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, December 31, 2010

A Winter Death

End of the Road, Beginning of the Sea: Onancock Harbor in Winter

I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape - the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show. ~Andrew Wyeth

Winter has been, since the days when writers scratched symbols with berry ink on papyrus scrolls, a great symbol of dying and death. Nature collapses on herself, retreats, sinks away and leaves us poor contemplative creatures to stare out windows into bitterness.

Our family lost a patriarch this month. As the winter descended, it took with it Albin J. Voit, my father-in-law, who passed away after a brief struggle with an aggressive cancer. Al was, of course, a member of what we are now calling the greatest generation. During WWII, as an 18-year-old sailor, (Mine Man, 2nd Class, Underwater Demolition), he fought on Guam and Okinawa, and Iwo Jima, too. And survived. He was a physics major in college but the war interfered and he never went back. Instead, he managed an auto parts warehouse in Philadelphia and settled in to raise six kids. I thank him for that.

I'll bet he was a damned good UDT guy. He was a quiet man, smart and steady and fearless, and a strict disciplinarian who worked hard at a job he did not necessarily relish. When he was sixty-two, he did what many men only dream of doing: he bought a sailboat and, for the next ten years or so, spent as much time as he could sailing the Caribbean. Being married to one of his four daughters, I was lucky enough to sail with him for three summers and I became a better man and a better sailor for it. I thank him for that, too.

It was a horrific thing, a terrible and sad thing, to watch a man you knew well and liked and admired a lot take his last breaths. But it was winter, after all, and things were descending, cold and dark, into that frigid abyss, an abyss we shall all someday slip away into. 

We loved you, Al, and now we must deal with the rest of it, a long winter of mourning. But, as Andrew Wyeth said, something waits down deep beneath the lonely, dead feeling of this season. We all know that. It is a certainty. The whole story doesn't show.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Attack of the Cowardly Anonymite: "Mommy! He called me a schmuck!"

I've just coined a term I hope will catch on: anonymite.

Anonymites are infesting the Internet with their vileness. They're every where! They're every where! But what is one? An anonymite person who makes ugly, thoughtless, hurtful, nasty, non-productive comments or attacks on people on the Internet while hiding behind the security of the signature, "Anonymous." This is definitely a breakdown in the civil discourse. Batman would not put up with it, and neither will I.

I just had it happen to me. I was called a schmuck (me!!! Mr. Nice Guy! a schmuck!!!) because I goofed in a previous blog and referred to a 1,000-hour rule (the time necessary to become good at something difficult--like writing) when it is actually referred to as the 10,000-hour rule.

Now, schmuck is a pretty strong stuff for something like that. I mean, for a mere 9,000 hours I get called a schmuck? If I had done something intentionally hurtful like say, called someone a schmuck for no real reason, then, sure, call me a schmuck (Schmuck, by the way, is a Yiddish word with meanings that run from the relatively mild "stupid," to more damaging connotations like "jerk" or "bastard." At its worst, it implies intentionally mean, thoughtless, hurtful behavior.).

But, you know what I mean. The real reason I'm addressing this is to voice a grievance. Being called a schmuck by someone who doesn't know that you're really an okay guy who just made a mistake isn't all that tough to take if you possess normal, healthy ego strength. But you see these cowardly anonymites  really dishing it out in Comment sections on the Internet. Some schmuckly, cowardly anonymite calls another person something foul--really foul--just, I think, for the thrill of getting away with it. An small act of cruelty that must give a small, perverse thrill to the true schmuck who writes them. In this case, it's writing something you wouldn't have the courage to say to the person face to face. Or even to write it and sign your real name. Go figure.

So, there it is--a new word: anonymite. I hope it gets to be paired in general usage with the word cowardly. They're all big bunch of schmucks.