Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Passing of Arthur C. Clarke

Copyright 2008

Gazing at the ebony canvas
stretching unfathomable into nine billion
he stands on the Sri Lankan shore

Sitting at the table
creating worlds within worlds
the end of childhood
the rendezvous
the odyssey
geosynchronous visions.

Grasping the ungraspable
thinking the inexplicable
living in a quiet place
on a small planet
in an obscure solar system
in galaxy number nine billion and one.

The gift of new clarity,
was laid at our feet and
the hope of tomorrow
the majestic seer.

May he rest in peace
with supernova
illuminating his path
to brighter worlds

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Featured IAG Author

Each week this blog will feature a different author from the Independent Authors Guild group, of which this writer is a member. The people in this group have been extraordinarily supportive of my work and have provided extensive reviews, links on web sites, and other kindnesses. I wanted to return the favor in a small way.

I have read the work of many of these writers and reviewed some of them as well. Many have considerable talent and have not yet been recognized by the mainstream traditional publishers. Some are self published, like myself. Others are published by small presses without the clout of the major houses. All that I have encountered have been sincere and serious about their work.

I trust this new feature will inure to the benefit of both the featured authors as well as the readers of this blog. You may discover hidden literary gems and exciting new talent among this group.

The first featured author is Dianne K. Salerni. Ms. Salerni started a forum on for self published and small press authors of historical fiction. I joined in the discussion and it evolved into the Independent Authors Guild. Ms. Salerni deserves a lion's share of the credit for bringing this group together. Many have become friends. I believe all have benefited from the information, comraderie and sometimes commiseration this group has facilitated.

Like independent films, or indies, independent authors and publishers have to scramble for attention, respect and, yes, sales of their work. It does not come easy. 100,000 books are published each year in the U.S. Only a small handful become best sellers. Only a relatively small minority sell more than 1,000 copies. There are many fine books that never see the shelf of a bookstore.

Conversely, famous authors can put out almost anything and find a broad audience. They don't even have to be writers. They just have to be famous. Witness all the books published for people like talk show hosts, sports figures, celebrities, etc. Few have much value. Even fewer are written above an eighth grade level.

Good writing is an art. It is often referred to as a "craft," as though it is akin to basket weaving. Excellent writing is far more involved, subtle, and creative than craft. It is truly art, because the work, if it is fiction, is created from whole cloth. At its best, it is not regurgitated nor recycled. It is new and fresh and it takes the reader to another time and place.

Independent Authors Guild is an effort to support and encourage the efforts of fledgling writers who too often are ignored by the traditional publishing industry, which struggles for sales in a shrinking pool of readers, and therefore has to ruthlessly select what it thinks will sell enough books to cover the cost of production, printing, and publicity and generate a profit.

They also guarantee the bookstores that they will take back any unsold books. This is very risky and very expensive. That is why traditionals must be so selective. Many receive literally hundreds of manuscripts each month, while publishing only a small handful at best. The rest find the slush pile, otherwise known as file 13. Unfortunately the baby is often tossed out with the bath water. It is not quality the publishers seek, it is broad appeal and salability. And their judgement is obviously far from infalable. It is a terrible dilemma for unknown writers seeking an audience for their work.

Kudos to all those who write, because it is what they must do.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Speak Softly

Barry Yelton

Please don’t shout
the night is still
day is over
and hope.

Now is the time
for quietness
for peace,

She lies so still there
swaddled in silk
with flowers
and family

“The wind passes over it
and remembers it
no more.”

And yet I remember so much
days of hopeful youth
when she sang to me
talked with me
loved me

like no other ever will.

Speak softly now, the angels come
upon clouds of startling light
to take my mother

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

This is No Boy Scout Trail

Barry Yelton

From the moment we start up the forty degree gradient
our feet slipping on the wet leaves and rolling twigs

I know this hike was planned by Satan

We struggle up the steeps for three hundred yards
then the trail moderates for a quarter of a mile before the switchbacks

More fun to be had on the switching, rock climbing, root grabbing
seep laced trail. Am I sure I want to do this?

The first backpack is always the toughest. They say it gets easier.
Today seems to go on forever, until I walk 100 feet then stop and pant
and lean over, hands on my thighs, my thousand pound pack
shoving me forward, my heart pounding jack hammer strokes
not good for a man of 54, who’s eaten too many Big Macs
and sat behind a desk for too many years.

My more fit companion is patient. He stops, takes pictures and smiles knowingly.
We aim for a summit seven miles and 3,000 vertical feet distant
We are not going to make it. Let me rephrase...I am not going to make it.

So we stop and drop our packs on some conveniently placed boulders
An outcropping on the mountain side made for an exhausted hiker.
My partner scouts ahead and leaves me in the bear infested forest
(Was that something moving down the trail?)

He returns after what seems three hours with good and bad news
A good campsite for the night, but a steep scramble off the trail
We take it.

I feel better. Night falls, we eat potatoes and onions, grilled on a camp stove
The dark envelops us enfolding our universe
The air gets cold, early April at 5,000 feet in the Blue Ridge
We watch a blazing illegal campfire a half mile down the mountain side
and though tempted, we don’t build one

Settling in to the tent for the night, the wind whispers up the mountain side
singing a post modern melody as old as the moon
the bag is warm, the leaves underneath are soft
quiet conversation ebbs, as sleep comes on the final tide

Feeling Like Adolph Menjou Redux

Barry Yelton

I like the snags.

Did I tell you that?

I saw a light at the summit of the mountain
when clouds tagged the ridges
and sunlight played silly games
on the slopes

The light was bright, moving slightly
A star? Maybe but it seemed too close
A hiker? With a 10 Million candlepower lantern if so

No the light did not come from this side
of the divide...
Far over, it came, far over where
fairies fly in formations like bombers

And dreams are more commonplace than here
And people speak well of one another
and hope is not a four letter word
that rhymes with dope.

I walk toward the light, my legs burning
my heart burning
the incline is steep, the rocks impede my path
but still, I must touch it

The light on the mountain
that comes for over there

Then again, maybe I won’t, yes I will
The light can’t avoid me