The Nakedness of an Estate Sale

When I moved into my neighborhood with my wife, our first real house, there were many surprises for us. Many, that as children, we probably never noticed or even considered about a neighborhood and the people who call them homes.

  • The almost-naked neighbor who walks around almost every day in front of his window. (I have spoken to him quite a few times and I still have yet to hint, “You know, windows do go both ways.”)
  • The neighbor who seems to need a joint each evening at around 9 PM to calm down (that is the house with the raccoons in the backyard. I like to assume those raccoons are very, very chill… and then raid our trash for munchies).
  • The neighbor with no furniture in his living room. Not a single freaking chair. (This will probably be our serial killer, which we all will tell the documentary filmmakers someday: “I don’t know, he really kept to himself…”)

Then there is the arguing. It is like carolers during the holidays, except it doesn’t follow a specific calendar. Every house gets them visiting at some point or another. They build into a chorus, voices reaching new heights together (both volume and octave) and then like a song, ends. The silence is always the hardest part when you hear it from the outside, for you know that is when the crying is probably going on.

The most we seem to say to each other, even though we spend so much time so close, are the lawn signs.

Vote! Sale!

We put our hopes on display, declaring to those who might care what we find important or what we might need. But even those seem to deteriorate in time, like jack o’lanterns three days after Halloween.

The thing that impacts and shocks me the most are the estate sale signs. Continue reading

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NEW WKAR Book Review: My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

With my wife recently finishing this book (which led to some very interesting conversations) to Elizabeth Strout’s new book (Anything is Possible), I thought I would re-post this review from last year. Enjoy!

The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard

Current StateOne of my favorite things to do on WKAR is talk about new books that really impress me. Some like to believe book reviewers get more pleasure out of negative reviews, but that has never been the case for me. So today was a highpoint for me as I take on My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout.

You can listen to my review here: http://wkar.org/post/book-review-elizabeth-strout-s-my-name-lucy-barton

If you would rather read my review, you can do so below.

Hey, did you know Current State has a podcast? If you subscribe, you can download episodes and segments (and you can find me every other Thursday). Here is a link to find it on iTunes- https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/wkar-fm-current-state/id594609653?mt=2

If you want to check out My Name is Lucy Barton,  you can find it on amazon here. If you want to check out my other book reviews for WKAR’s Current State, you can…

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The Quiet Scream in the Library: A Cynical Rant About Literature

I don’t always like fiction.

This may seem weird to say since I am a writer, I have an MFA in the field, and I used to do book reviews on NPR (actually I did those reviews for over three years, you can find them here), but it is true. Painfully, painfully true. I just don’t always enjoy reading fiction.  And it is rare on a relaxing Sunday afternoon that I feel like turning to a piece of fiction to pass the time.

I know… I know… blasphemy!

The problem is I believe that I have studied and analyzed literature to such a point that I have practically (and academically) taken the pleasure out of it.

It’s the great college conundrum! A question every college student has to ask him or herself- Do you go into a field around the subject that you love? Yes, you will enjoy the classes more than you would, say, in a different field but it also may impact how you view it for the rest of your life.

In other words, once Dorothy sees the wizard behind the curtain you can’t put the wizard back. English majors like me are Dorothys. And no matter how much we wish it, we can’t bring the “magic” back.

Continue reading

Short Story: A Children’s Nightmare

The children could have spent all day looking at that tombstone. It was the most foreboding piece of marble in the cemetery. But for the children, the size of that tombstone brought along pictures of giants and monsters. And the fact that it said “Better Dead Than Alive” under the name “Jake Hawkins,” couldn’t help but make them think that it was good he was dead. Did he terrorize a village with his footsteps? Did he steal maidens from their wedding days? Did he eat people? Whatever he did in life, there was a celebration in his death.

It might have been that problem that confused Lisa the most. For Lisa did understand death. She understood the concept at least. Her Grandmother still tells the story of Lisa when she was three and they were at the park across the street from Matt’s house. Lisa was playing on the swings and her Grandmother was talking with her Grandfather about who they knew buried in the other graveyard beyond the playground.

Now her Grandfather grew up in a strong religious background and from time to time he would try to convince people of that fact. Especially in his old age he seemed to go back to those studies as a form of support for the coming end. It also seemed to give possibility (when he truly allowed himself to believe) for a hope, feeling and moment of happiness for the people gone.

But her Grandmother was exactly the opposite of her Grandfather. She was an atheist of the strongest kind (actually she had an opinion about everything and every opinion of hers was strong). Her husband and she would spend days arguing about things like a game perfected over the decades of holding hands in their little time.

Well, on this day her Grandmother wanted to take Lisa and go over the hill and visit the tombstones to pay respect to their old friends. Her Grandfather did not like this idea because of two reasons:

  1. Lisa was just a three year old and he didn’t want to take responsibility for what that experience could do to her precious young psyche.
  2. The second (he said) their spirits have moved on so it would be only a waste of time. They were in heaven or wherever. Of course, there was probably a little of his own fear of death associated with that difficulty.

His wife grabbed this argument and sunk her teeth into it like a shark with raw meat. Her argument to number one was that the sooner Lisa is introduced to the problem the less difficult it would be for her as she grew older. It would help her maturity. She also said that she would “If given the opportunity teach her about sex.”

Now while she went on to argue against the “silliness” of number two the mention of the work “Sex,” awakened the Grandfather to a new understanding of reality. Little Lisa will grow up. Little Lisa will fall in love. She will have children. She will have a life and there is a good chance that he won’t be around to see her and the life she creates.  The concept took his breath away. He just never pictured everything going on without him and it was very stunning. Lisa’s children. Lisa’s children’s children. All that time and ages that will go on and on without him. Maybe even someday he will be forgotten? Lost in the eternity of time. And these little moments of perfection with his wife (playing their game) and Lisa laughing on her favorite swing will slip slide away into a growing void. Her beautiful child laughter. Disappearing until it’s gone….

He fought back a tear. If he allowed it to fall, he would never have heard the end of it from his wife. Over the last few years she has had a hard and harder time figuring out what is the game and what is the reality. Oh well, it made them happy; it made her happy. Continue reading

Short Story: Under The Angelic Glow Of Dusk

“The Time has been catching us off guard,” she said to me and I, still reeling from the wind and the parties, only laughed at her notion and called her mind a good hangover waiting to happen.

She did not like my comments (typical) and shunned me for the first two days of our assignment. This probably wouldn’t have bothered me so much if we weren’t supposed to be wife and husband in this little life moment. On Friday, I got sick of her little games and in a dark corner in a dark moment after breakfast (which consisted of coffee or tea (decaffeinated), corn flakes (dry), and milk (cold).) I confronted her about the so-called importance of our assignment.

As she angrily argued back at me her wings rustled under her silly white dress. She hated me.

I laughed at that and reminded her small mind that she wasn’t capable of hate. Her and her little angels and their white hair and white eyes and white gleaming teeth never hate- Even those easy to. She then said it may not be hate but it was the closest she had felt to it. I had to laugh at her honesty, even though just the sound of her voice annoyed me.

She then stated that she was very sure she hated the sound of my laughter (it is a dark loud, booming laugh that echoes with screams of those inside) and then went and compared it to angry bells banging against the side of her ears. All the noises of lost times.

We had two days and she was going to use them. “For what?” I asked comically (I already knew the answer).

“To spread a little happiness,” she said….

…So Hope spent her days sprinkling the hollows of the Retirement Community with her magical daydreams, moonbeams and silly wishes of joy. I, I being of knowledge and reality and logic pure, wallowed in the dark corners talking with the spiders under my robes. Continue reading

“Cream of the Crop” A New Review for A Jane Austen Daydream

My novel A Jane Austen Daydream has been out for a few years, but now and then a review appears online that warms the heart. This is one of those discoveries from a few days ago.

Erin, who is currently #38 top reviewer and #8 best reviewer on GoodReads, recently discovered the audiobook of A Jane Austen Daydream.

She gave the audiobook version five stars, saying:

Well, this book took hold of me and I listened to it during every moment of the day, right up until my head hit the pillow. Seriously, this book is so goooood!!!… Now I have read my share of reimaginings, sequels, inspirations, and fanfictions of Jane Austen and her books, but “A Jane Austen Daydream ” is by far the “cream of the crop.” I laughed and cried and was just so pleased that someone could bring Jane Austen and her world back to life in the pages.

You can read the entire book review here (but prepare for spoilers!, consider yourself warned).

If you have not read or discovered my novel A Jane Austen Daydream, you can learn more about it on this website here. It is available on amazon in paperback, eBook, and audiobook. I hope you will check it out!

My First Disney Cruise: Six Revelations about Living on the Mouse’s Boat

When my parents were talking about taking everyone on a cruise, I did wonder what it would be like. I’ve never considered the idea of a cruise before. I’m either the kind of vacationer who likes to travel to a location or experience a location, I’m not the pampering kind of person. And that is how I imagined a cruise, me being pampered and lying down for a long time.

That is not a Disney Cruise.

Wait, let me correct that. I’m sure if people wanted to they could just lie down and eat all day. (There was sections of the ship “quarantined” just for adults and good food is everywhere), but I found the ship to be exciting with things to do every hour. The idea of lying down for more than an hour would feel like a waste for me.

From the 5K I ran on Castaway Cay (and I was pretty happy with my time) to the big slide on deck to the movies in the theater. A Disney Cruise is an adventure.

In typical Scott fashion, I have to get my thoughts about the experience down quickly, capture these great feelings I have about it… (Oh, and thanks mom and dad for the trip!)

Story vs. Celebration

Anyone who follows my blog, knows I have a thing about Disneyland. There is this post about my adoration for that little location in Anaheim, and this post that might be my favorite on the entire site about having a quiet moment alone in the park as it awakes. The reason for this love is very simple.

See, with Disneyland, I like to think that Walt found a new way to tell a story. The equivalent of the first person who decided to tell a story on a stage or put it on paper. He took stories from a sterile and controlled environment and put it around you. And when a ride (like Pirates of the Caribbean or the Haunted Mansion or an atmosphere (like Adventureland, Tomorrowland needs work) succeeds, it is as special to me as laying on a couch on a lazy Saturday discovering a great book for the first time.

With the cruise it is something different. It can’t be about a story, that would have been hard to pull off; what you get instead is a celebration of Disney and its history. Continue reading

My Five Essential Jazz Recordings

Saxophone

I am not a jazz expert, but I wish I was one.

My jazz experience began in high school and continued through college, right up until the moment when I realized I had taken my saxophone abilities as far as I could. I saw the wall, I could touch it… and I knew that whatever I needed to break it down, was not in me.

For those that aren’t certain what I mean, I’m talking about feeling the music in your own performance and then claiming it. Oh, I could play a song that was put on the stand in front of me, I could even do a “successful” solo. (I put that in quotes, because why it might sound good to the audience that day, I knew I was just repeating what I did the last time I performed the tune.) In other words, I was merely doing what I needed to do.

See, I’ve never been the kind of person to be satisfied with just “doing what I needed to do,” and this is especially true around the arts. If, for example, I am to write a book, it needs to be different from every other book you may pick up. And if it is in a genre, it will break the mold. If this sounds arrogant or bombastic, you are right. For that is how I see myself. I claim it. I am loud. You pick up a Scott Southard work and you will get something unique and different, nothing cookie-cutter. And I could never be that for jazz with my saxophone so I dropped being a music major, walked away from the music muse and ran over to the one that oversaw writers.

As much as I know my own limitations, accepted them, and my saxophone continues to gather dust in my closet, I still love jazz. I read books on artists, have watched Ken Burns’ documentary on Jazz numerous times, and collect jazz on vinyl. My weekends begin with the scratchy sound of the needle dropping, and doesn’t stop until the kids are asleep.

Below are my five favorite recordings, with my reasons and links. These are the one that stir me, inspire me, and make me wish I was something more than I am. I can’t give you reasons why they are important like an expert could for Mr. Ken Burns, I can only say, “this for me is jazz.” Continue reading

The Importance of the Writing Heart

The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard

Writing HeartThere is this truth around writing that we all can’t put our finger on. It’s enigmatic, elusive. But this “thing” can make a story or destroy it; it can change a letter from something that is thrown away or kept; and it is what makes an e-mail readable or spam.

Let me break this down in a different way.

As a book reviewer, I’ve had the pleasure of reading a lot of contemporary literature. And many times, these works will be by academics with amazing degrees and resumes. No one can deny these books are well-written, with a well-developed vocabulary and well-crafted plots. Yet, as a reader they don’t stick. I have no emotional attachment. It is like finishing a dry work assignment, not a work of art.

Recently, I had the same feeling reading Purity by Jonathan Franzen (you can read and hear my review here). No respectable…

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Five Things I am Into Right Now, February 2017

Snoopy Attempting The DreamEver since the election in November writing feels… trite.

It feels silly and, dare I say, hollow to worry about my next book or blog or even think about fiction. I can’t even name the last piece of fiction I read (maybe Neil Gaiman back in October?).

“Look at what is happening to reality!?!” A part of my mind keeps screaming.

Writing fiction is like being Nero with the fiddle while Rome (the real world) burns. And when you consider climate change, “burn” is not a bad word to use in that context.

But now it has been some time since the inauguration (even though it feels like freaking years), and if I don’t do something I will go stir crazy. I need to figure out my next step with my latest novel (Agent? Publisher? Furnace?), what I am going to create next, and, more vital, finding what feels important.

That’s the trick right there- “important.”

Of course, the irony of this is as I look over my latest five things I see a few time fillers there. I guess I would argue that for the last few months I just wanted to turn my brain off. Now I am ready to turn it back on and see what it can do. Today we need all of us to be active. We can’t simply wait for the next election.

No more fiddles. Continue reading