Cassandra on the Island: Her Gardening

To begin with:
Cassandra had four separate plots of land
where she wanted to plant flowers.
She called them “A, B, C, and D.”
In each plot, she placed two different flowers.

Plot A

She had a talent, her mother would say, for shining brilliant in situations. It was not like walking into a room and capturing the eye of everyone there; It was not like smiling and making everyone smile right along (even though they had no idea what they were smiling about). It went far beyond the dictionary definition of “Charisma.” Cassandra’s mother called it a gift of “radiance” and, when on, it could remind people what a wonder it is to be alive.

Her mother first noticed the talent when taking her daughter to swim at Lake Michigan. It was at the lake that she hated her disability the most. She never knew fear until the first moment she watched her eight-year old run across the beach as she could only sit back in her wheelchair and watch.

But while her mother hated the separation on those moments, Cassandra sought it. It became a reward for her. The kind given after keeping her room clean for five days straight or for helping her mother back in her chair after a fall. Her mother cursed how those incidences seemed to humble her (at least in her mind). The moments when she had to rely on her daughter, her little, tiny daughter, to save her.

If the car accident that crippled the mother taught the two anything, it was the ability to adapt; and adapt is exactly what both of them did. They adapted to losing Cassandra’s father. (Her mother never had the courage to tell her daughter her husband used to beat her. She decided to let her have the delusion of gold around his memory.) They adapted to Cassandra’s mother’s handicap. And Cassandra’s mother adapted to trying to hold her daughter as close as she possibly could, as Cassandra adapted to enjoying the escape from her mother’s suffocating love.

So going to the beach became that for Cassandra, an escape from her mother and the life back home and what she faced every day. (Even though, young Cassandra would have never admitted it, she was quietly embarrassed by her mother’s handicap and would rarely invite her friends over.) The lake was a ritual as rich as entering a church. Like placing holy water on her head, every step for this child was important.

Step 1- Getting mama out of the car.

This step took the longest.

Well, it felt that way for Cassandra. The beach was right there staring at her! How could she not feel the pressure to move faster, faster?

            Step 2- Leaving mama prepared.

Her mother had a full collection of supplies that had to be double-checked. Batteries in her megaphone? Check. First Aid Kit? Check. Binoculars? Check.

Step 3- Make sure mama’s chair is in a good position.

This was very crucial; if her mother couldn’t see her, Cassandra’s time in the water was done. So it was very important to her that she had the best view of every aspect of the beach.

Step 4- The slow walk.

Cassandra’s mother always yelled at Cassandra when she ran. Looking back at her youth, Cassandra believed this was all related to her mother’s inability to run herself. But running on the beach could spell disaster for the day. A simple sprint could call for an end to her cleansing in the waves.

…And yet, Cassandra didn’t mind torturing her mother when she met the water.

Step 5- Going under.

Cassandra always went completely under water first. And she would hold herself under… and under… and under…

She loved the silence. She loved the isolation… She loved the quiet and she hated coming up for that first breath. Her mother hated this game of Cassandra’s. There was many a day that she called her daughter back to the car because of that disappearance. To Cassandra, this was as close to the feeling of immortality she had ever felt. Continue reading

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I Want to Tell You a Story … Cassandra on the Island

I want to tell you a story.

Let’s begin like this- I wrote a novel for my thesis when I was working for my Master’s at the University of Southern California and I made the head of the department cry.

I had few interactions with this professor. I like to think he liked me, he personally asked me to take a few advanced courses and met with me now and then to discuss agents and my writing, but we were of different worlds. How else do you explain the meeting of a poet and a novelist? We use the same words, but for a novelist it is about the meaning, where for the poet it is about the music beneath it.

To graduate, I needed people to sign off on my thesis. I had one from a fiction professor (I can’t remember his name now) and the head of the department promised to be the second… and he delayed… and he delayed.

I was working on campus, which was fine for me since I didn’t have to drive anywhere and there was a Carl’s Jr on campus and I was a little addicted to their crispy chicken sandwich (I don’t need to say more about that here). But on this day, instead of waiting in the outrageously long line of students and eating that awesome sandwich, I decided to bother the delaying professor. He was in his office and knew why I was there when I walked in. He didn’t make eye contact with me and promised to start the book that afternoon, shrugging me off.

I had to accept that answer and leave.

That night I received a call after 9 PM. It was him and he was crying. He kept saying the word “beautiful.” He talked to me about the book for over an excited hour, asking about why I did certain things, what they meant. He was figuring out different tricks I did in the writing in between his emotional outbursts.

It is not often a writer gets to speak to a moved reader the second after they finish their book, but I was having that experience here, and it was with someone that surrounds himself with books and writers! This is legit, right?

He wasn’t planning to read the book straight through, he said. He was planning to finish, maybe skim bits. He skims, he said. He skims most books from students, he said… but here he didn’t. And once he started he couldn’t stop.

He told me what he loved, what made him laugh and what made him cry.

He asked if he could share the book with others, and I said that was fine. He said I didn’t have to worry about my thesis, and he couldn’t wait to buy the book in print… and then he was off the line.

Now… let me be clear… I’m not telling you this story about a crying professor to brag. I’m telling you this because it was the first time I truly felt like a novelist. Continue reading

Book Review: LaRose by Louise Erdrich

Today, I wanted to share this book review I didn’t get a chance to do on WKAR’s Current State. It is LaRose by Louise Erdrich.

On my book review page, you can find the reviews I have done on WKAR as well as reviews I have done on the site over the last three years. Almost 80 different books, contemporary to classic, genre to literary fiction. I hope you will check them out. 

If you are interested in reading LaRose you can find it on amazon here

LaRoseSuspending one’s disbelief can sometimes be a little tricky. This is a challenge all storytellers have to confront. For if the reader can’t suspend their disbelief, the story has failed for that reader. If, for example, you can accept magic rings and dragons, J.R.R. Tolkien would be disappointed to know that you won’t like his stories about Middle Earth. Because of my own love of creativity, usually it’s not difficult for me to accept ideas in a story, no matter how radical. Yet, the new novel LaRose by Louise Erdrich really, really tested me.

On a quiet morning, Landreaux Iron thought he shot a deer. What he actually hit was a boy bending over by a dog. This boy turned out to be his nephew, ending his young life. You would imagine that such a tragic incident would lead to a legal thriller, with court cases after court cases debating what Landreaux saw and whether it is manslaughter or not. Yet, that is not the book Erdrich gives us. There are not even any court appearances or charges. Everyone just seems to go on with their lives, and we even see an awkward friendship emerge between the two families. That was the first thing that was hard for me to believe. Continue reading

Book Review: Why We Came to the City by Kristopher Jansma

This is a book I didn’t get a chance to review on WKAR’s Current Strate. And since it is a few month’s since its release it didn’t feel fair keeping it locked away. I hope you enjoy this new book review for Why We Came to the City by Kristopher Jansma. (And if you would like to check out the book for yourself, you can find it on amazon here.)

Why We Came to the CityWhen you are in your twenties, sometimes it can feel like the world is your oyster and ripe with possibilities. This feeling is definitely true for the group of friends that make up the center of Why We Came to the City by Kristopher Jansma. At the beginning of the story, they are sneaking into elite art parties in New York City, complaining about the more successful, and passing out on couches… many times not their own.

At the heart of the story is Irene. She is a young artist with a hidden past. Even her closest friends don’t even know her real name, yet there is something about her that is fascinating to all that meet her. She searches through garbage looking for things for her art, and writes messages in books that she hopes others will find in time. And everyone seems to know her in the Big Apple. Continue reading

New WKAR Book Review: Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen

Current StateOn WKAR’s Current State, I reviewed the new novel by Anna Quindlen. I really enjoyed Miller’s Valley and it’s obvious to me why it is doing so well with the market (and readers).

You can listen to my review here: http://wkar.org/post/book-review-anna-quindlens-millers-valley

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 Miller’s Valley,  you can find it on amazon here. If you want to check out my other book reviews for WKAR’s Current State, you can do so via links on this pageContinue reading

New WKAR Book Review: Where My Heart Used to Beat by Sebastian Faulks

Current StateI was back on the radio today, this time taking on the latest literary fiction by noted author Sebastian Faulks, Where My Heart Used to Beat.

You can listen to my review here: http://wkar.org/post/book-review-sebastian-faulks-where-my-heart-used-beat

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 Where My Heart Used to Beat, you can find it on amazon here. If you want to check out my other book reviews for WKAR’s Current State, you can do so via links on this page. Continue reading

New WKAR Book Review: Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt

Current StateToday on WKAR I took on the new literary fiction and ghost story by Samantha Hunt. Check out my take on Mr. Splitfoot.

You can listen to my review here: http://wkar.org/post/book-review-samantha-hunts-mr-splitfoot

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 Mr. Splitfoot, you can find it on amazon here. If you want to check out my other book reviews for WKAR’s Current State, you can do so via links on this pageContinue reading

New WKAR Book Review: Shylock Is My Name by Howard Jacobson

Current StateI have always been obsessed with Shakespeare and his work. In many ways, I was exactly the target audience for Shylock Is My Name by Howard Jacobson. Today, I reviewed this Shakespeare-inspired novel on WKAR’s Current State.

You can listen to my review here: http://wkar.org/post/book-review-howard-jacobsons-shylock-my-name

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 Shylock Is My Name, you can find it on amazon here. If you want to check out my other book reviews for WKAR’s Current State, you can do so via links on this pageContinue reading

Holiday Time! Free eBook of A Jane Austen Daydream! Book giveaway for Permanent Spring Showers!

janeaustin_titleJust in time for the holiday season and traveling, my novel A Jane Austen Daydream is a free eBook on Amazon for a limited time! You can grab it here. Surprising, witty and romantic, A Jane Austen Daydream is a re-imagining of Jane Austen’s life, putting her into a tale she might have written for one of her own characters. Here is the back cover description:

All 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 the years–did she ever find love? Weaving fact with fiction, it re-imagines her life, using her own stories to fill in the gaps left by history and showing that all of us–to a greater or lesser degree–are head over heels for Jane.

Grab your copy today! Here is the link- http://amzn.com/B00CH3HQUU

pss_title

But that’s not all! There is book giveaway for my latest novel Permanent Spring Showers going on right now at The Review (here). Four lucky readers will win a digital copy of this new work of literary fiction. Here is the description of this new book:

Professor Rebecca Stanley-Wilson is having a very bad season. Her husband has just admitted to having an affair. And it was with one of her students.

Blame it on a desire for revenge (or way too much alcohol), she then has had one of her own. Unfortunately for her, her affair was with one of the great upcoming painters of his generation. The ramifications of that one torrid evening will not only be felt across her life but over the entire art world.

Sexy, funny, and very surprising, Permanent Spring Showers is the tale of one very memorable springtime and how it impacts a group of unique artists and dreamers. From the writer who is creating a new literary movement (through outright manipulation), to the hopeful Olympian with the failing marriage, to the romantic wondering what he did wrong to drive his love from him, each tale walks the line between reality and fantasy. And waiting at the end of the line is a very important painting… and possibly the revolver used in the Lincoln Assassination.

Permanent Spring Showers  is out in both print and eBook at all online stores, you can find it on amazon.com here. The eBook is on sale for only $3.99. So if you like A Jane Austen Daydream and want to read more or say thanks for the read, why not snag a copy?

You can read a sample and learn more about the book via this page.

Happy Holidays readers!

“Vince has IT.” The Review takes on Permanent Spring Showers. And an ebook giveaway!

PaintbrushesToday, my latest novel, Permanent Spring Showers, was given an amazing review by Anna Belfrage of The Review (here). If you have ever been curious about my new book, this is the review to read!  This has definitely made my day and my holiday season. Here is one excerpt I totally got a kick out of:

The story is told through multiple POVs – ten at my last counting. Each of these POVs has been gifted with a distinctive voice – in itself an achievement… He manages all this with impressive elegance, dragging the reader along through a story as multi-layered as an onion.

Oh, and this one:

Mr Southard has written a complicated, twisting story and the fact that he succeeds in bringing it all together is testament to his significant writing skills… Mr Southard has his various creations under tight control – and what an impressive array of characters he presents us with! Add to this fast-paced dialogue, excellent description and a gift for peppering his text with humoristic observations of the day-to-day, and you have a novel that is at times challenging but always rewarding. Very rewarding.

You can read the rest of this flattering review here.

But that’s not all! My publisher, 5 Prince Books, is giving four lucky readers a free eBook copy of Permanent Spring Showers! You can find out more at The Review how you can win.

Permanent Spring ShowersPermanent Spring Showers  is 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.