Last Updated February 2020
If you have a question that isn’t answered here, please do drop Leona a line: writer at leonawisoker dot com ….
When will you be at a convention as a panelist again, instead of hiding away as a bookseller in the vendor’s room?
When I have something new to promote, quite frankly. Until then, I have nothing of real value to add to a panel. I do have writing classes (currently in Glen Allen), and a writing group in Williamsburg, VA, if you really want to hear my opinions about writing!
What are you up to lately? What have you written? Where will you be next?
Here’s my Decade In Review post: Wait, It’s WHAT Year Already?!
For detailed answers, please check out the following posts about my mom’s passing in April 2017:
I think the titles of those posts pretty much give the short answer.
I will not be showing up anywhere as a writer guest, for the most part, but I WILL be out and about as The Scribbling Lion at various conventions in 2020.
What happened to the ebooks? I can’t find them!
Mercury Retrograde Press, the original publisher of the Children of the Desert series, changed from a small press to a self-publishing model in early 2014. All rights to the series have reverted, and Barbara Friend Ish has been extremely generous in her support of the transition. The entire series has now been republished through ReAnimus Press, and the ebooks are once more available.
What’s the latest news on the fifth book???
The fifth book, Servants of the Sands, is FINISHED AND PUBLISHED. I’m working on an addendum chapter because I’m not happy with where I left the book, and once I have that fixed up I’ll send it to anyone who’s interested, for free.
I love that artwork. Who is the cover artist?
For Secrets of the Sands, Michael Sullivan is the man to thank for the amazingly cool cover. Aaron B. Miller is responsible for the artwork of Guardians of the Desert, Bells of the Kingdom, Fires of the Desert, and Servants of the Sands. (Prints, mugs and more of the latter covers are or soon will be available; check Aaron’s Zazzle page for all the options.)
How long did it take you to write Secrets of the Sands vs. later books?
Somewhere between five and ten years, depending on whether you count actual writing time or include the slack time when I wasn’t actively working on it. Each of the books took at least three years of writing, revising, re-writing, and re-revising, not to mention heavy editorial cycles of at least three to six months. And I still think I may have rushed Fires of the Desert out a little too quickly. Servants of the Sands, the fifth book, felt like it took a ridiculously long time: I believe it wound up being about three to five years investment overall. I think the extra time will prove to be well worth it!
Is this based on/set in the real world?
No, it’s not. I drew a lot of inspiration and guidance from culture, history, and geography all over our world, but I created an entirely fictional world to tell my stories in.
Are the southlands part of the kingdom?
No, actually, they are entirely independent. Several people were confused over this, and I can understand why; but here’s what happened. Civilization began in the southlands; after the Split, a group of people moved north of the Horn and began building themselves a kingdom. The first few years were a bit chaotic, as the tribal structure was still strong, and King Ayrq needed to be a touch stern with bringing them all under one banner (his, of course). In the end, the Northern Kingdom claimed the lands north of the Horn (Wezel’s followers later claimed all lands north of the Hackerwood, but that’s another story). The desert Families are each their own entity, rather like feudal lords, with a complex interdependence system and network of understandings kept viable through frequent Conclaves. The Northern Kingdom used to have much closer ties to the southlands; recent events (such as crossdressing kings and psychopathic advisors) have weakened those connections and widened the political gap between the two areas. Hmmm. I think I’ll have to post a history soon….
Why isn’t Cafad Scratha in Guardians? I liked him!
I’m honestly surprised by how many people really liked Cafad Scratha! The answer is, though, that this series was never meant to be about Cafad; it’s about Idisio, and Alyea, and has branched off to include some other characters along the way. Servants of the Sands does feature Cafad as a POV character, along with his friend Azaniari Aerthraim and her twin brother, Allonin. If there’s enough interest, I may produce a series of side stories/novellas detailing Cafad’s full journey from childhood to maturity and the eventual end of his story arc, along with the intersecting stories of Azaniari Aerthraim, Allonin Aerthraim, and Nissa of Sessin, as well as Lord Evkit of the teyanain and Lord Irrio. All depends on what people speak up and are willing to pay for. 🙂
Why did you choose to swap out different characters throughout the series?
Just like real life (and real politics), the overarching story is awfully large, and complicated; no one, or two, or even three viewpoints really do it justice. Also, keeping the same character point of view throughout forces the reader into a one-lane street: either she agrees with that perception or she doesn’t, in which latter case she is quite possibly going to stop reading. By changing points of view, I hope to allow the reader to decide which perspective best resonates with his own ethics and beliefs, and so make it possible to enjoy the story even if he doesn’t like Alyea’s impulsiveness or Deiq’s indifference in a given situation.
Is this series suitable for children?
Not small children, no. Over fourteen is probably all right for the first two books, but they do get very adult quickly after that point. Keep in mind that I was reading Jean Auel and Samuel Delaney in sixth grade, so my perceptions on this may be a touch distorted. There is swearing (see below), and very adult situations (ditto). But parents must judge for themselves. I always recommend reading a book first before deciding if it’s suitable for your kids.
What made you decide to use swear words common to our world? Isn’t that a little anachronistic?
I did invent a number of swear words and insults to suit the setting; however, writing is about communicating. Imaginary swear words never resonate with me as deeply as “real world” swearing does, and there are times I needed to provoke a gut reaction from the reader. I’m very careful with where I put the stronger cuss words, and try to use them as sparingly as possible. But “ta-karne” doesn’t always convey the same effect as “you @**hole!”–which is, after all, what ta-karne means.
As for anachronism, not really. The concepts of “hell” and “damnation” are very much alive in the Northern Church; most southerners, unless they spend a lot of time up in the northern areas, don’t use those terms. The southern religion does not assign sinners to a fiery fate. And in my view, the word “fuck” is just too concisely sharp not to use. Here. Read this.
Finally, in some spots the story deals with mercenaries and sailors; and those are expected to swear heavily. Northerns, especially, wouldn’t use the southern terms very often: so, as I deliberately patterned the common kingdom tongue after English, I had to use common English swear words.
When you say “adult situations” — are you talking about sex?
In some cases, yes. I see no need to go into grotty details, but I don’t always politely fade out before the action starts, either. But mainly I mean that there’s quite a bit of vivid violence and terrible things happening throughout the books. It’s not a sterile world, nor an innocent one. If you’re sensitive to topics like rape, child abuse, slavery, and so on, this might not be a good series for you to read. Several of the characters have been through some ugly stuff, and they think about it on occasion, or talk about it when necessary. So it gets hard to read, at times, even for folks without trauma in their own backgrounds.
If you want to read stories that aren’t quite so dark, I suggest taking a look at my shorter fiction, in anthologies like Cats In Space, The Society For The Preservation of CJ Henderson, Galactic Creatures, and Sha’Daa:PAWNS. Um. Actually, those are kind of dark too, now that I think about it. Well… *shrug* It’s how I write. I had every intention of creating goofy silly funny stories, believe it or not, but somehow it never quite turns out that way….