Category Archives: Looking for Redfeather

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?





Drafting off NaNoWriMo

Hats off to Chris Baty, founder of the wildly successful National Novel Writing Month! Thanks to Baty and his cohorts, November will never be the same for compulsive writers and would-be novelists. Baty started NaNoWriMo in California with 21 participants, back in 1999. Sixteen years later, billions and billions (OK, thousands and thousands) of writers all around the globe are answering the challenge to write the first draft of a new novel of at least 50,000 words in 30 days. (Click here to find out more about the rules.)

Why would anyone want to commit to such an outrageous endeavor? Why subject yourself to the torture of hammering out 1,667 words a day for 30 days?

It’s a little like going to a gym to work out. It helps some writers to sweat alongside other writers — to experience group pain and the accompanying euphoria in order to get in shape.

I was a teenage writer, long before NaNoWriMo was invented.  One of my eighth grade friends was also a writer; we used to read each others’ stories, scrawled on lined, three-ring notebook paper, fastened together by dog-earring the corners, tearing a little notch and folding it down. In high school I joined the literary club where we wrote and published Sunburst, an emotive, somewhat histrionic collection of teenage poems and stories typed, mimeographed, and bound with three staples. As a young professional nurse I started a writers roundtable for other nurses at the hospital where I worked.  We were low tech back then, long before the internet or Chris Baty existed. Today’s young writers have technology on their side but they still need self-discipline and the drive to do it. NaNoWriMo helps through the herd effect. You can even join NaNoWriMo groups on Facebook if you need that kind of reinforcement. 

Baty’s nonprofit organization even has a  Young Writers Program geared to students and educators.

Professional writers need encouragement too. Some of us don’t allow enough time for our work. Or we avoid it. Like giving birth, it is an uncomfortable, messy, too-slow process.  Sometimes we’re afraid of the work, afraid of the pain, afraid of what we’re bringing forth into this world! It helps to make a commitment — a pledge — to write a certain number of words a day. Which is also terrifying because as any writer knows, much of what you write is crap. But you have to believe that in that growing garbage heap of words there is something important — something worth preserving.

I did it once. NaNoWriMo. In 2007 I made the pledge to write a 50,000 novel during the month of November. At the time I was on the road doing some talks at high schools and libraries about Star-Crossed — my first published novel that had been six years in the making. I signed up in my hotel room and began my story about three runaway teens who meet up on the road, each on their own mission, and go on a hunt for a musician named Redfeather, believed to be Ramie’s estranged father.  The first draft of Looking for Redfeather, my 2007 NaNoWriMo project of 55,000 words, was uploaded on the last day of November and I received my NaNo badge.

It took six more years to revise and edit my literary YA road trip which I eventually published under my Fiction House imprint. Looking for Redfeather was a Foreword Reviews IndieFab finalist for YA Book of the Year, 2013, and a Literary Fiction Book Review Spring Spotlight award-winner in 2015.  It was one of the most fun books I’ve written, possibly because I wrote the first draft in 30 days.

This year I’ve pledged to finish my current novel-in-progress during National Novel Writing Month. This disqualifies me from officially entering the challenge, but it doesn’t mean I can’t draft off the energy of all those young writers bursting out of the gate today, November 1, writing the beginnings of their brand new novels.  Ready, Set, GO! Write your hearts out, kids; I’m right behind you.

That’s my NaNoWriMo story — what’s yours?

Looking for Redfeather BOYA 10003076_10203553731672707_1146057099_n





Halloween book giveaway

Painting by John William Waterhouse, 1886, via Wikimedia Commons.

Painting by John William Waterhouse, 1886, via Wikimedia Commons.

Happy Halloween!

It’s that time in America when kids dressed as superheros and princesses in store-bought costumes come knocking at the door begging for candy.  This year I’m dressing as a witch (or maybe revealing my true persona) and instead of candy I’m handing out books, tricks be damned.  Casting spells with words, because that’s what witches — and writers — attempt to do.

If you’d like to knock on my door and receive one of my spells, just leave a comment on my website and tell me what costume you’re wearing — and which story you’d prefer.

In exchange, all I want is your undivided attention…

Double double toil and trouble, Fire burn and cauldron bubble…


These are the books I’m giving away — this weekend only…



Looking for Redfeather BOYA 10003076_10203553731672707_1146057099_n  Native Cover_5419780_Front Cover - Copy

Adobe Photoshop PDF

Surgeon's Mate Medium

Looking for Redfeather — Literary Fiction’s Spring Spotlight Award

Pleased to share the just-released review of Looking for Redfeather, recipient of  Literary Fiction Book Review’s Spring Spotlight Award.

“Some teens are just unmanageable – getting crazy ideas and making questionable, if not bad, decisions because they think they’re invincible and can do anything – right? Linda Collison’s young adult novel about three such teens gives us a brilliant look at what goes on in the world inside their heads as they deal with the world around them. Young readers will instantly relate to these characters and adult readers will be, or should be, enlightened. But these three aren’t kids just off to do mischief, they’re children on the cusp of adulthood struggling to put together a winning hand from the cards dealt to them by adults.

Ramie Redfeather, 15, leaves a note at home for his single mom while she’s at work and takes off hitchhiking from Cheyenne to Denver in search of the father he’s never met, and maybe to dodge a court appearance. In Baltimore, Chas Sweeny, 17, “borrows” his grandmother’s car for a chance to see the world, but really to escape dealing with a tragic situation at home. Faith Appleby, who possesses a mild learning disability, and whose parents think she’s with a friend counseling at a Bible camp, changes her name to Mae B. LaRoux and takes a wrong bus out of Baton Rouge on her way to sing in a blues music competition in Austin.

Collison is so adept at building characters by showing the reader who they are that by the time the three teens serendipitously meet up the reader already knows the family they’ve left behind and cares about where they end up. (Writers who struggle with the “show, don’t tell” concept could use this book as a master class.) The affable and talkative Chas offers to drive Ramie and Mae B. where they need to go, via the road trip of his dreams. He periodically calls his grandmother to say he’s out looking at colleges in order to keep her from reporting the car stolen and having him picked up. So, with clear sailing ahead and no firm plan other than to find Redfeather and get Mae B. to Austin in time for the competition, the adventure unfolds through several states. And, of course, nothing goes as expected.

Looking for Redfeather is an engaging, well told, often lyrically-written story that keeps moving and never falters. Collison reveals the depth of her characters by deftly weaving minor successes and major disappointments into this road trip of self discovery and acceptance. And, in the end, the pain that set each of the trio on the road sends the two boys back toward home and leaves Mae B. at the Austin Music Festival. And along the way, maybe they find Redfeather.

Verdict: An engaging, well told, often lyrical narrative that never falters.

Literary Fiction Book Review; July, 2015.

Looking for Redfeather BOYA 10003076_10203553731672707_1146057099_n


Listening for Redfeather – free audio download

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

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 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.