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:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Lost at Sea, Found at Sea

                       A man is never lost at sea.

                                           Ernest Hemingway,  The Old Man and the Sea
Yeah, well. Romantically said, not so romantically done. Just ask the families and loved ones of the crew of the "Pineapple," a 38-ft. catamaran that went missing at sea for more than ten days. I am one of those "friends and loved ones" and you could have cut my poor heart out with a spoon while all this lost-at-sea drama was coming down. 
You may have been following their adventures on the news the last couple of weeks. It was all over the place: CNN, NBC, ABC, etc. They left Guam with all intentions of reaching Cebu in the Philippines in maybe ten days or so. Were confident enough to have already made their flight reservations back home. Then they seemed to fallk off the planet. Went missing. Gone without a trace.
Or so it seemed to anxious families and friends. Seems though, they were doing okay but had rudder problems and couldn't steer, but how were we to know? They had decided not to bring a way to communicate long distance--HF radio, SAT phone. What the hell, hey? We'll be fine. The voyage from Guam to the P.I. is a downhill cakewalk and the weather looks great.
Did they capsize and go down? Any boat can do that, but catamarans have a reputation. Did the boat break up and sink? That happens, too. Were they attacked by pirates? Someone asked me that. The answer is, not probable. Not many pirates have set up shop between Guam and the P.I.
A huge search and rescue operation was launched. C-130s from Hawaii joined planes from the P.I. Coast Guard vessels followed their assumed track, commercial shipping in the area were notified. Back home, on Guam and in the States, we held our breaths and crossed our fingers and shared hopeful messages with one another. Then, the husband of the lone woman on board, receive a phone call: "Hi, honey, it's me!"
And so, the drama ended. They were 150 miles from their destination, sailing again after making repairs. For some reason, her cell phone coverage extended out that far. (Go figure. Whose her carrier?).
All's well that ends well, but they got some 'splaining to do.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him! (And get your belly buttons ready for contemplation!)

Do not think you will necessarily be aware of your own enlightenment. Dogen

And as long as you're subject to birth and death, you'll never attain enlightenment.

Do you remember that book? No, not The Moor's Last Sigh. That's my book shelf back there.  I mean If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him which is not on my book shelf but will be soon.  It was written by psychotherapist Sheldon Kopp and published back in the 1970s when we hippies were all examining our navels for the profound meaning of life, i.e. enlightenment. (I found it just behind a piece of dark cotton lint.)

At the time, I was too busy being a hippie and then serving in the Army and then being a hippie again (a college student with two kids) so I didn't read the book. But it's reputed to be a classic so I just ordered it this morning. Better late than never and I'm looking forward to some old, hippie, meaning-of-life-type life words of advice. When I went to Amazon to buy it, I found the list I copied below. It's billed as an eschatological list, and eschatology is the study of the end of the world. Lovely stuff. Nevertheless,  I love this common sense approach to psychotherapy and to life which basically says, "The way you think life is really pretty much the way it really is, so get over it. Here it is, so stare into your belly button and get thinking (that's called omphaloskepsis by the way):

1. This is it!
2. There are no hidden meanings
3. You can't get there from here, and besides, there's no place else to go
4. We are all already dying and we'll be dead for a long time. 
5. Nothing lasts!
6. There is no way of getting all you want.
7. You can't have anything unless you let go of it.
8. You only get to keep what you give away.
9. There is no particular reason why you lost out on some things.
10. The world is not necessarily just. Being good often does not pay off and there is no compensation for misfortune.
11. You have the responsibility to do your best nonetheless.
12. It is a random universe to which we bring meaning.
13. You don't really control anything.
14. You can't make someone love you.
And I want to add a number 15 to this list apropos of number 14:
15. You CAN make people hate you.

Afterthoughts: Apparently, according to the Buddhist chatter on the Internet, killing the Buddha if you meet him on the road is not to be taken literally. It's all symbolic stuff, you see. The "road" is the path to enlightenment, and meeting the Buddha on that road would mean that you thought you found the illusive goal of reaching enlightenment, but hold on now, if you think you achieved enlightenment, it means you DID NOT! Get it? It's like, just searching for enlightenment IS enlightenment but if you are searching for enlightenment and think that makes you enlightened, you're not. Now do you get it? Really, it's pretty easy.

Next, we writer's usually feel that we know something other people don't. That is, compared to the average schmo, we are enlightened. But, my dear fellow scribblers, we don't know shat, and so, KILL THAT THOUGHT. There, now you are enlightened. You're welcome.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Clean and Well Lighted, The Writer And His Winter

"I am one of those who like to stay late at the cafe," the older waiter said. "With all those who do not want to go to bed. With all those who need a light for the night."
                                         - "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place," Ernest Hemingway

Ah, Hemingway. He gets it just right for a winter's struggle against the bitter, terrifying fading of the light. And here I am in this somewhat blurry picture, sitting out a winter evening with a glass of wine in my home space, a clean, well-lighted place where a man can feel easy about things that are cold and frozen and dark.

Yet, another way to get through the profound depths of winter, wherein we now find ourselves, is to dedicate oneself to work, to production, to focused effort. And I am. My work days recently look something like this:

Up at dawn (this is not difficult as dawn comes blessedly late this time of year).

Coffee (decaf--too bad; how I used to love a caffeine buzz), some kind of quick breakfast while I read an article from one of my magazines: The New Yorker, Skeptic, Scientific American, Newsweek or whatever grabs my eye at the bookstore.

A quick scan of the world and national news (murder most foul most days, and deceit and buggery and tomfoolery galore, too.).

Into my cave where books and the Internet await. This morning I had business emails from my website designer who is busy getting something spiffy ready for me by way of completely revamping my site ( and turning me on to some schemes for selling books which I'll investigate.

 I also had an email from my publisher who is getting Book III of the Eye of the Stallion fantasy series ready for publication as well as a new edition of Book I with a new cover and some editorial changes. We are also going to enter Book II in an alleged "Book-of-the-Year" contest that costs 75  bucks--Both of these deals are put together by nice, thoughtful folks who make money giving you advice on how to make money.

This afternoon, I'm going to read for a couple of hours (David Foster Wallace: Infinite Jest), and then out into the cold for a four-mile walk. (I crave exercise, always have. Yesterday was YMCA workout day.) After that, a glass of something strong, another news summary, dinner with wife and wine, an hour making love to my guitar, and then up to bed to read myself to sleep.

Note: Hemingway had his demons, as do we all, and his short story quoted above is one of his best. An old man comes into a cafe and just hangs out until all hours while the waiters talk about him behind his back. Seems he's seen too much of war and life and death and is afraid of the darkness of his own thoughts. As we all know, though, you gotta face them eventually. Preferably, and if you're very lucky, you can face them with a glass of wine and someone you love nearby.

The image below I took a the Green Parrot Bar in Key West. The Green Parrot is not necessarily a clean or well-lighted place, but one can certainly get well lit there.