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It’s done.

Finished.

Finito.

The End.

I sat my viva on Tuesday at 1:30. By 3:00 I was congratulated as Dr. A.

YES!

I passed with, really, no corrections, which is a pretty rare thing. I had a boatload of typos and some etymology to look up, but nothing of any real importance to go back and rethink or change. I did my corrections, finished the paperwork, dropped off a hard copy of the 400-page monster to the bookbinders yesterday (the final hard-bound copy will be delivered to the uni next week) and submitted an electronic copy. And that, as they say, was that.

I’ll get my certificate/diploma in the mail in a few weeks and walk in graduation in a month.

How does it feel to be done? WEIRD! Also, pretty damn awesome!

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The tile courtyard is a maze, best viewed from the upper floors.

A few months ago (seriously–when does time slow down again?) we took a day out and went to Kentwell Hall, a 16th-century manor house here in Suffolk. They were having a Tudor Day, and I’ve been missing a “traditional” USian Renaissance Faire type of thing. I think that our Ren Faires are so over the top because, well, we make them up; the history and culture that the Ren Faires celebrate come from here, so the UK doesn’t necessarily feel the need to put up fake villages and dress up in historic dress and gnaw on turkey legs. They’re *surrounded* by it. All the time. Hell, I live in it: I can walk five minutes from my front door and see a tower built in 1120 next to a cathedral from only a few hundred years later.

ANYWAY. Kentwell Hall was glorious. The kitchen (of which I have no pics) was my fave. Ian said he’d never seen me smile so much. I have a thing for historic kitchens. I like rooms that work!

 

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Near the house are several dead trees that have been carved into fanciful, Alice-in-Wonderland type creations.

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Between the Hall and the walled garden is a canal.

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The walled garden is (like the one in my novel) centuries old.

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While we were in the walled garden, a young lad in Tudor-era dress joined us. He spoke in historically accurate language the whole time, and I wondered what his 21st-century self thought of being 16th-century for a weekend, whether he missed his phone and xbox. Or whether it’s just normal to him to follow his parents every odd weekend to do this sort of thing.

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Obligatory flower close up. Forget-me-nots.

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Apple blossoms!

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Gnarly, bent, crooked, beautiful centuries-old apple trees.

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View of the back of the Hall and the topiary Pied Piper parade.

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Okay, so a gargoyle is the correct term for an animal-type sculpture that diverts water from a house, while a grotesque is just the sculpture (without the practical use). I’m not sure what this one is because it’s a human but it’s a water pipe!

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The majority of the faire that day was held in the outer buildings (the barns, etc.), but I loved the vignette of the old wooden wheelbarrow in the rough potager. It looks very much like the woodcuts in Thomas Hill’s books from the same era.

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Uh, so it’s been a stupid busy few months. See, I turned my PhD in yesterday. (Cue parade) Now I am just waiting to sit my viva and then I’ll be The Doctor!

In celebration of finishing that and of my new inability to brain (seriously–I barely left the house or had any days off the past couple of months, and the final dissertation was 142,000 words, not including about 20K more in works cited and appendices. So, I’m tired, eh?)… so in celebration of that, here are pics from, oh, a year ago!

Great Yarmouth is a tourist destination on the seaside. It is full of ‘amusements’: put-put golf, some rides, an aquarium, and arcade/casinos that are FULL of machines that cost 2p. It’s *hella* tacky and fun and I loved it! Also, it reminded me of where I grew up. Exhibits A through….well, take a look:

Because Yarmouth puts the 'Fun' in Caesar's?

Because Yarmouth puts the ‘Fun’ in Caesar’s?

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Uh, the one at home didn’t have grabby machines out front!

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Nope. No buffet!

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At this point I just couldn’t help but laugh.

2014-07-10 14.25.18

Bugsy, SPINNING IN HIS GRAVE!

I promised pics of Bury St Edmuds about…ohhh…EIGHT MONTHS AGO! But, um, the PhD has eaten my brain and my life. So, here ya go. I took these on Christmas morning, hence the ghost-townishness of them!

The Theatre Royal, the UK's only extant  working Regency-era theatre, and a National Trust building. I live behind it.

The Theatre Royal, the UK’s only extant working Regency-era theatre, and a National Trust building. I live behind it.

Across the street from the theatre is the Greene King Brewery, circa 1799. We live in a GK-owned house and are surrounded by several brewery buildings.

Across the street from the theatre is the Greene King Brewery, circa 1799. We live in a GK-owned house and are surrounded by several brewery buildings.

You can take a tour of the brewery starting in the building in the previous pic.

You can take a tour of the brewery starting in the building in the previous pic.

Our closest 'local' (aka, the pub), a 17th-century house that was bought by the Greene King in the late 1800s.

Our closest ‘local’ (aka, the pub), called the Dog & Partridge, a 17th-century house that was bought by the Greene King in the late 1800s.

One of my favorite things about living in such an old place is seeing how the buildings have aged over the centuries. (front window of the D&P)

One of my favorite things about living in such an old place is seeing how the buildings have aged over the centuries. (front window of the D&P)

Bury is full of Tudor-era houses.

Bury is full of Tudor-era houses.

On the walk into town. First we pass St. Mary's, much of it from the 13th-16th centuries, and the burial place of Henry VIII's sister Mary Tudor, once Queen of France.

On the walk into town. First we pass St. Mary’s, much of it from the 13th-16th centuries, and the burial place of Henry VIII’s sister Mary Tudor, once Queen of France.

Next door is St Edmundsbury Cathedral, once part of the old Abbey and mostly rebuilt in the early 16th century. The new tower, smaller than the original, was finished only 10 years ago.

Next door is St Edmundsbury Cathedral, once part of the old Abbey and mostly rebuilt in the early 16th century. The new tower, smaller than the original, was finished only 10 years ago.

Behind the cathedral are the abbey ruins.

Behind the cathedral are extensive abbey ruins.

Squirrel!

Squirrel!

And abbey gate still stands as an entrance to the abbey gardens.

And abbey gate still stands as an entrance to the abbey gardens.

One view inside the abbey gate.

One view inside the abbey gate.

Looking toward town from the abbey gate.

Looking toward town from the abbey gate.

Up Abbeygate Street to the shops.

Up Abbeygate Street to the shops.

On Wednesdays and Saturdays this street is full of market stalls. There has been a market in Bury for *hundreds* of years.

On Wednesdays and Saturdays this street is full of market stalls. There has been a market in Bury for *hundreds* of years.

This square is also full of market stalls twice a week. And yep, that's a Starbucks in the corner next to the Marks & Spenser!

This square is also full of market stalls twice a week. And yep, that’s a Starbucks in the corner!

The newer shopping district, called the Arc.

The newer shopping district, called the Arc, with flats above the shops.

The Cathedral tower in the background, with Victorian-era chimney pots and the Norman Tower (1120s) on the left.

The Cathedral tower in the background, with Victorian-era chimney pots and the Norman Tower (1120s) on the left.

Close-up of the Normal Tower.

Close-up of the Normal Tower.

The Abbey Gardens, May 2015, looking all pretty and fluffy!

The Abbey Gardens, May 2015, looking all pretty and fluffy!

Aaaaand, home.

Aaaaand, home.

Research PhDs here in the UK are three years, plus one. That final year is called your “writing up” year, the year when you take all of the stuff you’ve researched over the previous handful of years and put it down on paper in some semblance of order and cleverness. I officially entered my writing-up year in September, which means that I MUST turn in at the very end of August…or not graduate.

So far I have 90,000+ words of the novel. It is *very nearly* finished. I just need to write the very very end, an end I didn’t even know until just before Christmas. But I’ve not had the time to finish it because all I’ve worked on lately is the dissertation (plus a freelance gig that ate much of a week).

The dissertation, also known as the commentary, is a 25,000-30,000 word analysis of what I have done: that is, of what I set out to do with the novel and how it worked out. I worked on the final draft of the novel up until Christmas eve. Then I took about 5 days OFF. Then worked for a couple of days on the dissertation, and then took New Years Eve and the next day off. And then…

I’ve been working pretty much non-stop since then. Yesterday was my first real full day OFF OFF, in which I left the house, did something fun, and didn’t look at a computer screen. (I spent most of January in pajamas, which have become dubbed my “office clothes.”) For most of the month I’ve been working 8-12 hours a day, pounding out a draft of this monster. It’s due by 9am on the 13th. I had pieces of a draft before all of this, but I realised in October that I had to totally restructure it.

As it stands now, it is an introduction, five chapters, and a conclusion. The chapters:
Chapter One: Borders: Historic Fantasy, Magic, and Placing [novel title] in Context
Chapter Two: The Garden as a “Time-Space”: The Chronotope, Characterisation, and Verisimilitude
Chapter Three: Heterotopias: Setting, Structure, and Narrative Distance
Chapter Four: The Hortus Conclusus: Metaphor and Revision (or something like that)
Chapter Five: Spatialization: Writing Myself into the Garden (or something like that)

My reference list (what I’ve looked at, read, and taken notes from) numbers somewhere around 250 books. I’ve taken over 1,000 photographs on field visits, watched numerous TV shows (on gardens, history, etc.), visited too many museums, conducted interviews, written short fiction related to the project, written and presented academic papers related to this, too. And it all comes down to the next few months, to a novel and a dissertation and how well I can justify what I’ve done.

If you’re ever thinking of doing a PhD, seriously consider how well you deal with criticism, rejection, lack of sleep, few days off, a bad diet, your health breaking down on you (I’m not kidding), and your mental health taking a beating, all with no guarantee of any sort of job or income at the end. I am doing all of this with the knowledge that what I will have (all I will have) at the end is a Dr. before my name. Is that enough for you?

Mea culpa. I’m busy. Like, STUPID busy. So back to the list of stuff to tell you all about!

Visiting Ely

 

Ely Cathedral, viewed from the back where there is a lovely cafe/tea house with garden seating. And baby ducks waddling around. For whatever reason, Ely is a 'city' because it has a cathedral. Bury St Edmunds, however, is only a town. Go figure.

Ely Cathedral, viewed from the back where there is a lovely cafe/tea house with garden seating. And baby ducks waddling around. For whatever reason, Ely is a ‘city’ because it has a cathedral. Bury St Edmunds, however, is only a town, but is way bigger and has way more shopping. Go figure.

Inside the cathedral. That ceiling!

Inside the cathedral. That ceiling!

What happened when I had two suspicious moles removed (well, maybe I won’t tell you about that…)
You really don’t want to know. It’s TMI.

Sissinghurst with visitors from the States

Ely was in May. Not too long after that, some lovely visitors from the states came and a bunch of us went to Sissinghurst for a look round. I’d been before (so no pics here), but many others in our group hadn’t. And a lovely time was had by all!

Presenting a paper at the British Country House 1914-2014 conference in Newcastle
Presenting a paper at the Great Writing International Creative Writing conference in London

Part of the ridiculous business this year was the result of having to prepare presentations for two academic conferences, both in June. I presented a paper about time in gardens in children’s novels that are set in English Heritage/National Trust or otherwise very historic houses. It was an interesting conference because it was academic but geeky at the same time; a boatload of smarty-pants people who love ‘house-pr0n’ in books and films, all talking for two days. At the second conference, I presented a paper about finding the theme of a story or novel that you’re writing and not getting caught up in the idea of a moral or lesson. You can blame fairy tales and the Victorians and Disney for that. Well, partially. But in any event, the presentation went rather well, and it’s something I’d love to be able to condense to show to my writing students one day.

Going to Belgium for a couple of days

I went to Brussels back in October 2010, but it was nice to go again and see more of the place.

Chocolate shops That is all.

Chocolate shops. That is all.

The last time I saw the square, it was dark and rainy. This time, the sun shone and made the gold glow.

The last time I saw the square, it was dark and rainy. This time, the sun shone and made the gold glow.

This goose just cracked me up.

This goose just cracked me up.

After two days in Brussels, we went to Passchendaele. I had no idea until then just how many of the bodies were buried without being identified.

After two days in Brussels, we went to Passchendaele. I had no idea until then just how many of the bodies were buried without being identified.

Seeing the Tour de France

So, I didn’t realise it, but the Tour de France spends the first three days in NOT France. They came to Cambridge this summer, and we totally had to go.

BUNTING! This stuff was *everywhere* in Cambridge. Some was knitted--so cute!--but I didn't get a pic of it.

BUNTING! This stuff was *everywhere* in Cambridge. Some was knitted–so cute!–but I didn’t get a pic of it.

Before the race got going, there was a  parade . It was a bunch of cars & vans from sponsors, some throwing freebies into the crowd. Like pens and keyrings. This is a French supermarket chain. They threw NOTHING. Not even cheese!

Before the race got going, there was a “parade”. It deserves the quotation marks. It was a bunch of cars & vans from sponsors, some throwing freebies into the crowd. Like pens and keyrings. This is a French supermarket chain. They threw NOTHING. Not even cheese!

Before the race, each rider was introduced and had to go up on stage to sign in. For whatever reason, the MCs were American and pronounced in Cayum-bridge, which people in the US don't even do when talking about the city in Massachusetts!

Before the race, each rider was introduced and had to go up on stage to sign in. For whatever reason, the MCs were American and pronounced in Cayum-bridge, which people in the US don’t even do when talking about the city in Massachusetts!

As close as I could get to the line. Watching a bile race in real life is sort of a 10-second thing: ZOOM they all whiz past, and then they're gone.

As close as I could get to the line. Watching a bile race in real life is sort of a 10-second thing: ZOOM they all whiz past, and then they’re gone.

Finding out that I’ve been named as a guest at a SFF con
Getting ready for NineWorlds GeekFest, LonCon3 and British Fantasy Con
Being a panelist at the con
Going to LonCon3 as a volunteer and a panelist

These are all related, so…
I did three cons this year: Nine Worlds GeekFest, LonCon3 (World Con) and British Fantasy Con. One day I checked the Nine Worlds site to see updates, and found out that I’d been named as a guest! You can find me near the bottom of this page.

Doing three cons nearly back-to-back was exhausting but awesome. At Nine Worlds I did two panels, one on ‘school stories’ and the other on sex & love in SFF lit, which was so much fun (and 18 and over only crowd). I did a more extensive write-up and included pics on my ‘official’ blog. I also got to take part in a New Voices reading and share a piece of my PhD novel to a standing-room-only crowd, which was amazing. After Nine Worlds, I had time to go home, do laundry, pack, and head back to London for LonCon3.

At LonCon3, I was a volunteer and helped with set-up in the exhibits hall, part of which was getting a 20-foot-long stuffed dragon to STAY on top of the wall of a 3-sided booth. That’s one for the CV! I was also on panels, and have blogged more and posted pics about it here. The vibe was different from that of Nine Worlds; part of that has to do with the size of the con (LonCon had 8,000 people). While I was there, I found out that I’d sold a new story! (YAY!) There will be a Kickstarter for it, starting soon. I’ll try to find time to share info here, but the story will be my first official SF sale, so I can now add another genre to my collection🙂

On the second day of LonCon, my throat started to feel scratchy, so I figured that talking non-stop for nearly a week was taking its toll. On the last night of the con I started coughing. Not a good sign. I ended up with the worst case of con crud I’d ever had. I’d not been that sick since pneumonia three years before. I was home sick for close to three weeks. It wasn’t pretty and even included a chest x-ray.


Selling a story and then signing books at a launch for the anthology
Having my short story turned into a chapbook that was put into goody bags at Nine Worlds

A couple of years ago, a friend who is also an awesome editor invited me to submit a short story to an anthology he was putting together. Because of PhD stuff and life stuff, I missed that deadline. It made me feel like such a heel. Luckily he understood and extended another invitation, and so last year (this time last year to be exact) I sent him a short story that matched the brief of order vs chaos in science from 1660-1860. He loved my story “Fairchild’s Folly” and it is included in Irregularity. One of the coolest things is that I got to be part of my first official book signing! We signed in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.

Me. In front of the Museum. In a dress.

Me. In front of the Museum. In a dress.

Before we signed in the gift shop, several authors form the anthology did short readings standing below a collection of ship figureheads.

Before we signed in the gift shop, several authors form the anthology did short readings standing below a collection of ship figureheads.

Fiarchild's Folly, bite-sized!

Fiarchild’s Folly, bite-sized!

 

My editor is so cool and loves the story so much that he hired an artist, had a cover designed, and made it  into a chapbook. Many were dropped into the goody bags at Nine Worlds, I have a few, and he kept some more for review copies. How cool is that? The story has also got some really nice mentions in reviews!

And so that ends this catch-up. Whew!

Up soon: the Kickstarter for my next anthology, moving (yes, I know, another town–but it’ll include lots of   pics), PhD stuff (surprised?), teaching maybe, and the run-up to Xmas!

 

 

To continue with the list of ALL THE THINGS:

Eastercon in Glasgow (I went to Edinburgh right before)

So this year the con was a bit of a hike, up to Scotland. As you saw from my previous post, I spent a few days in Edinburgh before heading to Glasgow. As it was, I didn’t see any of Glasgow apart from the train station, the con hotel, and a pizza hut in the town centre. I wasn’t on panels and had no ‘professional’ role at this con, so I had a long weekend of fun with my friends.

This fun included trying on tiny hats!

This fun included trying on tiny hats!

And even tinier hats!

And even tinier hats!

All topped off by seeing the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre LIVE! This was,  seriously, one of the highlights of my time in Scotland. I've loved the SFSPT for years and so got in early to sit front & centre. My friends weren't familiar, but afterwards said how hilarious it was. Converted!

All topped off by seeing the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre LIVE! This was, seriously, one of the highlights of my time in Scotland. I’ve loved the SFSPT for years and so got in early to sit front & centre. My friends weren’t familiar, but afterwards said how hilarious it was. Converted!

Want more of the list? OF COURSE YOU DO!

Finishing teaching for the year and then spending 2 weeks marking papers:

This last year was very teaching heavy. I taught 3 classes a week, all the same class (which I’ve discussed here before). After Easter break, there were only a few weeks of classes left, and then the marking pile happened. Three classes, 45 students, a portfolio of 3 fiction pieces from each student, plus an essay from each. PLUS two longer packets from my two BA students. PLUS another 8 sets for double-marking a colleague’s work.

This took two weeks to do. One of the reasons why I didn't get a whole lot of PhD work done this spring!

NOt the whole pile. This took two weeks to do. One of the reasons why I didn’t get a whole lot of PhD work done this spring!

 

Coming up next time:

Visiting Ely
What happened when I had two suspicious moles removed (well, maybe I won’t tell you about that…)
Sissinghurst with visitors from the States
Presenting a paper at the British Country House 1914-2014 conference in Newcastle
Presenting a paper at the Great Writing International Creative Writing conference in London
Going to Belgium for a couple of days
Seeing the Tour de France
Finding out that I’ve been named as a guest at a SFF con
Selling a story and then signing books at a launch for the anthology
Getting ready for NineWorlds GeekFest, LonCon3 and British Fantasy Con
Having my short story turned into a chapbook that was put into goody bags at Nine Worlds
Being a panelist at the con
Going to LonCon3 as a volunteer and a panelist
Getting con crud as a result of two cons in two weeks
Finding out I sold another story (SF this time!)
Finding a new place to live and getting ready to move