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:

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Winter Between Two Waters: A Writer Digs in for the Season

The entrance to Deep Creek boat yard from the Chesapeake:
It's a narrow and winding channel all set about with muddy
shallows. Lunar tides are de rigueur.

The boat yard at Deep Creek, just a 10-min. drive
from the house. $250 for an in-and-out, a pressure
wash, and jack stands. The owner is a pleasant
man, an expert on all boat systems, and lives with
his family on the premises.
We found a small crack in Seawind's stem, so
I'm back to grinding and glassing.

Ah, but she's worth it. Such a pretty lady and
a fine sailing boat, too. Back in the water next
week or should we leave her out for the winter?
Gotta decide.

It's November 1st as I write this, a cool and dreary day and a harbinger of more such days to come. I need to bury the summer that just died behind us, another road kill on the streets of time. Need to dig a big hole and push it in and cover it up lest memories of its hot, blue-sky glories weigh down mood of acceptance of the inevitable.
To that end, a post mortem, a eulogy, of sorts. To wit:
We started you out, oh dead summer past, by sailing the above pictured lovely boat down the east coast from Long Island to my home on the Chesapeake. It took a month, we had our frustrating moments and our frightened moments (longer and more numerous than appreciated). But Seawind, the pretty little 30-foot sloop, is home safely;

we traveled to San Diego and visited our mega-yacht-captain son and Amtracked up the California coast and drove up and down the Big Sur taking pictures like a fool and, like a fool, I lost the expensive camera containing all the pictures, leaving it on a plane on the flight back home. I shall have to remember the Big Sur the old fashioned way--in my mind's eye;
we traveled to New England to visit aging parents and siblings;

I drove to Georgia to celebrate 1st birthday of our grandson;

I followed the breathless pundits who followed the dogged politicians who spent the hot months listening to Americans screaming at each other as some sort of health care reform bill that will please corporate sponsors and/or constituents was hammered into shape;
taught the writing process to four classes of 6th graders in Georgia and 3 classes of 3rd graders on Guam. Great fun.
So now I need to quit whining about the winter and get down to addressing it. Goals? Get back in shape, improve my guitar playing, finish my novel-in-progress, The Spirit of the Voyage--all by March, when we shall welcome the Spring solstice with wide-open eyes and minds and with sails full of warming wind.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Leaving Washington D.C.: Good-bye to the Crazies and Aging Boomers of My Favorite Town

A woman-in-white stands a solitary vigil at the lonely outpost of her personal beliefs. Where to they come from?

Looking up a no-longer-in-use spiral stair case discovered behind a wall at the Supreme Court. The interlocking stairs were designed to be self-supporting and the effect was wonderful, like a nautilis shell; a basic form of nature.

In the middle of the city, I found a lone leaf on the sidewalk: perfect nature in a man-made jungle.

This is our last morning in the Nation's capitol and I have my regrets about leaving. Though I love our home in the rural reaches of the Eastern Shore, I could live here, in this city. It's been a memorable week for this writer.
Last night we went to the National Theater and saw Jersey Boys, the musical that tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. It had everything you wanted it to have; all that great music sung by actors that sounded, to these old ears, exactly like the real Frankie Valli and his friends. And the music was wrapped up in the drama of their real-life battles with ego and personal conflicts. Great stuff. When the lights came on and I looked around, I saw a theater filled with delighted aging boomers in various stages of wrinkling, graying baldness that had born witness to the rise and fall of the real Frankie Valli all those years ago; they gave the players an extended standing ovation.
Yesterday, before the theater, I had a last extended walk-about. I went to the National Geographic Society's headquarters and did something I'd wanted to do for a long time: I got a kit that allows you to send in a sample of your DNA (painlessly from your mouth, I assume), and the Society will analyse it for you and tell you where your way-back ancestors came from.

Then I walked--walked and walked and walked, down Pennsylvania Avenue all the way to Georgetown. I'd driven through Georgetown on occasion, but had never actually gotten into the middle of the place where I could sniff things out and put my feet and eyes in places that reveal the not-so-evident truths about neighborhoods. What I found was lots of indicators of lots of Earthy-crunchy, sophisticated, educated money (up-scale restaurants with hard-to-pronounce menues and old men running rare book stores) alongside lots of indicators of not so much money (funky-cool, run-down, 19th Century brick apartment buildings, presumably student digs). But, alas, gone are the good old days of the 60's when Georgetown was a hotbed of student unrest and hippy happiness. Where did we all go? These kids all looked stylish and satisfied. A pity.
I did find one of us, though. I found a really funky guitar shop in the DuPont Circle area. It's up a flight of worn out, unpainted, creaking wooden stairs. Behind the counter was an aging boomer like myself (is the term "aging boomer" redundant?) surrounded by the wonderful, yellowed and dust-covered chaos of his trade: guitars and guitar paraphernalia stacked helter-skelter to the ceiling. There was no sense of order and no indications that he cared even a little bit. He seemed very mellow and very happy and that made me feel mellow and happy. I signed up for a guitar lesson and my instructor, John, was the same as the guy behind the counter. We went into a tiny room made smaller by more guitar-stuff chaos piled high all around us. We ended up talking about life almost as much as we practiced music. It was all quite wonderful.
So, now it's back to my real world. I've got to get out of these jammies, take a shower, and start packing. I told Terry I'd have everything ready when she got back at noon. This means repacking my scattered stuff, getting a luggage cart from the lobby, and toting it all down to the parking lot in the basement, and checking out with the desk clerk. As they say in France, le jeux sont fait--the game is over, the gig is up.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Washington D.C., Jet Lag, Guam, Honolulu: Murder, Good Friends, Marvelous Marble

On Wakiki: Murder on a world-famous beach

In front of the Supreme Court. A tour revealed a lot of awe-inspiring wasted space and beautiful marble--from Alabama?

Before we flew home and then on to D.C., we sailed on Guam: Blue water, white wine, and lots of good friends.

I'm in Washington D.C. I'm sitting on the bed in the hotel room in my jammies loath to shower and get going. Jet lag lingers five days after the fact. How does Hillary do it? Yet this city is fast becoming my favorite and it is beautiful in this suddenly-fair, cool autumn weather. Yesterday was perfect--blue skies, temps in the 60's--for walking and absorbing the city atmosphere.

And so I did. I tried to stay in and tend to the writing biz, but couldn't resist the call of the traffic on the street, the people on the sidewalks, and the promise of the pleasures of a great city on a fall day. More on all that later. First, Guam, sailing, Honolulu, and jet lag.

Above, this is us, on our friends fine Tayana 43 sailing out of Guam harbor. It was a perfect day interjected into a spate of miserable rainy ones just in time for our short visit to the island. We had spent eleven years here, teaching, living a a sailboat, and cruising these waters, and it wasn't difficult to remember how to enjoy wonderful old friends and the tropical climate.

But is was not all sails and swells. Terry had meetings every day and I spent one afternoon happily teaching 3rd graders about the writing process. Another afternoon I spent with my friend, Manny Sikau, a master traditional navigator from the island of Puluwat learning about traditional voyaging for my novel-in-progress, The Spirit of the Voyage. More on that in a future blog.
On the way over and on the way back, I spent a rest day in Honolulu. Good idea. The climate in our 50th state is above reproach, just a tad cooler and a whole lot less humid than Guam. The city is busy, but, right there, in your face, is the storied beach at Wakiki. The sand has to be barged in across the Pacific from the Mainland, but the silhouette of Diamond Head can't be denied. I had a tourist from Japan (there were lots of them) take this picture after I took one of him and his bride (Diamond Head was the other way but the light was not right.). Alas, it turns out that, just about where I was standing had been, just the night before, the scene of a murder most foul: A young tourist from New Mexico had been raped and strangled, apparently right in the surf. The alleged perp was quickly apprehended and is, of course, pleading innocent. It gave me pause.

Enough of paradise and its perils. Back to the Nation's Capitol where murder is more common and so less noticable. I admit to feeling ecstatic yesterday, walking the city's streets. The air was fabulous--almost cold, very dry--and the sidewalks were happy with mostly young people going to and from where ever they go to and from. I, however, had no place to go to and from. Wherever it was I was going, I was already there. The journey was the goal. Yesterday even the poor and homeless looked happy. The guy the pawn shop where I bought a guitar stand and a music stand seemed happy. The little white guy that lights up when it's safe to cross the street looked happy. Am I projecting?
And today, in just a few minutes, I'm going to get out of my jammies and take a shower, and get back out there. I'm going to walk off the remainder of my jet lag and last nights Indian food by strolling all the way to Lafayette Square and the White House and then down to the Mall and see where my feet take me after that. I'll report on my findings tomorrow. Secretly, I'm hoping for an Obama sighting, or at least a Blue Dog Democrat.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Blogging Jet-Setter: Too Busy to Get'er Done

I'm on the road--Honolulu, Guam--and just can't get it together to blog/download photos, etc. Had a great time yesterday working with 3rd graders on Guam on the writing process. Fun. Today we're going sailing, tomorrow more partying with old friends here in this small paradise. Sunday I'm meeting with Manny Sikau, the master traditional navigator from Puluwat, to research the novel-in-progress. We head home on Tuesday morning with an overnight in Honolulu.

A big blog when I get back. With lots of pix of Guam.

Watch this space.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Boat Called Seawind, A Wobbling World

At least we have the universe and its minions behaving as they should. Last week the Earth, in its eternal wisdom, curved its way around the Sun and rose up to meet the Autumnal Equinox (Sept. 22nd). This means the most direct rays of the Sun are now striking the Earth south of the equator, leaving those of us in the Northern Hemisphere to prepare for a long winter of discontent. Or something like that.

I was out in the early Fall air today, at our marina, hanging out on my sailboat and was thus contemplating the on-rushing Autumn. As I hauled up the mainsail and put in a reef in preparation for tomorrow's sail (I'm hauling Seawind out of the water for the winter and need to take her up the Bay to her cold-weather quarters) the white deck reflected the still-warm sun, the breeze, cool off the Chesapeake, filled the sail and lifted it up, fine and white against the blue sky. It was all very fine--very fine, indeed.

Still, I had some regrets. It seems I never learn. It happens every time: my annual ruefulness for this transitional time of year. It is, after all, a time of dying, of nature, worn out from a promiscuous summer, giving it up, caving in, sighing, and lying down to sleep. Winters here, in the northern part of the South, are pretty mild by the standards of my native New England but, still, they are winters and everything out and about needs to shed and slough and close down to get ready for the inevitable bitterness of December, January, and February.

This faux-benign Fall does not fool me. Never has. It only makes me dwell on the bitterness to come. As I stand in the warm sun, my summertime toy, this lovely boat, belies the icy-cold truth of the immediate future. She lies to me, this sweet Seawind. All is not well. In winter I see naught but hopelessness. My mind cobbles together odds and ends of great doomsday literary wisdoms: Surrender all hope, ye who enter here to the winter of our discontent. It worries me, you say it worries you. Quoth the Raven, never more.

But I must buck up. I chastise myself and haul my silly emotions in along with the sail. I speak to my inner being: You've been through sixty-three winters. Has Spring ever failed you? Of course, it never has. It would be nice though, if the bitterness was not quite so long. I truly like the changing seasons. I need them. I need them to make the life force rise up in me like sap, to flood over, and then shed the used up detritus of what was lived. The seasons are as necessary as a blood-pumping heart.

Before I left the boat, before I said goodbye to her as if she were a friend, I looked up at the fading sun and watched a scudding cloud cross its yellow-white face. I imagined I could feel the Earth tilting underneath me, wobbling like a slowing top, a top watched by the curious child who had himself set the top to spinning. Such a wonderful thing, this spinning.