Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Reading List Finale

2010 Reading List Total:

1. "The Devil: Perceptions of Evil From Antiquity to Primitive Christianity" (Jeffrey Burton Russell) 1/1/10
2. "V." (Thomas Pynchon) 1/11/10
3. "Naked Lunch: The 50th Anniversary Edition" (William S. Burroughs) 1/16/10 *
4. "Hollywood Babylon" (Kenneth Anger) 1/19/10
5. "T.A.Z.: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism" (Hakim Bey) 1/29/10
6. "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" (Lewis Carroll/Camille Rose Garcia) 2/1/10 *
7. "Impossible Princess" (Kevin Killian) 2/7/10
8. "Satan and the Early Christian Tradition" (Jeffrey Burton Russell) 2/19/10
9. "Child of God" (Cormac McCarthy) 2/23/10
10. "The Origin of Satan" (Elaine Pagels) 2/27/10
11. "The History of Hell" (Alice K. Turner) 3/2/10
12. "Blood Meridian: or the Evening Redness of the West" (Cormac McCarthy) 3/13/10
13. "Good Girls Don't" (J.M. Cosentino) 3/14/10
14. "Tongues Tied to Anchors" (Laurence Wilhelm Lillvik) 3/20/10
15. "No Country for Old Men" (Cormac McCarthy) 3/22/10
16. "The Road" (Cormac McCarthy) 3/26/10
17. "Grimoire" (James Champagne) 3/30/10 *
18. "Despair" (Vladimir Nabokov) 4/7/10
19. "Invitation to a Beheading" (Vladimir Nabokov) 4/13/10
20. "Port of Saints" (William S. Burroughs) 4/18/10
21. "Maldoror" (Comte de Lautreamont) 4/23/10 *
22. "Turmoil in the Toybox" (Phil Phillips) 4/25/10
23. "Mere Christianity" (C.S. Lewis) 4/29/10
24. "The New Testament" (various) 5/2/10
25. "The Abolition of Man" (C.S. Lewis) 5/3/10
26. "The Great Divorce" (C.S. Lewis) 5/9/10
27. "A Grief Observed" (C.S. Lewis) 5/10/10
28. "Lolita" (Vladimir Nabokov) 5/15/10
29. "The Screwtape Letters"/"Screwtape Proposes a Toast" (C.S. Lewis) 5/15/10
30. "Wittgenstein's Nephew" (Thomas Bernhard) 5/19/10
31. "Pnin" (Vladimir Nabokov) 5/20/10
32. "Death Sentence" (Maurice Blanchot) 5/22/10
33. "Less Than Zero" (Bret Easton Ellis) 5/26/10 *
34. "American Psycho" (Bret Easton Ellis) 6/3/10 *
35. "Psycho" (Robert Bloch) 6/4/10
36. "Moonchild" (Aleister Crowley) 6/12/10 *
37. "The Book of the Law" (Aleister Crowley) 6/13/10 *
38. "Imperial Bedrooms" (Bret Easton Ellis) 6/17/10
39. "Coma" (Pierre Guyotat) 6/22/10
40. "Pale Fire" (Vladimir Nabokov) 6/30/10
41. "The Conspiracy Against the Human Race" (Thomas Ligotti) 7/11/10
42. "Smothered in Hugs" (Dennis Cooper) 7/12/10
43. "Tao Te Ching" (Lao Tzu) 7/14/10
44. "Necronomicon" (Simon) 7/19/10 *
45. "The Naked Civil Servant" (Quentin Crisp) 7/20/10
46. "The Hellbound Heart" (Clive Barker) 7/24/10
47. "Books of Blood Volume I" (Clive Barker) 8/3/10
48. "Closer" (Dennis Cooper) 8/8/10 *
49. "Kwaidan: Japanese Ghost Stories" (Lafcadio Hearn) 8/8/10
50. "Bruges-la-Morte" (Georges Rodenbach) 8/10/10
51. "Frisk" (Dennis Cooper) 8/11/10 *
52. "Try" (Dennis Cooper) 8/15/10 *
53. "Guide" (Dennis Cooper) 8/19/10 *
54. "Period" (Dennis Cooper) 8/21/10 *
55. "Scorch Atlas" (Blake Butler) 8/22/10
56. "Crash" (J.G. Ballard) 8/29/10
57. "The Curse of the Blue Figurine" (John Bellairs) 9/7/10 *
58. "Brother Curwen, Brother Crowley: a Correspondence" (Aleister Crowley/David Curwen) 9/8/10
59. "American Campgrounds" (Philip Best/Peter Sotos) 9/9/10
60. "The Cathedral" (J.K. Huysmans) 9/25/10
61. "The Malady of Death" (Marguerite Duras) 9/25/10
62. "Recollections of the Golden Triangle" (Alain Robbe-Grillet) 9/25/10
63. "Imperial Bedrooms" (Bret Easton Ellis) 9/28/10 *
64. "At the Feet of the Guru" (Kenneth Grant) 10/2/10 *
65. "Hidden Lore" (Kenneth & Steffi Grant) 10/3/10
66. "Songs of a Dead Dreamer" (THomas Ligotti) 10/5/10 *
67. "Obsessions" (Joseph Mills) 10/9/10 *
68. "Soluble Fish" (Andre Breton) 10/11/10
69. "The Upanishads" (translator: Eknath Easwaran) 10/12/10
70. "First Steps 2 Forever: My Story" (Justin Bieber) 10/15/10
71. "The Spiritual Teaching of Ramana Maharshi" (Ramana Maharshi) 10/17/10
72. "Uncle Silas" (J.S. Le Fanu) 10/21/10
73. "Siddhartha" (Herman Hesse) 10/27/10
74. "Frankenstein" (Mary Shelley) 10/28/1
75. "ACT" (N.J. Rhoades) 11/7/10
76. "The Collector" (John Fowles) 11/8/10
77. "Dark Awakenings" (Matt Cardin) 11/19/10
78. "Communion" (Whitley Strieber) 11/20/10
79. "Close Range: Wyoming Stories" (Annie Proulx) 11/27/10
80. "The Problem of Pain" (C.S. Lewis) 11/28/10
81. "The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman" (Angela Carter) 12/8/10
82. "The Man Who Was Thursday" (G.K. Chesterton) 12/10/10
83. "Dark Entries" (Robert Aickman) 12/30/10

*= something I've read at least once in the past.

Not included in this list are all the individual short stories I've read this year (essentially, 15 of Poe's, 5 of Kafka's, 13 of Flannery O'Connor's, 6 of Nabokov's, 1 of Algernon Blackwood's and Guy De Maupassant's, 5 of Borges', 3 of J.G. Ballard's, and a few Lovecraft's). I also read the first two volumes of Alan Moore's "Swamp Thing" and re-read the first two volumes of Neil Gaiman's "Sandman" graphic novel (and also re-read Grant Morrison's "Doom Patrol" series). Also read some of Enid Blyton's Noddy books.

2008 reading list:

1. "The City and the Pillar" (Gore Vidal) (Jan. 3) 1948
2. "Sway" (Zachary Lazar) (Jan. 9) 2008
3. "Paradoxia" (Lydia Lunch) (Jan. 12) 1997
4. "Eden Eden Eden" (Pierre Guyotat) (Jan. 23) 1970
5. "The Maimed" (Hermann Ungar) (Jan. 25) 1923
6. "Jack the Modernist" (Robert Gluck) (Jan. 25) 1985
7. "The Stranger" (Albert Camus) (Jan. 26) 1946
8. "Less Than Zero" (Bret Easton Ellis) (Jan. 30) 1985 *
9. "The Torture Garden" (Octave Mirbeau) (Jan. 31) 1899
10. "Zombie" (Joyce Carol Oates) (Jan. 31) 1995
11. "The Atrocity Exhibition" (J.G. Ballard) (Feb. 7) 1970
12. "Play it as it Lays" (Joan Didion) (Feb. 10) 1970
13. "The Blind Owl" (Sadegh Hedayat) (Feb. 10) 1937
14. "La-Bas" (J.K. Huysmans) (Feb. 15) 1891 *
15. "Against Nature" (J.K. Huysmans) (Feb. 22) 1884
16. "Moravagine" (Blaise Cendrars) (Feb. 29) 1926
17. "Briefing for a Descent Into Hell" (Doris Lessing)(March 14)1971
18. "In a Glass Darkly" (Sheridan Le Fanu) (March 18) 1872
19. "The Weaklings" (Dennis Cooper) (March 22) 2008
20. "The Mage's Holiday" (Tom Champagne) (April) 2003
21. "Invisible Cities" (Italo Calvino) (April 9) 1972
22. "Exercises in Style" (Raymond Queneau) (April 17) 1947
23. "The Wild Boys" (William S. Burroughs) (April 21) 1969 *
24. "Downstream" (J.K. Huysmans) (April 21) 1882
25. "The Crying of Lot 49" (Thomas Pynchon) (April 27) 1965
26. "The End of the World Book" (Alistar McCartney) (May 1) 2008
27. "Foucault's Pendulum" (Umberto Eco) (May 8) 1988
28. "Us Ones in Between" (Blair Mastbaum) (May 10) 2008
29. "The Man Who Fought Alone" (Stephen R. Donaldson)(May 23) 2001 *
30. "Valis" (Philip K. Dick) (May 26) 1981 *
31. "Angels of Perversity" (Remy de Gourmont) (June 30) late 1890's
32. "Monsieur de Phocas" (Jean Lorrain) (July 6) 1901
33. "Inferno" (August Strindberg) (July 10) 1897
34. "Soul Kitchen" (Poppy Z. Brite) (July 19) 2006
35. "Monsieur Venus" (Rachilde) (July 20) 1884
36. "A Haven" (J.K. Huysmans) (July 26) 1886
37. "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (Truman Capote) (July 30)
38. "Surfaces" (Thomas Moore) (Aug. 7) 2008
39. "Bat-Wing" (Sax Rohmer) (Aug. 13) 1921
40. "Convolvulus & Other Poems" (Kenneth Grant) (Aug. 14) 2005
41. "Recollections of the Golden Triangle" (Alain Robbe-Grillet) (Aug. 18) 1978
42. "Gamaliel/Dance, Doll, Dance!" (Kenneth Grant) (Aug. 23) 2003
43. "The Other Child & Other Tales" (Kenneth Grant) (Aug. 27) 2003
44. "Our Lady of the Flowers" (Jean Genet) (Sept. 3) 1943
45. "The Street of Crocodiles" (Bruno Schulz) (Sept. 7) 1934
46. "The Hearing Trumpet" (Leonora Carrington) (Sept. 10) 1976
47. "En Route" (J.K. Huysmans) (Sept. 10) 1895
48. "Some Kind of Love" (Jack Dickson) (Sept. 14) 2002
49. "God Jr." (Dennis Cooper) (Sept. 21) 2005 *
50. "The Beetle" (Richard Marsh) (Sept. 22) 1897
51. "Action Kylie" (Kevin Killian) (Oct. 20) 2008
52. "Against the Light" (Kenneth Grant) (Nov. 5) 1997 *
53. "The Elementary Particles" (Michel Houellebecq) (Nov. 15) 2001
54. "The Miracle of the Rose" (Jean Genet) (Nov. 22) 1946
55. "Teatro Grottesco" (Thomas Ligotti) (Dec. 17) 2008
56. "Grimscribe" (Thomas Ligotti) (Dec. 23) 1994

2009 reading list:

1. "Songs of a Dead Dreamer" Thomas Ligotti (1/6/09) short story collection
2. "Gnosticism" Stephen Hoeller (1/9/09) religion
3. "Voudon Gnosis" David Beth (1/10/09) occult
4. "My Work is Not Yet Done" Thomas Ligotti (1/12/09) short story collection
5. "Hospital" Thomas Moore (1/23/09) poetry
6. "Nausea" Jean-Paul Sarte (2/18/09) novel
7. "Kierkegaard for Beginners" Donald D. Palmer (2/20/09) non-fiction
8. "Ariel: Restored Edition" Sylvia Plath (2/21/09) poetry
9. "The Bell Jar" Sylvia Plath (2/23/09) novel
10. "Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos" Various (3/12/09) short story collection
11. "The Mind Parasites" Colin Wilson (3/23/09) novel
12. "The Philosopher's Stone" Colin Wilson (4/2/09) novel
13. "The Magus" John Fowles (4/27/09) novel
14. "Snakewand/The Darker Stain" Kenneth Grant (5/2/09) novella collection
15. "Noctuary" Thomas Ligotti (5/8/09) short story collection
16. "Lovely Biscuits" Grant Morrison (5/21/09) short story collection
17. "Ugly Man" Dennis Cooper (5/23/09) short story collection
18. "The Space Vampires" Colin Wilson (5/30/09) novel
19. "Cities of the Red Night" William S. Burroughs (6/29/09) novel *
20. "Safe" Dennis Cooper (7/7/09) novel
21. "The Show That Smells" Derek McCormack (7/8/09) novel
22. "Count Magnus & Other Ghost Stories" M.R. James (7/11/09) short story collection
23. "The Burning Bombing of America" Kathy Acker (7/11/09) novella
24. "Great Expectations" Kathy Acker (7/18/09) novel
25. "Empire of the Senseless" Kathy Acker (7/19/09) novel
26. "Florida" Kathy Acker (7/22/09) novella?
27. "The Place of Dead Roads" William S. Burroughs (7/27/09) novel *
28. "Blood and Guts in High School" Kathy Acker (8/1/09) novel
29. "Perdido Street Station" China Mieville (8/4/09) novel
30. "A Season in Hell/Illuminations" Arthur Rimbaud (8/5/09) poetry
31. "The Shit of God" Diamanda Galas (8/6/09) poetry
32. "Ficciones" Jorge Lois Borges (8/9/09) short stories
33. "The Consumer" Michael Gira (8/17/09) short stories
34. "Funeral Rites" Jean Genet (8/26/09) novel
35. "Inherent Vice" Thomas Pynchon (8/28/09) novel
36. "The Thief's Journal" Jean Genet (9/10/09) novel
37. "The Western Lands" William S. Burroughs (9/16/09) novel
38. "Magic & Mystery in Tibet" Alexandra David-Neel (9/18/09) Hindu/Buddhist
39. "The Gita: a New Translation of Sacred Hindu Scripture" Irina N. Gajjar (9/19/09) Hindu
40. "Official Book Club Selection" Kathy Griffin (9/23/09) biography
41. "Shy" Kevin Killian (9/30/09) novel
42. "Ether, God & Devil/Cosmic Superimposition" Wilhelm Reich (10/3/09) philosophy?
43. "The Letters of Mina Harker" Dodie Bellamy (10/10/09) novel
44. "The Interior Castle" St. Teresa of Avila (10/20/09) mysticism
45. "Lost Souls" Poppy Z. Brite (10/29/09) * novel
46. "Marthe: The Story of a Whore" J.K. Huysmans (10/29/09) novel
47. "The Dhammapada" Buddha (10/29/09) * Buddhist
48. "Downstream" J.K. Huysmans (10/31/09) * novella
49. "The Wall" Jean-Paul Sartre (11/2/09) short stories
50. "The Plague" Albert Camus (11/6/09) novel
51. "The Flowers of Evil" Charles Baudelaire (11/10/09) poetry
52. "The Informers" Bret Easton Ellis (11/14/09) * novel
53. "Cold Print" Ramsey Campbell (11/25/09) short stories
54. "Against Nature" J.K. Huysmans (11/29/09) * novel
55. "The Late Work of Margaret Kroftis" Mark Gluth (12/4/09) novella
56. "In November We'll Burn" Andrew Champagne (12/10/09) novel
57. "The Picture of Dorian Gray" Oscar Wilde (12/16/09) novel
58. "No Exit" Jean-Paul Sartre (12/25/09) play
59.-70. ""Deathnote" volumes 1-12 (Tsugumi Ohba) (Undated: Fall 2009)

Monday, December 27, 2010

2010 in retrospect

By all accounts, 2010 was something of a difficult year for me, one that had more downs than ups. It started off badly in January, when I had to undergo an endoscopy to see if there was anything wrong with my stomach and esophagus (other than slight inflammation, however, the biopsy revealed nothing wrong). Then the following month I suffered through some kind of stomach virus that had me vomiting violently, and even though it passed quickly, a few days after the fact I developed a hysterical/anxiety-related condition in which it felt as if I couldn't swallow food. Thanks to the virus my weight plummeted down to 119 pounds at one point and, not to sound like a drama queen or anything, I really did feel like I was on the verge of death. So, the year started off with me hitting rock bottom and ever since then it's felt like I've been trying to pull myself out of Hell (though I did manage to get my weight back into the 130's range). A series of bad sinus infections and a bout of conjunctivitis over the summer did little to help my already sour mood. Then in the Fall I found myself in a very stressful situation at work that forced me to choose to work part-time, because the alternative I just couldn't deal with. More recently I've been dealing with the usual Irritable Bowel Syndrome and colitis issues, along with a nagging case of heartburn that's driving me crazy, even though the medication I'm on is supposed to get rid of that kind of problem. In short, my health has been lousy, even more so than usual.

There have been personal problems as well. Over the summer I made friends on Facebook with a Korean woman, who is around my age, and who is a college student at a university in Buffalo, NY. We hit it off quite well (as we had much in common in terms of literary tastes) and I spent many long hours talking with her on Facebook chat, where she was quite flirty. I found some of these conversations exhausting, though, as this person was prone to suicidal depression and her requests for me to cheer her up were emotionally draining (and I'm not exactly a barrel of monkeys myself). Some of my friends warned me to avoid her, saying that she liked playing mind games and that she dropped people as friends on Facebook on the merest whims, but I always defended her. Then one night in early September or so she just dropped me as a friend with no warning, and when I asked her why her response basically was "for no reason." That really hurt me and I felt like a fool for wasting so much time trying to help her with her problems (to say nothing of defending her reputation).

Not that it was all doom and gloom. I ended up finding a publisher for my short story collection, which was a huge boost to my self-esteem. I've read 80 or so books this year, a new record for me (I hope to post the full list on this blog very soon, probably on the final day of 2010), and I finally got around to exploring the works of Cormac McCarthy, Vladimir Nabokov, and C.S. Lewis. I read the entire New Testament for the first time, and next year I plan on reading the Bible in its entirety (I also read some Eastern religious texts I've been meaning to get to for awhile now, such as the Tao Te Ching and the Upanishads). I constructed two highly informative days for Dennis Cooper's blog, one revolving around the music of Current 93 and the other on the philosophical horror of Thomas Ligotti. I saw two live shows this year, Lady Gaga when she was in Boston in July and Adam Lambert in August when he was at Lupo's in Providence, and both of those shows were really great. I went to Philadelphia with my family for a few days in August and it was really cool and inspiring to see the Liberty Bell in person. I also got a lot of writing done in The Marble Index, a book I always thought would ever exist only in my head: now I'm just starting the final chapter, and even though I have no plans on publishing it it's nice to finally have it done, after all these years. I made some new friends, which is always a plus. And finally, I started up this blog, which seems to be going pretty well so far.

My plans for 2011 include the following: to get a few short stories published, to start work on a new "official" novel, to go back to college to study computers in the hopes of landing an office job involving data processing, to build my health back up, and to continue writing material for this blog.

Oh yeah, I decided to start watching some new TV shows also. This Fall I began with Glee and next year I hope to start watching Mad Men (because I kind of have the hots for Christina Hendricks).

Despite the fact I face much adversity in my life, mainly from an anxiety/depression disorder and my chronic stomach/intestinal/digestive problems, I don't plan to give up the fight just yet because I feel I still have more work to do on this planet. With that in mind, I'd like to end this blog entry off with my new favorite inspirational song, sung by another celebrity I have the hots for, Glee's Chris Colfer:

Friday, December 24, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Family of Geniuses

Whenever I'm pressed to name my all-time favorite film, my usual response is Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums. There are many reasons why I select this particular movie, too many to cite in this entry. But I will mention two things I really like about the film: firstly, I like how the three gifted Tenenbaum children (Chas, Margot and Richie) remind me of myself and my brothers, and secondly, I like the fact that most of the characters in the film are writers of some sort or another, many of whom have at least one book published to their credit.

In this blog so far I've mostly written about my own writing projects and looked back at many of my old books, but today I'd like to briefly focus my attention on the work of my younger brothers. I have three younger brothers: Tom, who was born in 1982 (and who was named after the Who's rock opera Tommy), then Bill (who I think was named after Prince William), who was born in 1984, and finally Andrew, who was born in 1986 (for those curious, I was named after James Taylor). Of the four of us, only Bill isn't a writer in the traditional sense, though being a gifted composer of music, you could call him a writer in that regard. But this entry deals with the novels written by Tom and Andrew.

Here's a picture of Tom, Andrew and I taken, I believe, by our mother outside our house in April or May of 2004. Later on that night our punk rock band, the Mute Ants, played a gig, a sort of "Battle of the Bands" at Woonsocket High School, which I graduated from all the way back in 1998 and Tom graduated from in 2000 (at the time this picture was taken, the only one of my brothers who was still a student there was Andrew). I'm the one in the Poison t-shirt, Tom is wearing the Transplants t-shirt and holding the blue bass guitar, and Andrew is clad in the Clash t-shirt and holding the red electric guitar. Despite the fact he's holding a guitar (which is his own), he actually played drums that night, while I "played" guitar and keyboards and Tom handled bass and vocal duties. And even though he's wearing sunglasses in the photos, I was the only one who actually wore shades when we performed. But I digress.

Since the year 2002, Andrew, the youngest of us, has written six books. Here they are:

In the year 2002 he wrote his first novel, All I do in Love, which was a little over 200 pages long, and dealt with a college rock band that ends in bloodshed and tragedy. That same year he started work on a fantasy trilogy, which he completed in 2005 or so. I forget the names of these books (as I never actually read them), but I think one of them was entitled The Imperfection of Creation. The three books as a whole were well over 1000 pages total. After that, Andrew began typing out books as opposed to writing them by hand. In 2008 he completed In November We'll Burn, a novel about a lobster-loving young woman (who resembles the singer/actress Mandy Moore) who gets involved with a group of anarchists, and the novelist who is in love with her. This book (which was inspired by Stephen King's novel Hearts in Atlantis and the music of Rilo Kiley) was over 500 pages long and written in a non-linear format, its chapters being structured after the 14 Stations of the Cross. I read it last year... it's pretty good. In 2010, Andrew typed out a second novel, Brigit, which I think is also over 500 pages. It's a post-apocalyptic novel with religious overtones inspired by, among other things, the film Cloverfield and the music of Paramore. I haven't read it yet but hope to in 2011... my dad is reading it right now and likes it so far.

At the moment, Andrew is working on a new novel that I think is to be around 700 or 800 pages long, and will be his homage to Stephen King's It (one of his all-time favorite novels). After that he wants to write a 1,000 page book about a woman who keeps being reincarnated, which will be his attempt to write "The Great American Novel." Perhaps needless to say, Andrew's favorite writers are Stephen King and J.K. Rowling, and because he likes their long books it inspires him to write his own long novels (he somewhat arrogantly dismisses 300 page novels as being "short novels"). Of the three of us, he focuses the most on story and plot.

Of course, when it comes to sheer prolific writing amongst us, it's impossible to surpass Tom, who from the year 1995 to around 2006-2007 wrote out, by hand, a staggering 23 novels. Here they all are, in all their glory (and I've read almost all of them):

Words cannot express the true strangeness of some of Tom's books. Because he's not exactly a big reader himself, his books thus bear little resemblance to any book that you would encounter in a bookstore. When I wrote the first book of my "Magic Fantasy" trilogy in 1995 (Janine and the Jedbeast), and our father liked it, Tom, jealous, decided to write his own fantasy trilogy, "The Magical Fantasy" trilogy. Later on, when I began writing basketball thrillers, Tom started doing the same. But eventually, around 1997 or so, he started branching off into new areas, such as his book Rachel, about a female convict on death row who gets a second chance at life when she agrees to take part in a bizarre quest to find organs for people who need organ replacements. Then there was The Rascal King, about a serial killer who was inspired by the career of Boston politician James Michael Curley and the music of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones.

By far Tom's most ambitious project is his Magical Fantasy series, which so far is up to 8 titles. The first three books of the trilogy (The Fight for the Jetbeast, The Search for the Jetbeast, and The World of the Jetbeast) were, like my first trilogy, heavily inspired by the Star Wars films and the Final Fantasy video game series (they were also, to some extent, rip-offs of my own trilogy, ironically enough). But whereas I stopped after three books, Tom kept going. He eventually did a fourth book, The Eternal War, which was completed in 1997, then a fifth book, Shadows of Time , which was finished the following year. After that he took a break from fantasy for awhile, to focus on his "Kremlin" books (see below) but around 2002 or 2003 he began a further addition to the series, a new trilogy: The Mages' Holiday, The Garden of Mercedes, and My Only One. This new trilogy was over 1,600 pages long (The Garden of Mercedes alone was over 700 pages).

Another of his more ambitious works is his "Kremlin" series. These books were set in Philadelphia and revolved around Tom's most well-known character, the real estate mogul Todd Kremlin, owner of Kremlin Industries. The first book in the series, Payday (1998) was essentially a crime novel inspired by the films of Quentin Tarantino, but as the series went along the Mafia plotline of the first book was slowly phased out and the books focused more on Kremlin's romantic feelings for Jill, his CEO (who was in her twenties in terms of age, while Kremlin was in his fifties). The books that followed included Money for Nothing in 1998, A Penny Earned in 1998, Cash in 1999, and Pocket Change in 1999 (that final one was the largest book in the series, being 616 pages in lenght). In the year 2000 Tom wrote a sixth book in the series, My Best Friend, which at 516 pages was also pretty long.

However, by far Tom's biggest achievement was his book Following an Angel, which he began in the year 2000 and completed (I believe) in the year 2002. This book, at 1,016 pages, is the longest book that any of us has ever written:

Following an Angel is set in a sort of alternate universe version of the Kremlin series. Again set in Philadelphia, it stars Tom Kremlin, the 27 year old CEO of Kremlin Industries. Tom falls in love with Jill, who is the CEO of a rival real estate company. Later on he falls in love with another woman, Heidi, a supermodel who collects basketball cards. Eventually Kremlin has to chose between the two women. That's basically all the book has in the way of a "plot." What's most notable about its size is how little actually happens in it. I'd like to write some more about this book one day because I really do think it almost borders on "outsider art" but for the moment, this is all I have to say about it: it truly is an epic, at least in terms of size.

Ever since finishing up the new trilogy for his fantasy series Tom hasn't done much writing. However, next year he plans on finally typing out a novel on his computer (he's never typed out a full-length novel on a computer before) and he plans to self-publish it in 2012, I believe. I don't know much of what it's about, but I do know that Todd Kremlin will be returning as a character.

So, amongst Tom, Andrew, and myself, from the year 1995 we've completed a total of 41 books. Of those 41 books, only one is actually set to be published. But I'm sure that both Tom and Andrew will be published one day. As it is, I find their unpublished work to be a thousand times more interesting and unique than most of the books being put out by mainstream publishers today.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Writing Update

I'm finally almost done writing out the first draft of "The Yellow Notebook." Hopefully I'll finish that one this year. Then it's just a matter of typing it out, then submitting it to the usual genre magazines. One of my goals for 2011 is to try to write at least one short story a month, and to try to get some of those short stories published. As it is, I have plenty of ideas for stories at the moment, though some of those ideas consist mainly of titles that I think sound cool (such as "The Evil Animators").

On the novel writing front... when I initially found out that Grimoire was going to be published, I decided that I wouldn't start any other major projects until it was actually released, aside from working on the occasional short story. So it's my hope to start work on a new novel next year. In the meantime, to keep from getting rusty, I've been working on The Marble Index, which is book two of my Trinity fantasy trilogy. It's been nearly a decade since I finished book one, so I figured this one's time had come. I started work on it on August 4th of this year and now I'm nearly 240 pages into it, with only about 40 pages to go, so I hope to finish it in January. It's been hard work because I've been writing it all out by hand, in the fashion that I wrote all those old books back in high school and college (see my earlier Previous Works/Juvenilia entry). But it's satisfying to me to finally be finishing book two, and even though I have no intentions of publishing this one it's a nice way to remind myself that I can still write novels when I put my mind to it (ever since I finished Confusion in 2006 I've been kind of lax on the novel writing front, though I did have some failed attempts, such as a novel set at Warhol's Silver Factory during the 1960's, or a short novel about a retail worker employed at a bookstore job he hated). I'm just not sure what my next "official" novel is going to be about.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Some of my favorite music videos from 2010

Lady Gaga: Telephone

Lady Gaga: Alejandro

Justin Bieber: Somebody To Love

Ke$ha: We R Who We R

Adam Lambert: Whataya Want From Me

Katy Perry: Firework

My Chemical Romance: Na Na Na

Greyson Chance: Waiting Outside The Lines

Thursday, December 16, 2010

College Writings #1: "The Final Chapter"

NOTE: This is the first in an ongoing series related to short stories I wrote during my college years.

While a student at Rhode Island College, I took a few creative writing courses, the first of which took place during the Fall of 2001. For that semester we had to write two long short stories and a number of short writing assignments. For my first long story I wrote something named "The Final Chapter" (though the original first draft title, inscrutably enough, was "Hippomoromenous"). This story was written in October of 2001 and I believe it was also workshopped that same month. I'd hardly call it great writing: the premise is very twee and kind of Neil Gaimanesque, the writing is overly melodramatic, and I could have done without the ham-fisted metafictional intermission, which I thought was clever at the time (when I was 21 years old) but now strikes me as pointless. On the other hand, I do find it somewhat amusing, and it does mark the first appearance of the character known as Mr. Feathers (who the class loved): he went on to appear in some of my later novels such as PunkModernist and Confusion. In any event, "The Final Chapter" was my first true attempt at writing a short story, and I present it here, warts and all.

"The Final Chapter"
(by James Champagne)

If life were a novel, then you'd be on your last chapter Edward Westerburg thought to himself bitterly as he stared out at the bright blue sea one fine morning.

Dear God, Edward, is that what your life has come to? Using bad analogies?

Edward shook his head in disgust and chucked a rock at the ocean. He watched it sink and vanish.

Edward Westerburg was 75 years old, a tall, well built man with a tight, muscular body. In the past his skin had once been a pale color, but after eight years of living on a tiny island in the South Pacific it was now a healthy bronze (actually, it is only healthy bronze in Edward's mind. In truth, it is more of a sickly pale white with a dash of tan.-Ed.). His head was bald, his eyes black and dull as an old razor, his nose shaped like a hook, like a Doonsebury comic character come to life. He had once been attractive, but those years were long gone.

Edward sat down on a rock as he stared at the sea. If they made a movie of my life,
who would play me in my golden years? Sean Connery? Yeah, sure, Edward. In your
dreams. Marlon Brando maybe. And that’s if you're lucky...

Edward thought back to his "life as a novel" analogy. If life was, in fact, like a novel, how would his book proceed? Edward tried to imagine a table of contents: Prologue, birth. Chapter 1, early childhood and education. Chapter two, high school. Chapter three, college. Chapter 4, your first book is published. Chapter 5, you become famous. Chapter 6, the good years: Wine, opera, wealth. Chapter 7, book sales start to fall. Chapter 8, writer's block. Chapter 9, hookers, drugs, and booze. Chapter 10, hookers, drugs and booze. Chapter 11, hookers drugs and booze. Chapter 12, rehab. Chapter 13, hookers, drugs and booze. Chapter 14, quit writing in general, move to a nearly deserted island in the South Pacific. Chapter 15, waste eight years of your life in solitude. Chapter 16, get old and hope to die soon.

And now, he was at the final chapter. About time.

Edward stared at the ocean, then rose up, his whole body aching. He pondered going down to the local village, then decided against it. No, he needed to be alone. He walked through the jungle, listened to the chirp of the tropical birds and the chatter of the insects. His house was large and located to the north of the island, where it was nice and quiet. And right now, Edward needed quiet. The voices in his head were quieter then they'd been in years, but to Edward theywere still a dull roar in his ears, never going away, with him till the day he died.

* * * *

One afternoon a week later...

Edward sat in the study of his house, staring down at his rusty old typewriter, the same typewriter he had wrote his very first novel with, 50 years ago. Sweat clung to his forehead. He stared at the typewriter, frustrated, his brain racing to find words, characters, setting and grabbing nothing but cobwebs. Edward began to type, with the caution of a child entering water for the first time. It had been so easy once, it shouldn't be any different now...

Edward typed: CHAPTER ONE.

Edward paused, thinking. Then he typed: THE END.

Then he typed THE END again.




Edward's mind was blank. He couldn't think of anything. He then realized the cold, hard truth. He had no more stories to tell, no more characters to create, no more ideas period. He was out of stories, out of plotlines, out of time in general. The truth went down Edward's throatlike bitter acid, burning every inch of the way.

Edward howled, grabbed the typewriter, began smashing it against the wall, screaming out of control. SMASH SMASH SMASH until the typewriter, once the tool he used to create beautiful and wonderful worlds, was just a piece of destroyed machinery, as destroyed as his hopes and dreams.

Edward took a nap that afternoon to calm his nerves. He lay in his bed, his stereo playing Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen. It was the "Gotterdammerung" segment, part 4, when Valhalla burned and the gods died. As Edward lied in bed he stared at his bookshelf. On one shelf were the twenty-five novels he had written, in the order they had been published. Edward stared at his books bitterly. Once, they had provided him with happy memories. Now they were as black and bleak and featureless as a monolith, and as ominous as a giant wall. It was almost like they were mocking him as he lay there dying. Those books had been his life. And now his life was over.

Still, at the very least, Edward still felt that he had tried his best. Sure, as the years flew by like pages turning in a book the novels had decreased in quality. However, even the worst of them had at least one good line of dialogue, one well-developed character, one good scene that still impressed even him. Edward may have been washed up, but he didn't see himself as a hack. He was just a tired old man. If he tried really hard, he could probably still crank out a greatnovel. He still felt he had a bit of his old talent left.

I may be a dying old man, but I did good. My books still stand up, or, at the very least, the good ones do. I created hundreds of memorable characters. That's all that matters, really Edward thought to himself. Years from now people will still be reading my work and realizing my genius.

Edward closed his eyes and drifted into uneasy sleep.

* * * *

One night a month later...

Edward was in his bed, dying. The village doctor stood over him, reading his temperature. The doctor sighed and shook his head. Edward would be dead by morning.

The doctor looked at Edward, who was hallucinating due to his high fever. The doctor was wondering what was going on in Edward's head. Too bad Edward had no friends or relatives to be by his side as he died. Edward truly was alone.

* * * *

Edward opened his eyes and gasped.

He was in bed, but his bedroom had changed. A forest of marble surrounded him:
Columns, regal balconies, and baroque architecture. The walls were very ornate, the arches laced with cherubs dancing to the heavens, while angels frolicked among the roof beams. Classical music played softly in the background.

"Am I in heaven?" Edward asked, feeling a little stupid.

"Not yet, but don't worry, you'll find out soon enough." said a voice to his left.

Edward turned his head and saw a tall pale man in a clown outfit standing near his bed.

Okay, this is odd Edward thought, frowning. What the fuck was going on?

"And you are?" Asked Edward.

"Oh, forgive me. Um, I am the Grim Reaper," replied the tall man, voice chipper.

"Where's the black robe?" Edward asked, confused.

"Black isn't my thing. I prefer happy colors," smiled the Grim Reaper.

"Shouldn't you have a sickle?" questioned Edward. Death always has a sickle, right?

"They won't let me use sickles anymore." shrugged the Grim Reaper.

"Why not?" Asked Edward.

"One night I was drunk and accidentally eviscerated myself." sighed the Grim Reaper.

"Ouch." winced Edward.

"You're telling me."

"So," Edward looked around. "What's going on?"

"Well, Edward, I'll be blunt. You're dying."

"I figured as much."

"However, no one deserves to die alone. So, I have a surprise for you. Some people
are coming by to give their respects. Well, actually, more then some. More like, every character you ever created."


Then the Grim Reaper vanished in a burst of smoke.

A door opened and a man stepped in the room. Edward looked him over. The man was tall and handsome, dressed in a tux. He seemed familiar.

"Hello, Edward." The man smiled. "Recognize me?"

"" Edward sighed. Still, this man looked familiar. Edward strained to remember...

"My name is Jack Leary. That name ring a bell?" Asked the man.

"Oh my God!" exclaimed Edward, eyes wide (the lead character of my first book!).

"Yup, good ole The Enigma Forest, the book that brought you critical acclaim. You never could top that one." Leary sighed and shook his head. "Anyway, I'll be quick, there's many others who must pay their respects. Or disrespects, as it were. But I digress. Anyway, thanks for giving me the lead part in your best book, I appreciate it."

"Uh, your welcome, I guess," Edward didn't know what to say.

"Too bad your other characters were not as lucky," Leary sighed and shook his head.

"Well, have a safe trip to the afterlife, it was nice living in your head for the past fifty years. Not to mention on millions of pages worldwide."

Leary walked away and Edward was alone again. Then he heard the door open.

Edward turned his head again and saw a new face by his bedside. This man was short and fat, with a scowl on his face. He was dressed in a military outfit.

"Recognize me?" The man asked, voice angry.

Edward shook his head.

"Solider number 14 in Empty War," scowled the man. "You only gave me one scene in that book!"

"Sorry." apologized Edward. "How can I remember you? I wrote hundreds of minor solider characters over the years!"

Oh shit, they'll all be visiting me too? Edward thought in alarm.

"You did not even give me a name!" spit out Solider Number 14.

"You weren't a main character! You weren't even a secondary character!" barked Edward. "I just needed you to die in the war!"

"Thanks a lot!" grumbled the solider. "You could have fleshed me out better, you know. I had a fascinating back-story, but no! You just used me in one tiny scene! What did I do to you that made you decide to flesh out other characters instead of me?"

"Its nothing personal, solider, I just needed a man to die in that scene. What was the point of fleshing out such a minor character? You served your purpose."

"Yeah, whatever. If having your head knocked off by a cannonball is a 'purpose'." The Solider snorted and walked off.

Next up was a man who was headless, just a walking body and nothing else.

"My name is Romeo. I was to be the star of your book The Profit. A book you quit on page three and never finished. You quit before you described what my head looked like. Now I am forever headless," moaned the unfinished character.

Edward shook his head. This'll be a long night he thought sadly.

* ** *

And so the procession continued, as character after character visited Edward's bedside to pay their final respects. Not just the main characters, but EVERY character he had created, from the heroes to the villains to the foils to the nobodies. It was a nearly endless parade of the people who had been living in Edward's head all his life, people he had given birth to through his typewriter. Some of the characters laughed with him, some laughed at him, some cursed at him,
some cried with him. But no matter who it was, they all had something to say.

Edward turned his head to look at the latest mourner. This man was tall and muscular, dressed like a pirate. In fact, it was a pirate. Edward guessed this one to be Captain Arthur "Red Blood" Dreyfuss, main character of his dreadful sixteenth novel, a pirate book Edward had written on the advice of his publisher. The critics (and reading audience at large) had never forgiven him for that one.

"Captain Red Blood!" exclaimed Edward. "Good to see you."

"Shut up, asshole," scowled the pirate. "How dare you give me the lead part in The

"You are complaining because I made you a main character?" Edward asked, confused.

"Look at what book it was, matey! The Pirate! Your worst book! Couldn't you have made me the lead in The Enigma Forest? Or maybe Coldness? No, you give me The Pirate." and here the pirate shook his head. "That's all people will think when they hear the name Arthur 'Red Blood' Dreyfuss."

Edward began to apologize, but by that point the pirate had walked off.


Edward was starting to feel a tad sick. Why did all his characters hate him so much? Hehad tried so hard to flesh them out, to make them seem flesh and blood real. Well, at the very least, the major characters. Even the minor ones.

Who CARED about a freaking nameless solider?!?! The character wasn't important!

The door opened. Edward turned his head and gasped.

A gigantic dragon was near his bedside, a dragon easily the size of a house. The dragon had black scales covering his body and giant leathery wings. Spikes ran down his back, and his mouth was full of sharp pointy teeth the length of knives.This was Poisonreptyl, lead villain of Wizard And Wasteland, Edward's attempt at a fantasy novel.

"Remember me?" the dragon asked, voice civilized.

"Yes. Poisonreptyl." Edward sighed. He was a little intimidated by the dragon, but not scared. Why should he be scared? He was dying anyway. The dragon couldn't hurt him.

"You wrote me all wrong, you know," sighed the Dragon.

"Beg pardon?" Edward asked.

"I mean, you portrayed me as some demonic, power hungry tyrant!" Poisonreptyl roared. "For your information, I happen to be a kind, charitable individual."

"It was a fantasy novel, I needed a villain to capture the princess." said Edward in
frustration. "You had to be a villain!"

"Why not make the knight a bad guy! Have him capture a dragon princess and I'd have to save her from the knight!" countered Poisonreptyl.

"A villain knight? A heroic dragon? Nonsense!" snorted Edward.

"Its been done." Poisonreptyl sniffed. "Or you could have had me capture a prince and had a female knight save him."

Edward began to speak, then shut up.

"Then again, when it comes to characters, you always took the easy way out." Poisonreptyl shook his large head in sadness. "Why create original flesh and blood characters when you can resort to easy stereotypes? Lord knows you had many of those. The Arabic taxi driver who can't speak English. The tortured, suicidal repressed homosexual. The absent minded professor. The mad scientist. The Irish drunk. The pervert in the park. The priest child molester. The hooker with a heart of gold. Don't get me started on your misogyny towards women..."

"Fuck you." Edward cursed.

"Wow, good one. Great retort. And you call yourself a writer." The dragon laughed
scornfully, his great body shaking, his scales rattling. "I don't know what the critics saw in you. You are not a great writer. Not even a good one. Shit, not even a mediocre one. You, my sir, are a hack of the highest order. A man who churned out books like factories churn out cars. Somehow you duped millions of people into thinking you were one of the greatest writers of the modern age. For awhile it worked. Then you began to believe the myth. You became self-important. And your work suffered. And when the public was sick of you you hid your disappointment behind a veil of alcohol and prostitutes. And when you were through with that you ran and hid to your little island. And the most ironic thing is, you were never that good to
begin with."

Edward was silent for a moment, then he said "That's just your opinion. I think I handled your character well."

"Oh really?" Poisonreptyl's eyes widened. "Well, let's see."

A book appeared in the dragon's hands. Edward looked at the cover, saw it was Wizard
And Wasteland
. The dragon flipped to page 100, then pulled out a pair of bifocals, which he delicately placed on his snout.

"Oh please!" Edward groaned.

"Shut up, I'm near-sighted." huffed Poisonreptyl. "Now, where was that passage... Ah, here it is!" He cleared his throat, then, in an oratical voice, read: "And thus the dragon Poisonreptyl looked at the brave knight and claimed 'I am your worst nightmare!'" The dragon closed the book and glared at Edward.

"So?" Edward asked.

"Its an awful line! No self-respecting dragon would ever use the line 'I am your worst nightmare'! It's a bad line, Eddie, it’s a cliché. A hack writer line. Myself, I would have said 'I will rend the flesh off your fetid bones, you walking tin can, and use your skeleton for kindling'. See, now that line jumps off the page. And the worst was my final line as I died: "Let history never forget my name, dark and evil as it is'." Poisonreptyl moaned in dismay.

Edward said "Its a good line."

"Its crap." said the dragon, dismissive.

"Its a great line."

"Its crap."


"Its poetic crap." Poisonreptyl insisted, voice peevish. "You even have me breathe fire."

Edward paused, blinked, then screamed "DRAGONS BREATHE FIRE!"

Poisonreptyl looked at Edward with pity. "Oh Eddie, Eddie, Ed-DIE. Try to be original. A dragon breathing fire is out dated. Couldn't I breathe lightning instead?"

"That would distract the reader. People expect to see a dragon breathe fire."

"Yes, why make them think? Your books always were braindead. And easy."

"I'm your creator, Poisonreptyl. You should treat me with respect. I am your god!" Edward shouted.

Poisonreptyl sighed, then said "Well, you are our Wotan. But Wotan's staff has been

shattered. Now you will die and Valhalla will burn. Good day, sir."

And the dragon walked off.

Next was a short woman with green eyes and short black hair. She was wearing frumpy
clothes. Edward recognized her as Mary Baines, the child killer in his detective novel Blood Lust.

"Hello, Edward." she said, voice cool.

"Mary." Edward nodded.

"I'm pissed with you."

"Join the club. Why?"

"You made me a villain."

"The story needed a villain."

"Yes, but you never fleshed me out. There was a reason I killed those children. But you just made me a typical villain, uncomplicated, a stock character. You would never let people hear my side of the story." said Mary.

"Mary..." began Edward.

"Then again, your women were never fleshed out. Women were all the same to you. Whores and sluts, virgins and nuns, nurses and mothers, psychos and gossipers. Never any lesbians. Never any feminists. Never any strong females. You were a vile misogynist. Freud would have loved you. You were not a responsible writer. You slacked off with your characters. As our creator, you owed it to ALL of us to make us real. But you shirked your duties." scowled Mary.

"Hey now, that's a little harsh." grimaced Edward, stung by Mary's words.

"The truth is harsh. Even in real life you only used women for sex. It's no surprise you never got married. Not only are you a bad writer, but you're also a grade A scumbag." With that, Mary stormed off angrily.

Edward closed his eyes. He didn't think he could take much more of this.

* * * *


You put the story down, get up, rub your eyes. You yawn, then slowly walk into your
kitchen, where your boyfriend/girlfriend is cooking dinner.

"How's that story honey?" s/he asks you.

"Pretty odd," You say. "It began as this story about some old novelist waiting to die on some island, but now its about that author being visited by every character he ever created as he dies."

"Sounds metafictional." replies your boyfriend/girlfriend.

"I don't know what to think about it yet." You say.

"Why don't you go finish it?" s/he asks.

"Good idea." You say. You eat an oreo, then return to your chair, pick up the story, and continue reading.


* * * *

To Edward, the night seemed to be going on forever as his brain vomited out every
character he had ever created, each with something to say. They just never seemed to stop coming.

Damn, why'd I write so many fucking books? thought Edward in anger.

The procession now seemed operatic in scale, like the operas Edward had enjoyed years ago just one million times larger. The classical music that had been playing in the background was gone now, opera music in its place as thousands of voices sang an endless, unrelenting chorus, their voices reverberating all over the room.

And the characters kept coming, each one a major player, each one trailing clouds of ether in their wake.

LET ME DIE! screamed Edward's brain.

The door opened again.

Edward turned and saw...


"Huh?" asked Edward.

"Hello, Edward." smiled the Edward clone. "I am Oswald Kafka. Remember me?"

Of course! thought Edward. Oswald Kafka, the lead of his thirteenth novel, Slug Bait. The only character he had ever modeled after himself, in his own image.

"Well, I've got some good new for you, my friend. The procession is finally almost over. After me, there's only one character left." replied Oswald, his voice the same as Edward's.

"Thank heavens." Edward said in relief.

"You know, it’s ironic. All your life you thought you were alone, but you were never really alone. You always had US, trapped inside your head, screaming to get out. And you let us out. And we made you millions of dollars. You created us, you were our God, you gave us life. Now your life is almost over, but we'll live forever." Oswald chuckled.

"Huh?" Asked Edward.

"Don't play stupid, Edward." sighed Oswald. "As long as people still read your books, we will always live on. I mean, think of Shakespeare. Whenever someone reads one of his plays, the characters of Hamlet, Juliet, Brutus, et al come to life. But Shakespeare... He's dead forever."

"Yes, but people still have an interest in Shakespeare." said Edward.

"He's still dead." Oswald shrugged. "But my point is the characters he created live on. Characters in books are eternal. As long as the books survive, so do we. Do you have ANY idea how long Beowulf has been alive? Or Sherlock Holmes? Or Lady Macbeth? We will live forever, Edward, while our creator's bones turn to dust."

"Yes, but I created you in my image. You're just like me. Doesn't that mean I'll still live on?"

"Metaphorically, yes, I guess. Like a meme, I suppose. But it’s different. Anyhow, your time is almost up. I have one question... Why did you become a writer?" asked Oswald, his voice dead serious.

"I wanted to create, I guess. There were voices in my head begging to be let out." said Edward.

"Poppycock." grinned Oswald. "You did it for two reasons: Fame, and because you were

"Scared?" Edward asked.

"Yes, scared." Oswald nodded. "Remember that day long ago, when you were five years
old? Your mom and dad had gotten into a bad fight. Your dad hit your mom. You got scared and ran upstairs. You wanted to hide. You began to write a short story, about a giant owl named Mr. Feathers who killed your father and who then lived happily with you and your mother forever. You had so much fun writing that story that writing became your escape from a life that was too painful. All your fears and insecurities and private obsessions manifested themselves on to the page, things you could not face within yourself, things you camouflaged as literature. That's been your whole life Edward, always running, always hiding, all because of that one incident when you were young. Your entire writing career has just been a shield to protect you from a harsh world. And when your writing career failed, when the book ideas stopped coming, you ran and hid from society on this island.

"Well, its time to stop running and hiding, Edward."

And Oswald left, leaving Edward speechless.

Yet it was true, all of it, everything Oswald had said was true. Of course it was Oswald whopointed it out, seeing as Oswald was his doppelganger. Edward had, in a way, come to the same conclusion. He was Oswald. He had realized his problem.

He was a hack. He was a shitty writer. His children were right.

All those years of his life wasted, running from problems he was too cowardly to face, writing books to escape his past, all the while convincing himself that he was doing somethingworthwhile, something artistic, something important.

He had lied to himself. And now his characters had shown him the truth.

His lifework, all that people would remember him by, his books, were nothing but empty shit.The scared, crude, nonsense ravings of a boy terrified of the world. He had never been anything,except in his own head. He was his characters, and his characters were nothing.

It was too much for Edward to comprehend. He felt like his guts had been ripped out.

The room became dark, and the walls of the death chamber started to disintegrate into waves of static, as the opera was drowned out by industrial sounds and white noise. Edward was almost dead. Everything was crumbling apart. Valhalla was burning. The god was dying, deserted by his children. He was alone.

And Edward, at the end of his life, was scared. Scared and, at the same time, bitter with regret. Regret that his life, when all was said and done, had amounted to nothing.

Then the door opened for the final time. Edward turned...

And by his bed was a giant owl. Regal, authoritative, wise and comforting. A private security blanket from 70 years ago.

It was Mr. Feathers. His first character ever.

"Mr. Feathers!" said Edward.

Mr. Feathers seemed to smile at him.

"Mr. Feathers, I'm scared. Please protect me. I need you now, in my final hour." said Edward, voice childish.

You'll be okay, Edward said a voice in Edward's head. Mr. Feather's voice.

Mr. Feathers flew on to Edward's bed. Edward grabbed the large owl and hugged him
tightly, resting his head against the warm feathers of the owl. The noise was louder now as the room fell apart. A mighty howl cut through the air, but Edward was not afraid. Holding on to Mr. Feathers, he felt safe. Mr. Feathers had comforted him in his darkest hour 70 years ago, and would not fail him now.

The room was pure static now, and slowly the world began to fade into darkness as chaos slowly gave way to solitude. Edward just hung on to Mr. Feathers, waiting to go to the other side.

As Edward died, as everything went to black, he had time for one more thought...

You were never alone.

Edward closed his eyes and, feeling strangely comforted, died.

And his children, their god dead at last, were set free.

And likewise the god was free of them.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My Creative Workspace

This is the desk in my bedroom where my computer is located. It was at this desk that I typed out all of Confusion and Grimoire.

A far view of my workspace.

Atop my desk I keep a few statues and figurines for company. From left to right: Bast, Cthulhu, L, and Mr. Feathers the Owl. Behind them one can see a model of Seattle's Space Needle made from Lego bricks and a little totem statue that my parents got me as a gift while vacationing in Alaska a few years ago.

Maybe I'd get more writing done if I had a less distracting Desktop background...

... or if my personal space wasn't constantly being invaded by a certain persnickety feline named Amber!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Yellow Notebook

In my introductory post for this blog, I mentioned something about working on a short story entitled "The Yellow Notebook." Incredibly, even though I started that story on the 5th of November, over a month ago, I still haven't finished it, and it's not as if it's even supposed to be that long. Yet I'm only on page 15. Part of the reason why it's been going so slow, I suppose, is that I've only been working on it during my breaks at work: I'm writing out the first draft by hand in one of those black Gallery Leather journals that was handcrafted in Bar Harbor, Maine, with the idea that when it's done I'll type it out and that will be the second and final draft. Were I not toiling on other projects, I could have finished it awhile ago.

I suppose, at some point, I'll have to choose to focus on either doing novels or short stories. But I'm so indecisive. On one hand, short stories are a good fit for me because they're easier to edit than novels and one can really work hard making each individual sentence stand out (whereas with a longer novel it's harder to polish it like that). But one thing I like about novels is creating characters one can feel an emotional connection with: it's hard to do that with characters in short stories because you just don't spend as much time with them. What I might end up doing is this: any horror-orientated ideas I'll save for short stories (because as both H.P. Lovecraft and Thomas Ligotti noted, the short story is the ideal format for tales related to the horrific or the supernatural), whereas my non-horror ideas I'll try to turn into novels.

As for "The Yellow Notebook," the idea for this new story came to me one night at work when, a half hour before we closed up for the night, I was approached by a customer who looked a lot like that science fiction writer, Philip K. Dick. He was looking for some very unusual New Age type books (mainly ones revolving around communicating with angelic hierarchies), and he had this really weird yellow notebook with him, the pages of which were filled up with all kinds of bizarre sentences, recorded dreams, notes on weather patterns, weird New Age terminology, stuff like that. God, I'd do anything to get my hands on that notebook so I could read it at my own speed. Anyway, this guy's notebook gave me an idea for a horror story. It's funny, how random, everyday events can give one grist for fictional creations.

In theory, I suppose I should be writing right now instead of writing about how I'm not writing, but somedays one just can't force it.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Odd book covers #1: "Faragon Fairingay"

My brothers and I sometimes like to poke fun at our dad's book collection, which consists mostly of bulky fantasy novels in the J.R.R. Tolkien/Robert Jordan/Stephen R. Donaldson/Terry Brooks vein (though there are exceptions, including the horror novels of Stephen King and Peter Straub and about a million Alistair MacLean spy novels). Even my dad admits that he's purchased some crappy fantasy books over the years, and when pressed for example he'll usually mention Niel Hancock's "Circle of Light" series (originally published in the late 1970's), which he bought mainly because on the front cover there was a blurb recommending it to fans of the Lord of the Rings series. The cover art for the "Circle of Light" series during its original printing was done by Hancock's wife, are all pretty amusing, but the best cover award goes to book two in the series, 1977's Faragon Fairingay, which, as you can see, depicts a woman apparently nursing a sick otter lying in a human bed. The otter's little slippers on the floor nearby are an inspired artistic touch, I feel.

The plot of the book, taken from Amazon's description of the item: "Welcome to Atlanton Earth! In this second spellbinding adventure that began with Greyfax Grimwald, friends Bear, Dwarf, and Otter are joined by Faragon Fairingay, the valiant young warrior. Sent to Lower Earth at the request of Lorini, the Lady of Light, the four allies embark on a fateful quest in search for the legendary Arkenchest and its vital Five Secrets. Never before has the trio of friends ventured so far--and risked so much--for so glorious a prize."

I know that Hancock was inspired by Buddhist ideas, but the plot description of the book doesn't sound all that promising. Probably better to just admire the cover art instead.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A "Grimoire" timeline

August 25th, 2008- began working on a short story entitled "Mauve Movies." Began making preliminary notes for a horror short story/novella collection.

October 2008- complete work on "Mauve Movies."

November 26, 2008: begin a new story, "Under the Leaves."

December 8th, 2008- came up with a name for the project: Grimoire(the other title I was considering was Mythos). Later on in December I decided the collection would consist of 11 interconnected stories. I also finish two stories this month: "Under the Leaves" and "London After the Rain." It was decided that a short story I wrote in 2006, "The Apocalypse Inoculation," would also be part of the collection.

January 2009- in a burst of creativity, write three stories this month: "The Opticon Prism," "Nihil" (which at first was entitled "Grimoire"), and "The Old Chemical Factory."

February 2009- finished another story entitled "Don't Fear the Reaper." Later on that month write a new story called "18 Fragments of a Nightmare."

March 2009- finished work on a story named "Mr. Orwig's Midnight Monologues."

April 2009- finished the final two stories originally planned for the project, "The Agony of the Plasma" and "The Nightmare Syndicate." Incorporated "The Opticon Prism" within "The Nightmare Syndicate." Completion of the first draft of Grimoire. This month I also began the very long editing process, which occupied most of my summer. At the same time I began seeking out a publisher, a very frustrating experience to say the least.

August 2009- cut two stories out of the collection ("Don't Fear the Reaper" and "The Agony of the Plasma") and replaced them with two new ones ("The Onyx Glossary" and "They Came From the Shadow of God").

September/October 2009- radically rewrote "The Apocalypse Inoculation" and re-titled it as "Reaping Time has Come." Completion of the second draft. Around this time I got a friend of mine, Stafford Stone, to create the cover art for the book.

Oct. 31st, 2009- released Grimoire as a free PDF on my Mauve Zone Recordings netlabel.

December 2009- wrote a new story named "The Withering Echo."

March 2010- decided to self-publish Grimoire through Lulu for my friends who wanted to own a physical copy of the book. Ended up self-publishing the third draft, which included a bonus story not included in the PDF version ("The Withering Echo") along with an interview.

April 2010- receive an e-mail from Rebel Satori Press (who I had submitted samples of Grimoire to a few months before) saying they wanted to publish it. Took the self-published version off of Lulu (thus making the few copies of that version to be very scarce indeed... can you say collector's items, ha ha?)

Now, the final step will be to go over the proofs and make sure I didn't miss any major typos. One of my friends who does copy editing work for a living will also be reading the proofs, which I'm very grateful for. Once I approve those, then the book will be ready to be released and I can move on to a new project, details of which will be posted soon.

Seeing as I decided to cut the interview I wrote for the Lulu version from the officially published version, I might end up posting it on this blog at some point in the future for those interested in a more in-depth look at the creation of Grimoire.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Grimoire News

Today I was informed that the most likely release date for Grimoire will be sometime in either January or February of next year. Thus bringing to a close a project I've been working hard on for 2 1/2 years now. The final step will involve reading the page proofs it would seem. More details to follow. In the meantime, here's some blurbs from a few other writers who have been kind enough to provide some "advance praise":

“James Champagne's Grimoire is a brilliant, gloriously rich collection with a fastidious, lush, secretive style and stories as compelling as they are circuitous as they are instructive as they are confounding. One of the most indescribable, original, and impressive books of fiction I've read in a long time.”
--Dennis Cooper, author of the George Miles Cycle

“James Champagne's tour de force, Grimoire, creates a world where belief is a spell, meaning is a mantra, and the failed thoughts of a black mind rise again to reclaim their shinning majesty.”
-Mark Gluth, author of The Late Work Of Margaret Kroftis

“Here is a new voice in horror writing who’s uniquely imaginative work shows the breadth of his influences: from The Greats of the past, Lovecraft and M.R. James to 21st century graphic novel writers Neil Gaiman/Grant Morrison and transgressive recording artists Current 93/David Tibet.

Here you will find traditional Locked Room stories next to tales containing wildly imaginative conceits: shelves of human beings that sentient books ‘read’ and a nightmarish ending wherein the narrator is trapped in the grooves of a record he had been haunted by before.

Apart from the often disturbing horror and off-beat meditation on the human condition there is also great humour: from observations on the real world of Wal-Mart madness to the comic monologues of Mr Orwig.

James Champagne writes in a new and distinct style that will present to you satisfyingly familiar concepts and conceits as well as startle you with the new and hitherto unimagined.”
-Joseph Mills, author of Towards the End and Obsessions

Friday, December 3, 2010

PunkModernist sample: page 145

(Click on image for a closer view).

Previous Works/Juvenilia

Title: Janine and the Jedbeast
Year Completed: 1995
My age at the time of writing: 15
Begun: May 1995 Finished: August 1995
Page Count: 160 pages
Genre: Fantasy
Description: This was the first book in my "Magic Fantasy Trilogy," and the first book I wrote out by hand on folded up sheets of paper. It was heavily inspired (that is, ripped-off) by the Super Nintendo video game Final Fantasy III (VI in Japan). It was also very much inspired by Star Wars. (Note: the front cover of this book is currently missing). The plot revolves around an epic war being raged between the cruel Empire and the freedom-loving Crusader rebel alliance, and how magical creatures named Jedbeasts influence the course of this struggle.
Opening Sentence: "Lightning purpled the clouds above the mountains of Marshe."
Concluding Sentence: "So do I, kid, so do I," sighed Ray.

Title: Rise of the Empire
Year Completed: 1995
My age at the time of writing: 15
Begun: Late August 1995 Finished: November 1995?
Page Count: 128 pages
Genre: Fantasy
Description: This was the second book in my "Magic Fantasy Trilogy," and the second book I wrote out by hand on folded up sheets of paper.
Opening Sentence: "Here we are," said Ray calmly. "Monarch Castle."
Concluding Sentence: "To the people of Magic Earth!"

Title: War in Magic Earth
Year Completed: 1996
My age at the time of writing: 15
Begun: November 1995 Finished: January 1996
Page Count: 260 pages
Genre: Fantasy
Description: This was the third and final book in my "Magic Fantasy Trilogy," and the third book I wrote out by hand on folded up sheets of paper. This book also had a strong Star Wars influence in that it featured a weapon of war known as the "Doom Star." (Note: the front cover of this book is currently missing).
Opening Sentence: "As far as most things went, it was a beautiful morning, especially as Jonathan Crane saw it."
Concluding Sentence: "Then she let the wind blow through her hair."

Title: Bullet Games
Year Completed: 1996
My age at the time of writing: 16
Begun: August 1996 Finished: August 1996
Page Count: 280 pages
Genre: Sports Thriller
Description: With "Bullet Games" I decided to set fantasy aside and focus on reality, or what passed for my own twisted notion of it when I was 16. The plot revolves around the 1993-1994 season of the basketball team known as the Washington Bullets, and their struggle to win the championship that season, while fending off attacks carried out by the Irish Republican Army and the insane GM of the Boston Celtics. This book was heavily inspired by the novels of Tom Clancy, who I was reading at the time, especially Patriot Games (which inspired my own title) and Debt of Honor.
Opening Sentence: "It was a cold night at the palace of Auburn Hills in Detroit, Michigan."
Concluding Sentence: "Then he smiled."

Title: The Hornet Queen
Year Completed: 1997
My age at the time of writing: 17
Begun: July 1997 Finished: August 1997
Page Count: 312 Pages
Genre: Sports Thriller
Description: A sort of follow-up (though not a sequel) to my previous basketball novel. This one follows the 1996-1997 season of the Charlotte Hornets basketball team. When the team bus explodes in a freak accident a few days before the start of the season, the Hornets have to quickly rebuild their team, and they make history by hiring the NBA's first female coach. With this book I tried hard to focus on characterization, and it was my first book to feature both profanity and sex (both heterosexual and homosexual). It was inspired by the novels of John Grisham and by the Pulp Fiction screenplay, though I didn't actually watch the film itself until a few months after the book was completed. Out of all my early works, this one is one of my favorites. (Note: the front cover of this book is currently missing).
Opening Sentence: "Muggsy Bogues sat on the sidewalks of Charlotte, head in his hands."
Concluding Sentence: "She fell asleep, and she smiled."

Title: Arthouse
Year Completed: 1998
My age at the time of writing: 17
Begun: November 1997 Finished: March 1998
Page Count: 270 Pages
Genre: Erotica
Description: This book, which I started shortly after the completion of The Hornet Queen, is probably my favorite of all the books I wrote while in high school (and this was the final book I wrote as a high school student). Essentially a character study, it had almost no plot and consisted of meandering, naturalistic dialogue and endless pop culture references. The "story" revolves around suicidal artist Iris Brant and her small circle of slacker friends, and how Iris realizes she's a lesbian upon falling in love with her model, Xenia Maijenski (who I imagined to look like Lucy Lawless, who I had the hots for at the time). This book also featured a lot of "erotic" sex scenes.
Opening Sentence: "Iris Brant lived in Providence, Rhode Island."
Concluding Sentence: "Iris pushed it open, and the two women walked out into the morning light, walked out to a new life."

Title: Season of the Butterfly
Year Completed: 1998
My age at the time of writing: 18
Begun: August 1998 Finished: September 1998
Page Count: 282 pages
Genre: Surrealism
Description: This very strange book was a sort of bizarre tribute to the films of the Coen Brothers, and also the first book I wrote as a college freshman. The "plot" revolves around a basketball team that hires a fixer to rig their games, and all the weird things that happen to them that season. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense and it's kind of silly. I hated this book at the time I completed it but in hindsight it has a kind of quirky and offbeat surrealistic charm that sets it apart from my early works. (Note: the front cover of this book is currently missing).
Opening Sentence: "The Target Center was home to the Minnesota Timberwolves."
Concluding Sentence: "She rested her head on Dinah's shoulder as she looked out the window... and the sun was bright, the birds chirped, and the butterflies flew through the flowers..."

Title: Twist
Year Completed: 1999
My age at the time of writing: 18
Begun: February 1999 Finished: March 1999
Page Count: 230 pages
Genre: Noir
Description: A very concise book that I wrote during my Freshman year at college in a period of 13 days. It was inspired by the Coen Brothers film Blood Simple and also by Scott Smith's novel A Simple Plan. It's probably the most tightly-plotted thing I've ever written. The plot revolves around 3 corrupt cops, a double-crossing private eye, and four million dollars in illegal drug money. Naturally, by the end almost everyone is dead. The front cover art is a direct copy of the cover art of the Bauhaus Swing the Heartache: The BBC Sessions CD.
Opening Sentence: "The police station in Green Springs, Ohio had a single spiral staircase that twisted up to the top floor like a corkscrew."
Concluding Sentence: "Deep in her heart, Melissa still felt like a decent human being..."

Title: Red Cherry
Year Completed: 1999
My age at the time of writing: 19
Begun: August 1999 Finished: September 1999
Page Count: 360 pages
Genre: Serial Killer/Police Procedural
Description: This book was inspired by the novels of Thomas Harris and the film Se7en, and it was written prior to the start of my Sophomore year at college. I spent about three months researching it beforehand, and included a three page bibliography at the end. It's probably the most conventional book I've ever written. The book takes place in Boston and revolves around a serial killer named the Photographer, who kidnaps supermodels, kills them, then takes photographs of their dead bodies. It's up to a lesbian homicide detective named Marsha Garland to stop him. The front cover art was inspired by the work of Francis Bacon.
Opening Sentence: "A small apartment in Boston's Back Bay District, located on the fourth floor of an apartment house on Massachusetts Avenue."
Concluding Sentence:"And in a world as bleak as ours, that's quite an accomplishment."

Title: Illuminated Shadows
Year Completed: 2000
My age at the time of writing: 20
Begun: July 2000 Finished: October 2000
Page Count: 316 pages
Genre: Fantasy
Description: the first book in the "Trinity Trilogy" and the last book I wrote out by hand... also the final novel I wrote during my college years. It was inspired by goth and industrial music (especially Nine Inch Nails), Neil Gaiman's Sandman comic, the novels of Poppy Z. Brite, and the Thief computer game series. Recently I've begun work on the long-delayed sequel, to be titled The Marble Index.
Opening Sentence: "Night falls on the city of Zone like an inky black curtain encrusted with stars."
Concluding Sentence: "A shadow fell over Oment's face."

Title: PunkModernist
Year Completed: 2004
My age at the time of writing: 23
Begun: Spring 2003 Finished: March 2004
Page Count: 391 pages
Genre: Occult Thriller
Description: This book started out as a 23 page short story entitled "The Supermarket" that I wrote for an advanced creative writing class during my final semester at Rhode Island College. After graduating I started expanding on it and it eventually became a giant novel, that to date is still the longest book I've ever written. The story concerns a disgruntled supermarket employee named Susan Curtis, who gets initiated into a secret society of bizarre terrorists known as the PunkModernists. She finds out that the governments of the world are controlled by a reptilian conspiracy, and soon finds herself battling alien lizards, Gnostic archons, pretentious vampires, and the President of the United States, as she struggles to discover the secrets of reality itself. The book was a homage to the comic books of Grant Morrison, Robert Anton Wilson's Illuminatus! trilogy, and the wacko conspiracy theories of David Icke. This was the first book I ever typed out using a computer.
Opening Sentence: "Reality Bites. That's my first motto. My second motto is 'Fuck You.'"
Concluding Sentence: CLASSIFIED

Title: Confusion
Year Completed: 2006
My age at the time of writing: 25-26
Begun: April 2005 Finished: July 2006
Page Count: 302 pages
Genre: 80's Historical Fiction
Description: Confusion was the second novel I've ever typed out on computer, and I liked it enough to self-publish it through iUniverse in 2006. A homage to the novels of Bret Easton Ellis (who I was obsessed with at the time), the main character is pretty much the decade of the 1980's as a whole and my thoughts on it. The story revolves around the existential angst of ultra-materialistic gay pop star Sypha Nadon, and all of the odd people and adventures he experiences while living in Miami from 1985 to 1986. I think it's probably my funniest book, and while it has many flaws (including a lot of typos I wish I could have caught), I quite enjoyed writing this book. I'd love to get it published for real one day, in an edition where I could fix some of these flaws. The front cover art was done by Grant Cook.
Opening Sentence: "This is a journey..."
Concluding Sentence: "I don't care."