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If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball.

August 15, 2012



Now that we have the Dodgeball reference out of the way, I thought I’d give you an update on my thesis. For one, it’s still happening. Since my last post, I’ve timeline’d and had some plot thoughts and then some dashed plot thoughts and then re-built plot thoughts and some baby names ideas which are truly terrible and my future partner should really, really dissuade me from using them (Aethelred, guys. It sounds so brave and fierce. And Eanna for a girl because pretty, yes?). By timeline, I don’t mean the Facebook look, the actual thing you do in history classes. Anywaddle, onward:

After finding my monks and watching some Olympic dressage, I decided that I needed to timeline historical events. My monks won’t be involved in all the events, but I as the author need to know what’s happened. Certain older characters would see the events and/or know the stories.

At first, I was a bit confused on what year to start: Mom suggested going all the way back to the building of Newgrange in 3200 BCE. You can read more about that here, but it would be too much information for what I’m doing and the time limit I have. And really, as it stands now my story would only be in Ireland for a chapter or two. Checking Anglo-Saxon England, the first Viking raid was in 835 at the Isle of Sheppey. The resident peoples were curious about their visitors: I mean, you live in one village all your life and suddenly these really muscular blonde people show up in these weird boats. What is all that about. Anyway, they send the local reeve (a reeve is the city magistrate i.e. the guy in charge when the lord is away) to figure out what these guys are all about. As the reeve rides up, the Vikings cut off his head. That answered that question.

Zooming back to the present, I browsed the internet for a satisfactory timeline and chose this one. It seems pretty detailed and it covers more than what I want, which is good in case I need an obscure reference. I decided to end at 901, a decade after the monks arrive in England. To better acquaint myself with the timeline, I literally copied it in dry erase marker on my bedroom mirrors and proceeded to stare and think at it upside down from my bed for a good 20 minutes after it was finished. What I garner from this experience is a) if I buy a place of permanent residence quality, I need a white board and b) I’ve watched enough BBC Sherlock to get to the point I do things like this and then want tea and then realize I have no “John” to go make me tea so I grumble, get up, and make my own damn tea so I can go back to staring into space thinking.

What I was thinking about was Wrench #1 is Natalie’s Plot Plan. When I wrote “Portraits,” I didn’t look up the date of the monks–I just remembered they existed. I assumed they boated it to Cornwall in the late 860s/870s, which was the highest point of Viking activity and raiding. Post-871 there are not one but TWO Viking armies mucking about the countryside. As we learned in the last post, my monks came in 891, when the fighting was basically over according this timeline. The Welsh were being mischievous but I was sad that I couldn’t have the Vikings. ):

Despite the sadness, I copied the internet timeline into a Word document. I then re-re-re-re-read the chapter in Anglo-Saxon England that focused on Alfred, adding to the internet timeline the dates author FM Stenton thought was important. I have at least another chapter to do this to, but this one is most important. It actually took longer than I thought because every 5 or so sentences there’s a date of something happening.

During this experience, I found a fix to Wrench #1. After the Battle of Edington in 878, the Viking raiding pretty much left England until 892 where they made a return appearance. An important difference in this second crop-up is that Alfred gives them a huge run for their money: the Viking forces don’t get to pillage as much because they’re too busy running back and forth across the county trying to not get killed by very angry, newly fortified, and very fed-up Saxons. I was pleased.

During this time, I also had some thoughts about Mary, the village girl character. I don’t want her to be the stereotypical English village girl, who is apparently a clumsy airhead headed for a large age-gap marriage? I’m actually not very familiar with this stereotype, so if anyone could give me thoughts on what the stereotype is, or perhaps what they think a regular English village girl is like, that’s would be awesome. As of right now, I’m thinking her personality is close to another character I’ve created previously. Her plotline is getting away from her village, deciding to stick to the monks, and having a bit of a thing for Maclinmun, which makes Dubslane freak out a bit.

My other thoughts were concerned with how to kill Macbeth, the third monk. If you recall, I only wanted to do this series with two, so I’m thinking Macbeth (and I chose that one because to temptation to stick/compare to Shakespeare is too great) would chose for religious reasons to not get involved in magic-pagan-binding-ritual. I’m not sure if the binding would be a curse or a blessing. If it’s a blessing, it could be that on the way to Ireland’s coast, the monks stop by Maclinmun’s village and they perform the ritual as a way to ensure the monks are safe. If it’s a curse, the Vikings would have to capture them at some point and then curse them to never enter the afterlife but continually live on to see the sorrows of the world. Macbeth would miss out on this either because a) the Vikings killed him previously or b) he’s off to get someone to save them. Decisions. What do you think?

In any case, I finished timeline-ing Anglo-Saxon England this afternoon and moved on a biography of Alfred I found at the Camarillo Library, Alfred the Great, the Man Who Made England by Justin Pollard. My plan for this book is to only timeline the decade I’m most interested in 891-901. I don’t know if my book will span a decade, especially since Alfred dies in 899, but better safe than sorry.

The exciting bit about THIS book is what I found while flipping through the glossy photo centerfold. Under a picture of a ruined monastery is this caption “The monastery of Clonmacnoise was home to Irish Scholar Suibne, whose death was reported to Alfred by the pilgrims Dubslaine, Macbethath, and Maelinmuin who, after a perilous sea voyage from Ireland, found themselves cast up at his court.”


I frantically checked the index and found that a good couple paragraphs are dedicated to them. BRILLIANCE. Most of it is the same information I found previoy, but I did garner three important bits of information. First, the alternate spellings of their names. Second, the scribe that died was named Suibne. Third, the monks were given food, water, and money in exchange for their information, and the trio immediately set off for Rome (and perhaps afterwards Jerusalem).

This is Wrench #2. My monks definitely do not stay with Alfred to encounter Vikings. They leave the country entirely. Bugger.

BUT THEN I had evil plot thoughts. So they leave Alfred….but who says they never come back? The Viking forces of 892 land at Appledore and Milton. The monks as I have them are not very worldly people: they think they can live in a world without killing when the typical Viking warrior greets strangers by cutting off their head. Appldore is nearish to Cornwall….if I say they left late 891 they could conceivably find Alfred, leave Alfred, travel, find some Vikings, flip out, and go back to warn Alfred. This is EXCELLENT.

The last branch of thesis research I’ve been doing is reading Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet, which has been fascinating and informative (I’m going to write a book review on that, so heads up). Ideally before I go back to school, I’d like to have my timeline done, a story outline, at least 7 pages of actual story, and Pillars mostly finished. I have one other fiction book I’d like to bring and hopefully read for reference as well.

*rolls up metaphorical sleeves*

In the meantime, I’m happy about some books I ordered last time. Some came today! The titles are Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs, A Beginner’s Guide and A Victorian Flower Dictionary: the Language of Flowers Companion by Mandy Kirkby. Guess who’s going to have more flowers in her poetry? Me. The third one that came was the one I forgot to tell you about: The Vikings: a history by Robert Ferguson. Invisible Ninja Cat, please still bring your book, but now I have back up. Now I’m only waiting for the Scotland one.

Random fun fact of this post: in the time period I’m talking about England is actually divided into about four different kingdoms: Northumbria, East Anglia, Merica, and Wessex. In 840, King Wiglaf of Mercia dies, leaving the throne to his grandson Wigstan. Wigstan doesn’t really want to be king, preferring religious life. His mother, Princess Elfeda acts as regent and it’s all fine (and yay female rulers) until Berthtric, who is from the royal line via the late King Beornred, asks for Princess/Queen/Regent Elfeda’s hand. Since Wigstan is technically in charge, Wigstan is allowed to speak his mind and say “no ew, you’re creepy and just want to be king.” Berhtric has a huge tantrum, murders Wigstan, seizes the Mercian throne and puts his father Beorhtwulf up as king. That all takes place in ONE YEAR. The Anglo-Saxons are so intense, guys. I love it.


From → Thesis

One Comment
  1. Andromachus permalink

    I share your excitement at having found your characters’ models in history; and remark that the stereotype of “English Village Girl” is decisive, hard-working, resourceful, sensible, and tenacious, unless she is enamored (in which case, all her skills and wits are defunct). ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles’ and Jas. Herriot’s wife ‘Helen’ are examples.

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