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, December 11, 2012

Water, Fog, Boats: Winter, Such As It Is, Arrives, and I Start the Next Book

This doesn't look much like winter, yet the calendar says it's here so I got her ready.

Eleven years living in the tropics taught me to appreciate the change of seasons offered by the temperate zones. Still, memories of my New England-farm-boy upbringing with 20-below winters served up with plenty of snow forever cured me of any desire moving back up there. This, the true temperate climate of Eastern Shore Virginia, suites nicely. 

Here I am in the beginning of December having just "winterized" my boat. This means getting her ready for sub-freezing temps which means running a non-toxic anti-freeze through the raw water cooling system in the engine and draining the holding and water tanks and putting some of the stuff in those, too. And changing the engine oil, too, except I didn't do that this year because I only ran the engine for maybe ten hours since the last oil change. 

This has all the earmarks of a good winter in other respects, too. Terry gets back from Atlanta on Friday and on Sunday we leave for a week in Washington D.C., she to work, me to avoid work. I plan on spending much time hanging out at the National Gallery of Art just sitting, looking, absorbing. I can't explain the powerful attraction old art has for me. I love the gallery, too. Huge, cavernous--a modern cathedral to allow us to worship the old artists, great and--most of them--dead.

Two days after we get back from D.C., we fly to Atlanta and will have Christmas with the grandchildren--two boys so far, a third on the way in Seattle. Then, the day after Christmas, we fly to the Florida keys to babysit dolphins, a pleasant interlude that is getting to be a regular gig, except Terry will go with me this year. Wonderful. We will sit on the balcony overlooking the dolphin pens and the Gulf of Mexico and drink white wine.

The famous Eastern Shore fog overwhelmed us this week. In fact, Onancock, the name of our town, means "place where there is fog." This is the fishing fleet in Wachapreague.

As far as the new book goes, a while ago I discovered that the secret to writing is to put it off until you can't put it off any more and still call yourself a writer. Then, when you are hungry for it, when the fire in the belly is flaming up, you do it. I've been planning my next book for years, daydreaming my characters and my plot, making notes, writing sketches of scenes, getting ready. Like painting a house, writing a novel is all about preparation. So then, when the anxiety in my heart was too much to bear any longer, I sat down one morning at wrote the first chapter. Here's the first few lines:

“Tell me again, Maggie, about when I was born.”

Maggie’s face had assumed her warrior’s mask and to the boy it was important to soften it, to melt the thin veneer of ice it formed between them. Maggie sighed at the windshield of the old truck with its clattering, slapping wipers. She downshifted and the engine roared and strained and the wipers increased their tempo. 

After a moment her face softened. “Oh, now, Joseph, I remember it as if it was tomorrow—that clear. It was a perfect spring day, filled with bird songs and birds flitting and doing what birds do in the spring.  Your mother, the sweet young lady that she was, called me, her voice so soft I could barely hear her, what with her accent and all. I went over right away although I had just put a pie in the oven…..” 

“No, Maggie,” the boy said, “Not that time. The other time I was born.”

 Wachapreague harbor in the Fog, December 2012

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Spontaneous Improvisation: Writing for the Sake of Nothing But Feeling Your Fingers Move

Writing and life are like an old truck--but I don't know why.

I met with a friend yesterday, a friend who wants to write poetry or essays but seems to be afraid to start anything. Can't get anything going. Keeps putting off sitting down and scribbling. What can she do? she asked. What do you do? she asked. How do you get things down? How do you start?

We sat in a nearby cafe and chatted about it. She is a retired teacher and spent many long decades struggling to get her students to write--to just get something, anything down. We drank tea and ate and watched customers come and go and listened to the televisions behind the bar droning on about football while we mulled this over.

What do I do when I want to write and can't think of anything to say? I usually avoid that problem by not sitting down to write until I do have something to say. Sounds easy enough, but what if that goes on for a long time and your not writing anything and you really want to just write something? So, here we go. What's below this paragraph is the result of not having anything to say but wanting to write something just because it feels good:

 Day-to-day life has a rhythm to it and a rhyme and we forget this at our peril. I just rolled out of bed, feet hit the floor, and the rhyme and rhythm of the day began with me stumbling around in my usual fog looking for my glasses. Once I find them, I can see out the back, upstairs windows down to the backyard for my first check on what's happening outside--another cool, clear day it would seem and no fox hanging out.

Down the stairs, clutching at the banister/railing for support, stepping carefully. I'm older now, more tentative. I greet my wife who was already up and getting ready to go to the "Y" for her morning swim. I admire my wife's determination and discipline but I'm over that early morning workout thing. Takes longer now for my bones to grease themselves up. I'll work out later.

Coffee--decaf, damn it, because of my recurrent heart arrhythmia--and a Zone bar to start. I pad around, looking out windows at the birds feeding at the feeders and drinking at the bird bath. Satisfied everything is in order, I remove my self to my cave, my study, my den, my "space." It's warm in there, with fat recliners in which I sit and write and think and nap and study Spanish and play guitar and sometimes watch TV.

I open up this laptop and log on and here I am, the early blogger seeking the blogger's elusive worm of public attention. I'm free to write what I want which is about anything that comes into my mind and so far I don't have anything of any particular interest to say. Can't think of a thing, in fact. So this yammering you're reading is just practice, really, at just writing. Just getting something down, just for the hell of it, because it feels good to see my thoughts emerge through the tips of my fingers onto the blank page. When I write I feel like a musician, a jazz pianist say, improvising on his keyboard.

Today is Saturday and Terry leaves tomorrow for two weeks in Atlanta on FEA biz. I'll spend time with her today and drive her to the airport tomorrow morning and then I'm on my own, the Two-Week Bachelor. I'll focus on my writing and book promotion while she's gone. I started writing my next novel this week. On the second chapter and it feels like I'm back home where I belong.

So, there it is--nothing. I just wrote about nothing and it was fun. I got something down that started nowhere and went nowhere else. I just enjoyed feeling my fingers moving across the keyboard and watching the words appear on the screen through the magic of technology. It felt like I was playing piano in an old bar where no one was really listening and no one cared what I played so I just improvised and noodled along.