Category Archives: Blogging

Writing Inspiration

The process of learning consists not so much in accumulating answers as in figuring out how to formulate the right questions.

Gordon Livingston, M.D.

Day 122 of the shutdown here. Five months without novel critique group meetings to toss around writing ideas. Where to go for inspiration? I remembered another quote by Dr. Gordon Livingston, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.”

I see the bad in this shutdown, but I’ve found solace in a few good things. Things are not perfect, but things are good. The good may not be as visible, but it’s there, waiting to be unearthed when I search for answers. Maybe I need a map.

There are no maps to guide our most important searches; we must rely on hope, chance, intuition, and a willingness to be surprised.

-Gordon Livingston, M.D.

I’ll take that as my inspiration during another stay-at-home weekend. A good time to write. A chance to surprise myself.

 

 

 

 

 

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Front Porch Friends

Once upon a time, long ago, and back when are reminiscent of days shared with family and friends. Long before social media favorites and cable TV, downtime didn’t mean a blank computer screen or dropped cell phone calls. Air-conditioned homes were rare. Evenings were a time to relax on the front porch, wave at neighbors on their evening walk, and sip ice tea from tall glasses. Memories of aluminum ice trays, telephone party lines, pedal pushers, and Bermuda shorts bring back lazy summers when kids rode bikes in the street while Mom or Dad cranked the handle of an ice cream maker on the front porch.

Shelter in Place during the coronavirus has shifted connections with family and friends to technology. Social distancing keeps us from meeting in person, so traffic congestion has dwindled to the easy flow of the 1950s. Segways, skateboards, scooters, and bikes traverse quiet streets and vacant parking lots. Warm weather has arrived. People are walking more. This time will be captured in future stories from the economic impact and slow recovery to evenings when we waved at neighbors from our front porches, patios, and balconies. If you hesitate when you walk by, you might see laptops or journals.

Gone are traditional openings. Words scrawled on the page or dancing across the screen begin with phrases like . . . Another day of Shelter in Place . . . During the coronavirus pandemic . . . or COVID-19 continues to _____ [fill in the blank].  If you squint at my laptop screen, you’ll see my fingers fly across the screen to begin my next blog post.

Another day of Shelter in Place . . .

My hands hover over the keyboard, but no words follow. Excuse me. I’ll be right back.  Perhaps a glass of tea will inspire me.

 

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Hunker Down

Today, I hunker down—an old southern saying during severe storms—for Day 17 of the coronavirus Shelter-in-Place order in the San Francisco Bay Area. One would think this is a perfect time to write. But separating me from my novel critique group and other writing friends has made me like a starfish out of water. I am disconnected, looking for an easy path to crawl back to safety where I am surrounded by writers. Until then, maybe . . . just maybe . . . my lighthearted blog posts will help you weather the storm.

When I was a foster parent, we taught two seven-year-olds safety in times of danger. They did well when the four of us were huddled together during tornado or hurricane drills. Fires were different. I told them to climb out their bedroom window when they heard the alarm and run to the plantation bell in the front yard. One boy’s signal was a single pull on the cast iron; the other boy’s was two pulls. Those clanging sounds would tell us both had escaped the danger. In an early evening drill, we closed their bedroom door, waited a few minutes, and held a lighted candle near the smoke alarm. When the three beeps sounded, the first-grader opened the door and stepped into the hallway.

“I smell smoke,” he said.

“Why didn’t you climb out the window and ring the bell?”

“Cause you told me not to go outside without permission.”

 

 

 

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SIP Countdown: Day Three or Maybe Day Four

I received the Shelter in Place (SIP) Alameda County mandate by telephone at 2:55 p.m. on Monday, March 16, 2020. I didn’t count that as the first day of confinement because I had been out most of the morning scouring the neighborhood for groceries. Some are marking today,  March 19, as Day Four—perhaps to be optimistic—but I don’t see it that way.

In my March 17 blog, posted about 2:30 p.m., I counted St. Patrick’s Day as the first day of solitary confinement based on the 24-hour system. Yesterday, March 18, after a full day of confinement, I entered the new world of grocery shoppers. At Costco, I gloved-up and pushed a shopping cart to the back of the long line. Maintaining the recommended social distance was impossible, but the huge carts provided four feet between shoppers.

A handwritten sign at the door listed the out-of-stock items from toilet tissue and paper towels to children’s Tylenol. Inside, I touched only what went into my basket. “Limit one per membership” was posted above basics like bottled water, rice, cooking oil, laundry soap, and bleach.

This morning, the guideline for marking time, “And the evening and the morning were the first day[1],” tells me this is Day Three. I’ll compromise with the Day Four people who claimed the first day at 12:01 p.m. on March 16, less than twelve hours after the proclamation. For me, Day Four begins at 2:30 p.m., today, Pacific Daylight Time, on this first day of Spring which began at 2:01 a.m.

 

 

 

[1] And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. Genesis 1:5, Holy Bible, King James Version (KJV)

 

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Apologies to St. Patrick

Sorry, St. Patrick, but your name on the calendar is about the only recognition you’ll get in the San Francisco Bay Area today. We’re hunkered down for the first full day of twenty-one days of Shelter in Place. Wineries, bars, taverns, and restaurants are closed except for take-out food. No SIPping.* No eating in public, but we can shop for necessities like groceries, health-related items, household necessities, and pet supplies. A few bold ones might visit Dollar Tree, Walmart or Target where Irish green decorations are plentiful near the neighboring bare shelves of paper products. But shoppers will be cautious of where their money is spent because many who work for nonessential business during SIP* will not be paid. They might skip the green to pump gas, the only product in plentiful supply at reasonable prices. But the recommended hand sanitizer to use after pumping is as scarce as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

 

P.S. The word is out that you were British, so look for the day when diversity requires color sharing with red, white, and blue shamrocks.

 

*SIP, SIPping acronyms are used by permission of George Cramer, the originator. They could make St. Patrick’s Day a future SIPping holiday.

 

 

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Fearless Friday

Today is Friday. There will be dozens more Fridays in 2020. Today is the thirteenth. There will be nine more this year. Today is Friday, the thirteenth, only one of a pair in 2020.

What causes trepidation about this number with increased anxiety when it occurs on Friday? Meriam-Webster defines it as triskaidekaphobia—a fear of the number 13. Folklore has several explanations. Here’s the Old Farmer’s Almanac story.

Fortunately for those who live abroad and on the U.S East Coast, this day has ended.  For travelers stuck in airports because of the COVID-19 coronavirus travel ban, you have survived and made this a Fearless Friday. For those on the West Coast and the Hawaiian Islands, you still have time for concern.

To all, look to the stars for advice—well, at least one star.

 

 

 

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Book Lovers Choice

One hour before posting time, I had not typed the first word of today’s blog. I scanned my memory for topics. Family stories? Writing humor? A second peek at my crime fiction characters? In this week of valentines, flowers, and chocolates, nothing seemed to fit. Then, a wall of books popped in my mind, a picture as clear as if I were standing nearby as I have dozens of times. Not a library or a bookstore. This is a smart part of blogger Lani Longshore’s book collection.

Courtesy of Lani Longshore

 

The only books in my childhood home were the Bible, Farmer’s Almanac, and the Sears catalog. Perhaps that’s why I fell in love with books at the Chowchilla Branch of the Madera County Library in the first grade. Years have sailed by faster than a nonstop flight across the U.S. I’ve downsized from a home to an apartment about twice the area of a jet’s first-class cabin. That prompted a serious reduction in my book collection.

My love of reading continues. eBooks are ideal for some readers, but the screen is dark on my Kindle Fire. I sit in my recliner, eating chocolates, and reading a  printed book from the Livermore Library.

 

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One in a Million

Merriam-Webster describes one in a million as a declaration of praise for an outstanding person. Today, I am part of a different definition of one in 500 million.

There are more than 500 million blogs worldwide.

Here, there, everywhere with more added daily. Or perhaps I should say hourly. So, welcome to an overloaded internet. Does that recognize a blogger like me? More like a full military about-face command the opposite direction.

The average bloggers invest 3.5 hours creating a blog post.

That’s almost 1,300 hours a year. I drafted five crime fiction novels in less time than that.

 More than 50% of bloggers are between the ages of 21 and 35.

Well, that explains the time. Either these bloggers work from home or they still live at home where someone else does the shopping, cooking, and cleaning.

Approximately 7% of bloggers are above age 50.

Maybe not one in a million yet, but I’m climbing higher every day.

 

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Skipping NaNoWriMo

Skipping rope was a favorite pastime in my growing-up years. It wasn’t really skipping—more like hopping up and staying in the air until the rope passed under my feet. I conquered the double rope twist. Then considered a child’s game, now physical trainers say skipping rope is a full-body workout.

Later, skipping turned a corner and became skipping breakfast, or at a minimum toast and coffee, while I battled an hour-long commute to work.

Skipping returned when I read a heartwarming story when I detoured from reading mystery novels and bought the hardback of Skipping Christmas by John Grisham, first published in November 2001. In that novel, a couple disgruntled with the hustle and bustle of Christmas chose to get away from it all with a cruise instead of facing the hurdles of the hectic season.

That story of shifting perspectives, and the encouragement of my writing class instructor, lured me like a fish to the bait in 2009. What better exercise than writing my first mystery during National Novel Writing Month?

That exercise channeled my inner creativity. I jumped from the safety of nonfiction into the world of writing crime fiction. Words flew from my fingertips to the screen and formed the first sentences when the clock on my computer showed midnight on October 31st. I hopped through the required 1,667 daily word count that first night with coffee and chocolate to keep me alert. That win ended with a generic certificate for my first 50,000-word novel before November 30, 2009.

Tonight, ten years later, I’m skipping NaNoWriMo, a/k/a Nano in favor of thirty days revising that first, still unpublished, novel. Maybe tomorrow I’ll buy a skipping rope. I’ll need the exercise.

 

Disclaimer: I skipped pulling out my stored box of Christmas decorations to photograph my personal Skipping Christmas and used an Amazon link instead.

 

Published, Violet’s Vibes blog, Thursday, October 31, 2019

Photos: Skip rope, computer keyboard, Skipping Christmas, John Grisham, NaNo Winner 2009

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Castoffs, Misfits, and Misused Words

Words, like clothing, become castoffs when they don’t fit, when they’re worn, or when style changes shift. Outdated words in a conversation may soon be forgotten. Misused words in electronic formats and print copies haunt the writer like a closet full of misfits.

Under wraps indicates a secret project or one withheld from the public, but “undercover” means a secret investigation involving spies.

Lay low means to intentionally hide or stay out of sight. Laid low (past tense) indicates that a person was out of action from circumstances.

Off the radar, often used to identify lack of presence or communication or action, sounds like a missing person’s report. Off the grid indicates one who functions without input from others, but some conversationalists—and writers—use it to indicate standoffishness.

Long, long ago I puzzled over “tootle-do,” when visitors misused the British saying of “tootle-oo” for goodbye to other travelers. It was our home. We weren’t leaving. They were.  I had no trouble distinguishing that saying from Toora-Loora-Looral, the Irish lullaby to sing a baby to sleep.

Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater,” has endured five centuries.  A catchy phrase, but who would do that?

“To each his own,” some say, but the English translation of the Latin Suum cuique to imply personal preferences was aimed at the disparity of wealth vs. poverty. Hmm. Perhaps that is fitting because some writers use worn out, trite phrases for current publications when there is a wealth of new words waiting to hit the page.

Words

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