Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Guest Blog with the Vampire Professor Bertena Varney

It’s time to go to school and study….Vampires!

Study vampires? What? That must be a joke? Do you think you are a vampire? Wow where do you get something like that… a cracker jack box?

These are all questions and sometimes not too nice comments that I receive when I tell people that I research and write about vampires. They look at me as if I am a freak and not educated. When I try to defend myself and tell them my degrees they look at me as if all creditability has went out the window. It has even resulted in me losing jobs or not getting hired when they do a Google search on me. But, if you are willing and ready to learn I can share with you how to study vampires or anything else that is your passion.

First, my background and how I came to study vampires: I have several degrees. The first is a Bachelor’s of Arts in Social Science and Education with an emphasis in Sociology, History, and Government and a minor in Geography and Economics. During that study I chose several topics to focus on when I had freedom of projects and classes. These ranged from History of Folklore, where I studied Vampire Folklore, to deviant sub cultures where I studied vampire lifestylers. I had to be careful because this was the late 1980’s and there was and still is a stigma about anything Goth or dark or relating to vampires. I then pursued a Master’s in Sociology and Criminology where I studied Juvenile Delinquency and Deviant Subcultures, still during this time vampires, Goth, and the like were considered deviant and to show any sign of “liking” this would have destroyed my position as a Graduate Assistant. So, I pursued those from the standard point of view along with the 1990’s academic craze of street gangs, drug dealers, and serial killers.

Upon graduation, I trotted off to the real world of teaching high school then as an adjunct professor at Eastern Kentucky University. While there I spoke with co workers who were pursuing their PhD’s. I knew that had to finish my Master’s in Education because the wonderful state of KY requires it to teach so I was once again stuck in boring classes until one day I was told that there were no more classes to take but I still had credits to complete in order to graduate. I began discussing my options with my office mate and he was telling me that he was studying “The Affects of Video Games on Culture”. I responded with, “Man I would love to study vampires as an actual emphasis”. He chuckled and we spent the afternoon researching academic websites. One day I realized that in larger cities there were graduate studies in pop culture and several academic associations dealing with the study of things such as cartons, comic books, television shows, anything that you could possibly like.

The most popular academic study of vampires at the time dealt specifically with one of my favorite television shows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The Whedon Studies Association is a group of professors and students who study the work of Joss Whedon which includes Angel and Buffy. They have an on line journal, yearly convention and a great website that helps those who want to study this subject look at it through feminist, historical, sociological, and psychological view points. Check it out here http://slayageonline.com/

So I gathered up my list of academic programs, academic research, and outline for a class and took it to my advisor at Morehead State University. She agreed to allow me to design the class, write my final paper and develop a blog on the Search for the Lure of the Vampire in Popular Culture (http://searchforthelure.webs.com/ ). I had always hated to write but for the first time in my life I loved to write.

I finished the classes and had joined several academic programs. While teaching sociology at EKU I allowed my students, as a final project, to choose their favorite hobby, television show, subject, etc and turn it into a sociological study and then a possible career. They chose everything from sports, videogames, relationships, sewing, and on and on. They absolutely loved it. Many loved it enough to change majors.

From that point on I decided to take my own advice. I lost both of my collegiate positions in January and was left with no choices for jobs. I had written for a little while with Examiner.com but wasn’t really dedicated to it so I began to really push my Lexington Vampire Examiner (http://www.examiner.com/vampire-in-lexington/bertena-varney ). It had caused some eyebrows to be raised and even comments listed above at my full time job but I decided to just go for it.

As I wrote about vampires in pop culture in the news I found people wanted me to mention their books, movies, and events about vampires on the page and my page views grew enough to where my Channel Manager offered me more specific columns and I was excited to take them. As a result of this I have met a lot of nice people and even arranged an event in October that brought vampire fans and authors together. It was titled A Day of Mystical Blood Lust (http://adayofmysticalbloodlust.webs.com/ ) and was such a success that we are doing it and the Halloween Ball again next year.

So, now I am venturing out on writing both a short story as well as a reference book about vampires for writers. I am also looking to publish the original academic papers once they are edited and more added to them.

I still receive the weird looks and comments and many times employers don’t take me seriously but the study of the Lure of the Vampire is real. It is an academic topic and is becoming a very popular one in college classrooms ranging from Ohio to Louisiana, England and Canada. There have been approved classes and they are always overloaded.

So, just think about what you love and make that a passion to seek knowledge in that area. Here are a few tips on how to do that:

1. If you are in college take the chance to write that paper tailored to your interest whether it’s English, History, Psychology, Sociology, or even Science.

2. If you are seeking an advance degree go to your Chair and address the issues if you choose to go the higher academic route.

3. Look up Examiner.com in your area and see if there are openings in your topic if so apply or even suggest it. I did mine and it was accepted. If you need help email me and always put me down as a referral source

4. Find academic associations dealing with your major, join and get involved. The Pop Culture and American Culture Association covers just about anything that you can imagine.

5. Start a blog and connect with experts in your area. Many are willing to help newbies out.
You can turn what you love into a true academic study. It may take some creativity but it is possible

If you'd like to know more you can email The Vampire Professor at vampireprofessor@yahoo.com

or follow her on Twitter @tenavarney

You can also find her at the following places around the web:

Website- http://searchforthelure.webs.com/

Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=629688553

Book Blog- http://bertenasbooks.blogspot.com/

Lexington Vampire Examiner- http://www.examiner.com/vampire-in-lexington/bertena-varney

True Blood Examiner- http://www.examiner.com/true-blood-in-national/bertena-varney

Paranormal Literature Examiner- http://www.examiner.com/paranormal-literature-in-national/bertena-varney

A Day of Mystical Blood Lust- http://adayofmysticalbloodlust.webs.com/


Elizabeth Loraine said...

Fantastic article Bertena. So interesting. Writing about vampires is a passion that I understand as is following that passion in directions that sometimes others just don't understand, thanks! Elizabeth Loraine

Bertena said...

Thank you Elizabeth. It truly is a passion..sometimes a strong one in more ways than one

the cautionary tale said...

Awesome!This was wonderful!

Kristen said...

Thank you Bertena! I found this to be a great post! I love vampires myself and I know that the sub culture out there for vampires is huge! I am glad that you followed through with your passion. I would love to read some of your work! I bet it is amazing. I am in love with vampires!

Thank you so much and you gave some great links!

My Bloody Fairy Tale

Anonymous said...

Strong plot lines and well-rounded characters make a book for me, but it seems many writers today build stories around blatant sexual encounters as if the chance to write explicit sex scenes between main characters was the whole point of writing their story. Interesting plots get lost in buckets of literary sweat, and I think talent writes itself into a wall it can't climb over. Any thoughts?

Su Halfwerk said...

An excellent and encouraging post, Bertena. I appreciate a person who supports people by words and/or actions; and you my fiend rank up there. Here’s wishing you the best of luck in your creative quest!
Su Halfwerk

Su Halfwerk said...

Sorry, "friend" and not "fiend." Coffee time!!!

Bertena said...

@the cautionary tale- thank you very much

Bertena said...

Kristen- thank you for the comments.
If you follow the links those are my articles
I am hoping to have my nook finished within the year and would love for you to read it

MJM said...

Great article. Very thoughtful and informative. Keep up the good work

Bertena said...


Well I cannot speak as a writer on fiction stories. My book is nonfiction and more historical/sociological.

As a reader I tend to agree. There are a lot of erotica books out there but there are also a lot of books that show strong female characters and relationships with varying people.

If you like strong relationships- not just romantic check out Elizabeth Loraine's Royal Blood chronicles- www.royalbloodchronicles.com

If you like a little hot with a very strong female character who not only connects with her human husband but everyone else in the book check out C.J. Ellisson's book- Vampire Vacation- http://vampirevacation.blogspot.com/

and if you want old time romantic vampire sonnets check out David Bradsher- http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=47383438565

But, yeah Anonymous there is a lot of sex and no need of it for the plot.
I am not a huge erotica reader but I know that there are books that are erotica that have great plot.

However, there are some writers just as actors and show writers get caught up in one thing , whether sex or not, and forget the plot.

That's why I like writing non fiction:)

Bertena said...

Thank you Su and good luck with your books..:)
I am always here for everyone and you are truly on your way up

Bertena said...

MJM- thanks for the compliment and continued support and help with the original Master's paper. I couldn't have pulled off the Lilith section without you.

David said...

As an author/poet of the genre (The Vampire Sonnets), I can say that you'll find no better source of information and insight than Bertena. Tena, great comments, and I truly believe the study of vampires is a cultural necessity, as well as an artistic one. From Nosferatu to Dracula to Lord Byron to Jim Morrison, segments of society have always been captivated, longing and fearful of the immortal draw towards vampiric lore and tradition. You bring much to the table. Great post!

David Nelson Bradsher

Zahir Blue said...

Very interesting article. In a lot of ways I find myself envying you.

Bertena said...

@David thank you.
That is a great compliment coming from you and I am blushing:) and am honored

Now if I could channel that confidence

Bertena said...

@Zahir- why envy me?
You are on your way too:)
and you are so talented with videos as well. I so wish I could do the things you do with music

Roxanne Rhoads said...

Anonymous- I think you're reading too much erotica and expecting strong story lines and plot from it. Erotica books are sex plain and simple some have strobger story lines than others but don't expect to read erotica and find a literary gem.

As a writer of erotica the sex scenes are there because it is erotica as far as other books go I do agree the story sometimes gets lost behind the sex (LKH- but she is getting back to the stories and away from the sex overload, I think she was going through a phase)

Karen Essex said...

Great post, Bertena. I will share it with my readers. I particularly like the way you encourage students to pursue their passions in their graduate studies. That's how scholarship moves forward! Congrats on the success of this year's Day of Mystical Bloodlust.

Best to you--Karen Essex

Roxanne Rhoads said...

Bertena great post.

I love the academic side of vampire study. It's something I've been into ever since picking up Interview with a Vampire at a garage sale when I was 10 or 11. I've been hooked on vampires ever since and have read everything I could get my hands on about them- fiction or non-fiction.

Bertena said...

@Roxanne- thank you for your response. I only recently starting reading erotica..and have read yours and loved it but I wasn't sure how "erotic" your books were or the level of naming books that.
I have enjoyed your books as well as Katie Salidas' and Denise Verrico's but wasn't sure if it's labeled "erotic" as the anonymous commenter was meaning.
thank you for clearing that up

Bertena said...

I have been reading Dracula in Love and have been enjoying it.
Are you going to be in New Orleans on Halloween again this year. I may make it down there this year

Bertena said...

I am showing my age...my first glimpse of vampires was Dark Shadows reruns in the early 70's and Cliffhanger- does anyone remember that show.

@ Karen- academics should be tailored to what you love. so many people make fun of me or what I do or even say that I am annoying but I don't care. It's areal academic study and can be used in the work place by taking the same concepts of sociology and applying it to any work place or social institution that are in your life.

Vampires can be fun and can be a symbol for so many social issues.

Karen Essex said...

I'm not sure about next year in New Orleans. It's my hometown, so I'll do just about anything to get down there, but I've been living mostly in London, so it's quite a journey. I did enough vampire events in New Orleans this Halloween season to remain permanently undead! I highly recommend that you do it. Undead-con, Memnoch Resurrection Ball, and the Vampire Film Fest were all great. If you go, let me know and we can either team up for panels, or I'll put you in touch with some folks.

Karen Essex said...

P. S. My first vampire fixation began with Dark Shadows. I used to race home on my bike after school to watch! Wanted to get bitten even then!

Bertena said...

Karen- I will definitely do that. I just came from London this summer and love it!!
I would so love to live there.

Roxanne Rhoads said...

I would love to visit London some day- actually I would love to travel all over Europe.

I would love to visit New Orleans for Halloween. It is on my big wish list. Seems funny that I ahven't actually been there for Halloween since I've written so much about it. I did go for Mardi Grad one year- hope to return again soon.

Roxanne Rhoads said...

Bertena- some of stories are classified as erotica while others are erotic romance. The erotic romance have less sex and more story with more of a softer romantic touch. I think they also have more plot.

My work is constantly evolving and I am working on writing more stories with complete plots and characters and less sex. So I guess more story less sex. The novel I am working on is more of an urban fantasy than strictly erotica though it does have erotic elements and several sizzling sex scenes.

Bertena said...

Roxanne- I remember Eternal Desire. I loved that book! And I can't believe that you have only been once based upon your description! It was so accurate.
New Orleans and Paris looks so similar in certain areas. You can see the influence of those that settled there. It wasn't my favorite like London. Oxford is beautiful especially if you like academics.
I usually go to Salem for Halloween they celebrate all month long and really hope to make it to both places next year.
We will see

Lexx said...

Bertena, great blog, checked in to show my support.

Bertena said...

@Roxanne- about your books. Yours was the first of what ever you want to label it that I read.
I LOVED it and even suggested it to several friends.
I am still the southern lady that blushes at things and peek through my eyes at certain movies but still know a good book when I read it and Eternal Desire and A Halloween to Remember was excellent.
So, I must thank you for "teaching" me the differences and am appreciative of you having me here today.

Learning no matter whether it is in a classroom, on line or in life is great! No matter the subject - as long as you love what you learn and love learning it is the greatest gift in my opinion!

Lexx said...

It's Petra by the way, I am also in the process (5years now) of trying to finish my own vampire lore. It's not easy.

Bertena said...

@LExx- thank you so much

Bertena said...

@Petra- sorry and nice to meet you. Good luck and keep us posted

Denise Verrico said...

Bertena,what a great article. How kind of you to mention my books! The discussion of erotic content is interesting to me, and I'd like to throw in my two cents on the subject. Sex can have many different fuctions in a story depending on the genre. In my books, I deal with sex quite a bit, but I tend to write more from the perspective of examining the the implications of sexual politics rather than to titillate. I'm also interested in questions of gender and sexuality. I enjoy reading your blogs, and I'm also a big Dark Shadows fan! Roxanne's site is always a great place to read up on what is new in the world of the paranormal.

Stanley said...

Awesome article. Can't wait to see more.

Bertena said...

Thanks Denise for the compliment. Your books are full of political and social issues and explorations- not just sexual. They are really good.

Bertena said...

thanks stanley- check out my links to read more

fbforbill said...

Thank you Bertena. I totally understand how you feel. I always get wierd looks from people at church and work. I hope you do not hate me but I am a christian and love vampires. I jhave been lectured on how they are demonic and evil but they have brought me nothing but joy since i started loving them when I was 4. I love them even more now since I found True Blood. My first fave was Bella lagousie, then Gary Oldman ( Brahm Stokers) and Interview with Brad Pitt. Bill is now my fave and always will be. I hope you continued success and check out my fanfiction and let me know what you think.. It isn't as good as your work is but i enjoy it and add a lot of humor in mine.

Patti said...

So interesting that you were able to focus so specifically in your studies! Both ingenius and creative!! Sorry I'm so late, but had a house painting crisis last night and today! Lost a little blood over that one, LOL! In any case I'm here now and will definitely keep you in mind if I go back to working on my own vamp fic.
One question, do you find that interest in vamp fiction at least is waning or still going strong?

Bertena said...

@fbforBill- why would I hate you because you are Christian and like vampires?
I am as well and really understand where you are coming from. I hear the same thing. I just let people have their opinion now and go on. I am tired of defending my self.

Thank you for the compliment and I would love to read your fanfiction sometime

Bertena said...

I find that interest in vampire fiction is going strong.
The mid 1800's showed LOTS of vampire stories that many of us had never heard of until recently. It was as popular then as it is now- in it's own way. There were numerous books at that time as well as poetry.

The books waned in the 1920's but the movies hit big with Max Shrek as Nosferatu, Bela Lugosi in Dracula in the 1930-1950's then Christopher Lee's portrayal of the vampire from 1950's- 1960's then we had Ms Anne Rice bring everyone from the movie screen back to books and it has been hot ever since.
People want to credit Twilight for the vampires return but really that was just the teens being pulled into the vampire world.

LK Hamilton, Charlaine Harris, and Chelse Quinn Yarbro has not quit writing since Rice opened the door to books again.

But, no the mainstream may loose interest for a little while but vampires in literature and movies have been going strong since 1848- Varney the Vampire and will continue to be a study with this Varney.

Hope you tackled that painting job and thank you for stopping by

Kat Duarte said...

Bertena,what an informative article. Thank so much! I wasn't aware of the Whedon Studies Association before. As a big fan of all his works, that reference alone was gold. It's so nice to hear about someone else who does serious analysis of what many consider fringe subjects. Vampire tales are such a part of our culture now, how can we ignore them? All the best in your ongoing endeavors!
Kat Duarte

Bertena said...

Thank you Kat. And please check out WSA- it is very informative

Springs Paranormal said...

Great blog and very informative.

Bertena said...

thank you