Catastrophe and Transformation: One Writer’s View of Survival and Success

2 03 2015

Originally posted on Stories of Perseverance to Inspire Struggling Writers:

I am pleased to open up the Stories of Perseverance blog with a posting by Jason S. Ridler, PhD. Jason was a classmate of mine at the Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2005. Our desks were next to each other and he never ceased to amaze me with his wealth of knowledge about the genres of Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, the books, the authors. He had so many ideas, and such a great sense of humour. After Odyssey, Jason and a couple of other classmates of ours challenged each other to write a story a week for a month or two. At one point he had 50 stories circulating the slush piles, and he racked up hundreds of rejections that first year.

When I asked Jay to guest blog for me, once again, I was blown away by what he had to say. Jay, you inspire me.



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Writing “The Other”. Then Driving “The Other” Mad. Then Eating “The Other’s” Cat

2 03 2015

As a thinking human, I reserve the right to change my mind.

There are concerns in the genre communities about cultural appropriation and writing The Other, meaning a character who lives beyond the experience of its author. Being a heterosexual, able-bodied, European-descended, middle-aged man, for me The Other is anyone not sharing any one of my traits. There is a lot of discussion about the proper method of assembling The Other.

Let’s consider assembling a character and also the nature of identity. I have dozens of attributes. Only a few of these would have any bearing on the plot of a short story. More attributes, maybe a dozen, are needed to write a character rounded enough to maintain a reader’s interest in a novel.

I had an idea where the latest technologies could be combined to create a robot existing unseen in a population as it spread terror. How would I best demonstrate this critter? Turn it loose in Philadelphia.

How could a character get involved emotionally in this critter? Make her family a victim? Too easy, plus there’s nothing to keep tension. The authorities could be contacted at any time to combat the critter with guns blazing. I prefer to write tight, claustrophobic stories.

Ah! The critter needs a friend who shares its motives, or who it can seduce into its motives. Which would make this less “The Terminator” and more “‘Short Circuit’ Meets ‘Rosemary’s Baby'”.

I needed someone who was suffering and faced huge social challenges. Not me.

Statistically, I needed woman from a racial minority. How should I attempt to write a young black woman in the U.S.?

The essays and comments I’ve read about Writing The Other fall within a spectrum. On one end, writers say “You cannot write outside of your experience capably. Do not try.” The other end: “Research as much as you can, then have the character vetted by a person sharing the traits of The Other, then use that finished story as the beginning of a dialogue with your reader, so that critiques become learning experiences.”

This other end is more reasonable. However, it does bring up a further perspective.

Every character in a story is supposed to be plausible and elicit sympathy. Even the ones who are just like the author.

Every individual outside your skin and not wearing your shoes is “The Other”.

Every character has fears. Every character has A Need (One Need per story). Every character has a rationalization that makes her the hero of her story.  No matter race, creed, preferences; the writing process makes every character into the Un-Author.

With this perspective, I began writing. I based the character loosely on a woman I knew. She had a cat, and pets are great foils and empathy-creators. She was educated and had been laid off from retail jobs. She was a reader of F & SF, which I used as the critter’s entre into her confidence. The critter used her yearning for a meaningful life to manipulate her into a quest against society. I included her tastes and preferences. I tweaked the character enough to suit the story’s needs, had the story vetted, then in a move that still unsettles me, I emailed the story to the woman.

It seemed the right thing to do. If she approved of the character, I must have done it right. The days of waiting for a response was unnerving. Had I offended her? Then I got her critique.

She was happy I kept the cat’s death off-page. Otherwise, she seemed content. Except she said, “This is a horror story? I thought she’d gone off and had adventures.”

I was startled. Then I realized I made the one big mistake: the story drove her instead of the other way around.

I rewrote and had the critter give her choices. Had her be more aware of what was going on, and knowing that she was in an ambiguous situation: was this a quest or some means of terrorism?

Does the story work? I got good critiques from my writers’ groups, but no one’s bought the story so far.

If this story gets published, I foresee getting mail from people taking issue with my writing someone who is not like me. Because the character is a woman and a minority in these tense times of the U.S., the mail may be confrontational.

I want to be a nice guy. I do not want to offend.

No level of research is going to be comprehensive. Not all criticisms are valid. In short, even if you get it right for the story, it will not be universally approved.

The best I can do is remember that no character should be taken for granted. Attention to details may not circumvent criticism, but it will make me more confident in all my choices.









First, you flush the spinal cord with radiator coolant….

26 02 2015

Head Transplants May Be Possible By 2017.



From, the horror publication with the most subscribers in the world

21 02 2015



“Tim Burke is one of the best authors we’ve ever featured. His stories of Victorian mediumship and horror have been collected and expanded into the excellent The Flesh Sutra. In fact it’s so excellent that it’s been longlisted for a Stoker Award this year. So, pop along to the The HWA website and take a look at the ballot. There’s some great stuff on there and the finalists will be announced on the 23rd. So, if you’re a member, go vote and go vote for Tim, his stuff’s great. Also if you don’t own the The Flesh Sutra, pick it up, it’s brilliant”

More Reviews Of “The Flesh Sutra” YOUR BLOOD NEEDS THIS

13 02 2015

“A genuinely surprising story; fresh Flesh, indeed! Burke’s dark, complex take on a “love” story kept me turning the pages and wondering where he’d go next. I’m a fan of tales that ignore the bookstore boundaries and just get on with a great story, and this book does that in spades…and with spades, at one point. :)”

“Flesh Sutra” New Blurb Must Read Now

10 02 2015

Enter This Truly Unique, Dark World — If You Dare!

This review is from: The Flesh Sutra (Kindle Edition)
The Flesh Sutra is unique and utterly absorbing. Combining horror, spirituality, dark humor and romance, it weaves a spell around the reader from the first page and won’t release you until the last. Even then, this tale of corrupt, mystical love will linger in your memory. Can’t wait to read more from this author!

— Hildy Silverman, Editor of Space and Time Magazine

Another Great Review For “The Flesh Sutra”

8 02 2015

The Flesh Sutra is unique and utterly absorbing. Combining horror, spirituality, dark humor and romance, it weaves a spell around the reader from the first page and won’t release you until the last. Even then, this tale of corrupt, mystical love will linger in your memory. Can’t wait to read more from this author!”


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