Monday, November 27, 2017

Circa 1958

My Regular, Annual, Semi-Official Ghost Written Disclaimer


The Author as a Young Person

My name is from the 1950’s.  My age spots are from the wear-no-sunscreen ‘60s. My stretch marks are from the baby making ‘80s and my attitude is the culmination of fifty-nine years of listening to the big words coming out of the mouths of politicians, professors, popcorn vendors, and pompous pontificators that said one thing, did another and did not or do not deserve a second chance. Lovely rhetoric is lovely, but I’m more into stone, cold results.

Color me skeptical.

I was blogging before it was called blogging. It was called chatting over the back fence. I’ve been chatting over the back fence, once a week, for over thirteen years.

Here’s stuff that I’ve figured out—also my philosophy:

Sorting the silverware into individual slots for the convenience of fork users is weird. Throw it all in a drawer and let the moochers sort it out for themselves.

Folding sheets into tiny, tidy squares is a lot of effort for not much. Lump the silly things up and shove them in a laundry basket.

All the knobs on your kitchen cabinets DO NOT HAVE TO MATCH! I know. I know; radical, revolutionary talk fated to drive my son-in-law mad.

“They” are the worst possible source of information. “They” are probably the idiots that came up with the matching kitchen cabinet knob rule.

Chocolate covered raisins are the smartest food on earth.

Babylon is alive and well and trying to sell you something on Amazon—matching kitchen cabinet knobs.

Anarchy is like a two-year-old on a binky binge with a diaper full of pucky. Anarchy is for the birds. No. Even birds have more self-discipline than those self-proclaimed anarchists, crying for their binkies and flinging their own poo.

Being a selfish twit (i.e. wicked) makes you insecure and insecurity makes you fearful and being fearful makes you mean and mean people are selfish twits. Knock it off (i.e. repent).

The best cure for insult or reproach is to be able to 1) laugh at yourself 2) laugh at the people who make fun of your mismatched kitchen knobs and libertarian values 3) recognize “them” for the “they” that “they” be and 4) keep your knives sharp and your wit sharper.


Note:  The management is not responsible for the opinions expressed in this blog by Linda L. Zern with her 1950’s name and her stretch marks because the management is probably obsessing over getting the sheets folded into squares the size of postage stamps. Silly management.

Lin(duh) Zern (circa 1958)

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Audience is Everything

The audience gives it away. Before the first popcorn box dances across the screen, I already know what kind of movie I’ve paid way too much to see. The following is my rating system.

If my husband and I are sitting in an audience surrounded by blue hair, shoulder strap purses, and hearing aids, I know that I am in for a treat. The movies’ director will have a lyrical foreign-sounding name, and at some point, the elegant Helena Bohem Carter, wearing voluptuous hair extensions, will play tennis in a white Victorian dress and make witty, pithy remarks to an equally elegant man. My husband will fall asleep and twitch.

It will be a movie of civilized sophistication, fraught with undercurrents of frenzied, repressed emotions all wrapped in a tangle of smart dialogue. At some point, my husband will drool. At about the same time someone will complain loudly, “What did she say? I can’t hear a damn thing anyone is saying.”

I love these movies.

The second kind of audience in my rating system will be filled with couples. They will have cell phones, beepers, and palm-sized computers, and they will be very important people. Presumably, a couple of the couples will have jet-packs strapped to their backs, just in case they have to make a quick trip to the office. If the theatre experiences technical difficulties, they will not hesitate to bark out instructions to the technicians in loud voices and demand their money back. With this kind of audience, I know that something in the movie will explode, two somethings will collide—making one something sink—and two more somethings will get lucky. My husband sits up like a squirrel at these movies hoping to find inaccuracies to complain about—bitterly.

I love these movies.

The last rating audience is a group that I like to call the Teenybopper/Call-of-the-Lone Hormone-Crowd. My husband must be lured to these movies with the promise of smuggled movie candy. Once there, we clutch each other in fear and horror while scantily clad girls and pierced unruly boys call racy challenges to each other while shooting laser light pointers into strangers’ retinas. Remember, this is before the movie begins.

Once the movie starts, we will be regaled with multitude comedic situations involving every kind of body fluid, and, or body gas—by the audience and the actors. My husband always laughs the loudest of all at these movies, by throwing his head back and imitating a pirate of the Barbary Coast bent on rape and pillage.

I love watching my husband laugh at fifth-grade humor.

The movies I like best, cannot be measured by their audience. I'm happy when I walk into the theatre, one hand slick with grease from a medium sized popcorn, and the other hand sweating from a fruit punch, and I see moms and dads leading light-saber wielding kids to their seats. There are grandparents settling down next to grandchildren, girls and boys on dates and groups of friends squirming with anticipation; I know that I am at a George Lucas production. I sit back, relax, and wait to go to a galaxy, far, far away.

In the first Star Wars film I ever saw, and just recently watched again, everyone kept their clothes on, you knew the bad guys from the good guys, and you knew what they are fighting for. No one screamed profanity to prove that they were evil. All the villain had to do was breathe sinisterly through a mechanical helmet, and you got it. The heroes were flawed just enough. They had enough quirks and faults to be interesting, but they were not crippled by black psychosis. The black psychosis was saved for the villain. The violence seemed necessary and understandable, and in the end, good triumphed over evil, and the galaxy gets saved.

The audience at these movies is everybody. In these movies, I know that there will be enough action to keep my husband conscious, enough of a moral to inspire my children to loftier ideals, and enough of the hero’s journey to keep me satisfied.

I love these movies most of all.

Linda (Down in Front) Zern

Friday, November 17, 2017

SERIOUS THOUGHTS FOR NEXT YEAR!

My New Year's resolutions include 1) trap cats 2) buy dirt 3) bury horse and 4) get salt.

The cats were abandoned when my neighbor moved and neglected to take HIS CATS. They've set up a colony in my bushes, and scare people by rushing their ankles and hissing. I started throwing thanksgiving turkey carcasses at them, which they promptly dragged back to their bush lair. The cats must go. 

Dirt is harder to come by than one might think. The borrow pits are closed around here due to the lack of demand for dirt. I bought mine on the black dirt market. Well, kinda.

We own a horse that is older than "dirt," and every day he's still on his feet when I come out to feed is a good day. Unlike goldfish, you cannot flush a dead horse. There's planning involved--also backhoes.

And finally, the salt is my best friend's suggestion. She's pretty sure that the end is near. Well, for the horse, anyway.

Linda (Thinking Ahead) Zern

Monday, November 6, 2017

ANIMAL FARM



George Orwell’s book of the same title is a great book, a satire. Some call it an allegory. It’s not about animals. It’s possible this blog post isn’t about animals either.

The world has gone wild for animals, just check out Facebook. Goats scamper about in pajamas. Gerbils wear hats. Ducks waddle about while wearing bandanas. And cats . . . don’t get me started on cats. Every human emotion known to man can be demonstrated on the faces of the legions of cats that populate social media. I know. I’ve seen them. Happy cats. Sad cats. Mad cats. Grumpy cats. Well, you’ve seen it.

My husband and I live with animals, the kind that lives in coops and barns and pastures and not on Facebook. 

Wild animals haunt the wetlands and bogs that border . . . well . . . basically the entire state. The wild animals don’t wear clothes. I include this for informational purposes. Wild animals eat farm animals. It’s a natural fact. And everything eats our chickens, so, into the coop our chickens go, every night, for their own protection, and so we don’t have to bury the bloody, gory remains in the morning. Free range means free to be eaten by eagles, hawks, feral cats, coyotes, bobcats, possums, raccoons, and the neighbor’s dog.

Most of our chickens coop themselves. At night, they wander back into the safety of a roomy, re-enforced, hardware cloth draped impregnable chicken fortress. 

Yesterday, one of the hens forgot where she lived. My husband went after her, determined to save her clucking life. She began to squawk, loudly. A rowdy rooster hearing the hen’s distress ran out to take advantage, and when I say, “take advantage” I mean he thought he was going to get lucky. For the Facebook crowd, roosters are equal opportunity sex fiends. One rooster holds a hen down and his buddies, hearing her shriek, come running to take their turn. I am not kidding, and it’s not a video you’re going to see on social media. It’s the wild kingdom . . . 

The hen starts squawking. The rooster comes running, jumps on the goofy hen and proceeds to fulfill the measure of his creation. (IM me if you don’t know what this means.) My husband, taking advantage of the distraction, picked up both chickens, now wildly mating their brains out, and carries them to the coop. That rooster never took a breath as he floated through the air in the arms of my poor husband. Lust made that rooster blind, deaf, and dumb. 

I fell down, laughing.

And this is how “animals” behave. They eat. They drink. They look for opportunities to be merry. And tomorrow they will do it all over again until the neighbor’s dog gets them.

Linda (Hoot) Zern 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Case of the Missing Conversation

“Okay, let’s go.” My husband of thirty-plus years jangled car keys at me.

Surely the shock on my face could be seen from space.

“What are you talking about? Go where?”

My husband made that face he makes when he thinks that I’m being obtuse or uppity or stubborn. He makes that face a lot.

“Sherwood, I’m in my bathrobe. I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about or where you think that we are going,” I yipped.

I was, in fact, standing in my bathrobe—a fluffy yellow affair that I tied with a worn out purple poke-a-dot bathrobe belt because I had lost the belt to my present fluffy yellow bathrobe affair.  I happen to know that I looked like an out of work circus clown.

“We talked about it.” He was insistent.

The furrows between my eyes became trenches.

“We talked about it? In this life? Where my eyes open?” The trenches between my eyes collapsed into earthquake fault lines.

“Sure, you know, that time when we talked about it.”

“Honey, look at my face.”

He looked at my face.

“See this?” I said, pointing at my face. “This is shock. I could not be more shocked. Do you think that if we had talked about this I would look this shocked?”

I pointed to my feet.

“See these?” I wiggled my toes in my No-Nonsense socks from Walmart. “These are socks. I’m in my bathrobe, and I have no idea what you think we talked about. I am not dressed for going anywhere, nor will I be anytime soon.”

For the first time, he seemed unsure of the alleged conversation.

“Well, . . . maybe . . . you forgot.”

I re-tied my purple poke-a-dot belt and tipped my furrowed forehead at him.

“Maybe, and maybe you have conversations in your head that you think I can hear because you’re thinking extra loudly.”

His brow furrowed.The conversation deteriorated from that point, but at least I remember that it occurred in this dimension.
I appreciate that my husband and I have been blissfully wedded for thirty-plus years. I appreciate that he thinks we have reached a state of sync that means we can read each other’s minds. I appreciate ESP. I just wish it were true. Well, maybe next year.

Here’s to conversations that happen in real time and with audible words.

Linda (Read My Lips—Out Loud) Zern
 











Monday, September 25, 2017

The Case for Continued Hunkering


The saddest part of the end of hurricane season is the cessation of the use of the word hunker.

What a fabulous word and society only cracks it out and dusts it off when a soul-crushing, city-destroying hurricane is on its way. That's unfortunate. Very few words stand up to the word hunker in both multiple uses and varied meanings.

I've told the story before of the 'possum we found after it had crawled, crept, snuck into our garage only to stuff itself into the underside of a grandkid's riding toy. The 'possum was waiting for night to fall so it could stumble over to the cat's food and stuff itself stupid.

Our daughter, a thousand months pregnant, claimed that she'd seen the 'possum wobble into the garage and disappear into the bottom of the Happy Tots Pedal Truck. We didn't believe her. We thought she was drunk on pregnancy hormones. She wasn't.

When my husband tipped over the riding toy, a mammal with approximately ten-thousand teeth, snarled its howdy-do.

That toothy beast had hunkered down inside that riding toy. We poked the toy. We shook it. We rolled it over and over. That 'possum didn't budge. Finally, we had to turn the hose on it to pry it out of there. Soaked, miffed, and wildly uncomfortable the 'possum shuffled off to hunker down under the garden bridge, and that, Dear Readers, is a fine, fine example of what it means to hunker.

When hurricanes threaten, the word hunker flies around like a kid on a pedal truck. Get food, water, batteries, and some food for the cat because life, as you know it, will be like someone with a giant garden hose trying to pry you out of your safe place. The power will fail. Inside will be hotter than outside. Your air will cease to be conditioned. Day will turn to night. You will feel threatened, frightened, and annoyed but hang on tight unless you have a bridge you can scurry off to hunker under for a bit.

Love the word. We should use it for more stuff than killer storms:

Life is hard, but I think I'll hunker down and give it my best.

Hunker down and keep the faith.

Hunkering down, I refused to be offended.

They tried to shake me out of my faith and hope and charity, but I hunkered down.

You can't make me quit because I'm hunkered down like a 'possum stuffed under a garden bridge.

Move along; I'm hunkering down.

Or I'm getting ready for the next swirling monster of wind and rain so that I can hunker down when the storm howls.

Let's keep the hunkering going. That's all I'm saying.

Linda (Playing 'Possum) Zern            

-->

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

THE FIRE ANT TANGO

Attention: Fire Ant Advisory - Threat Level, Magenta

Fire ants are an imported insect species here. 

The word fire is not used arbitrarily. Fire ants are mean. They bite. They sting. Their mean stinging bites leave volcanic bumps that turn into pussy sores on your ankles that look a tad gross when you're wearing high heels and toenail polish. It’s a condition commonly referred to as fire ant ankle.

Fire ants were imported from Hades, just south of the river Styx, on that boat piloted by the dog with the three heads, or maybe it was a river in the Amazon via a boat piloted by an anaconda. It’s possible fire ants arrived in a potted plant from Costa No Where-O. Actually, there is a rumor out there that fire ants were brought to the United States by the Department of Defense to be used as a top-secret weapon of mean-spirited destruction against the former Soviet Union, but they escaped. Now they live in my yard—the ants not the Soviets.

The way our family sees it, we only have two options; we take the fight to the fire ants or attempt appeasement. That's it. Those are the choices.

We've tried appeasement. We sent a diplomatic representative out with a white flag to the ant’s main stronghold, an ant mound the size of a wading pool out by the oak tree. The cat volunteered. He carried that white flag of appeasement and civilized diplomatic moderation like a trooper. 

We were prepared to make concessions. We were prepared to leave small offerings of rice, soggy cereal, and grease on a flat rock, daily. We were prepared to sacrifice a virgin. We were prepared to live and let live, well . . . after the virgin sacrifice, of course. 

In exchange, the fire ants had to promise not to build outposts or forward operating bases under the walkways in the butterfly garden, or the crack in the front porch stoop. They also had to promise not to bite the granddaughter when she stomps in the middle of one of their mounds and then forgets to run away. 

(Her dad showed her how to stomp on anthills and then run away, but she's not two yet. Her timing is a little off, and she forgets the running away part.) 

It was a good offer made in civilized good faith.

The fire ants took the cat hostage and ate the flag. An un-named, unknown, anonymous source confirmed (maybe) that the cat had been water boarded. Did I mention the cat came back without fur on his tail? The ants sent their counter offer back to us tied to the cat's bare-naked tail. 


The counter offer read:

MOVE or DIE!
Signed the Ants

So now it's war.

My mission in this conflict is to ride around the yard on a John Deere lawn tractor pouring down ant poison, out of a plastic Taco Bell cup, like napalm. We call it Operation "Kill the Ants with Twenty Dollar Bags of Poison," or "Boom-Boom." We are using the latest advances in fire ant eradication technology—fire ant killer granules—danger, danger, poison, poison. 

Take that, you little terrorists. It's a poison that promises to kill the queen and the colony, to prevent further colonies, and to bring peace to the earth, but as far as I can tell the fire ants love the stuff. They collect it, tote it home, store it, and save it up for Cinco De Mayo when they throw a party and get "real loco" while dancing the fire ant tango. 

News from the front could be better.

So if you come to see us—stay alert! Report suspicious activities: abandoned boxes, packages, and moving bits of nothing. Try not to linger too long in open, unsecured locations outside the green zone. Keep your weapons locked and loaded. And, soldier, if you have to stomp on an enemy fort, do not forget to RUN AWAY!

General Linda (Bombs Away) Zern






Monday, August 7, 2017

DITCH THE BRA

When I’m asked on an application about my profession, I always fill in the blank on the form with the words writer/author/illustrator and Dazzle Queen of the Universe. No one ever comments. I’m not sure anyone reads anything these days, especially applications. Even so, I still keep writing, because like it says on those forms I am a writer, and real writers write, regardless of what the universe is or is not reading. 

If I’m ever invited to discuss my creative process, I know exactly the kind of advice I’m going to share with other budding wordsmiths. 

1) Ditch the Bra: Writing is a sedentary process, performed while sitting in a chair or, in my case, while lazing in bed. Either way, you’ll spend your day bent in half at the waist. I predict that at some point you will slip/slide into a much worse if not wretched posture, curving into the human bodies' version of a semicolon. And when the story gets cooking you may wind up hunched over the keyboard like a deflated balloon. Save yourself time, pain, and distraction and take your bra off before it cuts you in half. 

2) Weed the Garden: Typing is stressful and repetitive. Fingers get tired, stiff, and lumpy. Pulling weeds is a low-cost exercise that strengthens typing fingers. It does not require specialized gym equipment or a personal trainer. Fresh, outside air will blow out all the silly adverbs and metaphors, and the weeding will build finger muscles. The corn will thank you. It’s a win-win. 

3) Know Your Writing History: As far as I can tell the best place to write a book is in prison: there’s plenty of personal time, distractions are minimal, and the atmosphere is full of dramatic tension. Get arrested. Absolutely tons of books have been written in prison. If you behave, you may be allowed to work in the prison garden, pulling weeds. See above. 

4) Exercise Your Butt: While in prison do a lot of squats and dolphin kicks. Otherwise, your butt is going to spread and start to resemble the front seat of a minivan from all that sitting and writing. And it’s going to feel like you have two cement blocks taped to your tailbone. Trust me on this.

5) Shop Quick: If you aren’t lucky enough to be in prison and have to write on a laptop in your bed make sure that you register on your favorite online shopping site so that you don’t have to waste time filling out a lot of applications, and you can buy stuff with one click. You’re going to shop; let’s be honest. Just shop quick, that’s all I’m saying.

This post is a preliminary outline I’ve been working on for when I’m asked to speak at retirement homes and special school assemblies all over Osceola County. Of course, by then I’ll be filling out that blank line on the applications with the words, FAMOUS Dazzle Queen of the Universe. 

Linda (Dazzle Queen) Zern 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

ENDLESS ABS





I am a writer-slash-author-slash-weaver of dreams-slash-word count monger. By my latest word count research and tax payer funded scientific study, I’ve written easily half a ca-billion words, or as a nameless, quasi-supportive relative by marriage once commented on my writing efforts, “That’s a lot of words.”

“Ya’ think?”

After a while, when the words stack up I have to decide what to do with them. I can send them off to an agent that may or may not have the same attitude as my quasi-supportive relative and will want fifteen percent commission right off the top or DIY.

DIY is code for doing it yourself or don’t imagine yaks. It also means that at some point I have to decide to stuff all those words into a manuscript, have someone tell me how many of those words are misspelled, and then figure out a cover to wrap around the whole steaming heap of words.

Searching around the Internet I’ve noticed that a lot of independent authors like to wrap their words in book covers with headless, legless torso people. It’s just endless, six-packed, muscled abdominal skin that stops just above the genitalia and right below the Adam’s apple. 

My problem is that I don’t write stories about headless, legless torso people. All the people in my books have heads and legs. So cover design can be a bit of a struggle. 

People ask me what I write. Words, people. Words. Oh, you mean genre. My answer to that is yes. 

Inspirational? Yes. Happy day.

Romance? Yes to love.

Historical fiction? Yes, and it’s groovy.

Fantasy? Yes. Yes. Yes.

Children’s Chapter Books? Yes, little dreamers.

Young Adult? Righteous, dude. 

Action Adventure? “Sure thing,” she said breathlessly.

Humor? I’m writing it right now.

The sum total of which is that marketing and cover design is an endless challenge and makes my abs cramp. I’m looking for versatility, imagination, and smart. I know. I know. I’m swimming upstream without legs and arms. But still, I paddle.

My newest project is a sexy (that’s a word that sells stuff) fantasy set in the rural countryside of Central Florida. There’s a gryphon and refugees and magic and a boy (with abs) and a girl (with abs) and . . .

Linda (Abby Normal) Zern
amazon.com/author/lindazern



Tuesday, July 25, 2017

ANOTHER THEORY OF RELATIVITY - A Classic

**Bobwhite sits next to me in my creative writing class. The only thing that makes Bobwhite angry are people who believe in absolutes. He makes this declaration with absolute certainty. 

It is a declaration that makes me mildly uncomfortable because, of course, I only believe in absolutes.

I absolutely believe that certain teenagers who tell you that they are “ready and able” to drive the family van, will, in fact, run that van off the road at fifty-miles per hour through a barbed wire cow fence—at the first available opportunity--causing four thousand, two hundred dollars worth of damage and an ulcer epidemic.

I absolutely believe that two-year olds, left on the back porch by themselves, when told not to eat the dog food, will eat the dog food after soaking it in the dog’s water.

I absolutely believe that college students, who do not pay taxes, car insurance, tuition, or their own meal allowances, are excited about the re-distribution of wealth—mostly other people’s.

Bobwhite believes that human beings don’t even know why they do what they do, but after they do it, they try to figure out why they’ve done what they did, so they’ll know stuff about why they do what they do for future doings. I don’t pretend to understand that sentence, but it's the kind of thinking that comes from being told that chemistry rules the world. 

He believes that human beings are driven by chemicals, genetics, and reality television, and (for no apparent historical precedent) that the future looks brighter than the past, because of all the information available online, of course. If we can just stuff enough information into people, they will not want to rip-off the old folks' pension plans or sell drugs to the known world. 

I remain skeptical—also menopausal. I believe that thieves with a lot of education are just educated thieves or Enron execs. 

Bobwhite’s basic premise is that human beings have no actual ability to exhibit will power or self-control above that of the average poodle without the ability to Google. 

Wanting to put his theory to the test, I asked him, “Do you mean to tell me that if I get the urge to smash your head in with a brick it won’t be my fault, but a combination of menopausal hormones, urban blight, and Irish angst. 

Bobwhite said, “Exactly.”

When I get into these deep philosophical discussions the other students sit in a semi-circle starring at me to see if I will stroke out. 

Turning to the semicircle of doom I said, “Girls, go get me a brick. I want to test out Bobwhite’s theory.”

They laugh.

I am serious.

Oh, those college kids are so adorable, but they’ve got a lot to learn. It’s true that the two-year old will eat the dog food, but she won’t eat it forever. It’s also true that teenagers shouldn’t be allowed to drive until they’ve joined the army or the Peace Corp. The truest absolute of all is that the fuzzy-wuzzy thinking of the young and freshly educated will sharpen right up as soon as someone they are closely related to decides it’s a hilarious idea to drive around with a fake bomb in the trunk of the family car.  True story. Happened to a friend of mine.

Linda (Absolutely Me) Zern 

** Name has been changed because I am not an absolute dweeb.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

A QUICKIE: Postings That Are Short and Sweet

SPACE COAST WRITERS' GUILD MONTHLY MEETING:  The author, Linda L. Zern, singing the praises of active review gathering for your book launch. amazon.com/author/lindazern

Monday, July 10, 2017

GRAMMAR HAPPY

Mark Twain wrote a beautiful essay about “Two Ways to See a River.” He complained that by becoming an expert at something and while you do gain knowledge, that expertise comes at the sacrifice of wonder. It’s a beautiful piece of writing because it happens to be true.

Becoming a writer with hundreds of thousands of words in your portfolio is like that. It gets harder and harder to read a book riddled with examples of author intrusion. (See! Says the author! Between the lines--sort of! What I’m telling you in this part of the story is that this is the bad guy, who is so terrible that he eats kittens! I mean it! Nod your head if you get it.) Or when an author uses an excessive use of attributes and adverbs, she interjected snidely, moistly, or urgently.

But it gets worse. You start hearing the flaws not just in the written word but also in the speechifying of regular people you’ve been married to for decades—namely spouse types.

For example:

My husband of thirty-plus years, the world-renowned computer analyst, has an expression he uses over and over again when he’s losing an argument with me. 

He likes to say, “Oh, get off it!” It’s his favorite point to my counter-point. 

All I can think when he uses this phrase during a marital tiff is that the subject ‘you’ is implied, as in, "Oh, you, get off it!"

But doesn't he know that you is a genuinely vague pronoun? So vague that I assume he’s talking to himself and not to me when he uses it. You who? Getting off of what? See the problem?

I can imagine that what he's saying in the heat of the debate is something like this. “Oh, Sherwood, get off it!”

Yeah, how about that, Sherwood? Please note: My husband's first name is Sherwood--like the forest. Crazy right? Get off of that.

And his use of the verb “get,” is also extremely weak in this sentence. Get is one of the weakest of the verbs. My advice to my husband to jazz up his prickly but vague command to me as he goes down in angry flames is to strengthen that puny verb by turning the word get into an action verb of the rip-roaring kind.

“Oh, Sherwood, drive off it!”
“Oh, Sherwood, flip off it!”
“Oh, Sherwood, fling off it!”
“Oh, Sherwood, shove off it!”

While we're at it, what about that pronoun it? What it? Who's it?

Concrete nouns are the building blocks of a rude, thorny sentence, so I’d suggest replacing that pronoun with something sharp-edged and brittle—something resembling a chunk of word cement. 

Maybe something like this:

“Oh, Sherwood, pole vault off that Saguaro cactus.” Or “Oh, Sherwood, shove off that red hot poker.” But this takes us into the land of adjectives and advanced description—and that’s a tightrope I’d rather not walk right now.

So, like Mark Twain, I’ve lost the wonder and awe of my husband’s forceful, manly instructions to me during a verbal brawl, and I can only register the grammar funk of his dopey sentence.

Thank you, Mark Twain, for helping me understand the price of knowledge. And like Mr. Twain, I appreciate the irony of loss and gain. 

“Since those days [as a riverboat captain] I have pitied doctors from my heart. What does the lovely flush in a beauty's cheek mean to a doctor but a "break" that ripples above some deadly disease? Are not all her visible charms sown thick with what are to him the signs and symbols of hidden decay? Does he ever see her beauty at all, or doesn't he simply view her professionally, and comment upon her unwholesome condition all to himself? And doesn't he sometimes wonder whether he has gained most or lost most by learning his trade?” [Mark Twain, “Two Ways to See a River”]

Ahhh, Mr. Twain, those poor doctors, and computer systems analysts . . .

Linda (Grammar Witch) Zern
To Find More of Ms. Zern's Work:  amazon.com/author/lindazern

Saturday, July 8, 2017

POOL RULES

Our sandbox is sometimes fifteen feet high. There are friendly goats to pet. The swings fit one to twelve children. “Hideouts” and “forts” are freely constructed and outfitted all over the property. Fun is what we do.

There are also snakes, bugs, and fire ants. Branches fall from trees. Animals stampede. Mud, muck, and swamp encroach. Thistles sting. Florida is the semi-tropics after all.

In the spirit of summer high jinks and mud hole jumping, I’ve compiled a Zern Farm release form and a list of pool rules. (Please Note: We don’t have a pool.)

THE RULES

If you come to my house, do NOT wear flip-flops. Your feet will not be protected from random piles of animal dung by your “comfortable” footwear. 

If you come to my house, do NOT wear flip-flops. Fire ants enjoy free rides on flip-flops. It’s a scientific fact.

If you come to my house, do NOT wear flip-flops. Stinging nettles, pigweed, and sand spurs do not respect your “comfortable” footwear. I do not respect your “comfortable” footwear. 

If you come to my house, do NOT wear your brand new, bedazzled superhero t-shirt. Stinging nettles, pigweed, and sand spurs grow in DIRT, which is dirty, also grubby. You will get dirty. Your clothes will get dirty. Dirt will touch you in a myriad of ways. Dress accordingly.

If you come to my house prepare to be booed if you proclaim yourself “bored.” Only boring people (or teenagers) are bored at my house. If you are bored prepare to be given a shovel or a post hole digger and put to work.

If you come to my house prepare to be hot. It’s Florida. Duh.

If you come to my house, understand that animals will be roaming about doing what animals do. Yes, my buck goat stinks. He stinks for a reason. He is not confused as to his gender or life’s work. He lives to eat and make little goats.

If you come to my house be aware that tree bark is scratchy, tree climbing not without hazard, and chiggers live in tree moss. Bring Bandaids.

Random Warnings: 

BEWARE! THE YAYA BITES. 

Don’t make me traumatize you! 

Fight at your own risk.

And if you turn over something to look for worms or beetles or other wiggly creatures then, when you are done, turn that log, stepping stone, or lawn chair back over. Leave things the way you found them.

Sincerely, The Management

Linda (Sharp-Tooth) Zern 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

DOOM STARTS WITH D

I’m a writer. I write about life, love, truth, and conflict. I can imagine just about any eventuality given enough time and quiet. It’s a problem. 

When one of my gang is late for a family meeting, dinner, or activity, I can have them stripped naked, bleeding from their temples, and thrown in a ditch before I’ve set the table. I can’t help it. It’s a job hazard. 

My imagination is an excellent asset, except when it’s not. 

When creating a story, an author is encouraged by the gods of writing to take her beloved characters, chase them up a tree, and then throw rocks at them. Sometimes those beloved characters get stuck up in that tree, and the author has to figure out how to get them out of there. If a rock hits them in the head, they fall out of that tree dead.

What? It happens. In my brain.

After writing my first book in the Strandline Story Series (Beyond the Strandline) I had an advanced copy reader email me and ask, "But you're such a nice lady, how can you write such terrible things--and about children?"

Because, when writing apocalyptic grid collapse scenarios there are a lot of people up trees, even children. If the lights should go out, electric quits flowing, and the pumps shut off the world will stop being quite so fast food convenient and friendly. It's said that the US is seventy-two hours away from anarchy because that's when the food runs out. It's a genre that lends itself to all the troubles necessary to write intense, realistic fiction. Food isn't automatic. Water is life and death. Enemies are endless. Sex is serious business--again. 

Prepper fiction is a target rich environment for an author.

Fiction creates an opportunity for readers to explore life events vicariously, to work through trouble and tragedy by looking through the window of a novel into the lives and troubles of characters who've been run up a tree. It is a safe way to prepare, to process, to contemplate possibilities. 

My family thinks I'm a doomsday diva, claiming that I've probably dug a secret bunker someplace, where I've stockpiled huge mounds of dehydrated broccoli. No. But if I had dug a secret bunker, I'd hide it under the foundation of the barn and use old freezers as waterproof storage units, but it would be hard because the water table is pretty high in Florida so I'd have to figure out how to keep my bunker dry . . . 

See? Up a tree, with people throwing rocks.

Don't think it could happen? Neither did the Venezuelans, the Syrians, the Bosnians, Europe after Hitler, the Ukraine after communism . . . 

Linda (Read More Books) Zern 

Friday, June 16, 2017

For Sale

Facebook is a marvelous work and a wonder, full of opinions, ideas, politics, and philosophy. Everyone is talking. A lot of folks are trash talking. Most people are talking at each other, rather than to each other. Some jokers are frothing at the mouth, and still others don’t talk at all, they just eavesdrop.

When in the history of this world have more people been talking?

The problem: Society has, maybe, never been more uncivil or paranoid.

The answer, according to everyone on Facebook, is that more talking is needed. Facebookers call it dialogue but really that’s just a fancy word for talking. The conventional wisdom is that more talking is needed, and then when we reach some level of excessive talking a wormhole of cosmic understanding will open and all will be well.

Hmmmmm . . . not seeing it.

A Facebook friend of a friend of mine, of anonymous acquaintance, (you don’t know them so quit trying to guess) recently left my church, trashed my leaders, and castigated my beliefs. There was a lot of talking. Please understand; I stand firmly in the camp of freedom: religion, speech, choices. 

Your right to talk is sacred to me, but don’t be surprised if I talk back. My friend talked and talked and talked, but there was no reaching of some beautiful wormhole of cosmic understanding. There was no ranting and no raving but there was also no miraculous discovery of common ground. Sad. But true. It’s life and living and I respect that.

Want to know when the conversation got moderate? When the friend of my friend, who is someone no one knows, started selling stuff and suddenly, the agenda changed: You have what I want, and I make what you need. Let’s make a deal. And boom! The world got a little more civil.

If the world wants civil, then sell more stuff. It’s amazing how thoughtful people become when they want your money or your circuit boards or your business. Trade tempers the temper. Historians understand the importance of goods and services that trade hands, open borders, and broaden horizons.

“Trade was also a boon for human interaction, bringing cross-cultural contact to a whole new level.” (Live Science, Heather Whipp)

America has always been a nation of shopkeepers. It kept us civil. It kept us polite. It keeps life personal. Small business keeps us united. Keep that in mind when folks talk, talk, talk about bigger and bigger centralized government. 

I have heard that the rule of thumb for those on Facebook, doing business of one sort or another, is to not say anything on social media you wouldn’t say at a cocktail party before the drinking.

Of course, there are ALWAYS exceptions to the rule and people who feel free to trash talk regardless of what they’re selling in their lemonade stands: rock stars, comedians, talking heads, and other curmudgeons. 

Let the free market decide.

Linda (Fifty Percent Off) Zern 




Tuesday, June 13, 2017

E is for Everybody

I hate technology. As soon as I figure out Facebook, here comes Twitter, or Pitter, or Pat, or whatever. I spend a major part of my waking life trying to master the latest method of embarrassing myself in public—online. It’s exhausting.

For ten years, I’ve been posting, emailing, and flying our family flag, in written form, from the flagpole of public humiliation—many find my observations humorous, a few have been offended, and a couple of people have threatened legal action. Several individuals have wondered if my disclosures damage my children’s delicate psyches—not if I pay them a dollar every time their name is mentioned.

I recently joined an online writer’s website where you can post your work, read other writer’s stuff, and introduce oneself to a larger audience. I tried writing a brief introductory biography, but my life and history defied the E rating (E is for everybody) necessary to post a general site wide introduction. I got smacked down by the automated-techno word police.

Here’s my rejected online BIO:

Writing is in my blood for the following reasons: I am of the southern persuasion; moonshine and madness run through my family tree like freckles on a redhead; murder, betrayal, and abandonment were family traditions in some branches of the tree. Family rumors speculate that wild dogs raised several of the long dead ancestors and a couple of individuals were suspected of and arrested for the theft of poultry—no word on convictions.
It is my firm belief that if I don’t write I’ll become a chicken-stealing drunk. When I read anything by William Faulkner, I wonder when he had time to peek through the windows of my family history and write about the nimrods he found there, and my favorite author is Shirley Jackson because she wrote a book about her family called “Life Among the Savages.” 

Here’s why my BIO was rejected: 

An E-rated Intro is suitable for everyone of any age. There are absolutely no references to sex (other than gender), drugs (legal/illegal), alcohol, violence, cursing (of any kind), derogatory names or any combinations thereof. These titles are displayed for members who have their rating preferences set to 18+ and below.

Here’s my E-rated, revised BIO:

See Jane write. Jane loves to write and write and write. Write Jan write. See Jane write about Dick. See Jane write about butterflies. Fly free butterflies. Oh no! Run Dick. The butterflies have fangs. Run Dick run. Too late, the butterflies have ripped Dick’s throat out. Sad Dick. Sad Jane.

Oops! Still trying . . . 

Linda (Name that Nimrod) Zern 
To read more from L. L. Zern see  
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