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, January 18, 2012

The Writer as Presenter: Use Your Skills to Promote Your Books

I spent months preparing a lecture on traditional navigation for a high-end group of sailors and intellectuals: A sword of Damocles, indeed.

The legend goes that the sword was hung by order of Dionysus over Damocles head by a mere horse hair to teach him that happiness is fragile no matter how rich and powerful you are. Well, even folks like myself, whose wealth and power resides only in his attitude toward life, not in vast tangible assets, the moral of the story is not lost.

There I was, happily wandering about, when I was approached by an extremely nice person who asked me to, please sir, present something interesting to her science/philosophy group that meets weekly at the local college. Perhaps something on my presumed area of expertise, say, speech and language pathology?

I hesitated, scanning about for a reasonable way out. I had retired from that profession a number of years ago and found it a nice field to be retired from. However, I quickly recovered; a light went on: I had lived for ten years on a sailboat on the island of Guam where I had studied the ancient method of ocean navigation. I had, in fact, just finished writing an adventure novel for adults, young and old, whose central theme was the survival of two teen aged boys among the islands of the tropical Pacific, that survival depending on their ability to learn those ancient secrets of navigating across hundreds of miles of open ocean without instruments.

She smiled, nodded, and said, "That sounds fine. How about January 13th?"

And so, just that easily, the sword was positioned over me by its horse hair. Just how would I go about lecturing on anything to a group of mostly retired Ph.D.s/college professors of various stripes/engineers/medical doctors/school teachers, etc, whose expectations must necessarily be pretty high.

Mixed emotions: my heart sank even as it beat faster with excitement. Being a bit of a blabber mouth/entertainer/former college lecturer myself, I figure I might actually be able to pull it off with the requisite preparation. I got to work. I found that over the years, I had learned how to put together a PowerPoint presentation and that, stored away in photo albums and Internet/computer storage devices, I had lots of pretty neat photographs to choose from. I had a few very fine books on traditional navigation, and a friend on Guam who would love to be a primary resource.

Two months later, I was pleased with my progress. I had reacquainted myself with PowerPoint, had selected and programed over fifty slides, had reread the literature, and communicated via email with my friend on Guam, himself a retired college professor. I was ready.

The proof of a presentation, though, is all mixed up in the pudding of audience, preventing technical snafus, and keeping a tight lid on personal anxieties. I figured I knew my stuff and could beg off on questions I couldn't answer. I can also do a passing good tap dance and play a mean harmonica. I'd get through this.

In the event, all went well---more than well, actually--splendid, as one audience member later commented. The PowerPoint part of the deal came off without a hitch--the college lecture theater was nicely equipped with the latest equipment to include a red-beamed laser pointer and overhead projector. The audience was large and enthusiastic and included local sailors who asked knowledgeable, insightful questions that I was able to answer. My stage fright/brain freeze tendencies took a hike and, after a minute or two, I
was in high gear and enjoying myself immensely.

I also learned something valuable that every writer needs to know: If he/she has skills/knowledge that he/she can relate to a book--in my case a novel--he/she can use a well-put-together presentation to promote that book. You can even take it on the road.

The day after the presentation, in fact, I received an invitation to repeat my show as part of a program to celebrate the bicentennial of the War of 1812 here on the Eastern Shore. Someone else suggested that I could present this material at boat shows around the country, selling books as I go.

So, damn that sword, full speed ahead, to mix historical metaphors. You have nothing to lose but your horse hair. But bring your tap dancing shoes and harmonica just in case.

Am I tap dancing?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Blogging in for the New Year: Politics, Dolphins, Studying Spanish, Preparing a Lecture

Ah, Small Town Innocence--Or is It?

I'm into 2012 up to my eyeballs already. No break, it seems.

What with the ongoing GOP Primary/Debate circus to regale my political sense of the ridiculous, baby sitting dolphins in the Florida Keys, wrapping my brain tightly around my new Rosetta Stone Spanish course (loving it--I know a woman who doesn't think I should study Spanish because she doesn't like Mexicans--yeah, a Tea Partier), and preparing a lecture on traditional navigation by the indigenous peoples of the western Pacific, I'm lacking down time. I'm also playing guitar until my fingers are screaming at me and keeping up my end of the deal as regards being a good husband, father, and grandfather.

No writing. That's right. Nothing. Nothing on paper; its all happening in my head at this point. That is, a novel forming from the swirling nebula that is my brain. Its fun, actually, this anticipation of writing. Literary foreplay?

So first, the GOP. I'm no pundit--though that might have been a fun career choice--but the desperation on the Right is evidenced by the gleeful comedians on the left. John Stewart, Steven Colbert---damn, are they funny. The funnier they are, the more you can bet the narrow-thinking, intolerant ones (the ones against using condoms, for crying out loud) are struggling with their message. Does this Santorum guy REALLY think American should and can be forced to stop using condoms? And he's for SMALL government?

I've been at the Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key, in Florida, for the past week. My job? Caretaker. Read: Be here at night in case of emergencies, like cranky animal right activists breaking in and trying to release the dolphins into the ocean. Sounds reasonable until you learn that these animals were mostly born and raised here, have never been out in the wild, and would quickly die of starvation. People are crazy on the Left, too, I guess. Here's a picture of the place: one version of paradise?

The Rosetta Stone Spanish course is fun, fun, fun. I think I'm learning Spanish, too. Of course, not having a day job leaves me plenty of time to dig into it. It's like a game with plenty of pictures and good computerized voice-recognition stuff that checks your pronunciation and gently scolds you should you screw up. The designers have a good grip on how we learn. After a month, I'm already getting a pretty good accent. I sound a little like Cochita Banana.

And as for the lecture, I've put together a Power Point presentation and have been studying hard for a few months now. It's about how the native people of Pacific used to--and in some cases still do--navigate across hundreds of miles of open sea without instruments. No compasses, sextants, GPS's, whatever. Fascinating stuff. Followers of this blog know that I've studied traditional navigation under a master navigator and just finished writing a novel concerning this dying art.

At sea in a canoe: It's a big ocean. You can't afford to make mistakes.

At sea in the Pacific in my boat about ten years ago. That's Manny, the master navigator, on the right and me on the left.

The outlook for the year? I'm off to a good start. My behavior is already disgustingly close to perfection. Have stopped drinking, mostly; don't smoke--anything--well, maybe a cigar once a year with a good friend; and usually keep myself relatively fit by walking and doing upper body workouts. I'm generally nice to people, or at least try hard to be sweet and friendly, though sometimes, in an attempt to be funny, I make comments I later regret. I do have some hangups, mostly modest ones, one or two immodest, but I'll keep them to myself. If I weren't a free thinking secular humanist, I'd put myself up for sainthood. Wonder what I'd look like with a halo? Would it interfere with my using Rograine?