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:

Friday, August 31, 2007

Contemplating the Next Project: Getting a Grip on the Creative Process

This is a traditional sailing canoe used by Carolinian islanders for the past few thousand years. In them, they can sail over hundreds of miles of open ocean navigating using only the stars, waves, and sea life to navigate.

In an earlier post, I wrote briefly about this and published the photo below of me at the helm of one, but now its time to get serious as regards writing about it. My next book, this year's project, is an adventure story concerning traditional sailing and navigating in the western Pacific.

So the process starts like this: I've learned a lot about traditional navigation and sailing in the past seven or so years as a member of the Traditional Seafarers Society here on Guam, but I've got a long way to go as regards a more profound understanding of island society and culture. I'm lucky to have all this at my finger tips; I can immerse myself in it. Today is Saturday (it's still raining--pouring--has been all week), but I'm planning on driving up to the utt (thatched hut) that is the meeting place for the Society and get reacquainted with my old friends. I'll pick up some more books about island history, life, culture, and start making notes. On my long daily walks (I'm up to six miles nearly every day), I can start to visualize plot ideas, let scenes blossom in my mind's eye (that's what it feels like--a flower blossoming), and get excited about all the possibilities that the imagination offers.

Right now, though, I'm procrastinating getting out my SCUBA gear and diving the boat. The bottom needs cleaning, but I don't like diving in the rain because on cloudy days the water is dim and it's hard to see what I'm doing. But, get a move on, Dougie, and get it done.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Writer's Thinking Summer: Re-seeding the Cognitive Playground

Here is the view from the galley. I'm back on Guam and sitting in the belly of our boat. It's early on a Saturday morning and Terry and the cats are sleeping. It's rainy season and there is the nice sound of a torrential downpour on the deck so it's a fine time to be reading and thinking about stuff.

I'm between writing projects, the books of The Eye of the Stallion fantasy trilogy being finished, except for a final tweak of the last book, A Drop of Wizard's Blood. Book II, The Mirrors of Castaway Time is due to be published soon--next month, maybe. So I've been looking around for some brain candy in the form a a few good reads.

I like to think of a book as a cognitive playground (for both the reader and the writer). For me to spend precious hours between the covers of a book or a magazine, it has to offer me something to chew on, something to get cognitively involved with and excited about the way a kid might get excited about a new toy.

Sometimes, if I'm real lucky, I find it in a novel. There are few things as fine as a novel that delivers the goods on cognitive, emotional, and artistic levels. That would mean great writing style, profound wisdom dispensed subtly and maybe with equally subtle humor, and page turning excitement. A book like that is a rare fine, indeed.

It is easier to find a work of non-fiction that satisfies because you know if you are interested in the topic by just reading the title. So, the little time I have had to read this summer, I spent working my way through two of Richard Dawkins' books simultaneously: The Blind Watchmaker and The God Delusion. Dawkins is a biology professor at Oxford and is famous for beating the religious right over the head with its own ignorance and knee-jerk denial of the gifts of reason and science. By the way, rather than claiming to be a strict, radical atheist, Dawkins says he is a "Level 6" agnostic--almost absolutely certain there is no God--and that is as far as a scientist will go toward an absolute belief. Science, is, after all, all about probability.

I studied a lot of science in college and have a pretty good idea of the basics of Darwin's evolution but these two Dawkins books were, as he would put, consciousness raisers. For me, a consciousness raising experience is an epiphany of sorts, a realization that feels like a fresh breeze blowing across my mind, a feeling of profound excitement that I have just learned something new and something critically important. It makes me take a short, quick breath and makes me feel, as I mentioned above, like a child again.

So, Dawkins is brain candy as is the book I'm reading now: A View from the Center of the Universe. Lovely stuff in here, folks. The latest speculations from astrophysicists and quantum physics on what the universe is all about--its existence, size, age, contents, future, and most importantly, our place in it as human beings. No religion here, just science for the layman, and for this layman, its heady stuff. Here's an example: The universe is probably about 14 billion years old. Our planet is about 4.5 billion years old with about 6 billion years to go before it is destroyed by the death of our own sun. Human "civilization" has been around in some form for maybe 5 or 10 thousand years. This means we have just begun. We have another 6 billion years to go. When you think of the technological progress we have made in just the past 100 years, it boggles the mind to consider what might lie ahead--if we can survive. And one of the biggest threats to our survival is fundamentalist religion.

That's why it is so very critical that we get a grip on this problem with fundamentalist religiosity. Since the middle ages, religion has fought scientific progress tooth and nail. The religious authorities locked Galileo up because he supported Copernicus's findings that the earth was not the center of the universe. The Bible implies the Earth is flat and fundamentalists insist it is only 6 thousand years old. The result is, while technology moves forward, the social/cultural status of the vast majority of humanity remains in the dark ages. We continue to believe in incredibly far-fetched superstitions and mythologies that cause us to hate and murder each other relentlessly and without guilt.

Well, never mind. I'll think more about this later. The rain has let up and I need to take a long walk. And I've got boat projects this weekend. The faucets in the galley are dripping and I need to get my dive gear on and clean the bottom and the prop and check the zincs. We hope to go sailing if the weather improves.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Summer in New England: A Photo Gallery

This is the green New England summer of my youthful memories. It has become a habit to take long daily walks through the farm country in Montague, Massachusetts, a village just a few miles north of Amherst in the Connecticutt River valley. Here is a sampler of some pix I took with my Pentax Optio digital of farms and wild flowers (Wild Carrot and Joe Pye Weed).

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Writer as Sailor as Eternal "Come-Here": The Price of the Wandering Life

Here I am last week at the tiller of a skiff exploring the marshlands inside the barrier islands off the coast of the Eastern Shore of Virgina. I've been exploring, that is, wandering from place to place, most of my life. When I was ten, we moved from northern New Jersey to a small farming village in Massachusetts and since then, in addition to traveling around the world, I've lived in Arizona, Virginia, Key West, Iceland, Germany, Guam, North Myrtle Beach, and now we've bought a home in Onancock, Virginia.

And everywhere I've lived, I have experienced the plight of every new guy on the block. Although I lived next to a farm in a rual area of New Jersey and was raising chickens by the time I was nine years old, when we moved to Massachusetts, I was considered, with some disparagement, to be a "city slicker" and a "foreigner." In Key West, where I was a radio news reporter and anchor, I noticed that whenever anyone stood up in city council meetings to give an opinion, they first let everyone know how long they had lived there, the length of residency directly affecting the influence of the opinion expressed. The same was true, in different ways, everywhere else, and now, here were are, planning on retiring to the Eastern Shore of Virginia where they call folks like us, "come-heres."

"Come-heres?" That was a new one for me. The expression itself lacks any aliterative music, and sounds like a command rather than the derogatory label it is meant to be. The reasons for this "come-here" phenomena are as universal as they are obvious. The locals are both proud of their heritage and instinctively threatened by the intruder. On the other side, some new residents see the locals as rubes and maintain a distance. Of course, there are those on both sides who are eager to accept and be accepted and thus far that is how its been on the Eastern Shore. The people are smiling, friendly, and helpful. The owner of the hardware store that was once a showroom for Model A Fords and where you can find melons, fresh corn, tools, straw hats, and bib overalls, couldn't be more welcoming.

Mary Pricilla Howes, the late sage of Ashfield, Massachusetts, the closest thing to a hometown I've ever had, wrote that for her, happiness and profound living resulted from "staying put." But for me, much of the richness of life has come from being a "come-here." When you arrive at somewhere new, you have what the Zen Buddists would call a child's mind. Things are different, strange even, and so there is much to learn and all those new people to meet. It is this engagement with, this embracing of the new and different cultures that broadens us and teaches us that there is a wider world out there and that humanity's variations are what make the world such a fine place.

Here's what I'm reading this summer: The Blind Watchmaker and The God Delusion, both by Richard Dawkins the Oxford biologist and famous athiest (actually, he says he is a "Level 6 Agnostic, Level 7 being an absolute athiest and in science nothing is absolute). The Blindwatchmaker is good overview of evolution but takes some reader effort and The God Delusion is a very readable and scathing indictment of mindless, pervasive, and destructive religiosity.