linda collison's Sea of Words

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Audiobook Now Available

Looking for Redfeather

Looking for Redfeather, a coming-of-age-on-the-road novel (and tongue-in-cheek homage to Jack Kerouace) is now out as an audiobook, read by actor Aaron Landon! Great listening for your next road trip!

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Looking for Redfeather audio cover 10416886_10204139038585014_1753765320_nStorytelling isn’t just for bedtime and this ain’t Mom reading Good Night Moon.  This is Aaron Landon bringing to life Ramie, Chas, LaRoux, and the many characters they meet on the road. This is the ACX audiobook production of Looking for Redfeather available from Audible.com

As a writer it’s extremely valuable to hear your work read by someone else.  To have your work read by an actor is both a privilege and a pleasure — and a little startling to literally hear those voices who inhabited your head for so long.

The Audible.com edition includes the Outlaw Trail soundtrack, a single composed by Matt Campbell and recorded by Red Whiskey Blue, a Denver-based band.

We’re giving away five free downloads here on linda collison’s Sea of Words blog; comment on this post or contact us to be entered.  This offer ends October 4.

It ain’t Jack Kerouac’s road trip.

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Coming of age is a term that for me encompasses those years, those days, that moment in time when we realize we are alive — that we are sentient beings apart from our parents, and that we are responsible for ourselves.  Coming of age often involves a sexual awareness or awakening as well, though that is only one aspect of the phenomenon.

Standing on the edge of childhood’s shore, adolescence is the ocean we must cross to become adults.  Or so we imagine when we are young.  We don’t realize until years later that there is no final port of call.  We never reach the imagined shores of the fabled continent of Reason, Happiness, and Fullfilment but instead spend our time on this Earth navigating an archipelago of alluring but ultimately unsustainable desert islands, sometimes running aground on dangerous reefs.  What we find, if we don’t become marooned on one of these islands and go tropo under a palm tree or at the shipwreck bar, is that the crossing, the passage across unknown waters  is life; there is no continent of adulthood, just the becoming.

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If you put the whole metaphor on land and substitute a boat for a car, you have a coming of age on the road story.

Cars are a big part of American culture.   Having one’s own car or access to a car is an important part of growing up in the Land of the Free.  I’m not condoning our reliance on the automobile, I’m just saying that cars are important to our way of life and our freedom of movement.  One of the symbols of coming of age in American society is getting a driver’s license.  When I got mine at the age of sixteen, I was allowed to drive my mother’s Chevy Nova to my first “real” job — working weekends at a bakery six miles away.  I was allowed to drive it occasionally to school functions or to a friend’s house.  I remember my first independent road trip with four friends — a five-hour jaunt to Ocean City Maryland one summer Saturday when I was seventeen — which nearly ended in us all being arrested, but that is another story…

Twentieth century coming of age on the road stories that stick in my mind include the classic ones: On the Road, Rebel Without a CauseAmerican Graffiti and Diner.  Recently I revisited all of these stories, re-reading Kerouac’s On the Road and watching the movie versions of the others.  While I still found them enjoyable, I was struck by how old the characters seemed and how, well, entitled.  Even Kerouac’s thinly disguised alter ego had the luxury of time — and beneficent friends who were willing to sustain and support him as he traveled around the country looking for life.

A number of YA (young adult) novels have been published that include road trips as part of the plot.  But for me, the road trip is more than a plot device. As Audioslave sings, I am not your rolling wheels, I am the highway.”  For me, the road trip is the metaphor, the setting, the structure.

There’s a difference between a YA novel and the classic, coming-of-age novel which takes a longer perspective and might employ irony, wistful yearning, and hard-earned wisdom.  Coming-of-age stories are equally enjoyed by the mature reader who remembers what it was like to be young.  Indeed, I wrote Looking for Redfeather for that awkward, troubled teen who lives within me and who has refused to grow up even after all these miles.

Road trips, like ocean crossings, are all about the journey.  But of course you need a destination to justify the trip.  You need a mission, a goal, a purpose.  A redfeather is as good as any.  I’ve been driving many miles now, and although I still haven’t found Redfeather, I’ve caught a few glimpses of him, running through the trees or soaring overhead on an updraft of warm summer air.  Redfeather is my metaphor for awareness, experience, and for life itself.

Looking for Redfeather audio cover 10416886_10204139038585014_1753765320_nLooking for Redfeather is now available in audiobook format from Audible.com, narrated by Aaron Landon.   Listen to a sample.  It’s also available in trade paperback and electronic format. Next, the stage play…

 

 

Being a writer sometimes feels like a cross between an archaeologist, a nurse, and a sanitation engineer.

tpTo find the heart of your story, you have to be willing to write shit.  A lot of it.  Take a purgative if you need to, and get ready.  In my experience the heart is formed during the first weeks of logorrhea.  Stock up on toilet paper and your favorite form of liquid hydration, then commit yourself to the purge.  Give it a month.

I wrote the first draft of Looking for Redfeather in 2007 during the month of November — National Novel Writing Month.  After thirty days I had a fresh hot dump of words that frankly stank — but i was aware of a beating heart somewhere in the muck.  Over the next few years I put my waders on and began to dig into the rich fetid dung heap, looking for the life in the story.

My past experience as a nurse helped prepare me for this crappy job.  See, I’m not afraid of organic waste; producing it is part of the business of living as well as the business of writing.  I approached the re-writing of my first draft with a will and although sometimes I had to hold my breath, I did find the heart of my story somewhere within the steaming hot mess of words.  Or rather, I found the three beating hearts of Ramie, Chas and LaRoux, the teenaged protagonists who go looking for Redfeather in Chas’s dead step-grandfather’s vintage Cadillac.  Looking for Redfeather is my 21st century homage to Jack Kerouac and his quest for life On the Road. 

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It helps to write fast and furiously in that first draft.  You can’t construct a beating heart in an outline, you have to discover it in your subconsciousness.  The heart is what drives your story and without it your words, no matter how well thought out or meticulously outlined, are dead on the page.

A good time to outline is AFTER the initial dump.  AFTER you’ve found the heart and washed it off a bit.  There it sits, pink and pulsating, in your gloved hands.  NOW you can plan the bones — the structure — of the story and do some other needed surgical interventions.  At least, this has become my process.  Hearing the heartbeat, then feeling it quiver in my hands gives me incentive to finish the story.

So how do you recognize the heart of your story?

After you have purged, let the pile of words cool off for a few days, weeks, or even months.  During this time your subconscious mind will likely still be working on it, if its any good.  After a vacation read it again with fresh eyes, highlighting the parts that make your own heart jump.  These are the living sentences, paragraphs, or scenes, that bring your words to life.  They probably still need some work, but they have potential.

Be careful not to flush the heart of your story when you revise.  Don’t workshop or talk too much about your characters while in this vulnerable stage or you may lose the urge to write it at all.  Who but a nurse understands the similarities between elimination and story gestation?  Both are very intimate processes necessary for life.

Here’s your discharge instructions in a nutshell:

1. Prepare yourself.  Set aside a block of time (30 days is ideal) to dump your heart out onto the page or screen.  Make the intention, then shut the door and do your business.

2. Don’t go back, don’t edit, don’t flush anything yet.  Never mind the disgusting noises and smells — they’re part of the process.  But don’t share them at this point — keep the door closed.

3. When you’ve finished, leave the mess.  Then go back with fresh eyes and wade through the pages, looking and listening for those parts that jump off the page.  Highlight them and build on them.

4. Don’t erase your first draft. instead, keep it in a separate file and let it drive your re-write.  Nobody ever has to see it but you!

 

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Looking for Redfeather is available in paperback and electronic format from your favorite purveyor of literature.  To be released soon as an audiobook, read by Aaron Landon! 

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