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 (http://bit.ly/1mMT6ZC). 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, Amazon.com (http://amzn.to/1j3axVk) and Crossquarter.com. Visit the author's website: douglasarvidson.com
Monday, January 13, 2014
This is the young Kurt Vonnegut. Here he is long, hard way from becoming the Kurt Vonnegut we all recognize: the jowly, craggy-faced older man with the big shock of curly hair. This is before he shipped overseas and into the blazing maw of WWII in Germany. Soon after deploying to the front, he was caught up in the Battle of the Bulge, that Christmas-of-1944 horror that was the Third Reich's dying gasp. When American positions were overrun, he was captured, shipped east, starving and cold, on a train with other American prisoners, and ended up in Dresden--the beautiful, ancient, untouched-by-war city of Dresden.
He was put to work in a slaughter house--Slaughter House 5--making a vitamin enriched syrup for pregnant women. The place where he worked was sixty feet below the ground in a room carved from living rock where it was cool so the meat did not need to be refrigerated. He was down there working when the firebombing of Dresden happened on February 13, 1945, just three months before the war ended. 135,000 people died that night, some vaporized/incinerated in the fire storm, some suffocated in cellars while they sat up on benches thinking they were safe, some boiled alive in vats of water where they had taken refuge. There was no reason to destroy Dresden. It had no military importance.
After the bombing, Vonnegut's job was to help in the final incineration/cremation of the remains of the citizens of Dresden. They stacked them up in piles and used flame throwers to get it done.
One might imagine these would have an impact on a young man's life. I suggest reading or re-reading Slaughter House 5. It's instructive. And then read the rest of Vonnegut's books. The horrors are all there in one form or another, in the humor and the bitterness and the crazy science fiction.
Wednesday, January 1, 2014
Conducting Research in a Key West Cigar Shop on New Year's Eve Day, 2013-2014
My Writing Day (not including the many distractions):
7:30 a.m.--Slept out, I lay for a while in that state of semi-sleep watching the remnants of dreams intermingle with the sounds of the real world drifting through the bedroom. This is a good trick for a writer to master, this hovering between sleep and wakefulness, because therein often lay the epiphanies an author needs to create. One must be careful to lie still--no moving--lest reality scare off the free-floating and the unfettered.
8:00--Up and shower. I don't linger in my p.j.s, usually, because I like the feeling of the being fresh and ready to go. Breakfast is a breakfast bar or a smoothie made from powerdered egg whites (chocolate flavored) strawberries, blueberries, and unsweetened almond milk. I do like eggs and sausage and toast, but am training myself away from them. While eating, I check my email on my Iphone.
8:30--Into my workroom/cave/study--I don't now what to call it--and into my fat recliner with my laptop on my lap. I put the computer on a special computer tray that has cushions on the bottom that rests comfortably on my lap/legs. I answer any important emails that can't wait, and then settle in to work.
8:30 to 1:00--I write. I'm working on two projects: a new novel and my monthly essay for The Prague Revue. I keep them both up on the bottom of my screen ready to open. I usually work on the novel in the morning and then, later, after my walk in the early evening and with a scotch/bourbon/wine next to me, on the essay.
Writing is not just about sitting there hour after hour. I get up every so often when my butt/legs need a stretch or when I'm hungry, or have to use the head. I might do a load of laundry, wash the dishes, vacuum a bit, or putter around with something. It's not wasted time, this puttering. It's a time when problems with the writing or scenes I've been working on might suddenly become clear or when another epiphany might blossom in my mind. When I have lunch, I might pick up the really good book or short story I've been reading and poke into it for a few minutes. I find good writing stimulates good writing. And I'm careful, because the opposite is true: reading bad writing leaves a nasty taste in my brain and makes me feel like my writing is bad.
1:00--I'm usually burned out and tired by now. I can feel it in my head--a certain fatigue sets in and I know I'm finished--for awhile. I either go for a long walk--up to four miles--or I go to the Y and work out.
3:00--I pour myself a drink and settle back into working on my essay. (I know, this sounds like not such a good habit, but I drink slowly and stop early and never get more than a buzz on.) My pieces for TPR are due at the end of each month and I start each one at the beginning of the previous month and work on them for an hour or so every day. This allows time for ideas to develop and keeps a creative distance from the work. It also allows me to enjoy the process of writing. I don't want it to become an exhausting chore, like pulling all-nighters in college to finish a paper.
4:30 or so---Time to think about cooking dinner. My wife is usually about ready to wrap up her work for the day (she works at home, in her office upstairs at the other end of the house), and we meet for a glass of wine and hors d'oeuvres and plan supper.
6:00 to 8:00--I might watch the news and those comedy/satirical news shows I enjoy because I'm a humor junky, and particularly like satire that punctures idiots and their ideas. Or I might just sit and talk to my wife.
8:30--Read in bed until my eyes burn shut. I go through books very slowly this way, but, at the end of the year, I find I've managed to read five or six. My goal is to read those difficult classics I should have read or did read long ago. Last year, I read Moby Dick, Melville's Lord Jim, a thick book of Chekov's plays and short stories, Dickens A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations, and Zora Neal Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God.
I read during the day, too--a lot. I keep books and magazine scattered about the house. I last summer I read Arundhati Roy's wonderful Booker Prize-winning novel The God of Small Things. I read every New Yorker magazine and I now subscribe to New Scientist. I get The New York Times and Skeptic Magazine on my Iphone. Now I'm reading two volumes of newly-minted Nobel laureate Alice Munroe's short stories.
And then I also have to work on book promotion. This takes a lot of time because I have to keep a high profile on Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn, too, and keep this blog going and keep my website updated and traveling about talking to book store owners and libraries. I do a presentation on the secrets of the ancient Pacific navigators to promote my latest novel, Brothers of the Fire Star, and have taken that on the road as far as Guam where I was a keynote speaker at a meeting of the Guam chapter of the International Reading Association and where I was a visiting author in the public and military schools.
We also have lots of family and spend as much time as we can with children/grandchildren/aging parents (we have one left), walking on beaches, and a sailboat and a small power boat, and now two stand-up paddle boards (SUPs). On weekends, we often meet with friends for dinner/drinks.
That's my writer's life as of now. The schedule is not hard and fast and distractions/interruptions are a real problem.