Working titles. Monday, Jan 31 2011 

One of the worst parts of writing to me is finding a title. It should come naturally, flow from the work while at the same time be worthy enough to stand on its own.

 

This just plain sucks.

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My final draft is very different than the directions I started in. I’d like to thank my editors John Fabros, Cyndi Christopherson, and Regina Delaurentiis for their careful screening of a shoddy first draft. Each found errors that I alone could not see, because I offer myself the same courtesy as I do most textbooks– I read until my eyes glazed over, then skimmed.

Possibly the worst thing to have been said about it was:

“Terry, are you aware that you’ve used the word ‘dark’ ten times? How about ‘within’ about eight times?”

“… I did not know.”

 

Basically, when you revise and edit… you rarely ever go from start to finish. And apparently some phrases sound great! So each time I would use it… I would think to myself, this is fantastic! Why haven’t I tried to use this kind of description?

 

… boo. I had. I just forgot.
Lesson to be learned? PROOFREAD.

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“Look, Gail,” Roark got up, reached out, tore a thick branch off a tree, held it in both hands, one flat closed at each end; then, his wrists and knuckles tensed against the resistance, he bent the branch slowly into an arc. “Now I can make what I want of it: a bow, a spear, a cane, a railing. That’s the meaning of life.”

“Your strength?”

“Your work.”’

 

– The Fountainhead.

 

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Merging mediums. Monday, Jan 24 2011 

In my latest work, I’m integrating a poem throughout a short story. Its something new, something fresh– I encourage all writers to break out of their comfort zone and mesh the best of their talents.

What two writing forms best compliment each other, you think?

On the road to Iowa Wednesday, Jan 19 2011 

A brief excerpt, my story can’t be previously published for consideration.

A mountainside carved slowly, that look of approval took years— that is the only way I described my father. He wasn’t damn near as moody as his eyes suggested. I was not the first son. But I was his son— he saw me, sometimes. I think he saw too much of himself, and too little of me.

I was the reflection on the water, blurring my face with his.

I watched years go by without weakness, but I sensed parts of my father in a slow burn. It was terrifying to watch him fall into the frailty of age, haunted by doubt and fear. A man on fire was burning bright, my father unaware, shrouded in his own dark moods.

He said he was unhappy. That made less sense than the silence.

Smoldering, strike him! I had hissed to myself. Strike him, meld him. My father malleable, vulnerable as he searched for some happiness his sons could not offer. I pressed within me to find some truth to hammer him— to shake his quiet, private reality he kept so far from me. But I had nothing to offer. So he turned to the water, the wilderness of the sea.

No ink for the paper, no salt for the wound. Monday, Jan 10 2011 

This is a song written and performed by Vox and the Hound, a band here in New Orleans. The lead singer is a man by the name of Leo DeJesus, and the drummer is a friend named Eric Rogers. Both are fantastic musicians who have are chasing their dreams in ways I wish we all could.

This song is called Boxes; the lyrics are below. Listen to it here! (http://voxandthehound.bandcamp.com/track/boxes)

I once had a love, and it filled up my heart
Now it fills me with heavy, not quite like the start
It fills me with empty in here by myself
And all the boxes on my shelf are empty
Empty as well
I once had the soft grass, had shade from the heat
Took this ground for granted, now it’s gone from my feet
Where once she would tell me that her eyes were mine
Now this room seems crowded
And I’m in the back of the line

No ink for the paper
No salt for the wound
No rest for the weary
No stone for the tomb
No hammer to nail these two feet where they lay
‘Cause the ground that you gave me
You’ve taken away

There’s more second chances, more fish in the sea
But I’m not one for fishing when I’m dead on the beach
When you’ve got a fire, just hold back the fuel
‘Cause no matter what I do
I was, I was the fool
When I had the oyster, I searched for the shells
But now that you’re gone, I don’t want no one else
Now all of these boxes are empty as hell
And all of my words are empty
Empty as well

No ink for the paper
No salt for the wound
No rest for the weary
No stone for the tomb
No hammer to nail these two feet where they lay
‘Cause the ground that you gave me
You’ve taken away
No ink for the paper
No salt for the wound
No rest for the weary
No stone for the tomb
No hammer to nail these two feet where they lay
‘Cause the ground that you gave me
You’ve taken away
I said the ground that you gave me
You’ve taken away
I said the ground that you gave me
I threw it, I threw it away

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It’s like a word search to me. When I hear music, I listen to lyrics. Quality lyrics requires a writer who, intuitively or not, understands literary devices. I’d used parallelism for years before I knew what it was called. These lyrics contain metaphors, similes, parallelism, allusions, rhymes, slant rhymes, assonance, and personification. Most of you couldn’t fit the half of those in an entire short story.

 

There is a reason why music sounds good– no, sounds right. If you find yourself with a line stuck in your head– figure out why, and use it in your writing. And for own sake, DO NOT try to use Ke$ha to improve writing. (Though, regretting this already, I wouldn’t rule out Lady Gaga?)

Alright, I’m off my soap box.

Quickly, now. Monday, Jan 3 2011 

http://www.iowareview.org/

 

There’s a writing contest. 25 pages prose by January 31st, previously unpublished work.

 

Dare I?

Names. Monday, Dec 20 2010 

December 20th, 2010

I sat at my usual end, where the bend of the wood is warped and moist on the bar top. For weeks, I’ve sat here watching the regulars but I don’t know the name of the bartender— or whoever really is the girl hiding beneath all that make up. She talks to the tab runner down on his luck about the guy who picks too many fights after too little scotch. The old fighter could’ve been a prize boxer once; but twenty years later, all that’s left is man who doesn’t know when to quit. He walks to the bathroom, fading in a faint cloud of ash and cancer comes from the corner of one-lungers who talk really fast and really loud even though no one’s listening. A quietly fading dream serves them drinks and coughs beneath a hand. She doesn’t have the heart to tell them not to breath, not to live.

The new guy comes on shift and I can tell he’s uncomfortable, nervous. Greased stained and shifty screams at him, “CHEESEBURGERS UP,” banging his spatula on the oven top startling the poor guy. All bark and no bite, good ol’ boy Greasy is just pissing on the tree. I don’t know the new guy’s story because he hasn’t told it yet. They all do, eventually, but I make one up. A crashed car and a failed semester at the U have sent him bustling into here, ready to work and ready to leave. A sad story but probably true— we all don’t come willingly but we all come quietly, heads bowed.

Nice Odds, the bookie, sits and argues with a couple of fresh faces, clean shaven and cleaner cut. Christmas cookies don’t come crisper but just as bland. Sugar coated and chip both wager with the nice odds not realizing I call him that with humor. A success story in both robbery and chasing off his wives, the bookie is a clever man but he never has enough.

There’s a line to the bathroom that seems like one out of a bad joke— a banker, a lawn blower, and a math teacher stand uncomfortable close. I’m prejudiced, and hear me roar, because the punch line is I damn sure don’t look like a writer. One glance and I know who they are; in places like this stories will write themselves if you don’t carefully craft your own.

Two strangers to themselves sit at the far end of the bar, gesture to me and I hear them mutter beneath their own ragged breath— “Who’s the uppity snot hiding in the corner every night?” I grin perhaps too soon, too wide, but I can help it: I’m a legend and a fool.

———————-

– Rough copy.

– Concept? trying to describe people instead of naming them.

 

 

Some days. Friday, Dec 10 2010 

December 10th, 2010

As humans, we find ourselves surrounded with mirrors. Personification, so that we may describe what beauties we seek and find in nature with quiet words that echo familiarity. Such careful handling of that quiet obsession with ourselves; no hurricane sieged the gates of New Orleans, and I have yet to witness the sun climb into the sky— but men have, and more.

We stare at dogs. Dogs stare back, crooks its neck, and we swear it human.  “Short, furry and drooling— but Jenny I swear, this dog is human none-the-less!”

Little tables. Bright neon signs. Pleas of attention and donation for the less than fortunate on the campus of a private university yield more feigned phone conversations than dollars. As a species, we fail to reach out to each other. I do not think that all men (and women) were created equal. Flawed and perfect, we march down these paths in lock-step, eyes forward— though not hand in hand.

I ask what of brotherhood. What of childish indifference, that intolerance to lack of friendship. When I was young I wanted to be everyone’s friend… more often than not, refusing to take no for an answer. We are shallow, petty things but we strive to be better.

But we put our friendships in dogs. We put our faith, our traits, mannerisms, qualities— our sacred souls— into dogs and their loyalty. We trust their loyalty in all the ways we doubt strangers in our towns. We welcome stray dogs without that cautious glance of disapproval for the wandering vagabond.

We say dogs are human. We are selfish. We are vain. But this is what makes us human, so different than the rest that inhabit this playground of a world.

And, damn me. But I swear this dog looks at me curiously and thinks: what an ugly, hairless dog I make.

 

 

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It is true that we are weak and sick and ugly and quarrelsome but if that is all we ever were, we would millenniums ago have disappeared from the face of the earth.

– John Steinbeck.

What’s a free write anyways. Wednesday, Dec 8 2010 

So I think this is how I’m going to utilize this blog, for a bit anyways. A free write, for those of you interested in what being a writer is all about, consists of a blank sheet of paper and pen, and writing for ten minutes. Anything and everything– it’s not a story, it doesn’t need to make sense. It’s thoughts, ideas, concerns, or whatever you want to write.

In fact, all I’m doing is documenting a single,  relatively unknown author’s attempt to pick up writing after a hiatus. I don’t know how long this will last– or how successful it will be. I’ve been published, and authored my own book with some fantastic help from people all around the world.

For those wondering, I do not type directly into this blog. I write by hand, and without going back or changing anything, I’m going to try and accurately depict what went on in my mind for ten minutes of my day.

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December 8th, 2010.

The Dog Prince . (?)

Survival. A hero not defined by strength or intellect but endurance.  To weather any storm– most importantly, the ones you can’t train for. Battle is predicated on planned aggression.

Unresolved conflict is what moves without straddling the linear path. No, conflict that will not be resolved. Difference?

Every story contains elements of romance. Rid yourself of romance to show the other aspects of humanity. Like accountability. And the excuses we make to avoid it.

How many lead roles.

“Give me satisfaction.”
“Earn it.”   <—- That is the battle. For self respect.

Books line the walls that I have read. Famous titles. Covered in dust. Why are the ones that matter on the floor, used.

The writer feels his chest tighten. This feeling of self-importance seems so fake. But its here. the ability to share your story without accolades. Or shame.

Fear that it won’t matter.

Some things. Wednesday, Dec 16 2009 

‘I don’t believe in it (writer’s block). All writing is difficult.
T
he most you can hope for is a day when it goes reasonably easily.
Plumbers don’t get plumber’s block, and doctors don’t get doctor’s block;
why should writers be the only profession
that gives a special name to the difficulty of working,
and then expects sympathy for it?’

~Philip Pullman

It’s been so long since I wrote that I forgot the format I normally take. So allow me the luxury to break precedence and offer a new piece of writing early in the blog instead of later—

Indulge me with a read.

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A Suit on Tuesday

I went home on Tuesday
In a suit and tie
I had bought myself.

My father kept quiet,
He didn’t approve.
And I don’t know why.

My older brother watched.
He lectured me some:
“Get off your horse, kid.”

My mother liked the suit.
She said, “I’m sorry, but
Your father means well.”

My brother lies in bed.
He tells me how rich
He’s going to get.

“Great plans”, my father says,
“He’s going to bring
Great pride to our name.”

At work, six days a week;
Saved every cent
For that damn black suit.

“How goes the iron mill?”
My mother means well.
My father just scoffs.

“It’s a dirty place, Ma.”
She stares at my suit
And I look away.

“You don’t look like the rest,”
Mother says sternly:
“Keep your nails clean, boy.”

I nod but in my room
I take off my pride.
I bury it deep.

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I don’t know what to make of it. By the end of the semester, it was the best of the poetry I had written, despite the inherent simplicity. I don’t know. It is supposed to be a vessel of emotional investment.

Are you invested? Am I? Leave me some words on A Suit on Tuesday.

I want to hear what you think poetry is. I’ve spent a third of a semester learning about it, and I’m not convinced I can even properly define the word, much less write anything of merit.

Its nice to be lost. I always thought a map should be crossed with sleek, horizontal blue lines.

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HOPEBG

By the way:

The Who Dat Nation here in New Orleans can feel free to cherish their gloried attempt at a 16 – 0 season; I’m enjoying the effort very much and frankly, everyone in the city is acting a little nicer, a little more cheerful ever since the season started.

It is important to note, that if the Saints do make it to the Super Bowl, they stand no chance against my San Diego Chargers, led by the unstoppable MVP – Candidate Quarterback Philip Rivers #17.

I know, I know. Nothing to do with writing, but hey— 🙂

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I think I’m going to start writing again. I spent a semester writing assignments, and now I’m ready to write.

Short stories are going to come as they may, but creative essays have taken a strong foothold on my imagination.

Expect a few to follow, maybe I’ll publish the one that I wrote earlier in the semester that has inspired to write more.

Cheers.

Oh, Jean. The slate is clean. Friday, Sep 25 2009 

“May I be honest; may I be decent…
I wonder if you know why I address these manuscripts to you.
You are the only person in the world
who believes I can do what I set out to do.
Not even I believe that all the time.
And so, in a kind gratitude,
I address all my writing to you,
whether you know it or not.”

~John Steinbeck, Life in Letters

I’m starting fresh. I’m still waiting to feel that novel rise within me; I’ve had a few ideas, a few whispers of a thrill. I need a goal. I’ve met most of those I’ve set for a while, and the others are so far off that it’d be a wasted effort to be preoccupied with them.

With a huge sense of disappointment, I had to cancel the Tulane book release earlier this month due to a administrative error on the campus side of things, and school/work/NROTC has been keeping me on my heels trying to break me. While I still plan on having a book release here, I’m doing what I can to plan it to make sure its done right.

Once more, if you have any suggestions— let me know! I’d love to hear your ideas on what makes a book release worth attending, because trust me: I’ve done as many as you have.

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Adam Camp Photography:

Been awhile since I plugged someone so here goes— if you’re into photography check out adam camp’s website at:

http://adamcamp.tumblr.com/

Here he not only posts his latest pictures and thoughts about, well, anything that comes to mind— but he’ll also show diagrams on how he sets up his shop, and will trade any knowledge he has with his readers.

I’ve posted a few of my favorite shots that he’s put up in the last month. Like most aspiring professionals, he needs motivation, so drop him a line and comment his site. Tell what you like, don’t like, and what you need to see more of.

Knowing the kind of gentleman Mr. Camp is, I’m sure he’d be happy to oblige to any challenge.

Jonathan Bollinger Nile C. Kinnick High School Yokosuka, Japan January 2009.

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I know, I know, its been a while since I posted something of my own to read. So here we go!

In my creative writing class, we did a piece on voice. Simple assignment, just create a narrative with a distinct voice. Here, I once more explore the darker aspect of human nature. One of these days, joy and happiness and all that good stuff will bubble up inside me— but until then, I can’t pick my muses.

Those fleeting dames of inspiration always seem to find me.

The usual remark: Leave feedback! I love to hear criticism. It usually takes me 3 days and a long stubborn argument before I admit each latest piece isn’t the greatest thing ever— I’m arrogant enough to post it online and believe people will read, so shoot me down! Tell me what you don’t like, then tell me what made you shiver. I love negative feedback as much as I love your kind words! Improve me so that I can write the next great American novel, kiddos.

 

 

The Hidden

There is a place where I hide on Jed’s property. It’s not much more than a grassy patch of land, surrounded by three crumbling buildings: a house, a barn, and a tool shed. The tool shed is locked, and I don’t like locks. Most of the time, I’m not the one with the key. That was my father, the man with the key ring. Whenever I heard the jangling I knew— Oh! I knew! — that my father was on the way and he was mad. Boy, he’d get mad sometimes.

Like the time I shot the dog. Now, I didn’t shoot the dog like some trigger happy fool. But what’s a city kid to do with a hunting dog anyways? The dog goes down the rabbit hole, a rabbit comes out first. Even a city kid knows that rabbit comes out first. And you shoot on movement alone. Instinct. You don’t wait. Because the rabbit always comes out first. I’m not a kid anymore. But I was when I shot his dog.

Not saying I’m sorry. Not saying I didn’t do wrong. I just don’t like locks.

When he jangled those keys, I always tried to stay away from my dad. I have no problem with the dark; I just don’t like being trapped. What kid likes the corner, anyways? I know the difference between the dark and the light, and it is a locked closet door.

I stay away from the tool shed.

I really used to like the barn.

High rafters and the comforting smell of straw and rot, there was a lot of wide open space. I liked the emptiness. It was nice to have something to fill. I lined the walls with all the dolls I could find. It’s always a pleasure to have company, but I don’t bring too many people here. I don’t think that they’d understand. Even the dolls can get judgmental, a silent majority against me. I brought them to watch but… I don’t think they like me very much. That’s why I left the barn one day, and kept to the house. In rooms, I can hide from the eyes, even when the walls are crumbling. I’m not ashamed. People just don’t understand.

In the remains of the house, I hide the worst part of me. The windows are all broken in, shards hanging from the frame; there is gravel on the carpet. There is a stale smell that the wind can’t get rid of. I used to pace around the house, sitting for hours, staring at the art on the walls. Those who I bring here leave their mark.

Dark stains cake the walls like finger pictures. They tell a story, but I pay no mind. There are many stories buried in this house. I just enjoy the movement. Savor the rawness. Those streaks dance up and down all over the place. They dance all the way to the basement door. It is a hard oak door, thick and immobile. The other side of that door is the furthest place in the world for me. I’m sure everyone else feels the same way.

This is the place I hide on Jed’s property. This is not my happy place, but I don’t think I’ll ever be far from it. Over the hill and under the sun, I follow the dirt path toward the abandoned lot. I am heading to work. My father always said I’d have to atone for his sins. All the dirty things he did marked me from the rest; his legacy was mine before I knew not to want it. All I ever wanted was to be a better man than he, but the wound father passed down to me got infected real nice.

I walk up the path around the house. I see the storm cellar doors that lead to the basement. The doors are tied shut. I hear rapid pounding and muted voices, but ignore it. My father taught me to ignore a lot of things. The muffled yelling means nothing here. This is the place where the dirt meets the glass, and rust stains the trees. This place is neither heaven nor hell, but the river to either. I drag the baseball bat behind me.

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