The coming April insanity…

The thesis is done, turned in, and will be out for binding next week.  This means I suddenly have quite a bit more free time, and it’s high time I dedicated some of it to fiction once again.  Not just reading fiction, but writing it as well.  Since I’ve never been one for writing scripts, and April is Script Frenzy month from the OLL (the wonderful, crazy people who bring us Nanowrimo every year), I’ve decided it’s high time that I start redrafting my first even Nanowrimo project, When All’s Said and Done.  The characters have been on my mind of late, and it feels like it’s time.

There’s going to be major changes from the original draft to the second, in part due to the ramble I started scribbling last summer, one that’s brought a character that knows what’s going on inside the Institute into direct contact with Ky again, rather unexpectedly.  Because Ridley knows a lot of what’s going on inside, more than Hadrian ever could find out due to the rapid decline of his health, some of the twists in the original draft will need to be reworked.  It’s all Julia’s fault, really.  She brought him to Damon (her cousin who happens to be Matthew’s longtime friend), which means Damon called Matthew and everyone got involved with each other quite a bit faster than in the original draft, though I think that having Damon knee-deep from the start will work better.  He can still be a little annoyed with Matthew, but not nearly as annoyed as he was in the original draft.

Having Ridley there and able to tell Ky and Matthew things, however, does throw into question some plot twists, including the one that involves Tim Thatcher.  I suppose I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.  Before I do anything else, I need to decide what’s going to happen with the installation at Andover Commonwealth…whether they abandon it, or believe it’s secure in the wake of Ridley’s escape from the village with Julia’s help.

I imagine Reverend Stonard might pop up in When All’s Said and Done, too.  He seems as if he’d make a good villain.  And Laren, of course, trying to lay low.  The Tina character may disappear completely, since the new version will begin in August rather than November.

A lot to think about, and only a few days before I begin to redraft!  What fun will this be…

Thesis status update – with deadline!

Well, I won’t have to defend this summer (Yay!).  I will, however, need to be ready to defend in the fall.  And I’m terrified.  Sure, I’m near 40 pages into this monster (that’s not counting outlines, notes, failed attempts to start, ect) but I still don’t feel ready.  But I need to set a deadline for myself to have a full draft–and I’m going to do it.  I’m going to make it happen come hell or high water.

I’m going to have a full draft–at least skeletoned with notes for sections I’m not quite done with–by 15 June.

There, I said it.  I’m going to have a draft done by the 15th of June if it kills me.  And it might.

Why June 15?  Because that would mean I’d have a full draft of my Master’s thesis done before the 10 year mark–that is to say, 10 years after I graduated in the top third or so of my graduating class from Athens High School in Troy, MI.  And then I’d be in the revision process and getting myself set to start taking my GREs to prepare for Ph.D work (oh god save me).

I have to defend in the fall.  I have to defend in the fall and if I want to be ready for that defense…I need to finish this draft.  And revise it.  And be ready.

So I have to finish this draft.  And that’s the deadline I’m going to set for myself.  Because if I don’t set one…then it’s not going to get done.

I’m going to try to get my section on Edward I done within the next few weeks, one way or another.  Early sections of the draft need touches, but are otherwise okay as they stand right now.  Then I’ll get to move back to the Edward III section, which is the section Dr. Finucane had me focusing on when he died.

I don’t know.  It’s just hard to think that he’ll never see the end of a project that I started under his tutelage.

Still need to decide if I’m going to the Medieval Institute conference.  I have a couple weeks to decide yet.  I’ll decide after Jen and I get back from Chicago next week.

It all comes back down to writing

Nanowrimo went spectacularly well for me this year — I made goal with time to spare.  It seems, however, that the story of The Last Colony is more conducive to a trilogy than than it is to a single volume.  The whole of the story just can’t be told in such a small package, I guess.  There’s just too much story to tell.

Speaking of too much story to tell, it’s high time I turn around and do the serious editing that When All’s Said and Done, my first winning Nanowrimo piece, requires.  The work has some serious potential; I think if I can get through a rewrite I might even be able to put that together into a duology or trilogy (or even a single book) and start shopping agents.  Hopefully.

However, the most important bit of writing I need to be doing in the near future is my Master’s thesis.  I’ve gotten somewhat disconnected from it of late and need to bring myself back to it–and badly.  That’s one thing that’s on tomorrow’s agenda, to reconnect with my thesis research.  Before the semester ended, I had started reading From Scythia to Camelot and I should really get back to it.  But I started reading Devil in the White City today, and I have a feeling I’ll race through that and then get back to research.

I have a desk, now, though, and it’s gloriously beautiful.  It’s a library table style desk that my father made for me and it’s lovely.  I can’t wait to start being able to use it, but that requires that the bedrooms be switched out so I can (my desk is currently in the larger bedroom, occupied by my brother).  I’m very much looking forward to having my own space to work, though, where I can leave stuff out.

I’ll only be doing one class this semester–I was going to take seminar again, but financial constraints will prevent me from doing so.  Instead, I’m going to work intensively with Dr. Chapman on my thesis and get it done so I can defend in the spring.  There’s no other option–that’s the way it’s going to be.

And then hopefully, I’ll get into a Ph.D program for the fall of 2011.  Hopefully.

Reconnecting with my research

It’s no secret to a lot of people who know me–in the wake of not getting one last little bit of feedback from my late advisor at the end of the Winter 2009 semester, I took a long break from my thesis work.  It was something I probably shouldn’t have done, but I kept expecting to get somethingfrom him after I sent one last update to him this past April.  But nothing.  We corresponded via e-mail about some housekeeping things regarding my thesis and he said he would get to the submission, but he never got back to me.  In some morbid way, I wonder if it’s sitting there on his hard drive with a mess of fantastic comments just waiting to never be sent.  But I suppose I’ll never know.

For the past week since I heard about his death, I’ve been avoiding really trying to work on my thesis, instead focusing on a paper I need to submit for the Great Lakes History Conference, deadlined in mid-October.  But the research overlaps a bit when I start reading about Edward I, and that’s tripped synapses in my brain that have pointed me back toward my thesis.  This is dangerous, considering that I don’t even know that I’ll even have this be my thesis come next week, or come the end of the OUAAUP strike, whichever happens first (personally, I’m hoping it’s settled after negotiations today so I won’t actually miss any of my classes this semester).  It’s in part hinging on a conversation I need to have with Karen Miller, the head of the history department here at Oakland University.  But in the end, I don’t know what’s going to happen other than I have a pile of research and information floating around in my brain that may turn into a book someday, regardless of whether or not it becomes my master’s thesis.  I’m sure if I have to change gears and start another project, I can find something.  I’m just not sure at this point what.

When I went to Dr. Finucane a couple years ago to talk about potential thesis ideas, I brought with me a short list of potential topics.  I’d originally wanted to do something with the Crusades, but I don’t speak French or Arabic (to be honest, even my Latin is shaky at best, though I’m working on that) so it would be very difficult for me to do that sort of research.  So changing gears, I brought the following list: 

          Impact of the War of the Roses on English society

o       Potentially limited to women, church, or the aristocracy?

          Hundred Years War

o       Religion and politics

          Folk beliefs and spirituality in late medieval England

o       Mysticism in England?

o       English Saints?  Shifting views of what was seen as evidence of the divine working through a person or related to a person? (ties into witchcraft, ect)

          Kingship and royalty in England, late medieval

o       Touches on the political and diplomatic; alliances through marriage, blood claims to “foreign” territory – importance of women in this context?

o       Political legitimacy and the tools used to convince people of such

          The Black Death

o       Impact on cultural norms and religion

          Mystics and miracles in late medieval England

          Pilgrims and saints

          Left field: Arthurian mythos and its impact on English culture orthe historical evolution of the Arthurian mythos

o       Use of the Arthurian mythos by English royalty

o       Folklore and stories of medieval England



I had hesitated to even bring to him that last topic–about the Arthurian mythos.  But I’ve been fascinated with it for easily ten years, so I put it on there, never dreaming that he would look at that and say “Hm.  That’s interesting.  Why didn’t you think you could do that, again?”  Necessary cutting brought the project down to a manageable size and focus, bringing me to where I am now, looking at the uses of the Arthurian legend under (and mainly by) Edward I and Edward III (and consequently the failure to use it by Edward II).  Looking back, I think I’d write on any of those subjects, except for perhaps the Black Death–which is fine, since the Plague has been done to death (no pun intended).  But if I have to change my thesis topic, would I be able to do any of those?  The Hundred Years War, perhaps, since my second reader is a specialist in French history.  But this having been said, I don’t read or speak French (though I have to learn).  It would be a difficult project to gather primary source material for.

The medieval period is something I’m fascinated by and would rather write about than the Renaissance, which I have a feeling would be the period I would end up having to write about, simply based on the makeup of the department.  But we’ll have to see.  I was blessed to work under one of the most preeminent medieval historians of the past thirty years, but cursed to lose that mentorship before my thesis was complete.  Only time will tell what’s going to become of the work I began under his tutelage.

Never say never

Never let it be said that when you write your thesis or your dissertation that no one will read it in the future, since that’s simply not the case.  I have yet to e-mail the advisor on this particular thesis, but I’ll let the cat out of the bag right now:  I’m fascinated by a Ph.D thesis out of the University of Minnesota from 2004.  The thesis in question is on St. George of England and English national identity–a subject I’ll at the very least touch on in my own thesis on the uses of the Arthurian legend during the reigns of Edward I (r. 1272-1307), Edward II (r. 1307-1327), and Edward III (r. 1327-1377), since the sense of identity and “Englishness” plays a role in why the image of King Arthur was used during these reigns.

Amusingly (as almost a side note) the thesis cites my advisor’s work on pilgrimages and miracles in the first chapter.  Go figure (then again, totally not surprised, since it is a saint’s cult and the image of the patron saint of England that’s being discussed in the thesis, after all).

In any case, it’s bloody hard to borrow anyone’s thesis–really, really hard, since most universities don’t lend them.  I have to shoot an e-mail to the history department at the University of Minnesota to thank them so much for letting me borrow this text.  I’ve already found quite a few references that I’ve ordered or will be pulling from Kresge Library at OU so I can take a peek at them based on what he’s gleaned out of them for his work–things that it seems to me may well be important for my work.

So, wherever you are, Dr. Jonathan Good — thank you.  You wrote a monster of a dissertation, and I’m very pleased to have had the chance to read it.