My Father and Noah Webster

The neighbor kids had a method when asking permission from their parents to do something or go somewhere. The middle child said, “Don’t say no.” The youngest child begged, “Please, pretty please, say yes.” The oldest child said, “Maybe?” with a questioning lilt. After a few days, the reluctant parent relented.

My father was a strict, by-the-book person. The book being the family-size Holy Bible King James Version in our living room. His answer to my whimpering. “Couldn’t you just say maybe instead of no?” was Matthew 5:37. “But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.” If I pursued my quest, he said, “There is no maybe.” Then he quoted James 1:8. “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” I had to wait until school the next day to see what Webster had to say about maybe.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

The unabridged tome perched on a stand guarded the center of the library like a sentry. I flipped the pages to the alphabetical M section.  Was it may be or maybe? My spelling skills might have been different than Mr. Webster’s proper English.  However it was spelled, I didn’t find it.

I flipped the pages to the preface. I didn’t know what that word meant, but it must have been important or it wouldn’t have been at the front of the dictionary. That’s where I learned that Noah Webster and my father agreed on one thing. They both quoted Bible verses to support their decisions.



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Groundhog Prediction Fallibility

Groundhog Day has given February 2 prominence since 1887. Punxsutawney Phil’s predictions of more winter or an early spring have averaged 50% accuracy, so why all the excitement?

My father called the tradition hogwash. “If you want to know the weather, look in the Almanac,” he said. My mother gauged spring by when she could hang the family wash on the clotheslines without wearing a coat. A bunch of hooey, one of my brothers said. I didn’t understand all the hullaballoo when flocks of birds flying north seemed a better prediction of spring.

Phil may have lost his sense of the wild, but his handlers have to know that spring, the vernal equinox, is about six weeks after Groundhog Day no matter what Phil’s shadow depicts. They will continue the charade in 2022 because it’s their day in the limelight and perhaps Phil’s only day in the winter air. The rest of the year, he lives in the climate-controlled town library with Phyllis, his mate.


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Say goodbye to used to

Remember when you used to . . .

  • attend writing conferences crowded into a room full of people?
  • meet with your critique group to discuss your latest chapter revisions?
  • have lunch or coffee with a friend to talk about writing?

COVID-19 changed that.

The memorial for Used To was a virtual event because in-person events were prohibited during the coronavirus shutdown. The memorial paid tribute to Used To when she was every writer’s friend. We spoke about how we waited in line to pay meeting fees, strained to hear the speaker over a table crowded by attendees crunching popcorn and Chex mix, and squinted at our scribbled meeting notes the next day. Zoom and virtual, best friends, hovered near the perimeter of the burial ground while we carried Used To’s urn to her final resting place next to the Good Old Days.

Zoom wasted no time inviting us to sample a recording of the memorial.

Now  I . . .

  • pay meeting fees online,
  • have a private seat from home,
  • eat my favorite snacks during the meeting,
  • ask questions with chat; and
  • watch the live recording later to check my notes.

Perhaps saying goodbye to Used To is the best thing to emerge for writers during the 2020-2021 coronavirus pandemic. Even so, I hope the day will return when I can attend an in-person meeting to remember Used To.



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COVID-19 Ousts Father Time as the 2020 Grim Reaper

My thoughts of spending a quiet New Year’s evening restricted by the California Coronavirus guidelines brought vivid flashbacks from more than a half-century ago. Friends had invited me to ride with them to the Tournament of Roses Parade.  My soon-to-be fiancé had hitchhiked from San Francisco to their home the night before. When Katie (fictitious name) called, she said to be ready at 8:30 p.m. An hour late, she knocked on our glass-paned front door where my mother was pacing in the living room. Mama’s anxiety wasn’t because the group was late. Her pacing was from the anxiety of my long ride on a night filled with drunk driving accidents. “We’re here,” Katie said. “We’re running a little late, so they’ll wait in the car.” When Mama asked when they would bring me home, “We’ll see you when we see you,” Katie replied.

The driver was quiet on the road, taking his duty of transporting us safely on the 15-hour round trip like a mission assigned by his Air Force superior. The rest of us chattered with excitement until midnight ushered out Father Time, the Grim Reaper, and we welcomed January 1, the new babe under twinkling stars. When I dozed, I dreamed of my future as the wife of a Navy sailor. Tonight, I will reflect on the relatively few deaths from 2020 driving accidents compared to more than 25,000 Californians who died of COVID-19 and dream of coronavirus-free December 31, 2021.

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Home Alone for the Holidays

Hindsight is 20/20, a vintage saying, fits this year. Pandemic is the word of the year by Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Other devasting words like coronavirus and COVID-19 invaded our thoughts and conversations. In California, phrases like Shelter in Place isolated us on Friday, March 13. Only essential businesses were open. Long lines and empty shelves were common. Temporarily Closed signs dotted doors of barbers and hair and nail salons,  dance studios, and fitness centers. A tinge of normality arrived in the late summer when most businesses were allowed to reopen.

A resurgence of the virus following Thanksgiving holiday travel and social gatherings pushed the governor to issue more restrictive Stay at Home guidelines on December 7.  Struggling businesses closed permanently. Weddings canceled. Vacations postponed. Places of worship limited to outside events with social distancing. No travel. No family gatherings outside immediate households.  No public holiday celebrations. Long lines for food and other essentials lowered the number of shoppers to 20% of the store’s usual capacity.

California front-line medical professionals waited in a different line this week to receive the first COVID-19 injections.  Home alone for the holidays is disheartening, but hope is in sight. Vaccine could become the 2021 word of the year.




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Pantser or Plotter

George Cramer’s blog hosted novelist David Knop a few weeks ago. One of George’s questions to David was whether he outlined his manuscripts or wrote wild.

I am definitely a seat-of-the-pants plotter. The last paragraph leads me to the next. I tried outlining once, but it was only distracting work. ~ David Knop

Today, George’s blog guest is Virgil Alexander. He described his writing process as pantsy.

When I write, I have a general idea, sort of a very sketchy outline of my main plot. From there, I simply tell the story, let it flow naturally. I’m often surprised where this takes me; I guess that’s the pantsy part of me. ~Virgil Alexander

Knop is a novelist. Alexander is an Arizona historian who writes fiction and nonfiction. Both authors write about the Southwest. In their individual interviews, both said they do extensive research to maintain historical values.

About research, Alexander said, “History must be what it is. There is no need for excuses or blame.”

I agree.





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A Grateful Thanksgiving

I relish the memories of Thanksgiving Day with a houseful of family or friends from planning the menu, cooking, and the gentle soapsuds when I hand washed the china and silverware.  

Covid-19 has brought a new perspective to Thanksgiving 2020 in California. Many will continue their large gatherings. Others will scale down to the bubble requirements—a familiar small group of 12 or less. I chose to isolate with a quiet day at home. No grocery shopping. No cooking. No cleanup. Tomorrow, Black Friday, a friend from my writing group will bring me a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Only one place setting of Royal Albert Old Country Roses china will be on the table. The vintage silverware I have used for holidays since the 1960s, new back then, may wait until the next holiday.  

Afterward,  I will hand wash the single place setting of china in plant-based soapsuds and count my blessings of family, friends, and you, my followers on Violet’s Vibes.







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Winning Against Trauma – Real and Contrived

“What I’ve learned, both from living through trauma and from writing about it, is that what matters most isn’t the path we pick, but how we walk in it.”

~Clare Mackintosh, former police officer, #1 bestseller crime fiction author

This has been a year of ups and downs for me. I prefer a trauma-free life instead of coping with the tension. On the opposite side, I have to create tension in my crime fiction manuscripts to engage the reader. I’ve put a lot of obstacles in the path of Detective Morgan Madrid, my fictional main character in Next of Kin. And I’ve created solutions so she can follow Clare’s advice about walking the path (Morgan’s an imaginary character, so she has to rely on me for the solutions.) At the end of the book, I hope my readers will agree that Morgan followed Clare’s advice as she hopped, skipped, and jumped her way to a winning story.

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Different Hats for Fictional Characters

In my younger years, my mother, far ahead of her time, knew that working in the sun could cause cancer. She tried to make me wear one of her sunbonnets for protection while working in our backyard garden. I refused that hot covering. Later, she urged me to wear a large brimmed hat. Not for me. In my teen years, Jacqueline Kennedy inspired a small hat to complement dresses worn in public. I fell for that minimum style. I bought a few to match my Sunday church outfits. I had a full rack of various colors and materials for many years. Then the woman’s hat craze quit. Now, I wear a brimmed hat when I walk on sunny days.

Symbolically, I juggle several hats from writer to editor. Even editing has two hats different hat styles. As the publicity editor for Tri-Valley Writers, a branch of the California Writers Club, I’m required to use Associated Press (AP) style. As a writer and freelance editor of stories and novels, I have to follow the Chicago Manual of Style 17th Edition.

So what’s the difference? Many things from punctuation to capitalization. That made me think of the quirks of my main character. A detective with a sheriff’s office, she has a greater responsibility to solve major crimes than the deputies assigned to traffic duty, but she often forgets she’s part of the team. What attributes does she have that earned her that promotion? What quirks make the other deputies dislike her? After hours, what hat does she wear to distinguish her in the community?

I’ve crafted a resilient character filled with an inner turmoil that surfaces too often and creates external conflict with her coworkers. She prefers to work alone, keep her personal life secret, and fight her own emotional demons. That’s only resolved during a conflict when life is in danger, and she has to shuffle hats to let others help her.

Too bad she wasn’t an editor before she made a career in law enforcement. She could have learned to work with others, and I wouldn’t have had to put her in that life-threatening situation.


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Hurrah for Editors (and Proofreaders, and Those Who Produce Documentation)

I seldom reblog, but this post today is worth passing on to my readers.

Lani Longshore's Blog

My son reminded me to pack paper maps in my evacuation supplies bag, since relying on my phone’s GPS might be risky. It isn’t easy to find maps these days. I eventually bought a road atlas for the whole country. I like maps, so I don’t mind having another atlas in the collection.

The lack of maps at the local drugstore reminded me of other rare things – a good editor, a diligent proofreader, and the priceless writers who create useful documentation for all the devices, apps, patterns, and machinery I use. YouTube videos may be practical for some folks, but I prefer a well-indexed paper manual.

The next time you sigh over the high cost of editorial services, consider the cost of not paying for them. Your reputation, your readers’ enjoyment, and your very life could depend on the skill of that professional.

Luck and wisdom!

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