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:

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Enjoy When You Can, Endure When You Must: A Small Wisdom

.This is Johann Wolfgang von Goether, a prime genius, a polymath, a man who must have been filled to the brim with small wisdoms

Enjoy when you can, and endure when you must. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I guess the great genius of German literature got that about right. My goodness, how we do all endure. It's all about endurance. You see it everywhere, world wide. Life, the endurance contest.

Why, I remember once, in China during the Viet Nam war when I was a soldier there, seeing a man with no legs scrabbling along the filthy street, sliding along on a piece of cardboard, picking up scraps of discarded food with a pair of chopsticks--a pair of chopsticks! I was just a kid then, really, and the image has stayed with me. How dirty he was.

And last month, going into WalMart, I saw a similar phenomena, a man who walked, boldly as a king, through the automatically opening doors, on his knuckles. He had no legs and no torso to speak of either. He swung along smartly, too, and knuckle walked right up onto one of the electric shopping carts they have there for shoppers who can't walk, and hopped on. I was gratified and horrified and sufficiently mystified at the gift humans have for enduring when we have the capacity to end our existence. How much pain and hopelessness can a person endure?

Lots of it. And so, I've come to the conclusion that the filthy and hopeless and downtrodden, the legless and the sightless, and brutalized and abused, those of us who seem to have good reason to be utterly devoid any reason to want to go on living--go on living anyway.

There must be a small light in there some where. A small point of hope or love or something, that keeps them going. They ought to share it, this infinite resilience. Let us, who have so much more, see it and maybe we will understand ourselves better.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

It's Crazy Outside, But Angst in Here: Stream-of-Consciouness Blogging Whilst Watching a Woody Allen Movie

Blogging and Watching a Movie: Angst and Buttered Popcorn

I have a very good life, so I have nothing to complain about. Sometimes, I just have existential angst.

                                                                                                        Meg Ryan

It's much easier to write when you're sad. But you can end up isolated and depressed because you almost need to put yourself in that situation to have that angst to write from.

                                                                                              Natalie Imbruglia

I'm watching Woody Allen movies tonight and writing down whatever comes out. Woody Allen once said, when asked where he got his ideas, "I smash myself on the occipital lobe with a mallet and write down whatever comes out."

Love the guy. Just got through You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger after reading about his new one, Miracle in Paris, which I know I'm going to be wild about because it has Hemingway and Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald and the old 20's gang who were real enough to build a career on and lots of English professors did. Sure.

Now, God help me, I'm watching Manhattan and  Gershwin is loud with Rhapsody in Blue and, there she is, Mariel Hemingway, the writer's pretty grand daughter, the one who didn't commit suicide, and she is Woody's girl friend and she is seventeen and he's forty-two (in the movie and then he played it out in real life).

The thing about Woody Allen is, he has one shtick and shticks with it. And this is good. And he's crazy, of course. All his characters are  neurotic writers. Struggling neurotic writers who have maybe written one great book and now are batting their bleeding egos against the next one and it just won't come out, and all their friends, these struggling writers, are artists and shallow, quacking, self-absorbed intellectuals muddling through marriages and affairs.

Actually, all the quacking is all about angst. Angst, the hard stuff. Angst, straight, no water, no ice. Angst mainlined, direct into the heart. All of us, then, especially writers and anyone with a pulse, suffers from angst. It's the particular hell of life as it is lived, and would be soooo boring without, even if you have enough money and food and a good education and so know better than to have angst, and no one is hunting you down and trying to kill you.

Now tonight, tonight I sent the new novel out to my editor, a smart, Stanford-type woman who I've never met who lives in California. She edited my last two novels. She does a good line edit and makes comments, too and its the comment you live for, to tell the truth. Comments are the heart of it all. The truth lies in the comments.

This is Memorial Day Weekend--the Saturday of it, 2011. We spent the day working on the house, cleaning, blasting with the high pressure water blaster. Great for green mold on vinyl siding and brick walk ways. The weather was wonderful and my flowers, my morning glorys, are starting to vine up the trellis. Anticipating a summer of grandson and daughter and Chicago and the Chesapeake. Ice cream on the town common on an impossibly hot and humid August day. A thunder storm, maybe. A real rocker.

I'm drifting off. My stream of consiousness just went over a waterfall. Guess I'll go to bed.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The World Spins Awry as Summer Approaches: Tornados, Floods, and a Botched Rapture

Where did you go, you rank old profit of doom? Scurrilous preyer upon the emotionally deficient, rheumy eyed, withered fanatic, bully, viper....what was his name? Camping? Harold Camping. That ancient flim-flam man, who, twice now in that last twenty years, bamboozled the hopelessly gullible with black-hearted, right-up-to-heaven savior dreams?

I understand he is in hiding. Let's hope the old adage you can run but you cannot hide pulls the covers from his spider hole. Or, maybe, he was the only one to be raptured? Is that possible? OMG. Here's a blurb from his website: This web site serves as an introduction and portal to four faithful ministries which are teaching that WE CAN KNOW from the Bible alone that the date of the rapture of believers will take place on May 21, 2011 and that God will destroy this world on October 21, 2011. Please take your time and browse through the teachings of Harold Camping, President of Family Radio.

The Reverend Camping now says that May 21st was an "invisible judgement day" and that the world will still end--very quickly--on October 21st. The entertainment value of Mr. Camping's rantings is right up there with Jersey Shore.

But there is more in the news than old, crazy, cranky bad jokes. Real horror, in fact. The G in OMG saw fit to allow the destruction of 75% of Joplin, MO. Death estimates started out at 89, now up to 1,500. We can assume children, lots of them. And then there were those people who huddled against the wall at that Home Depot store thinking they were safe. The winds were 198 m.p.h. The suction from negative air pressure must have been horrific. The roof was pulled off, the wall caved in. Imagine dying at Home Depot when you just went there to pick up a gallon of paint and a light bulb and maybe a few planters and a ladder. And a weed wacker. And your kid was with you, your son, say, and he was carrying the light bulbs for you and then everything went to hell in that grand old handbasket and people were yelling and the retirees who work the isles started gathering you all up and telling you to get against that wall. And you did and your son was in your arms, huddled there, against your chest.....

Then there is the Great Flood rising, rising, rising down the middle of the nation's big river, inundating, displacing, making mucky-muck of millions of lives. Darling flood, your slow-going, over-the-top waters have been upstaged by dud raptures and high winds. Too bad. You need to be fast and violent to make it in today's media.

And other things, too, distress the average, clean-living, righteous, middle-aged American as he tries to make sense of his lazy, happy, ain't-it-a-glorious-spring, ice cream eating, scotch sipping, the bad-economy-hasn't-affected-me-even-a-little-bit life. To wit: The stock market plunged on  the financial mess in Greece and concerns over the economies of those Latin, Mediterranean, olive oil and wonderful-climate countries. They need to take a tip from us and get the Chinese to bail them out. And the price of gas, and the lousy (silly) Republican field of presidential hopefuls, and the housing market, and Glenn Beck is still around, and so is Qaddafi and that ham-faced fool named Trump.

But the Red Sox are pulling themselves up by their red sox and if Pedroia isn't too badly wounded they could get a grip on that waving Pennant early on. And it's nearly summer, that most glorious and patriotic of American seasons. It's only May but the heat is building, classic thunderstorms are splitting apart big tulip poplars on Market Street, and happy sailors are sliding up to the docks in our perfect harbor just four miles in from the Chesapeake. I'm looking forward to the sultry, sulky, insolent heat and the nasty, biting green head flies, and more ice cream, some fishing and beach time, and some fine sailing on the Bay.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Life Punctuated by Death Punctuated by Love

Patricia Herborg Knutsen Arvidson April 17, 1921 - May 4, 2011

Love the whole world as a mother lovers her only child. The Buddha

“My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.”  Mark Twain

“The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.” Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (Indian Spiritual leader, 1931-1990)

I'm thinking now that I'm not ready to write this--this about my mother's death. What's more profound than your mother's death? Only the combined agony of when your mother births you, your agony and hers. Beyond that, nothing.

So, there she is, up there, beautiful and powerful. She was that way in the beginning and she was that way at the very end. At the end, that morning last week in the Intensive Care Unit of a local hospital, she wore her warrior's mask to greet her death. It was the mask I had seen so many times in my life when she was challenged or angry or determined and she was very often determined.

 She was ninety and not well and had fallen and broken her hip and now the desperate attempt to fix her bones had overcome her last resources. Her lungs gave out but, for a long time, her great heart did not. When my father, her husband of sixty-eight years, leaned over and put his forehead against hers and whispered that he loved her, oh, how he loved her, she seemed to rally. Or was the jump in her vital signs only our wishful thinking, a romantic notion?

Poor Dad. Leaning over her bed, over her body, his mind absorbed the truth, but his heart, like hers, could not accept it. They had been famous lovers until their last day together. In their final years at the nursing home, they had taken to spending their time sitting on the edge of their conjoined beds holding hands and looking out the window. The staff called them the honeymooners. They kissed often, real kisses, mouth to mouth, and then laughed at themselves. They insisted they were happy and it would have been unwise to argue. Could anyone have been that happy after all they had seen? All the wars fought, the illnesses over come, the children raised, the grandchildren supported, the impossible amount of work accomplished?

I feel both diminished and enlarged by her passing. Watching her die, I can claim another small wisdom: I have witnessed the death of the woman who gave me life. I have kissed the moist forehead of the person who is half of me as her fierce spirit left her. I like to think she gave a last gift at that moment, that something entered me that will carry me along until it's my turn to leave. A final understanding of the ineffability of life, of death, and the paradox that love triumphs though life is defeated.

We love you so much, Mom.

Monday, May 2, 2011

May 1st We Got Him and We Celebrate: Now the Existential Agonizing Begins

I want to remember this day, the day we "got him" and the day we celebrated death and then the next day some of us woke up with an existential hangover.

Who do we kill and feel happy about the killing? What type of person fits into that catagory of human being whose demise brings joy to most of the world? Yeah, this guy, I guess would fit the bill.

My inital take on his killing feels like this: You are free to kill--and indeed, stupid if you don't kill--someone who is actively trying to kill you--someone who has a gun pointed at your head and you're pretty certain is about to pull the trigger. The existential angst and second guessing in a case like this should be left to those among us who have strong "turn-the-other-cheek" leanings and would rather die themselves rather than take a life. They are an enlightened and very small minority and are always oppressed and victimized.

The world, it seems, pretty much agrees with the action our Navy SEALS took today and that should be judge and jury enough. We didn't put the entire population of Hiroshima in trial before we knowingly and willingly wiped them out.

So, let's accept it that the human animal as it has evolved must necessarily kill or be killed and be pleased with the outcome, so far.  There will be more hell to pay, for certain, but paying hell is the terribly odd way human nature works. We will leave it to the better angels of our natures to make apologies.