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, July 28, 2010

Recording My Writing: It's Not as Easy as They Make It Sound

“The fluent reader sounds good, is easy to listen to, and reads with enough expression to help the listener understand and enjoy the material.” - Charles Clark, "Building Fluency: Do It Right and Do It Well!" (1999)

I'm not ashamed to admit that I have what is called a "trained speaking voice." That is, I went to Emerson College as a broadcasting/speech major for almost three years and there, as brand new freshmen, we were required to undergo an assessment of our speech and suggestions were made for improvement. There followed voice and articulation classes, public speaking courses, stints as a dj on the college radio station, much self analysis and critical assessments from instructors/professors, etc. In later years I became a speech/language pathologist and worked part time as a professional voice and radio news anchor.

So, after all that, the idea of recording my books myself seemed like the natural, inevitable thing to do. I have a friend in New England who built a great little recording studio out in the country, all set up with digital mics and amps and boards and he offered to let me record there for free (I accepted, but will pay him).

This is scheduled to happen in October, and meanwhile, I'm setting about practicing, rehearsing, getting the hang of it. Quick lesson learned? Despite all my training and background, it ain't gonna be easy. I bought a second digital recorder (I've lost the first one I bought last winter. It's around here in this mess somewhere), and now spend a hour each day trying to get it right.

The voice is there. That's not an issue. What is an issue is slowing down---slow, slow, slow. Like most people reading aloud, I go too fast. I start out fine, but every so gradually, the maddening imp of my hyper personality creeps into my delivery. When this happens, words tumble on top of each other and first and last syllables are garbled into gibberish.

Next, the characters. I'm not pretending to be an actor and do all the parts. I'm just reading to, say, someone sitting in a car driving along. I mean, how can a man with a baritone voice do a woman? Or a callow youth? The idea is not to try. Let the prose tell the listener who is speaking and then just make enough of a change in your voice to "imply" the character. It seems to work okay, but there are many strange characters in my books and I've got to get them right.

The last problem is the prose itself. I've been over the text in this book a hundred times if I've been over it once. I've edited, re-edited, read and re-read the manuscript for clumsy phrasing and meat-hook syntax. And the book itself is in it's third printing, re-edited each time. Should be perfect, right? Right, but I still find myself tooling along just fine, enjoying interpreting my writing for an audience, when--suddenly--a prose pot hole takes my tongue and slaps it around in my mouth. I struggle to regain my articulatory composure and then give up and hit the pause button.

But I've got two months to get it right. Back to work. Slow, slow, slow. Once more with feeling.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Writer as Grandfather and Son: Stretch, Stretch, Stretch those Generations

With my grandson, last week in New England: A Buster of a Boy, All Movement and Wide-Eyed Wonder

I was taught by my grandfather that anything that your mind can conceive, you can have. It's a reality.  Lenny Kravitz

I phoned my grandparents and my grandfather said 'We saw your movie.' 'Which one?' I said. He shouted 'Betty, what was the name of that movie I didn't like? Brad Pitt

I don't know who my grandfather was; I am much more concerned to know what his grandson will be.  Abraham Lincoln

I just spent five days in New England visiting family. Dad is doing great on his 91st B'day and we are aiming to emulate him. He's still walking and laughing and enjoying life, and still sharing a bed with Mom after 67 years. "What's your secret?" I asked. "Keep moving," he said. And he does. And laughing. Lot's of laughing.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

THE MIRRORS OF CASTAWAY TIME: A Deep Fantasy Novel of Love and Adventure

My new book is available on and will be available on other on-line book outlets soon. Bottom line? It's a love-adventure fantasy set in a far-distant future or a far-distant past. Here's a brief summary:

In Book I, The Face in Amber, our young heroine, Sonoria, discovers that her life in the wonderous high Stratus Valley is a lie and she is, in fact, a slave, rasing horses for a distant master race. She escapes the valley with a band of  Thrangs, half-wild young barbarians, and soon discovers that she is much more than a young woman who has escaped a certain death; she is a "small god," whose destiny it is to keep the world and the universe running as it should.

The single requirement that her fierce nature cannot abide, however, is that she must surrender herself completely to a dark-natured young man named Dag-gar. Despite her deep love for him, she denies this destiny thereby upsetting the apple cart of Time and releasing terrible forces upon the Earth.

Book II, The Mirrors of Castaway Time, begins after this denial of love has caused the swirling whirlpools of Time to create a montrous man called The Oracule who, with his Horde of millions of warriors, has set about to destroy all life on Earth. In this excerpt, The Oracule has captured Sonoria and offers to allow her to live if she will bear his children. But first, she must defeat one of his warriors in mortal combat:

“You see,” he said, “It is obvious. We need new blood. We are stagnant and ugly. With this great warrior-goddess we shall start a new race of people!’

He moved up closer to her until he, too, was reflected in the mirror. He looked himself up and down and then looked at Sonoria. “Ah, yes!” he said and he ran his hands over her body. “A new race of people. And I, your Oracule, shall be the progenitor of the future, the great father of a grand progeny!”

Then he stopped. “But why be hasty? First, some entertainment. Why not?”

He clapped his hands. The carpet door parted and in strode a powerfully built man dressed in leather armor, carrying a short sword in his hand and wearing a dagger at his side. Part of his nose was missing, revealing an oozing, black cavity; his face was filthy, his bare arms covered with scars.

“This is Quem,” the Oracule said. “Quem the hero, Quem the legend, Quem the Ruthless One. He has taken many heads, eaten the brains and hearts of many great warriors that he has killed in combat, and has never, in fact, been bested in armed competition. This is my proposition, my gamble, my bet, my wager—and he, I might add, has freely accepted the challenge—that if he defeats the golden goddess and eats her raw, still-beating heart right here, right now, he becomes a general, sits at my right hand, and has his choice of the choicest concubines. This is true, yes?”

The Oracule looked at Quem. If the warrior understood, he did not indicate it by so much as a twitch.

The Oracule went on: “The only rule in this competition is that there are no rules.” He looked at Sonora again. “Are you ready, my goddess?” He blew her a kiss.

Sonoria did not move, did not change her expression. This seemed to please The Oracule. “Good then. Any time you wish, you may begin.”

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

July 4th in My Little Town: Funny Stuff, Crazies, Ice Cream, and Lots of Flags

A member of the 2010 4th of July parade, Onancock, VA

We do live in the perfectly realized snatch of America here on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. It's a lovely town especially in the summer. Just what you would expect: rural small town, hot, sunny, leafy, and profoundly American.  Independence Day celebrations were in keeping with such ambiance, such bone deep instincts about where we came from and who we are. Where we are going seems to be the question these days, with pundits Left and Right decrying the nations guiding stars. Oil leaks, recession, and war, yeah, maybe, but we still have this haven of peace into which we can stick our heads and pretend we are invisible.

For one day, then, this was the scene: People coming together as a community, neighbors, young and old, celebrating whatever it is is their minds it was time to celebrate. The weather was more than perfect, the ice cream soft and luscious, the patriotic band appropriately screechy. But where was the mayor and his speech?

I love to Google quotations. Here are some appropriate for this time of year.
Can anything be stupider than that a man has the right to kill me because he lives on the other side of a river and his ruler has a quarrel with mine, though I have not quarrelled with him? Blaise Pascal

Each nation feels superior to other nations. That breeds patriotism - and wars. Dale Carnegie

Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism - how passionately I hate them! Albert Einstein
I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world. Diogenes
I have long believed that sacrifice is the pinnacle of patriotism. Bob Riley

I have no country to fight for; my country is the earth, and I am a citizen of the world. Eugene V. Debs
I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually. James A. Baldwin

I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.  Nathan Hale