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.
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.
I was sick of being a number.
There were a lot of students in the master’s program in writing at the University of Southern California and I felt like I always had to prove myself. Every class was the same, an introduction to the others in the room and then a slow stomp up the literary stairs to the top of the class. Maybe I would have had an easier time being in competitive classrooms like these if I went to a bigger college for my undergrad. Then I was a big fish in a small pond. I was the writer of the entire class of English majors. It may sound egotistic to say I ruled the school, but it felt like that as I went from writing workshop to workshop then.
But at USC it was different. It also didn’t help that I started the program in the middle of the year. Everything was settled by the students on their own personal rankings by then. You would see in the classrooms which students were worth listening to and which created the most eye rolling (and there were a lot of eye rolling). I was the odd man out, the question mark in the class, and I could sense it.
Those writing classes could also be stressful and aggressive. Students would argue about each others’ works, some teachers would spur it on (maybe even weirdly enjoying it) while others did their best to try and keep some control over their classrooms. I wish I could say I played it smart in the early months, biding my time and getting the lay of the land.
That would be a lie though if I said that. Continue reading
A lot of fantasies, daydreams, and rainbows cloud the world of writing. It’s not surprising; actually completely natural since we spend so much of our time making up stories as writers, why wouldn’t we have stories about the stories?
Have you ever seen that scene in a TV show or movie in which a writer finishes a book or script? The writer may raise his hands in triumph over an old typewriter or do a little dance; then we as viewers are then jumped forward in time to their inevitable success.
We don’t see the struggle over getting the book out, finding an audience, working with an agent or publisher or, more importantly, editing. And, let’s be honest, editing is not as exciting as the victory dance of a finished book or the sparks of coming up with ideas around a first draft.
Like I said, it’s a fantasy, people. I have even been known to say to writers that much of the art around true writing happens in the editing. It is there a work is “finetuned,” perfected into a final piece. This year, I worked with a series of different editors. First for, my novel A Jane Austen Daydream (which was published by Madison Street Publishing) and then for my novel Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare.
So why do I love editing so much? Well, because I learned about its importance the hard way. Yes, I have an editing and writing horror story, and I am about to share it. Be prepared, this is about to haunt you like a poltergeist… a writing poltergeist. Continue reading
This week I was interviewed by author Penny Lockwood Ehrenkranz about my novel A JANE AUSTEN DAYDREAM. Here is an excerpt from the fun and interesting interview:
No one understands Jane Austen, not even her family has an easy time keeping up with her wit and creativity. Yet, all Jane dreams about is having that great romance, just like the ones she loves to write about in her books.
After a fateful meeting with gypsies, Jane believes she now knows the path forward to finding true love. Over the course of A Jane Austen Daydream, we follow Jane from one romance to another, and over the experiences and surprises she begins to emerge as the Jane Austen we all know today.
Over the course of the interview, we further discuss the inspiration around the book, my own experience writing (and being a writer), and much of my philosophy on books. I hope you will check it out via this link.
A JANE AUSTEN DAYDREAM is on sale right now on amazon.com. While the eBook is only $3.99, the beautiful print version is going for just $9.85. Here is the link to the page on amazon- http://amzn.com/0983671923.
I hope you enjoy the interview and A JANE AUSTEN DAYDREAM!
I don’t like roller coasters.
I never have, and the few times I have dared ride one, I stiffen up, feeling all of my muscles tighten and lock in place from my toes to my face. I’ve even been known to get kinks in my neck from the experience that can last for hours afterwards. Yes, I suffer from a good roller coaster. You may scream in joy, I’m the guy in the back with the gritted teeth screaming in terror like a child in a haunted house.
The only roller coasters I have been known to enjoy are not considered intense in anyone’s book. For example, I like the ones at Disneyland (Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, etc.) and I think part of the reason I like those is because I have something to look at, as compared to the ground rushing towards me, preparing to swallow me up into the black of death’s eternal oblivion.
Well, last week for me and my writing was a roller coaster. In a matter of a week (and just a week), I had my old publisher close up shop, got a termination letter, received my last check, and watched my beloved novel disappear from amazon… AND in that same week- I got a great new publisher for it and decided to try something new with one of my other books! So on the roller coaster I went screaming down and then rose up in relief, safe to live once more, and strangely and magically stronger and happier for the experience.
Here is an update on what is going on right now with three of my books: A Jane Austen Daydream, Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare, and Permanent Spring Showers. Continue reading
So a few weeks ago I got called out by a writer/editor/publishing professional on Twitter questioning my goals and my thoughts behind this experiment of mine, Permanent Spring Showers. My little book inspired by Dickens.
Twitter, in its limited word span, can make things seem harsher than the writer may actually have meant it to sound (I did feel like he was condescending) but it threw me a curve.
Was I jarred? Yeah, I was jarred. I still am jarred.
I also like the word “jarred,” but let’s continue.
Basically, his argument was broken down into this point:
What publisher would publish or consider a book that people were getting for free?
Before other bloggers and writers take to my twitter site (@sdsouthard) to find the guy and twitter attack, let me say that about two-years ago I would have agreed with him. Yeah, I was in that camp then because I was trained in writing grad school to think of the publishing world in that black-and-white way. Heck, every book on writing and publishing would agree with him!
But the fact is that while this argument once made sense to me, it is not that way today. The world has changed, I have changed. Continue reading
This Friday, when I post chapter 13, I will pass the halfway mark in my book. With that publication I will exceed 175 pages in the book, mapping out a book that will roughly be about 350 pages in length.
Those are the numbers, but they hardly express the emotional and wear and tear of the process to get to this point.
Recently, I had someone on Twitter ask me how many drafts I create of a chapter before I post it. It’s a great question and in a typical book, I would have numerous drafts of a book. There is the initial draft of a first draft when I do what I basically need to do; the other drafts are as it is updated to fit the rest of the book that is coming together; and finally the master drafts as the book is melded together into one beautiful whole.
Yet in Permanent Spring Showers that is not how it works out. I move forward, because the book moves forward. So I can only hope that the work when completed as a whole will feel like a complete whole by the end. Right now, I’m feeling really confident. That is probably the main gift reaching the halfway mark has given me. Continue reading
Almost time for Chapter 2, and in preparation I have created a page for Permanent Spring Showers (here). As each chapter in my online literary experiment goes up, I’ll as well update this page in case you want to revisit the previous chapters… or if you are just finding my site now (hello, welcome), you can check out this page to start from the attention-getting beginning.
I have a few pages now on this site for different writings that are available online. So if you like my fiction, why not check out some of my other work that is out there on the World Wide Web?
- Upon The Ground, a new collection of short stories that was recently shared by Green Spot Blue.
- A Jane Austen Daydream, a literary romantic-comedy in the voice of Ms. Austen, recreating her life as one of her novels, with some very post-modern twists.
- The Dante 3, a radio comedy series about a group of college students getting a tour and the mess they make of the afterlife. Scripts for the unproduced sequel, as well as production notes/memories, are included on the page for those wishing to learn more.
In regards to the writing of Permanent Spring Showers, so far I am intrigued by the voice of it. Very different from my published novels (my writing page), if anything reminding me of my energetic literary style in college. No holds barred, right for the literary throat.
I hope you are enjoying this ongoing creation and will tune in tomorrow for Chapter 2.
This entry is about time.
The first stop is into the past, to the beginning of this blog. And let me be frightfully honest, I began this blog for purely selfish reasons. There was nothing in my mind really about readers, it was merely to get my writing voice back… and yes, it was something I had lost and in many ways I thought might have been gone for good.
See, a few years ago I lost my literary agent (I wrote extensively about this experience in this editorial as well), and it devastated me since I knew, in losing that agent, I had lost time in my career. Like being forced to go back spaces in a board game; I was near the end of the game, and now I was back at the first square, wondering how I got there and do I really want to play so much of the game again?
No. My initial reaction was to walk away from the board and throw my token back in the box. I was over it. Continue reading
I am never happy with my writing and I consider that a very healthy mindset to have.
I want to forget about past books, destroy old short stories, and hang my head in shame over screenplays. This does not mean I think the work is bad, far from it. It’s just I am always a different writer in a different “place” when I look back at past work, and that old writer who slaved over those chapters or scenes… well… he ain’t in this house anymore, and the new tenant isn’t into it.
In my last writing editorial (“Leave Home“), I discussed some of the pluses and minuses around most writers being introverts. The dangerous fact for writers is introverts like to be in a rut.
A rut is safe.
There are no surprises in a rut.
And for a writer that means genres, characters, scenes, plots, dialogue, expressions, and even favorite words may find their way again and again into “new” works. These ruts are like a warm blanket on a cold winter evening, why would you want to go get out from underneath all that security? (And if you are lucky enough to make actual money off your writing, it makes it that much more difficult.)
Some might find offense in my saying all this, but frankly, the answer to that question in my opinion is the difference between being just a writer and being an author. Continue reading