More Story Prompts and Resources

29 06 2016

Dan Brown is paying to have one-of-a-kind esoteric volumes digitized for the internet. Click the picture to learn more. Prompt: What the hell is the green crap these guys are eating? Why?



Wonder what the Koran really says? Wonder about Jainism, Sikhism, Discordianism, Swedenborgism, or the SubGenius Manifesto? Try Click the guy giving the moon to the sun. Prompt: Now that he can see beyond, what will this lad do? Why?


This blue hurts to look at. Friggin’ blue powder, just sitting there being smug. Scientists found this pigment by accident. Prompt: Did it want to be found? What will it do now that it’s going to be used by art school students?

Click this painful bastard and learn what science meddled with this time.



Famous Writing Advice With My Addendums

21 06 2016

Write what you know. Your life is a great place to start. You have something you are doing that no one else knows about, like a job or location or life challenge. Start there.

Write what you know. Be sure to talk to lots of people so you know more.

Write what you know. So write about monsters you invent, because who’s going to argue?

Monsters shouldn’t glitter unless they kill people with glitter.

Write things that would embarass your mother. This may not work if your mom likes the Kardashians. If your mother has no shame, try for “dismay” or “repulse”.

The best subtext is unintentional. That is, if you write to convey a message, that message will consume everything — characters, plot, and eventually your ability to interest others. Those you wish to persuade will dismiss you for preaching and those who agree with you will think you’re a dilletente and ignore you. Write your story. If you realize, hey, this story is awkward and makes me look nuts, then work with that. Embrace it. There is a market filled with people who are also awkward and nuts.

Remove as much as possible from your story, especially if you’ve seen it before in other stories. That goes double if you are writing a pastiche or a monster that’s been done.

Writing is not theraputic. Speaking with a cleric, health professional, or mature friend is theraputic. Writing can improve you the writer if you write with the idea that you the writer are wrong and have been for many years. That is “cathartic”. You may have a really good story when you’re done, too.

If you wish to inspire with your writing, make sure your conflicts and antogonist are treated with respect.

Everyone disagrees. Even twins disagree. In theory, clones raised in identical circumstances would disagree. Your character has to do impress you and also make you facepalm.

Even locations have character arcs. Game of Thrones wouldn’t have worked in a thriving, newly born empire. If Salem’s Lot had been a vitalized town filling with immigrants or yuppies, Barlow would have been burned before his antique store opened.


George Clooney Must Play MODOK!

17 06 2016

“>George Clooney Must Play MODOK!

Sign the petition!


My Prayer For Spec-Fic

9 06 2016

Oh Lord, are You there? My soul thirsts for You. Could You give me a Double-Gulp helping of You?

I yearn for a sf movie without “Star” in the title. I yearn for something that JJ Abrams hasn’t tainted with his signature TV cinematography and Slusho world-building. I yearn for Damon Lindoff to live a productive and happy life without the ability to write.
Some movie worthy of a franchise that isn’t already populated with 70 year olds from other franchises. A movie without The Wilhelm Scream. A movie that wasn’t produced simultaneously with three of its sequels. A movie smart enough to have its own language and culture, yet still smart enough to not hide its MacGuffin behind the name “Unobtanium” and keep its villains out of military uniforms and business suits, just once.
Something that doesn’t happen in a high school either midwestern or Asian.

I so thirts for a horror movie without a death in a car where an arm punches through the driver’s chest. Without someone crawling on the ceiling. Without a garish, flat spiritworld where everyone just smiles creepy or sings songs in public domain. Without the Christian being a hypocrite or worse. Without an explanation of why the monster came to be. Without being a disappointing remake.

Without lush childrens’ storybook styling to remind us this is a Metaphor.

People know when a movie is going to suck. They go anyway to be part of the event and be able to discuss the merits of the movie. Even M. Night Shamalan has had little effect.

Could we have a spec-fic show that’s brightly lit? In a nice, clean world? An original world without characters from story books?

Can we have real teenagers who act and speak like real teenagers? Who have sharp-eyed, meddling, loving adults involved in their lives? Can we have actual old people?

We spend our lives making money. We give this money to movies and books and TV. The art is consumimg our lives, yet is made of parts long dead. Now not only is it a zombie (slow moving), it’s  and being further shaved of its face and features so it can shamble into China and digest the Chinese.

I can’t be the only one who feels this way, Lord of Hosts, Host of All Media.

And get people to turn off their tablets in theaters, too.


I Squeezed StokerCon, Baby.

18 05 2016

I went to StokerCon and got the rewards that’ll build a career.

I want to up my game and begin using conventions to establish business connections. I’ve read dozens of articles over the years on how to network, but had neither the nerve nor the credentials to approach those on the next rung up on the ladder.

  1. This year’s StokerCon was the first to have a full weekend and have lots of workshops with professionals. What did I do?
  2. Assessed my personality. I’m introverted and anxious in general. But if I’m comfortable, I’m glib and pretty damn charming, so I’m told. This was my first “businessy” convention, so to keep up my glibness, I…
  3. …Kept my goals reasonable. If I spoke with editors and agents and was able to pitch my current project, that would be a success. To insure my glibness, I…
  4. …Talked about projects I had described many times. Rehersing would make me nervous (ain’t the way it’s supposed to work, I know, but I’m certain to grow out of this) so I made note only to mention “Diesel Dead” and use “The Flesh Sutra” and its preliminary ballot nod as an introduction/validation. This would work for…
  5. …Speaking with everyone. Not just pros but also my fellow aspirants. We’re all in the same boat, after all. Everyone has something I could learn. This worked well, because…
  6. …Workshops held all types of learning opportunities. Nancy Holder conducted a two hour workshop on discovering physical and mental cues to use when ratcheting up suspense to flat-out horror. Jo Fletcher, Stephen Graham Jones, and agent Ian Drury affirmed what I’d already heard about the market but provided an unexpected opportunity. Another big name’s workshop was a big-time slack-off by said big name, but another attendee found where I can improve another project I’m working on. The convention had other, built-in ways I could learn like…
  7. …editor pitch sessions, which I took one (those slots went quick), and paying a semi-pro editor to review/edit the first 100 pages of DD.

How’d I do?

Three editors want see a synopsis of DD. Ian Drury surprised his workshop by giving those attending a pitch session with him. Had my business card, had my material down, had my glib on. He asked for a synopsis. Meanwhile…

…Nancy Holder’s workshop held a boggling reward. After an arresting two hours, when the attendees milled around waiting to introduce themselves, I gathered my nerve and got out a business card. I walked up to her and said,

“Hi Miss Holder? My name’s Tim Burke and I had a novel on the preliminary ballot for the Stoker’s last year.”

“Really?” she smiled. “I was on the recommending panel. Which one was yours?”

I had forgotten she had been on the panel.

“‘The Flesh Sutra’?”

She gasped. “YOU’RE ‘The Flesh Sutra’? I loved ‘The Flesh Sutra’! I love your novel!”

And Nancy Holder flung her arms around my neck and gave me a big hug.

Yes, this all was worth the money. It’ll be a couple of years before I go across the country, but in terms of business this has helped me in ways I’m still processing.

I stayed a day after the con ended to do Vegas. Ate at buffets: YOU SUCKED HARRAH’S, however CAESAR’S was $60 a plate and was so-o-o good. I hardly ate the next day I was so full.

And I finally got to fire some automatic weapons at Battlefield:Vegas. I’m writing it off as research.


Story Ideas: The Drifting Dead, 100% Efficient Solar, and Alien In Fishtank

1 03 2016

Last seen in Spain, the captain died then drifted from the Atlantic to the Philippines over seven years. Click his salt-cured mummy to learn more.



Moths eyes helped “boost the light absorption capability of graphene sheets from a mere 2 to 3 percent, to a whopping 95 percent.”


“…in there 2 years before I noticed, and only noticed because I had whole coral colonies missing after a single evening.” This species survived five extinction-level cataclysms. It has skin like fiberglass, eats the world’s hardest organic substances, and can grow to over six feet in length. They are often found living in home fishtanks.

Coral worm


The Hammer Films Western: “The Bloody Fangs of The OK Corral”

21 02 2016

In 1963, motion pictures were in the midst of seismic change. The Hollywood western serial had lost their appeal. This left Hollywood stuck with props, real estate, and personnel under contract who knew only cowboys and six-shooters. Meanwhile, horror movies from Great Britain gained in appeal during the ‘50’s. This began the movie genre now called “The Weird Western” and perhaps the strangest production almost undertaken by a major studio.

The movies “Curse of the Undead” (1959, Universal), “Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter” (1966, Embassy), and “Billy The Kid Vs Dracula” (1966, Embassy) used the talent and properties ready-made for the western, and featured the familiar chills found in the new wave of horror. The box-office grosses made these experiments worthwhile.

So much so, British horror house Hammer Films sat up and took notice. In 1966, they set newly-minted producer Nigel Braithwaith to work developing their own western production. It was to be Braithwaith’s first production and according to his production notes, he wanted to set “Hammer on its blooming ear, wot!” The project was at first titled “Fangs of the Gunslinger”. Braithwaith traveled to Hollywood to assemble the talent.

Braithwaith went straight to the top. He met with Walter Brennan, who was on hiatus from shooting a season of “The Real McCoys.” Few people knew that the man known for playing fusty old ranch hands had started in New York legitimate theatre and yearned to try something new. Braithwaith had further good luck when Hollywood scribe Eric Taylor sent in a treatment. Taylor had broad experience with genre movies including westerns and crime noir. Braithwaith accepted the treatment and Taylor set to work.

At first, the writer was excited. A town named Tombstone seemed ripe for horror. Many of the Hammer tropes could be easily adapted to the Old West. However, the differences became cause for furious battling between Taylor and Braithwaith. Taylor wanted the vampire to be raised by a Comanche curse. Braithwaith needed for the movie to tie in with existing Hammer properties. Taylor wanted the lair to be the deserted Clanton ranch. Braithwaith had seen picture books of Arizona and wanted the lair to be in a Pueblo cliff dwelling. Using the character of Old Man Clanton did not sit well with Hammer, as the character lacked name recognition in Great Britain. The studio heads wanted the vampire to be Buffalo Bill Cody, then Wyatt Earp. Finally, all settled on Ike Clanton with suitable backstory.

The production was further complicated when Hammer reduced Braithwaith’s budget. The shoot location was to be moved from balmy California to Spain. Not an insurmountable obstacle as many European westerns used Spanish locations. But this set the tone for further complication.

The script suffered dozens of revisions as it passed back and forth from California to Hammer Studios.

The plot became a hodgepodge: The night after the gunfight at the OK Corral, a distraught Ike Clanton travels to Transylvania. “If the Almighty let mah brother git filled with holes, I renounce Him! I will settle up with Tombstone and those Earps!” A deep voice says, “I shall help you.” Ike looks up. Standing before him is Count Dracula. Ike shrieks as a bat flies past the full moon. The next night, the town of Tombstone is struck with a series of murders where the victims are drained of blood. Wyatt Earp and his brothers search for the killer. It’s only when noted lecturer Professor Van Helsing arrives by stagecoach that the killer’s nature is revealed.

In the midst of scripting, Hammer decided the title lacked impact. “The Fangs of Old Man Clanton” seemed more a title for a Rin Tin Tin feature starring Lionel Barrymore. The new title punched up the OK Coral connection.

Obstacles multiplied.

Brennan could not travel to Spain and keep his schedule for his TV series. Not wanting to lose their star, Hammer compromised again and shooting was set in Arizona. Brennan had read about Stanislavki and threw himself into Method acting.

“I want a cape!” Brennan demanded. “Long, long fangs! The longer the better!” Capes were procured and special fangs fashioned. Screen tests of Brennan as Vampire Ike disappointed. Braithwaith noted “WB looks like walrus at the bleeding opera.” The fangs were shortened without Brennan’s knowledge.

Taylor hadn’t been paid in weeks and filed a complaint with the Screenwriters’ Guild. Braithwaith had to draw on his limited knowledge of the old west to adapt an ever-changing production.

John Carradine had somehow sighed a contract with Braithwaith, despite being in a sanitarium recuperating from alcoholism. The only footage extant from this entire production, ironically, is the cutaway shot of Carradine in a cape, shot day-for-night, against a wall painted institutional green.

Hammer player Peter Cushing was cast to play Van Helsing. However, British-born-and-bred Peter Cushing hadn’t worked in direct sunshine in all of his then thirty-five years of life. Within hours of arriving in Arizona, Cushing succumbed a hideous case of sun poisoning. Braithwaith noted “Overripe tomato from bleeding Surrey”. The bandages Cushing wore had to be worked into the script as a rash contracted while battling the undead.

Hammer followed the production updates with mounting concern. They demanded Braithwaith return to Great Britain to begin a new Mummy movie with Christopher Lee. Braithwaith pretended to not receive the orders and went rogue.

“Bleeding fight scene will clench convince the bleeding lot of them!” wrote Braithwaith. He was positive that footage of the climactic fight would convince Hammer to continue financing. The troupe had to sneak into Pueblo National Park in the dead of night to shoot a long take fight between the tusked Vampire Ike, the swaddled Van Helsing, and a visibly-distressed newcomer James Garner cast as Wyatt Earp.

The scene hinged on Vampire Ike lunging for the heroes as he shrieked “I’ll drink your blood, you varmints!” Take after take was ruined by the chopstick length fangs popping off Brennan’s teeth at the crucial line. When the line was delivered with the assistance of binding twine, the fight commenced. The fight was joined on camera by several Park Rangers and the entire crew was arrested.

If it had been completed, the production would have included other recognizable names. A young Billy Mumy was to play Wyatt’s son “Fauntleroy”. Tony Franciosa was reading for “Deputy St. John Talbert”. The seemingly ageless extra Jackie Spratlin would reprise an uncredited role as “Barfly” for a record breaking 22nd time in a career.

Hammer abandoned the crossed-genre movie for their reliable horror fare. Despite this, the production had some behind the scenes impact on future horror hits. Hammer used the plot of a traveller appealing to Dracula for revenge in “The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires” (1974). Vampire Ike’s fangs had been adapted and shortened for the vampire Barlow in Tobe Hooper “Salem’s Lot” (Warner Bros. Television, 1979).

What of Nigel Braithwaith? He disappeared soon after doing thirty days for trespass. He did not return to Hammer Studios and his scheduled production “The Witches” with Joan Fontaine. It is said that on nights of the new moon, where light is at its least optimal for filming, a voice can be heard echoing around the Pueblo cliffs: “Bleeding walrus saying bleeding varmint to a bleeding to-mah-to…”

In Time For Valentine’s Day!

4 02 2016

It’ll make you appreciate why you’re single, or appreciate your sane and safe sweetheart even more. Click and read this preview to gain this adoration.


Light Text - High Resolution


Regarding the World Fantasy Award Trophy

21 01 2016


I’ve just worked up the nerve to express something that’s been boiling.

I believed the trophy needed to be changed decades ago. Why?

Four reasons.
1. My reaction on seeing it as a teenager: “This is the goddamn ugliest award.” It is as hideous a piece of ’70’s kitsch that ever graced a flea market discount bin. How stoned was the awards committee when they approved it? Don’t care that Gahan Wilson was the designer. It looks like strangulation sprayed with chrome paint.
2. No one person should be identified with an abstract. “J.C. Campbell Award for Best New Writer of Fantasy”? Sure, that’s specific. No problem. The World Fantasy Award is supposed to reflect All Of Fantasy in the Entire World. What face could possibly mean that to even a majority of people? Tolkien? Even if we put J.R.R. Tolkien’s head on the award, it makes the award too European for the “Entire World” award. The Stoker Award is a spooky tomb-house. The Nebula is a beautiful lucite nebula. The Hugo is a plastic bullet-shaped rocket. Make WFA award a big dragon or sword.
3. Lovecraft had only a marginal effect on fantasy, because he was a horror writer.
4. Look at it. It is the ugliest damn thing I’ve ever seen, much less wanted to win.

Some want to replace Lovecraft with Octavia Butler’s head. Do not do this! How badly will that sculpture be botched? What conversation will will be huffing over fifty years from now due to either Butler’s shortcomings or the change in values?

Inventing Your Own Hell

7 01 2016

Dante saw Hell as punishment for misdirected passion. Those who loved a behavior more than they loved God got an ironic end.

Dante knew if you are need some unique take on damnation, the obvious isn’t most interesting Hell.

I’ve had Inferno on my reading list for a long time, but I have a hard time getting into it. Dante didn’t mean it as a literal map of damnation, I know. Yet through the circles freezing, fiery, and fecal, teeming with billions of wicked souls, to find Satan gnawing at Brutus as one of the Three Most Evil Men Ever is quite a letdown.

The language is beautiful, though.

Considering this question about creating a Hell for some fiction, I learned a bit about where our passion has gone in the last century.

Our ideas of Hell have been tsunamis of desire. Hell is what happens when you get everything you want beyond any concept of health.

Clive Barker designed a Hell for Materialists. Dominated by an infinite maze, ruled by inscrutable sentient pyramid Lord Leviathan, his Hell is populated by the Cenobites who exist only to either create the art of pain, or wage eternal war on flesh (depending on the story). In “The Hellbound Heart” and in the several dozen “Hellraiser” movies, there is no Heaven, only safety by avoiding the louche and grotesque. There is no Eucharist, only milquetoast (SWIDT? “Bartlett’s” here I come!).

Very similar is Lovecraft’s original vision of the universe, where salvation means remaining comfortable in your New England cottage ignoring your desire for knowledge. Hell for Lovecraft meant being dragged helpless into fathomless depths, whether it’s as a brain canister to the planet Yuggoth, an unknown fate in the undersea of the Deep Ones, or a slave in the underground land of dream. He created a Hell for Skeptics, in that not only is all human science wrong, humans don’t even have the brainpower to understand.
(I ignore any addition to the Cthulhu Mythos beyond Lovecraft. Robert Howard wanted to create epics and C.A. Smith wanted passion plays.)

The 1970s presented Hell as gauche. A dinner party with your extended family gone stale but with Latin Rites on the stereo. It’s eternity with the Castavets of “Rosemary’s Baby”, or in stuck in the jerkwater burg of Malas in “The Devil’s Rain”, or locked in the brownstone of “The Sentinel.” The only crimes ever mentioned as damning a character were murder, suicide, and flat-out Satan Worship. The good believer was sucked into the abyss by being possessed or sacrificed after dabbling with Ouija boards or having the wrong bloodline. This was Hell if you Took Your Thing Too Far, Man.

This is where our culture has left us. Hell is now for jerks who can’t get along. Want your family to stop growing apart? Go to “Krampus” Hell where its Christmas morning for eternity. Can’t stomach self-sacrifice? Stay in Revelation era L.A. like “This Is The End”.

But what about the Hell your story needs?

What could Hell for Positivists be like? Frenzied, eternal stimulation and exhaustion? Unsurpassed bliss, but alone, always alone? Would there be Circles, like the First being for those who post mindless platitudes on Facebook, and the punishment being listening to that friend whose nice but really down for all eternity?

For Pessimists, Hell would be uncertainty in cause and effect. Being in the wrong place or time and seeing opportunities flit just out of reach. Lost in a roiling sea of millions of other souls, none of whom believe what you’ve seen. Hmm, Hell for Pessimists is Life.

Hell for Stoics could be like Samuel Beckett’s “Play” (Have a look. It’s brief and stars Alan Rickman). All ruminate privately over their gravest sins over and over, without expression, until emotions are ground to dust. It’s a Hell that every stage actor has faced, and is also quite British in its way.

In the comic series “Swamp Thing”, the evil magician Arcane is sent to Hell, where he is told Hell wouldn’t exist if people didn’t believe in it. For writer Alan Moore, Hell must be like this.
(Watch all the way through. More poignant than funny.)

One human’s Heaven is another’s Hell. Example: The Mormons allegedly believe that once a worshiper dies, that worshiper gets a planet to rule as a god. Meanwhile, countless souls would have to live on a planet designed by Donny Osmond.

How many sandwiches are being made by damned Feminists for blessed MRAs?

Anyway. Hell has to be that ironic sting.

Hell for Ferenghi may include toil and the gloating of those with better lobes, but watching their descendants lose. For Time Lords, Hell may be like a conscious one-dimensional fixed point in time and space, watching everything pass by.

I wrote up a race of intelligent gas bubbles. That race lived chemical reactions in a DNA laden gas within a membrane. Once popped, a bubble’s gas needed to be absorbed by another bubble to “live on.” Their passion would be toward creating the safest, most stimulating life for themselves and their progeny-foam with NO-SHARP OBJECTS. Hell would be some primordial soup with a gooey, lethal surface tension, filled with lost souls.

Sometime, maybe I’ll discuss why a theology is the second step toward creating an alien race.

We deserve better Hell than some spiteful gnawing. Create a better one for your world.

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