Tag 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?





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.















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.

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





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.

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Looking for Redfeather wins Spotlight Award

spotlightspring.fwLooking for Redfeather (Fiction House, Ltd.) has been named the Spring recipient of Literary Fiction Book Review’s Spotlight Award. A full review and author interview will follow.

Literary fiction has always been my favorite form of literature. I love the imagery well-crafted words create; I read to find human experience revealed in a character’s thoughts, emotions, and observations. For me, a good novel isn’t so much about what happens — it’s about who it happens to, and how it changes them, or how it changes those around them. Literary fiction is also about setting and the power it has to shape our lives. When I read a good novel I feel connected not only with the characters but with the author. I hope to connect with others through my stories.

If you ever wanted to run away from home, I think we might connect through Redfeather. There are no zombies, no shoot-outs, no bodies in the trunk (only stolen wine and a little weed. Oh, and LaRoux and Ramie’s guitars.) But there is action, adventure, heartbreak, love, and friendship. Although it’s about teens, I believe mature readers will best appreciate its subtleties.

I recently adapted Looking for Redfeather for the stage and I put together a sound track on Spotify. The one song that isn’t available commercially is Outlaw Trail, written by Matt Campbell (my youngest son) and performed by Red Whiskey Blue. To hear this song, check out our book trailer on YouTube.

Looking for Redfeather is also available as an Audible audiobook, read by actor/singer Aaron Landon (plays Pesto on Disney’s hit series Crash and Bernstein.)

The novel was a Foreword Reviews finalist for Indie Book of the Year 2013.

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Looking For Redfeather; A Contemporary Novel About Three Runaway Teens in the American West. It’s not Jack Kerouac’s road trip!