Posts tagged “Writing

A Priestess’s Manumission

This is sort of a supplement to my book Exilium, so if you've never read it, you may be confused.

But then again, if you know anything about Roman slavery, or have read The Passion of Mary Magdalen, you may know what I'm talking about to some extent.

If you haven't read any of them, not a problem—you're about to get educated. (If you don’t mind spoilers, that is.)

[Caveat: this is a citation-free zone; I'm just going off what Elizabeth Cunningham wrote. If you want to do your own research, I suggest checking her notes section.]

In Roman marriage, ownership of the wife was notionally given to the husband through a document called the manus. (Slaves also had manus, so you can see how much the Romans cared about their women!) There were, however, cases where the manus was retained by the father, who could then manage and punish their daughters as they saw fit.

That's right! If Daddy caught you cheating, he could kick your little ass.

Or kill you, like he did with Paulina's sister in Passion.

(Pardon my spoiler, there.)

I don't know how it actually worked, but in Exilium, I presented an interesting notion about priestesses and their manus. Since I don't think I explained it very well—if at all—I thought I'd make a short post about it.


In Julia's world, a girl's manus was granted to the temple at the time of her initiation. This gave priestesses a wide-ranging set of freedoms, but could also make fathers very angry if, for example, the high priestess declared an orgy—the priestesses' fathers could not punish them for ruining the families’ reputation, because the paterfamilias was now the temple, as personified by the high priestess.

Serving the temple was also the fastest way to manumission, as if the priestess sought to marry a man of whom her high priestess approved, the manus would be burnt in the sacred fire and the priestess would be freed to do as she pleased.

Unfortunately, the temple's ownership could also trip a girl up, as Julia eventually learned.

[Original cover painting for Exilium, which I rendered in black and white.]

If you read the "Not-So-Historical Notes" at the end of Early One Morning, you know what happened to the other priestesses and their manus. But the nature of the kerfuffle over Julia's during Exilium was a little vague.

As high priestess, Julia officially owned her own manus; however, since it was on an institutional basis (as the temple personified, you may remember), she wasn't a freedwoman. In light of this, when Pontius kidnapped her, Livia was automatically promoted to high priestess and the control over everyone’s manus went to her.

Officially, only the Virgo Vestalis Maxima (and the emperor, of course) were superior to the High Priestess of Isis and only they could force Livia to sign over Julia's manus or that of any other priestess. In practice, however, the priestesses answered to the provincial prefect; so when Pontius threatened death or other bodily harm to the priestesses if Livia didn't sign over Julia's manus once he'd decided to keep her as his personal priestess, the high priestess hurried to respond.

Theoretically, once Julia betrayed Pontius and he exiled her, her manus should've been passed to whoever was receiving her in Ireland. However, it somehow got left behind in the rush to kick her out (he likely didn't have his own copy and would've had to go to the provincial record office), so that was the basis of the upset—Julia's manus being on file without a change of possession meant that Pontius still owned her and could do what he pleased. Without her manus, Lucius had no recourse against Pontius forcing Julia into marriage, which is why Lucius paid two hundred denarii and agreed to take as her his concubine. An executor was never appointed, of course, which is how Lucius was able to marry Julia without legal repercussions.

Though if you read the book, you know that Pontius got his way in the end.


Someday, I'll manage to get enough material together to publish A Wren in the Willow.

But that day is not this.

I keep breaking my heart
over and over again
for a man that will never love me.

Not just this man,
but those who have come before him;
those that the Goddess has brought into my life
for no real reason other than to see me hurt.
To light my heart on fire with love,
with passion,
with dreams…
and then to laugh
as it all goes crumbling away in a moment.

The gods love taking down the ambitious.
Nothing makes them happier
than seeing a grown woman cry over loneliness.
“If I could just have…” she says.
“You can have solitude,” They say.
“You can have tears and sighs and
the wonder of why We did this to you.”

When I woke up
on that morning three years ago,
I was delighted to be in love.
But at the same time,
I knew I was headed for another world
of unbelievable pain.
Seven months free
and back to the hole from which I crawled.

If I could draw my sword and sever all ties,
I’d be much happier.
No more cycles of love and pain,
no more beloveds out of reach,
no more stupid ideas.
Just me,
loving myself.
And moving on.

A Manifesto of Goodness

One of my dad's coworkers had the audacity to claim that he wasn't a "Good Catholic" because he didn't support Trump.

I don't think a person's politics should define whether they're "good". Which is why I wrote this.

Some (maybe not many) Wiccans, Witches and other Pagans believe that angels are independent agents, rather than being assigned to the Abrahamic god.
Me too. Makes life more interesting, I think.

A good person, whether they be Christian or of another faith, does not deal in absolutes. A good person does not say, “I would think you would follow this politician or that because you’re of a certain religion.”

A good person realizes that the fight for life does not end at the delivery of that life into the world, but that the fight must continue for that life until the Powers that Be declare that life is over.

A good person does not follow someone who declares themselves to be a good person, but who has allowed over 200,000 people to die because of ignorance and inaction.

A good person does not separate families who have struggled to come to this country in a search of a better life simply because they weren’t able to follow the rules due to the government’s neglect of what is often a dire situation.

A good person does not live in fear of words like “socialism” because they were once used in a negative fashion in non-democratic countries.

A good person knows that healthcare is not a privilege but a right, because a good person is a font of compassion.

Miller Fountain at Western Michigan University
(They've redone it since I was last there!)

A good person supports ideas like universal healthcare because it hurts their heart to see someone bankrupted because of medical bills.

A good person doesn’t fight back against things like higher minimum wages and a universal basic income, because a good person does not wish to see others hungry or homeless.

A good person hopes that tuition will one day be lowered or eliminated because no one should be stopped from pursuing their dreams due to their financial situation, nor should they be saddled with unconquerable debt simply because they attempted to be a positive contribution to society.

A good person does not allow the desire for money to override the need to preserve the environment.

This is the tree I named my kitty after!
(It's a Linden.)

A good person does not hate anyone for being transgendered, homosexual or anything else, because a good person loves their neighbor as they love themselves.

A good person does not discriminate against those who are different than them, because a good person understands that we are all equal.

A good person follows good people and trusts fellow good people to do the same, without resorting to attacks or coercion.


Most importantly: a good person does not have to be taught how to be a good person, because they are already doing these things themselves.

Aces & Eights

Or: Demis, Aces and PoCs in Fiction

(I know that's the Dead Man's Hand, but I just picked it because it sounded good.)

This was originally going to be reflecting on whether I have any black characters (or people of color in general) in my books to match the current national mood, and then I dumped it.

And then I started following the Asexual Visibility and Education Network on twitter, which made me wonder if I had any protagonists on the ace spectrum.

So I decided to revive the other to fill out the entry…and I realized I have a lot more than I thought.

Broken Road (discontinued)

The first question I had to tackle was, "Are Greeks considered white?" and the answer seems to be, "Dependent on who you ask and what region the person is from."

Despite literally being called "crystalline dreams" (Κρύσταλλινα Όνειρα), I don't think I ever considered Krystállina [Chris-tall-nuh] to look very much different in hair and complexion than someone like Nia Vardalos.

(Which reminds me: Nia had it better. Marrying John Corbett in a movie is always better than being murdered by an elder god for marrying his son, no matter how handsome that son!)

Krystállina also lived in the 13th century, so they probably didn't care about the finer points of "how fair do you have to be considered white?" like we do today. So maybe partially a person of color?

Krystállina was probably demisexual and demiromantic by circumstance. Despite being seventeen when she met Amihan, I don't think she'd given much thought to relationships. Amihan was her first boyfriend and lover, so she hadn't had a chance to meet anyone else. She might have had romantic/sexual thoughts about other men, but never acted on them because she was constantly busy helping her widowed father with his olive orchard.

The Priestess series

The character I was thinking about when I started my people of color post was Aurelia, a veteran priestess who originally hailed from Egypt. Even though I didn't describe her (I don't usually waste time with descriptions anymore), I realized that there was a very good chance she was a person of color, as it's always possible that her ancestors came to Egypt from Nubia (modern Sudan). Heck, even the gentleman who did my commission got there before I did! (That's not Aurelia, though, as the woman's blue robe indicates she's a neophyte. But since the scene depicted didn't take place in either of the books, the woman can also be a character that doesn't actually exist. (Which means it doesn’t really matter.)

And then I realized that if depicted properly (i.e. not me, as I always visualize her), Julia is a person of color. Her father is Israeli and her mother was the product of a Roman-Israeli union, which means Julia herself should have a nice Middle Eastern coloring.

Despite being sworn as a priestess of Isis, Julia is demisexual. I already knew that the Temple of Isis All-Sovereign didn't require a vow of chastity, because Julia's predecessor resigned as high priestess so she could leave the temple and get married; and then I realized that wouldn't fly with any temple of Isis, as the Lady was married Herself.

Knowing that priestesses sometimes left to get married, I'm sure a lot of guys flirted with her over the years; and—if she's truly like me—she didn't really know how to respond. (How do you even know when you're flirting properly?!) Even if she'd found a gentleman she was interested in, she couldn't copulate with him until she'd officially resigned and left the temple.

Sadly, Julia's first experience with sex was the worst she could possibly have. She loved Lucius, though, and probably would've made love to him at some point had he not been killed. Instead, her first wholesome lovemaking experience didn't occur until she'd been married to her third husband for several years. She had no more children after Selene.

(The photo is a link if you’re interested in purchasing the ankh pictured.)


I was going to ask if it was weird to be kind of excited about having an aromantic/asexual minor character (especially since he died before the book began), but it's my blog and my writing, so I can get excited about whatever I like! (*giggle*)


The current version of Ophelia has one confirmed person of color, and that would be her first husband. (Eduardo was a model from Spain, if you've forgotten.) I didn't take him out of the rewrite to whitewash the story (if you believed that for a millisecond, you don't know me and my on-and-off weakness for Latinos), but because I didn't think Eduardo and his jealousy contributed to the plot in any positive way.

If it happened that someday Ophelia's story was permitted to become an official Marvel property, I'd find some way to cast John Boyega, because he said in a Star Wars interview that he's a huge Spider-Man fan. Why John? (*shrugs*) He seems like a nice guy and I'd love to be able to make him happy. Isn't that reason enough?

Ophelia herself is demisexual because…well, because I can't imagine someone like her making time to have sex with someone she doesn't love. My main clue, though, was that her colleague was upset about leaving his boyfriend for a year and would've taken leave to run off to Samoa to find some "cute gay soldiers" if it had been closer. Ophelia, on the other hand, was more than willing to "take care of herself" during her downtime and had no boyfriend to pine over and distract her from working. (She sounds so clinical, but don't forget that she eventually married her bodyguard and they had kids!)

I know it sounds weird for a man who was divorced and had children, but Ophelia's father was aro/ace. Edwin accepted an arranged marriage because having a spouse was an expectation of the circles he moved in. He never loved Emily and was never involved with another woman between their divorce in 1983 and his death in 2003. He also had no desire to adopt an heir, which is why he consented to intercourse a few times earlier in the marriage. (He originally ruled out IVF, but realized that he would have to use it to place the results of Project Rose in Emily's body.) Much like conceiving Ophelia, Edwin considered begetting Graham to be nothing more than a business transaction. If you think about it, the five year age difference between Ophelia and Graham signals Edwin's reluctance to pursue more intercourse.

The Future

It's difficult for me to say whether I'll have more characters on the ace spectrum down the road because they don't come out and announce their intentions. In fact, I only determined the feelings of my existing protags by exploring whether they showed signs of being asexual.

People of color is an absolute yes. If I ever finish Into the Rush, it's going to have a part where a well-meaning government official gives the Banshees some slaves as a welcoming gift and an uproar ensues. I've been through the options several times and I think I'm going with offering them room, board, and a little pay, as sending them back would put them back on the auction block, and they'd risk slave catchers if they're freed and attempt to run for the north.

Another one that I've been thinking about on off since I was a teen (and very much now) is Southern Withdrawl [sic: pun on "southern drawl"], about a girl (Molly) who goes around killing members of the KKK. People of color everywhere in that one, since you have the people she's protecting, plus her boyfriend is a second generation American whose parents are from Catalunya. My original vision was having Molly (and possibly her boyfriend) walking into court near the end; but now I think I want it to be a group effort, as I can't imagine the people she saves/protects allowing her to do it on her own. And now I have my heart set on an Octavia Spencer-like figure taking Molly home and encouraging her to tell her parents what she's been doing after she had a brush with the law.

(Which reminds me: I always love it when people who play minor characters in movies released many years ago suddenly get super famous like Octavia, Elizabeth Banks and Joe Manganiello. How crazy life is!)


I try not to push the muses, though, as they get worn out with school; so all of this is theoretical for now.

Death by Citation

Hello, I’m a Slytherclaw. ^_^

Once upon a time, I attended wizard school.

(Have I told this story before? I feel like I have. Oh well, I’m repeating it for a reason.)

(Also, I’m not putting a link to the school because they don’t deserve it and I don’t want to stir up old crap with them.)

Somehow—and I’m fuzzy on the exact details, because this was in 2007—I ended up becoming friends with one of the instructors (different department than anything I was interested in, so no conflict of interest there), who encouraged me to become a teacher’s assistant. Joining the staff meant that everything beyond what I’d already paid for in tuition was free and they would start paying me after promotion to instructor, which was usually about a year after acceptance to TA status and developing your first class. (In fact, they encouraged you to use the year to develop your class so the two requirements would be completed about the same time.)

I was doing well in my classes (to the point where I had two of my three nominations needed for the dean’s list), my aromatherapy classes were developing apace (yup, plural! I had that much material) under the supervision of my department head (I was in the healing division, which is why one of my lesser used nicknames is “Leuca Bleu”short for my wizarding name, “Melaleuca the Blue”*)…and then I met E.


Jaina Proudmore (of World of Warcraft/Hearthstone fame). Not my usual class, but I figured a female mage wearing blue was probably about the closest I was going to get to a blue wizard of the proper gender.

*Each division within wizard school was assigned a color and healing was blue. My minors were herbalism (green) and divination (yellow).

Now I’m not usually one to accuse someone of using untoward means to get to where they are; but if E was willing to blackmail me (and pretend she didn’t), chances are good that she got elsewhere with foul play, as well.

After all, I was down to the last assignment of my last class, both for promotion to level two and securing that last nomination to the dean’s list. What better way to ensure your student will bow down and kiss your hand then to threaten both their accolades and advancement? Of course, E never overtly said that’s what she was doing; but it didn’t take a genius to figure out her intentions, either.

I don’t remember what exactly we were supposed to do; but I suspect it was a lot like the herbarium I’m doing right now for one of my grad school classes, just with a lot less in the way of requirements, and with the information coming out of our textbooks.

Anyway, I turned it in and waited for my grade…only to be told that she “expects more out of [her] adult students” and could I please add some additional information?

That should’ve flagged. Hard.

Like “I should’ve gone running to D (my friend) and said, ‘HELP! E is trying to hit me with a double standard!'” hard.

Or gone to S (my advisor) at the very least.

But instead, I decided to stick it out and do what she wanted. I got out my favorite aromatherapy book, copied out the appropriate information and wrote at the bottom, “This information provided by [title] by [author].”

Probably not the best citation; but given that all the data was copied out of the same book, not the worst—especially when the worst would be no citation at all.

Oh, how wrong I was!

Probably the wrongest wrong I’ve ever been—and that’s even allowing for my failure to report the double-standard-blackmail bullshit E was trying to pull.

You see, there wasn’t a grand announcement when I joined the staff as a TA.

In fact, there wasn’t any at all, if I can remember correctly.

So when E announced to the staff mailing list that she needed help finding the anti-plagiarism lesson because “one of her students didn’t know better” (or some such) and she’d lost it on the forum (where they kept all their important papers, apparently), she had No. Fucking. CLUE that I was aware the millisecond she not only broadcasted to the entire world that I was a giant cheater (which was a horrendous lie that had dire consequences), but displayed her fucking email address (this was through Yahoo Groups) so the shit could hit the fan rather royally.

And boys howdy did it ever!

Lots of caps?

Oh yeah!

At least three profane words?

I’d be shocked if there weren’t!

Statements wherein you [A] Called E a liar; [B] Told E that if she had a problem with you, she should’ve contacted you privately; [C] Accused E of “dragging your name through the mud” or any combination thereof?

[C] Absolutely; [B] Very good odds; and [A] 50/50 probability.

I don’t know how I ever thought railing against her could have ended well; but rage screams first and asks questions later.

I’m sure the first thing I did was get out of E’s class. “If she’s not my teacher, she can’t hold anything over my head and”…yeah, I don’t know how I thought that would work to get rid of the plagiarism accusation. My thought was just to get away from her, find another class and do well so I could get to “second year” and make the dean’s list.

I was going to say that the second thing I did was use my limited TA powers to kick myself out of the class I was subbing in; but now I feel like maybe I was locked out instead. (I don’t remember the nature of the class, but I think it was an easy-peasy one that any Wiccan or Pagan could teach with even so much as six months in the art under their belts.)

And then there was dealing with the Ruling Council of Wizard School—better known as the Dragon’s Eye.

(I don’t remember the name or title of the woman I dealt with, so let’s call her Morgan le Fay and let’s say she was the Dean of Students.)

This is where the timeline gets tricky, so bear with me.

Let’s imagine E didn’t snap back at me but immediately warned Morgan of my rage. I’m sure I got an email from Morgan saying that there was no reason that I should be upset; that all I had to do was complete the plagiarism assignment, and once I’d proven I knew where I went wrong and was penitent, the Dragon’s Eye would almost assuredly take me off suspension and I could get back to work.

Good thing there were computers between Morgan and I so I wouldn’t have to decide whether to smack her, scream at her, or both.

Naturally, I screamed.

I railed at her for siding with E and her double standards, for allowing E to drag my name through the mud with false accusations (that wasn’t an arbitrary statement earlier—I at least remember that much from this whole fiasco), etcetera. I don’t remember if I dropped my classes myself or if they did it for me, but I know I got out and I slept badly that night; and when I woke up (at 7 or 7:30 that morning—that’s how bad it was), there was a message from Morgan in my Hotmail box saying—among other things, I’m sure—that E wasn’t dragging my name through the mud.

As the kids used to say: that’s so funny, I forgot to laugh.

I don’t remember how it ended, but I know I threatened to report her to her ISP for harassment if she didn’t stop talking to me. (Probably not as much of a threat back then as it is now with cyberbullying laws, but it was my go-to to get people to shut up.)

So this is how my papers look nowadays. Here’s the results section from my term paper with the sentences replaced with word count and the citations left in:

[1 sentence] (TRC, n.d.). [1 sentence] (TRC, n.d.). MedlinePlus [sentence] (n.d.). [2 sentences]

[Part of a sentence], Foster and Duke (2000) [rest of the sentence]. [1 sentence]. WebMD (n.d.) [2 sentences]. Hausen [part of a sentence] (in 1996) [rest of the sentence, plus 1 more].

[Part of a sentence] Tenney (2007) [rest of the sentence]. [Part of a sentence], Lawless (1995) [rest of the sentence]. Ulbricht (2010) [1 sentence + large quote]. (n.d.) [1 sentence].

Naturally, I had a professor say once in undergrad, “You use too many citations.”

Amazing how fast he shut up when I told him this story!

Guess what?

When this

is on the line, there is NO SUCH THING as too many citations!

(I’m switching out of MSCAM and starting MSA in the spring, but this was the only ACHS masters I could find. Thanks, Chris!)

P.S. from the following month: Turns out I told this story in 2016. This version is better.

P.P.S. (062220): Now it seems like the class I was subbing for was on the elements. Like I said, easy!

I also left ACHS for SNHU to resume the grad program I left at the end of 2016. (Feel like I should put that in there, because I’m sure I’ll show this to professors as I go. Seems like I’ve already done it at least once.)