Tag Archives: coming of age

Blue Moon Luck, the audiobook

Blue Moon Luck

“Ambition, determination, drugs, booze, the raging hormones of youth are masterfully brought to life in this great piece of literary fiction. One of the best books I’ve read recently.” — Joan Ashley

A story about the power of friendship, dreams, and luck. A story about home, and leaving it.

Blue Moon Luck: A nostalgic fictional memoir in the tradition of Southern storytelling. Blue Moon Luck (working title With a Little Luck) won the 1996 Maui Writers Contest. Joseph John Raymond Rocca narrates it, and brings the character to life.

I have three complementary download codes from Audible to give away. Please comment below if you’d like one.   Blue Moon Luck

Blue Moon Luck, audiobook

Enter for a chance to win Barbados Bound

With Rhode Island Rendezvous, Book Three of the Patricia MacPherson Nautical Adventure Series, on the horizon we’re offering five copies of book one — Barbados Bound — as a give-away through Amazon. To enter the sweepstakes click on the link at the end of the post. We’ll also be giving away some Kindle copies soon.

I came aboard with the prostitutes the night before the ship set sail…

Portsmouth, England, 1760. Patricia Kelley, the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy Barbadian sugarcane planter, falls from her imagined place in the world when her absent father unexpectedly dies, leaving her no means of support.  Raised in a Wiltshire boarding school far from the plantation where she was born, the sixteen-year-old orphan stows away on a ship bound for Barbados in a brash attempt to claim an unlikely inheritance.  Aboard the merchantman Canopus, under contract with the British Navy to deliver gunpowder to the West Indian forts, young Patricia finds herself pulled between two worlds — and two identities — as she charts her own course for survival in the war-torn eighteenth century. 

 Barbados Bound was first published as Star-Crossed in 2006 by Alfred A. Knopf, and chosen by the New York Public Library to be among the Books for the Teen Age – 2007.  The story is basically the same but the author has made minor changes to the manuscript, in some cases replacing words and phrases edited out from Knopf’s Young Adult version.  


It all started with a ship. On April 14, 1999, I saw in the newspaper a startlingly anachronistic photograph of a three-masted wooden ship under sail. It looked like it had just sailed out of the eighteenth century. Below it, an intriguing advertisement:

Help wanted: Deckhands to man floating museum…a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sail as crew on Endeavour, the replica of Capt. James Cook’s ship that will visit Hawaii in November. Crewmembers sleep in hammocks slung together on the lower deck.  They must be prepared to go aloft and work the sails at any time of day in any weather, not suffer from chronic seasickness or fear of heights, and be physically fit.  Sailing experience is not essential…

Six months later Bob and I were at the dock in Vancouver, signing ship’s articles.

We spent three weeks aboard the Endeavour, as part of the foremast watch, crossing the Northern Pacific Ocean. We learned the names and functions of the hundreds of lines, sails and spars that power the ship; we learned to climb aloft on the ratlines, stepping out on the foot ropes under the yards to make and furl sail. We took turns steering the ship and were responsible for cleaning and maintaining her in eighteenth-century fashion. We slept in hammocks we strung from the deckhead every evening.

The voyage crew, as we green-but-willing sailors were called, bonded quickly, for we were all in it together and we all felt the same swing of emotions — anxiety, fear, fatigue, exhaustion, sea-sickness, hunger, occasionally resentment – but most of all, exhilaration and awe. For me, those weeks on the Endeavour were nothing short of a time machine.

When Bob and I disembarked in Kona, Hawaii, I carried with me the seeds for a novel. It would not be about Captain Cook or his extraordinary voyages, but it would begin in the mid-eighteenth century aboard a ship much like the one I had sailed on.

It would take me more than five years to research and write the story born aboard Endeavour. In 2006 Alfred A. Knopf published it under the title Star-Crossed, as a stand-alone, young adult historical novel which the New York Public Library chose it to be among the Books for the Teen Age – 2007. I had not written the story for teen readers per se, but I had written about a teenager, from her narrow and still immature perspective. Star-Crossed became Barbados Bound, the first book in a series about a young woman coming of age in the 18th century who tries to find her place in the world, disguised as a man.

Click on the link for a chance to win a trade paperback copy of Barbados Bound; Book One of the Patricia MacPherson Nautical Adventure Series. Open to readers in the United States who have an active Amazon account.





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?





Bad choices make good fiction

Bad choices — we’ve all made them and they can affect our lives and the lives of others for years to come. Delayed repercussions can knock you to the ground when you least expect it.

An action can never be undone (well, maybe in an alternate reality it can be) yet a bad decision can sometimes be better than making no decision, taking no action at all.  Sometimes what seems like a bad choice turns out good in the end, though the transformation can take years. So called “good”choices can be the death of us or at least put us in a coma.

I love to write about the teenage and young adult years because the decisions are so momentous and the consequences equally so. What happens in our youth affects us our whole life, even if we are able to amend our transgressions. Even our little mistakes seem disastrous when we’re young because we have so little to compare them to.

Where would fiction be without characters making bad choices? It’s hard to let your characters screw up, but you must let them work it out.

They say write what you know. Well, I know a bit about being young and making bad choices. After all, I survived my teen years.  I survived my children’s teen years. Somehow we all survived — but some of our friends did not. I write for them too

One of these years I’m going to start writing about life from an older, wiser perspective. Someday, if I’m ever old and wise, maybe I’ll write a guidebook to aging. But right now I’m still exploring the choices young people make, in various settings and time periods.

Are my novels “Young Adult?”  I don’t know, nor care. I don’t write for a certain market, I write for myself. I write to discover, to experience other lives. I write to connect with others, no matter their chronological age. I write for the teenager within, to tell her that to live is to make bad choices and to keep on living, keep on growing, keep on reaching, like a plant, toward the light. Don’t harden off too soon. Stay pliant, stay supple, stay green as long as you can.

Looking for Redfeather audio cover 10416886_10204139038585014_1753765320_n

Listen to young Aaron Landon read the first chapter of Looking for Redfeather.





Go Set a Watchman


Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird influenced me greatly as a young reader. While Atticus was the hero of that book, I identified with young Scout, a tomboy (as I was) who revered her father (as I revered my own.) The book gave me a different perspective of racial inequality and injustice, but more than that, it was a story of the coming-of-age of a white girl in the deep South, raised by Atticus, her principled father and Calpurnia, his housekeeper/cook/nanny. I saw her insular town in Maycomb County, Alabama, through her eyes and learned of Southern manners, respect, ignorance, prejudice, bigotry, hypocrisy, incest and rape through her eyes – which is to say, through the author’s eyes. The fact that the story was told by a white girl does not diminish its importance. In fact, white people were instrumental in African Americans gaining their rights. Some of those white people were women.

Had Go Set a Watchman been published it would have set the world on its ear, back in 1960, less than a decade after Brown vs Board of Education and eight years before Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. It was radical for its time – too radical.

Go Set a Watchman was written before Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning “first novel” and was rejected. To me, it is a much more honest book, more straightforward, less crafted. From a writer’s point of view, it shows signs of being an early work, particularly the second half when Scout tends toward diatribes. Some reviewers have called it “flawed.” Of course it’s flawed, as are most books, particularly first books.

The art of writing — the craft of writing — is a process. Books don’t just spring perfectly formed, from a writer’s forehead. Stories have a way of morphing themselves and in fiction, even more so. A story – the same story – can be told from many different viewpoints. Stories are our parallel lives. They are all happening simultaneously, they are all true.

The best fiction isn’t about issues; the best fiction is about individuals. In telling one person’s story you tell a vital part of the human experience. Harper Lee allows Scout to do a little too much preaching in To Set a Watchman, but it does reveal the main character’s passionate idealism, which was ahead of its time. Harper Lee was at the vanguard of the great era of social change the sixties would bring.

On one level Go Set a Watchman is the story of a young woman’s separation from her father. Everyone sees the obvious racial theme but who’s talking about the other underlying theme?

In 2015, feminism is dead — or at least in a deep coma. In another version of the same story (Go set a watchman to kill a mockingbird ) an older Jean Louise returns home from New York — not a perfect place but a place where she has become an independent person. She comes back to the home she loves and the father she respects and she finds that he – and her boyfriend, the man who expects to marry her – are not the men she thought they were. She is ashamed of them. This is a theme not often explored in literature – daughter against father, daughter separating to become her own person, and turning down marriage in the process.

Had Go Set a Watchman been published it would have set the world on its ear, back in 1960, less than a decade after Brown vs Board of Education and eight years before Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. It was ahead of its time.

Still, it’s greatest value to me, is the story of a young woman coming of age whose father has greatly disappointed her. Atticus is a man of his time. He’s not evil, he’s just a man, as is Hank, whose hand she refuses. Scout is her own woman and is guided by her own watchman. Scout is the hero of Go Set a Watchman, not Atticus. Apparently a lot of people were disappointed in that. I for one, thought it was an honest novel, with an autobiographical ring of truth that first novels often have. There are infinite ways this story could be written. Maybe someone can write it from Calpurnia’s point of view.