Two months ago, I wrote about how the job search was going for me and some opportunities I’ve been presented. I’m writing an update on how said search for employment is going for me now that I’m midway through the semester and graduation is a little over eight weeks away (jeez, that close! I better rent my cap and gown soon).

As you can probably guess, my dream job is to write full-time. Unfortunately, while I do have a growing audience of people reading my books, at this point in my career it’s not feasible to take up writing full-time if I plan to actually have a roof over my head. After that, I’d really enjoy being part of the writing staff for Doctor Who, but unfortunately that seems to be an invitation-only sort of gig and at this time I’m not on Steven Moffat’s radar (though if he’s interested, I’ve got plenty of ideas for stories I’d love to pitch to him). So I’m currently looking for jobs that fit my abilities and are probably easier to obtain than being a BBC staff writer.

Thankfully, a few jobs that I’ve applied to are looking pretty good. Remember in my last post I mentioned a government program that helps people with disabilities get government jobs? Well, that led to a phone interview with a certain civilian branch of the military that went pretty well and I might be able to get a position with them. I won’t know anything till April or May at the earliest though, so I’m waiting to hear back.

I also applied to a few more jobs, and they look promising. I’m currently waiting to hear back from a number of places, and this coming week when I can I’ll be doing some more applications. I’m also applying to jobs in Columbus and in the general area, so my fingers are crossed that one of these will pan out. And I’ve signed up to possibly go to Israel with Masa, a program that takes college students and graduates and immerses them in Israeli culture for several months through college courses, graduate studies, and even internships. That could lead to so much if I end up going on a Masa program.

You know, I’m relatively lucky that finding a job while I finish up my last semester is one of my few sources of stress. I’m really glad and lucky that I’ve gotten so much experience while working with the financial aid office and I’ve done and learned so much in my life I’m sure it’ll be helpful in years to come.

But still I feel a little anxiety as graduation gets closer. People are interviewing and applying and getting hired around this time, and I worry that I might not be able to get a job by graduation and have to (gasp!) move into my dad’s house and continuing looking for work from there! I don’t want that to happen and I don’t think it will, but you fear it might, especially in the current job market when just having a bachelor’s degree isn’t any guarantee of meaningful employment.

Well, I’ve got to keep trying. As people keep reminding me, the first job search is usually the hardest. Just keep trying and something will stick, and from there it’ll be…well, it’ll be something. Maybe not easier, but it’ll be something. And who knows? I might even hear something from someone reading this blog and that’ll be the one I get! You never know.

In the meantime, I’ve got a thesis to edit, so I’m going to do that and call it a night. Tomorrow there’s homework, more editing, and maybe a job application to do. So wish me luck, my Followers of Fear. I’m going to need it during these next couple of months.

It’s as close to a halfway point as we’re going to get. Normally semesters start on Wednesdays, giving the semester sixteen weeks, plus a week or week and a half for exams. For some reason this semester it started on a Monday, so it’s fifteen this semester, plus exams. We’re halfway through the seventh week of class, so I say time to update people on how my last semester is going.

And going it is, rather fast. I’m having trouble believing it’s the last week of February. I’m also having trouble believing how cold the weather is, but I guess that’s part of the deal when you live in Ohio. Anyway, school is going well. If you don’t know, I have three classes this semester. Business and Professional Writing is taught by one of my favorite teachers, so you know I’m enjoying myself. I’m also learning a lot that I can apply to my professional life, like some tips for job searches and resumes. I’ve already applied some of it by making slight modifications to my resume, and I keep modifying it depending on where I’m applying for a job. Whether or not those modifications are helping, I’ll write an article on that later this week if I get the chance.

History of Magic and Witchcraft in Europe is, as you can probably imagine, full of interesting stuff to learn. It’s not like reading demonologies or the court records of particular witch hunts. It’s more like learning how certain beliefs evolved, how people formed their views on witchcraft and how it came to be demonized. Right now we’re diving into the Malleus Maleficarum, the definitive work on witch-hunting of the Middle Ages. Trust me, it’s heavy stuff. And believe me, I’m getting plenty of inspiration for my own writing, as well as plenty of opportunities to go “Nyah ha ha ha!” like a witch.

History of Magic and Witchcraft in Medieval Europe. If you pass, you get a pointed black hat (I wish).

Restoration and 18th-Century Literature is also pretty interesting. The class is mostly focused on depictions of masculinity in plays and poetry of the era. It’s pretty raunchy stuff (believe it or not, we even read a poem about a living sex toy called Signor Dildo. Hilarious stuff!) and a lot of what we’re reading is pretty comedic. We even read a play I read my first year at Ohio State. It was quite the flashback. Sadly though, the teacher of this class has come down with a sudden illness and has had to cancel class a couple of times because of it. He’s currently rearranging the syllabus due to the missed days and he may have to give up some teaching duties, so I’m hoping and praying he gets better soon. He’s a good guy and I enjoy the subject matter, so I hope he doesn’t have to take off too much time for his health.

And finally, my thesis is coming along great. I’ve been working on the second draft of Rose, and I got two chapters done last night.  I’ve still got a lot of work to do, but I should be ready for my thesis defense in April. I’m meeting with Manny and Paul tomorrow after work to talk about progress in our theses and maybe our defenses, so I guess I’ll have something to write about after that.

Am I forgetting anything else? Well, I guess I can say that I’m on track for graduation in about ten and a half weeks. Still a few things to knock off my checklist, but I’ll get them done before too long. Also, work and home life are going well. I know I’m forgetting something…not the job search, I’m writing about that later this week…oh yeah, now I remember:

After the semester started last month, the Ohio State Buckeyes took on the Oregon Ducks in the National Championship and defeated them 42-20! This is something I’ve been hoping would happen since I started at Ohio State and I’m delighted and proud to say that it happened in my final year. I’m going to have to get a commemorative T-shirt or sweatshirt one of these days. GO BUCKS!

Well, that’s all for now. Lots of editing and other stuff to do. Have a good evening, my Followers of Fear, and stay warm if you’re like me and you’re stuck in a place with lots of snow and chill.

I’ve mentioned a few times on this blog that I’ve been struggling with some story ideas, trying to make them much more terrifying or compelling or just plain better. One is a potential novel, the other is a short story I’ve been struggling with on and off for about nine months or so. Both involve witches, strangely (maybe it’s a sign of something).

The novel has been a big struggle for me. The way I work with potential ideas, I write down a short summary of the story, like a blurb for a back cover, which allows me plenty of time to come up with ways to modify it, come up with new scenes and characters, and whatever else you do when you create a story. For the past couple of months, I’ve been looking into ways to modify this one novel. Maybe it’s been my experience with the initial story path of Rose, which was so expansive and crazy that it required modification and a new outline a month into writing, but I was worried I was going the same direction with this novel idea, and that I had to find some way to simplify it while keeping the original theme the same.

Well, I haven’t been able to think of anything yet. Ideas come to me but they don’t work out, I just shove them aside because they’re not what I’m looking for. I really like this idea, but I can’t think of anything that’ll work for this story. I’m a bit of a perfectionist that way. I don’t want to write a story that I don’t think is any good.

And then today while I was walking to class (to History of Magic and Witchcraft, ironically), I was thinking about this story, wishing that I could think of some way to make the story work and at the same time wishing that the original idea could still work. And then that errant voice that is in all of us, the voice that questions our beliefs and convictions, asked me, “Well, why can’t the original idea still work?” It actually made me pause (metaphorically, I still had to get to class) and think. I looked at the bare-bones idea of the story and thought. It made me realize that the idea’s original plot wasn’t as expansive as I thought it would be. It might make for a long novel, but it wasn’t so expansive that I had to create a whole world in several books. It actually was pretty solid.

Why was I so worried? If I wrote it right, it wouldn’t have the same problems as the initial draft of Rose. In fact, it might work.

So I’m not thinking about how to modify the story right now. Instead I’m thinking of this initial plot, how it could work after all and how I might support it. I’m not too worried about changing the plot. I can make this one work, if I’m careful.

And as for my stubborn short story, I had another idea on how to fix that. Don’t know when I’ll get around to working on that, but the idea will stick in my head for sure.

You know, authors are constantly learning something new, improving their craft and looking for ways to tell better tales. I learned this past fall that you have to be careful not to get too crazy with your story’s plot or you’ll lose the point of your story and it’ll be boring or confusing. That was the problem with my first attempts with Rose, which I made so big and sprawling because I was worried that if I kept it simple it might get boring.

That lesson is important, but one I got today is that you shouldn’t let fear of being too expansive get in the way of trying to make a good story.

Well, that’s all for now. I’m going to get some schoolwork done, and leave it at that for the night. Expect another blog post soon, my Followers of Fear. It’s about halfway through the semester, after all. Until then, goodnight and pleasant nightmares.

(Note: the following post contains some spoilers from various television series. Be a little wary before reading on.)

I watch a lot of TV. Sometimes I think too much. Actually, there’s a strong case to say I watch too much TV But what can I say? A lot of great stuff on TV these days. Serial killers, seven different types of apocalypse, a dozen different types of crime shows, screwball comedy and dramas that twist and turn with every episode. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Isn’t there another way to explain why Annalise is the way she is?

As much as I love TV though, sometimes I think Hollywood might be going in the wrong direction or not thinking things through before they create something. Here’s one thing that’s got my goat recently: in the latest episode of How To Get Away With Murder (SPOILERS!), it was revealed that main character Annaliese Keating, as well as several of her relatives, were raped when they were young, which is why Annaliese has such trust issues and puts up a tough, angry front.

While I do agree that sexual assault could cause this to happen, I have to wonder if it was necessary to use sexual assault as the reason why Annaliese is the way she is. In fact, it makes me wonder why sexual assault is being used as a form of character development in so many different shows. Not just HTGAWM, but Scandal, Reign, Game of Thrones, heck even Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and several more than I could name here.

Now, I may not be the best person to speak about this. Sexual assault or attempted sexual assault has been part of my stories more than once. Heck, I wrote a novel about a young rape victim trying to fight her demons, set within the backdrop of a conspiracy in Washington (now that’s an original idea for a thriller, isn’t it). I plan to rewrite it later this year if possible. But I have to say, how much rape is being used as a form of character development or backstory is rather too much.

Rape is a horrible thing, and it does change the people to whom it happens. But there are other ways to change someone, to make their personalities make sense or to bring them to the next stage of their journey. The loss of the lover, seeing someone die, a war starting, an apocalypse, time travel, a new job, a betrayal, torture, kidnap, etc. Heck, that last one (SPOILERS!) was used in the last three or so episodes of Scandal, and Olivia told Fitz afterwards that there were some things worse than rape. Why is rape being used so much, to the point that it seems to cheapen the tragedy when it happens in real life? Makes it seem like it’s not a big deal, because it happens so often and heck, most of the characters on TV to whom it happens may not be 100% better afterwards but their characters grow and change in interesting ways?

It also says something that it’s used almost entirely with women than with men. Sexual assault of men does happen, but due to a number of reasons is not often reported by the victims themselves or by the mainstream press. And yet when portrayed on TV, almost always it happens to women or children. Men on TV are rare victims, which I can’t help but wonder might be because people don’t want to see that or something along those lines.

So I’m going to finish this post with a request to the heads of the television industry, to the writers and actors and producers and everyone else involved in the TV making process. The next time you wish to use rape in your show, ask if it’s absolutely necessary, if there’s a good reason for it, or if it’s just there to boost ratings and explain why a character is the way s/he is. Because I don’t believe the latter should be used that often. Perhaps something else might do the same sort of thing for your characters and show than what you plan to use. And I think many people would agree with me, maybe even articulate it better than me.

It’s something to think about.

I’ve written about this before several times in some way or another, but every now and then I feel the need to shout out to the Internet, “HEY CREATORS OF HORROR, this is one of your students, one who is coming up in your world. Please, for the love of Edgar Allen Poe, STOP DOING THESE THINGS BECAUSE THEY ARE GODDAMN STUPID AND REALLY DETRACT FROM THE STORIES YOU’RE TRYING TO TELL!” I especially feel this need when I think of the Friday the 13th remake, which is a piece of pornographic, drug-overloaded, cliche-ridden piece of crap from the bum of Michael Bay (figures!).

So with that exclamation and obligatory slam on my least favorite horror remake, I think it’s time to list what needs to be scaled back on or just get kicked out of the horror genre all-together.

Too much gore. Ooh, this is a turnoff to me. Excessive gore isn’t scary, it’s disgusting. If you’re going to use gore, it should be used sparingly. It should add to the terror by being sort of like an accentuation, an additive that adds flavor to the movie or novel’s total fear factor. If you’re relying entirely on gore for your scares, then you’re probably doing something wrong. Look at some of the best slashers out there! Yes, they have gore, but they don’t just rely on it. There’s suspense, surprise, terror, a guy coming out of a dark corner when you least expect him and just scaring the crap out of you before he chases the victim and then pushes them through a window and killing them on broken glass. Now that’s scary.

Too much sin factor. Smoking, drinking, getting high, having sex, swearing like a sailor. A lot of horror films, particularly in the slasher sub-genre, are big on punishing people for their sins. I get it. It’s fun to root for a villain and seeing people getting punished for throwing their lives away.But when it’s so excessive that you wonder if you bought a ticket for a horror movie or if you’re watching one of those teen movies where everyone’s stoned and trying to get laid and there’s a ton of unnecessary swearing involved. Seriously, if you need to spice up things by filming a ton of footage involving sex or drugs or whatever, you might need to get your script looked at by a third party.

The stereotypical man’s man and the believing girlfriend. I hate these sort of characters because they’re so predictable. The former is a normal guy who doesn’t believe in anything supernatural except what’s taught in church, and maybe not even then. The latter’s either a housewife or in a menial job stereotypical for women, and she’s the first to come to the conclusion that something’s weird that happens (unless she has kids, who will recognize the weird before even she will). She tries to convince her husband with his father-knows-best attitude that something’s weird, but he won’t believe it. And even when faced with indisputable proof of the supernatural, he’ll still be somewhat skeptical, and would rather use his tool box or his fists rather than search for a supernatural solution or refer to a specialist. In the end he has to believe his one-dimensional wife or end up dead. It’s been done so often, it’s gotten rather annoying.  Please, switch it up a bit, because it’s so stale we’ll have to throw it out if it doesn’t find a way to become fresh again.

Cheesy effects. I don’t care what your budget is, I’ve seen some amazing things done with effects bought on a budget of only a couple million, or even just ten-thousand dollars. About a month and a half ago I saw this late-night horror film that started out promising. Sadly it didn’t work out that way, and part of it was that the special effects were terrible, and the filmmakers seemed to revel in that by displaying their cheesiness at every second. If they’d tried to at least make it difficult to see what the wolves looked like, it would’ve improved the story so much more (and the film could’ve used the improvement, with that shoddy script). The moral is, even if you can’t use expensive special effects, there are ways to do amazing things with it. You never know what you’ll get.

 

Horror is well known for its tropes and cliches, and often fans of the genre will defend those tropes, saying they actually allow for more flexibility and creativity. However, occasionally these tropes are more problematic than they’re worth and, like the ones above, need to go.

What things in the horror genre would you like to boot entirely? What would you like to see more of?

I’m pretty sure I’ve written about this before, but I feel that it could use a reiteration. If you don’t know, I have a number of ideas for novels, short stories, and articles. During the semesters I usually have a hundred more ideas, which I put down on one of three lists, depending on what sort of idea it is. This can sometimes feel like a double-edged sword, because I have only so much time between school, homework, and my job, among other things, to write. So these ideas just pile up, up, up. And I worry that I won’t be able to write them any time soon. On the other hand, if I go too long without having an idea, I start worrying that I’m losing my creative edge and start looking for new ideas left, right and center.

Lately though I’ve been less anxious, which is odd because I usually have more ideas at this point in the semester than I’ve had lately (maybe it’s the cold?). I’m actually not complaining or feeling too anxious either. I think that might have something to do with how busy I’ve been and how my mind’s been on other things. School, the job search, work, etc. It keeps you busy, so I have less time to worry about how many or few ideas I’m having.

I might also be a bit more mellow than I have been. And I’m actually trying to have more ideas about modifying ideas or stories I already have. I’m thinking of ways to rewrite my novel Laura Horn (which I hope to get around to later this year), There’s that short story I’ve been working on for about eight or nine months. I’m still looking for ways to modify that one till I’m satisfied with it. And I had this one idea for a novel about witches last year, I want to modify the plot to make the story flow better. Just need to figure it out. Perhaps so much of my imaginative powers is being sent in that direction it explains why I haven’t had other ideas.

Well, whatever it means, I doubt I’m losing my creativity. I had an idea for a short story today, and it’s not too shabby. And even if I was, I have about 200 ideas for novels and other long works, and over 400 ideas for short stories. And don’t get me started on articles or blog posts! Plenty of creativity left.

Well, that’s all for now. I plan to do some editing tonight, so wish me luck on that front, my Followers of Fear.

Vaccines are back in the media again after an outbreak of measles got its start in Disneyland and spread to several other states, including Illinois, Georgia, and New York. Several health experts have pointed to parents opting out of vaccinating their children as the root cause of the current outbreak. This shocks me, because in previous generations vaccines were seen as common sense, and they should still be seen as common sense.

Vaccines work by taking a harmful microbe that has either died or been rendered harmless and sending it into the body so that our immune systems can find it, destroy it, and then recognize it when the real thing comes along. When a majority of the population has been vaccinated, preventing the virus from spreading and infecting others, it’s known as herd immunity. There are occasional side effects to getting a vaccine, but the chances of having serious side effects is like filling six football stadiums with people and maybe one person out of all those winning a lottery.

However, for whatever reasons–a false study about links between vaccines and autism, bloggers and message boards recounting horror stories, etc.–many parents, often educated and liberal-leaning, are opting out of vaccinating their children. The result is this current outbreak of measles, because the people spreading and contracting the virus aren’t getting vaccinated against it. And it is even easier to cause this sort of outbreak than most people realize, because herd immunity is actually pretty fragile. When immunization rates in a given population are below 95%, herd immunity is compromised. Yes, you read that figure right. Herd immunity requires 95% immunization rate in order to be effective. And because more Americans are opting out of immunizations than ever before, herd immunity is suffering.

Now, I know that a lot of people are worried about possibly harming their children with possible side effects. It probably doesn’t help that most vaccines are inserted with needles! But time and time again, scientists across the world have confirmed that vaccines are the best route to keeping your child safe and the children of others as well. The study that supposedly linked vaccines with autism has been proven false, the levels of mercury and other metals in vaccines, if present, are negligible, And like I said, serious side effects are rare, and are usually in combination with other factors, such as preexisting medical conditions.

Now I’m probably going to get a few people telling me about this or that story they’ve seen or heard. Let me tell you something: in science testimonies and anecdotes are not accepted as scientific proof of anything. Doctors rely on observable data, not on a possible single datum point told secondhand. This is why doctors and scientists will tell you not to always trust stories told on blogs or public forums, as the story may be altered or information may be missing.

Though if you want to rely only on anecdotes, I have two: last semester I got my flu shot and I’m pretty sure it’s a factor in why I haven’t caught a cold this whole winter, something that hasn’t happened in years! Also, when I was six or seven, I got my second chickenpox shot, as most kids did. I still came down with the chickenpox. But my doctor said that if I hadn’t gotten the vaccine, I might have had to be hospitalized. So vaccines saved me a trip to the hospital, which would’ve probably terrified my young self.

And there’s a reason why this anti-vaccine movement is only occurring in developed nations. It’s because developing nations, where the medicine is more scarce, parents will walk miles and miles to get their kids vaccinations. They know they work, and they’re willing to risk highly unlikely side effects because they want their kids to be healthy.

Look, I’m not a parent. If I was though, I’d get them vaccinated because I don’t want to risk them coming down with something awful, which is much more likely to happen than any possible side effects. And I bet many parents who are suspicious of vaccines would as well if a new disease popped up that was extremely contagious and just as deadly and a vaccine became available. Because when it comes down to it, every parent will go to whatever lengths to protect their child.

What’s your opinions of vaccines? Why?

Do you think there should be consequences for not vaccinating your child? If so, what?

Oh, and if you’re wondering where I got my facts, you can check out this NOVA special from PBS. These guys do their research.