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Alan Black Helps Writers Find Their Own Feet With Figures of Speech

Multi-genre author, Alan Black, spoke at Dog-Eared Pages Used Bookstore last week. His subject was “figures of speech.”

Whenever this came up during my school days I tuned out; boring. That is until the teacher had to say “onomatopoeia” a few times.

I always learn interesting things from Alan, but this time I had fun too. I had no idea focusing on figures of speech could bring so much interest to writing.

There are 240 figures of speech in the English language with numerous variations on many of those. Alan Black

Some of the ones you may be familiar with are personification, simile, metaphor, implication, allegory, hyperbole, and oxymoron. Alan mentioned many more and gave fun examples to go with them.

I went on the internet to check some of my spellings and was overwhelmed by the number of Web sites that focus on figures of speech. I’m going to make an effort to study more of these.

Thanks, Alan, for making writing a bit more fun and interesting.




Author: Steven P. Wyner

Steven P. Wyner spoke at Dog-Eared Pages Used Books a couple of weeks ago. He writes fiction set in the Phoenix area, where he has lived since 1981. One of his pet peeves is inconsistencies in books and movies and he set out to write well-researched stories that Google searchers won’t be able poke holes in.

author Steve W 002

As a paralegal and ghost writer Steve draws on a number of cases he has viewed over the years. He uses various characters and composites of people he has known to develop the characters in his series of books.

Murder on Camelback Mountain was a fun read about a private detective caught up in a local murder as a suspect. Herb Nash introduces himself and the city to the reader in a fast-moving story.


When Steve sat down to write the characters started “jumping out of the keyboard.” He then moved on to interview them just like he would the clients he interviews for the lawyers he works for.

He suggests that writers visit the place and “inhale” it.

Murder on Camelback can be found on Amazon or through his Web site.  The second novel in the series will be available soon. He has already started writing the third.


On-Line Writing Classes

I love going to writing workshops, seminars, and discussions. I love being around writers and I always learn something. I always take a lot of notes and pictures and pick up every handout, and card or bookmark I can find. Since I started this blog I’ve been especially determined to gather all I can.

The problem is I don’t go back to those notes and handouts. I get all inspired and anxious to write but it doesn’t last through my day-to-day life. Another big problem, for me, is that I write articles on Old West history. Although some of the information I learn can be applied to all writing the inspiration tends more towards fiction.

I like to write fiction. One of my dreams is to write a cozy mystery, or a ghost story, or . . . well, you get the idea. Through my writing group I start a lot of stories but I seldom follow through with them. They are sitting on a shelf or a few have even made it into the computer.

When I won an on-line writing class at a recent all-day seminar I wasn’t sure I’d take advantage of it. I’m so glad I did.

The class I won was through Laurie Schnebly Campbell. She has a variety of classes which build on each other. Each workshop is a series of email lectures including homework assignments. Classmates may also chat with each other. desert rose 030

Some of her classes are through WriterUniv.Com and others through other such organizations but they can all be reached through her site at Laurie Schnebly Campbell.

I signed up for “Plotting via Motivation” thinking I would start on that ghost story novel.

What an amazing experience. Because I was working every day and had those assignments to turn in by the end of the three weeks I had pages and pages of information ready to start writing. I knew all my characters and why they were doing what they were doing.

The notes and information didn’t disappear into my file drawer. I printed out the lectures and assignments and took them everywhere and worked on my story every day. I loved it. I learned so much because I was applying the information and Laurie’s great comments directly to my own work.

Well, I couldn’t stop there. I signed up for the next class, “Master Class: From Plot to Finish” and ended up with a scene by scene “outline” of the novel. It’s all very basic and I’m sure things will change as I get into the actual writing but I’ve never gotten this far with all my fits and starts.

I’ve done National Novel Writer’s Month and have 50,000 words written for a number of books but I never went back to them. I’ve taken creative writing classes and attended many workshops. Nothing has gotten me going like this.

I had no idea this would be so beneficial. A special thanks to Laurie for introducing me to this mode of learning/writing. I have another one of her classes on my to-do list.

I know there are other classes out there so if you have taken an on-line class that was especially helpful please spread the word through a comment below. Then go check out Laurie’s classes. If you haven’t taken one before you will be so glad you did.



My Writing Joy

Once a week I meet with a special group of writers known as the Writers Inspiration Group. Each person takes a turn at leading for the week and comes prepared with two or three prompts to share with the group.

Prompts can be a sentence story-starter, pictures from magazines, a newspaper article, an artifact of some kind or anything.

Once all the writers have the prompt they start writing as quickly as possible. We don’t think about where the writing is going, or grammar, or spelling. We just let the story or memory unfold, writing quickly for about ten minutes. Then we share what we wrote or pass. We don’t critique or judge. We just share. Then move on to the next prompt.

This week the leader brought in some old writers magazines: Poets and Writers, Writer’s Digest and The Writer. We were to open one up and find something that caught our eye and start writing.


I found the following sentence:

“Many surprises come with writing.”

Here’s what I came up with:

Creating characters and worlds and moments in time. I often hear “I don’t know where that came from” which is one of the joys of writing. Having a basic idea grow on the page and become something more than you ever imagined, or thought you could imagine.

Characters that develop from a basic vision or someone you saw at the lunch counter to somebody with a back ground, loves and hates, fears and dreams.

Finding a way to voice your inner most thoughts by letting words flow freely – writing stream-of-conscious and having your head and heart flow down your arm and onto the page.

Seeing a story in a newspaper or on the Internet that has you asking “What if?” and finding answers in your imagination.


That is where I find my joy as a writer and why I will never stop putting pen to paper.



Speaker: Shelley Gillespie

Shelley Gillespie who spoke at Dog-Eared Pages last week is full of energy and inspiration. She has developed all of that into her business as a Book Writing Coach.

Shelley writes for the Arizona Republic newspaper and recently wrote a fantastic article about Diana Gabaldon.

To develop your writing skills and actually get things done use your imagination, visualization and set up a schedule. Write Every Day!

Have a fun, catchy title. Take the time to jot down what you want to write and go from there.

Keep the writing alive. Every once in awhile throw in a short punchy sentence to  keep yourself, your characters and the reader awake. Use “Scan – Find” to check your manuscript for the overuse of certain words.

Some of the the books on her reference shelf are: Warriner’s English Grammar, Roget’s Thesaurus, On Writing by Stephen King, Strunk’s Elements of Style, Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss,  The AP Stylebook and the Chicago Manual of Style.

Shelley has two books about getting off the couch and hiking, even in the Arizona desert. The first one was geared to adults but another version for kids soon evolved.  Hiking: For the Couch Potato can be found at her web site and at hiking.forthecouchpotato.com.

Visit Shelley’s web page to learn more about her books and services and to sign up for a free e-book on publishing: 10 Steps to Book Writing Success.

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Writer’s Blog Hop

Writers are wonderful. I love meeting them, talking to them, learning from them, and writing about them. This blog was started to share many of those meetings and some of the things I have learned about writing. It doesn’t do any good if the word doesn’t get out. Writers are also good at supporting each other and this blog hop is one way of doing that. I hope you will follow the trail of blogs forward and backward and make new friends along the way.

I’ve been tagged by one of my favorite writers. I have followed C. B. Wentworth’s blog for a very long time. We spend time together talking about writing and just writing. She is a great inspiration and if you haven’t visited her blog please go spend some time there. She does photography, writes poetry, travels, knits and keeps me inspired.

Thank you C. B. Wentworth for all your help and support.

Here are the questions I’ve been asked:

What am I working on?

I have an endless list of projects but the biggest one right now is rewriting my book O. K. Corral Postscript: The Death of Ike Clanton. It has been out of print for awhile so I’m looking forward to making it available again; with some updates. I’m also continuing with my Old West history articles and some fiction. I’ve been dabbling in some poetry. I have two blogs that also keep me busy.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

That’s a tough one to answer for western history. I write broader and also I look for the unusual. I like to take small stories of everyday life and put them in perspective. Since I do a lot of writing on Tombstone, Arizona I’m looking for the people and stories that haven’t been done to death.

Why do I write what I do?

I’ve had a lifelong interest in the Old West and kind of fell into researching and writing about it through a twist of fate and my long-time interest in genealogical research. Researching my family taught me a lot of things that has helped in finding the little stories of the Old West. I’ve thought, often, about writing more fiction and would like to write a cozy mystery or ghost stories but right now the Old West is holding me in its ropes.

How does my writing process work?

I scan old newspapers until something strikes my fancy. Sometimes I happen on something while researching something else. I always make a note or a copy of anything that catches my eye. I also read a lot of journals and books about Arizona history in particular.

Once I find enough information on the current subject and the basic information is in my head I sit down with a fountain pen and spiral notebook and start writing the story. I don’t worry about the details at this point. I just keep the pen moving and get the skeleton of the story down. This is a process I use for all my writing. I belong to a writer’s group where we are given a prompt and then write a page or so just completely stream-of-consciousness. No worries about grammar or spelling or even the plot. Just get something down. That seems to be the only way I work well. I have a hard time composing on the keyboard.

Once I have a draft I start entering the article into a document on the computer and add the details from my research. Sometimes questions come up and I go back and do more research but at that point I have the article pretty well written.

I let that sit for a day or so and then go back and reread and edit.

I have a number of journals going with ideas, short stories, poetry and anything else that comes to mind. I don’t want to lose those thoughts.

The final thing I am to do is introduce you to three other writers who I admire:

I’ve only known Anna Questerly a few months but she is full of inspiration and that ever present energy. Besides being a children’s writer Anna owns a bookshop and is a wealth of information a variety of books. She is also involved in many community writing events so her blog is always fun to read. You can visit her here.

Last, but not least, is a newer acquaintance who I think will become another long-term friend, Barbara Hinske. I met Barbara about a month ago when she gave a talk at the Desert Foothills Library and liked what she had to say and was enthralled with the idea of her mystery novels. I’ve read the first one, Coming to Rosemont and look forward to her latest release. It was funny that the day I met her another friend brought in an article about Barbara’s mini-book exchange “house” in her front yard. I wish I could do that here. You can learn more about Barbara Hinske at her blog here.

My other choice is out of town and not able to do it and since my fourth choice was already tagged I’m only doing two. Not worth stressing over. Right?

Now go join the blog hop and meet some great people.



Found Poetry

I’ve been in various writing groups and taken numerous workshops where writing a poem was part of the challenge. I’ve never felt comfortable with poetry although I’ve been making myself share some of my past attempts here.

I do have one favorite way of finding poetry inspiration. “Found poetry” is taking a page from a book and circling words or phrases to make a poem.
We recently did this in my writing group. I presented each person with a few pages from an old copy of  Jane Eyre I found at a thrift store.

Here’s the page I had and the resultant poem with only minor changes.

I felt it pass away without regret.scan0003


The door was ajar for a while

She left, in a glance.

The sobbing wind,

A soft excitement.

Its spirit follows, you smile.

A  rosy sky lies at my feet.

I waited for evening

To search deeper.












See how easy that is? One of the ladies in the group, who balks at poetry as much as I used to ended up having so much fun she asked for more pages to take home and try it some more.

Even if you don’t want to “write” a poem this technique will put you in the “writer zone” in nothing flat.

Here’s another:scan0001


The light of a half-moon streamed through the window

I was the only person risen

A journey prepared for. 

 I passed through the door.

The moon set on wet steps

A chill morning.

A light reached the door

But a few minutes.



Another way to use “found poetry” is to white out all the words you don’t want like I did in the following canvas. I submitted this to a book about art journaling and was excited to have it accepted.

Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art by Quinn McDonald


For  those not familiar with art journaling it is the combination of art and journaling in about a million different forms. This particular “page” I did on a canvas with acrylic paint. The dancer was cut from a magazine and painted around with the book page worked in. The hedge on the bottom was also made from painted book pages. You can see some of the words peeking through.

Try keeping a few book pages handy for inspiration.

I’d love to see your poems.