The Importance of the Writing Heart

I wrote this post a while ago on the site, but I have been thinking about it alot.

For the last two years, I have been reading more nonfiction than ever before, and many times there is something missing under the surface. Good writing certainly, but still hollow. There is also some good writing advice here I believe, especially for those looking for suggestions or exercises to help their ability take off.

There 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 reviewer will deny that Franzen is a good writer. He is, but his writing always misses something for me. And while I can respect the talent, I rarely remember anything after that last page is turned, almost relieved I got to the end of another gigantic tome.

So what do the academics and authors like Franzen miss?

Technically, they would argue nothing. They checked all the boxes that should make a work successful. Critics and publishers will agree. I might even agree! But it doesn’t change the fact that something was lacking and it is something behind the words.

I’m talking about heart.

Heart is the one thing that truly can’t be taught in an English or writing classroom, but it is also the most important thing a writer will need. And if used right by a writer, it can change opinions, stir a reader to act, and even make people cry or laugh. It is what takes a jumble of words and turns them into a message.

When writing has heart (be it in fiction, nonfiction, or even in marketing or business writing) it can move mountains. It can stir donations, create movements, and make art that truly will live after a writer has shuffled off this mortal coil.

Heart is the one thing all great writing share in all genres and styles. And yet, while we all have emotions, why is it so difficult for so many of us to call upon this organ? Continue reading

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Dusting the Bookshelf – Permanent Spring Showers

As we get closer to the release of my latest novel (In Jerry’s Corner) from Stargazing Publishing, I thought it might be fun to take a look back at some of my previous novels. This is my second entry in the series, the first discussed A Jane Austen Daydream (you can read it here). This time I take on my most recent release- Permanent Spring Showers

It is easy for writers to be dramatic. It’s in our blood. If you are a writer and not dramatic in how you interpret yourself and the world around you, chances are, you are probably doing something wrong and should consider different career options.

So when I look back at my life and each of my novels, I see stories; with beginnings (the initial ideas), first steps (the creation), struggles (getting them out to the world) and conclusions (reviews and what happens). Sometimes those are nice stories (A Jane Austen Daydream and The Dante Experience both jump quickly to mind), while others I would classify as tragedies.

Today I present my greatest tragedy.

So much possibility and all of my main characters are lying dead with nothing good coming out of the situation. I weep for them. They are buried now in unmarked paper graves and no one has any idea they were even alive.

See, Permanent Spring Showers is probably one of the best books I have ever written and it is out of print. It is a ghost in the literary world, without the strength of a Boo. It is a tragic death, that has happened too soon.

Listen everyone as I mourn the tragedy of a book lost to the masses! Welcome to my five-act literary tragedy, Permanent Spring Showers! (See what I mean about dramatic.)

Act One: There Was a Script…

While the death of Permanent Spring Showers was swift, ironically I had the longest literary life with that novel and its characters. It actually began when I was at grad school at Michigan State University back in the 90s. Then I dreamed of achieving a PhD in Literature. I would teach, be that smart professor that all of the young English majors look up to- imagine the English major version of Dr. Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. That was going to be me.

(Conclusion to that dream, I ended up running off to Los Angeles, and getting my Master’s in Writing instead from the University of Southern California.) Continue reading

Dusting the Bookshelf – A Jane Austen Daydream

As we get closer to the release of my latest novel (In Jerry’s Corner) from Stargazing Publishing, I thought it might be fun to take a look back at some of my previous novels. Maybe, if I am lucky, it will inspire you to check them out. Whenever I set out to write a book, I am aiming to do something unique, surprising and original. This might be a bad business model, but for me as a reader and an artist, it is a lot of fun.

Most people know me because of A Jane Austen Daydream.

It led to most of my followers on Twitter and this site, it led to me working on Current State on WKAR for three years talking about books, and it led to almost 250 reviews on Goodreads (a number which continues to grow each month).

When the book came out (after going through a separation with an old agent and two publishers, one of whom tried to massively re-edit it and then finally released it with Austen spelled wrong on the paperback), I became for many the Austen man. Every interview I did had a question that was kind of like “Hey, you’re a guy! Do you know it is strange for you to like Austen? Because you’re a guy, I mean.”

Honestly, even though I always found that question a little insulting and sexist. I never pointed it out in my responses (and I’ve given dozens of various little playful responses to it). Jane Austen is a great author and wrote probably the greatest novel in the English language. It really doesn’t matter if I am a guy or not; it doesn’t change that fact. To enjoy her writing is human.

…And, on a side note, the professor that got me into Pride and Prejudice and Jane Austen’s work was a dude as well. He is sadly gone now, but I did add him in as a character in the book as a thank you. He is the local doctor in Jane’s village, Dr. Chesley. Continue reading

Big News! Get Ready! New Book Coming Soon!

Coming soon from Stargazing Publishing, my latest novel – In Jerry’s Corner!

I know a lot of writers like to say “My latest book is my best, blah, blah, blah.” But for this book, all of that is TRUE for me. I can not be more proud of this novel, and I look forward to having readers discover it.

Check out my author page on the publisher site- http://stargazingpublishing.moonfruit.com/scott-d-southard/4594395172.

In Jerry’s Corner is many things for me. It is a very original and surprising story, the kind I love to discover as a reader. It is also fun, romantic, humorous, daring, and human. I could go on and on… and I do! Check out the interview just released today on Stargazing’s website about my writing and my latest novel! You can read the interview here- http://stargazingpublishing.moonfruit.com/scott-d-southard-interviews/4594395174

I really look forward to sharing this story with you. I’ll keep you updated here on the process as we move closer to publication (release dates, back cover descriptions, samples, reviews, cover release, etc.). So stay tuned! Until then, I hope you enjoy the interview and thank you so much for following me and reading my books, posts and other crazy stuff. This is a very important novel for me and I really hope you like it.

Cheers!

A Rant Against Harry Chapin‘s “Cat’s in the Cradle”

I am always haunted by three songs. They are my personal ghosts. They are with me wherever I go, just ready to jump back in front of me with a scream of “Boo! Got ya! Now sing along!” And I have no choice. I sing every damn time.

The first is “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” by Deep Blue Something. Let’s get this out of the way first, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is an awful movie. It’s not just an awful movie, it’s also a racist film. There is no good reason for the lyricist and the soon-to-be ex-girlfriend to have fond memories of that film. I would even argue that an enjoyment or love of the film a good ground for dumping… on both sides.

But gosh darn it, that chorus in the song is so catchy!

I hope wherever the lead singer of Deep Blue Something is, he is also singing that song every day… seems only fair for what he has put me through since its release.

The second song is “Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)” by Us3. This song from the ’90s was created out of an attempt to combine Blue Note jazz records with rap. For some strange reason, this is the only rap song I can rap along with all the way through. Which means at some point during my day you might hear me quietly bragging about my basketball skills and my ability to rap. (Both things that aren’t true.)

The third song though hits me more psychologically. It cuts me to my core, leaving me feeling guilty about the smallest things, because…

I will not ever, ever, EVER be like the dad in Harry Chapin‘s “Cat’s in the Cradle.”

For those lucky enough not to know this folk pop number, it is a cautionary tale about parenting and the lessons we teach our kids without meaning to. The narrator is a father who never seems to have time for his son. He wasn’t there when his son learned to walk or speak. He even casually dismisses his son’s birth, saying that he was merely born “in the usual way.” I’m sure his wife when she was screaming in the hospital didn’t think it was “usual.”  Continue reading

Blog Tour: A Jane Austen Daydream by Scott D. Southard

Blog tour coming up! Can’t wait to introduce more readers to this work. I hope you follow along!

Novel Expressions Blog Tours

A Jane Austen Daydream by Scott D. Southard Tour Banner

Novel Expressions Blog Tours is proudly hosting a tour for A Jane Austen Daydream by Scott D. Southard on, April 23rd – 27th !

FIVE YEAR ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Now with a new foreword and an updated cover showcasing Jane’s own handwriting, this re-imagining of Jane’s life continues to charm and delight readers of literary fiction worldwide.

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perf5.500x8.500.inddAll her heroines find love in the end–but is there love waiting for Jane?

Jane Austen spends her days writing and matchmaking in the small countryside village of Steventon, until a ball at Godmersham Park propels her into a new world where she yearns for a romance of her own. But whether her heart will settle on a young lawyer, a clever Reverend, a wealthy childhood friend, or a mysterious stranger is anyone’s guess.

Written in the style of Jane herself, this novel ponders the question faced by many devoted readers over…

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Disneyland’s Silent Gift

I just returned from a trip with the family to Disneyland. It was a good trip (besides the crazy size of the crowds this year), and it made me think of this post I wrote a few years ago. Yes, I did take a few morning walks around. Enjoy!

The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard

ResortThere is this time when you are staying at the Disneyland Resort Hotel when you can have it all to yourself.

It’s quiet, with the faint hint of music playing in the hotel lobbies in the background. I first discovered it when I offered to grab my wife one early morning a coffee at the shop in the hotel. But the moment I exited the elevator (and the haunting overture from The Jungle Book was playing in the speakers), that I realized I had discovered something unique.

It was still dark outside and I was alone.

I walked along the pool, passed the Tangaroa Terrace restaurant (with its fireplace still ablaze). There is a smell to Disneyland that I have yet to put my finger on, but the blossoms around the hotel and the restaurant added to its intoxication.

It was so peaceful that I almost felt a tinge of…

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“Any Love (Cassandra Et Lune)” by Ken Stringfellow

Before the next section is shared from my novel Cassandra on the Island, I thought I would bring up this post I wrote a few years ago. It goes into my mindset and the world around me while I was working on the novel. It also references once heck of a great song. I hope you like it.

The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard

Wow, I can’t believe I am already up to eight in my series “With Music.”   In each post I write about a time in my life, using a song that impacted me or reminds me of a moment.  The earlier seven entries included Ben Folds Five, Sheryl Crow, Beth Orton, Dean Martin, The Verve, Barenaked Ladies, and Tori Amos. This time I write about finding inspiration in Los Angeles.
Books

I am haunted by a song.

I sometimes hear it in my dreams, it is the one I might start humming when I am running an errand or absentmindedly finishing a chore. I’ve even been known to sing it to my children as they fall asleep.

This song has followed me for almost a decade and I believe it will be with me until I let one special book go.

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The Ghosts of Writing, Halloween 2017

I’m going through a weird phase right now with my writing  It is affecting my old books, it is affecting my future works, and it is affecting this site. I still get a kick out of reading (from time to time), but there’s a certain sense of pointlessness around the entire endeavor that seems to be growing for me.

Do I write another post trying to inspire you to take on the author mantle? Create a book and get it published? Or do I write another one about the bleak possibilities/reality of the publishing world? Another doom-and-gloom piece about how the publishing world is only about the almighty dollar and self-publishing is no home for literary fiction?

One thing that has been capturing my attention (and I recommend if you have the patience for it) is Alan Moore’s epic novel Jerusalem. It breaks every rule I have known about publishing and literature. It is incredible in its audacity and I am in awe of it and him as an author. It is is long (over 1200 pages in small font long) and it is dense (it assumes that you know what he’s talking about). He does not dumb down anything! I am loving the experience of reading it and strangely it makes me think that it would be fun it to just spent 10 years working on a super crazy long book of my own.

I promise I will do more writing on the site in the future (don’t abandon me yet!), until then I need this break. I need to figure out what I am doing with my current novel and I need to find a way to care more… about everything with writing.

Right now though let’s celebrate some of the work that I think are suitable for Halloween. Here are some great books for a spooky night. These reviews were either done here or on WKAR.

Happy Halloween!

Episode 9 of The Dante Experience (including an interview with executive producer, Dana Dyer Pierson!)

This week I learned the sad news that the producer of The Dante Experience, Dana Dyer Pierson, has passed away unexpectedly.

It’s not often you get to have one of your writing dreams come true… and you know who exactly to thank for it. Along with her husband Joel, Dana took my scripts and made them come alive. For that I will always be eternally grateful.

I first met Dana and Joel at the Midwest Radio Theater Workshop. They were so much fun and so much in love. They were the heart of that week and where they were, you wanted to be as well. Meeting them was the best thing about that time and I cherished every moment I had of laughing with them and goofing off. In a bygone age when radio drama was still king they both would’ve been huge and this news would’ve been like a rocket through the media, from Twitter to, of course, NPR.

Dana and Joel were always friends I wanted some day to catch up with again, maybe even convince them to work on something again with me. Besides the radio series, I also had the pleasure of having them produce live radio shows around some of my short stories. It was all such a joy for me.

Dana, this writer is going to miss you and the dreams of those possibilities.

A few years ago when I got permission to share the radio series here on this website I interviewed Dana. I am reblogging the interview today. You can also listen to the entire series and Dana’s amazing work on the main page for it.

Dana, if you see Dante squeeze his ducky for me.

The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard

Today brings us the penultimate episode of The Dante Experience! What a long, crazy ride through Hell it has been.

Today, I am also proud to share an interview with Dana Dyer Pierson, executive producer and sound designer for The Dante Experience! So to begin you can listen to episode 9 here:

Share and enjoy!

Dana Dyer Pierson

Dana Dyer Pierson, along with her husband Joel Pierson, created the award-winning Mind’s Ear Audio Productions. They created such nationally honored productions as French Quarter,Children’s Zoo and The Dante Experience. Besides producing Dante, Dana also created the sound design; a series that included everything from a musical number in Hell, to a boxing match, to a TV talk show! Every time I listen to the series I am just floored by her work on the series.

What inspired you to work in radio?

I…

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