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Monthly Archives: March 2012

Time to break out the ironing board, ladies and gents, it’s my second job interview in the course of a week.

Under normal circumstances, this would be my first of two days off, but instead, I’m going to be going to interview for a forty hour a week job, that holy grail that we’re taught as children that we must achieve in order to be a real adult. This is a big deal, not because it would give me that immense psychological validation and approval from my parents (though it would do both of those things, I suppose), but because it would be something more than the part-time jobs I’ve been working for the last couple of years.

Now I’m in the process of preparing for one of the biggest job interviews of my career to date, and I’ve been given some really good advice. It’s not always quite enough to “just be yourself” in a job interview, because you still have to be the person that the company wants to hire. You have to stand out, especially when you don’t know how many people have already been interviewed before you and how many more are to come. To help me out, my girlfriend‘s mother sent me a list of the fifteen toughest interview questions that I might encounter. I’ve run into a lot of these before, and it’s really great to see some advice on handling the situations where you’re forced to think of something to say in response to “What’s your biggest weakness?” Worst question ever, by the way, aside from “How are you doing today?” Where’s my article telling me how to handle small talk? Ugh.

Anyway, as my longer-term readers are aware, I’ve been job hunting for effectively the entire time that I’ve been keeping this blog. I started The Swords of the Ancients while I was recovering from my first holiday season in corporate retail. Since then, I’ve interviewed for a LOT of different jobs, as I am always looking to expand my horizons and gain new skills and knowledge. Life gets kind of boring if you’re not learning something new, after all. I’m pretty well set in my current job, having worked here for over a year now, but it’s still only part-time. No offense to anyone, but it’s damn hard to live on a single part-time job, no matter where you are. Never mind the fact that I get a little crazy if I have too much free time. It’s a tricky balancing act. Something full-time would help me by forcing me to greater utilization of my time, and make me focus more on my writing during said free time, because it would be more precioussss. Gollum, gollum!

Ayah. See? This is what happens. I mean, yes, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, but some work and too much play makes Philip go crazy. I need to go put on a nice shirt and tie and go pretend to be professional for an hour. Hopefully I’ll have good news soon.

Can blogging help you overcome your depression?

I feel that the answer is, at least in my case, a resounding yes.

See, depression can be genetic. I was terrified when I learned this, because I knew that my father had, at least in his past, dealt with some pretty severe issues of depression. We even discussed it briefly during our recent trip together. Well, this week, I’ve been dealing with it a lot myself, and I’m not entirely sure why. It’s more than a little disconcerting to see symptoms and trends in behavior and mood and know exactly what it’s building up to, so I decided that I needed to talk things out a little bit.

I like to do one of two things when I’m feeling low. Thing one, naturally, is reading. Escapism at its best, I know, right? Google it. There’s tons of articles and actual research papers about people using fantasy to avoid the stresses of the real world. Alternatively, I play video games or watch movies, but the end goal is still the same. I get into a world that’s not the normal one I’m stuck in, and I feel a little better for a while. The second thing that I do when the depression hits is attempt to write. It might be a page or two on one of the numerous short stories or novels that are floating around in my head. It might be a shitty poem (or even the occasional good one!). Over the last year, I’ve been sharing my writing with more people than I ever really expected to, thanks to this blog. My wordpress page has helped me get in touch with numerous people who do what I want to do: write. I’m incredibly grateful, because nothing breaks me out of a really low day like hearing from someone who has gone through the same things that I’m going through. Maybe it’s not the blogging itself, but the social aspect that makes this all feel so therapeutic.

I may only have twenty-some-odd viewers each day (if I’m lucky), but you know something? You folks help me more than you could ever guess. Thank you, dear readers. Thank you very much.

So, being the desperate writer that I am, I’m frequently scouring the web for potential work that could help me to better myself and boost my career. That is unfortunately easier said than done, as it has become very difficult to sort out the few truly legitimate opportunities that lurk amidst the scammer lures. When a chance comes along that seems too good to be true, that’s usually the case, and so I have grown very tentative about anything that I find. Case in point: Amnet Systems.

Amnet contacted me when I responded to a craigslist post that claimed to be seeking freelance editors. They sent me an email asking that I complete two editing tests which would prove my proficiency as an editor. As I worked my way through the two pieces they had emailed me for editing, I couldn’t shake a feeling that something wasn’t quite right, so I began to do a little research into the company. Most of what I found was quite promising as far as legitimacy of the company itself, though the fact was undeniable that Amnet focuses on enabling the outsourcing and/or offshoring of many jobs, and promotes this practice to its clients. I find it a little bit difficult to support a company that outsources jobs when it’s become so difficult to find a good job in today’s economy. There was also this little gem of a review of their editing test process that made me even more concerned. I make no claims as to the value of such a review, but it certainly piqued my interest. To that end, I decided there was nothing else for it but to contact Amnet Systems directly, via an address they had provided.

The exchange is as follows:

“To Whom it May Concern,

I recently was contacted regarding an editing test with Amnet Systems. Now, I am eager for a job as an editor, I truly am. However, when I did a little bit of research on the company, I was surprised to discover that you seem to specialize in outsourcing to India. This, naturally, piqued my curiosity. Why, I thought, would a company that specializes in outsourcing have need of freelance editors, particularly editors from all over the US when they’re actively sending potential American jobs overseas? This puzzled me to no end, and raised further concerns over the legitimacy of this position. Then, I found this.

Now, I think that it is more than fair for me to question the nature of the freelance editor position you claim to have available. If you would like to respond, please feel free to email me. Thank you, and have a wonderful day.


Philip Krogmeier”

“Mr. Krogmeier,

Our application review team flagged your email for my attention and I would like to personally respond to your note. First, thank you for flagging the website in question. I intend today to formally file a response to the false claims this individual made regarding our company.

Amnet Systems is an international company with headquarters based out of Chennai, India. We provide services to most of the major publishers you’ve heard of, and it is true that a great deal of typesetting, eBook conversion, and data related services work is performed by the team in India. The India division also provides editorial services but primarily not for markets outside the US.

The US division of Amnet is a standalone company based in mid-state Illinois. Our US team provides editorial services for a number of US clients, using US-based staff of several top-notch editors, and they in turn work with a pool of about 150 excellent US-based freelance editors. Our clients include a range of academic and trade publishers, as well as servicing several of the self-publishing companies here in the US.

It is true that our Chennai team helps our smaller US team in processing freelance applications. Many hundreds of applications are received monthly, far more than our staff in Illinois could process in an efficient manner. So we have a small team in Chennai which helps our US team in doing some pre-grading tasks for the tests, verifying accuracy of responses in the test against a number of metrics. Applicants who do not pass the pre-screening round are politely notified in a timely manner by Amnet staff that their application will not be moving forward. For those applicants who do pass the pre-screening round, their same completed tests are then forwarded on to our US office where that smaller subset gets an full intensive grading review by US staff editors.

You may be interested to learn that roughly 95% of editor applicants do not pass these editorial testing reviews. This may seem surprising but in fact it aligns with what we know from our experience in the publishing industry; there are simply a great number of people who think they have what it takes to be a copy editor but in reality do not possess the skill set.

I would encourage you to revisit the person’s post you referenced in your email and count the number of spelling errors alone in his brief post. I’ll leave it to you to determine if this individual would be up to caliber of a professional copy editor. We believe the poster must be a disgruntled failed applicant; you can draw your own conclusions. His claims regarding Amnet are false. We do not use live work from our clients ever for applicant testing: that would be unethical to say the least. The same tests (one fiction, one nonfiction) are administered to all applicants. We do not pay applicants to take the test, and this is also a standard practice in the publishing industry. Rest assured we are making no profit off our freelancer testing process…it is a cost to our company we accrue in order to arrive at a team of skilled copy editors appropriate to our clients’ needs.

You are most welcome to apply for freelance editorial position and take our testing; the address for this purpose Most applicants find the tests take about 4-6 hours to complete, and if your work is of a level that is deemed acceptable for our editorial clients, we would connect with you to explore work opportunities.

Thanks for your interest, and for flagging this website’s incorrect claims about Amnet which I intend to respond to directly today. We wish you the best and look forward to hearing from you if you have interest in applying for editorial work.

Warm regards,

Ted Young

U.S. General Manager

Amnet Systems

In short, Mr. Young defended the practices of his company and denied all claims of wrongdoing. Standard deny everything response? Maybe. Truth? Also maybe. Point being, I think I may have touched a nerve.

Has anyone else had dealings with similar issues? Does vehement denial really mean truth? The world may never know.

Well, another month has come and gone, and that means that it’s time to post another writing challenge entry for Sonia M’s monthly challenges. I missed last month’s, due to my travels and being cut off from the internet for a while, but I’m back. Our topic this time around was “Make a Wish.” With that in mind, I decided to write this for you. I hope you enjoy it. Here’s “What Price Happiness?”

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Did it really count as a wish? Maybe so. I always thought of it as more of a foolish kid’s dream, but hey, what else do kids do? We dream, and we make wishes. We hope against hope that things will turn out better for us. We don’t think about consequences when we’re young, and some of us don’t think about them even when we get older. And if the joy we wanted turns out to only come at the cost of misery for those we love? If we’re lucky, maybe we stop depending on wishes, and start trying to make changes for ourselves. Sadly, all too frequently I have found that I have been scrambling to undo the damage that I felt I had caused.

Does trying to fix things count as learning a lesson? I don’t really know. I’m still trying to figure out when this went all “Monkey’s Paw” on me. I’ve lived my life trying to avoid regrets, ever since the day that I met her. Even now, years later, her words still echo in my head. “I said I knew that it was a mistake. I never said I was sorry I made it.”

Am I happy now? Honestly? No, I’m not. I should’ve known I wasn’t going to be the one paying the price for a wish that I never even intended to make. I guess it’s too late now, the words are probably meaningless, but I can at least say that I’m sorry.

“Leave this to me. I’m British. I know how to queue.” 

One of the best things about my library is the fact that I can put things on hold, and they’ll be delivered promptly for pickup whenever they become available. It’s like Netflix for books. Even new releases can be placed on hold before they physically arrive in the library system. This means that I can track the upcoming books, order them, and get in a queue for things before they’re in stores. Now, granted, everyone in the library system has this ability, but few people utilize it to the fullest. I like to use it to keep up with some of my favorite new manga series. I’m also around fifth in line for a DVD copy of Game of Thrones, and I am thrilled. I didn’t watch any of the episodes when they aired, for two reasons. One, I’m too cheap to pay for HBO, and two, I wanted to finish reading all of the available books before I started the show. Now I can sit down and watch the whole thing.

Speaking of television, has anyone seen the BBC series Sherlock yet? It’s in my instant queue, and as soon as I can dedicate a few hours to it, I’m going to power through. It’s three episodes, each about an hour and a half long, and from all of the reviews I’ve heard/read, it’s absolutely genius. I’ll let you know my verdict, but I can only imagine the power of a show about a modern version of Sherlock Holmes starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. I absolutely love Sherlock Holmes anyway, and I’m quite happy to see that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s work is getting so much attention right now.

Since getting back from my trip, I have started a new schedule at work. This has several benefits, most notably the fact that I am now earning partial benefits. I have more hours each week, a slight pay raise, and the same awesome people to work with. Yet another advantage: I’ve got the same schedule every week, instead of my old alternating schedule. My girlfriend and I can carpool three out of my five work days, saving both of us a lot of wear and tear on cars, and money on gas. All in all, it’s a very good thing. Things are looking up. I’m still hunting for a second part-time job, but I’m also starting to be brave and send out emails to the big publishers and submitting short stories to various publications. Needless to say, there’s a lot to do in the near future. Good thing I have plenty of new TV and books to read, and things to write. Look forward to a new writing challenge entry, coming soon to a blog near you.

I’m rereading Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises today, and I blame Woody Allen. Actually, I blame Corey Stoll and his incredible performance as Ernest Hemingway in Allen’s latest film, which won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Stoll’s performance was only one of the many constant bright points in the film, but it was this moment that really won me over. I knew then that I was going to have to return to one of my favorite books of all time. It’s quite the change of pace from the other story that I’ve been reading lately, and it’s always good to return to familiar territory.

When I was in college, I read Hemingway for the first time. I had read his work before, when I was in high school, but that was before I truly read Hemingway. Now I feel as though I am reading some of my favorite works for the first time, and so it is that The Sun Also Rises has made its way back into my hands. It feels right to be reading classic literature. I’m not trying to be a book snob or anything, because I’ll read pretty much anything and give any author a chance at least once, but it’s good to come back to perennial favorites. There is something almost indescribable about Hemingway’s storytelling that pulls you in. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend you do so. He’s really not that intimidating of an author. Personally, I feel that he’s the easiest of the Lost Generation to really understand.

On the other side of the reading coin, there is the Lovecraft collection that I’ve been borrowing from a friend. Now, I own a copy of the Necronomicon, quite possibly the most thorough (and best titled) collection of H.P. Lovecraft’s work ever published, but it’s sadly hidden away in a storage unit for now. Despite the presence of perhaps only a third of the more well-known titles that exist within the pages of the Necronomicon, this collection does a phenomenal job of presenting some of the best work (albeit the shorter pieces) that he ever wrote, including “The Call of Cthulhu” and “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” within its pages. I read the former story while on an airplane over the Pacific Ocean, and I think that the only better way to experience it would be to read it on a ship in the Atlantic. You can’t beat reading a story where it takes place. This reminds me, I’m working on a piece at the moment that is set in a building not unlike my hometown library, with a few creative twists. I’ve never been in a building that is more suited for a horror story. I’m drawing on influences of Poe, Lovecraft, and King, masters of the genre, and injecting just a little bit of truth. We’ll see how it turns out.


The biggest downside to returning from a vacation is trying to get back into your everyday rhythm. Case in point: starting to blog again after nearly two weeks without writing anything other than my travelogue aboard the Stennis. I kept a journal during the entirety of the trip, logging my experiences as my father and I traveled across the country together, but now I’m trying to get back into the habit of writing things for you. Fifty plus pages of journal about a ride across the ocean on an aircraft carrier? Totally doable. Five hundred words about what’s going on in my life and the literary world this week? That’s a little bit trickier. Nevertheless, I’m here to try.

Let’s see. I want these, first of all. Something about being surrounded by officers in their dress uniforms just makes military fashion seem right, even if the Nintendo version is a little silly.  Second, there’s this thing right here, one of many places I’m going to be submitting a short story. Got a microfiction piece that’s n0t been published elsewhere? Send it in. They’d be happy to see it. V tipped me off about it a few weeks ago, and I am quite grateful. On a related note, has anyone ever heard of The Rag? I’d not, at least until recently. It’s worth a shot, I suppose.

One of the things that I did miss while I was gone: Sonia M’s February challenge. I intend to make up for that with the March challenge, which seems far more targeted toward writers like me than the February challenge did. It’s the first one I’ve missed since I started doing them, and I’m a little sad that I didn’t get an entry written, but there has been a lot of progress elsewhere that more than makes up for it, at least as far as I’m concerned.

So, yeah, my writing projects continue. One of the best things about my recent trip was the opportunity to have a LOT of time to myself, for my writing. See, Arsus and Rime have been pretty quiet lately, so the progress on my working title, “Swords of the Ancients” has been stalled. As such, I have been venturing into the darker side of my imagination, contrary to the advice I got from my father last week. Dad told me that I should write a wholesome story, and be more of a Tolkien than a Stieg Larsson, for example. That’s all fine and dandy from the outside perspective, and I really do appreciate his concern for my writing, but if you pretend that the shadows never exist, you’ll never see what hides in them. The things that hide in the shadows of my own mind are what I find fascinating. Human nature isn’t as clear cut and good as we would like it to be, for whatever reason, but those bits of darkness are so compelling… Just imagine the stories we might learn from the things that go unseen in our world.

I dunno. Maybe it’s just the stories of the great writers of the past, but I feel like there’s got to be something more than just heartwarming tales of puppies and stuff to write about. Even Tolkien had to embrace a little of the darkness to create the depth of the villains in Middle Earth. I guess I’m just talking about not just a casual embrace, but making passionate love to the darkness and getting into a committed relationship with it, and maybe even moving in together, and getting a joint bank account, or at least a two-seater bicycle. Yeah. It’s exactly like that.

Let me ‘splain…No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

I’m back in Colorado, after a week and a half of travel that proved to be everything that I needed. Here’s a brief breakdown.

My oldest sister is married to a young man who pre-enlisted in the Navy when he was 17. After years of hard work and progress through the ranks of the enlisted men, he decided that he wanted to fly jets. To that end, he enrolled in the Naval Officer Candidate School and eventually became an aviator with a prominent fighter squadron which has even been featured in a TV miniseries, “Carrier.” Back in December, I received a phone call from my father asking me if I would like the opportunity to spend a week aboard an aircraft carrier with him and my brother-in-law as he and his squadron returned from deployment overseas. They call it a Tiger Cruise.

Now I’m not the biggest geek when it comes to military stuff, but I’ve built my share of fighter jets and things out of LEGO, and I figured that aside from my tour of the USS Midway back in 2005, this would be the best chance I would ever have to see this sort of thing up close. I said yes, and I don’t regret it in the least. I didn’t want to say too much about the trip beforehand, for security purposes and whatnot, but now that I’m home, I can tell you a little more about my experience.

Dad and I flew to Honolulu on the 19th of February, and I got to see my brother-in-law at work for the first time. After spending the afternoon of Presidents’ Day wandering the Pearl Harbor memorials with him and my father, we boarded the USS John C. Stennis.

I can hear Lonely Island and T. Pain warming up in the background...

The following week’s journey across the ocean to San Diego consisted of tours of the ship, incredible demonstrations of the power of the aircraft on board and the supporting ships that sailed with us, and meeting the amazing people who make this all possible. I got to see the ship’s jet engine shop, eat an otter pop that was frozen in liquid oxygen (SCIENCE!), see a close-up of the cockpit of an F-18, and even wander around the onboard library. That’s right. I got to hang out in a library that was floating across the Pacific Ocean. Beat that.

Okay, maybe not a very BIG library, but still...

During the trip, my father and I (along with two fellow Tigers) were quartered in my brother-in-law’s eight-man stateroom. As our sponsor was an officer, we were in considerably better accommodations than most of the other Tigers on board, but on an aircraft carrier, even the nicest of rooms is small and cramped. We had the eight racks in the room, plus four cots set up for sleeping. Some of the moms on the trip referred to our room as the prisoner of war camp, but we called it the twelve-man. Most of our free time was spent there (where the nearest “head” [bathroom] was just down the hall), or in my brother-in-law’s squadron’s ready room. Meals were taken in one of the three officers’ ward rooms, and according to the other guys, we had far better food while the Tigers were on board. Surprise! We essentially had free reign of most of the ship, aside from obviously secure areas (like, you know, nuclear reactors and things like that), and we never lacked something to do, even if it was just watching Layer Cake or The Right Stuff on the projector in the ready room, or playing Scrabble or another board game with one of the other members of the squadron.

Seriously? Wouldn't that be boring after playing it in real life?

On the second day, just as we rounded the southernmost point of Hawai’i, we were treated to an air power demo. This meant close flybys of the ship by the various aircraft (including one supersonic pass: BOOM!) and examples of some of their capabilities, like the helicopter hovering and fast-roping a team of soldiers to the deck of the ship. A naval power demo followed, with some of the small boys (other ships from the carrier group) showing their maneuverability and firepower.

Too cool for words...

The day before we arrived in San Diego, we said farewell to my brother-in-law and the rest of the air wing. His squadron was the last to depart the ship, bound for their land base and a reunion with the rest of their families. After saying goodbye, we made our way to Vulture’s Row, an outdoor portion of deck on the tower of the carrier that overlooks the flight deck. From our vantage point there, and thanks to two layers of hearing protection, watching the takeoff of my brother-in-law’s plane was only incredibly loud and deck-shaking. Any closer, or without the earplugs, could have been deafening or enough of a jolt to knock you off your feet. It was a sensation unlike any other, and it was incredible to get to be that close. I will be forever grateful to him for the opportunity to see all of these things, because it will likely never happen again.

Land at last

Dad and I got in to San Diego on the early morning almost a week after we’d left Colorado. It was truly spectacular to see the families gather on the pier to greet their wayward husbands and wives and sons and daughters and fathers and mothers. After saying farewell to our new friends, we made our way to the airport where we allowed a coin flip to decide that we were going to drive home instead of flying back to Colorado. Despite my initial misgivings (I was not relishing the thought of two days in a car with dad), it turned out to be a great experience. We drove from San Diego to Blythe, CA on the first night, and then across Arizona and into Socorro, NM on the second day. Upon reaching Santa Fe, Dad and I stopped by the Loretto Chapel, home of the Miraculous Staircase.

Sorry, random stranger. I can't be bothered to crop you out of this photo.

At long last, I made it back to Colorado. Dad dropped me off, we said our goodbyes, and he went on his way to return our rental car and finish the three hour drive home. I came inside and started to work on this blog post for all of you, and here you have it. Now I can get to writing on some of the ideas I came up with on the trip. It was good to get away, but it’s great to be back!