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!

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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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Sherlock By Moonlight

For over a year I have had trouble falling asleep.

There are many things I can point to as possible blames for my restless evenings. Three jump quickly to mind.

  • The obvious one, and the one we probably all share, is the 2016 election and what happened afterwards. For more information on that, tune in to NPR on any day (or hour).
  • The second is more personal. With my writing, I’m still trying to figure out what to do with my latest book (which I believe is probably the best original fiction I will ever create). It’s a very unique position, where each reader (agent or publisher) says it is important, some even say they love it, but it has yet to find a home. It’s like being the nice guy in high school; everyone wants to be its friend, but no one wants to date it.
  • The third one is I changed jobs last year. While I am very happy with the results of that experience (and it turned out to be a very good thing for me), everything around those stressful months still wears on me.

I wouldn’t say all of this is dramatic enough to call it PTSD, but it does linger in the gut sometimes at around 11 o’clock when my entire family is asleep and a part of me feels like I need to stay awake to keep an eye on all of them. I don’t have time to sleep. It feels like a luxury I don’t get right now.

I’ve tried a few tricks to fall asleep. The first was I got a sound machine, one of those devices that can do the sound of rain or thunderstorm, etc. (Strangely many of them just make me feel like I have to use the bathroom.)

The sounds did work for about a month and then my nine-year-old son discovered it, and I have not seen it since. It lives in his bedroom now, and while I am struggling to fall asleep he is experiencing a peaceful summer night with crickets.

Analyzing myself (which I love to do), overall, I need to put my mind in a sense of peace and harmony. Give myself the “okay” to fall asleep. Just lying in silence doesn’t do that for me. Reality bears down too much in the quiet moments.

…Strangely what has been working has been solving mysteries with literature’s greatest detective. Continue reading

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

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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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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“That’s Amore” by Dean Martin

For Valentine’s Day, re-posting a blogpost I did about Italy, love, and a bad song by Dean Martin. Enjoy!

The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard

Dean MartinThis is the fourth in my “With Music” series, where I capture moments in my life through a song. The others  so far included a song by Ben Folds Five (you can read it here), Sheryl Crow (here), and the third was about one of the best songs ever by Beth Orton (here). Check them out! (After reading this one, of course.)

I never really liked Dean Martin’s music.

When I think of classic crooners, I always lean towards Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Nat “King” Cole. Bing had a nice jazz rhythm and friendliness in his voice, Frank was art (a unique and always beautiful combination of arrangement and voice), and Nat… Nat was the man. Smooth voice and a great jazz piano player. His album After Midnight might be my favorite album of all time. I can’t think of a week I…

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Living With Snoopy

Last night, I completed a herculean task that I once thought was impossible. See, I can now say that i have read EVERY SINGLE Peanuts comic strip ever. It’s weirdly both something I feel proud about and also very depressed about. (I have a feeling Charlie Brown would understand a reaction like that.)

As you will see from this blogpost, Snoopy and his gang were very important to me growing up. To have now lost the capability to read something new… I don’t want to say it is like losing something, but there is a part of me definitely gone that I am still figuring out.

Maybe it will feel like mourning for Charles Schulz again? I don’t know.

Of course, I never knew Mr. Schulz. But now I feel like I have spent a life with him since it was 50 years of art. It could be said I spent a lifetime with all of the Peanuts gang. From beginning to end, it was very worth it.

The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard

Charlie Brown taught me how to read.

My father, growing up in the 60’s, collected Peanuts books and they filled up almost an entire bookshelf in my grandparents’ house. For a child, those four paneled black-and-white sketches were an untapped goldmine. I knew there were riches there; I just had no idea how to translate them. I was like Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark, standing over the miniature landscape, trying to figure out how to use the map to find the Well of Souls where the Ark is housed.

Like Indy, I was not the kind of child to give up on something easily. So slowly and with many questions over time, I learned how to read the panels; memorizing one word after another. My curiosity drove me. So while others of  my age were learning words like “Cat” and “Dog,” I could read “Blockhead” and…

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