Wednesday, August 30, 2017


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:

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


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 
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