Genuine California Asphalt

So, this here photo is of real, genuine California asphalt. And boy is it ever in bad shape. This photo is of the road next to my house. There’s no base rock under the road. No proper foundation, underpinning, whatever you want to call it.

They (the mysterious, ever-present, ubiquitous they) laid the asphalt right on top of dirt. What does that get you? A bad road.

That’s a workable metaphor for California these days. My amazing state is in such bad shape. I think, if you had to shoehorn California into the Lord of the Rings, it would be the area directly around Isengard.

Stratospheric housing prices that no one can afford. Homeless people everywhere, doing the things that should be done within homes. Rampant crime as the criminally-inclined stroll into stores and go shopping while skipping the whole check-out-and-pay part of the equation.

Public schools are in the proverbial toilet. And it’s a low-flow toilet, because our lizard overlords in Sacramento decree we must use low-flow toilets in order to conserve water (because they haven’t spent a dime on building water projects in the last crazy number of years, despite all the water bonds they keep passing, to the tune of billions).

So what do people do? They just flush that darn low-flow toilet several times to achieve proper passage. Which is what happens in public schools. They just graduate the kids on up, even though they can’t do math at a sensible level, write an essay to save their lives, or understand, let alone apply, any kind of logic to the various situations that life throws their way.

We will now interrupt our programming with a photo of a field of Brussels sprouts growing next to my house. Who is going to eat all these little cabbages of sadness?

Good-bye California. This is one of those long, slow good-byes where we all end up yawning our way through the last few years of the demise. Nero fiddling in slow-motion, that sort of thing.

How do you create in that kind of atmosphere? Well, one of the vital things is that you keep your sense of humor. I’m pretty sure I still have mine. In fact, I just got paid to use my sense of humor in a writerly sort of way, and the results will go public fairly soon. So, yeah, got my sense of humor; I think it’s in the top left-hand drawer of my desk at home.

Pro tip: hanging onto your sense of humor is vital for whatever crazy situation you find yourself in: decaying state of California, war, monitor lizard attack in the Indonesian jungle, IRS audit, colonoscopy, etc. If you lose your sense of humor, it’s time to hang up your hard hat and head home.

It’ll be interesting to see where California is in the next ten years. I’m not holding my breath, as that would cause me to expire, even though the reduction in exhaled carbon dioxide would apparently help save the planet.

In the meantime, I’m going to keep on writing and reading and playing guitar. I just wish I could find the next Mark Twain, PG Wodehouse or Richard Powell. They just don’t seem to make ’em like that anymore.

Why?

This is an image of my mailbox, waiting for a copy of a good book to read. Good books are like oxygen, Dvorak’s New World Symphony, fine Swiss chocolate and a peaceful evening indoors with a light rain on the roof, all rolled into one. But very portable.

Dungeon Raiders on Kindle Vella

Calling all epic fantasy readers and dungeon raiders!

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Amazon just started publishing episodic stories via what they are calling Kindle Vella. Oddly enough, you can’t read them on Kindles, but only on the Kindle app (either iPhone or on your laptop/desktop). Seems strange that they didn’t add the function to actual Kindles, but I imagine they’ll do that in the future.

Who knows what else the future holds? Sharks with laser beam eyes, wormholes through space, time travel, shrink-wrapped vacations, personal mountains, pet dragons, the disappearance of humor?

I’ve been tinkering for years with a story called The Dungeon Raiders. It’s about a farm boy (of course–it’s a time-honored trope, plus, I’m a farm boy myself) named Ben who ends up joining a band of adventurers who make their money plundering old ruins. There’s a bit more to the story than that, but that’s the basic idea. It has elves, dwarves, various monsters of many different kinds, a cantankerous old wizard, lots of treasure, curses, pirates, lost kingdoms, doors into other dimensions and realities, femme fatales, some romance (I’m not great with writing romance, but I try to include it here and there–bear with me), fights, chases, escapes, good food, some bad food, dragons, you name it. And a wicked step-mother, of course.

Anyway, I’ve started putting the story up on Kindle Vella in episodes. Kindle Vella only allows a maximum of 6,000 words per episode, so they really are more like mini episodes. Please check it out if you like such stories…