Douglas Arvidson is a past winner of the WICE/Paris Transcontinental International Short Story competition. His short fiction has been published in Paris, Prague, and in literary magazines in the United States and he was recently invited to be a staff writer for the Prague Revue, a cutting-edge, online literary journal ( The novels in his fantasy series, The Eye of the Eye of Stallion, include The Face in Amber, The Mirrors of Castaway Time, and A Drop of Wizard's Blood. His new novel, Brothers of the Fire Star, was selected as a finalist in the ForeWord Reviews 2012 Book of the Year national awards and as a finalist in three categories in the 2013 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards: Action Adventure Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Young Adult Fiction. It has become part of the pantheon of Pacific literature and is now included in school literature programs. Brothers of the Fire Star is an adventure story set in the Pacific during World War II and concerns two boys of different races and cultures who escape the island of Guam in a small sailboat when the Japanese army invades. They must then struggle to survive as they master the secrets of the ancient Pacific navigators. Appropriate for young adults as well as adult readers, Brothers of the Fire Star is available on Barnes & Noble, ( and Visit the author's website:

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Sailing and Writing: Charting the Fair Adventure of Tomorrow

This is our home, our back yard--the marina at Sumay Cove on the island of Guam. Vatna, our Hans Christian 33 cutter, is off in the distance, third from the right. We moor Med style, stern to the seawall with bow lines, port and starboard, run out to mooring balls. We have new shower/head facilties with clothes washers and dryers and storage cages. The Cove is a safe harbor; that is, its a good place to be during typhoons. Just outside the entrance to the Cove is Apra Harbor and just outside the harbor is the big, blue Pacific--or, more precisely, the Phillipine Sea where the water is gin clear, the diving spectacular, the fishing excellent. As you can imagine, its a pretty nice place to live aboard and to write. We've been living here for over nine years and who can imagine leaving such a paradise?
But that's what I did. Just this morning. I spent a few hours helping a young friend of ours sort out his charts. He's leaving at the end of the month, sailing south to the Admiralties and Papua New Guinea and then Bali. As we looked over these maps of the sea, some first drawn in the 1800's by the Royal British Navy, others by Japanese surveys in the 1920's, as we studied the fabulous, incredibly remote, infinitely varied achipelegoes just South of Guam, we realized that the sooner we leave the better. I felt my palms sweat, my mouth go dry, and my heart run a bit wild--too many places to see, too many islands to sail among, too many adventures to be had. Let's go, lets go, lets go now.
And so it is with writing. I've spend the past five years in a writer's paradise, of sorts--writing fantasy. For years I wrote short stories, literary pieces, high-minded sketches of human folly, for publication in literary magazines. I won an international writing competition in Paris, was published in the Prague Review, and in small literary magazines in the United States. But the holy grail of writing, the publication of a successful literary novel, eluded me. What to do? The advice in the writers' magazines was to try genre fiction and look for a small, independant press. It's an easier market to crack.
I spent the next three years plugging away at a fantasy novel. At first I thought it would be for young adults, but as I wrote, I felt the plot and style moving across that border between Young Adult and simply fanatasy for all ages. The end result, The Eye of the Stallion: The Face in Amber, can do just that--go either way. I sent the first three chapters and a query letter out to seven publishers, big and small. I started receiving rejection letters within two weeks. Had they even read the sample chapters? Of course not. One rejection postcard was intended to hurt (I use postcards for my SASE's). It had X's and O's handwritten on it--"hugs and kisses from NYC" it said. I wonder what a person like that would be like at sea on a dark and stormy night.
So, after ten months, I had collected five rejections and nothing else. I wrote the whole thing off and was trying to figure out another strategy. But then one day I opened my mailbox and found a letter from a small press in Santa Fe--Crossquarter Publishing Group. They realized it had been a long time, they said, but they liked the strong human element in my writing and if the manuscript was still available, they would like to see it. I boxed it up and sent it to them. A month later, the next letter came: Yes, we would like to move ahead with publication. They included a contract, standard stuff, which I reviewed, signed, and mailed back. The Eye of the Stallion: The Face in Amber, became Book I in a fantasy trilogy. It was published in December of 2005.
Then I found I was on a roll. I loved writing this stuff. No rules, have fun, just develop great characters and be consistent. It took only a year to write the sequel and last week I was told that Book II, The Mirrors of Castaway Time, had also been accepted and will be released in August. I sent that manuscript to them last June. They are a small house and a slow house and that's all right with me. They receive fifteen hundred manuscripts a year and choose just eight for publication. I felt honored. As soon as I had sent off the second book, I got going on Book III, which I'm calling A Drop of Wizard's Blood. I'm in the home stretch on that one and should finish it in the next week or two. I'll spend the summer on the re-write. So, with luck, I have three books out there and that will be a satisfying feeling.
But then, who knows. I was studying nautical charts this morning, exploring possibilties for adventure that made my blood run fast. If you're lucky, the same will be true with writing. So many ideas, so many places to explore, so many places to drop the anchor and look around for a while. My wife, Terry, and I plan on sailing away from this fine paradise next summer. Will go adventuring in our boat, we will sail it halfway around the world, back to our retirement home on the Cheasapeake Bay. I plan on going adventuring in my mind, too, writing my way through mysterious, figurative islands I have never seen, daydreaming and weaving from those daydreams adventures that will parallel the ones the sea will offer me.

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