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, August 27, 2010

Love to Read Fantasy? THE MIRRORS OF CASTAWAY TIME is a Deep Fantasy Adventure

So, what do I mean by "Deep Fantasy?" Here's an excerpt, but first, let me set the background.

Our heroine, Sonoria, a brillant warrior, skilled horsewoman, and young queen of the Stratus Valley, has dared defy the workings of the Universe itself. She is now a prisoner of the Oracule, the man-monster created by her own denial of eternal love:

A eunuch swung this door open and Sonoria squinted into the brilliant light. When her eyes had adjusted, she found she was looking into a room filled with gold: gold cushions, gold lamps, gold statues. The floor was covered with carpets woven from gold thread; the walls were covered with mirrors in gilded frames. Rather than the heavy musk of dung-fire smoke and incense, a delicate perfume of flowers reached her nose.

The Oracule watched her. “Go in, go in. This is now yours. Look around. Touch things. Try on some new clothes. Lie on the bed—our bed, my love. Our bed!”

Sonoria stepped through the door. In the mirrors, she saw herself everywhere, that same tall young woman with the great mane of yellow hair, dressed in the rough wool and deerskin and still clutching the bloody sword in one hand.

“And you know what is best of all?” The Oracule said. “This little palace of ours moves. It is on wheels. It takes no fewer than fifty horses to haul it along with us across the prairie.

“Ah, I can see you are pleased. Pleased in your quiet, warrior way. Good! Now, your eunuch will help you prepare for the evening...."

The Mirrors of Castawy Time is now available at and I'll be signing  books at the Harbor Festival in Onancock, VA on Sept. 11 from 9:00 to 2:00.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Advertisements for Myself: The Agony and the Ecstasy of the Writing Life

Selling Well on Amazon: It's a fast-paced, complex, fantasy/adventure love story for good high school-level and adult readers. And you don't have to have read Book I.

Praise for the Eye of the Stallion Series: "....Arvidson has crafted a wonderful tale for any age...where the forces unleashed are primal, and the science suggestive. The reader is urged by compelling and deft plot twists...and sense of precision story telling. Readers familiar with the EarthSea Trilogy by Ursula le Guin will find familiar moral territory...."  V. Santos, Former Features Editor/News Editor, Pacific Daily News (a Gannett Newspaper)

Here we go into the "selling" phase of the writing life. It's the worst part, believe me. Worse even than slogging through a long re-write. Worse than banging your shins on a table leg. Worse than the flu because it lasts longer. Worse than a Congressman's morals. It's like selling snake oil. It's embarrassing. It exhausts the ego and leaves it flat and deflated and smelling vaguely of spoiled dreams and rancid discouragement.

What's the secret, then, to success in this miserable phase of the writing life? Here's what Martha Stewart, who knows something about selling, had to say about it: I think it's very important that whatever you're trying to make or sell, or teach has to be basically good. A bad product and you know what? You won't be here in ten years.

 Ah, so that's the key--it has to be good.

But what is good? Art is so subjective. Truth is, there are 1,000,000 good books produced in the U.S. every year. That's ONE MILLION. And that doesn't count the self-published ones. There are probably 30,000,000 of those. And every one of those books is some writer's special baby, a labor of love and determination, a cause for personal and family pride ("My mother loves it!). In short, at least one person thinks that book is good.

How then to sell your good book when the world is awash in masterpieces? Things have changed since Hemingway was pushing his books. His publisher did it for him. As far as I know, he never did a book tour or sat in a mall signing copies of A Farewell to Arms. My publisher does some promotion, but I'm expected to do most of it. I've tried booksignings at bookstores and there are county fairs, local art shows, and muskrat-skinning contests (seriously, there is one of those every year here on the Eastern Shore). The Internet is, of course, the advertising platform-of-choice in this brave new world of huckstering and opportunities to sell there are manifold: FaceBook, Twitter, GoogleAdsense, on and on. Some free, some cost. And author beware--there are lots of clever shysters out there who will take your money in exchange for "advertising" your book.

The bottom line for a writer, though, is this: Word of mouth. That's how Hemingway and Martha Stewart got going. And, that of course, is where the good part comes in. It's is what Martha was talking about in the quote above. People gotta like it. If it's a good product, they will buy it and they will tell others about it. It's the consumers who have the final say in what is good.

So, here I go. Here's my pitch: You will love this deep-fantasy-adventure-love story. You will love the characters and the plot twists and the fast-paced action. 

It would be fine and wonderful if you would buy a copy.  And, after reading it, if you bought it on Amazon, you can write a review and post it there. That's kinda cool. And send me your comments right here on this blog. I'll publish them, good or bad (maybe).

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Writer Back Home: Dark Rain, Green Grass, A Wet Old Cat

Blessed rain. Profound rain. Wet-cat rain.

I come back to this: wet and lush where once was brown, dessicated crab grass and thirsty birds. After two weeks in the eye-searing, brilliant-white, tropical light of the Florida Keys, this morning's sodden Virginia is a balm to the eyes and soul. At Noon, the sky is dark and hounded by thunder, the rain heavy and pounding, the world outside happily drenched after so many months of drought. I leave the door open so I can hear the wet happen.

My intentions for this day were good. I was going to take a break from writing and get cracking on scraping and painting the garage (I feel vaguely guilty. Terry has painted half of the inside of the house already). Can't do that now. I was going to pay a conjugal visit to my masted mistress, the lovely sloop, Seawind. Better stay away from her with all the lightening around. I was going to get a haircut. Think I'll put that off. No one who matters will see this old head today.

So, what then, to do with a rain day? When I was teaching, on such a day as this, the principal would announce a "rainy day recess." It meant kids stayed in their classrooms instead of going out to play. The teachers would groan and roll their eyes while the kids started climbing the walls. But I'm retired from all that and have better things to do. I think I'll play some music (Speaking of conjugal visits, I haven't touched my Martin guitar in two weeks. In the Keys I was playing a Yamaha classical).

And now, I'm going to get back to the re-write. Moody, dark, and damp are good for writing.  As for the wet cat, his timing could be better. He doesn't decide to come bounding into the house through the cat door until he has gotten doused. I spoke to him about it but he's twenty-one years old and too old to learn new tricks. Then again, maybe there's a certain wisdom in letting the rain get you wet once in a while.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Two Days Off from the Happy Grind of Camp Re-Write: At Play in the Fields of the Florida Keys

Sloppy Joe's Bar, Key West--(left to right--Me; my son, Eli; his significant other, Bailey)

"I talk and talk and talk, and I haven't taught people in 50 years what my father taught by example in one week." Mario Cuomo, former governor of N.Y.

Punked out Bailey

Eli. Should this profile be in a coin?

We commandeered a hat shop on Duval St.

Bras hang from the rafters at Captain Tony's Saloon

"For rarely are sons similar to their fathers: most are worse, and a few are better than their fathers." Homer  (Playing pool at the Green Parrot Bar, Key West)

Walking the Mean Streets of Key West: Mugged by Love

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden: Did the human race start like this, all snakes, sweat, and mosquitos?

Pondering a Diminishing Perspective to Nowhere:  A Walk on The Old 7-Mile Bridge

"A king, realizing his incompetence, can either delegate or abdicate his duties. A father can do neither. If only sons could see the paradox, they would understand the dilemma." Marlene Dietrich

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Perfect Morning in the Florida Keys: Love in the Sunshine and Carpe Diem to You, Too

This morning, the Dolphin Research Center glows, somehow, under a cerulean sky.

The greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being.
                                                             - Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lamat

Each morning when I open my eyes I say to myself: I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn't arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I'm going to be happy in it.  - Groucho Marx

My life has no purpose, no direction, no aim, no meaning, and yet I'm happy. I can't figure it out. What am I doing right?- Charles Schulz

To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.- Bertrand Russell

This day has broken open clear and warm and splendid. The sky has shaken off the dark, wet misery of yesterday, the breeze comes down the water carrying the blue with it, skittering on the waves. I'm up early and happy. I read and drink my coffee on the balcony overlooking this scene. Eli and Bailey arrived yesterday after a red-eye flight from San Francisco to Ft. Lauderdale and a three-hour drive down the Keys. Last night we drank wine and ate good food and laughed.They are sleeping in and I'm being quiet like an old monk stealing away from his prayers.

Today is ours. We shall own it, from moment to moment. Use it up, wear it out. Drive down the Keys, maybe to Key West. Walk the heat-heavy streets, drink the bars dry, eat up all the conch fritters, let our ears suck on the sounds of the town's crazy music. It's all very fine, as they say. They do say that when they are happy. I hope they say that. I hope it's something I can count on.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Writing as a Tropical Storm Forms Over the Keys: How Many Crazies Can Fit on the Head of a Pin?

My work space this morning at the Dolphin Research Center

“I disregard the proportions, the measures, the tempo of the ordinary world. I refuse to live in the ordinary world as ordinary women. To enter ordinary relationships. I want ecstasy. I am a neurotic -- in the sense that I live in my world. I will not adjust myself to the world. I am adjusted to myself."                                                                                                              

"The only abnormality is the inability to love."

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."

These are quotes by the wonderfully odd French writer, Anais Nin. Look her up. She is an original and we like originals. She was a famous diarist and set the standard for writing erotica. Kinda got things going. Her relationship with Henry Miller was legendary--and we all know about Henry Miller.

Writer's have been called odd, strange, alchoholic, obsessive, manic, depressive--the list goes on. And it's true. But, we are in good company. The rest of the world is nuts, too.

Like the news I woke up to this morning: A JetBlue flight attendant pulled the emergency door open and jumped out. Before doing so, he fought with a passenger, grabbed a couple of beers, and bid farewell to both the passengers and his career. The plane was sitting on the tarmac and he slid down an escape shute, so he was fine--and arrested. And so his fifteen minutes of fame begins. Enjoy, my friend.

Next, a lady who wanted chicken MacNuggets instead of the breakfast being offered by a McDonalds restaurant (it was still breakfast time, dear), attacked the server right through the drive-through window. Tried to climb in it, presumably whilst yelled expletives. She eventually broke the window and was arrested and charged with vandalism. Love to see the rap sheet on her. But, then again, I can guess.

So, as I start day 9 at my dolphin-enhanced re-writer's refuge in the Florida Keys , I'm protected from neurotics and contemplating the continuing work on the book through the morning vale of the tropical depression that is forming over me at this very moment. Continued black clouds and thunder and lightening and rain greeted me through the fine big windows that look out over the Florida Bay and the dolphin pens. I fear the dolphins will be lonely today as it's hard to imagine many tourists showing up in the rain and booming slop.

I, though, will continue with the task at hand. I've read the manuscript aloud into my hand-held digital recorder to find the pot holes in my prose, made comments and corrections on the manuscript, and now must go though it and make the actual changes to the text on the computer. The hard part, and the fun part, will be expanding or creating more scenes and developing characters. Let me get to work.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Writing Through the Thunder: Day 8 at Camp Re-Write; Will Lightening Strike?

The view from where I sit all day. This was yesterday.

The view from where I sit. This is this morning.

Good morning! This is Day 8 at Camp Re-Write. I look out here (as I write this) and see not the clear skies and blue water of yesterday, but rather a heavens filled with great, gray thunder storms heading my way. The ozone alarm just sounded, meaning it is unsafe to be out and about the facility, sheets of rain slash at the surface of Florida Bay, booming huge sparks shoot across the near horizon. It's kinda nice. Good for a writer contemplating his navel (omphaloskepsis) and hoping a for a cognitive lightening strike.

Camp Re-Write schedule for August 9th? Up at 7:00, breakfast with politics (TV), time for blogging (here! now!), and, when the ozone alarm blasts out the ALL CLEAR signal, all campers must get back to the purpose of the camp: re-writing the novel, Brothers of the Fire Star. You're making good progress campers! We're proud of you (now that the homesick phase of summer camp has passed).

Later, campers will be encouraged to talk a long walk off a short pier (the old 7 Mile Bridge which is now 2 miles long so I walk it both ways) and on the way home, they will be given the opportunity to pick out their own supper menu at a popular local super market. Sounds like a grand day, everyone! Well, there goes the ALL CLEAR alarm! Let's get going, shall we?

To encourage campers' flagging determination, here are a few quotes about re-writing:

"Writing is rewriting. A writer must learn to deepen characters, trim writing, intensify scenes. To fall in love with the first draft to the point where one cannot change it is to greatly enhance the prospects of never publishing." Richard North Patterson

"This morning I took out a comma, and this afternoon I put it back again." Oscar Wilde

"The beautiful part of writing is that you don't have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon. You can always do it better, find the exact word, the apt phrase, the leaping simile." Robert Cormier

"The great thing about revision is that it's your opportunity to fake being brilliant." Will Shetterly

"Books aren't written- they're rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn't quite done it." Michael Crichton

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Days 2 & 3 at Camp Re-Write: I Watch Dolphins Play, Sunsets Set, and Work, Work, Work

I volunteered to fly to the Florida Keys and be the after-hours caretaker at the Dolphin Research Center for a couple of weeks. I figured it would be a good place to work on the re-write of my next novel. I was ever so correct. I'm supposed to keep an eye on things around here after hours, like after 5:30. I like just strolling around the dolphin pens. Everyone is gone--except the dolphins--and it's quiet and the dolphins are relaxing after a long, hard day entertaining tourists. They play quietly and when they see me, come up to the edge of their pens and look at me and flap their flippers and whistle through their blow holes. It's the language they share with each other and with their human trainers. Triligual stuff that I don't understand, so I say hello and move on. I wonder what they are thinking--obviously something. Food maybe, but I like to think it's something Zen like. Whistling and flapping with the Universe. What is the sound of one flipper flapping?

But they are instructive.They can talk and paint pictures if you put a brush in their mouths and do huge back flips straight out of the water for a fish dinner. It begs the question though: what are they reincarnated as if they are already enlightened and one with the Universe?

And the sunsets are spectacular. Everyone loves a good sunset beacause their simply beautiful. No wants to admit they love taking pictures of sunsets because they are simply cliches. I took a few. Happy cliche-ing.

This one is from the porch outside my third-floor living quarters. It lingered and lingered, calling to me, pick me! pick me! you cliche mongerer! I finally relented. It is the Univserse, after all.

So, this morning I find myself with a Saturday to kill. I promised myself a day off. I've been working hard (?) and it would be fun to drive up the Keys and look at the water and have lunch somewhere. I think I'll do that. Still, I can't help working a little this morning before I leave. I'm making good progress on the re-write, reading the manuscript aloud into a digital recorder and fixing the hidden lumps and bumps in my prose. I'm excited about the results, and can't let it go while I'm in the swing of it. Writing is play, really. Just like the dolphins. Very Zen. Maybe I'll be reincarnated as a dolphin. Back flips, anyone?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Day 1 of Dolphin Watch: I Take a Nap, Take a Walk, and Keep the Dolphins Secure

The old Seven Mile bridge, built in 1912 for the railroad, is now great place to walk.

So, alright, I don't have much to do here. I sleep in until I hear the sea lion complain (loudly) and the rooster crowing (In raw nature, it's the males of the species that bellow and roar). And I'm not lonely yet. Yesterday I took a long walk (4 miles) on this old bridge that the railroad tycoon named Flager built back at the beginning of the last century to bring civilization to the keys (It never caught on). There were lots of rain squalls all about, but slow moving and none got me. I went out to Pigeon Key, a fine little island under the bridge formerly the work camp for the construction crews and now used as a park and tourist destination.

Thirty years ago, soon after we got married and moved to Key West, we crossed this bridge at midnight in my 59 Chevy pickup towing a U-haul trailer packed with our stuff. The steering wheel on the old truck had lots of play in it and, with on-coming traffic, it was pretty hairy keeping things in the narrow lane. Lots drivers couldn't do it, in fact, and, BOOM! crashes and subsequent fires frequently blocked traffic for hours--days, in fact. Now there is a grand, wide system of bridges down the Keys and things are much improved.

The view from Pigeon Key: The old and the new Seven Mile bridges, in perspective.

I'm reading a new version of Peter Matthiessen's Killing Mr. Watson, a novelized history of south Florida and the Keys. It's called Shadow Country. It's fun to read it while I'm actually here. The grit and sweat of life here in what was, a hundred years ago, a wild, lawless backwater, still lingers despite the gross commercialization. You can go into the back country and lose yourself amongst the 'gators and ibisis, and sharks and mud and mangroves, and  'skitters and get a feeling for how miserable life must have been for many of the first white settlers (the native Americans, whose way of life was, of course, destroyed by the whites, had it figured out).

In any event, I'm not yet lonely. I've got a lot to do and it feels good doing it. As part of the re-write process, I decided to record the book aloud into my digital recorder. All the muck and snags and rocks and reefs in my prose expose themselves upon oral reading like a low lunar tide. Once all the problems are noted, I will begin the actual re-write, here on this machine.

So, now, to get back to it. Record, edit, re-write, repeat as necessary.


An osprey rests on the guard rails of the old bridge. I think these rails are the original railroad rails put to a second and good use.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

In the Florida Keys Baby Sitting Dolphins: Real Job? Re-Writing the Next Novel

The view from the my writer's hideaway in the Florida Keys

Though pleas'd to see the dolphins play, I mind my compass and my way. Matthew Green

I'm here for two weeks, at this strange and wonderful place between the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. My job is to simply be here at night, to keep an eye on things lest something go awry after hours. The reality: I don't have to do anything--I have nothing to do. How often in life does that happen?

Writers sometimes spend a lot of money finding a place with no distractions. They hide away in hideaways, slip away to a beach house, hike to a cabin in the woods, climb to a mountain top all so they can think and produce with no distractions. Distractions, though, are really just excuses.

So, here I am in the Florida Keys with no excuses. I know no one. I have no lawns to mow or phones to answer. No boats to sail or work on, no old garage to scrape and paint.

So what then? Here is what I hope to get done now that I'm free of the frictions of daily life: re-write the new novel. The working title was The Spirit of the Voyage.  The new title is Brothers of the Fire Star. I need to develop the characters more and develop some scenes to get in more "bling" (there's a new word for your Funk & Wagnalls) and hope to add at least 15,000 words to the 65,000 already down.

That's the main endeavor. Sub endeavors include more daily practice on recording The Eye of the Stallion fantasy series and, of course, much guitar practice. And a long walk on the old Seven Mile Bridge every afternoon.

Word for Today: Bling-bling (or simply bling) is a slang term popularized in hip hop culture, referring to flashy or elaborate jewelry and ornamented accessories that are carried, worn or installed, such as cell phones or tooth caps. The concept is mostly associated with rappers.

On second thought, I don't want to add bling to my writing. Nothing flashy or elaborate. Let me get down to it. Here goes.