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

Advertisements

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

The Quiet Scream in the Library: A Cynical Rant About Literature

I don’t always like fiction.

This may seem weird to say since I am a writer, I have an MFA in the field, and I used to do book reviews on NPR (actually I did those reviews for over three years, you can find them here), but it is true. Painfully, painfully true. I just don’t always enjoy reading fiction.  And it is rare on a relaxing Sunday afternoon that I feel like turning to a piece of fiction to pass the time.

I know… I know… blasphemy!

The problem is I believe that I have studied and analyzed literature to such a point that I have practically (and academically) taken the pleasure out of it.

It’s the great college conundrum! A question every college student has to ask him or herself- Do you go into a field around the subject that you love? Yes, you will enjoy the classes more than you would, say, in a different field but it also may impact how you view it for the rest of your life.

In other words, once Dorothy sees the wizard behind the curtain you can’t put the wizard back. English majors like me are Dorothys. And no matter how much we wish it, we can’t bring the “magic” back.

Continue reading

Short Story: Under The Angelic Glow Of Dusk

“The Time has been catching us off guard,” she said to me and I, still reeling from the wind and the parties, only laughed at her notion and called her mind a good hangover waiting to happen.

She did not like my comments (typical) and shunned me for the first two days of our assignment. This probably wouldn’t have bothered me so much if we weren’t supposed to be wife and husband in this little life moment. On Friday, I got sick of her little games and in a dark corner in a dark moment after breakfast (which consisted of coffee or tea (decaffeinated), corn flakes (dry), and milk (cold).) I confronted her about the so-called importance of our assignment.

As she angrily argued back at me her wings rustled under her silly white dress. She hated me.

I laughed at that and reminded her small mind that she wasn’t capable of hate. Her and her little angels and their white hair and white eyes and white gleaming teeth never hate- Even those easy to. She then said it may not be hate but it was the closest she had felt to it. I had to laugh at her honesty, even though just the sound of her voice annoyed me.

She then stated that she was very sure she hated the sound of my laughter (it is a dark loud, booming laugh that echoes with screams of those inside) and then went and compared it to angry bells banging against the side of her ears. All the noises of lost times.

We had two days and she was going to use them. “For what?” I asked comically (I already knew the answer).

“To spread a little happiness,” she said….

…So Hope spent her days sprinkling the hollows of the Retirement Community with her magical daydreams, moonbeams and silly wishes of joy. I, I being of knowledge and reality and logic pure, wallowed in the dark corners talking with the spiders under my robes. Continue reading

“Cream of the Crop” A New Review for A Jane Austen Daydream

My novel A Jane Austen Daydream has been out for a few years, but now and then a review appears online that warms the heart. This is one of those discoveries from a few days ago.

Erin, who is currently #38 top reviewer and #8 best reviewer on GoodReads, recently discovered the audiobook of A Jane Austen Daydream.

She gave the audiobook version five stars, saying:

Well, this book took hold of me and I listened to it during every moment of the day, right up until my head hit the pillow. Seriously, this book is so goooood!!!… Now I have read my share of reimaginings, sequels, inspirations, and fanfictions of Jane Austen and her books, but “A Jane Austen Daydream ” is by far the “cream of the crop.” I laughed and cried and was just so pleased that someone could bring Jane Austen and her world back to life in the pages.

You can read the entire book review here (but prepare for spoilers!, consider yourself warned).

If you have not read or discovered my novel A Jane Austen Daydream, you can learn more about it on this website here. It is available on amazon in paperback, eBook, and audiobook. I hope you will check it out!

Free eBook for the holidays! Grab a copy of A JANE AUSTEN DAYDREAM today!


A Jane Austen Daydream“I consider this novel one of the best not only in regency era literature, but also in mainstream fiction.” -NovelTravelist

I’m excited to announce, that for a limited time (December 24 through 28), my novel A Jane Austen Daydream will be FREE for Kindle! You can grab your copy here (http://amzn.com/B00CH3HQUU).

“Scott Southard’s Jane is a delightful creature.” -Austenprose.com

Published by Madison Street Publishing, A Jane Austen Daydream imagines new possibilities for Ms. Austen, giving her the literary, witty, surprising, and romantic adventure she might have dreamed for one of her 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.

You can grab your copy here (http://amzn.com/B00CH3HQUU).

AND…

Permanent Spring ShowersIf you grab a free copy, why not say thank you by picking up my latest novel, Permanent Spring Showers?

Recently published by 5 Prince Books, Permanent Spring Showers is the story of affairs, love triangles, betrayal and the most important painting of this century. You can find it in print and eBook on amazon here (http://amzn.com/B00T74HH0Q) and many other online retailers.

Here is the back cover description:

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.

I hope you enjoy my books! Have a great Holiday Season! Happy Reading!

A Christmas Short Story… and a surprise coming on December 24!

Linus and the treeHello persons of quality!

Let’s enjoy this time of the year, for God only knows where the world will be next year at this time.  Right now I consider myself an amateur cocktail maker, but my guess is by next year I will be a pro. You notice how everyone has dark senses of humor right now? There is a reason for that. We are all chuckling with a tear.

Happy Holidays!

Anyway, this is the last holiday post I will be sharing (you can scroll below on the main page for my other nuggets of holiday joy; like why Neil Diamond has the worst holiday song and “The Littlest Angel” shouldn’t be in heaven). This is my short story called “Kris and Me.” I really like it a lot. Soon to be a Hallmark movie!

(That last bit isn’t true, but you gotta think sooner or later they will call. They have been trying to get the last bit of Christmas peanut butter from that jar for a long time now. Sooner or later they have to pick up the phone.)

I hope you will check out my story. The link is below.

Kris and Me: A Christmas Story in 3 Parts

And one last thing! Come back to this site on December 24 in the morning. There will be a surprise for my readers! Can I give a hint? No, you have to wait. It’s wrapped and under the tree. Well, a virtual tree, but it’s right there in gold wrapping.

See you on December 24.

 

Book Review: Burr by Gore Vidal

BurrA new book review today! This time I am taking on the classic work of historical fiction, Burr by Gore Vidal. If you love the musical Hamilton, you will love this book.

You can check out my other book reviews (both for WKAR’s Current State and this website) here.

If you want to check out Burr for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

Burr by Gore Vidal

Historical fiction is a dangerous genre.

In the wrong hands it can change a person’s perception of a real event or historical figure, tainting the truth for readers and the public. Debates and controversies in our world have been created out of less! But in the right hands it can inspire a reader to see something from a new light, possibly break out of their normal mindset. Easily the most dangerous, and possibly exciting, historical fiction I have ever read is Burr by Gore Vidal. In it, Gore Vidal tries to make a hero out of Aaron Burr, one-time vice president and killer of Alexander Hamilton.

HamiltonI discovered the book when my family (including my kids) became obsessed with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s fantastic musical, Hamilton. While Hamilton puts many of the heroes of the American Revolution in the wonderful glow of the spotlight; Gore Vidal instead adds a lot of filters and a smoke machine. In Burr, Vidal seems to take a glee out of spoiling our history and understanding around the American revolution. This is not your normal 1776.

In Burr, George Washington is an incompetent general more worried about his image and politics as compared to victories. Alexander Hamilton is shady and driven by power. Even French military hero Marquis de Lafayette comes out as a little bit of a buffoon. Only Aaron Burr steps forward as a hero, and possibly the true father of our country.

Aaron Burr is the voice of reason and all of the decisions he makes are for the good of the country. He rarely thinks of his own self-interest, as he weaves each of his plots that he is certain will help grow the new country he loves. Everything seems to make sense from his perspective, but history will never know.

The novel Burr is told through the voice of Charles Schuyler, one of the few fictional characters in it. He spends his time hobnobbing with the political elites, dating questionable women, and meeting with important members of the New York literary circle, including Washington Irving. Charles is determined to write a book on Aaron Burr and is able to get him to open up and share his experiences. It is through those recollections that both the book and the character do not hold back. For Aaron Burr has a strong opinion about everyone in our revolutionary history and few walk out of his recollections unscathed.

I can’t help but imagine Vidal smiling throughout the writing of this book. Most of it seems to be built out of the rumors and gossip of that period as compared to what our historians will focus on. It is because of this fact that I find the book so dangerous. Yet, even I, a fan of nonfiction and Ken Burns documentaries felt a sense of horror and scandalous pleasure in the reading of it.

Even without Vidal’s wonderful writing, Aaron Burr is a fascinating and complicated character just waiting for a novelist’s pen. Besides the duel with Hamilton, he was once tried for treason, was quite the lady’s man, and was almost President of the United States. The question though is he an American hero? Vidal tries to present him as one and I can’t help but think the idea is a little… well… brilliantly dangerous.

Uses of This World: Chapter 8

hamlet-and-ghostDenmark 1926. The world is on a powder keg, the old world is in conflict with the new, still recovering from World War I. Jazz and flappers. Cocktails and parties. In this tumultuous time, the king of Denmark is found dead… but his spirit is not at rest.

Uses of this World is the tale of the people around the events of Hamlet, from the soldiers to the royal family. Each is tied to the outcomes around the crown. And the country, as well as the world, is waiting to see what happens next.

Previous Chapters

Chapter 8: Son

For the first time in Prince Hamlet’s life he felt lost. Truly lost. This was not the garden maze of his youth. The well-worn turns and dead ends were now covered with dark leaves and thorns.

Unearthly. Unholy.

These thorns dripped black blood and stank of time and neglect.

Hamlet remembered chasing after the vision of his father, racing down the stairs of the parapet walls, and into the royal garden maze. Then everything changed. Not just in the environment but in his mind. The fog was everywhere, more than covering the ground, sticking to the very air around him, entering him, becoming part of him.

What time was it? How long had he been in the maze?

“Mark me,” a dead voice echoed around him in the air; like a wind, passing by and then racing away.

Hamlet stopped, he felt out of breath. Was he out of breath or was the air so dead that there was little for the living? “I will.”

A path opened up in the maze in front of him; the thorns turning aside, granting passage, with breaks and splinters in the wood and vine. The leaves on this new path were a dark green but eerie bright. The green reminded the prince of the glow of the kingly specter. A nightmare was in front of Hamlet, welcoming him, and he entered. Continue reading

The Classics I’ve Reviewed

Books
So, things have been… distracting.

For the last year, I’ve been working with an agent on my latest novel (which I still can’t talk about here). I really hope we are close to locking down the book soon. Whatever the case, I can easily promise it will be ready before the next book by George R.R. Martin.

Anyway, all of that jazz has distracted me from this website. And it might distract me for a little while to go (including my work on Uses of This World). So until I can find time to write something new here, I’ll be sharing something from time to time. Bear with me, this will all pay off in the long run, I am sure of it.

I’ve had the pleasure on WKAR to review quite a few classics on their morning show Current State. I love classic literature so these were the moments I savored like a great meal. The kind of meals with a half-dozen courses and they give you a nice mint at the end.

I hope you will check out (and enjoy) these reviews: