the book. I can tell you it’s a separate story from the why behind the shape of families within Itagami, specifically the LACK of any family unit.

To explain that, I have to start with babies. Actually, I have to start with the making of babies.

Procreation is majorly restricted in Itagamin society. Pregnancies have to be pre-approved, partially due to population size concerns. It’s an isolated island with a southern Nevada-like landscape. Droughts could decimate a clan too large to sustain itself. Originally, it was partially due to of this restriction that the leaders of Itagami allowed & encouraged both bisexuality & polyamory. It was in NO way because of this restriction or population control that Itagamin leaders decimated the family unit. The saying about needing a village to raise a child? It’s taken pretty literally in Sagen sy Itagami.

When a baby is born, the parents go back to work and the baby is brought to one of the city’s four nurseries. Some parents keep track of their blood-born child’s progress, others don’t. Neither course is considered “right.” The nurseries are watched over by yonin caretakers. At age 5, kids move into a dormitory and begin their training.

One point of interest? Although citizens can’t escape their class once they reach adulthood, all children are considered equal. Children, no matter who their parents are, are given completely equal training and opportunities. Kids are trained with all weapons and then allowed to pick one they become expert at. They’re also taught the theories of magic. Everyone is taught theory so they’ll recognize it when they develop theirs. So they’ll know what to do when their own power appears. Also, the caretakers, teachers, training masters, and eventual commanding officers usually don’t know who a citizen’s parents are.

All children belong to the clan. Not everyone deals directly with the city’s youngest residents, but all are invested in the next generation. Every citizen in the clan would die to protect the city’s children.

At 16, everyone faces the herynshi, an incredibly difficult trial that determines the rest of their lives. The skill with weapons and magic they display in the herynshi is how the leaders place them in one of the three citizen classes.The classes are–

Nyshin: Warrior mages; leaders/fighters
Ahdo: Guardian mages; city guards/soldiers
Yonin: Non-mages; service/farming/mining

Sometimes romantic/sexual bonds form within training classes, but it’s more common for deeper bonds to form between citizens. Once placed, citizens can’t escape their class, but within it, relationship possibilities are both open and encouraged.

As I mentioned in a previous thread, marriage is rare in Itagami. Most people enter & leave relationships as needs change. Often there isn’t an official “relationship” at all. A fair number of Itagamin citizens choose to keep to short-term encounters instead. The most important thing is the safety of the whole clan, so it tends to create a city-wide bond rather than individual ones.

“The safety of the clan comes before our lives” is a mantra drilled into Itagamin children basically from birth. They take it seriously.

What I love about this society is how, within a class, it’s VERY equal. Excepting of procreation, there are no gender roles. There are three sexes–male, female, and ebet. Positions of power are relatively evenly spread between all three. Relationships between any combination of sexes–or any number of people–raises exactly zero eyebrows. Only someone’s skill with weapons and their prowess with magic impact their social standing.

All of these details were added on purpose. I worked hard to create a society that’s equal in a lot of ways our culture isn’t. Basically, all this talk is a lot of detail mainly to say one thing: Shiara isn’t exactly an island you’d want to live on, but I tried to make Itagami a society you’d want to live in despite that.

Buy it from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Books-A-Million | IndieBound

Add this book on Goodreads.

Via:: Tumblr to WordPress

You can land on Shiara in five weeks!

Five Weeks. FIVE. That’s one month plus one week. Hardly any time at all!

This week I’m talking about relationship dynamics. Specifically, how & why Khya and Tessen’s came to be not quite vanilla.

Short answer? It’s Kate Brauning​’s fault. The long answer is similar, yet a bit more complicated.

I wish I still had a link to Kate’s tweet, but it was something like, We must portray YA relationships as diversely as we do adult. Then she went on to say, (approximately) “For example, not all teens are entirely vanilla, but we give them no mirror.”

I said, “You’re okay with that? Because I can ABSOLUTELY do a D/s dynamic. Really, they’re already there. I just need to bring it out.“

Basically, Kate was all, “Yes. Good. Go.”

Knowing going in that my editor wouldn’t give me an “are we sure this is appropriate for teens” speech was a relief. It also gave me the freedom to explore the characters at a deeper level and take a new look at what sexuality meant in Itagami.

Desire (or a lack thereof) and the specific form that feeling takes is a very fraught topic in contemporary society. Dangerously so. The island of Shiara and the city of Sagen sy Itagami gave me a chance to erase a lot of the expectations and “rules” of desire. Although orientation is included in the “rules” (more to come another week), here I’m referring more to preferences, kinks, & fetishes.
Our culture makes a lot of value judgments on an individual’s behavior, ESPECIALLY in regards to sex.

In Itagami, the only rules are 1- CONSENT, 2- no irreparable harm, & 3- don’t let sex distract you from work.

That’s it.

Well, okay. There are a few more rules, but none regarding the HOW of desire or sex.

Although all of it is very minor, I mention or imply a lot of facets of sexuality in Island Of Exiles. Exhibitionism, voyeurism, masochism, and power dynamics all come up somewhere in some way in this book. For Khya and Tessen, though, control, power, trust, and surrender are all key components to their relationship. They both need something from the other, and a lot of the buildup with them is admitting those needs and trusting the other to meet them. Communication–verbal & non-verbal–is crucial in relationships, but especially in ones where power in the sexual relationship isn’t equal.

There are books (which shall remain unnamed) that portray these kinds of relationships in a VERY dangerous way. What I wanted to show is it’s not only okay to want things outside of the normal. It’s okay to talk about them. It’s okay to ask for them. What Khya and Tessen eventually illustrate (fair warning, they’re a sloooooow burn) is how everyone has different needs. Part of what makes relationships strong (ANY, not just romantic and/or sexual ones) is finding someone who needs what you can provide. Another important point, however, is recognizing your own needs and desires and accepting them.

How in the world is anyone supposed to do that if they never see a relationship that ticks their mental boxes in any form of media?

Like all other levels of diversity and representation, relationship dynamics and differing desires are so important. Dynamics, preferences, kinks, and fetishes are ESPECIALLY important for YA authors to consider and include. For most, the teen years is when they begin to discover arousal and desire. Or their lack thereof. If anything, portraying relationships outside the center of the bell curve is MORE important in YA than in adult. Puberty and adolescence and young adulthood are confusing enough. Why make it harder for anyone when we can provide a map?

What I hope is that Khya & Tessen–& the other pairings in the series–introduce teens to concepts about relationships they don’t often see.

In Itagami, monogamy isn’t societally expected. Polyamory is perfectly acceptable. Bisexuality is the normalized orientation. In Itagami, marriage–called a sumai bond in the book–is rare, but when that vow is made it is soul-deep and unbreakable. In Itagami, those who don’t have a sumai bond often move between romantic and/or sexual relationships as their needs change. In Itagami, “normal” has an entirely different set of definitions and expectations than what we’re used to, and I loved creating those rules. In Itagami, the how and why of what happens between two or more people isn’t something anyone else has a right to comment on. Not to say gossip doesn’t happen–it absolutely does–but the judgment and the interference I’ve seen happen in life doesn’t. Mostly.

Hopefully, all of this will be commonplace one day, but it’s not there yet. Especially in young adult fiction.

Khya & Tessen are snarky, strong, and incredibly fun to write. They’re also steamy as hell when they get together. Soon (sooner than I’m ready for, honestly), you’ll get to meet them for yourself!

Buy it from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Books-A-Million | IndieBound

Add this book on Goodreads.

Via:: Tumblr to WordPress

Nemesis is here in T-minus…

There is only one week–ONE! WEEK!–until the Nemesis release!

This week I’m going to talk about how important and very much not a trend accurate, diverse, respectful representation is.

I am asexual. I know this now, but it’s not something I discovered until I was 29. After marriage, divorce, and therapy. For more on that, I’ve written essays about asexuality on my site: Don’t Erase the Aces || Identity, Spectrums, and Labels

Growing up, there were few characters I truly identified with, and none who didn’t eventually find their fulfillment with sex. The lack of representation substantiated my growing belief that my lack of interest in sex meant something was fundamentally wrong with me. This is why I promised myself I’d include an ace-spectrum character in all my books. I don’t want other kids to grow up without the word.

Representation of the world around us AS IT ACTUALLY IS is crucial for so many reasons, and I try to make my books reflect that. I try to do this not just with the inclusion of asexuality, but with everything I trust myself to portray with respectful accuracy.

The cast of the Assassins duology is heterogeneous in race and sexuality, and it’s reflective of the world I grew up in. We need more stories to be mirrors of reality–and we need more of them written by those not usually reflected in those mirrors. Blake’s romantic arc is a close reflection of my own orientation, and I hope she’ll be the same kind of mirror for someone else.

Buy it from: Riptide/Triton | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book DepositoryBooks-A-Million |IndieBound |
Add this book to Goodreads.

 

Via:: Tumblr to WordPress

We’re at the six week mark, y’all.

We’re at the six week mark, y’all. SIX WEEKS UNTIL ISLAND OF EXILES!

Hahaha no I’m not nervous, why do you ask?! Okay, I’m lying, but I’m still here to talk more about Island Of Exiles!

I mentioned last week that Island Of Exiles changed a lot between the proposal Kate Brauning bought and now. That’s an understatement, honestly. SO MUCH changed it’s hard to think about it as the same book.

Unexpectedly, one constant was a character: Tessen.

FYI, he’s based on a teenage Christian Keyes.

Tessen popped onto the page when I was writing the first draft, and he immediately surprised me. Somehow. It’s strange to see a character you’re creating as mysterious, but that was Tessen. Mysteriously intriguing. Tessen demanded page time, and he got it, slowly becoming a much more important part of the story than I’d planned.

After I sold the series to Entangled & Kate Brauning gave me notes, there was basically an earthquake on the desert island. Major pieces of the world rearranged, the language shifted, & everything (& everyone) got a new name. EXCEPT TESSEN.

Not only did Tessen’s name remain when so much changed, it became the basis for my language & naming conventions. For those who don’t know, tessens are Japanese iron bladed fans. Heavy, beautiful, & dangerous. (YouTube | Wikipedia) I named Tessen after this weapon, and I loved both the sound of it and how well it fit his character. Because of this, he became the linchpin to my worldbuilding. The names of everyone and thing else shifted around him.

I’ll talk more about the languages in Island Of Exiles another week, but I will say this now: Tessen was the catalyst for them.

After writing him in 2 books, I can’t say Tessen is as mysterious now as he was at first, but I am no less intrigued. Hopefully, when you meet him in a few (ONLY SIX!) weeks, you’ll be just as in love with him as I am.

Be prepared, though. Khya might fight you for him. 😉

 

Meet Tessen! Order Island Of Exiles.

Buy it from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Books-A-Million | IndieBound

Add this book on Goodreads.

Via:: Tumblr to WordPress

Two weeks to Nemesis!

The Calvers and Kindra are back in TWO WEEKS! Things haven’t gotten any less dangerous for them since #Discord. What is new–and what I’ll be talking about this week–is Nemesis’s narrator Blake Marks, a civilian caught in the Calvers’ chaos.

My original plan for book 2 was to carry Kindra through as the primary POV. Second plan had Daelan telling the story. Neither fit. I knew Blake–who I introduced in Discord–needed to be a bigger part of the next story, but I didn’t immediately consider using them as narrator. Eventually I grew to like the idea of a civilian perspective on the world of hit squads, conspiracies, crime, & incredibly gray morality.

Enter Blake, an orphaned, intersex, expressively genderfluid but mentally agender, multi racial and ethnic, pan-romantic graysexual teen. Throughout Nemesis, Blake switches pronouns based on presentation. For this thread, I’ll be using she.

Blake is outside my experience in almost every way, but hopefully my research and interviews helped me write her respectfully. What also worried me about Blake narrating was how different the voice would be from Kindra’s in Discord.

Kindra is sarcastic, brash, bloody, definitively not ace-spectrum, and readers have responded incredibly well to her voice. Blake quips, but is softer spoken. She’s been thrust into a world she barely understands and is trying to cope with major loss. Blake is uncertain where Kindra is confident, conflicted where Kindra is unquestioning, & inexperienced where Kindra is expert. Although Blake is a civilian, she was raised by a military mother & an FBI agent father. She isn’t expert, but she can protect herself.

Hopefully, everyone will love Blake as much as they have Kindra, because I definitely do. She’s absolutely amazing.

Buy it from: Riptide/Triton | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book DepositoryBooks-A-Million |IndieBound |

Add this book to Goodreads.

 

Everyone? Meet Tessen

islandofexiles-lr

In a way, the world Shiara occupies began back in 2008. I was fresh out of college, and I wanted to write a fantasy novel. That turns out to be hard to accomplish without an actual story idea, so I followed advice I found on Holly Lisle’s site and started with a map instead. I drew an elaborate world (seriously, I taped multiple pieces of graph paper together just to give myself space), arbitrarily assigned sociopolitical boundaries, and then began trying to explain both.

The story I came up with then isn’t the one you’re going to read in February, but the universe is.

Jump forward to 2014 and I decide to try a true fantasy novel again. I wanted to create something harsh and different and beautiful, so I plopped my characters in an Arizona/New Mexico-like desert and surrounded them with enemies and animals that could kill them. It was about twins and the perceptions of mercy in an aggression based society and a lot of other things.

This, also, is not the book you’re going to read in February, but it’s closer. I kept the setting, the enemies, and the animals. My narrator stayed, but changed her name, and her twin brother became a younger one. The character who remained almost exactly the same is Tessen. Somehow his character, one I didn’t plan for at all in the original version of the story, became the linchpin of this book, anchoring everyone and everything else as it all shifted around him. This isn’t his story, it’s Khya’s, but his footprints and fingerprints are all over the final version of Island of Exiles.

Readers likely won’t ever see the level of his influence. Tessen’s okay with that, but it’s why I’m so happy that the first excerpt I can share with you from the book introduces you to him! So read on and meet him for yourself. <3

I breathe the briny air and try to consider the options objectively. As objectively as I ever can when my brother is involved.

Yorri was the first person to tell me that one day I’d be kaigo, just like our blood-parents, serving the Miriseh and earning high honors in Ryogo. I’d flicked him on the shoulder and said “Of course I will be,” but his faith had been what convinced me I was right.

Yorri gets so excited he stumbles over his own words when he’s explaining how he solved some new, impossible puzzle. He devotes himself with frightening fervor to anything that ensnares his arrow-quick mind, but sometimes needs reminding that the rest of the world exists.

Forget objectivity. It’s worth the risk.

I am going to keep him safe, just like I always have.

“You’re going to be late for the vigil if you stand here staring into nothing for much longer, Khya.”

I tense, keeping my eyes on the angry, dark, blue white-capped waves. I’d heard the footsteps approaching, but several people had come and gone already and left me alone.

Tessen, however, never was able to keep his thoughts inside his head.

“I won’t be late.” I answer without looking at him until he moves into my peripheral vision.

He leans against the wall to the left of me, his forearms crossed on the ledge and his head tilted up. With his arms folded on the ledge and his body held slightly away from the wall, I can make out the lines of muscle under layers of cloth, all of it hard-earned—though I probably won’t ever admit that to him. I don’t look directly at him, but I turn my head enough to get a better look at his face.

He’s taller than me, so looking down on him like this is strange. Seeing him without the hood and atakafu we always wear on duty is stranger. I don’t think I’ve seen his whole face since he became nyshin over a year ago.

His thick eyebrows sit low over his deep-set eyes and the line of his nose is straight, because somehow he was always quick enough in training to avoid all but the most glancing blows to his face. The setting sun highlights the red in his terra-cotta skin and makes his oddly pale eyes flash. Usually they’re limestone gray, but now they’re paler than ever and gleaming almost as bright as the sunlight off the ocean.

“Shouldn’t you be off training? Or guarding something?” I ask before he speaks.

“I am.” He smirks at me. “I’m guarding the mad nyshin girl who’s decided to perch on the walls and imitate a mykyn bird.”

“I’m not planning on attempting flight.” I wave my hand at him, trying to brush him off. “You can go, Nyshin-ten.”

His lips purse; I hide a smile. It was delightful discovering exactly how annoyed he got when I called him by his class and rank instead of his name. The flash of aggravation disappears quickly, replaced by his more usual sardonic smile. “Should I guess what has you lost in your own head the night of a vigil?”

“No. I don’t have that much time.”

“Then I won’t guess. Only your brother puts that look on your face.”

I look at him, expecting to see mockery in his eyes. There isn’t any. He looks almost…serious?

“You’re worried about his herynshi. Unless he’s in trouble again? It’s been a while. He’s overdue.”

“It’s been a while because he doesn’t have to deal with people who point out his every mistake anymore. Like you.” Gritting my teeth, I bend to brace my hand on the ledge and jump down to where Tessen stands. At six feet, he’s only an inch or two taller than me. Our eyes are nearly level when I square off against him. “You’re one of the reasons he ever got in trouble in the first place.”

“And you spent years trying to make him invisible.” Tessen’s lips thin, and the muscles in his jaw clench for a moment. “Even before you found your wards, you shielded him from everything. What he can do now that you’re not there to monitor his every move should be all the proof you need.”

“He would have died if I hadn’t protected him.” Nothing will ever convince me it was wrong to keep him alive. “You can’t seriously be suggesting I should have let that happen?”

“No, that isn’t— You don’t even know what he’s capable of! How long has it been since you’ve seen him fight? It’s been—” He steps back, his lips pressed tight and his hands held away from his weapons. “Bellows, Khya. I didn’t come here to fight with you. This isn’t how this was supposed to go.”

I blink. “What?” Tessen backing away from an argument? This has to be a trick. “How what was supposed to go?”

He shakes his head, a small smile quirking up the corners of his mouth. “I only came to ask if you’d dance with me tonight at the celebration.”

He can’t be serious…but there’s not a single sign that he isn’t being sincere.

I drop my gaze to hide the confusion that has to show on my face. My focus catches on the pendant gleaming against the undyed cloth of his tunic—a two-inch iron disc etched with crossed zeeka swords. Blood and rot, I hate seeing that around his neck. The zeeka is the symbol of the kaigo; the pendant is a symbol of their students.

Tessen is wearing the kaigo-sei pendant that should have been mine.

Out of the whole clan, the Miriseh and the kaigo only choose one nyshin-ten per year. His blood-mother, Neeva, is on the kaigo council. Being named a kaigo-sei isn’t a guarantee of advancement, but it is a sign that the leaders of the clan are keeping an eye on you. The kaigo-sei are given extra training and have to face additional tests of magic, skill, and leadership. Not every nyshin named a kaigo-sei student becomes a council member, but no one who isn’t a kaigo-sei will ever become one. I can still earn one—and I will, sooner rather than later—but it seems like they’re already grooming Tessen to take Kaigo Neeva’s place one day.

Rot take him, it was supposed to be me.

Swallowing the fruitless envy building in my chest, I raise my eyes to meet Tessen’s again. “I don’t make promises I don’t intend to keep.”

“But that’s not a no, so I’ll ask again tonight.” He smiles, inclines his head, and then walks away whistling. I hate that sound, and I’m almost positive he knows that.

Buy it from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Books-A-Million | IndieBound

Add this book on Goodreads.

The importance of characters who have character.

People (c) Jayanta Behera

The world is a messy, complicated, and occasionally ugly place. Bad things happen all the time. Sometimes to “bad” people, sometimes to “good.” The world is also incredibly strange and random. For all the things that are unlikely or even impossible, there’s at least one person on the planet who can prove those odds wrong.

As authors, our job is to look at this mess of crazy, mundane, impossible, scary, cheerful things and try to translate it into a story people can take in and hopefully learn something from. But there’s a problem. Fiction is bound by something reality isn’t: rules and expectations. Readers see the world and measure possible and impossible against the experiences of their own lives. They’ll call you on your BS and point out your inconsistencies and make sure you hold up to the promises you make them. However, they’ll also have a lot of faith and suspend a lot of disbelief if a story captures them, and nothing captures my attention like a truly interesting and powerful character.

This post was born out of finding this link on George Takei’s Facebook page this morning. On Reddit over a year ago, a user (appropriately monikered european_douchebag) took a picture of a woman in an airport and posted it online. Why? Because this woman was wearing her hair wrapped in a turban-like cloth and had a noticeable beard.

Not too long after the post was made on Reddit, the woman in the picture came forward on the site. She didn’t yell, accuse, demand acceptance or apologies, this woman explained and apologized. Apologized! Her name is Balpreet Kaur and this is what she posted in a conversation where many of the commenters were mocking her appearance:

Hey, guys. This is Balpreet Kaur, the girl from the picture. I actually didn’t know about this until one of my friends told on facebook. If the OP wanted a picture, they could have just asked and I could have smiled 🙂 However, I’m not embarrased or even humiliated by the attention [negative and positve] that this picture is getting because, it’s who I am. Yes, I’m a baptized Sikh woman with facial hair. Yes, I realize that my gender is often confused and I look different than most women. However, baptized Sikhs believe in the sacredness of this body – it is a gift that has been given to us by the Divine Being [which is genderless, actually] and, must keep it intact as a submission to the divine will. Just as a child doesn’t reject the gift of his/her parents, Sikhs do not reject the body that has been given to us. By crying ‘mine, mine’ and changing this body-tool, we are essentially living in ego and creating a seperateness between ourselves and the divinity within us. By transcending societal views of beauty, I believe that I can focus more on my actions. My attitude and thoughts and actions have more value in them than my body because I recognize that this body is just going to become ash in the end, so why fuss about it? When I die, no one is going to remember what I looked like, heck, my kids will forget my voice, and slowly, all physical memory will fade away. However, my impact and legacy will remain: and, by not focusing on the physical beauty, I have time to cultivate those inner virtues and hopefully, focus my life on creating change and progress for this world in any way I can. So, to me, my face isn’t important but the smile and the happiness that lie behind the face are. 🙂 So, if anyone sees me at OSU, please come up and say hello. I appreciate all of the comments here, both positive and less positive because I’ve gotten a better understanding of myself and others from this. Also, the yoga pants are quite comfortable and the Better Together tshirt is actually from Interfaith Youth Core, an organization that focuses on storytelling and engagement between different faiths. 🙂 I hope this explains everything a bit more, and I apologize for causing such confusion and uttering anything that hurt anyone.

How incredible is not only her rational, reasoned response, but her faith? Her strength of character. Her beliefs are obviously bone deep and intense, but not once does she come across as preaching or accusing or belittling others for their own beliefs. She’s strong enough in her religion to accept the faiths of others and allow them their way of life. All she’s asking is that they understand hers.

I would love to meet this girl, but even if that never happens, I’m hoping more characters like her will begin appearing in fiction. If I picked up a book and found someone like Balpreet Kaur living within the pages, I would follow that character through even the most impossible situations and inconsistent seeming realities. Loving a character can convince a reader to forgive a lot and characters with character will convince readers (at least this particular reader) to forgive even more.

On another note, and as further proof for the randomness of this universe, the original poster of this picture read Balpreet’s response, researched the Sikh religion, and came back to her with an incredibly sincere apology. On the internet. Miracles apparently do happen.