Snapshots of Decades: A Birthday Blogpost

Super BirthdayTurning 41

It’s my birthday and I am reading Stephen King again.

I do the book reviews for my local NPR station and I knew I would have to take on this very popular author at some point. After a year and a half and over 30 reviews the moment had finally arrived. A copy of his newest novel landed on my porch from his publisher (three weeks before its official release). They want my review. So be it.

I had an aunt growing up that was obsessed with Stephen King. My aunt in some ways was a King creation waiting to happen. She had fiery red hair; a loud, almost shrieking voice; and many of us kids were scared of her. When she got mean, she got really mean. I always did my best to avoid her, never spending the night at her house, trying to avoid being in the same room with her for too long. My aunt would spend her days either on the phone (always complaining), chewing gum or drinking Pepsi (she drank a lot of Pepsi), and reading Stephen King. When I was in 7th grade, she, for some reason, noticed me and gave me a pile of her Stephen King books to read.

I was not impressed and told her as much when I returned the pile a few months later. Rude of me? Yeah, probably.

We spoke even less after that.

Yet, here it is, 28 or so years later and I am once again reading King and I feel like it is a time capsule to that old me, right then. Mainly, it’s because King sounds exactly the same. His voice/prose hasn’t matured, even the plot and characters feel the same as those other books. I’m guessing for many of his fans (including my aunt) it feels like returning to a home.

For me, I see the cobwebs and I wonder why no one has done any cleaning… Continue reading

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3 Dreams of Missed Opportunities

SleepingDream #1

Ninjas!

I awoke in bed to find I was completely surrounded by ninjas!

Adorned all in black, they were the night, they were the shadows. I began to sit up and scream when one of them lightly jumped on my chest, putting his hand over my mouth.

“No noise.” He didn’t seem to speak using his mouth (or at least I didn’t see it move through his mask), but I could hear him.

I nodded my head. His voice carried the type of gravity that it would have felt wrong to react any differently.

“You have been chosen,” he said to me in his deep and very dramatically slow voice. “The world is in peril and we need you. The elders looked into their green smoke and found you. You will be trained at the top of the great ghost mountain in the way of the specter ninjas. It is our sacred duty to protect the Earth from all of the perils the commons do not know about. You will join us in fighting the giant rock lizards of Mars, the beautiful Venus army, and the ravenous smelting beasts.”

He removed his hand from my mouth and sat up. “The specter ninjas need you. You are to be our new leader, our hope. Scott Southern…”

“Scott Southard,” I corrected.

I couldn’t exactly see the ninja’s expression, but I knew it was confused. “Excuse me?”

“My name is Scott Southard, not Scott Southern. It is a common mistake.”

The ninjas looked around at each other and in a flash of green smoke they were gone.

I woke up feeling regret. Continue reading

4 Dreams of Little Consequences

dreamingDream #1

Lorne Michaels was mad at me and I had no idea why.

I had two assignments to write for this upcoming episode of Saturday Night Live. Just two, and they were good ideas. So good! When I pitched them at the writing table, everyone laughed. We were already acting out possibilities for the bits right there at the table! It was a good and friendly vibe. So I figured I was safe for the week, sure to have my first draft in the head writer’s hands by Thursday.

Which begs the question, why was Lorne, the great producer of SNL, upset with little ol’ me?

The first skit was such a great idea that there was a strong possibility it might open the show! It was so easy to pitch, so easy to imagine. Basically, the premise was what if the founding fathers of our country were like the political pundits on Fox News.

You see, a funny idea?

Now it was the second idea that I really loved since it was a Game of Thrones parody. What if Cersei Lannister joined the local PTA? So you have all these typical Midwest women dealing with the problem of planning a bake-off and Cersei is drinking wine at the table and threatening all of their children.

Why, why, why was Lorne angry with me?

I first heard he was upset from one of the cast members. I brushed it off initially since his gossip was always unreliable. But when I heard it from another cast member (a much more reliable one) then I began to worry. God, I needed this job. This job was my life. (Being a writer on SNL doesn’t really give you a chance to have a life, so this was it.)

The e-mail from Lorne’s office came to my inbox on Wednesday morning and I slowly trudged down the hall. I sat in the waiting room (which looked strangely liked the waiting room at a hospital; all white, even the secretary looked like a nurse). I hung my head and wondered what, what, what!?!, did I do? Continue reading

The 3 Mes: 22 Days Until 40

Number 3I’ve become very self-centered over the last few months.

Not in a “I’m going to be rude” kind of way. No, this is more like I get lost in thoughts, staring off into the distance. It’s like…

I’m sorry, I was someplace else right then. I’m back now.

A few posts ago, someone commented that I was going through a mid-life crisis. At the time, I brushed it off. Me? No!

I didn’t have any of the signs we all know from television and movies! But… now…  I think this might be my version of it. An exclusive and unique mid-life crisis. Sounds like something I would do. And to get through this stage in my life, I thought it might be “fun” to document my thoughts and feelings. Capture this moment. As a writer, you never know what will lead to inspiration and right now all of my focus seems to be on this, this shift. It is new, it is different, and it won’t happen again.

Okay…. Oddly, at this time (22 days off from life’s halfway mark) I feel splintered, broken into three different versions of myself.

There is the present me, the future me, and the past me. And I can see them in the mirror, they haunt me. When I get dressed in the morning, I sometimes wonder which one I am dressing like, which one I am going to be that day. This may all seem very dramatic to some, but I am a writer. It comes with the territory, drama is in the DNA. One of the great truths for all three of the mes. Continue reading

The Importance of Delusions: The Four That All Writers Need

Imaginary FriendsWhen I was a child, I never had one imaginary friend.  I could never limit myself to one. And when I did seek them out, I would steal them left and right from books, having in the end something more akin to a kingdom in my head.

The funny thing is this kingdom is still around. No, I don’t need any help, but they are there, transformed now from warriors and wizards into readers, editors, agents, interviewers and publishers.

And if I am walking my dog on a late evening, there is a chance I might be working out a pretend interview in my head or I might be thinking of a meeting with a producer interested in one of my books, figuring out how I would pitch the material. Typically, I don’t talk out loud (even my dog would question my sanity then), but those conversations are there as I am always planning, considering my options and thinking of the next steps I might need to take in my career.

Yes, the imaginary friends or the capability for internal debate like this is still around and it is now a tool I use. And using my imagination like this has grown, assisting and encouraging… and not always truthfully. Spawning dreams and delusions that I use as tools as well.

All artists have delusions, some are big and some are small. They empower our debates, drive our inspiration forward, and give us hope even in the bleakest of hours. There are, in my humble opinion, four universal delusions that all writers share.  Continue reading

My Remaining Years and the Birthday of Doom

I have always hated birthdays and I think part of the problem is I have always put too much pressuring on meeting difficult milestones.

I blame myself, but I also blame great writers for this. See, I have always put a lot on what others have done by my age and the older I get (and more great writers die off with each year I pass. I mean, come on! I’m almost a few years off from when Jane Austen snuffed it), the more this is getting difficult to do. Many of the greats have already hit their classic by this point. Me? I’m still struggling to get people to find my writing (and thank you for reading).

Looking back over my website this year it seems aging is a big theme for me. Maybe part of this is related to the fact I lost my grandfather at the beginning of the year. He was the last of my grandparents and with him an entire generation of my family disappeared. Yet, to be honest, I have written about aging before then. One of the first things I wrote for Green Spot Blue was a piece about being older than Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Yes, being older than Indy is a big deal for members of my generation. If you don’t understand what I mean, I can’t help you. (You can read that piece here.) I’m approaching Last Crusade now… after that there is a long draught until the flying fridge and the crystal skulls.

Before this becomes some kind of a great pity party for me, let me add here that I am very happy in my reality. My wife and I have created a wonderful life together and our kids are amazing. I know it’s almost corny to say one’s kids are their greatest achievement but… Okay… my kids are my greatest achievement. Continue reading

Rewatching Sunset Boulevard: A Struggling Writer’s Nightmare

I have always been a fan of classic movies. While it may sound almost cliché to say this but Casablanca is my favorite film of all time. Period.

And while I love the film and watch it yearly, it was another black-and-white film that has influenced me more with the decisions I have made around my writing career.

That film is Sunset Boulevard. I have seen the film three times. The first time was before I moved to Los Angeles to try my hand as a screenplay writer, the second as a student at the University of Southern California, and the third a few days ago.

Sunset Boulevard (not the musical) is the 1950 classic written and directed by the genius Billy Wilder. It stars Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond a rich forgotten silent movie actress and William Holden as Joe Gillis, an out-of-luck writer who happens by chance into her life.

Now when most people think of Sunset they latch onto the character of Norma. It’s not surprising really, it is an amazing performance and—just like in A Streetcar Named Desire with Blanche—we watch this interesting character be driven more and more into madness by her own delusions. Her performance was nominated for an Oscar (as was the director, the picture, and most of the rest of the main cast; it won for best screenplay), and rightfully so. It’s hard to look away when she is on the screen.

But for me, when I think of Sunset Boulevard I always focus more on Joe Gillis, our unlucky writer. Continue reading

The Power of My Now

A new blog post by me is up at greenspotblue.com. Here is a snippet from the entry:

To begin, let me state upfront I’m stealing my idea from my wife.

She writes a dance education blog for a dance Web site and recently wrote an article called “The Power of Now.” While hers focused more on being “present” in the now of a performance, I’m going to take a less creative approach to the word.

For me, now is living in the present, and trying to avoid the “whatifs.” I’ve always hated the whatifs.

What if I did this? What if I did that? What if I made that decision instead?

Each and every day, I have seen people who are drowning in whatifs and I have never wanted to be that person lost in the past. Actually, it was at a very early age that I decided I was going to do my best to avoid their dreaded curse. You only live life right once? So why not see what will happen when you make the leap? So, because of that lifestyle decision, when I do look back, I see an existence full of big decisions, a life of big life-changing choices.

You can read the rest of the article here.