Monday, June 28, 2010

Word Count

Up to 10,600 words


Always hard (and fun) to think of what's parallel in my new version, as I adapt an existing story to my new vision of how it's supposed to work, how it's supposed to mean what it means.

So, for example, the whole savage/civilized parallels in Moby-Dick, it seems to me, have to be handled delicately, lest one fall into the oft-pilloried "magical negro" made famous recently in several King stories. (And of course, Melville himself can look pretty dated and quaint in many ways because of this dynamic.) But, at the same time, I'd like to keep some contrast and interplay between, let us say, the "spiritually obtuse but curious" narrator, and the "spiritually attuned but intutitive and unable to articulate it" sidekick. So, for now, I'd like to work through the analogous relations of

Presbyterian : Yojo-worshipper : : Agnostic : Christian

Of course, there are all kinds of potential problems with that: Am I implying Presbyterians aren't Christians? Well, of course not, but OTOH, I do think that (roughly) the modern worldview takes a kind of bland agnosticism or secularism for granted, the way Melville's ethos would've taken a "regular" Christian denomination like Presebyterianism as the "norm." And, moreover, to many North Americans, a Christian (esp a virtuous one) is as exotic a curiosity as a Yojo-worshiper (esp a VERY virtuous one, who nonetheless sells shrunken heads around town) would've been to Ishmael in New Bedford. So I'm not unhappy with the syllogism, so far.


To new member of the League of Tana Tea Drinkers,


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Great Review

Friday, June 25, 2010

News Update

I'm in Grand Rapids, MI, after a long drive, leaving a trail of signed copies in my wake in Borders stores in PA, OH, and MI! Now I'm here doing "serious" stuff, though I haven't had much chance to write, but maybe I'll get to some of that this week - or if not, it's only the beginning of the summer so I'm not too worried!

In the meantime, check out this hilarious article on someone marketing a fitness program as a way to be prepared to outrun the zombies when the zombocalypse comes!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Brutal As Hell!

Finally, I have a review of VALLEY OF THE DEAD for my wall of shame! Here it is over at the website BRUTAL AS HELL.

And, despite the website's name, it doesn't accuse my story of not being brutal enough. It's a thoughtful review, very well written, even deferential, before the reviewer brings out her criticisms, which interestingly have to do mostly with the book's relation to the original.

So, the wall grows! And now I don't have to keep looking for one for VALLEY!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Borders Cross Country

In the next couple weeks, I'll be hitting the following Borders. (I know all the Internet wisdom says I'm not supposed to say exactly when I'm going on vacation, so I won't say when I'm leaving. Also, my family will be staying here at home for part of my trip, to keep away all those supposed thieves who want to steal my 2 year old television or 8 year DVD player.) These won't be formal signings - I'll go in, find their stock, take them to an employee (if I can find one) and ask for some "Signed by the Author" stickers, and I'll sign them. So if you live near any of these, you will now be able to find signed copies. Lucky you!

Middletown, NY
Scranton, PA
Lycoming, PA
Westlake, OH
Sandusky, OH (maybe)
Toledo, OH
Ann Arbor, MI
Brighton, MI
Mishawaka, IN (maybe)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Writing Process

We're at 6200 words right now

So you see (if you're interested) how I'm going about this.

The original passage I'm working from:

"On one side hung a very large oil painting so thoroughly besmoked, and every way defaced, that in the unequal crosslights by which you viewed it, it was only by diligent study and a series of systematic visits to it, and careful inquiry of the neighbors, that you could any way arrive at an understanding of its purpose. Such unaccountable masses of shades and shadows, that at first you almost thought some ambitious young artist, in the time of the New England hags, had endeavored to delineate chaos bewitched. But by dint of much and earnest contemplation, and oft repeated ponderings, and especially by throwing open the little window towards the back of the entry, you at last come to the conclusion that such an idea, however wild, might not be altogether unwarranted. But what most puzzled and confounded you was a long, limber, portentous, black mass of something hovering in the centre of the picture over three blue, dim, perpendicular lines floating in a nameless yeast. A boggy, soggy, squitchy picture truly, enough to drive a nervous man distracted. Yet was there a sort of indefinite, half-attained, unimaginable sublimity about it that fairly froze you to it, till you involuntarily took an oath with yourself to find out what that marvellous painting meant. Ever and anon a bright, but, alas, deceptive idea would dart you through.— It’s the Black Sea in a midnight gale.—It’s the unnatural combat of the four primal elements.—It’s a blasted heath.— It’s a Hyperborean winter scene.—It’s the breaking-up of the icebound stream of Time. But at last all these fancies yielded to that one portentous something in the picture’s midst. That once found out, and all the rest were plain. But stop; does it not bear a faint resemblance to a gigantic fish? even the great leviathan himself?"

How it ends up in my version, split in two and now bracketing the conversation in the middle of the chapter:

"Most all the photos were small, and Ridley had to take a step closer to the display to make out what many of them were. But in the middle was one photo much larger than the rest. Oddly, though the image was bigger, Ridley couldn’t decide what the picture depicted, even though he continued to study it. There was no way to understand the scale, as there was nothing of determinable size in the photograph. An enormous, dark, grey shape filled the middle, but it was hard to tell where it began and ended, as both the ground and the sky appeared grey as well. In the foreground were what looked like burn marks, but that part of the picture was all smudgy, as the camera had been focused on the distant object – whatever it was – so the foreground was indistinct and blurred. Ridley peered closer. There were some figures near the large form, but he couldn’t tell what they were. The whole thing could be a photo taken through a microscope of some crap that lives in a drop of water, or it could be birds hovering under a dirigible on a foggy day. Either way, Ridley couldn’t see the connection to the other photos, all of which seemed to be of the locals during the war against the undead. ...

"Pete trundled off to the kitchen with a basket of ingredients. Ridley turned to consider the large photo again. Even though it now had associations of death and violence, summoning up images of people fighting hordes of the undead with shovels and axes, he could almost let go of those thoughts and once again experience the picture as purely indistinct and indefinite, of completely unknown meaning, size, location, or date. As the smell of frying onions and brewing coffee filled his head, he turned from the photograph and stared down at the rough wood of the bar, running his fingertips over the hundreds of initials carved there – some deeply, some just barely discernible – and felt neither good nor bad about this place, but merely at ease."

Monday, June 14, 2010

Word Count

1280 words today; 5220 total

Interesting Perspective

Over at the review for VALLEY OF THE DEAD at a site called Christian Manifesto.

And I can't totally decide if the reviewer likes it or not. She likes the inhabitants with all their violence and cruelty, but is disappointed by the Dante character. Which I think is an interesting criticism.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Word Count

1500 words today; 3940 total

Thursday, June 10, 2010

New Review and Interview


"Valley of the Dead is classic Paffenroth, a moody, dark, delicate blend of religion and zombies.... Highly recommended, no, essential for public collections as an example of the depth and soul horror tales can possess."

Also check out the interview elsewhere on the Monster Librarian site. (It's a frames site, so I can't link them separately.)

Upcoming Appearances - Summer / Fall 2010

Still working on them, but these are finalized or likely:

June 20-July 2 - Grand Rapids, MI (not a horror con, but a seminar at Calvin College - locals hit me up for an autograph, and I'll make the rounds of the Borders in the area signing their stock; I'll also take the trip as an excuse to stop by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on the way!)

August 27-29 - FanExpo (tentative) Toronto, Canada - this is a BIG show!

Sept 3-5 - HorrorFind Weekend (definite), Gettysburg, PA - Thanks to Brian Keene for setting it up! My reading's Saturday afternoon at 3:30.

Sept 17-19 - HorrorRealm (definite), formerly ZombieFest, in Pittsburgh; my favorite con, as it's themed for the zombie fans!

Oct 8-10 - Albacon (tentative) Albany, NY; more Sf/Fantasy than horror, but a nice con nearby

Mortal Kombat

The trailer HERE is getting some online buzz.

It's slick looking. Little bit gory. But I still think it looks like pretty standard issue "video game as movie." But then I never "got" the original game. But maybe that was because I'd spend a lot of my break time at Notre Dame watching the kids play it on a HUGE screen, but they weren't trying to beat the game, they were trying to get all the Easter Eggs (which does make the game look pretty laughable - the paper dolls and the birthday cake and what not). So maybe I'm prejudiced to think the game/movie is a farce.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010


Near the end of the semester, I went through my office books and gleaned out the stuff I knew I'd never use, mostly because it's just really technical NT/Greek/Patristic stuff that I don't plan on working on (and if I did, I could get the book easily enough on Inter Library Loan). I got out 40 books. And I thought, if I send them to a US seminary, they might put the most expensive ones (the published dissertations, which often go for $125 a pop) in their collection, and sell the rest at a garage sale for a couple bucks each. Not a bad use. But I thought no, I want all the books to be used by the people I send them to, and for it to be a library that doesn't have much to begin with. And I remembered how, in 1997, the first place to offer me a long term job were these nice folks at Pacific Theological College, and I thought - there, those people could really use these books. Shipped them (cost a bundle, but again, some of the books are $100+ each) and I was getting pretty nervous, as the post office said it'd take a week, and this was 7 weeks ago! I thought a couple hundred dollars in books, and a couple hundred more in shipping, down the drain. Finally got confirmation today - they all got there safely! And they sent me this pic of students with the books! So I think they went to the right place!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Zombies and Religion

Two of my favorite topics! I'll try to weave them together this afternoon!

I’ve written extensively on this subject, so much that it’s now hard to present it in one shot, as I’ve seen my ideas vary and evolve, depending on whether I’m looking at it from a religious perspective (and then bring in zombies), or whether I’m looking at it from a horror perspective (and then bring religion into the discussion). As I write more about zombies, I also see that I approach them differently when I’m thinking about them from the perspective of a fiction writer, or a critic or scholar, or a fan.

So let me focus today on the zombies first and bend it around to more religious ideas. Zombies are probably the most human monsters. Most all monsters are partly human, and either combine the human with some other animal (centaurs, harpies, minotaurs, etc.) or exaggerate some human element to make the thing monstrous (two heads, fangs, extra limbs, one eye, hypersexuality, etc.). Older monsters do so through magic or some divine or demonic intervention, while modern films and books often prefer some pseudo-scientific explanation – viruses, genetic manipulation, aliens, etc. But look at a zombie: it’s just a person – a really dumb, clumsy person who’s overcome with a desire to kill and eat other people. No powers, no change in their physique (except whatever injuries killed them), nothing. It’s not an enhanced or mutated person – it’s just a person minus some basic skills and intellect, plus an exaggerated and misdirected desire for food. So the zombies, more than other monsters, are identified with us. It’s hard not to feel sorry for them, at many points (and feel sorry for the live people who have to callously shoot all these other people in the head, with all the PTSD that’d cause). So when you see the zombies wandering aimlessly, hungering constantly in a way that can never be satisfied, returning to the places that meant something to them previously – you’re bound to feel that their deficiencies are yours: you’re a pre-zombie already, with many of the same shortcomings. The undead thereby work like funhouse mirrors for our own feelings of helplessness and meaninglessness in the modern world, warping and making those feelings funny and scary, but also manageable, since they’ve been moved into a fantasy world of film or literature. Fear and humor work together as a way to cope with our issues in the modern world, just as older myths helped earlier people do so with their anxieties.

Where I think this depiction has very broadly religious dimensions is in how it moves us toward introspection and dread at our own inadequacy and unhappiness. Any religion, I think, is predicated on the idea that we are not our own light – there is something more we long for, something other than the physical that we need in order to be happy. You can call it Brahman or God or the Good or the One or transcendence or ultimacy: I think they’re all labels for the same basic yearning. Zombies play on that desire, even if they only show the frustration of it: they’re completely, merely physical beings, and we’re aghast that we might become like them. So in that sense, considering the plight of both zombies and survivors in these films and books can be a kind of spiritual exercise or meditation on our own weakness and fragility.

Dark Awakenings

The new book by the quirky, intelligent, ambiguously spiritual/religious Matt Cardin!

319 pages of weird supernatural horror fiction and academic nonfiction, all of it exploring the boundary between religion and horror.You can purchase it directly from the publisher and receive with it a copy of Matt's CURSE OF THE DAIMON album.

Kim's New Glass!

A great new contest! (And an unusual one, too!)

As you may have read here, I was very excited about my new SHREK glass from McDonald's. I hadn't had a special glass to drink from since I was enrolled at Seneca Ridge Middle School, so you can imagine how thrilled I was with a glass that was mine alone, sported such fine artwork, and was such a conversation piece (mostly derisive, but still) with my two smarmy teenagers at home. But alas, with cadmium now poisoning my decrepit, middle aged body, I must find other beverage container options.

That's where you all come in! I was going to just wait until the next McD's or BK's promo campaign, but where's the fun in that? (Plus, if it's BK, I might actually have to eat something from there, and their food is MUCH worse than cadmium.)

So, here's how YOU can help!

1) Post to my blog, here, a comment in which you describe the glass YOU would provide for Kim, and (most importantly) WHY it'd be an appropriate drinking glass for Kim. It must be a real glass that you actually possess and would be willing to send, and not some mythic piece like the Grail. It needn't be new, it can be used, but it must be usable (not chipped or poisonous). It must be glass and not plastic, metal, or some other substance. It must not include obscene images (no Hustler or Hooters, please). It must be of juice or highball size, or larger (I have TONS of shot glasses already, thanks), but not some "gag" size SuperGulp thing (let's say 6-16 oz.). I want to drink my cranberry juice out of it in the morning, and my iced tea in the evening.

2) When (or if, if no one's up for the idea) I have ten comments that fit the criteria, I'll pick my favorite. If the person then sends the glass, and it arrives safely (so you're gonna have to pack and pad it well), and if it's as described, I'll send you TWO books:

THIN THEM OUT (co-authored with Julia and RJ Sevin, and with very few copies remaining)

Both can be signed or inscribed as per your instructions.

There! Fun?! Go to it! Otherwise, I'll be waiting till they remake STREETS OF FIRE and hoping White Castle or Carl's Jr. has a souvenir glass for it!

Monday, June 07, 2010

New York Daily News

You know, I like them so much in their trashiness, I'm just gonna have to give you all a plug for them!

For 50 cents (in the Five Boroughs, 1 dollar outside), here's what you get (well, these are the parts I pay for) -

a page 3 girl
a very detailed horoscope
THREE pages of funnies

Did I mention - FIFTY FREAKIN' CENTS?! I can't buy a pack of gum for that! I get a sexy picture, a message telling me I'm going to be wildly successful and popular today, and I get to laugh four or five times - FOR FIFTY CENTS!!! If you know where to get more for your money, please do tell us all!

Saturday, June 05, 2010


Typed up all my corrections for D2L on first pass galleys! Remarkably clean manuscript, and I didn't cringe too badly, reading my old writing. Almost no typos, no real howlers, just some repeated words, a dangling modifier, a line of dialogue I didn't like, that kind of thing.

And though it's just a placeholder now, it seems more "real" to go to the Simon and Schuster website and see a page for me here!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

First Pass Galleys!

For the S&S edition of D2L came in the mail yesterday! (S&S edition out SEPT 2010!) Hard at work on them!

And wow, I hadn't read it in forever, and those first two fights - in the convenience store and in front of the museum - are pretty intensely blocked. And I hate blocking fight scenes - they take me forever and they tire me out, just thinking of all the stuff! But I'm glad I started with those two!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Full Recap

Of announcements for the last couple weeks -

VALLEY OF THE DEAD released to some nice reviews.

German edition of DYING TO LIVE - Vom Uberleben unter Zombies (and yes, I know there's an umlaut over the capital "U" but I can't get it in HTML it seems) - is released. Does well enough right off the bat that the publisher contracts for D2L2 as well!

DYING TO LIVE in its new edition from S&S/Permuted is due out in SEPT 2010.

TOC for Living Dead 2 is announced. The story I wrote with Julia and RJ Sevin, "Thin Them Out," will be in it.

DYING TO LIVE: LAST RITES due out in Spring 2011.

Review of VALLEY OF THE DEAD at Skull Salad

Review of VALLEY OF THE DEAD in Fango online

Beginning new novel

Announcement of publishing deal with Belfire Press for first non-zombie novel

Interview at Living Dead Media

Interview at Huffington Post

Cover art for Butcher Knives and Body Counts (in which I have an essay on The Funhouse)

Kim at HuffPo!


Triumph of The Walking Dead