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

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Five Things I Am Into Right Now, July 2016

This introduction has some spoilers for Game of Thrones, but seriously not a big deal. Don’t worry, I got your back.

Game-of-Thrones-Jon-SnowOkay, I have to say something about Game of Thrones. I have no choice. The fact I am only doing here as an intro is pretty surprising, since I find what we just saw happen over the season fascinating.

Every year I complain about the show. About the darkness, the violence, the aggression. Sometimes I am taking on George R.R. Martin, sometimes the writers of the show. But this season was easily the best the show had ever done.

I think a big part is that they weren’t slowed down by Martin’s books. Honestly, the last two books felt like filler for me. Something to extend the shelf life of the series as compared to moving the story forward. Obviously, the TV writers agreed with me when they cut those two books down to one season on the show.

My big love of the season is finally we are getting some comeuppance on the more villainous characters and we are getting answers to things that book readers have been debating for years. It almost makes a fan of the books want to send a thank you card and a box of chocolate to HBO.

Yet, I wonder what it is doing to Martin. It must be really hard to sit down at the computer each day and work on a book that has been spoiled for so many already. He must feel like he is just going through the motions. It almost makes me wonder if we will ever see the next two books in the series. Wouldn’t it at some point feel like writing one of those lame novels adapted from a film screenplay?

Read the book about the movie you just saw! Experience it again on the page! You loved it on the screen, just wait until you experience it again inside your head, written by someone unconnected to the screenplay or production who is just doing it for the paycheck!

Anyway, Game of Thrones is done. Here are the five things I am really into this summer not related to dragons. Continue reading

Really??? Three Things I Can’t Believe I Was Once Into

CompassSo I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what makes up a life. What is truly important and what is, honestly, fluff. Or better yet, what milestones make us who we are, that make our life the final story it will be? The marks on our compass. Is this something important, for example, or just another day, something that will be forgotten.

Okay, I know this sounds like heady stuff, but stick with me. The shift is about to happen.

Yet, for me, as I pondered these deep thoughts I kept returning to things I was once into, especially things that now make me feel a little, honestly, humiliated. We all have those. I can easily name right now a hundred friends on Facebook that were into New Kids on the Block when they were in high school. (To those friends I’ll like to say: “Yes, you should be embarrassed; and, no, going to see them in concert now is not a good idea. You are watching people in their mid-forties pretending to be teenagers because they need the money.”)

Here are three things right now that make me blush. I can’t say why, they just do. And if I could go back in time I might have a few words with myself. Maybe even pat the past me on the back and say:

It’s okay, but you know this is kind of lame… No, seriously lame… Not boy bands lame…. Nothing you have liked has ever been that lame, Scott. So no worries… But lame, yes.

You know, looking back over this intro, let me correct myself. I just wanted an excuse to talk about three things that I’m not into anymore. (And by the way, I always thought boy bands were lame.)   Continue reading

Christmas 2015

SantaHere’s the thing I discovered this holiday season…

There aren’t any new original Christmas books being written. When I started doing the book reviews for WKAR, I had this dream of discovering a new holiday tale each year and that plan fell apart pretty darn quick.

Starting in October, I began checking out new releases for possible reviews and everything seemed to be romantic comedies, all dreaming of being a mediocre Hallmark special. (Of course, if they are all mediocre how does that scale really work?) But you know my gut feeling is that all those relationships that begin like that over the holiday season don’t last after the book ends and the tree is put away.  Yes, Hallmark romantic-comedy fans, I’m saying it- they will all be broken up by summer. Bah Humbug!

So here is the challenge to everyone reading who is a writer: Come up with a new holiday story. It can’t be a variation on something we have seen or an adaptation or a re-imagining, it has to be an original take. Something that adds to the holiday season. I want something new and something daring and something that taps into the warmth that is supposed to surround the yuletide season. The gauntlet has been thrown down and if you can pull this off, book reviewers (and readers) will thank you for years to come.

Now here are some of my favorite holiday posts I have done in the past that I think you will get a kick out of this holiday season.

Why the Littlest Angel is the Worst Holiday Story… Ever.  And I still stand by this statement. Here are my reasons why we should all forget this tale and stick it under the bed with the angel’s box of favorite things.

Book Review: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I am really proud of this review I did a while back for WKAR. You can listen to my voice (and my attempt to channel Dickens) or read it via the link.

Writing a Good Christmas Story: Four Things to Consider. For those thinking of taking on my challenge, here are some writing pointers that will help you on the mission.

Kris and Me. I know I shared this original Christmas short story already once on the site this season, but I am proud of it. You should check it out. (And Hallmark channel, you can reach me via my contact info listed on my “Man Behind the Curtain” page.)

Neil Diamond’s “A Cherry Cherry Christmas” is the Worst Christmas Song Ever! A Holiday Musical Rant. One last post for the Grinch and the Scrooge in all of us. And this song doesn’t get better with time. Now I’ve just got to get around to creating a rant about “Last Christmas” by Wham! Yes, that song deserves it.

The With Music Series

With MusicHi everyone!

Over 2015, I took on a new series of posts on my site. I called it “With Music” and I was trying to tell bits about myself and my experiences through the songs that stir those memories.

One of the things I am really proud of around the posts is how diverse they are. There are serious ones, more humorous ones, and even some that might be considered romantic. Well, romantic from that weird perspective we writers take on the real world.

With the end of the year approaching, I thought I would tell you a bit about the eight posts and reshare the links (via the song title) if you haven’t had a chance to check them out. I might do more in the future. They were fun to take on. I hope you enjoy them!

“Don’t Change Your Plans” by Ben Folds Five: This is the story of a… well… I don’t want to say confused, but maybe troubled is more near the mark, girl I dated a long time ago. But really which of us is truly perfect? We all have our quirks. Of course, for me you can look them up on this site.

“Home” by Sheryl Crow: After graduating from college, I decided to travel Europe alone. I just never realized until I got there how big the word “alone” can be. Especially in a country filled with strangers.

“Sweetest Decline” by Beth Orton: This is me deciding what I wanted to do with my life and having the courage to claim it.  (Oh, and this is a pretty awesome song if you have never heard it before.)

“That’s Amore” by Dean Martin: Easily some of the happiest days of my life. My wife and I exploring Italy. Of course, the fact it connects to this corny song was not by our choice.

“Lucky Man” by The Verve: So I have this comedy radio series. You can actually listen to it via this page. I’ve always had a thing for radio drama and this song/story is about my time visiting the last survivors of this artform.

“Break Your Heart” by Barenaked Ladies: Whenever I think of embarrassing dating stories, this is the song that jumps into my mind. For each and every damn one…

“Hey Jupiter” by Tori Amos: Yes, this is a love story about a car.

“Any Love (Cassandra Et Lune)” by Ken Stringfellow: This is a story about many things. First off, it is an amazing song, but second it is also a story about achieving that writing high. When you feel you have all of creation on the tip of your fingers, you just got to start typing.

Cheers!

Five Things I Am Into Right Now, October 2015

Downton Abbey Season 3You always got the feeling that Julian Fellowes was winging it with Downton Abbey.

Oh, for the first season and the spectacular second season he knew exactly what he was aiming for and doing (I’ve written about the show a few times on this site, like here), but for all the years after that there was this general feeling (at least for me) of someone improving on a world stage. (“Do you like this? No? Maybe this? Okay, we’ll do this for a bit.”) And whenever he hits a roadblock, he jumps forward in time; like a reset button.

I’ve been watching the new season and while I felt everything after the second season was pretty weak, this final year is just… okay, I have to say, boring and lazy.

There. I said it. And I feel so better afterwards. Is Fellows so done with his juggernaut that he just wants it over? There is no real action or point so far to the season. He erases major plot points with a simple conversation (this is where the lazy bit comes in, things just happen and life moves on), and nothing really seems to move forward. Soap operas are not this bad. In a way, the show has almost become a parody of itself.

There are things I will always like about Downton Abbey (some of the characters, the period it is taking part) and things I will never understand (the series has jumped forward about 20 years since it’s beginning and no one has freaking aged!), but at least, for all its faults, it was in the hands of Fellows and he is a really good screenwriter.

Now, I just see him as a good screenwriter who is very tired. A lot of fans are going to be very disappointed. I hate to say it, but it’s true. Maybe the second half of the final season will erase my concerns, but right now I see it going out with something less than a grand whimper- a reluctant shrug.

Okay, onto five things I am actually enjoying right now. Continue reading

Recently, You and Me: Me, My Wife and Dave Matthews Band

dmbMy wife has this way of internally rolling her eyes, when she doesn’t want me to see she is rolling her eyes…. Yet, I still know she is doing it and she knows I know.

A lot of this eye rolling has been occurring because of another man. Well, technically, a band of them. For the last year I’ve regained my obsession with Dave Matthews Band and their music. The funny thing is this obsession was rekindled after a bad concert.

Yes, Dave Matthews Band is known for their amazing live performances, but my complaint was not with them. This guilt is all on the shoulders of the audience around me. During the show I almost wondered if my annoyance was because I am older and this is not a thing anymore (and really concert going can take a lot of energy). Nah. This ain’t on my shoulders. Honestly, the people around us were dicks.

There, I’ll say it again: “Dicks.”

Someone was selling beaded necklaces, another family was coming and going throughout the show (I think there were some drugs going on there), and a family sitting next to us brought their own bongos. Yes, you read that right- bongos. And of all of the members of Dave Matthews Band, Carter Beauford  doesn’t need any drumming help. The man is freaking amazing.

Yet, ever since that concert I have not been able to stop listening to Dave Matthews Band. I listen to the music while I am getting ready in the morning, having breakfast, when I am driving the kids to school, and going for walks. Dave is there always, and it feel very natural. Like a friend, just hanging out, catching up on memories. Continue reading

Five Things I Am Into Right Now, April 2015

kids-bike-16-inchYesterday, I got to have one of those dad moments. It is so cliche, it could be used in a TV commercial (and probably has been), but there is a reason for it. It is a great feeling.

I got to teach my son how to ride a bike.

We went to our local park that has a smooth cement trail around it. After a few falls and nervousness, he was up and going, and there I was huffing and puffing to try and keep up.

Yeah, I could go on about the symbolism of the kid finally being able to race away from the dad, leaving the early years behind, but I’m not in that frame of mind. If anything this has opened a whole new world of possibility for us. I look forward to taking him on different trails in our area, finding new bike paths to explore. In other words, my summer just got a lot more interesting.

What is also interesting is that most of what I mention below is all done while sitting down. My Fitbit would probably be disappointed by my list this month, actually. But I listen to it enough, so I think it is all fine. Continue reading

Fiona Apple and the new book Permanent Spring Showers. A guest post on the Undercover Soundtrack.

Fiona Apple's New MasterpieceToday I have a guest post on the very cool site The Undercover Soundtrack. If you haven’t visit the site, you should. Writers discuss their musical inspiration and “soundtrack” in the writing of their work. I was on the site before, writing about the music behind A Jane Austen Daydream (which you can check out here). In this post I take on the soundtrack of Permanent Spring Showers, my latest book.

Here is an excerpt from the beginning:

Music can be like little time capsules. For some, they may return you to younger days, for me they return me to books. Whenever I take on a project, my creative psyche demands that I find the right soundtrack for it. And if I don’t, I might as well kiss that creative spirit goodbye. They flounder, gasping and dying like a fish out of water.

When I began work on my novel Permanent Spring Showers I knew I was doing something a little odd. It was a book very loosely based on a screenplay I had written years earlier, but this was going to be a very different work, not an easy adaptation. Also, I was going to present it chapter by chapter on my site. I liked to call it then a book in real time since you could enjoy the book and witness the creation of it as well. Yet, it was even more than that. Since I wasn’t bogging myself down in thoughts of sales, agents, and publishers, I was opening the door for sheer possibility. I could do anything, only limited by my own imagination.

It was so creatively exhilarating to throw off the shackles that so many of us feel when creating. And, adding in the danger that I could screw it up at any moment (for everyone to see) was just as thrilling. I was playing with literary fire. Luckily, I never felt alone in the flames.

In the article I break down the relationship between Fiona Apple’s most recent CD (which is awesome, by the way) and the book. You can check out the entire article here.

Permanent Spring ShowersPermanent Spring Showers was published by 5 Prince Books and is available on all online book retailers. Out in both print and eBook, you can find it on amazon.com here. The eBook is on sale for only $3.99.

You can read a sample and learn more about the book via this page. Grab a copy today!

 

Five Things I Am Into Right Now, January 2015

This is Lightning. She only has bad daysSo I’m going through a thing with a video game.

Do you remember this post? (The reference is only a few paragraphs, it won’t take you long.) There I am praising Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII.

You can feel the love.

It could be argued that it was the honeymoon stage of my relationship with the game.

See, I’ve had a long relationship with Lightning and her role-playing world, playing both of the installments before starting on the third and final part (I’m sure it could almost equal entire months if the hours were embarrassingly added together). And, as you can guess from the post then, everything was going swimmingly in our relationship. We laughed at the same jokes, enjoyed discussing our past history…. Then this damn monster called Grendel appeared in a desert world and ruined everything for us.

Ruined, ruined, ruined!

Now, I love the literary reference in the monster’s name, so the creators get points for that, but that monster destroyed my infatuation with the game and world and Lightning and sent me away. (Actually, over to Gotham City and a Batman game.) It’s not often I leave a game unfinished, especially a Final Fantasy game, so it was rough. I like to think it felt that way to Lightning too.

So here I am, it’s a new year, and I am looking for new beginnings, new possibilities. And since Lightning and I have such a long past I decided to give it another shot….

Of course, this time I am wisely playing on easy.

I have no video game shame.

Here is my first list for 2015, and speaking of video games… Continue reading