Friday, September 16, 2011

"Guardians of the Desert"

Leona Wisoker began writing when she was eight years old, with a story about all the vacuum cleaners in the world breaking down. Ever since then, she has successfully used the excuse of needing to write in order to avoid housework.

Her first novel, Secrets of the Sands, was published in 2010. She is a regular reviewer for Green Man Review and its spinoff, The Sleeping Hedgehog.

Wisoker lives in Virginia with an extraordinarily patient husband and two large dogs, all of whom often try to drag her into physical activity. They usually fail.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Guardians of the Desert, and reported the following:
Page 69 in Guardians of the Desert is actually only composed of four lines; so I'm going to cheat a little and use part of page 68 to give perspective to those four lines.
"Oh, gods," Alyea breathed, horrified, and found she didn't care about offending custom any longer. "No. No! That's enough. Get out. Out!"

[The kathain] scrambled to their feet, bewilderment returning to their expressions, and retreated a few steps.

"Out! Out!" She found herself on her feet, a heavy wooden bowl in her hand, with no memory of having grabbed it from the side table. She raised it to throw, too angry to consider common sense; their expressions went sullen, and they bolted from the room without further argument.

She threw the bowl anyway, just to relieve her too-tight nerves. It hit the wall by the door as Deiq stepped into the room. The bowl cracked into three splintered pieces; he ducked just in time to avoid the fragments.

Her fury turned scorching at the sight of his ever-smug face. Untrustworthy, manipulative, deceitful bastard--



His expression was honestly shocked. She took a savage satisfaction in that, and threw a thick-walled glass vase. This time he snaked out a hand and caught it, wincing a little.

"You'll run out of objects soon enough," he observed, his dark humor returning, and set the glass vase carefully aside on the floor.

She glared at him. "Get out," she said again, low in the back of her throat, as near to a growl as she'd ever come. "I will not talk to you right now. And take them--" She pointed a shaking finger towards the outer room. "Take them with you! I've had enough. Enough!"

He studied her face for a long, intense moment, as though judging her sincerity; Alyea gave him back the most menacing glare she could summon.

"You have a great deal to learn," he said, clearly disapproving.

"Well, that won't happen tonight!"

"Obviously," he remarked. With a shrug that came as much from his eyebrows as any shoulder movement, he retreated from the room. She stood still, listening; heard him, low-voiced and entirely too calm, urging the kathain from their quarters out into the hallway.

The door shut behind them. In the silent relief of being alone at last, she dropped to sprawl across the rumpled bed and promptly burst into tears.
The first time I went through the Page 69 Test, I looked at another scene involving Alyea, in which she began facing up to her new, politically charged surroundings. I'm amused to find that this scene hits exactly the same theme, with more intensity.

Kathain are personal servants assigned to visiting desert lords. They tend whatever needs might, uhm, arise. That might be as innocent as a back rub or turn to something more intimate. It's considered a high honor to be the first of a new desert lord's kathain. Alyea handles the moment with a remarkable lack of grace and intelligence by southern standards--but by northern standards she did exactly the right thing.

This sort of cultural conflict is very representative of my writing, overall. I love playing with the grey areas where customs clash and characters snap under strain. This series is rife with such moments, and this particular scene is a perfect combination of the two angles. Within
the last ten days or so, Alyea has been betrayed by people she trusted, forced to trust people she was always taught would betray her, tricked into multiple dangerous situations, is horribly aware of how little she really knows and how costly ignorance could be; she's nearly been killed, she's had to kill a man, and she's repeatedly being faced with alien and (to her) obscene customs and situations.

I'd be throwing things and screaming myself...
Learn more about the book and author at Leona Wisoker's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Secrets of the Sands.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Leona Wisoker & Leo and Shadow.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue