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Monday, July 27, 2020

Cover Reveal and Mark Your Calendars! Seven Noble Knights is Back!

I believe we tell stories about the past in order to make sense of the present. In these uncertain times, telling stories has never been more important.

As you know, my medieval epic of family, betrayal, and revenge, Seven Noble Knights, has found a new home in wonderful, New England-based Encircle Publications. I couldn't be more pleased to be working with this group of professionals.

I recently had a strong sign that I've made the right choice in signing with Encircle. They surprised me last week with a proposal for the cover design.

I love it. My newsletter subscribers were the first to see it, and now I'm thrilled to share it with everyone.

The colors are attractive, the fonts subtle and easy to read, and the sword-and-shield graphic lend the right hint of medieval battles to be fought. I hope this cover will attract all the right readers.

Interior of the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba
2009 Jessica Knauss 
The cover's red-and-white arches, so lovely and fantastical, can be visited in the real world in my beloved Córdoba, Spain, which is the stage for some of the most dramatic and vivid chapters in the book. I think this cover will make the novel an attractive souvenir for people visiting the Mosque-Cathedral or the Medina Azahara archaeological complex.

Encircle also let me know that the release date has been set for December 11, 2020.

Mark your calendars! Blog tours and giveaways are coming up soon!

Stay safe and well out there.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Distraction and Inspiration in Lockdown: An Interview with WWII Fiction Author Alexa Kang

I hope all the readers of this blog are staying safe and healthy at this unprecedented time.

In spite of social distancing, I’ve recently met a wonderful author and would like to introduce you to her. Alexa Kang writes fascinating WWII historical fiction. Today she’s going to share with us how she’s holding up during what we in Spain call confinement, some of the inspiration for her latest book, and why now is a great time to read.

Jessica Knauss: Are you currently in quarantine/confinement? How has it been for you so far?

Alexa Kang: I’m in the Boston suburbs and am in “lockdown” here like everybody else. To tell the truth, not much has changed for me. Writing has been my main focus for about three years now. It’s a very solitary pursuit. I was planning to slow down on that front and take on some non-writing related projects. Those are on hold now, and I’m actually glad to have this isolated time to keep writing!

JK: What activities are helping you stay sane?

AK: For us writers, it’s very important to stay active. Since we can’t go to the gym, my friends have recommended “Yoga with Adriene” on YouTube. Adriene is a fantastic yoga instructor and really helps me to destress and relax! 

JK: What is your latest series about?

AK: My latest series is “Shanghai Story.” It is a drama trilogy that starts in 1936 Shanghai. It chronicles how China fell into World War II.

JK: What inspired you to write this series?

AK: My genre is WWII fiction, and I’ve been wanting to write about the Pacific front, as there are so few novels about the war in the East, especially one set in Asia that centers on politics, and the narrative is from a male perspective. My bilingual skills and my cultural understanding of East Asia gives me a unique ability to bring this story to readers in a very authentic way.

JK: What makes it different than other books in its genre? 

AK: Aside from being a WWII story set in Shanghai, the heart of this series is a love story between Clark Yuan, a Kuomintang operative and son of a prominent Chinese family educated in America, and Eden Levine, a Jewish refugee from Munich. Interracial romance between an Asian man and a Caucasian woman in fiction is still rare today. Before the first book was published, I was quite nervous if that might impact sales. But it turns out, the audience was receptive beyond my expectations. This series is still selling very well today.

JK: Tell us more about the characters.

AK: The hero, Clark, is a KMT agent. He comes from a wealthy family of industrialists, as technological advancement was a big part early 20th century history onward. As I was introducing a main male character who is unusual in fiction, I wanted to make him someone Western readers can relate to, and even fall in love with. So, when the story begins, he is just returning home after graduating from college in America. He has lived and studied abroad for six years, and is quite westernized. He has two younger sisters, and is the oldest and only son. That makes him someone very important and influential in Shanghai. From there, we follow the story through his eyes.

My main female character, Eden Levine, gave me a great opportunity to tell a story about Jewish people who escaped to China. Leading up to WWII, almost all the countries in the world refused to grant Jewish refugees entry. China was one of the rare few that allowed Jewish escapees from Europe to enter without a visa. This story gave me a chance to write about the challenges the Jewish people faced when they had to begin a new life in a country with a culture that was entirely foreign to them.

JK: Are any of your characters based on real historical people?

AK: My main characters were not based on real people, but I did incorporate some real historical figures. In the first book, I have a delicious chapter of the first meeting between Clark and Soong Mei-Ling, China’s first lady. Like Clark, Soong was educated in America. She graduated top of her class at Wellesley. She was very ambitious and cunning. I had a lot of fun writing her.

JK: What was your favorite scene to write?

AK: My favorite scene was one where Clark and his sister took Eden to the Paramount Nightclub, a popular dinner and dance club. Before WWII, Shanghai was the most international city in the world, full of glitz and glamour. At the Paramount Theater, I got to show readers the decadence of the city full of big bad jazz music, bottomless champagnes, and ballroom dancing, with people from all over the world. It was fun to step back in time and make this scene come alive.

JK: I think the readers can sense your delight as you wrote! What was the hardest?

AK: The hardest scene for me was one where I had to retell the torture and death of an important character in Book 3 after Japan took over Shanghai following Pearl Harbor. I can’t say more without giving too much away. To write that scene, I had to read up on historical facts of how the Kempeitai (Japanese secret police) treated their prisoners. It has been generally acknowledged that the Japanese military and Kempeitai were even more brutal than German Nazis. WWII was a very ugly time in history. A lot of things happened that show us how flawed we humans can be. For us WWII fiction writers, sometimes we have to delve into all that, and decide how much to share with readers in our stories.

JK: At this moment in human history, do you think your books are a good escape? Or can they inform and inspire the reader for our current challenges? 

AK: Despite the subject matter of WWII, I think my books can be a good escape. They take us to a different time era, away from what we’re hearing about every day. Also, they show us that we’ve been through worse, and that we can overcome huge challenges and obstacles. Compared to WWII, what we’re facing today is nothing. We’re not going hungry. We don’t have bombs and missiles dropping onto our homes. We’re not asked to go to battlefronts to shoot at each other and sleep for months in foxholes in rain, smoldering heat, or snow. We’re asked to stay home, eat, and watch TV. It really puts things in perspective when we learn about history.

JK: That’s what I always think! Any time in history has had at least as many challenges as we have, and fewer advantages. (Yes, I’m thinking of the bestselling anthology We All Fall Down.)

Alexa, thank you for being here virtually and bringing your unique stories to readers.

Readers, check out Alexa Kang’s books and escape even while you #StayHome. You might even feel inspired or strengthened!  

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

An Author at Home in the Time of Coronavirus

Piracas, breakfast companion extraordinaire. 
Here in Spain, we’re starting our fourth week of quarantine, or confinement, as they’re now calling it (as though the entire population were a Victorian woman about to give birth). It's especially trying to the Spanish psyche this week, which is Holy Week. Last night I heard the canticle "Jerusalem, Jerusalem," which one of the brotherhoods sings in the Plaza de Santa Lucia on Holy Monday night, every year except this year, being blasted from someone's balcony. Not even weeks of isolation can dampen the Easter spirit here! These are the fond memories I have of my first Holy Week in Zamora.

The vast majority of people are following the orders to not leave their houses except to buy groceries, visit the pharmacy, or walk the dog within a restricted area close to their homes. That's right, there's no ordering from restaurants because they're all closed. And forget buying a new light bulb when your overhead light blows out. All those stores are closed, too.

All too many of us personally feel the importance of observing quarantine because we know someone who has fallen ill or died.

Scrabble with an antique Spanish set is a genuine
pleasure for this logophile. 
This is Spain, and so there is an outpouring of emotional support on social and traditional media during this strange, history-making time, with a constant torrent of inspirational and humorous messages. I've only run across a few pieces of "fake news" among all this genuine love for our fellow humans. Then there are the people who make videos of themselves in quarantine who have swimming pools or a 40-acre ranch to run around in. Best of luck to those folks, but I don't have any of that.

I'm grateful that I don't feel cramped. Heck, I have a balcony I can go out on to applaud every day at 8. I have lots of loved ones I'm staying in touch with via technology. (Imagine if this had happened before the Internet! I really needed my friend and my mom to help pull me out of a major widow moment at the beginning of this.) I have a roommate, so I can even talk to someone without technology! My roommate's cat is deliciously oblivious to what's going on. He's weird, though. We gave him an empty box and he's hardly looked at it!

My personal gym 
Given my numerous intellectual pursuits, the first few weeks haven’t really been a challenge. I'm learning Portuguese with an app, I'm writing, I'm learning the music for the summer season of my choir, and I'm doing small amounts of editorial work that come in. (I'll think about the probable financial shambles when the time comes.) (Please buy my books! Keep me alive!) I get exercise on the stairs in my building (without touching even the banister) and set up a tab with my roommate when it was decided he would use the only pair of gloves to make forays into the empty streets for supplies.

On Friday, my roommate bought me some kitchen gloves, and on Saturday, I left the building for the first time in three weeks. Though it was a bit eerie to see my beloved busy street with only a police car on it, the lack of activity gave me a chance to slow down and notice details I'd never seen before. Peace and beauty. In order to go the grocery store, I pass some of the most elegant Modernist architecture in western Spain. I'd thought I was fully grateful to live in Zamora, but there's always room for more gratitude.

So far, so good. With some great Spanish food! The ultimate cause for gratitude.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Quarantine Photo Essay

The Lenten fairground for kids, seen from the castle 3/6. 

The Lenten fairground is still there, just completely shut down, 3/14.
Life has changed drastically over the last few days. We're not supposed to leave the house except for essential food and hygiene reasons. I'm still okay, and in fact, being a writer, if my roommate weren't so antsy, things might seem pretty much normal. Creepy empty streets, shows of support, and the first thing to crop up among the Spanish is humor.

Horrible toilet paper from the 70s becomes an object of desire. 

Crowded fairground, 3/8. 

A famous comic put to timely use in a meme. 

"Recommendations" in the teacher's lavatory, 3/10.

"A meteorite!" "Run! We need toilet paper!" 

Toilet paper mystery solved:
For every one who coughs,
one hundred sh*t themselves. 

New protocols for the people who clean
the hallways in our apartment building, 3/10. 

They asked our grandparents to go to war;
they'e only asking us to stay home.
Solidarity with the voluntary isolation which was
quickly becoming mandatory.  

Holy Week cancelled. Only
Pontius Pilate will go out in procession
because he's the only one
who washes his hands. 

People are allowed to walk their dogs during quarantine.
I can't say this kind of humor amuses me. 

Day 2 of quarantine with the kids at home...
We don't pay teachers enough.

Confusion over some of the quarantine
rules: Why are the hair salons
still open? Maybe it was this guy's idea.
(He's one of the Vice Presidents
of Spain and has always had
luxurious hair.) The idea is really to help
people who can't take care of
their own hygiene, and most hair salons
that don't serve anyone like that have closed.
I was the last customer at mine on Friday,
early afternoon. 

"Let's see if I understand: To avoid contagion,
I can go to work, to the bank, then go buy
bread, walk the dog, get some smokes, wait
in line at the butcher's, the fruit store,
fish store, and supermarket.
Then I can go to the optometrist,
pick up my comforter from the dry cleaner,
and get a haircut after I full up the car.
But I can't leave the house. Is that right?"
The President of Spain responds, 
"Well, I have no f*cking idea, but if 
that's what I said, that's what I said."

"In order to have a group of more than 1000 people,
in Zamora we have to bring people in from elsewhere."
I don't love humor that pokes fun at Empty Spain. 

"Man quarantined with his mother-in-law
requests euthanasia."
Hardy har har. 

 A playground cordoned off with police tape.
The first thing that really creeped me out. 3/13.

Another cordoned-off playground, 3/14,
the day I panic-bought chocolate.

 The Plaza Mayor empty on a Saturday night, 3/14.

People practice social distancing, a hard concept in Spain. 3/14. 

The most popular pub-crawl street, totally
deserted on Saturday evening. Gave me chills. 

"Sorry for the trouble," one of the bars on
the pub-crawl street. 

 Younglings, impervious to world crises, hanging
out at the castle as if everything's normal.

Zamora's doughty defenses can't stop a virus. 

The theatre where my roommate and I
were going to have a spectacular choir
concert this coming weekend, eerily quiet. 

"Thank you to Public Health. You are our true heroes and heroines."
Not sure any health professionals will see this,
but their heart is in the right place.

Part of the view from my quarantined apartment.
It kind of reminds me Morocco.
Ah! Remember when we used to be able to travel?

The cat seeks to avoid contamination.

Zamora with Santiago de los Caballeros, the castle, and the cathedral under
a supermoon, 3/8. It's waiting for us. It will be there, beautiful, when this is over. 
If you are isolating, and are a Kindle Unlimited member, I remind you that unique Rhode Island fantasy Awash in Talent is yours to read for free! And check out the free reading listed here. (Not all, but most of the readings on that page are free.) As this situation goes on, I plan to offer more fun reading material. If people let me concentrate with all their emotional support via text message!

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

We All Fall Down Debut a "Viral" Success

We All Fall Down has hit a nerve. It's the most successful new release I've ever had, though goodness knows I always work very hard, hoping for such results. This time, my new release has so many factors in its favor. A gorgeous cover! The support of loyal readers of eight other terrific authors!  And that little something extra, a relationship to what everyone is thinking about, anyway.

One of our authors said, feeling quite ooky about it, "I feel like COVID-19 is a co-author."

Coronavirus is incredibly contagious, but has a relatively low death rate. Considering the first round of the Black Death wiped out half the population of Europe, there's really no comparison. The stories in We All Fall Down are really universal because they illustrate the way humans bounce back, even after the worst. They're worth a read any time, truly.

The universal buy link is here. Or go directly to your favorite store:

Goodreads | | | | | | Barnes and Noble | Apple iBooks | Kobo | 24 Symbols | Smashwords | Indigo | Angus & Robertson | Mondadori

It was an honor and a pleasure to work with all the authors. I'm thrilled our efforts are coming to fruition. Thank you so much for making this book a success! 

Thursday, February 20, 2020

A Brand New Release with Eight Other Historical Fiction Authors

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for voting for Seven Noble Knights in the TaleFlick Discovery Contest. The week was packed with meeting new people and feeling supported, something that is all too rare for an author. Seven Noble Knights finished in 14th place. It's not a win, but it's not bad, either, considering the competition! I couldn't have done it without your support, so THANK YOU.

I don't have much to show my gratitude aside from some interesting little medieval stories for free:

Get "Trout Riot," a one-act play, in three different formats for free here.

Get "Faded Threads," a miracle story that takes place in thirteenth-century France, in three different formats here.

Or get "Forgiveness on the Frontier," a very Spanish tenth-century miracle, in three different formats here.

And now for the great cover reveal!

We All Fall Down: Stories of Plague and Resilience is the result of a unique collaboration between nine bestselling and award-winning historical fiction authors: yours truly, Kristin Gleeson, Lisa Yarde, David Blixt, Deborah Swift, Jean Gill, Katherine Pym, Laura Morelli, and Melodie Winawer.

Plague has no favorites.

In this anthology, USA Today, international bestselling, and award-winning authors imagine a world where anyone—rich, poor, young, old—might be well in the morning and dead by sundown.

Readers will follow in the footsteps of those who fought to rebuild shattered lives as the plague left desolation in its wake.

* An Irish woman tends her dying father while the Normans threaten her life and property—

* A Hispano-Muslim doctor fights the authorities to stem the spread of the deadly pestilence at great personal cost—

* A Tuscan street hawker and a fresco painter watch citizens perish all around them even as they paint a better future—

* A Spanish noblewoman lives at the mercy of a jealous queen after plague kills the king—

* The Black Death leaves an uncertain legacy to Dante’s son—

* In Venice, the artist Titian agonizes over a death in obscurity—

* A Scottish thief loses everything to plague and repents in the hope of preventing more losses—

* Two teenagers from 2020 time-travel to plague-stricken London and are forever changed—

* And when death rules in Ottoman-occupied Greece, a Turk decides his own fate.

Nine tales bound together by humanity’s fortitude in the face of despair: a powerful collection of stories for our own time.

In dark and deadly times, love and courage shine bright.

My story immerses the reader in the harrowing final years of Leonor Núñez de Guzmán y Ponce de León, the true love of Alfonso XI of Castile. Alfonso XI was the only monarch to succumb to the Black Death. Though his jealous queen stripped Leonor of all her power, she has gone down in history as the mother of Enrique II of Castile, the first king of the Trastámara line.

We All Fall Down
will be available for ebook purchase on March 1! Preorder it at many venues here.

Goodreads | | | | | | Barnes and Noble | Apple iBooks | Kobo | 24 Symbols | Smashwords | Indigo | Angus & Robertson | Mondadori

Find new authors, locales, and time periods to love in this slim volume packed with substance. Softcover to follow very soon.

¡Grandes noticias para mis lectores en español! Por fin está disponible Mundos impredecibles en las tiendas Amazon: y

Subscribers to my newsletter saw the amazing cover of We All Fall Down last night and found out about the magical science fantasy I'm currently working on. Just sayin'.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Can You Help Seven Noble Knights Take a Trip to a Movie Studio?

2020 is shaping up to be the year of Seven Noble Knights, with tons of great news.

First and foremost, the search for a new home that started in mid-2018 is over. Medieval masterpiece Seven Noble Knights will be re-released in December 2020. You can delve into the rich tapestry of romance, revenge, war, and adventure at the end of this year! The wonderful team at Encircle Publications is getting a new cover and spruced-up edition ready as we speak.

As if that weren't wonderful enough, Seven Noble Knights is also set to appear in December 2020 in Italian! The translation is already under way. Expect to hear more about this unexpected literary gift soon.

And most exciting news right now: Have you ever wanted to see your favorite actor get hit with a bloody cucumber while wearing medieval underpants? Now that long-awaited possibility is within your grasp!

Seven Noble Knights has been selected to compete in the TaleFlick Discovery contest. With your help, this epic of medieval Spain can win a chance at being optioned for a movie or series!

Voting takes place now through February 14 at 4 p.m. Pacific/ 7 p.m. Eastern/ 1 a.m. on February 15 Central European Time. Be sure to get your vote in before time's up!

To vote, go to and click off any pop-ups. You don't have to subscribe to anything in order to vote. Near the top of the page, you will see something like this:

If Seven Noble Knights is not on the first page, it needs your help even more! You can search for it by typing "Seven Noble Knights" into the bar circled above and clicking the magnifying glass.

Seven Noble Knights appears with its original cover.

When you have Seven Noble Knights in your sights, you can expand the description using the white arrows at the center bottom, share the contest, or comment using the square speech balloon under the book cover, which is linked up to Facebook comments.

Or, just vote, clicking the upward arrow button on the right, which I have circled in the picture above. As I mentioned, you don't have to sign in or sign up for anything to vote, so you can help Seven Noble Knights with no commitment! The whole process takes all of five seconds with a good internet connection.

The page accepts one vote per IP address. So two people using the same wifi only get one vote, but say you have a tablet at home, a dinosaur desktop you use at work, and a phone you can hook up in a cafe--each of those could be a vote!

So please click away as you are able and tell everyone you know who loves medieval epics, Spain, or great movies based on exciting legends to vote for Seven Noble Knights at!

You will have a say in what actors get which roles when casting starts!

Thanks for reading. I'm so grateful for your help in making Seven Noble Knights a movie or series!