Forward to Christmas Past! Christmas Blogposts to Check Out…

Santa on his SleighThere are a few things that I really enjoy writing about.

A favorite author or book? Bring it on! A television show I like to watch? Sure. Something odd going on in my life? Well, within reason of course. I do like to keep some privacy. There is a line there and certainly someday I will find it.

One of the things I get a kick out of each year is Christmas. Heck, I even wrote a bad Christmas song on this site in the past (here). Let me add to that- One of my favorite pieces of fiction I have ever done is a holiday movie screenplay. I still dream someday I can sell that script and see it made.

This holiday just gets me going. Basically, it is the artistic equivalent of drinking one too many glasses of hot chocolate. Here are some of the blogposts I have done about my favorite holiday. Enjoy!

The New Kid in the Audience: A Holiday Confessional. One of the first things I ever wrote for the internet was about Christmas. Want proof? Here you go. It’s my own agnostic/atheist view on a holiday I love. With a helping of Snoopy throw in for good measure.

Book Review: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I’ve done over 30 reviews on my local NPR station now, but this is easily one of my favorites. I have always loved this book and it really gave me a chance to share that love. Also, I got to read selections from the book. Check it out! You can even hear me do Tiny Tim!

Losing the Grinch: When I Became a Who. On a Christmas Eve, my house was broken into and all the Christmas presents and electronics were stolen. My oldest child was only a month old at the time, so it would not leave emotional scars for him, but it is something his parents will never forget. When I was a kid I used to have trouble falling asleep on Christmas Eve because of the excitement, now it is a very different feeling each year.

The Littlest Angel Is the Worst Holiday Story… Ever. Yes, the holiday story gauntlet has been thrown down and this is the worst in my opinion out there. Oh, it is so, so bad. The fact that people still read this every  year gives me the shivers. Seriously, I am shivering right now.

The Christmas Accordion: Holiday 2012 Thoughts. I had just finished seeing the first Hobbit film and was sitting in a coffee shop with my dad when I heard about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. My son was almost the same age as many of the victims. This post is about how Christmas should feel in a school, or at least how it did for me.

Neil Diamond’s “A Cherry Cherry Christmas” is the Worst Christmas Song Ever! A Holiday Musical Rant. I know, I know, Neil Diamond fans, I know. This is Mr. Diamond referencing his own work. But that doesn’t change the fact that this song is so utterly bad and inappropriate. You don’t believe me that this is the worst holiday song? Go ahead and read my post and then listen to it. If you have real courage, watch the video.

Writing a Good Christmas Story: Four Things to Consider. This is my most recent post on the holiday and here I put my writing educator hat on, trying to lay down some ground rules for what makes a Christmas story work… because honestly, most holiday stories don’t.

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Five Things I Am Into Right Now, February 2014

SteamengineWhen I started February I had steampunk dreams.

See, I have this book I had written a few years ago and I’ve been debating what to do with it. It’s not a bad book, I’m proud of it; it’s just I want to add a special flair to it. Something that would make it stand out more. So I considered the idea of adding some steampunk to it.

The book already had steam engines and hot air balloons, so adding more elements didn’t seem too difficult a concept. But the fact is the more I read and study steampunk the more I begin to wonder if this is too much an undertaking. Frankly, steampunk is like joining a literary masonic society with their own phrases, handshakes, words, etc. I really dig the vibe of it, but the last thing I want to do is fight the idea that I was writing a phony steampunk book or not embracing it enough. Jeepers! Writing a regency book in the voice of Jane Austen feels less intimidating if you can believe it.

Maybe I am just overwhelmed by it all right now and need to take a deep breath. Honestly, it’s hard to take on too many big ideas right now and I think it is the weather. I feel trapped and tired, and I think we all do by this nonstop snow and ice. You can see this in my five choices this month, because it is all about escape and comfort for me. Continue reading

“Bad Christmas Songs, Grinches, and Accordions!” My Christmas Blogposts

It Looks So Innocent...So last night my wife and I were woken up by a bright light and then a bang. Then there was silence and darkness…

Yup, we are one of the lucky people who lost their power in the big ice storm of ’13. The rest of our evening was spent huddled in our living room listening to branches falling from the giant tree outside our house. To emphasize the lack of power one of the branches decided to take out the wire as well connecting our home to the grid. Merry Christmas!

Anyway, I’ve snuck onto a computer to share some of my holiday posts. Writing about the holidays is always one of the things I get a kick out of doing on the site, and I do everything from comedy to serious topics. For me, fighting the cold, it’s nice to know people are still checking out my writing while I am living the life of a hermit… in my own freaking cold home.

Five Things I Am Into Right Now, November 2013

A Charlie Brown ThanksgivingThanksgiving bothers me.

Last year, I wrote a post on the holiday where I summed up all of my feelings around it (You can find that piece here). I wrote about how odd it is to see Woodstock eat another bird in the Charlie Brown special for the holiday and I did this deep thing about how maybe we should reconsider the holiday; as compared to the starting mark for Black Friday. In other words, a typical Southard post.

Well, that post did some good numbers on the site, so I thought it might be fun to take it on again… So I thought… and thought… and then banged my head on my keyboard. Seriously, I have nothing else to say about the holiday. Nothing. Nada. Zip.  I then considered just reblogging that post, but I already did that once before. As Charlie Brown would scream “Argh!”

This year my wife is making the turkey for the first time. I’ll probably attempt to watch some of the Macy parade with my kids (which always seems to have more commercials than floats). I’m not a football dude, never have been. I think that goes back to a memory I have of one of my cousins tackling me which knocked the air out of me. After that I rarely showed interest in the sport.  I was done. So I’ll watch the kids, help my wife when I can in the kitchen, and countdown the days until I can write about Christmas.

I always have something to say about that holiday.

Here are my five things that interest me this November. Continue reading

Watching It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

It's The Great PumpkinThere are two things I love the most about October.

It’s not carving pumpkins. To be honest, I am lousy at them and even my faces with simple shapes are barely adequate. Soon my children are just going to revolt on me and attempt to do them by themselves.

It’s not the costumes. Yes, they are fun when you are a kid but I always feel creepy by adults wearing them (except when my local city counsel member dressed up as Sarah Palin and went around the neighborhood threatening us with death panels, that was hilarious!).

No, the two things I love are candy corn and It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. And because it doesn’t rot my teeth I love The Great Pumpkin more. Whenever this month rolls along and the leaves change, the show appears on my television and usually is on there until the holiday has passed. Before I was married and had kids, I was known to let it run continuously, just enjoying the ambiance of having it on. And once I had an iPod and an IPhone both immediately had a digital file  of it (so my family doesn’t have to deal with my love of it). I have even been known to have it play while walking the dog, just listening to it like an audiobook.

This may all seem crazy, but everyone has their things, their quirks. This strange little tale of delusional faith, mean children, and a dog that thinks he is a pilot is one of my mine and I don’t see that changing anytime soon… And I’m going to watch it right now with you. Get the candy corn! Continue reading

My Time Lost in Books…

A fellow writerLike I said in my post “The Five Books That Made Me” I can get pretty sentimental about books and my history in reading when one of my novels is about to be released.

It’s like a kid going off to college! Packing the bags could be working with the editor, the drive there could be finalizing everything with the publisher, and dropping them off is the big goodbye. So that’s me this week, the parent trying to hide the tears.

Okay, I’m a little surprised this analogy is working…. What would that make the aftermath of the publishing? No idea there, but the grades are reviews, right? Perfect. Hopefully, my book won’t party too much.

A Jane Austen Daydream is set for release on April 30 exclusively via amazon.com, ending a project of years in the making. I could not be happier with the novel and I look forward to hearing what everyone thinks of it. Until then I am going to continue to enjoy my sentimentality. Care to join me? Here are ten of my favorite posts on my site around books:

  1. Missing My Vonnegut MomentVonnegut
  2. Me, Myself & Charles Dickens
  3. I get James Joyce… Well, no, not really
  4. Ray Bradbury
  5. Maurice Sendak: Childhood Visionary
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien; The Crazy & Magical Grandfather
  7. Say Hello to Mr. DeVere, I Mean Shakespeare…
  8. Hidden Away: The Marvel of Disappearing Writers
  9. The Folio Society: Celebrating Literature
  10. Living With Snoopy

Only a few days left!

My Online Literary Experiment: Holiday Break!

One of my heroes!Sometimes like a coach, a writer has to make the right call for the team or athlete, no matter how unpopular the decision might be. (I am assuming this, I know nothing about sports.)

See, I realized today that it would be impossible to really create a first-rate chapter in time for this friday because of the holiday.

I have two little kids, and family to visit, etc., and the fact is I will be losing too many evenings writing. (Seriously, almost all of my evenings! It would’ve been hell and stressful. Not Christmas-y at all.) So I have decided that it would be best for the book that I delay the release of Chapter 23 by one week.

Yup, Chapter 23 will not be released now until January 4.

For those that might be worried that somehow the book/writing experiment might be in trouble so near the end, let me say loudly: NO WORRIES. I have a good first draft of the chapter ready, and if it was a normal week ahead there would have been no problem at all.

And also, do I want to be stressing this week about a chapter, writing until the wee hours, or instead waiting for Santa by the window with my kids? Sorry, readers the answer was obvious to me.  I’m a believer in the man in the red suit and the white beard.

Anyway, I hope everyone has a nice holiday. Rebecca, Jenn, Vince, Marty, Mary, Viv, Gordon, Steve, Ralph, Lilly, and even Bob will be back in the new year to end my new novel, Permanent Spring Showers.

(… Oh, and buy my new book A Jane Austen Daydream. It is quite lovely and filled with writing surprises [and only 99 cents on amazon right now!];  and will help you as you wait for the return of my little/massive experiment.)

Thanksgiving Shadows

It seems every year that Thanksgiving becomes more and more the great afterthought of the holiday season.

It is the hub between the ever more popular Halloween and Christmas, the great holiday hump day; in other words, like Wednesday it is not a weekend, but at least it isn’t Tuesday or Monday.

There are no Thanksgiving trees at Hallmark. No one has a turkey ornament. I have never received a Thanksgiving card

Worse, if you go to many stores today it is almost nonexistent in our world, except being remembered as the day before we can all shop like fiends… Well, some stores open Thanksgiving evening now, so maybe for the next generation Thanksgiving will become something akin to the food and water station at a marathon, the haven for that bit of energy before you get to it!

Run, my little shoppers, run…

Could it be argued that Black Friday has taken over Thanksgiving in importance? Possibly.  Our economy couldn’t live without Black Friday (and Cyber Monday); no one would say the same for Thanksgiving, save the Turkey farmers.

Gobble gobble, indeed. Continue reading

Starting School

“Can you believe our firstborn is starting school?” My wife asked me this question a few days ago, her eyes going wide as she said it, and it ridiculously enough took me completely by surprise.

My son is about to start Begindergarten, which is a cute way of saying an “Early Fives” class. He is going to attend it in an elementary and he will be there all day just like all of the bigger kids, using their same cafeteria and their playground (not at the same time, of course). My wife and I were so focused on getting him into the right school in our area for the last eight months that I didn’t realize until recently how much this change meant for all of us in our little family and for him.

This was about to be something new…

In preparation of this first day over the weekend we drove him to his new school and allowed him to play in the playground for about an hour. While he loved playing in the playground (trying everything he could), I kept noticing things, my parental eye kicking in.

  • Who was it that left these empty beer cans here on the playset? Will these people who would drink at a kids’ playground be around the school? Heaven forbid, or will they actually be attending?
  • Why are there so many weeds?
  • And are those soccer nets going to be fixed?
  • Is that rust?

Yes, while this playground is better than anything I had growing up (and this is a great school district), I still was catching everything I possibly could. This could be a super power of mine. A lame super power, but still a power. You can call me “Protective Dad.” And I am here to shake my head and wag my finger at others! Irresponsible people of the world be warned! Protective Dad is among you now! Continue reading

Living With Snoopy

Charlie Brown taught me how to read.

My father, growing up in the 60’s, collected Peanuts books and they filled up almost an entire bookshelf in my grandparents’ house. For a child, those four paneled black-and-white sketches were an untapped goldmine. I knew there were riches there; I just had no idea how to translate them. I was like Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark, standing over the miniature landscape, trying to figure out how to use the map to find the Well of Souls where the Ark is housed.

Like Indy, I was not the kind of child to give up on something easily. So slowly and with many questions over time, I learned how to read the panels; memorizing one word after another. My curiosity drove me. So while others of  my age were learning words like “Cat” and “Dog,” I could read “Blockhead” and “Wishy-Washy.”

Over time I began to take the books home, even going so far as to buy “Scott” stickers, putting them in the front cover of many of the books, claiming them from my dad (Of course we have the same first name, so it probably didn’t bother him too much). As a result, when I think of Charlie Brown and Snoopy, my thoughts always return to those old comic books, with their aging yellow pages and the smell of time; picturing myself sitting on a chair (my feet not able to reach the ground) trying to figure out one of the longer words in front of me. Continue reading