Dogs and cats! Living together! Mass hysteria!

Do you live in an alternate reality?

In a recent New York Times article radio astronomers reported they had seen the markers of the beginning of the Big Bang, The article reminded of one of physicist Dr. Guth’s other ideas: parallel universes.

Spock from the Mirror Universe

Spock from the Mirror Universe

I won’t go into the physics, which entails inflation theory. Needless to say, the implications are manifold.

From what I understand of the idea the physics must be consistent across the universes because the particles from which the universes began are all the same. Balls will not fall up and Hogwarts does not exist.

Or could it exist?

Hogwarts Castle--Under the Cover of the Universe?

Hogwarts Castle–Under the Cover of the Universe?

A different roll of the evolutionary dice and humans or human-like creatures could evolve to have the ability to manipulate matter, or maybe they develop cybernetic implant technology that gives them the ability to shape the world around them. No wands needed.

Maybe your mirror universe self has mastered the powers of creation?

Let’s say these alternate universes exist. Alan Guth was spot on about the cosmic background ripples after all. Let’s say the alternate realities are there under the blanket of the universe. How do we travel to these alternate realities?

Sliders

Sliders

Sliders delved into the idea of alternate earths (the first season was wicked awesome. After season two I couldn’t stand to watch it). They traveled to these alternate realities via a wormhole.

Maybe travel to an alternate reality or universe is possible through a simple change in your state of mind as was used by Christopher Reeve’s character to travel back in time in the movie, Somewhere in Time.

Somewhere in Time

Maybe Stephen Lawhead had the right idea? In The Song of Albion Trilogy Lewis Gillies, a student at Oxford, finds his way to the Celtic Otherworld of Albion. He travels there by circling a Celtic cairn at just the right time of day.

Maybe there is a village, like Wall in Neil Gaiman‘s Stardust, where on the other side lies the faerie realm?

Maybe my own Tir Alaind is real? Maybe Hogwarts is real? Maybe Patrick Rothfuss’s Four Corners of Civilization is real?

Maybe our minds aren’t imagining these alternate realities? Maybe our minds are simply peeking under the blanket of the universe and seeing what our eyes cannot see.

The Long Road

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Recap: I finished the first draft of my novel, The Tome of Worlds, in July of 2013. Since then I have read through and edited the book twice. Not all of the edits are in the manuscript. In fact I have yet to finish editing the novel on my computer even though I’ve read through the story twice. I’ve gotten to the point where I need an outside opinion. I think the story is very good. Surprisingly good. And now I need someone to take me down a notch.

Have you ever read through your story or novel and wondered who wrote the story? I mean, at times I don’t remember writing the words I am reading. Other times I am amazed at how well the story is written. And of course there are times when I think the writing is clunky. Still, I am very pleased with what I wrote.

My life has changed quite a bit since I finished writing the novel. My wife gave birth to our third child in early January almost 7 years to the day we met. We moved back to Seattle. I have a new job, but with the same company. Oh, and I won the fantasy football championship in my 12 person league.

Lots of changes.

Still, through all of the changes I have kept at the novel. I wrote two short stories, and just last week I started the sequel to my novel, tentatively titled Portal to the Deadlands.

Now that we are settled in Seattle I hope to get back to my blogging ways. I’ve missed the connection to the community.

“A great achievement” New book review and interview for A JANE AUSTEN DAYDREAM

Really, one of the best books I’ve read this year.

The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard

Jane AustenAuthor and blogger Christoph Fischer has recently given a wonderful review for my new novel A Jane Austen Daydream.  Here is an excerpt:

An excellent concept and a great achievement, a must read for Austen fans open for a playful read and those who wish Austen had written more. This is like a little welcome encore for us fans.

I also agreed to be interviewed about the book and my writing. It was a very interesting interview with some fun and serious questions mixed in. This was my response to the question about how the idea of the book came to me:

It was in reading a biography on her that I realized how little her life actually mirrored her books. She did not have a Darcy waiting for her at home, and died far too young and only with her sister and mother for company. So at the…

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Editing Post II: Villains

How is your day going? What have you been up to?

editing image

I’m coming to the end of the hiatus I took from my novel, The Tome of Worlds. I begin the editing process Sunday morning, 8/18.

In the interim I have written a short story on the death of Edgar Allan Poe called “Reynolds! Reynolds!”, a short story centered around a door to another time and place called “The Door Frame from Yesteryear”, and I have conceived of another story–short or novel I do not know yet–of the life a handicapped man as a freak in a 1930s Carnival.

The last story requires research because the extent of my knowledge of depression-era carnivals comes from the cancelled HBO television series Carnivale, so I will soon begin reading a novel called Nightmare Alley by William Gresham, the story of a man’s downward spiral to the level of a geek in a 1930s carnival, the lowest of the low in carnival life. Has anyone read Nightmare Alley?

nightmare alley

I don’t know where the story of the handicapped man will take me, but it’s a story I must tell.

But, on to editing. As with the last post, much of this advice comes from the editing novel The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass.

In my last post on editing I covered the following topics:

Summary for Editing Post I

  • Always, always, always write with passion.
  • Live through your characters. Feel what they feel. Use your own experiences to convey those emotions.
  • Show villainy, loathing, and greatness through impact on the world and characters

For this post I will talk about villains.

Villains

Who are the memorable villains?

  • For me Voldemort was not memorable as a villain. I sympathized with him, but he was not memorable in the same way as Harry, Ron and Hermione.
  • The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss has a villain, but the villain is not memorable; rather, the villain is fleeting and ambiguous. He lurks.
  • The White Witch from The Chronicles of Narnia? Still, no. She lures in and tricks Edward, is evil to children, but she is pure, black and white evil.
  • O’Brien from 1984. Now there was a villain. He lured in the protagonist and betrayed him. O’Brien’s memorable quote was  “One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.”
  • Mustapha Mond from Brave New World. He wasn’t a villain, but he believed that they had to sacrifice certain freedoms for the good of society. His arguments were compelling.
  • Moby Dick? A symbol of obsession? Or just a whale?
  • Sauron was straight evil. He was a villain, yes, but he had no depth. Personally I found Saruman to be a greater evil because he was once good.

Depth. Great villains require depth. They cannot be a cardboard Mr. Evil. I must understand their motivation, which is why most of these villains fail for me.

Voldemort was evil, but why did he want to convert the world into a magical version of 1984? Just because he thought wizards were better than muggles? I saw a mix of Hitler and 1984 in Voldemort, but there was very little depth to Voldemort, little justification for why he became who he became.

Out of the villains I list, O’Brien is my favorite. He lures Winston Smith into a trap posing as a member of The Brotherhood, an ambiguous revolutionary group Winston seeks to join. O’Brien appears, at first, to be friendly and sympathetic to Winston’s dislike of the party. He becomes Winston’s friend. In the end it is O’Brien who turns on Winston, tortures him, re-trains him.

O’Brien is evil. He believes he is right. Like Mustapha Mond he makes compelling arguments. During O’Brien’s initial interactions with Winston, O’Brien comes across as human.

Now, I have not read 1984 in twenty years, but I still remember O’Brien. When I set out to write this post I was not thinking about 1984, but when I had to think about villains, O’Brien came to mind instantly.

So what makes a great villain in your mind?

Donald Maass says that there is no villain as scary as one who is right. I believe that’s why I found O’Brien to be such a deep villain. I didn’t agree with O’Brien’s philosophy, but in the end Winston did.  If you, as a reader, believe in the protagonist, as I believed in Winston, as I came to be committed to Winston, then when the protagonist is swayed by the villain you are moved, too.

There are three villains in The Tome of Worlds:

  • Naestrum, the master of a realm called The Deadlands, a place people go when they become lost
  • The Seers, a group of creatures from another land who are believed to be all-knowing, all-seeing
  • Tartarus, the embodiment of Hell from Greek Mythology

When I re-visit my novel I intend to put more into these villains. Donald Maass suggests you do the following, and I agree:

  • Justify your villain’s actions
  • Make them right
  • Write a villain who could sway you
  • Reject the idea of evil. Make the villain good (from their point of view)
  • Don’t let the villain lurk, put them in your protagonist’s face

Once again I notice a theme in this advice. If you want the reader to believe in your villain, make your protagonist believe in him.

Editing Post III

For the next installment I will hit upon secondary characters and sidekicks, though the advice is similar to what I just presented for villains. The bulk of the post will focus on scene revision.

As always, if you have any editing advice please don’t hesitate to add your opinion. Thank you.

Editing my Novel, The Tome of Worlds

editing image

How many of you have edited a novel? What’s your process? Do you have any favorite books on the editing process?

I put the last word of my novel, The Tome of Worlds, to paper on July 10. Since then I have written and edited one short story on the end of Edgar Allan Poe and am at the end of another short story about an empty door frame standing in the middle of a corridor. That last short story has taken an odd turn and I want to see it to the end before I start editing my novel.

Since early July I have set aside reading fiction and have turned my eye to reading books about and taking notes on the editing process. I read The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass from cover to cover. I started to read Writing on Your Own Terms by Rebecca Dickinson, but put it aside after thirty pages because I felt that the book wasn’t going anywhere. Right now I am reading Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore by Elizabeth Lyon.

Over the course of my next several posts I am going to discuss my editing process. The posts will serve several purposes. One, I hope to glean information from those of you who have edited novels. That editing advice can then be passed on to people who read this blog. Two, I can summarize my thoughts on the editing process. And three, I can hash out how I will edit my novel, because I am not quite ready to begin.

I have edited several short stories in my day, but this is the first time that I will edit a full length novel. I am looking forward to the challenge.

The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass

Donald Maass does not give you a method to edit your novel. Rather, he hits upon what you should look for in a strong novel. Both editors, Donald Maass and Elizabeth Lyon, talk of writing with passion and emotion. In the second draft of my Poe short story I applied this thought process to the short story. I got into the head of my protagonist, Mr. Snod, and made his character come to life more fully. My readers say that the story is much improved.

Currently that story, Reynolds! Reynolds!, is going through the Critters Workshop.

But back to Donald Maass. In this post I will focus on characters, but specifically the protagonist. Donald Maass asks the following questions:

  • How do you find the strong or human qualities in your protagonist?
  • What will be most effective to portray?

He contends that the answers, as always, lie with the author.

  • What is forgivably human to you?
  • What stirs your respect?

That is where to start, he says. He also says that readers want to be in the characters’ heads. Readers want that intimacy. What do you think? Do you, as a reader, like to know what the characters are thinking? Do you want that intimacy?

A theme throughout Donald Maass’s book is that characteristics such as greatness, villainy, and humor are not shown through narration, but rather they are measured through their impact on the world and on characters around them. To that end, if your character, or one of the supporting characters thinks that someone is a savior or ‘the one’, and you can convince your readers to believe that character, then your readers will believe.

Do you think about how your characters impact the world around them as you write? Do you think about how other characters view your protagonist?

Summary for Editing Post I

  • Always, always, always write with passion.
  • Live through your characters. Feel what they feel. Use your own experiences to convey those emotions.
  • Show villainy, loathing, and greatness through impact on the world and characters

Editing Post II

The second post will continue the discussion of characters. I’ll discuss why the protagonist must face tough challenges, why he or she needs secondary characters, and why a story needs a strong, empowered villain or antagonist.

The Consequences of Time Travel

If you see me standing in line at the market, or in any line for that matter, and I have a spaced out look, chances are this is my thought:

Not only do I never have enough time to write, but my reading list is growing like a geometric progression.  I have to figure out how to slow time, build a time machine, or read faster and organize my time better.

Of course, what’s the easiest of those options? Hint: it’s not the last one.

Consequences

Let’s say that someone went into the local ice cream parlor and left the keys in the ignition:

The keys are in the ignition

Speed Limit: 88 mph

Sweet. Just make sure the time computer isn’t set to 1955. Now you can read as much as you want. Ignore the world.

“Wait, wait, wait,” you say, “You can’t reset the past. That’s not how the DeLorean works.”

“Right, right. Wrong time machine.”

I would have to go back in time, kill my former self, take over his role and that’s how I would reset time.

Or, would going back in time alter the threads of time, maybe creating a new one where I die on the timeline at the exact moment I appear in the past thus keeping continuity?

OK, OK, this is why time travel gives people headaches.

Freezing Time

Not Science Fiction Anymore

Not Science Fiction Anymore

This is the idea I like the most. Let’s say I could exist outside of time? Something similar to an Alcubierre Warp Bubble (not science fiction, by the way). I would still need an energy source, but let’s ignore that plot-breaking problem. Then I could exist outside of time. I could read and write for as long as I want while the world around me is paused.

But, but, but then I would age. My wife and children might notice when I suddenly appear as:

Read list is done. Finally.

Reading list is done. Finally.

Back to the Beginning

Looks like I need an even more improbable confluence of events: a cure to aging and the ability to freeze time. Now there’s an interesting premise for a story.

Back to organizing my life. Or, rather, back to spacing out.