Strength in the Softer Parts
by Madhuri Blaylock
I just put the finishing touches on my trilogy, The Sanctum, so when Batool asked me to write a guest post for her blog series on women and empowerment, I hardly thought I would go back to my fantastical world of hybrid demons, warriors, and vampires. I figured I would need some time away from them, to decompress from the drama of their finale. And yet, here I am, talking about the women of The Sanctum
and you know why?
Because they are such freaking badasses, I simply cannot help myself.
It’s quite fitting actually, since the genesis of The Sanctum lies in my own desire to create the girl absent from the pages of my many and varied fantasy and paranormal books. Not the Badass, because she exists, in so many shapes and forms, on the pages of so many novels and screenplays, kicking butt and taking names after her badassery has been explained to her
laid out and examined
expounded upon and studied.
Nope. I didn’t want that girl because although she evolved into something fierce and proud, she began wide-eyed and unaware, beholden to some secret about herself unlocked by a cute boy.
I wanted the Self-Aware Badass. The girl who knows she is the shit, why she is the shit, and exactly how she became the shit.
Hermione Granger, all grown and sexy.
That’s the girl I wanted to meet, the girl I sought, craved really. And when I couldn’t find her, I created her. And while I was doing that, a funny thing happened.
I created a whole crew of similar women – tough as nails, whip smart, deadly, and full of a sense of self and purpose. Women who knew their worth without a man needing to define it, set the parameters, and provide the explanations.
Hermoine Granger, all grown and sexy.
Interestingly enough, now that I look back on these women – Dev, Darby Winthrop, and Jools Clayworth – I realize that for all of their feats of greatness, the moments where they felled the antagonist, slayed the devils, and single-handedly made evil think twice, their true strength lies in their softer side.
and their willingness to accept those weaknesses, because that’s really what they are, look them in the face, understand they are just as vital as all the indestructibility, the super-human strength, the lightning speed
and do not make them any lesser of a woman.
If anything, they make them so very real and relatable and worthy
of all the accolades and hurrahs
the greatness and power.
It’s the vulnerabilities and the weaknesses that make these women whole and complete
grown and sexy.
For I love watching Dev lay waste to the warriors who come after her, felling them with ease, laughing in their faces as she slides her blade across their throats. I love living through her regeneration, knowing her body rebuilds itself after suffering horrific trauma. I love listening to her explain her creation and her purpose and her meaning – her knowledge of self is exhilarating.
But more beautiful than all of that is learning her fears and her weaknesses, her need to appear strong and unmoved, and watching as she accepts the hand offered her and takes a chance, trusting someone besides herself
sharing herself and her fears and weaknesses with another.
The quiet of that moment, its meaning and significance, stay with me long after her story ends.
Then there is Darby Winthrop, the Southern Belle from Hell, the vampire I love madly. She is brash and sexy, uncouth and deadly. She’ll smile in your face and woo you with her Southern charm, then snap your neck before you knew what hit you. She’ll kiss your throat and run her hand up your thigh, making you all hot and bothered and wild, then she’ll drain you of every drop of blood and leave you for dead.
She is centuries old, smarter than anyone in the room, and stronger than them, too. She is funny and witty and full of life; she is sexy, in touch with her darkest desires, and simply oozes sensuality.
She is power – she wields it, she owns it – and watching her at work, bending men and women to her will and whim is a thing of beauty. But more wondrous than all of that, is learning Darby’s one weakness, for in him, we realize just how truly powerful she is. For in him we witness her capacity to love and forgive and forget, until that is no longer an option and she is forced to do the unthinkable.
And it is beautiful
and painful and extraordinary
and makes us fall for Miss Winthrop harder than we ever thought possible.
Last but not least is Jools Clayworth, younger sister, only daughter, given to fits of jealousy, brat. Superior warrior, killer instinct, natural leader. A roiling mess of insecurities, well hidden but fueling her every immature and petulant antic. Until she can no longer continue acting the child, when her skills on a battlefield are no longer enough, and she is forced to evolve into the strong, determined, powerful leader no one but Jools ever expected her to become.
And still that is not enough to protect her from herself, for she is her own worst enemy. She is her own weakness and when she finally realizes as much, when she comes to grips with all she has witnessed and all she has engendered, and she desperately reaches out to another to save her
it is gut-wrenching and moving
and I, the writer, Jools’ creator, who respected her and her gangsta from day one, but felt little else for the warrior or the woman, am finally able to also love and appreciate her.
the true strength of the Badass
and the wonder
lies in the softer parts.
Author of The Sanctum trilogy / Supporter of #WeNeedDiverseBooks