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Chasing Footnotes & not knowing what century or country I’m in anymore

August 29, 2012

I’d like to begin this post with a quote:

“Writers, especially poets, are particularly prone to madness. There exists a striking association between creativity and manic depression. Why are more creative people prone to madness? They have more than average amounts of energies and abilities to see things in a fresh and original way–then because they also have depression, I think they’re more in touch with human suffering.”–Unknown

Because, basically, yes.

I keep finding a lead in research and doing some super focused OH-MY-GOSH-YES internet and timelining/outlining and then suddenly all the energy is gone and I’m taking a nap in a weird position with my elbow sticking up and my face smashed into a mattress. And then in my head I keep switching languages and reference sets. For example, I literally asked someone “of what are you talking?” a couple days ago and earlier today couldn’t think of the American equivalent of “peckish.” More interesting, I wrote something in more or less internet-speak (including phrases like “aw yis,” “what the fuck,” “O.o,” and “boy-kissing”) and lots of untranslated-for-other-people mental notes. I was all excited about it and showed it to my parents. My parents were very confused and not as amused as I was. Whoops. Maybe it’s because I listened to the music on this Sherlock vid for like three hours last night while working. It’s catchy and cool your argument is invalid but yeah normal people don’t do that but I never claimed to be normal alright But more on that later!

Okay, so! After the last thesis blog post, I have more or less finished my historical timeline for my story. I have it all on one Word document, which is going to drop-boxed to other people’s computers like nobody’s business, so if I know you and suddenly you have a document called “835+ Thesis Timeline” that’s me and I love you and thanks for being my backup in case my computer crashes.

Next, I needed details about what everyday life was like in ninth century England (and Ireland, as it were). I took notes from Pollard’s Alfred biography and am now digging through Anglo-Saxon England. It’s a bit slow-going since the Danes coming to pillage destroyed and changed a lot of life-ways. Alfred, too, is a bit of revolutionary and reorganized. But it’s truly fascinating. It was the first time England was one whole unit and the usual Saxon king did everything in endless tours of his domain. But Alfred’s territory was too big for that, so he built a whole governmental administration that, for the first time in a long time, required literacy. The king would send messages, sealed and officiated, that detailed what he wanted. Or better yet, Alfred translated books from the language-for-the-elite-only Latin into (the then everyday, now considered Old) English. Some books like Pastoral Care said what the ideal bishop/priest/judge/reeve did and Alfred trusted his officials to follow through. There were books for comfort and pleasure too, like The Consolation of Philosophy (Lady Philosophy visits the author while he awaits a torturous execution and they discuss the vanity of the world) and Pope Gregory the Great’s Dialogues (anthology of magical tales that demonstrated the power of prayer). Others were translated in order to boost national feeling and give them a common history: Orosius’s Seven Books of History Against the Pagans and Bede’s History of the English Church and People. The Orosius work records the history of the world from creation to 4th century Rome and was written to prove that the world was as complicated and sorrowful under Pagans as it was under Christians (the new Christian Rome was having problems and people were starting to think it was nicer under pagan rulers). Bede’s work does what it says on the tin and goes to the eighth century.


Yeah, you read that right. THIS STORY IS OUTLINED SO HARD. Am I going to show it to you? No, because a) spoilers, sweetie, b) people may filch it, and c) I’m still tinkering. Besides, I’ll probably rant on here about stuff I have to research and you can piece it together from there. I will tell you that it’s turning into a bit of an adventure with a side-dish of mystery story. Since I couldn’t decide on whether the reincarnation thing was a blessing or a curse, both are happening like a boss. The ending is also not what I was expecting because Mary is basically the Yoko to my monk Beatles.

The aforementioned tinkering is happening because I’m not completely satisfied with the level of research on societal structure and I have to do some character research. Alfred, the monks, the monks’ head scribe, and some of Alfred’s entourage are historically real. That and I need to purchase a HUGE map of England, Ireland, and France because everyone’s running all around and I need geography to make sense. I seriously have like 6 different tabs of Google maps open and I am not satisfied.

Plus, there’s the monk babies’s whole monastery’s background, what they would have learned there etc. My dad suggested having a character index as part of my outline, which sounded good since then I don’t have to keep it in my head and people can easily read what I’m thinking. BUT REALLY GUYS, I’ve never realized how easy non-historical fiction writers have it. I go to Google and get a certain number of hits, or in one case a single hit, and the information I want is ALL THE REALLY WEIRD FOOTNOTES. I’m basically going through really old, out-of-copyright books’ laundry and finding references. They seem to be mostly mentioned in passing and with different name spellings (WHY?). One source, Two of the Saxon Chronicles Parallel by John Earle, thinks Maelinmuin (aka Maclinmun aka fulfilling the Caibre role in my story) later pops up as the anchorite of Glendalough, but he is the only person on the internet that has this assumption, or even mentions a Maelinmuin as an anchorite. His book was published in 1865 and is now a free Google eBook that I have downloaded. Also mostly in Old Gaelic and Old English. Yup. Fun.

Thinking about it though, I am really glad I have the internet. It’s amazing that I was able to access all this information without leaving the comfortable companionship of my laptop.

BESIDES all that, I wanted to tell you about some fictional books I’ve been reading. I’ve already had a whole post about The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (click here if you missed it). The reason I’m reading books like these are because I want to see how other authors are treating “the medieval voice.” How are the characters talking, how do they describe things, what sort of poetic language do they use etc. There’s also the fact that they have already done lots of research and then written about it, so I, like an authorial vulture, can glean from them what a scriptorium looks like without having to look it up myself.

A Stolen Tongue by Sheri Holman–(takes place in Summer 1483) I found this book really impressive. Seriously. The book chronicles the pilgrimage of historical figure Father Felix Fabri to Jersusalem and Mount Sinai along which his world is turned upside down several times. The tumbling comes from the seamlessly interwoven historical and fictional suspenseful mystery surrounding the disappearing relics of St. Katherine of Alexandria, who Felix is spiritually married to and who forms the nucleus of a brother and sister’s insanity storm. You never really know who is right and who to trust in this book (even Felix is somewhat cast in doubt). Very exciting! The level of poetic language and musing was exactly right, the characters were believable and heartrending. Anyone who is interested in saints and mysticism really needs to read it. I feel like if you’re not familiar with Catholicism, saints, or mysticism, it’s going to be quite a trippy ride don’t do drugs, children since at some point I was getting the chills and wondering what I was even reading and I am Catholic. Nothing against non-Catholics or Christians, but I’m familiar with these sorts of things happening or being thought. Non-Christians, strap on your seat-belts and put on protection goggles because it’s going to be one bumpy ride.

The Sin Eaters by Andrew Beahrs– (takes place in Jacobean England) This book gets all the ~feelings~ Ahhhh my heart! This is quite the introspective piece with so much poetic language that you could grab fistfuls of it and chuck it at a wall and the resulting ink stain would last a week. There’s also lots of beautiful countryside description and flowers. It switches points of view among its characters and a lot of the introspection relates past events and the consequences of sin eating/sin. The main plot revolves around Sarah, an elderly village healer, who is driven from her home by marauders who take it over. She exacts her revenge and their leader Sam Ridley pursues her over hill and dale. Sarah gains traveling companions: the ever faithful Bill Palmer, a sin eater, and Mary, a girl escaping a loveless marriage. I’d never heard of sin-eating before, but it’s a phantasmic concept. The Anglican religion didn’t have a way of confessing or attaining forgiveness for earthly sins. Fearful of their loved ones’ souls, people would put wine and bread on the deceased for a night, believing the representative blood and body of Christ would absorb the person’s sins. They would then give a sin-eater the meal and he (or she) would take on the sins of the deceased. ISN’T THAT COOL? I like it. Bill’s my favorite.

Yeps. That’s all I got for you now. In the meantime, have an extended advert for CBS’s Elementary. I have decided that this Holmes and Watson are going to be super adorable.


From → Thesis

  1. I will disagree about Elementary, because I’m sorry, but Watson as a female ruins EVERYTHING. It’s too PC. On that note, I’ve updated my Sherlock fic, so check it out, dear.

    As for your thesis…. I’D LOVE TO BE YOUR BACKUP IN CASE YOUR COMPUTER DIES. I’d also be more than happy to help proof-read, beta as it were… whatever you need!!! I think it would be a great way for me to get a better idea of what I might end up doing for my own thesis, and just to repay you for all the AMAZING work you’ve done on my work. 😀

    And yes, I will be laughing at you all year. I can’t help it. Thesis. It’s like, the funniest word ever. I give you full permission to laugh at me next year. 😀

    • THAT WOULD ALL BE AMAZING, THANK YOU. Ah yes, “thesis”…And if you have “theses” it’s even worse because is sounds like “feces.” 😀

  2. “This is quite the introspective piece with so much poetic language that you could about grab fistfuls and chuck them at wall and the resulting ink stain would last a week.” Awesome sentence my dear. I can relate to your feelings of depression and madness whilst in the throws of brain sparking creativity, but don’t get too carried away with it. We’re all just human flesh and blood when all is said and done. It would appear however that all your juices are flowing at the moment and i say keep it up! You have a wonderful start to your first great novel. And I think you would really hit it off with Dr, Faggen, if you ever get the chance to interact with him in some fashion. He is the supreme guru of research, and I’m not just talkin’ the internet honey. He uses every source possible and must have one helluva system for keeping track of it all and prioritizing each little tidbit he runs across, to determine what to investigate further. Ask him about that. And tell him your dear old dad sent you. Love you Boffo.

  3. agrippinathebadass permalink

    Dude I seriously cannot WAIT to read your thesis. Please please know that if you want someone to edit or just to talk over ideas with you, I LOVE EDITING THINGS. I admire you so much for committing to such a project. Also, I don’t know about Elementary…. It seems too gimmicky to me, and I wish they would have just made Sherlock American, instead of a British expat. It seems to defeat the purpose of “American updated Sherlock Holmes.” Not to mention that this actor’s accent is so lackluster when compared to Benny Cumberbrows’.

    • ….”Benny Cumberbrows”
      Sorry, I just…that is brilliant. Anyway, uh…yes, I will probably be knocking on doors for editors and objects to rant at/get input/test ideas on. Thank you so much for the volunteering! There might be cake at the end. As for “Elementary,” yes it will probably be made of Dubliner cheese and I will like it and throw frustrated popcorn at it all at once. I feel like I should just write a post on Elementary now, just because. And no one’s voice can produce the same effect as Mr. Cumberbatch’s. It could be weaponized it’s got so much POWER.

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