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!


"Princess Pacific at Stanley Hong Kong Small" by Cara Chow (Charlotte1125) - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

photo by Cara Chow (Charlotte1125) – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

A few weeks ago I wrote about Intrepid Dragon, the Chinese junk that inspired my not-yet-published novel, Water Ghosts.

Another inspiring junk I had the good fortune to visit while she was still afloat was Princess Taiping.  Built in Taiwan this 54 foot, 35-ton vessel was a replica of a Ming-era, Fujian-style warship.  Launched in June, 2008 from Xiamen, in the People’s Republic of China, the junk made it to the West Coast of the United States under the command of Captain Liu, a 61-year-old Taiwanese sailor .  Built of traditional materials, the junk was crewed by Chinese, Taiwanese, and an American.  Outward-bound, they had planned to make landfall in Seattle but due to gales, landed in Oregon instead.  After visiting San Francisco and San Diego, they started back across the Pacific on the trade winds, with a final stop in Hawaii before completing their journey home.

She was in Hawaii’s Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor, tied up at the fuel docks across from the Hawaii Yacht Club, when Bob and I visited her.

The Princess Taiping mission, born of the Taiwan’s Chinese Maritime Development Society, had three major objectives were recovering and preserving ancient Chinese shipbuilding and navigation techniques, sharing Chinese maritime culture with the West, and promoting mutual East/West understanding and cultural appreciation.  For me she accomplished that — plus inspired me to read more about Ming-era warships and Zheng He.


"Princess Taiping 2" by Paul A. Hernandez - 200810x_079. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

“Princess Taiping 2″ by Paul A. Hernandez – 200810x_079. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

The boat was a replica of the warships sailed by Zheng He, famed Chinese mariner of the early Ming Dynasty.  He beat Columbus and other Western explorers by decades with naval expeditions to nearly 40 countries, including Viet Nam and East Africa.  Some say he sailed to North America as well.

The intrepid Princess Taiping was rammed at night by a Norwegian chemical tanker operating under a Liberian flag, splitting the ship in half less than 30 miles from the end of her voyage.  Although the tanker did not stop to give aid, the skipper and all crew members were rescued by a Taiwanese helicopter and rescue ship after several hours in the water.


From TaiwanInfo archives: Junk sets course for journey into history; jJly 4, 2008.

From TaiwanInfo archives: Junk sets course for journey into history; jJly 4, 2008.


Water Ghosts, a contemporary YA nautical thriller with Chinese paranormal and Ming-era historical elements, to be published later this year.

In the last two posts I shared an important part of my writing process, the initial “brainstorm” or uninhibited first draft. I actually posted the unedited beginnings of a speech I’m working on.  (It felt like one of those dreams where you find yourself naked in a crowd of people who are all fully dressed.)

Few of us say what we really want to say or need to say in the first draft, yet it’s important to get it down, all those thoughts, opinions, memories and emotions bubbling to the top. The process, for me, accomplishes two important things. It sweeps my mind clean of debris so that I can find the deeper, more relevant message and – paradoxically –it shows me where my heart lies, in the small, sometimes quirky details that seem to explode on the page.

How to brainstorm the first draft of an article, essay, or speech:

Set aside a period of time, say fifteen or twenty minutes. Now lock up that inner editor and let loose, be it on the keyboard or with a pen and pad of paper. Keep writing, no rules, no holds barred. Don’t worry about form, just be honest. Write what comes out. After your allotted time is up, stop. The deadline creates pressure and forces you to produce some of your best writing – along with some of your worst.  Remember, you don’t have to show this to anybody!

During your first re-read, print out, if possible. While it might look like garbage, it almost certainly contains the heart of what you want to say. Circle or highlight strong phrases or sentences that ring true. Look for a thread that connects; look for a theme. Jot notes in the margins, write all over it. This is your map. Never throw away the uninhibited first draft. I often disregard this and am always sorry later, on the final revision.

Consider your form. Are you writing an essay, a speech, a short story or might this be a book length work? Who is your audience and what is the venue?  All of these will influence what you want to say and how you say it.  Now write your second draft. Read it aloud.   Make corrections and additions, and then give it a rest. While you’re not working on it, your subconscious mind is. Repeat the process. Next, let a trusted reader have a look and tell you what works and what doesn’t. Peer review before publication is a critical step. Consider their suggestions, or variations of their suggestions. We don’t write in a vacuum, we write to communicate. We write to connect. The first burst of words is an important part of the writing process. Be careful you don’t edit the life out of your piece as you develop your theme and polish your phrases.

The last thing you want to do is edit for grammar, punctuation, usage and spelling. Don’t stifle your creativity by imposing these conventions too soon.




Tell your Story  (continued from yesterday’s post)

scan0130Nursing made me a better writer because it gave me a subject other than myself to write about. A different perspective. It gave me both expertise and empathy. As did motherhood, for that matter. It wasn’t just about ME.

But nursing and parenting – especially single parenting – is highly stressful. I needed a relaxing pastime to maintain my sanity. I took up skydiving.

One snowy Sunday in May, 1981 I made my first jump at Sky’s West, a drop zone at the Loveland -Ft. Collins Airport on Colorado’s Front Range.  The challenge changed my life. Now you might wonder how jumping out of a perfectly good airplane could possibly be considered stress relief? Crouched in the open door of a Cessna, 10,500 feet above the ground, all your problems below shrivel to insignificance. Nothing else matters. I survived the first jump, was filled with euphoria, and had to do it again.   And again. And over 1100 more times. Learning to fly, that’s another story of my life.



The sport of skydiving became my passion for well over a decade. I became a USPA certified jump master and instructor, I wrote articles for Skydiving and Parachutist magazines, and I met my future husband, Bob Russell, an experienced jumper. Together we managed a drop zone in Missouri one summer where we taught the Circus Flora to skydive, we competed on a 4-way team in Nationals one year, and we made jumps in Brazil and Namibia, Africa.  Oh, the Bob-and-Linda adventures!  One of these days I must write Travels with Bob….


Actually Bob and I did write a book together:  Rocky Mountain Wineries; a travel guide to the wayside vineyards, published in1994 by Pruett, a regional press in Boulder.   The research involved was exhausting.  Imagine driving hundreds of miles on scenic roads in Bob’s Corvette, finding wineries, talking with the vintners, hearing their stories, tasting their wine. Tasting more wine, right out of the barrel. Then having lunch and doing it all over again.  I didn’t know it then, but this was classic business development.

Rocky Mountain Wineries Large

Pruett had a good publicist.  Cassandra had Rocky Mountain Wineries in every bookstore in the Rocky Mountains States. She set up events: book signings and wine tastings.  She sent the book out for advance reviews.   She even sent Bob and I the ALA convention that year with the publisher Jim Pruettt. Our wine travel guide was a success, though we only made a small amount of money, once we factored in all the travel involved in the research.  We followed it up with Colorado Kids; a statewide family outdoor adventure guide, which Pruett asked us to write (after turning down my proposal for a guidebook to the historic hotels of the Rockies.)  Bob and I were qualified.  We had both raised our children in Colorado – though we were married to different people at the time, and hadn’t yet met.  I might mention that in both cases we received a small advance against royalties from our publisher.  Pruett was a dream publisher to work with.  In 2012 Graphic Arts of Portland acquired Pruett, which had been publishing books in Boulder since 1954.


With two published guidebooks behind me – and dozens of short stories, articles and essays, I decided to try my luck with a novel. Now this wasn’t my first novel. I had written practice novels. In my twenties, back at the kitchen table in Wyoming with a baby on the way and supper on the stove, I wrote a Western and entered it in a contest. It didn’t win; it didn’t even place.  But I learned something about writing a novel, which is, it’s not as easy as it sounds.

Fast forward to the 1990’s.  Kids, grown. Writing a novel provisionally titled, With a Little Luck, about two teenaged boys in a garage band in West Virginia.  This was a story of friendship and loss, of coming-of-age, of poverty and dysfunction, of talent and persistence.  In 1997 I entered With a Little Luck in the Maui Writers Conference Writing Contest.  In the nineties the Maui Writers Conference was a BIG DEAL.  I’m talking New York editors and agents, Hollywood script writers and producers strolling around in Tommy Bahama Aloha shirts and designer sunglasses. Ron Howard was the keynote speaker. Anyway, to make a long story short, my story won the grand prize that year. Yes!  Agents would be pounding at my door, my email inbox would be jammed full by morning.   I just knew Ron Howard was going to call me up for a lunch date to discuss movie rights. But the phone was strangely silent.  And although Wendy Lipkind did buy me a drink, she was more interested in representing my nursing stories, not my prize winning manuscript.

Twelve months – and dozens of rejections later – I had to face the hard truth: With a Little Luck had no luck at all. Why? Editors loved my writing, they loved the quirky characters but they didn’t know how to sell the story — a criticism I heard over and over again. The story didn’t fit into a marketable niche.  (And who was Linda Collison, anyway?  No one knew her.)

Sadder and wiser, I shelved the orphaned story, vowing to write another novel — one that would be marketable. But how? I was discouraged. And I knew few people in the industry, except for the folks at Pruett Publishing and they didn’t publish novels — only regional nonfiction. While I waited for inspiration I continued to work on my craft, writing short stories and submitting them to magazines and literary publications.  With some success.  By now I knew how to write a crack query letter that would often result in a published essay or article.  But writing a novel, that was my dream.


(To be continued…)

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