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:

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

N'aw Lins: Huge Disasters, Wonderous Music, Lurid Sex, and Hot Cajun Cookin'

Yep, this is Bourbon Street. What does it all mean? What are the connections?

Retirement requires the invention of a new hedonism, not a return to the hedonism of youth.   Mason Cooley

While I wait for a copy of my new book, The Mirrors of Castaway Time, to arrive from my publisher, and while I take a break before I tuck into the re-write of my next work-in-progress, I'm in New Orleans with Terry who has meetings here this week.

Until she had to attend to her biz, we spent two days wandering the hedonistic streets of the Big Easy hearing all sorts of tales of glorious excess and witnessing the happy degradation of the willing tourist hordes. This, of course, is the Vieux Carre, the French Quarter, where no one speaks French or needs to, speaking instead the universal language of lurid sex, mysterious religion, loud music, and spicey gastronomy. All of it is jumbled all together, in no particular order; a sex-arama is next to a Voodoo shop is next to a hot restaurant is next to bar blasting out music.

First, a disclaimer. I'm very aware that this is not really all of New Orleans. It's just the most famous part of that city.  I'm sure the locals roll their eyes at it. Most of it, the real city, the city of recent disaster and the long, unfinished, muddy recovery, lies outside the Quarter and carries on the business of cities much the same as any other metropolis inspite of its rotten luck. In fact, flying in over the better heeled suburbs, I did not see, from my side of the plane, any of the devastation left behind by the storm of five years past, or any hint of the current disaster in the nearby waters of the Gulf. For some of the city and for the tourist haunts at least, LIG.

But what is it all about? What draws the tourists? What brings in the conventioneers from teachers' unions to "swingers?" What are the connections? Observations: A young mother and father walk down Bourbon Street with their son who is maybe nine years old (they were expecting Disney Land, maybe?). So the mother ends up reaching out to cover up her son's eyes when they pass a woman standing in a doorway dressed in hardly anything and who is trying to entice Daddy into joing her inside her establishment (We know what Mom is thinking, but who knows what's going on in Daddy's mind? Or the boys?).

They then might step into a bar/music hall where jazz, the very emblem of New Orleans, is being played wonderfully, and then order some Jambalya at an "authentic" Cajun restaurant. For desert, they might step into a store where the dark and scary talismans of Voodoo are on display or for sale: real human skulls, potions, powders, masks, and of course, Voodoo dolls that everyone knows you can stick pins into to wreck revenge on unsuspecting enemies. So the son learns that naked ladies are bad and so is Voodoo (but not as bad as naked ladies) and that even though they're bad, Mommy and Daddy find them fascinating.

I suspect that this is what it is: it's Disney Land without the purity, without Mickey and Minnie and Goofy. Because within the spectacle of Bourbon Street, there are real people and many of those people are really pretty scary--burned out, wiped out, strung out. And you have joined them, shoulder to shoulder, walking down the street. It's that kinda of place. Happy and miserable, brilliant and devastated, the very talented and the very empty, and the pitiful losers--all mingling, all out there as part of the grand and gaudy parade and all celebrating the things that connect us as people: music, food, sex, and the ineffable mystery of the spirit world.

So, those are my impressions so far. And now that Terry is at work, I'm left to my own (de)vices. I just ate a fried oyster lunch, not recommended by cardiologists. And it's raining and is supposed to keep raining for the rest of the week. S'all right. Tonight more jazz and tomorrow watch this space for more Voodoo, my favorite brand of spirituality. Wonderful.

Friday, June 25, 2010

They Zapped My Heart and My Heart Was by My Side: A Writer's Nod to Mary Shelly

          Here we are, a while back, standing by our water-born home on Guam. A 30-Year Relationship So Far: The Exception Proves the Rule?

Yesterday I had a health crises, of sorts, and it was instructive. Seems my wobbly heart decided to go astray and I spent the afternoon and evening in the hospital where they had to resort to zapping it with 150 Joules to correct it's bad behavior. It was a bit like Dr. Frankenstein awakening his monster with a lightening bolt. I was told that when the volts zapped me, I sat up on the gurney, lifted up my arms, and said, "Ahhh."

I'm fine. Home safely and better than ever in fact. Through it all, of course, Terry was by my side and was a lot more scared by the whole deal than I was. It got me to thinking about modern man-woman partnerships and what makes long-time relationships work and how exceedingly precious and rare that type of connection is (Bride of Frankenstein anyone?).

So, I Googled some quotes concerning the subject. The funniest are disparaging, the best are profound. Both, alas, are true. I think the first and the last, Francis Bacon and Robert Frost, get it about right.To wit:

Wives are young men's mistresses, companions for middle age, and old men's nurses.

To make a happy fire-side clime

To weans and wife,

That's the true pathos and sublime

Of human life.

ROBERT BURNS, To Dr. Blacklock

When a match has equal partners, then I fear not.

AESCHYLUS, Prometheus Bound

A man doesn't know what happiness is until he's married. By then it's too late.

FRANK SINATRA, The Joker Is Wild

Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. If the dispositions of the parties are ever so well known to each other or ever so similar beforehand, it does not advance their felicity in the least. They always continue to grow sufficiently unlike afterwards to have their share of vexation; and it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life.

JANE AUSTEN, Pride and Prejudice

Marriage, n. The state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress and two slaves, making in all, two.

AMBROSE BIERCE, The Devil's Dictionary

Those who talk most about the blessings of marriage and the constancy of its vows are the very people who declare that if the chain were broken and the prisoners left free to choose, the whole social fabric would fly asunder. You cannot have the argument both ways. If the prisoner is happy, why lock him in? If he is not, why pretend that he is?


I always compare marriage to communism. They're both institutions that don't conform to human nature, so you're going to end up with lying and hypocrisy.

BILL MAHER, Rolling Stone, Aug. 24, 2006

Hail wedded love, mysterious law, true source

Of human offspring, sole propriety,

In Paradise of all things common else.

JOHN MILTON, Paradise Lost

Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.


Wasn't marriage, like life, unstimulating and unprofitable and somewhat empty when too well ordered and protected and guarded? Wasn't it finer, more splendid, more nourishing, when it was, like life itself, a mixture of the sordid and magnificent; of mud and stars; of earth and flowers; of love and hate and laughter and tears and ugliness and beauty and hurt?


Two such as you with such a master speed

Cannot be parted nor be swept away

From one another once you are agreed

That life is only life forevermore

Together wing to wing and oar to oar.

ROBERT FROST, The Master Speed

Monday, June 21, 2010

Another Novel Rises from the Soil of the Mind

The universe is made up of stories, not of atoms. - Muriel Rukeyser

Good children's literature appeals not only to the child in the adult, but to the adult in the child.

                                                                               - Anonymous

It's a stomach-lifting thrill to finish writing a novel. And that's because it sneaks up on you. When you sat down to work that morning, you knew you were near the end of it, but of a sudden, there it is. There is no place left to take your characters. The plot line has lived itself out, the arc completed, the denoument drawn out and sewn up neatly.

So you sit there and let the shocks of the thrill wash over you, one after another. It's done, over. It's like graduating from college or winning a prize. And it's a rare enough delight to cause you to get up and bother your wife and call your daughter with the news and plan a small celebration of some sort involving champagne and a good meal.

A feeling of loss? I've heard of that before and I've experienced that before, too. You will miss the adventures your characters have taken you on, the vicarious wonders you were experiencing sitting in your writing room alone all these months---no, make that two years on this one.

But still, there is a lot to be done. The first draft is such a rough-cut creation. I need to expand some scenes, add even more action, make sure the characters are complete and true to themselves. In other words, I've got a couple of months of re-writes ahead of me and then a trip to Guam and have the book read by my friend, the master traditional navigator from Puluwat. And then another re-write and then, maybe, a professioinal editor will give it a go-over. Then, maybe next winter, say sometime in February, it will go out and find a publisher.

But the essentiality of it is done. I've written another book. Imagine that.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Book II Has Gone to Press; Hard at the New Novel: Have I Been Sailing?

                   The Steaming Volcano on the Island of Pagan, CNMI

No battle is ever won.... They are not even fought. The field only reveals to man his own folly and despair, and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools.

WILLIAM FAULKNER, The Sound and the Fury

This is the island of Pagan (pronounced PAH-gun and meaning something like "place where it smells" and having no connection to the other word). And this is the setting for the final chapters of my new novel that is moving along nicely, though, after doing some more research, I'm going to have to do some re-writing. Seems that after the Battle of Saipan, the American 7th Air Force began bombing and straffing Pagan to eliminate the lightly garrisoned Japanese naval base located here. I was able to find the actual list of dates it was attacked by P-47s and B-24s and they were at it pretty steadily right after Saipan was conquered.

When we sailed to Pagan, I guess it was eight or so years ago now, island was uninhabited and the volcano was quiet, but we found the place pitted and pocked with bomb craters and there was a bombed-out Japanese Zero fighter and a small bomber sitting  on the sides of the old runway. The old bomb shelters where the generators and such were located were still intact and now home to feral pigs. There is also the site of the crash of an American Hellcat fighter/bomber that was shot down. The young pilot, Lt. Roy Bechtel, was killed and his remains, such as they were, were located recently by a team of WWII MIA investigators. The report indicates that there were signs of human remains that had been "liquified" by heat in what would have been the cockpit of the aircraft.

In any event, my characters, my "boys," having sailed their traditional canoe, or proa, up from the Carolines and having survived the final Japanese bonzai charge on Saipan, are now on Pagan and will have to deal with yet another hellscape before it's over. But they are keeping a promise, so they need to be here.

Meanwhile, just got word from my publisher this morning that The Mirrors of Castaway Time,  Book II of the Eye of the Stallion series (it was a  trilogy, but now, what? A fourth book?) has gone to press.

If you want to see some pix of Pagan, go to my website: It was a fine adventure we had up there in the far reaches of the western Pacific.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend: Family, Lottsa Water Time, Lottsa Seafood, Lottsa Wine. Question: I Thought I Was a Writer?

With my son, Eli, and his Sig. Other, Bailey, Wachapreague, Eastern Shore, VA

Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about it. Oscar Wilde

Hadn't seen my son in almost a year. He's a yacht captain and his significant other, Bailey, is the on-board chef. They've been on the west coast making runs to Mexico but now, after a winter skiing in Colorado, they are in Ft. Lauderdale looking for a bigger boat. So, they came up to the Eastern Shore of Virginia and we spent the Memorial Day weekend getting reacquainted. This involved a lot of wine and seafood and a lot of on-the-water stuff in either our skiff (out to the beaches on the barrier islands on the sea side of the Shore, or in the sailboat on the Bay side). Had fun. A lot of it. Here are some pix.

Today, Terry is off to Camp Lajeune for a meeting tomorrow. I'm going along to help with driving and for the company. Maybe I'll be able to get back to writing someday.