A Ring of Fire

I shudder as I type these words, but admitting I have a problem is the first step. Right?

It’s no secret I took to writing like a moth to the flame. Writing is like a drug to me, even though I often consider giving it up for something more lucrative like stealing cars and selling the parts for hard cash.

Writing is a tough passion. It’s a lonely passion. It’s a labor of love.  It’s a one-sided love. Writing is a harsh mistress. Trust me, she won’t console you when you’re crying over rejection letters. She won’t lift a finger to help you out of your despair. Instead, she’ll draw you to her breast and suggest you write away your sorrow.  It’s a drug and worse than anything, you can buy from a dealer.

The moment I whispered to the world, I want to write,  I fell into writing’s ring of fire as June Carter did for Johnny Cash. Love is love.  I’d blame it on the tequila and Rio, but  the truth is, blue Agave gives me a headache and Rio is on my bucket list.  I have an addiction and there no one to blame but the words.

My addiction came with complications.

I needed accessories. Innocent enough I reasoned, a writer’s standard issue: Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus:


Interesting! My writer’s curiosity peeked when I read about this one.  Really? The Emotion Thesaurus:


A hasty purchase after flipping the pages. Later I justified the addition to my collection because of the good review, and I am a lover of love, The Lover’s Dictionary:


For the Latina who speaks high school Spanish, I found the help I needed in, Hide this Spanish Book &  Spanish Among Amigos:



This one comes in handy when the cogs in my head jam, The Describer’s Dictionary:


Totally justified, because any day now Raymond Chandler might channel me  to write the next Phillip Marlow-esqe novel, A Dictionary of Hipster Slang:                                                                      

I have no idea when I bought this or why.I think I look a lot like the woman on the cover of, don’t you? Book of Intriguing Words:


If your write steamy sex scenes in your stories (and I do) and get tired of the same old names for body parts… I HAD to have this one, for research, you know. The Big Book of FILTH:

When Pied a Terre, works better than lover’s nest, Dictionary of Foreign Words and Phrases:


 I confess this is one of those books I’ve only opened twice, The Disheveled Dictionary:


I swear this one was a gift, British English, A to Zed:


I had to have this one because one day it will come in handy (one day very soon), Dictionary of Allusions:


This is a superb one to write from. I don’t use it as a writer’s reference; rather I flip the pages, find a quote, and write, Collins Dictionary of Literary Quotations:


This one is fun to read after a glass of wine, but it’s mostly a dust collector, Curious Words:


I plead the fifth, Roget’s Descriptive word finder:


The poet in me had to have this one. I’m proud to say it’s well used, Nothing Rhymes with Orange (really, nothing does):


This is my most recent addition. I lost a couple of hours in Barnes and Nobel on Saturday reading through the lists. I tried to convince myself I didn’t need another book, I did, truly I did.  Better than Great:


I’m in deep.  I wonder if there a Betty Ford program for writers?  I only use three of the above books regularly, the rest are dust collectors.

Some writers buy shoes. Some writers eat chocolate. Some writers drink wine. Some writers watch reality television. Some writers tweet. Some writers take lovers. Some writers cook. I buy dictionaries.

What is your writer confession?

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I’m a writer and hoarder of one-size-fits-all panty hose. Until the hose fits over my bum, I write to provide an alternative view on writing and perfection.

62 thoughts on “A Ring of Fire

    • Hi Chris, you’re correct. I’m not sure what it says about me, collector of dictionaries, but it’s a by product of being a writer. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

  1. Oh man Brenda – you’ve whetted my appetite! I am particularly excited by “Straight from the Fridge, Dad” and the “Merriam-Webster Book of Allusions.” But so many of them look so intriguing that I am wishing it weren’t 5:24 in the morning and there wasn’t the aftermath of a hurricane going on and I didn’t have to get ready for work so I could rush out the door and head to the nearest Barnes and Noble. Ordering books online in fine but sometimes you want immediate satisfaction. Looks like you are putting your reference collection to good use – hope you are well!
    Carol Apple recently posted….On the Road to Learning about The Beat Generation: Why did they never cover this in History class?My Profile

    • Carol – Straight from the Fridge, is wonderful. My dad influenced my writing and reading greatly, and when I found this one, we both had a blast reading through it. There are great phrases, which if a person watched old movie, noir films, read Philip Marlowe, they’d connect instantly. So glad to see you. Hope you’ve been well.

    • Thanks, Jessica, and no I haven’t but you have me curious. I’m going to look for it. It’s such a quirky hobby, but now it’s out in the open I’m feel better.

  2. Brenda: Hey, I am happy to read a ring of fire. ( : I am probably as addicted to writing as you are. I love what you said here: “Writing is a tough passion. It’s a lonely passion. It’s a labor of love. It’s a one-sided love.” simply beautifully said. I am going to add that to my list of quotes by Brenda Moguez. ( :
    Also, I think its really awesome that you collect dictionaries! That’s one great way to improve upon your craft and be able to blow people’s minds with your word knowledge. I want to buy a huge dictionary with almost every word in the english language. I know it’s probably going to be impossible to find one with all the words, but I want the biggest one I can find, one day when I get some money. ( :

    Best Wishes,
    William Veasley
    William Veasley recently posted….The Little Girl Who CouldMy Profile

    • Hey William, thanks kindly for stopping by and sharing. I do think writing is brutal, but like you it’s the fire in my belly. I wasn’t sure anyone would be interested in dictionaries (it’s sort of a loser hobby, but I can’t help myself).. but turns out writer’s can relate as we all have our little vices. I mostly an app I downloaded when I am writing my first drafts, which is great because it’s at my fingertips, but when I go back and review I often pull out other books. It just depends. I am flattered about the quote. I make notes like that all the time. :-)

  3. What a fascinating collection you have shared with us, Brenda! I haven’t found myself grasping for anything besides the online dictionary and thesaurus, but some of these truly intrigued me.
    Yes, writing is an addiction. I know if I go two days without writing something, I get the mental “shakes”. :) It is lonely, it is challenging, it is all you have described. But, when you love something as much as we both love writing, there’s no turning back!
    Blessings to you, my friend!
    Martha Orlando recently posted…."And, a Time for Every Purpose Under Heaven . . ."My Profile

    • Martha, most of the time the online tools are enough, but what I’ve found in my motley collection of books is the presentation, and the writer’s own thoughts to be the value. For instance, Better than Great – words are broken down by categories, like Joy or Great. It’s amazing to see all the possibilities of words that suit the feeling of joy. Could the writer in me live without the books, absolutely. I’d eventually find the word I was looking for in an online tool or an app, but you’d be surprised how the writer in you tingles with delight when you’re looking for a word to substitute for ‘amazing’ and you see ‘mind-boggling boulevard’. You might not use that expression, but it prompts you to dig deeper.

  4. I loved this post and peaking on your book shelf!! I’ve made good use of http://thesaurus.com/ (if for no other reason to release that word that is forever on the tip of my tongue) and I should have hockey for dummies on my shelf but prefer to laugh at my ignorance 😉
    By the way, *all* addictions come with accessories so don’t beat yourself up over this one. This is an amazing collection and you should add it to your bio!!
    Astra recently posted….The Dishwasher Doctrine – Tips from a teenager…My Profile

    • Astra, you’re right all ‘addictions’ come with hobbies. I’d never told anyone about my little geeky habit of collecting dictionaries. My kids call me a nerd because of it..Now the world knows me for what I am. I just might do that, include it on my bio. Good idea.

  5. This summer after saving up all my pennies for months, the moment finallly came to take the leap when my daughter presented me with a book token (at last finally they know the only thing to buy Mom….I gave up dropping hints and just said it straight, loudly, repeatedly..it worked!) I bought the complete Oxford English Dictionary [ok, I lie a little, the Shortened version…but its still Big). The best part was that I could sign up for a years free access to the online version of the Complete Dictionary + Thesaurus. I love it. I use it to play with words as a sort of regular writing exercise as suggested by Priscilla Long in her book ‘The Writer’s Portable Mentor’, my Very Favourite Writing Book Ever!!! And today I had a glorious outing to the bookshop where I treated myself to The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis, The Ladies Paradise by Emile Zola and the The Seamstress by Maria Duenas. My husband calls my addiction a disease, my children eye my new acquisitions covetously – I can see them counting up the cost as their brains whirr excitedly, agitatedly, calculating exactly how much was not spent on them. Oh yes I confess sometimes I do feel guilty, but the the sheer pleasure of the guilt adds to the sinfulness of it all. How I love to be bad!!!

    • Edith, you made me smile. I wondered for years about the gifts my husband gave me, he finally figured it out. My daughter figured it before he did. On the grand scale of things, buying books is not a bad vice, like shoes, or drugs, for instance. My collection has been steadily growing over the years, one here and there, so I’m sure I am not depriving the family of good or clothing. You’ll have to let me know about The Ladies Paradise. It’s not a disease, btw, you’re touched by the magic of the written word, nurture it (says a fellow addict). Hugs,

  6. Wow..I had no idea there were so many different kinds of dictionaries! I found this to be a very interesting post! And you’re right a bout writing..it can be a labor of love..it’s the actual act of writing, the thrill of it, that’s the greatest gift…though an acceptance letter would be nice too once in awhile! :) But really, there are so many people that go through life not really ever finding a passion…it’s a gift to really know yours.

    • Hi Jessica, there are so many more than what I have shared. There are ones on slang, once of cliches, so many more. You’re right about having a passion. I have a good work acquaintance who asks me about once a quarter how I found my passion. She wants something other than work, but doesn’t know how to go about it. It’s a strange conversation because I don’t have an answer for her.

  7. Brenda,
    Your collection is so inviting(I guess mostly to other writers). Made me just want to hop on over and check them out. Loved your post. Reminds of when I decided I was going to strip and “redo” some furniture. First then classes to learn how, then the products, special brushes, towels, glaze, stain, finish, more stain, hardware. By the time I was done, some items looked great but it cost me more than buying them new…still do it though. Great therapy for when I have writer’s block!

    • Kathy – I assumed writers would goggle, laugh, and shake their heads in understanding. Some writer’s swear by Lamont’s, Bird by Bird, or Goldberg, Writing Done the Bones (both are wonderful), me, I have my dictionaries. I love my little pretties, I do. My daughter and I stared a project last summer, cost me a fortune at Michaels, all the little gadgets and paste, and super duper this and that.

  8. Ahh the quirky fetishes we all have. I think any writer would covet your collection of dictionaries and thesauruses here. I found I had rounded up a pretty hefty collection of writing books, how-to’s, you know? I gave them all away except Bird by Bird, having just decided to quit reading about writing and just write.
    Barbara recently posted….One LifetimeMy Profile

    • Barbara, I think every writer buys how tos, etc., but like you say, they eventually figure it out. Myself included. I never touch those books I bought after I decided I wanted to write. I do use dictionaries (clearly). When I question myself and why I bother with all this writing, I go back and look at my earlier stuff. it makes me cringe. It’s stomach-seizing bad, but it does shows me how far I’ve traveled. The difference between then and now didn’t come from a book, it came from the writing.

    • Adriana – I know, I am a sad Latina. My parents never spoke Spanish in our house and my high school classes didn’t cement. I am a woman with a deep past but lack the key to get inside the treasure room.

  9. That is quite a collection, an almost famous one that one day will no doubt be most valuable and sought after. I feel very naive to have lurched into prose without any of these aids, but am comforted by the knowledge that they are indeed trusty companions and not necessarily pre-requisites of the trade. :)

    I admit they do look enticing and so not like the dictionaries of yester-year, thinking of dictionary experiences reminds me that I do love that instant look-up feature on the kindle, where if you pause by a word you can click through to its definition, not as distracting as a google search, but I’m much more inclined to lookup a word than I ever was reading a paper copy with that digital dictionary one finger touch away.
    Claire ‘Word by Word’ recently posted….La petite fille de Monsieur LinhMy Profile

    • Thanks, Claire. Don’t be. I started buying the books before I thought of myself as a writer. I like words and books, which you’d probably realize, and if you were to come by for coffee or wine, you’d see the books scattered around the house in every available self. I am currently in the market for one more bookcase because I have had to stack some on the coffee table. I’ve taken to using my e-reader more just because it holds so many and doesn’t require a shelf. I use my digital dictionary/thesaurus A LOT, but I have a few books (pictured) that are dogged eared, and sadly, I hate confessing this, but are always in my computer bag and close at hand.

  10. These are awesome! You’re a woman after my own heart. When I was a kid I used to read the dictionary for fun. I think I’ll have to take that pastime up again (instead of merely googling everything as I mostly do now). Not everything about our modern times is good …:-(

    • Adriene, I use the same tools you do, but I do still look at books. There is always something to be learned in the process. Thanks again for sharing my geekness with the world. :-)

  11. I’ve never seen so many resource book for writers. I had no idea they all existed. Fascinating. Consider me one of the writers that buys shoes. I love shoes, which is kind of ironic since I spend most of my time just sitting in front of my computer, typing away like crazy, wearing socks to keep my feet warm, but not shoes. Oh well. Great collection of dictionaries, Brenda!
    Monica recently posted….A Latina’s Memory of HalloweenMy Profile

    • Monica, there are tons and tons of accessories for a writer. I like dictionaries, which are more fun to read and not always a tool I use, but there are a couple pictured that are ever close. I remember you mentioning your love of shoes once before, maybe I read it in a post. I love shoes as well, but working in technology, I really don’t have to gussy myself up very often.

    • Corinne, I don’t think they made me a good writer, but I appreciate the sentiment. Dictionaries are a weakness of mine. I don’t know why either, it’s such a geeky thing to collect.

  12. What a list! You have me beat Brenda. When I was going through my songwriting stint I invested in a rhyming thesaurus, and found it worthwhile. But I never knew that nothing rhymes with orange 😉
    Love the way you personify writing as a harsh mistress. As for addictions, there are far worse than writing, amen? I can it sublimation.
    Debra recently posted….Preaching to the ChoirMy Profile

    • Debra, I know! Right? Here is what I have learned over the years, as a writer, if you think of something you need, or want, or can’t figure it out, there is someone somewhere that has done the hard work for you.. When I started to dabble with poetry I was struggling with rhyming.. I was delighted when my local bookseller walked me to the section (reference tools, of course) that had the Orange book.. LOVE IT. As for harsh mistress, if anything, I am dramatic.

    • Amber! Long time, my dear. I love it too… as for writing, it’s more a calling than a choice. Blogging is more like a writer’s journal I share with anyone who wants to read my entries.

  13. Hi, Brenda! ~

    Love that list of books! Very intriguing collection 😉

    WoW — What’s my ‘writer’s confession’??? Maybe my confession is that I, mostly, don’t think of myself as a writer. I’m filled to overflowing with ideas I want to share, discuss and hash out with other thinkers, and writing is one medium I use to accomplish this. I love language. I love to read. I love stories and creative expression. But, I don’t feel compelled to write a book or such things as many bloggers do. Although, who knows, someday…?
    Dangerous Linda recently posted….friday momentMy Profile

    • Linda – I never thought of myself as a writer. I’ve been told time and time again I should write, but I only ever wrote in the form of letters. I write the book first and then realized I had to have a virtual presence, thus blogging. I now have another book. Still blogging. I hated blogging at first but since starting I found it to be playful, a place to experiment, and I’ve met some wonderful people. Not to bad. What blogging has given me is a variety of voices and writing styles that contribute to my writing as a whole. As for the dictionaries? Just something I like to collect.

  14. Lady, I think the last time I used a dictionary, I was in high school and that was a hundred years ago. Call me lazy but with the easy access the web provides, I don’t bother wasting time thumbing through dictionaries. Although I do still have a French-English dictionary I bought back in college. Does that count for something? :)

    • Smiles, Bella. My reader and writer heart cries that the web replaces the touch and feel of a book. Of course, we all open a browser, type in a few key strokes into the search box, and what we want is there in less time than it takes to get up, pull the book off the shelf, and look up the word. Me, too, but not always. No, not me. I covet my little relics. :-)

  15. Well my dear, you may have an addiction/obsession but I don’t think it will harm you much. May not be so good on your budget, but I think you’ll be alright. I love dictionaries and such too, I rarely uses them anymore, although I probably should…lol
    Daisy Inthewind recently posted….I Screwed Up!My Profile

    • Jan – There are budget constraints, but as dictionaries are not the sort of thing you buy all at once; rather you buy one when it finds you. Having them has not done anything to improve my ability to spell. I can remember the lyrics to a song, but I am forever in a dictionary looking up the meaning and/or the correct spelling of something…

  16. I love this post – it’s really charming and funny! You take the reader in to your world, your imaginary landscape, your emotional pull. The books are great and it’s brave of you to admit your addiction. I personally would love those books…sometimes discovering the right word is like finding the missing piece of the puzzle! Something so satisfying about that! My writer confession is, try as I might, when I write and no one reads I feel a sense of loss. It seems the more connectivity technology affords – the truth is many have short interest spans. If you write too long, you lose readers, if you write too personally that too risks reader interest. What is the perfect voice, the perfect subject, the perfect post? Who knows? I too like to write about things that make me wonder, causes that inspire me and everything in between. To me it’s about sharing stories and experiences and hopefully enjoying time while we can!

    • Thanks kindly, Margaret. You’re comment reminds of something I only recently figured out about the editing process. It’s the balance on the page. Tension, narrative, dialogue, senses, etc., It seems so much, but once you break it down, it makes a heck of a lot of sense. I don’t know if there a perfect ‘anything’ because every reader is different. What appeals to me, might not appeal to you. I say – trust your voice.

  17. Wow, you really have a good collection of dictionaries here, B., and I’m most interested in Book of Intriguing Words (just to see if they really intrigue me, of course). Like all writers, I collect books I love and I collect words/phrases that stand out. I scribble them on white cards and go through them whenever I need words I can’t find in my normal-sized head. I collect picture cut-outs from the UK edition of ‘Country Living.’ When I was a kid, I collected perfumed erasers and notepads. :)

    • C – thanks much. Any time you are over my way, I am happy to share. If I read something in a book or hear a lyric in a song, I write it down. Sometimes an expression is so strong I can’t get it out my head. I carry it around for days. It is often the prompt for a blog post, a story, and sometimes a poem. I loved that magazine, Country-Living. I always wanted to move into one of those houses.

  18. rimly

    What a delight it is to read your posts, Brenda. I collect quotes! Have always collected form a very young age. Earlier I used to write them down, today it is in my laptop.

  19. What a wonderful collection of books! Emotion thesaurus, lovers’ dictionary. Makes me drool.

    My first couple of years writing, I collected words in a notebook. Its sections were divided into nouns, verbs, adjectives. I read books I didn’t even understand, just to absorb language. I don’t refer to it much anymore — I’ve internalized most of the words themselves — but I know it’s there, and love it beyond measure. Especially the nouns. Nouns can spark such amazing ideas!

    I love reading about your process.
    June O’Hara recently posted….My Cat’s PussyMy Profile

    • June, I knew you’d drool. I am taking an online class and the writer’s participating share their writing processes. It’s amazing how many different way writer’s approach their process. Amazing to me how complex some are, how detailed, how planned, etc. I just write.

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