linda collison's Sea of Words

charting a course from imagination to publication

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!



Intrepid Dragon II under full sail, in better times

Intrepid Dragon II under full sail, in better times

Water Ghosts began, not with a plot or a character, but with a setting – an old junk moored at the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor on Oahu. The first time I saw her was after Bob and I had moored, Tahitian style, on Ala Wai’s 800 Row, not long after sailing 2500 nautical miles from Bora Bora. Walking through the harbor to the Hawaii Yacht Club we passed Intrepid Dragon II, a few rows away. Her foredeck was crowded with crates, jerrycans and 50 gallon drums, covered with a blue plastic tarp. She looked more like a floating storage shed in need of a little varnish. But I was intrigued. Very intrigued.


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Sometime later I called the number on the flier posted on the piling, expressing my interest in the vessel. The caretaker invited us aboard to give us a tour and tell us about her current mission as the flagship of the China Seas Voyaging Society — a nonprofit whose purpose is educating Americans about Chinese maritime history and the attributes of the ancient junk design.  Intrepid Dragon II was built in 1969 in Hong Kong by the Woo-Ying shipyard. Built of Yucal teak, her passenger capacity is roughly fifty persons.  Length overall 80′, 18′ at the beam, she draws 8′.  The vessel participated in the 1984 Tallship Parade out of Long Beach, California and the following year led the Ancient Mariners Race for nine days,  from San Diego to Honolulu.
According to her log books, the Intrepid Dragon II is a likely contender for holding the world’s record for the most recorded circumnavigated miles for a Chinese Junk rigged motor-sailing vessel. Ccurrently home-ported in Honolulu, Hawaii, she has also served as a set on several Hollywood movies and an episode of Hawaii-Five-O.

Still, I found her a little creepy, I don’t know why.  As soon as I stepped onto the deck my imagination fired up.  My first thought was if this is Intrepid Dragon II, I wonder what happened to Intrepid Dragon I?

And so my interest in Chinese maritime history and fascination with Chinese ghosts began.  The resulting novel, a contemporary psychological thriller with historical and paranormal elements, is to be published  2015, by Fiction House, Ltd.

“Water Ghosts” is a spine-chilling tale where fantasy and reality spin out of control and James’s vivid hallucinations are orchestrated by the disturbed and malevolent spirits from a long-forgotten Chinese dynasty”  — author Margaret Muir

Cover design by Albert Roberts

Cover design by Albert Roberts

Today, November 30, is the last day of National Novel Writing Month and I have not completed my novel, not even close.  Although I didn’t officially register for the event this year, I did make the commitment to write a novel of at least 55,000 words during the month of November. Thirty days later, here I am, still in labor. No end in sight.

Pregnant Sillouette.Eps

“Ok, let’s examine the situation here,” my nurse says.  “Spread your legs, hon, let me have a look.”  

Me, panting.  “Wait, nurse; I feel a contraction coming on!”

Nurse feels my abdomen and looks at the fetal monitor at the bedside.  Then, when the gripping pain has passed, reaches up into my nether parts and frowns.  “You’re only dilated to 3 centimeters.”  Shakes head.  “You’ve got a way to go, girl. Probably won’t happen by the end of my shift.”

Well that’s encouraging. Not.

“Let’s be honest. Did you even start the novel, hon?

Yes!  Absolutely! My water broke and I experienced an encouraging warm flood of words as I rushed to the keyboard to capture them.

“Mmm.  That’s nice.  But how many words did you actually write this month?

“Ten thousand one hundred and seventeen.  Somehow it looks like more when it’s spelled out like that.  I don’t know, maybe I didn’t devote enough time to the project?  But there were circumstances beyond my control.  (There are no good excuses, saith Mr. Yealy, my sixth grade teacher, who also proclaimed the only certainty in life was death and taxes.)  Actually, I should be working on it still, right this minute, it’s not yet midnight, there is still time.  But I’m discouraged.  Do I still have to go through with it?   Can’t you sedate me?  To hell with this natural shit,  OK, I AM BEGGING FOR A C-SECTION!  MAKE IT STOP!

“Dream on, sister. No Caesarian deliveries for you.  Now look at me, Look. At. Me.  Good.  Now breathe with me, breathe through the pain, come on hon, you can do this, I got your back!”

I want to throw my keyboard at her.  Obviously there is only one way out for me.  I need to finish writing the damn story. Nothing to do but keep writing.  Keep breathing. Keep tapping out the words.  If only I could have a wee glass of wine?

Satisfied my vital signs are stable and there are no signs of fetal distress, the nurse leaves and from the adjoining room I soon hear the sounds of activity.  “Dad, stand right over here if you will.  “Atta girl, push now, push push push!”  Grunts, pants, and the clinking of stainless steel instruments on a tray.  OMG, somebody is delivering right now!  A baby is being born!  A thousand babies are being born and thousands of writers all over the world are completing their manuscripts tonight, champagne corks are popping!  It’s a boy!  It’s a girl! Good job, mom!  Congratulations, Dad!

But no one is celebrating in my room.  My husband has left for another coffee break, or maybe he’s at happy hour with his friends, he’s given up on me, surely.  I stifle a sniffle, feeling very sorry for myself. I have failed. Then nurse comes back, hands on hips.

“OK, buck up woman!  No pity parties allowed.  Time to ask yourself some hard questions.”

Another sniffle.  “OK.  Like what?”

“Like, what have you learned about writing these past thirty days?”

I haven’t a clue.  I search my tired brain.  “That’ it’s OK not to produce? I mean, sometimes the demands of everyday life seem to suck away all my creative energy.  Some days, especially this month, it was all I could do  to hunker in my life raft and wait for the storm to pass.”

Nurse checks her watch and examines her nails.

“I’ve also learned that one reason why I write fiction is to exert control and order over somebody else’s life, since my own life seems to be ungoverned.  But even my fictional characters have minds of their own.  My plots get waylaid, blown out of the water constantly, wrecking my outline all to hell but resulting in a much more interesting story.  When I’m writing I’m discovering.  It hurts to write but I feel more alive when I do.

“Yeah, whatever.  So, what is the point of National Novel Writing Month?”

Uh, to get your story out of your head and onto the page? To deliver a baby, however imperfect, even if it has a face only a mother could love?

Nurse smiles sweetly. “You’ve had the power to finish your novel all along, Dorothy.  Just tap your ruby slippers together three times and push out that child.”

Oh, hell, that’s a mixed metaphor.   But hey,  I’ve got my second wind now.  Let’s do this thing!  Nurse, start the pitocin drip and stand by!  I feel another contraction coming on…


Congratulations to all the 2014 NaNoWriMo participants!  


Mother's hands holding a newborn baby.



Looking for Redfeather BOYA 10003076_10203553731672707_1146057099_n

The first draft of my 2007 NaNoWriMo novel, Looking for Redfeather, was delivered in 30 days — but took six more years to rewrite, edit, and publish.

How we Write; a series of guest posts about the art, craft, and business of writing








Today my guest is Seymour Hamilton, author of the Astreya Trilogy, an historical fantasy adventure in a maritime setting.

Seymour and I have been discussing the pros and cons of audio formats.  My novel, Looking for Redfeather,  read by Aaron Landon,is for sale as an audio download from Audible.  Seymour has taken a different approach with his audio format — he is giving away downloads through Podiobooks.  Read more about his process:

Should I make an audio version of my book?

Short answer: Yes.

Here are some reasons to record, then some of the decisions you need to make before you start.

Reason #1

Reading (and recording) your novel is the best investment you can make in editing

your work. As you read — and as you listen to the playback — you will notice infelicities

in phrasing, awkwardnesses in order, accidental repetitions, purple flourishes,

unconscious mimicking of other writers, and occasions when you are beating the

dead horse of too much detail. You will be doing what good and great authors alike

have done for centuries, and as a special benefit, you will understand what is meant

by ‘finding your voice.’

Reason #2

Some people like hearing books as opposed to reading them. Some want to listen as

they drive long, boring distances. Some are visually impaired. Some just like hearing

someone read them a story. They constitute an audience that isn’t served by print or e-

Reason # 3

People who listen to books sometimes buy them. The jury is out on how much this

is true, but my preliminary analysis is optimistic: in the two months after Astreya:

The Voyage South was available in podcast audio, sales of the physical and ebook

improved significantly, some of the bump being sales of volume two of the trilogy,

presumably purchased by people who wanted to know what happens next. Moreover,

I received fan mail asking me when they would be able to listen to the next book in the


Reason #4

Audiobooks offer instant download, just like e-books, but with audiobooks, you can track

where you’re selling as well as how much. and its technical provider

LibSyn provide detailed analysis of when and where your podcast version is being

downloaded and read. I discovered that (as I expected) my major market was the US,

then Canada, then the UK, New Zealand and Australia. However, I was surprised and

delighted to find that I also had listeners in Norway, Germany, and a long list of other

places including (!) Thailand. Why? — My guess is the ex-pat community of people who

speak English in countries that don’t.


OK, you’ve decided. What’s next?

Before you start, you should know that you are about to invest time (for sure), money

(a little to a lot) and effort (above and beyond what you have already put into your

completed manuscript).


Sell or Give?

Decide whether you want to sell your audiobook version, or give it away. I give mine

away, free. Podiobooks encourages listeners to “tip” the author. So far I’ve received

nothing, but I’m encouraged by Reason # 3, above, to believe that far from hurting

sales, my audio version is encouraging them.

You can make your audiobook available through your website, but you need a server

“behind” your site. At you can click on podcasts of my books,

chapter by chapter and either listen, or download to listen later. The recordings

themselves are not on my site because that would cost far too much beyond the cost

of standard site, because there is no “room” on most sites to store, provide access and

manage the recordings and the accessing needs of people all over the world. You need

a specialized sound service such as SoundCloud or Podiobooks.

specializes on books. Its servers contain and manage, my books and many, many

more by authors old and new. Podiobooks offers people in search of free audiobooks a

“bookstore” where they can browse, knowing that they will find an acceptable technical

quality of recordings and the electronic delivery thereof. Behind Podiobooks is LibSyn,

the server/technical service, which is system of servers “where the recordings are” and

where I go to find constantly updated statistics on how my books are doing.

Free is fine, but on the other hand, who can argue with a royalty check? However,

before you go to an on-line company that will pay you per download, consider both your

percentage of the take, and your up-front costs. There’s a saw-off between a turnkey

approach wherein you send someone your manuscript and wait for the money to roll in

(don’t hold your breath); and taking control of the process in one of more of the roles of

producer, reader and technician.

Cost/Quality decisions: Hire a reader or read it yourself?

There are lots of out-of-work actors out there who would love to read for you — at a

price. Don’t decide only on the basis of how the actor sounds to you — still less on

how he or she looks. Work “blind” by email, listen to recording samples. Have the

actor audition by reading a page or so of your book. Insist on credentials, preferably

in podcasting, radio or voicing animated cartoons. Find out if he or she is sufficiently

qualified and experienced to do the electronic technical work. If not, either get yourself

a producer or do the sound-editing and processing yourself.

On the other hand, do it ALL yourself. The cost of recording at home is low. You need

a quiet room and a good microphone — not just the one that comes in your computer. I

use a Blue Snowball for around $200. A friend loaned me a more expensive mic, but

it was so sensitive that in the context of my reading, it was like putting a gold link in a

copper bracelet. Software to record and process is free-to-inexpensive. I use Audacity

to record and Levelator to process, both of which are free.

Recording your book takes time. A lot of time. I’m on my third book and getting better,

that is, more efficient, but I find that every hour of completed, published podcast of 45

minutes to an hour requires at least five hours of recording, editing and processing at

my desk with a microphone and my trusty MacBook Pro.

Caveat: this isn’t my first rodeo. I acted in plays at school, was subjected to singing

lessons, did free-lance work for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in the 70s, and

lectured at universities about Dead English Poets for more than 20 years during which I

always read the poems out loud.


Now go back to Reason #1. Whether or not you go audio, decide to read your book out

loud into your computer, and then listen to what you have recorded. Once you get over

the fact that your voice sounds completely different from what you’ve been listening to

for years while you were talking, you’ll find that you have a secret weapon for improving

what you write. So, read what you write BEFORE you send it away to be published! If

nothing else, your descendants will be able to hear you reading your stuff, long after you

are no longer punching away at your keyboard.


Seymour Hamilton

Seymour Hamilton was born in 1941 during an air raid on London, England.  After the war, his family moved to Mauritius for three years, where he was home schooled, and read books by Ransome, Kipling, Henty, Marryatt and Slocum.  In 1949, his family moved to Canada, where he remained, apart from trips and holidays and one horrible year at school in England.  He studied English, because he liked reading, which led to a BA, an MA and Canada’s first PhD on Science Fiction. He spent half his working life as an English teacher at Canadian universities from east to west coast, and the other half as a writer/editor for government and industry.  He retired in 2005, and by 2011 completed The Astreya Trilogy, which features a mysterious inheritance, sailing ships, treacherous relatives, night escapes, knife fights, secret passages and a long voyage to a lasting love.  The Laughing Princess, twelve stories involving dragons, was published in 2012 and a translation by Jessica Knauss, La Princesa Valiente a year later.  A new edition of The Laughing Princess, illustrated by Shirley MacKenzie, appears in time for Christmas, 2014.
You can listen to him reading his books (free!) at Seymour
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