Sunday, August 31, 2008

New Obama Magnet for the PT Cruiser!

Some scalliwag or rapscallion (or Hillary supporter, I'm thinking!) took the last one off my bumper! But I ordered a new one today!

Finnish Symphonic Power Metal and Slush Update

Nightwish: It wasn't quite as Wagnerian/apocalyptic as the Metal I'm used to. Perhaps more "showy" - I kept thinking of Lord of the Dance, or the music in the Lord of the Rings movies, or the Norway ride at Epcot. And with all the synthesizer, I could only think of Styx.

But they do have some catchy songs, I have to say, and at 120 decibels in a packed theater that looked as though it had been through the zombie apocalypse was the right place to hear them.

Slush: Hitting me like Gustav. Read before I went to the concert and again this morning, and steadily losing ground:

149 TBR
17 maybe
75 rejections

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Symphonic Power Metal Quintet

That's what the boy child talked me into going to see tonight:

I'm not against it, mind you, though it is an odd choice.


Word of advice -

the new chocolate turnover?

Better than sex.

Okay, not better than the best sex you've ever had, surely - but way ahead of average, everyday coupling. And at a buck nineteen - quite a bargain!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Slushy Update

With more coming in, a day's reading barely kept me at even:

126 in the TBR
15 in the maybe pile
65 rejections sent

Slushy Afternoon

Zombies eat people
People eat zombies

People hunt zombies for fun, like "canned hunts"
People form religious cult to worship zombies
People sacrifice members of their community to appease their zombie overlords

I think I'm gonna take a break.


I've fallen way behind on the World Is Dead submissions, but I'll be working through them. I apologize to those who have submitted for the delay.

So far, I have nine in my maybe pile, 133 in my TBR pile, and I've sent about 50 rejections.

Good luck to all, and thanks to everyone who submitted.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Simoniacs and 63k

Hit 63,000 words today! Starting to feel like it's almost done and I just have to tidy up some loosed ends, though I guess I have to come up with some big finale. (If you know the Inferno, you know their meeting with Satan is hardly the most memorable or dramatic scene in the poem, but it'd be hard for a modern audience to come to the end without some sense of climax.)

Constructed the scene of the simoniacs today. They came out a little more comical than I intended (but then my sense of humor is notoriously morbid and dark), and the burning feet look a little gratuitous. (Perhaps I could look on the bright side - I've woven in a lot of other bizarre details from Inferno w/o them looking gratuitous!)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Seducers and Simoniacs

Made some good progress on them. I did the seducers' chapter, which was really a combination of them, along with the panderers and flatterers. (Good Aristotelian that he is, Dante sometimes gets carried away with the subdividing!) It turned into a much bigger chapter than I intended (ca. 4k words) but that's okay. I think it moves along fine, and contains all the key elements of those sinners -

a river of shit
hyper rationalization of the sin

Then I thought about the next circle, for the simoniacs. I'd originally thought to leave them out (again, it's hard to distinguish them from the grafters [barrators]), but their circle contains one of the most memorable images from Inferno - people with their feet on fire (not the rest of them). Then I got this idea how to work in some religious charlatans at this point in the journey, so it'll work perfectly!!

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Bashers from Birmingham!!

One of many little triumphs along the way to finishing a book is when I decide what line to quote from JUDAS PRIEST at the beginning of the book, and then receive the lads' permission to do so.

Today I got the official email granting me permission to use this quotation:

Such torment and sadness
That overwhelms like madness
So fearful and intense
It burns inside

Judas Priest, "Revelations" (2008)

Torment, sadness, madness, fear, burning? It's like it was written for Valley of the Dead!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

80s Metal Goodness and Festival of Fear

Rocker Chris I. sent this, so rock it old school.

And now, off to Toronto's Festival of Fear (Canada FanExpo).

Dante vs the zombies soon to be finished upon my return.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Guess what the line reads for those years in the timeline of Dante's life?

(Hint: it's perfect for having him fight zombies.)

It reads: Exact whereabouts unknown.

Now, is that cool or what?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Ah, Those Blasphemers!

I had to think of how to work them in, for blasphemy in the abstract is a little hard for a modern audience to swallow. So I started a thread on The Other Dark Place (, home of constant snark and occasional brilliance, and got some good feedback. Especially useful was the suggestion of Karen Koehler (, that the sin should be personal - i.e. even if many of us don't think the actual name of God, or the actual presence of an icon or communion wafer are sacred per se, if someone holds those things sacred, and someone comes along and disrespects them, I think any civilized person would find that to be objectionable. So that part worked nice.

But as I'm going, I'm trying to work in more of Dante's imagery. One of the things he really likes for that circle is sterility (snow made of fire instead of water, tears that scald insted of wash, people who teach but cannot follow their own teaching [Dante meets a beloved teacher there in a very heartbreaking scene]). So I think to have the people he meets in my version in a cart mules! Because mules are sterile! And the blasphemer says that God is shit! And as if on cue, one of the mules shits! So the blasphemer can fling the poo (literally) at the religious symbol!

I love it when things work like that! It's like some avalanche of goodness!

And ZOMG - as the blasphemer is flinging poo, she's reciting the Nicene creed, except everywhere there's the word "God" she says "shit"! Now that's some blasphemy! (Plus note the gender - of course when I first thought of the scene, I had the man as the blasphemer and the weak and Christly woman as the pious one - but where's the fun in that?!)

DeadBooks Goes Live

An experiment in "hyperserialization" -

And it's going "live" shows a keen sense of irony! Good luck to the project!

Monday, August 18, 2008

More Editing

After an amazing set of detailed, critical comments from soon-to-be-award-winning author Christine Morgan (, I'm going over the whole Valley of the Dead manuscript, really smoothing things out and making the action scenes flow so much better.

Thanks again Sabledrake!

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Since I'm writing about that circle of hell, I thought I'd try to get some inspiration for it. Dante only uses one example of the sin, one taken from Classical Antiquity - Capaneus, one of the Seven Against Thebes, and certainly an odd choice, since it's hard to see how cursing a god (Zeus) who doesn't exist is exactly a sin. (I can see how you can get around the problem - Dante thinks Zeus is an imperfect representation and concept of the True God, and besides, it's the attitude of blasphemy that is sinful, so that its object doesn't matter so much.)

I thought I'd check out these dudes and gals for some inspiration -

Didn't inspire me too much. Dante classifies the sin as a sin of violence, and none of those people seem too violent. If anything, they seem too rational, which I guess is how we look at the sin now. This will take some thought.

Appears in the Top 10

Dying to Live: Life Sentence, broke into the top 10 sellers at Horror Mall:

This bodes well, since it's only a preorder, and we're 2 1/2 months away from shipping! Whee!

Off to Horrorfind!

My reading is Saturday afternoon. I'm still wondering whether to read a full short story, or a chapter from Valley of the Dead. I always think chapters from a novel don't sound as good, but I'm just so darned excited about the project.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Oedipus Redivivus

Sorry, one more thing: as my chief beta reader intuited quite correctly, two of the arch sinners are transparently based on my biological father. (He's dead, don't worry - I don't go around slandering people who might read something and have their feelings hurt.) And for all his faults, he was a very practical person, so I'm sure if I could get some use out of his bad habits, he'd be all for it. But, he really was only of use for Heresy and Wrath. The others - I'm on my own!

Circle Seven - The Burning Plain

ZOMG! Check it out!

Our intrepid heroes have made it to the burning plain. In my version, they have to stop for the night there. So here's the final description of them huddling together:

"An icy wind began to blow, swirling the ash around them like a dirty, grey blizzard, except the sickening snow stung like ground glass. Dante drew his knees up and pulled a blanket over his head, crossing his arms in front of himself to pull the fabric tight across his cheeks, leaving just a little gap for his eyes. He watched the others do the same, their movements slow and stiff, like the motions of ghosts or dreams. They could’ve been four survivors on the Anatolian plains, with the ashes of fallen Troy raining down on them as they bided their time for the inevitable, fated rebirth of their people. Or they could’ve been four of the damned on the outskirts of Gomorrah, the salty, poisonous exhalation of an unknown, jealous God wearing away every trace of them, as they waited for a sunrise they would never see. The feeling of Bogdana’s beloved body pressing against him could not tell Dante which of these two worlds they now inhabited; it could only tell him that he could endure either. "

Now, please excuse the overdone, nineteenth century style. It's my shtick. But besides that - loook what I did (w/o knowing it!): on the burning plain, Dante places three categories of sinners - homosexuals, usurers, and blasphemers. As you could guess, I don't classify the charging of interest or the erotic love of those of the same gender to be sins. BUT - check it out! The usurers are described as huddled on the ground with their arms around their knees; and the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah is taken as synonymous with homosexuality. So in my description of our heroes, I've used the imagery of the two sins that I excluded! Get it? See?

Internet Drama

In case you missed it the first time:

Ah, not my finest hour, since it accomplished nothing, of course, but I still got a chuckle reading over it this morning.

Halfway Point

There's something that happens for me after I've passed the halfway point of a novel in progress. I start to see larger patterns in what's finished, and I see how to wrap those up in the remaining work. (I do work from an outline, but it's not that detailed - it might say, for example, "Introduction" or "They journey through the woods and fight zombies" - so there's plenty of details, especially thematic connections, that are only made once I'm writing.) So, for example, I can see now that several of the scenes I've put in include imagery of the crucifixion (though none are staged specifically as a crucifixion), and I'd like to include one more, for symmetry's sake, so that there would four total - two women and two men. I can now see how a lot of the animal imgery fits into an unfolding presentation that I have of "natural theology" - that unaided, human nature is capable of some goodness, w/o Divine revelation. It really makes you more confident that you can finish the thing and it'll work out the way you want it to.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What Would Beatrice Do?

That's become something of the principle that guides a lot of scenes in Valley of the Dead, since we have a Beatrice character along for the ride through hell.

In the wood of the suicides, Dante shows considerable pity to the damned. And although Virgil castigates him elsewhere for such feelings, saying that to pity the damned is to argue with Divine Justice, here the sympathetic comments go uncriticized. Why? Well, because in the "real" journey, when he saw the wood of the suicides, the Beatrice character showed them how wrong they'd be to judge such people. Looking upon the hanged and reanimated corpses, she says,

“They were young,” Bogdana said as she got the hatchet from her saddle. “They didn’t know. At least they did it in such a way that they couldn’t hurt others.” She walked over, closer to the writhing limbs, and looked up at their contorted faces as they twisted in their frustration, their movements looking one moment like a tragic, graceful dance, and the next like the spasms of a sick and mortally wounded animal. “They were confused. They probably helped each other to do it. Maybe they were lovers.” She turned back to the three men. “I’ve seen enough yesterday and today to know which people to judge and despise, and which to pity and help. I’m beginning to wonder when you three are going to catch on.”

Rowr! This kitten's got claws.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Argento's Formal Wear

I'm to that scene in the proofreading of Life Sentence, where our heroes explore this appropriately named ruin of a store. You know, I hadn't looked over the thing in so long, I'd forgotten that scene was coming, and it kind of took me by surprise, in a good way, like "Wow, that's cool."

And there's a part where one character refers to zombies as "you people," and I hadn't even realized before how much that sounds like the racist code we sometimes use when we say "you people" or "those people." That's cool, too.

The DeadBooks Project

A nifty new concept of what the creator terms "hyper-serialization," it is set to go live on August 18. Until then, check out their YouTube teaser -

And when it's live, check out

Friday, August 08, 2008

JUDAS PRIEST and Near Death Experience!

Picture, including the awesome Shahin Sharifi who has put up with me since 3rd grade, and some Devil Cat with Glowing Demon Eyes who put up with me sleeping in her house last night.

The Bashers from Birmingham rocked the Nissan Pavilion HARD last night. Halford was on top of his game, and Travis was in full-on metallic monster drumming. He makes it look so easy - tossing the drumstick up in the air, flipping it back under his arm, pointing at the audience with it, all while playing this crazy solo! Great set list, with a couple unusual choices, like "Devil's Child," that were great to hear for a change.

On the way home, we stopped at a red light. It turned green. We moved forward. A big pickup truck blew the red light and just missed us. Truck that big, versus a little Scion, and me in the passenger's side seat - I think you all almost lost me last night. But, it is God's will I finish this Dante / zombie adaptation!

Preorder Dying to Live: Life Sentence

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Zombie CSU

My friend Jonathan Maberry's new book, Zombie CSU, is now available. It's a look at zombies in culture, and especially at how law enforcement and the military plan on responding to the threat of the undead. Check it out:

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Torture Scenes

They're much easier to write than action scenes. So much more psychological, and much easier to block than fight scenes, since one of the people is usually immobilized. And so many ways to describe the feelings, the physical torment, and the moral repugnance.

And of course, if you're writing about a journey through Hell, writing torture scenes is a good skill to have!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Valley of the Dead: The Prologue

I'd been going back and forth on how to phrase the prologue, as a way of setting up the conceit of the book. Originally, I'd presented it more as a piece of Dante scholarship, but it sounded too much like, well, scholarship (Boo! Hisss!), and I didn't want to put that right at the front, but I also didn't want to put it off to an epilogue, as I think knowing the setup helps the enjoyment of my version. So I hacked it down to a mere 800 words and I think I have it right as a teaser for the volume:


For the last nineteen years of his life, the Italian poet Dante Alighieri was exiled from his native city of Florence. In these years, he wrote his most famous poem, The Divine Comedy, which is still regarded as one of the greatest works of literature and of Christian theological speculation. The work is an enormous epic divided into three volumes, each of which describes one of the three realms of the Christian afterlife – Inferno (Hell), Purgatorio (Purgatory), and Paradiso (Paradise or Heaven). The Inferno is the most famous of the volumes, and is still read by many American undergraduates as part of a religion or literature course. Even those of purely secular tastes and background are fascinated and appalled by its graphic, ghastly, but hauntingly beautiful and unforgettable images. Also, I think, they pick up on the power that the poem draws from being so intensely personal. Dante’s simultaneous anger and love for his hometown, his nation, and his church can easily be heard throughout his writing, while Boniface, Beatrice, and many other real people in Dante’s life – not to mention Dante himself – all appear as characters in the Comedy.

It’s that intensely personal aspect of Dante’s writing – easily observable by any first-time student and endlessly analyzed and praised by lifelong scholars – that started me down the path of reconstructing the events of this story. Dante fills all three volumes of his greatest poem with facts and images from his personal experiences, things he had really seen and events in which he himself had participated – Beatrice’s beautiful eyes, a baptismal font he had broken in a church, a bloody military battle in which he had fought, along with hundreds of other minute details – some beautiful, some horrible, some trivial. How else could he write so powerfully and convincingly? With that being verifiably the case, the conclusion seems almost unavoidable: during his years of exile and wandering, when details of his whereabouts are lost and legends abound, Dante must have actually seen the horrors on which he would later base the Inferno. He must have witnessed the very depths of human depravity – hate, betrayal, sadism, dismemberment, torture, disease, unbelievable monsters, unquenchable fire, unendurable ice. Lest people think him mad, and building on his deeply-held religious convictions that God must have shown him these horrors for a reason, he wove these horrors into a supposedly “fictional” account of a journey through the afterlife, significantly changing the details, populating this world with what his contemporaries would have deemed more believable and acceptable characters – demons, angels, and mythological beasts. I finally saw clearly that there really could be no other explanation for his poem.

As heady as my discovery was, I still didn’t know exactly where and under what circumstances Dante could have seen these seemingly impossible sights, until I saw how this solved a further mystery of interpretation. With a chill as immobilizing but far more invigorating than the ice that Dante describes gripping the innermost circle of hell, I remembered how one denizen of Dante’s hell indulges in a particularly gruesome pastime: in the final circle of hell, there is a sinner vigorously engaged in cannibalism, even though he is not put there for that individual crime, and even though Dante does not assign a circle of hell to the sin of cannibalism. Here was the solution I had sought: Dante must have seen such a massive, horrifying outbreak of cannibalism that he couldn’t bring himself to confine it to one circle of hell, but instead made it the state and situation of every sinner, the landscape or lifestyle of hell itself. Dante, based on some horror he had personally witnessed, came to regard cannibalism as not just one sin among many, but rather the epitome and model of all sin – self-destructive, self-devouring, never-ending hunger. And I knew, as you probably do, that there is only one situation that causes cannibalism on such a massive scale, and which would cause a devout man to imagine that all of hell must be populated by such cannibalistic monsters, or that hell itself was breaking loose upon the earth. I also saw with chilling clarity why, on the one occasion that Dante does describe a cannibal in hell, he focuses on a rather unexpected part of the ghoulish feast: he describes the sinner devouring someone else’s brains. Once again, there clearly was only one answer possible: Dante had witnessed what I had previously thought was a deadly plague only in our modern world – zombies, the living dead.

What I have now laid down, as best as I could reconstruct it from passages in the Inferno, is the tale of how Dante survived that plague, and the lessons he learned there, making his ideas more accessible to many who might be put off by his overtly Christian language, and revealing the real-life situation on which such theological discourse was based. This is far more than an interpretation or adaptation of the Inferno: this is the real story, of which the Inferno is the interpretation.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Valley of the Dead: The Epicureans

Oddly, in the circle of the heretics, Dante singles out a supposed Epicurean, by which he does not mean (merely) someone who enjoys their food and beverage, but someone who denies the immortality of the soul, which to me is an interesting thing to focus on. Thinking on that distinction really let me fill in a lot of the theology of the Commedia in a heated exchange between the arch sinner and Dante (theology which Dante puts in long asides between himself, Virgil, Beatrice, and various Sts. in heaven, but that would be a pretty clunky way to do it in my version). Though of course the sinner has to come off looking like a lout, I tried my best to make his position ("I'm right, and you're a fool for believing the way you do") and Dante's ("I'm right, and you're a fool for believing the way you do") as indistinguishable as I believe they often are in real life. And once again, the Beatrice character comes the closest to the truth - not expressing an abstract belief in the immortality of the soul or the existence of God, but simply feeling love for those around her, and sharing in their pain.

I don't think I know ANY actresses in their late teens / early 20s to play her in the movie version. Any ideas? (With links, please!)


I think that's the only explanation for the two cute, teenage girls at Dunkin' Donuts being so flirtatious with me this afternoon, since it can't be any visual cues. Yes, both young ladies were wearing glasses, but that won't do as an explanation, because they were WEARING them, you see, so unless they both simultaneously need their prescription updated, I think they were seeing clearly (if not sanely).

So, it's all the dusky, primal, scent markers I'm laying down. Must be.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Blog Adjustment and Beta Readers

I'm liquidating the private blog I set up with works in progress, as no one was using it except my one regular beta reader. I'll keep the blog set up with just the "teaser" first chapter and set it to public.

Of course, if any of my other friends wants to be a beta reader, that'd be great. Let me know and I'll send big chunks as email attachments. Thanks!


Triumph of The Walking Dead