Color us excited! Leona says,
Announcement time! I’ve embarked on a new adventure called The Scribbling Lion, LLC. What’s it all about? Glad you asked. Please step right this way…
After much crying and smashing of computers, we have at long last overcome all the technical hurdles and finalized eBooks that play nicely with the hardware platforms of all our retail partners…and Fires of the Desert by Leona Wisoker is available for Kindle, Nook, and Kobo users, on their respective stores and from devices everywhere. It’s been a long, strange trip for this eBook, and we know it’s been too long a wait–but we appreciate your patience with us as we took the time necessary to give you a well-produced eBook.
A writer writes, of course. Neither rain nor snow nor gloom of night…no, wait, that’s mailmen. But rather like mailmen, we must persevere, against natural and unnatural intrusions, even if Cthulu himself is bashing through the door or the Sha’Daa is scheduled for next week. Writers must write. I know a few, Ed Morris among them, who could probably hold Cthulu off by simply pointing a smoking-hot pen at him and saying, “BACK OFF! I’M ON A DEADLINE!”
A corollary to that: writers must write no matter where they are. This has been said by better speakers than myself, and all I can do is nod along enthusiastically. When someone tells me that they have to have “space” in which to write, or that they can only write at the kitchen table while sipping their morning coffee, I immediately assign the tag “beginner” to my mental file on them. This is not intended as a slam, in any way, mind you—everyone starts somewhere. As for Big Name Writers who claim to have such locational restrictions on their writing output, that’s an entirely different situation—akin to a great artist who can draw fantastically lifelike figures, yet in his later career focuses on creating puzzling abstracts resembling a five-year-old’s effort. I don’t have the words for the difference; it just is. Perhaps one of my fellow Purposefully Backwards bloggers will be able to articulate this better than I can.
Moving along and leaving the people whom I just offended to froth amongst themselves, I arrive at my point, which is to talk about the various places I have written. Specifically, where I wrote the Children of the Desert series, because that progression illustrates what I said above.
Secrets of the Sands took me about five or six years (as I’ve mentioned before, I didn’t know it would be published, so I didn’t track from the First Day Of Writing) to draft, revise, polish, revise, edit, agent, edit, revise, edit, edit, sign with publisher, then edit, edit, and edit before final publication. The agent to publication cycle took about three of those years, all told, and I’ve already recounted the story of how Secrets came to be, so I won’t bore you with that again. But I wrote that all sitting at my desktop computer, because back then I didn’t have a laptop to speak of; just a clunky ancient thing with a broken monitor hinge that my husband loaned me from time to time when we traveled together. (How old was it? Well, it took 3-1/ 2 disks. Yeah. That old.) It took me forever, even with all the time in the world available to me—I didn’t work Outside the House all that often, and I had all day available to write while my husband was at work. And yet it took a long, dreary slog to get the bloody thing to the publication point.
Mind you, by the time I started to write the second book, I had the agent but not the publisher; so there was a certain amount of overlap involved. And the second book very nearly wrote itself. I had read somewhere that publishers wanted 90,000 word novels, and the original manuscript for Secrets of the Sand weighed in at twice that (it cut down to about 140K by publication time). So I wrote book 2 very tight, very lean, and it flew out of me in three insanely intense weeks of sitting at the desk, devouring the sandwiches that occasionally appeared beside me, staggering off to bed at 2 a.m. and sprinting back to the computer at 6 a.m. (no, seriously, I did leap out of bed that early) to start on the next segment.
That 90,000 word marathon has since become two 160K books, but never mind that now. The point is that I locked my focus down and did it, and it was wildly exhilarating and incredible fun and I never want to do that again. I don’t think I got out of bed for a week after I finished that book. So I found out that I don’t want to take five years to write a book, and I don’t want to take three weeks. There’s lots of middle ground, of course, but once I locked into a contract with a publisher that middle ground became: one year. Write it, deliver it, and get moving on the next one.
Now, I’m lucky; I have a publisher who will slide timetables around and let me have the time I need to write a really good book instead of a fast one. I’m also lucky in that I have routinely been writing one to two books ahead of contract, so deadlines really haven’t been an issue for me up to this point.
Once one signs that magical publishing contract, there is a certain amount of peer pressure, if you will; an expectation among one’s readers and fellow writers and family members that the next book will be produced in the shortest possible time. That you will always, always, be working on the next one, whatever that might be. And so the landscape of location changes from my sacred single spot writing place to wherever the hell I have half an hour to finish that chapter.
When it came time to rework the second book into what later became Guardians of the Desert, I began writing on a real laptop when I traveled–or when I was ill–or when I just didn’t feel like going upstairs to my office–or when I wanted to work at a local cafe, just for the fun of it. So Guardians was written in an increasingly varied set of locations. I believe at one point I threw my back out and wound up in bed, all propped up on pillows and writing away. It was wonderful; nobody bothered me at all, and despite being in pain I got tons of work done.
By the time I started working on the first draft of the restructured book three, I’d totally gotten the hang of writing on the go. I was able to write at conventions in between panels, sometimes, or in the early morning before going to my first panel, or after I staggered back to my room at the end of the night. I wrote in hotel rooms a lot for books three and four, actually, because between conventions and traveling to visit family, I spent a lot of 2011 on the road. At one point, during a trip to Florida, I booked a hotel room for two nights just so that I could get away from my family and write several chapters on the latest revision of book three. They thought I was nuts. I got the work done. They still think I’m nuts. I have a book I’m really proud of. I call that a fair trade-off.
I wrote at least two intense chapters of Fires of the Desert while sitting in airports waiting for my flight. I wrote at the dining room table. I wrote in bed a lot. On at least two occasions, when we lost power at the house, I went to the nearby Panera and wrote for hours over endless cups of coffee and the occasional pastry. I wrote in the car (with my husband driving) on the way to and from conventions. I wrote during meetings with my beta-readers; whenever they questioned or commented unfavorably on a section, I asked them to wait for five minutes, whipped out a couple hundred words by way of correction, and read them the new version to astonished applause.
Because of the way the book revisions and restructuring have been overlapping, I haven’t written a book a year. I’ve written two books a year, when you untangle the process. My typing speed is way higher than it used to be, mind you, after that much practice; and the books have largely been revisions of existing drafts (I was working on book four, in truth, before we started tearing book two apart). And I didn’t have an Outside Job last year.
Still. I couldn’t have done all that if I’d stayed in one place to write. It’s not just the laptop; it’s the attitude that I have to write, and I’m going to write wherever I am, that’s made the difference. And that’s a positive example of peer pressure if I ever saw one, because I am by nature the laziest creature on the face of this planet (except, perhaps, for my dog Shadow, also known as “that big black puddle in the sunny spot over there”). It’s only through meeting people like Ed Morris, whose output and drive truly shames me into insignificance, that I’ve set the bar for my work so high–and begun working harder than I ever have before in my life, in ever more varied and occasionally bizarre locations.
Because a writer writes, and neither travel, nor family, nor the dark of power-outs, shall stop us going about our appointed duties…
We’re heading out on the road again: this time to RavenCon in Richmond, VA, which will be held at the Holiday Inn Koger Center, Friday, April 5 through Sunday, April 7. We just adore Raven for its wonderful mix of bookish, filk, and media programming and guests, and we’re really looking forward to seeing our old friends and meeting new ones. This year there will be several of us participating in programming: Barbara Friend Ish, Jonah Knight, and Leona Wisoker. And we’re bringing a terrific party for Leona’s fourth installment in her Children of the Desert series, Fires of the Desert—featuring not only Leona, her beautiful new book, and dinner, but Jonah’s new Children of the Desert song. We’ll be selling Fires of the Desert and all our books from our table in the Dealers Room–and Fires of the Desert will be available for purchase at the launch as well.
Elsewhere around the con, we’ll be sitting on plenty of panels, doing concerts (well, Jonah will), and holding the fantastic meaty conversations for which RavenCon is rightly famous. You can catch us at these program events:
Friday 3 PM–Writing Fight Scenes
Friday 10 PM–Fighting Writer’s Block
Saturday 9 AM–What’s New from Perseid Publishing
Saturday 6 PM–Launch Party for Fires of the Desert
Saturday 9 PM–Reading
Sunday 10 AM–Writing Up Close and Personal
Sunday 1 PM–Signing
Friday 7 PM–Performance at Opening Ceremonies
Saturday 12 PM–Concert
Saturday 2 PM–Signing
Saturday 3 PM–History of Podcasting
Saturday 6 PM–Launch Party for Fires of the Desert (Jonah will perform his new Children of the Desert song)
Saturday 8 PM–Geek Music
Sunday 10 AM–Cross-Media Collaboration
Sunday 1 PM–Concert
Friday 4 PM–Another Galactic Empire
Saturday 1 PM–Potions, Poisons and Plots: Inventive ways to kill a character
Saturday 4 PM–Social Media for the Introvert
Saturday 6 PM–Launch Party for Fires of the Desert
Sunday 10 AM–Cross-Media Collaboration
Sunday 11 AM–Naming Names, Titling Titles
Come out and see us this weekend. You’ll be glad you did.
Here’s an event you won’t want to miss: the official launch party for Book 4 of Leona Wisoker‘s acclaimed Children of the Desert series, Fires of the Desert. We’ll be celebrating Leona’s fourth book-day at RavenCon in Richmond, Virginia, at 6 PM on Saturday, April 6. The party will take place in the con suite, and will include Leona and her fabulous new book, dinner, and other entertainments. Did we mention dinner?
It’s in the con suite+it’s at 6 pm on a Saturday night=DINNER is MANDATORY. There will be veggie trays, homemade flatbread, cheeses, a shredded spicy beef dish in a crockpot, coffee, tea, pickled things, and cake. And other things. Depending on how crazy I get over the next week of con prep.
In addition, there will be an additional Moment of Awesome: our own Jonah Knight will be playing his new Children of the Desert song at the launch. This song is a HUGE SECRET. No one but Jonah has heard it. Nobody who’s currently breathing, anyway. This will be your chance.
You can keep up with late-breaking developments by joining the event on Facebook. And naturally we’ll be selling the book at our table in the Dealers Room all weekend, and copies will be available at the launch as well.
Can’t make it that night? Con-phobic? There will be a secondary event the following weekend. Details here.
When I read Secrets of the Sands, the first book in Leona Wisoker’s Children of the Desert series, I had what seems to be the same reaction that everyone else did: I thought it was fantastic. At a number of conventions I would pitch the book to potential readers, occasionally in front of Leona. It almost became a game. I would praise her book and watch her blush. Good times.
In a matter of days at Ravencon, Fires of the Desert, the fourth book in the series, will be released. To help celebrate, I have written a song inspired by the books that I will be performing at the book launch party.
I have written a handful of songs based on other people’s books and webcomics. When I begin the creation of a derivative work, there are a few different ways to approach it. If the story is compact and full of closely knit plot points, I tend to write a plot heavy song. A song regaling the action, often speaking in first person as one of the main characters. If the book emphasizes mood, setting, or internal monologue, a story song is usually not very effective. Broad strokes to capture tone and imagery are usually the way to go.
After reading all four of Leona’s books (yes, I got advance copies!) I found myself facing an interesting challenge. These books have a large cast of vivid characters traveling over a sprawling world speaking in multiple dialects attempting to achieve multiple objectives. How do I approach condensing four thick fantasy novels into the three verses of a single 3-4 minute song?
The answer to How came by changing the question to Who. Who is the audience for this song? Once the song is recorded and added into my live set list, folks that hear it will likely need an introduction to the world, the tone, and the characters, requiring a sort of blending of my usual approaches. As the performer of the song Children of the Desert, I am more of a bard than in previous songs. Let me tell you a story and take you away. I think this is the way the characters in the story would encounter a song and the sort of song that it would be.
So far, I’ve kept the song a secret. But that secret ends at Ravencon. Hope to see you there.
Periodically I hold conversations with people who ask, in so many words, why I choose to focus all my energy on fantasy fiction, of all things. It’s not serious, really; I could be doing more challenging, more important work.
I disagree entirely with the premise from which those conversations proceed. I believe speculative fiction is the most challenging work a person not blessed with mad mathematical skills could take up. This genre has been called the literature of ideas, and I think that’s an entirely apt description. It offers writers the tools to take readers far enough outside their normal contexts to examine ideas that are otherwise beyond contemplation. The majority of people are not wired for digging directly into issues that make them intensely uncomfortable; but take those issues outside a context that looks familiar, run them through the filter of story, and they become possible to engage with. Through these filters we can look at the ideas without flinching away, think about them, and take them back into our everyday context.
Bells of the Kingdom, the third book in Leona Wisoker’s acclaimed Children of the Desert series, is one such work. It’s a gripping, impossible-to-look-away-from story–but there is a darkness running through it, elements of things people would prefer not to confront. Leona herself has written:
I set out to write a fantasy novel with a cast of Heroes, and wound up with rather a lot of Reluctant Heroes who needed their arms wrenched round twice to go where I wanted them to go. Not a single cheerful “let’s go get ‘em!” sucker among the lot. What’s worse, the longer I worked with them, the more convincing their reasons for being Reluctant became. Some very ugly stuff crept in along the edges and wormed its way into the heart of the story: child abuse, prostitution, torture, and all manner of sadistic behavior.
I never set out to write this sort of novel; but there it was, one day, staring at me with big mournful eyes. And with every revision, with every re-read, I remembered more and more clearly that I’d drawn this or that horrible snippet from things that really happen, every single day, all over the world.
Robert M. Tilendis, in his introspective review of Bells of the Kingdom on The Green Man Review, notes, “Wisoker’s series so far has not been what you could call light-hearted, but this volume takes us some places I found very hard to go.”
It is very difficult, even in the context of fiction, to contemplate “every horror we’ve found to inflict on each other and on ourselves”. It is devastating to look into a book and discover it is a mirror of humanity, of ourselves. To see the monstrous possibilities of our species, and to recognize the tendrils they stretch into us, whether we are participants or merely apathetic bystanders.
But if it is horrifying, it can also be redemptive. These mirrors into our species and ourselves can allow us to stir out of apathy, to take some sort of action. One avenue of action available to readers touched by the dark truths in Bells of the Kingdom is offered by the Not For Sale Campaign, which is working to end human slavery–not just in places comfortably distant, but in dark corners much closer to home. We’ll be donating ten percent of the profits on all direct sales of Bells of the Kingdom, whether via the website or at conventions, to the Not For Sale campaign this year. Leona will be donating ten percent of her profits for this book to the foundation as well. Both of these campaigns will run through the end of the year, and they cover both print and eBook sales.We hope that if this book touches you, you’ll consider supporting the Not For Sale Campaign in other ways as well.