Author Archives: lindacollison

About lindacollison

Linda Collison is the author of the acclaimed historical novel STAR-CROSSED (Knopf; 2006) which led to the sequel, Surgeon's Mate; book two of the Patricia MacPherson Nautical Adventure Series (Fireship Press). She is also a writer of magazine articles, essays, literary fiction and poetry. With her husband Bob Russell she co-authored two guidebooks: Rocky Mountain Wineries; a guide to the wayside vineyards, and Colorado Kids; a statewide family outdoor adventure guide (Pruett Publishing). . Linda has received awards from Honolulu Magazine and Southwest Writers Workshop. In 1996 she was awarded the Grand Prize from the Maui Writers Conference for her fiction. Star-Crossed, her first novel, published by Knopf, was chosen by the New York Public Library to be among the BOOKS FOR THE TEEN AGE -- 2007. Star-Crossed was the inspiration for Surgeon’s Mate; book two of the Patricia MacPherson Nautical Adventure Series.

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Coming of Age in Apache America

 

It’s a cold March night in the high desert mountains of the Apacheria. The young Chihenne Victorio prepares for his fourth dihoke mission, the final apprenticeship he must complete to become an Apache warrior. Victorio has just returned from four days and nights on the Sacred Mountain where in a vision he has seen White Painted Woman in the form of an eagle, he has heard her scream.  The young man breaks fast with a single morsel of dried deer meat. He quenches his thirst through a hollow reed so that his lips would not be weakened by contact with the life-giving water.  Like Child of the Water, the first Apache man born of White Painted Woman, young Victorio dares to ask Lightning for power. In the years that follow, he becomes a leader of his people and fights for their way of life.

 

 

Twenty years later, Victorio’s younger sister Lozen dresses for her four-day dihoke rites, the most sacred of Apache ceremonies. Lozen slips into a doeskin dress painted by her own mother’s hand with meaningful symbols,  the sun, moon, and stars. The dress has been blessed by the di-yin, it possess great power. While wearing it Lozen shares the attributes of White Painted Woman, Mother of all Apaches. While wearing it she will reenact her first menses and impregnation, through movement and dance. The ceremony will involve four runs symbolizing the four stages of life and four nights of sacred dancing. There will be a great feast but Lozen can only drink through a hollow reed to keep her lips from touching water.  For the next four nights Lozen, who had begun to bleed, is the embodiment of White Painted Woman.

 

What Lozen becomes as she matures, is something much different. She never marries, she never takes on the traditional female role. Instead, Lozen becomes a Warrior Woman and rides with the men, using her God given power to locate the enemy through upturned palms.

Victorio and Lozen were two Chihenne Apache adolescents who came of age in the 1800’s in what is now the state of New Mexico. Warm Springs was their homeland.

 

Victorio died in Mexico, on October 10, 1880 at Tres Castillos, Mexico, in a massacre that killed seventy-eight Apaches, and took captive the remaining women and children. His sister Lozen died a prisoner of war, in Mobile, Alabama. She was about fifty years old.

 

 

 

 

Coming of age is a critical time in a person’s life. Although maturation takes years, it is often realized in single moment, as if a threshold has been crossed. If a society does not test its youth, its youth will test themselves through means of their own. A right-of-passage ceremony should be something more than a party and a pretty dress. More than a night at the bars when we turn 21. Bar and Bat Mitzahs? Rumspringa? Quinceanera? How do we mark that passage in 21st century America?

 

 

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China’s Mother Road

…”You see,” says Li… “We want to live. Right now we are just shengcun. We are just surviving. We want to shenghuo. We want to live! You know? We want to really live!”  — from China Road pg. 193 Random House trade paperback ed.

China Road; A Journey into the future of a Rising Power, is a fascinating and illuminating travel memoir by NPR correspondent Rob Gifford.  Gifford, who has spent years studying and reporting from China, takes the ultimate Chinese road trip, 3000 miles along Route 312 from Shanghai on the Pacific Coast, west to the border with Kazakhstan. Along the way he engages a cross section of inhabitants, including servers and patrons at Shanghai Hooters, Amway reps in the Gobi, cave dwellers and Tibetan monks, truckers and taxi drivers, prostitutes and karaoke hostesses, yurt dwellers and Christian church ladies…

Although the subtitle suggests a political bent, the book’s focus is much more personal and anecdotal, which makes it immensely readable. The author strikes up conversations with ordinary Chinese, Tibetan, and Uighur people he meets on his journey (It helps that he is fluid in Mandarin). It’s not so much a journey into “the future of a rising power” as a journey through present day China with glimpses into the past and many disturbing questions about the future.

Five thousand years of history is daunting. Gifford interweaves historical references concisely, along with statistics, here and there. (Did you know China has the highest rate of  female suicide in the world?) What comes through most is the author’s curiosity about the people he has spent so much time among — as a student, as a news correspondent, and as a traveler. Less disdainful and opinionated than Theroux (and more current), breezier than Peter Hessler, Rob Gifford writes with understanding, humor and curiosity for his subject — the people of modern day China.

 

“So what is your dream?” I ask Ren.

“My dream is to be like you,” he says…

— from China Road.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Adventures in reading: Stories from Nagovisi

A Red Woman Was Crying 

A Red Woman Was Crying by Don Mitchell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I stumbled upon this collection of linked short stories at a bookstore in Hilo and was immediately absorbed in the Nagovisi way of life and the glimpses of human nature we share. Through the perspective of various narrators the author explores his experience as an anthropologist in the South Pacific Island of Bougainville during the Vietnam era. As such, these short stories form a fictional memoir. Don Mitchell writes with an anthropologist’s eyes and ears, and a writer’s heart. A Red Woman Was Crying is compelling, enduring literary fiction. I highly recommend it!

View all my reviews

A Red Woman Was Crying; Stories from Nagovis by Don Mitchell on Indiebound

 

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No trick-or-treat –it’s the night of the hungry ghosts

Woman UnderwaterOctober 19, 2016: Here in the U.S. we’re in full Halloween mode with last year’s zombie get-ups and this year’s creepy clown scare. In the American Southwest, Dia de Muertos pays homage to departed ancestors with gaily decorated skulls and charming skeleton mariache bands. But in my opinion no culture beats the Chinese when it comes to nasty ghouls. The sheer number and diversity is amazing.

Researching my novel Water Ghosts introduced me to the pantheon of malicious demons, devils and minor deities of the collective Chinese imagination. Among them are shui gui — ghosts of the drowned.  According to legend these unfortunates can only escape their watery hell if they find a living person to take their place. For seafaring and maritime people, water ghosts can be particularly troublesome; they’re known for their ability to deceive.

Traditionally, the Chinese Hungry Ghost Festival is held on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month; it’s purpose is to appease the spirits of the departed who have been neglected by the living. During this festival the gates of hell are opened for the ravenous spirits to wander the earth in search of comfort — or revenge. On the evening before the festival people light water lanterns and set them afloat to invite the souls of drowned victims to the next day’s feast! The next day people offer food to the neglected dead and burn joss, or ghost money —  a traditional form of ancestor worship that goes back thousands of years. I was astonished to discover a variety of joss sold in Asian markets in Hawaii and California.  In Water Ghosts James burns Monopoly game money as a substitute for ghost money, to appease the dead.

Bob and I recently watched  Seventh Moon (2008), a horror movie directed by Eduardo Sanchez, about two Americans on their honeymoon in China during the Hungry Ghost Festival. Does it compare to Water Ghosts? Some of the supernatural elements are similar, but Water Ghosts takes place in the Pacific Ocean and the main ghost Yu, is a developed and complex character with his own story to tell. Maybe he deserves his own book?

 

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The Notorious Captain Hayes; a conversation with author Joan Druett

Joan Druett

The American-born seafarer William “Bully” Hayes was a notorious celebrity in his own lifetime and in the century after his death became the antihero of numerous accounts, novels, secondhand memoirs — and a Hollywood movie starring Tommy Lee Jones and Michael O’Keefe.  At least two Pacific watering holes have called themselves Bully Hayes — one in Hawaii and one in New Zealand.

Much has been written about this 19th century adventurer, accused of countless cons, crimes, swindles and brutalities — some true, some embellished, some pure fiction. Overshadowing his misdeeds, or perhaps driving them, is the portrayal of Captain Hayes as a charismatic and dauntless character —  an enduring, mythical,  antihero.  This image was created largely by the popular media of his time, says maritime historian Joan Druett. Her latest book, The Notorious Captain Hayes; The Remarkable True Story of William ‘Bully’ Hayes, Pirate of the Pacific, is the most definitive biography written about the man, the myth, the legend. The author has spent years reading everything in print about Hayes, studying contemporary newspaper articles, letters, diaries, ship logs and shipping lists in an effort to separate fact from fiction.

The result? An objective but very engaging popular history of a sea captain, trader, showman and blackguard known for his many dupes and crimes — some mere swindles — others abhorrent (rape, coercion, and blackbirding — the transport of poor refugees as cheap labor). Joan likens the mythical Captain Hayes to Hollywood’s Captain Jack Sparrow. The bad guy we love, an enduring archetype.

JoanDruettJoan Druett is an award-winning author of numerous maritime history and nautical novels, and a former Fulbright Scholar. She is married to Ron Druett, a maritime artist who has illustrated many of her histories. They live in New Zealand. Here’s a conversation we had via email which gives some insight into her writing process:

Joan, what was the most surprising discovery you came across in your research for The Notorious Captain Hayes?

That he was so likeable! One chronicler of the many yarns told about this rogue wrote that he was “as charming a rascal as ever broached a keg or stolen port,” and everything I read about him — no matter how thunderously critical — confirmed this image.  It was little wonder, really, that he became magnified into the Robin Hood of the Pacific Ocean, because he was a-larger-than-life, charismatic figure. And yet the way he cheated people was truly shocking.”

In your preface you say “There was a lot of garbage written about him” Can you elaborate on your process of separating fact from myth?

By going through the newspapers of the time, including many shipping lists, I was able to build up a detailed timeline, and prove that he had an “alibi” for many of the farfetched yarns.  The first was that he took over the ownership of the clipper bark Canton during her voyage to Singapore in July 1854, but the shipping lists of the San Francisco papers had him in command of another ship on the Californian coast in July 1854. So he was innocent of that particular crime. And there were many other stories that were founded on idle gossip.  As well as this, Bully Hayes loved to tell tall tales about himself, and these were embellished and repeated all over the Pacific.”

You liken the myth of Bully Hayes to the now iconic Disney antihero, Captain Jack Sparrow – a great comparison and one which helps to explain his appeal.   Can you compare Captain Hayes’s him to any real life celebrities?

“It’s the combination of wickedness and likeability that makes Jack Sparrow a fictional version of Bully Hayes — that and the touch of humor.  And it is that combination that makes Bully Hayes stand out from political crooks and Wall Street pirates.  None of them as attractive as he certainly appears to have been.”

Your artist husband Ron has illustrated some of your past work. Did he have an artistic or other role in the making of the Bully Hayes biography?

“No.  The designer, the publisher and I had fun making up the jacket, as we wanted it to look like a “wanted” poster, and Ron had fun watching us at work.”

Joan, I’m an admirer of you work; your nonfiction is lively and your fiction has a sense of realism and historical accuracy. Do you have a preference?

“I used to say that I put on weight when writing nonfiction and lost it when writing novels.  How true that was I am not sure, but historical novels are very hard work.  Enjoyable, but not as easy as researching material, thinking about it, and then using it within a nonfiction framework.”

I’d hardly call researching material and writing a legendary man’s story easy. How long have you been researching Bully Hayes?

“Fifteen years!  I started in 2001, by reading everything in print.  Then I moved to newspapers.  As you can imagine, my eyesight kept on giving up on the job.  Trawling through microfilms isn’t fun. It was digitization that made the job possible.”

Hilo Bay

While reading Joan’s book this weekend on my e-reader I was reminded of a personal story associated with the myth of Bully Hayes and the long list of boats he became associated with — boats with evocative names such as Otranto, Black Diamond, Ellenita, Shamrock, Lotus, and many others — many of which came to a bad end. When Bob and I moved to Hawaii we bought Topaz, a 20-year-old sloop in need of some work, anchored off Hilo. I well remember closing the deal on the shores of backwater Reeds Bay, Bob writing the check to a scruffy, roguish, charming American sailor named Hayes. (We weren’t bilked: the boat was sound, had clear title, and we enjoyed many years sailing her). Our man Hayes immediately bought another boat named Pumpkin Patch and purportedly sailed to New Zealand with his wife and young daughter.  This was in 1993. After that, we lost track of him… Somehow –unfairly — I associate him with the legendary Captain William “Bully” Hayes, who died more than a hundred years ago but whose name and reputation lives on in the islands of the Pacific.

Follow author Joan Druett on her World of the Written Word blog.  For more information about her books, please visit  her website,  and Old Salt Press.

 

 

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