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:

Monday, June 25, 2012

Winter Reading Done and Thanks to Mr. Chekov

(Note: Douglas Arvidson's new novel, Brothers of the Fire Star, will be released in October 2012)

In Praise of Dr. Chekov-and thank you, thank you, sir.

These days, in the first official year of my undeniable aging, I spend an inordinate amount of time, usually at wee hours of the morning as my wife sleeps next to me and the cats scratch around outside our door, worrying about how little time I have left.

This focus on the inevitable came on suddenly, not long after I left my day job and embraced the wonders of a comfortable literary retirement. Having nothing much else to worry about, I was left with just the near horizon of my demise to cause me to sweat through the haunted hours.

Yes, I said my own demise. Horrid, this obsession with termination, especially in view of my relatively robust health.  Nothing wrong with me that's not covered by medication. I work out, I'm not in pain and I can still see fairly well. My heart sometime likes to keep it's own rhythm but that's fine as long as there is a rhythm.

No, the problem is only that I need, I want, more time to work--to write. More time, like another fifty years or so. That being unlikely, I turned to Dr. Chekov, the master of the modern short story, the great Russian playwright, the consumptive who was dead at forty-four.

I spent the last dregs of this past winter with Chekov by my beside, reading him for an hour or so every night until my eyes warped and burned and I surrendered myself to death's livelier twin. All right, that's a bit much-- I read until I fell asleep. And a lot of Chekov passed me by, unfathomable, uncomprehended. I really needed a professor of Chekov to guide my reading--to help me along the way. But I persisted through The Ravine and Peasants and a thick wad of other stories and finally a play or two (The Cherry Orchard--his last play about the dying Russian aristocracy, written while he himself was actively dying, was the last.)

Chekov is a little hard for the modern reader to breeze through like you can breeze through say, Hemingway. Chekov is a little more Faulkner-esque in that one has to--or at least I have to--re-read a lot of the sentences to grasp the 19th Century syntax/style. But never mind--I enjoyed him immensely, will miss our time together, and will continue to pursue an increased understanding of his brillance.

But just today, I realized something else important, other than his greatness: He started writing in college, say in his twenties, and died at age forty-four. That's maybe twenty years of production, most of it knowing he was dying of TB--and look what he accomplished. I've got nothing to worry about except to keep busy. I'm only sixty-five.

 Chekov with a dog and with Tolstoy

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Beset by Languid Days, We Take to the Water and Find a New Paradise

A summer day on the Chesapeake Bay: Our Alberg 30, Seawind, sails the wind, full and by.

I don't resent these long-anticipated, languid days of summer that everyone is now complaining about. Amongst the press of book promotion, home-improvement projects, lawn mowing, and tending my few flowers I, with noticeably little effort, convinced a couple of new friends of ours to out flank the heat by go sailing with us.

Lassitude is the operative word when the temperature and humidity rise up to slap-your-face levels and you can taste the first dish of summer, spicy-hot in the nose. A friend of mine, ever the word smithy, used to say about summer: "It's not the heat that gets you, it's the humility."

But we denied both humility and humidity on this day and set sail with great pride and some fanfare for a day out plying a light breeze. A little wind in the sails, a glass of wine, and some excellent conversation was the way to start the summer off.

The Pocomoke River: Our Little Amazon

But the Bay is bright, the light glaring, the water salty, and the air heat-saturated. Was there another place to go for some relief? I had always wanted to stretch out my local boating adventures and go farther from home and had been eyeing the Pocomoke River, about a forty-minute drive north of us, just across the Maryland border. After sorting out a couple of pesky boating glitches (registering the trailer, paying $1500 to get the outboard working right) we were ready. We packed a lunch, hitched the boat to the truck, and headed up the road to Shad Landing State Park.

Lovely stuff, this place--a real paradise for the heat-tormented, especially if you're eager to be rid both heat and people. The park is situated in a big, dark forest and the headquarters/camp store are right on the river. There's a fine, protected little marina tucked back off the river itself and best of all, there was no one there.

But the river itself is the thing: its deep, cool water is brackish and dark brown from the tannic acid that leaches from the cypress bogs. A nearly unbroken wall of tall, green trees along the banks hides you from humanity and makes it easy to imagine you somehow took a wrong turn and ended up in the wilds of Borneo or Amazonia. And the river is seventy-three miles long, so there's enough room to wander all day and not see what is around every bend.

And then we found the country club. Such a thing: unobtrusive, the clubhouse barely visible amongst the trees, and a sign that said, "Boaters Welcome," a rare offering for a country club. We regretted the 18-hole golf course that was invisible from the river but rumored to have been carved out of the surrounding forest. We did appreciate, however, the cool bar with inexpensive wine. After a glass of Pino Grigio and a pleasant chat with the bar tender, the golf pro, and a fellow-retired teacher who apparently spends much of his free time astride a bar stool there, we were back out on the water where we shut the engine off and drifted with the incoming tidal current. We swam, we watched bald eagles, we congratulated ourselves on our find: Paradise within paradise.

Between boating adventures, I do have a summertime job: Promoting my new novel, Brothers of the Fire Star. Here I am on the porch of the Eastville Inn. The book will be officially released in October.

Monday, June 11, 2012

We Visit Tall Ships and Give the Crew a Book

Generous to a fault, I donate a copy of my new novel to the good (tall) ship Lynx.

I had a great weekend. Seems that after the Sultana (see previous blog) left our hometown, she met up with other tall ships, including the lovely Lynx, a replica of an American war ship from the War of 1812, that were calling at Cape Charles, Virginia, right down the road.  Terry and I spent Sunday down there, ogling the gorgeous lines and rigging and perfect paint and wood and lusting to go out for a sail in a brisk wind with everything up, full and by. 

That was not to happen, but we did get to walk about and chat up the crew. Nice kids, really--kids in the sense that they were adults, competent and fully matured, but still so much younger than us. I couldn't imagine running a ship like that when I was their age. From where does such youthful competence come?

So I asked that young man standing next to me in the picture. He said he started on tall ships up in New Hampshire when he was fifteen. (The Lynx hails from Portsmouth, N.H.) and never stopped and so here he is, second in command and still so young. Or so he seemed to me. I mean, could he even be thirty?

See them there, way up in the rigging? 

That's the key, then: start early and stick with it. A rule for a successful life? I suppose. Hard to argue with the evidence. 

As always on tall ships, I was fascinated by the intricate details: the coiled lines, each in its place, each perfectly maintained. The shining woodwork (ah! wood, lovely wood everywhere, warm and rich and smelling of oil and tar).

This stuff fascinates me. Look at the detail. Imagine the maintenance.

We went down below and were greeted by a couple of sweating crew in the main saloon selling hats and t-shirts. It was just fine and glossy down there, but no air conditioning and no "windows" (port light/holes) and it was a warm day. The young woman I bought a hat from said she had a degree in chemistry and was taking a little time off before deciding what to do with it. I asked her who maintained all this in such faultess condition. She said they did--she and the others. Chemistry?

Here are a couple more pix. If I were a billionaire, I'd buy one of these and live aboard and sail around the world until I wore a permanent furrow in the sea.

(That's my wife, Terry--a very good sailor.)

Friday, June 8, 2012

In Praise of Tall Ships: The Sultana Visits Onancock

Last week our little town of Onancock was honored by a visit by the tall ship Sultana. She is a replica of a British war ship from Revolutionary times. Below are some photos of her details--and tall ships are all about details.

Sultana is escorted in from the Chesapeake and up Onancock Creek to the town harbor by kayaks, sailboats, and power boats--and lots of cannon shots.

I get to stand on the deck. Note the cannons behind me on either side.

My wife, Terry, lived with me on a sailboat on the island of Guam for ten years. She's right at home.

After a long weekend, she departed, getting great applause as the (female) captain edged her off the dock with great expertise. She admitted that, with her broad bows, sailing Sultana is like sailing a snowplow. She was headed to Cape Charles to join other tall ships in celebration of the War of 1812.