Thursday, June 30, 2016

Larping in Real Life (MARCH - 2009)

“Watch out for the larpers.” That’s what Alex’s dad told her on the way out of the door to the comic book convention.

This is the why I go to college, to stay on the cutting edge of the larping scene—also algebra.

I said, “I’m sorry. Did you say larper as in someone who larps, or to larp? Would it be correct to say, ‘Sorry I’m late. I’ve been larping?’ Or maybe . . .”

She shushed me with a look. Alex, a member of my writer’s group at school, then proceeded to show us a YouTube video of real, living, larpers. 

Larpers are grown humans who dress in various high school costumes from Mid Summer’s Night Dream, retreat to the woods or comic book conventions, and hurl faux lightning bolts and curses at each other. These folklings are live, action, role-players—larpers.

“In my day, we had a name for people like that—egghead losers—not that there’s anything wrong with being an egghead loser. I, myself, am one,” I said, pushing my thick black eyeglass frames back into place.

“Yes but do you larp?”

I confess; I do not larp.

Instead, I receive phone calls from Iraq from Staff Sergeant Aric Zern to let me know that the U. S. Army will be sending him to the burn unit in San Antonio for skin grafts, and that he’s fine, but he’ll have an interesting scar that looks like flames shooting up his back. 

“But what about your much ballyhooed body armor?”
A Real Life Action Hero!

“It caught on fire,” he said.

“Your body armor caught on fire!?!?” 

“Well, it was a magnesium flare.”

“You mean like vitamins—magnesium and thiamin?”

“Yeah, okay.”

“How does that happen?” I am a mother. I need answers.

“Magnesium flares burn at 3,500 degrees.”

There was silence on my part.

“So it was like a drop of the sun fell on you,” I said, trying to understand.


“But you’re fine.”

“No worries.”

Reassured, I asked, “Hey, what do you know about larping?”

And that’s how we live action role-play at our house. As my mother always said, “It’s a great life if you don’t weaken.” I like to think that we’re strong—Army strong.

Linda (Larp on This) Zern 

Thursday, June 23, 2016


It's all about the learning curve: young or old, survival or leisure, tech or no tech . . . It's a Youtube channel and embedding and other words that seem misleading.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

LEARNING CURVE: Twists and Turns Ahead

I paid CreateSpace the money, cash on the barrelhead. 

It was worth every dollar to me, not to have to arm wrestle with some ridiculous piece of formatting when publishing my novel last year (2015). Beyond the Strandline is a 100-thousand word novel—with lots of words. (Yes, I know I’m being redundant. It’s absurd, and that’s why that’s funny.) 

The serious part of this discussion is that, one year after publication, I wanted to 1) replace one word in three places (thank you smart reader types) 2) correct one spelling error (not bad for 100 thousand words) and 3) add a small sub-heading to Chapter One (mostly for my mother-in-law).

What I learned on the learning curve of publishing: If you pay the CreateSpace team to format your manuscript they “lock” it. To make corrections you cannot submit changes on a self-service basis because it will send the system into a three-week, back and forth, telephone tagging, manager searching, frenzy of policy confusion. Yes you can. No you can’t. Call back on Monday.

You will NOT be able to make teeny-tiny changes to the manuscript without their help. Their help will cost an additional $79.00.

Good to know. Good to know. Now.

I liked having someone else do the formatting. I did. I really did. What I did not like was having no control over the finished product. But now I know, as I speed my way through the learning curve of 21st century publishing—also POD, PDF, HTML, HTTP, and other Babylonian mysteries. 

Linda (Curves Ahead) Zern 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Bonsai Kitten Boy

My youngest son, Adam, brought me a picture he’d printed from the Internet. It showed the squashed flat faces of kittens crammed inside glass jars and bottles. His eyes sparked with tears as he said, “This is so terrible. We have to do something about this.”

I took the picture and examined it. “What do you think this is, Sweetie?” Adam is my cat loving, tender-heart. 

“Can’t you see? They’re bonsai kittens. People grow kittens in jars so they grow deformed. It’s horrible. Bonsai kittens are just like those Japanese bushes.”

I looked at my teenaged child and thought about how to approach the subject of gullibility. He was well and truly upset. He was also well and truly duped.

I took it head-on. “Honey, think about this. How do you keep a little kitten alive inside a jar? Do you see feeding tubes? How about waste products? Or oxygen?”

But he saw what he saw, and seeing was believing. “Look!” He shook the pictures at me. “Look, Mom, it’s real.”

I tried again. “No. This is a hoax. Someone, somewhere, is laughing at your pain. Stop feeling and start thinking. You can’t grow a living kitten inside a jar into a jar shape. Think. How about a baby? Could you grow a baby inside a jar?”

I saw him struggle as doubts, questions, and reality filled his face—and then came chagrin—and now we were in truly dangerous territory. 

Chagrin is the slightly less ugly stepsister of embarrassment, both of which are close incestuous cousins of pride.

I tried to head off his wounded pride. “It’s really good photo-shopping. It is. It looks like bonsai kittens growing in weird shapes inside bottles. It does. But it’s not real.”

“Well . . . it would be a terrible thing if it were true!”

“Yes. Yes it would. But it’s not true.”

He shrugged and picked up his giant lump of a cat named Charlie and left the room.

For a long tortured minute, Adam was sure, and bonsai kittens were real—to him. 

WHAT I REALIZED: Reality is real. Perception is not reality, even when we are completely sure. Emotions are gut feelings, especially righteous indignation based on photo-shopped images of deformed kittens. Emotions can be full of the stuff that’s in our guts. Logic is a handy tool to have on speed-dial. Keep it real isn’t just a catchy slogan.

Bonsai kittens are not real.

Bonsai kittens are not real even if you are convinced they are real.

Bonsai kittens are NOT real even if a MAJORITY of Americans think that they are real.

So, in a week of swirling agendas, chasing the means that will justify the ends, I say, “Keep it real, my friends. Keep it real. And don’t let your wounded pride make ugly babies called embarrassment and chagrin.”

Linda (Kitten Heel) Zern

FYI: The word “Bon-sai” (often misspelled as bonzai or banzai) is a Japanese term which, literally translated, means “planted in a container”. This art form is derived from an ancient Chinese horticultural practice, part of which was then redeveloped under the influence of Japanese Zen Buddhism.

Thursday, June 9, 2016


 . . . took a break from writing, went to pre-heat the oven, wandered to the porch, started to clip hedges in the rain, weeds beckoned, started to pull out tired zinnias, watched a car slam on its brakes when the driver saw what I was doing, went back to weeding, thought about how bad ideas are like weeds, thought about writing a blog on weed pulling techniques, remembered the oven, ran inside, was relieved to remember I hadn't put the biscuits in, went back to writing.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016


My son-in-law, Phillip, has an irrational fear of becoming a hoarder. The scientific name for the irrational fear of becoming a collector of hoards is junkmuckerphobia. The biggest problem with his weird worry is that he likes to bring his junk to our house for disposal, often in a secret and clandestine manner. 

I have an irrational fear of his irrational fear.

His latest junk dump? The old wooden blades from his office ceiling fan. He brought the stupid things over to “burn in our fire pit.” That’s what he always says when we catch him. I’m going to burn those _____________ (fill in the blank) in the fire pit. Of course, he also sneaks old or annoying toys into the grandchildren’s “toy room” at our house.

“Hey!” I have been known to exclaim. “Where did this giant bucking bull toy come from? It looks like it could cause boo-boos or paralysis.” 

No answer.

So the fan blades appeared, and the next thing I know I have about twenty-seven children bringing the dusty, grimey things to me, wanting to know if they can duct tape them to their arms, so they could have “fan-arms.”

“Of course,” I said. “I’ll get the duct tape.”

I realized we had crossed some very weird parenting line when I heard Heather say, “No! No kid can have two fan-arms. One fan-arm per child.”

Ahhh . . . the rules you’ll have to make that no one ever tells you about when you bring that first darling baby home from the hospital.

One fan-arm per child, that’s the rule.

I taped old ceiling fan blades to various children’s arms and off they flapped. 

At one point, there was a fan-arm competition that consisted of two children squaring off so they could push their fan-arms against each other. A lot of spinning was involved. I don’t pretend to understand the fan-arm game.

The fan-arms were a big hit: cost minimal, danger threat-low, imagination factor-high, and fresh air exposure-maximum.

And when the fan-arm game got old and boring we burned the fan-arms in the fire pit, which made Phillip the junkmuckerphobic breath easier.

Coincidently, Sherwood the Poppy canceled our cable the day the children invented fan-arms—a win-win all the way around.

Linda (Duct Tape Forever) Zern

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