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, January 30, 2009

Dismasted Off the Coast of Guam: A Sailor's Small Adventure

It came down like all those sudden, violent, once-in-a-life-time things that you can't shut up about later. A perfect day in the blue, blue Pacific, four miles off the coast of Guam. Fifteen knots of wind with lots of gusts to twenty and slowly picking up to maybe twenty five. The sky was as blue as the water and speckled with those little white popcorn clouds that float high on the breeze and on the horizon was the varied greens of the tropical island's mountains rising up from the sea.

Carpe Diem is a Tayana 43, a powerful little cutter, lithe and nimble, and a joy to sail. We had the full main up and about half the jib rolled out and she seemed well balanced and happy. In fact, we were all happy--if not well balanced. There were four of us on board, the owners, Don and Jan Goldhorn, my wife, Terry, and I. We were having a special reunion, sailing all together again, as we had so many times in the past, after a seven month separation, running up into the breeze on a glorious trade wind day.

Don and Jan had just had some work done on Carpe Diem. The mast had been taken off and a new radar, GPS, and windex wired in. The bottom had been done and all the sea cocks serviced. It had been an expensive project and they were proud and happy and ready to take on the big blue ocean that surrounds this lovely island.

There was no warning, no indication that something was amiss, that somehow the nearly invisible devil-worm of stainless steel corrosion had dug its way into the T-pins at the bottoms of the turnbuckles where the lower shrouds hang on to the chain plates. One of them must have given out first and the others then followed, unable to take the strain. Don, Jan, and Terry were back in the cockpit, I was sitting on the upwind side of the boat, just aft of the mast. Later we all remembered it differently. Terry heard nothing, but said she watched as the mast crumbled, in slow motion, into the sea to leeward. I was looking out toward the island and heard a loud rending of metal and metallic pop just above my head. What I saw when I looked up had nothing to do with slow motion; in an instant the 67-foot mast was gone, the whole rig disappeared.

Carpe Diem, suddenly every bit the great, wing-broken seabird, turned across the wind and hung there, the sails having become a great sea anchor. We, the crew, were dumbfounded but far from speechless. Epithets of shock and awe filled the air as we played for time and found our senses. In the end, we were all calm and got down to the business of sorting things out. No one was hurt, the seas, here in the lee of the island, were moderate, and we were not taking on water. After forty-five minutes of trying to get the broken mast lined up with the boat and secured so we could motor home, we decided the better part of valor was to call for assistance. Keeping this blog short, four hours later, Carpe Diem was safely back in her slip. The mail sail was cut away and set adrift, bits of the mast and the brand-new roller furling rig, now hopelessly bent and twisted, had been dragged to the nearest marina, hauled out of the water, and deposited in a parking lot for later consideration/stripping.

We are all fine. We are all wiser and, for what its worth, we are all better sailors.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I Lose a Literary Hero: Goodbye to Mr. Updike

(Photo by Martha Updike)

Everything I needed to know in life, I learned from John Updike. I've got at least thirteen of his books, mostly dog-eared paperbacks, on my bookshelf. I probably read and lost or gave away that many more--and he wrote a whole lot more than that. I started reading him early and fast and I can say that in that special sense--the writer-to-reader-conversation sense--I've known him all of my adult life. In that sense, we were pals, John Updike and I.

He was bright beyond my capacity to understand intelligence, worldly in the strange, provincial way bookish people often are and great writers have to be, and yet able to communicate absolutely vital information about life to me, the farm boy from the Berkshire hills of New England. His writing was wise, profoundly titillating (literary sex? He got bad marks from the critics for that), and he had a wonderful grasp of how tragically funny people are when they descend into the murky wallow that is their humanity. Once I had read Updike, I understood my parents wisdom in fleeing suburbia when they did.

I saw him and heard him speak once. He was the speaker at my daughter's graduation from The University of Massachusetts back in, let's see, was it '89? It was hard to see him from way, way back where I was standing, on my tip-toes. All I could see was the shock of unruly gray hair as his stuttering delivery echoed over the heads of the milling, singing, happy mob. I wish I could say that I came away with a great pearl of Updike wisdom, but no, there was too much going on, too may distractions to follow the gist of his message.

From the endless reviews and essays and short stories to the novels about desperate housewives to the great ones about Rabbit Angstrom to the wonderful volume he called Selfconscousness, he covered it all--the true man of letters. How many are there of you left out there now, John?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Suviving Jet Lag, Sake, and Hirohito's Revenge: Blogging From the Far Side of the World

Here is the traveler, just new in Tokyo, jet-lagged, imposed upon, lost, gagging on the truth of his duality. Referring quickly to a copy of the Teaching of Buddha he found in his hotel on top of the Gideon Bible, the agonizing pilgrim finds the Dhammapada: A fool who thinks he is a fool is for that very reason a wise man. The fool who thinks that he is a wise man is called a fool indeed. And then, below that, our foolish-indeed traveler reads: Hard is birth as man, Hard is the life of mortals, Hard is the hearing of the Sublime Truth, Hard is the appearance of a Buddha.

Sensing a step toward enlightenment, the weary castaway reads on: Not to do any evil, To cultivate good, To purify one's mind,--this is the advice of the Buddhas.

But where to find the Buddhas? In the bright lights and big city that is Tokyo?

No, the sublimely foolish wandered finds the Buddhas in the temple. Lots of them. And then, later, in the company of fine friendships, takes another step toward---what? If it is the things we cling to that make us suffer, the traveler releases his jet lag, willingly, but clings to his friends a bit longer.

The cause of human suffering is undoubtedly found in the thirsts of the physical body and in the illusions of worldly passion. If these thirsts and illusions are traced to their source, they are found to be rooted in the intense desires of physical instincts.....

Monday, January 12, 2009

Off to Tokyo and Guam: What's This About Sake Bombs?

Here I am a few years ago with my great friend Don on the seawall on the island of Guam. We were neighbors when Terry and I lived on a sailboat on this seawall for 10 years. Seems impossible now. You can just see the blue sail cover of our boat off to the left of the picture. We had had some luck fishing that day and were proud, very happy, and just maybe a little drunk. So be it.

Tomorrow we fly to Tokyo and then next Monday, back to Guam for some book research and FEA business and some sailing and fishing, too, and a lot of partying, I'm certain. Right here on this seawall, the scene of a decade of great living.

Speaking of Tokyo, I'm glad I had to go to google to check on the history of SAKE or I never would have gotten the recipe for sake bombs. I'm going to try one--or maybe they don't actually drink sake bombs in Tokyo. Might be one of those American things. See, you fill a glass with beer and then carefully balance a shot of sake on two chopsticks over the beer and then after saying some sort of prayer or whatever, you hit the shot glass and the sake falls into the beer, glass and all. Never tried it and I'm not much into either sake or beer but I'll have to try just one. I'm actually a moderate drinker--really.

Spent the morning packing ( Success--I can wear size 36 pants again without raising my blood pressure) for the trip. The trouble is packing for winter Tokyo and tropical Guam--gonna need two suitcases, I guess. Hate that.

The cats are getting nervous. It stresses them out when we leave. Zeke always vomits on the bed and other find'em-with-your-foot places like the new, hand-woven carpet from India we have in the dining room. Always a pleasure coming home to those kinds of surprises.
The plumber was supposed to come this morning to heat wrap the pipes. He promised me (third time's a charm?). It's gonna get real cold tomorrow and last year the pipes froze. The plumber (is his name Joe? No, Joe the Plumber is in Israel reporting news, under, he says, the protection of his Christian God) doesn't want to do the job because he has to crawl/slide way in under the house to reach the pipes. He's been avoiding my phone calls by using caller I.D. but I nailed him yesterday by using my cell phone. Ha. He hasn't shown up yet and it's 12:30 p.m. I have a feeling he'll get the last laugh.
So, I'm outta here for almost two weeks. I might get to do a blog from the Far Rim of the Pacific. Until then.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Distractions of Goofy News and Anticipating Good Times with Old Friends

We're packing up in preparation for a two-week visit to Tokyo and Guam--both pleasure and business. Here a picture of some of us with some of our great old friends on Guam. As I recall, it was a typical Friday night and we were unwinding at our favorite pub in Hagatna. To squeeze us all in the picture, the waiter had to stand on the bar (sounds like the beginning of a joke). On Wednesday, we'll fly from Norfolk to Newark, where we'll get on a 777 and wallow in the delights of Business Class for the next 11 hours to Tokyo's Narita airport. Such a way to make a living.
I've been collecting headlines. I open up this computer every morning, and settle in to write and instead of getting down to it, I surrender to the siren call of Yahoo news.

Man wants his kidney back after filing for a divorce

Like, he's divorcing her and as part of the settlement, he wants the organ returned--or the monetary equivalent: $1.5 million. News for him: you can buy fresh kidney at the butchers for 80 cents a pound (actually, I don't know how much it costs). And this guy is surgeon (I wrote sturgeon first).

Scientists learn that mosquito's wings beat in synchrony (I wrote synchorny first--love that Freudian slip of the fingers) when they are getting ready to mate.

This titillating bit of mosquito-soap-opera science should be gratifying to the millions of people who will die of malaria this year. At least the little killers do something a little romantic before they inject the micro-assassins into our bodies.

Sasha Obama will have steak au jus on her school lunch menu on her first day.

We are jumping on the new administration in fine style, here, folks. Start with the young and the weak and work your way up. And people got paid big bucks for digging up/reporting that bit of dietary news.

But I inevitably do get down to it--to the business of writing a book. I back out of Yahoo, shut down the Internet connection, and open up the file that says: The Spirit of the Voyage. And its going well, I think. The boys are having a fine adventure escaping the soldiers invading their island in the Pacific. I lived that life for eleven years, living and sailing in the tropical Pacific, and it's very much fun for me to relive those years in my imagination as I write.
One final headline I just couldn't resist:

Scientists find that head banging is bad for you health.

This had something to do with rock concerts. I must be missing something.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

1500-Mile Road Trip and Working on the Cover for the Next Book

It's January 3 and this is my first blog of 2009. Was a good start to the new year, all in all. We had a safe and fine time driving around the South visiting family and friends--Eastern Shore to Atlanta to the Blue Ridge mountains and then back to the Eastern Shore, some 1500 miles in the new Prius. By the way, the Prius is a great cruising car--the great gas mileage claims (44 to 50 mpg) hold up as advertised and the car can go down the road at 80 mph without any problems (Terry says she was doing 90 while I was napping-I don't want to hear about it). Handles well and is a comfortable ride. Don't listen to claims its a wussmobile.

This is a picture of a draft of the cover for Book II of the Eye of the Stallion trilogy. I've been communicating with my publisher and, after a year and a half of sitting on the manuscript, they are going to bring it out this spring. Book II is a continuation of Book I--sort of. Continuation when you consider that the Space-Time Continuum proceeds in circles and my characters have been around a few times--okay, more than a few times. Sonoria and Dag-gar are together, again and finally, and find themselves fighting an intransigent evil unleashed on the world by their own inability to get along. Shame on them--but discord in the circle of love inevitably leads to discord in the Circle of Time and they are small gods after all. They should know better. And Scraps comes back as a funky wizard-type guy and the Ancient Boy is there, too.

Weather? I'm enjoying the mild challenges of winter on the Eastern Shore--cold one day, spring-like the next. It's a taste of winter without the evil bite we got in New England. We had a little snow yesterday--just a flurry and that was just enough.

My siblings and I just inherited our parents house. I'll need to drive to New England next month and help sort things out. Looks like I'll get to experience a Massachusetts winter after all.