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Friday, August 31, 2012

Big Weekend!

This weekend I'll be at the AJC Decatur Book Festival, hopefully doing some good schmoozing and definitely enjoying myself. See you there!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Author Interview: Mik Everett

Today Mik Everett, author of the astonishingly uncategorizable Turtle, has stopped by to answer just a few of the burning questions I was left with when I finished the book.

JK: I'll start with the obvious. You seem pretty young to write with such verve. What are your literary influences?

ME: It seems fallacious to say that the biggest influence on my writing is life, because that really doesn't account for all the little discrepancies between different people's experiences in life. Two people in the same place at the same time have two different memories of an occurrence, no matter how similar their experience may be to an outside observer-- and that observer has a completely different perspective as well. I guess that perspective is the greatest influence on my writing. I like accounting for different points of view, telling stories from unusual perspectives, or even using writing to gain a sense of perspective. I find stories too unrealistic and bland when every character remembers and describes an unusual astrological event or even a simple argument with the same perspective. 

JK: Writing from your own perspective about any family, but especially this one, is a truly bold decision. Does your family support your writing?

ME: Regarding Turtle, very little of my family knows that I wrote it. For reasons obvious if you've read even a synopsis of the book, I used a pseudonym and kept it secret from my family that I'd published it. I'd published a few short stories and I have a freelance writing job, but because my family doesn't know about Turtle, they're basically under the impression that I'm a no-account jobless dreamer dabbling in university courses and unsteady writing jobs. I'm okay with that. It sort of leaves me free to do what I want to do. 

JK: I can understand how that freedom is necessary for you. 

ME: My dad is the exception. He found a link to the Amazon page for Turtle in my byline on an article I'd written about, I don't know, bread or something. He bought the book. He called me after he read it. He kept repeating that it seemed to him I did a pretty good job of being accurate, but that someone reading it might wonder, "Where is this girl's father?" I didn't have a good response for him. I typed up our conversation-- my perspective of it-- right after I got off the phone, and I've thought about adding it as an epilogue to the book. It would add some information that I didn't know at the time of the publication of the book.

JK: Now that he mentions it, there was a distinct lack of a father figure in the book, so that epilogue could be interesting. What about the people in your daily life?

ME: I have, of course, marvelous support from what I truly consider my family-- my better half, John, and our two children. His son is just six months older than my daughter Sophie, and apart from the terror of raising two toddlers close enough to be twins, I have everything I could ever ask for in a family. Although, because John is a writer as well, we're not the sanest of families. I'm okay with that. 

JK: How did you get started writing?

ME: I don't remember how I started writing. As a child-- I'm talking maybe three years old-- my mother would get tired of me asking her to spell words, so she'd tell me to go outside to play. Then I would just cover the driveway in chalk. I never stopped writing. I wrote backwards, I wrote in code. I covered the backs of envelopes and voided checks. Eventually I realized that wasn't going anywhere and I started putting stuff together to make stories. I have a freelance job writing humorous essays of the 'scathing' variety and cultural reviews for an online publication. I'm somewhat working on another novel. Sort of Through the Looking Glass, but with the plot of This Side of Paradise and with logical proofs instead of a chess game. I worked as a logic instructor at my university for a year, and I was overwhelmed by the desire to turn the algebra-like language of logic into a narrative. Don't expect it to be out for a few years, though. 

JK: What can readers think about while they wait?

ME: My family is taking a tour of all the swirly highways that go around and up and down the mountains. We're camping at night, driving all day, and stopping at every retail space with a 'FOR RENT' sign. So far we've been charged by an elk, had all our food eaten by bears, made friends with a bike gang, etc. Once we complete our circuit, we're going to decide on a location and get the heck back to Kansas to bottle some beer that's currently fermenting in our basement. It's this black-as-black stout called Ink; the label is a squid reading a book. Let me back up. Our company is called Brainfood, and we're currently a brewery with a bottle that's combination literary magazine/ art exhibit. We're accepting submissions of flash fiction and artwork, which we use on our labels and on the cardboard six-packs. Once we find a suitable retail space, we're going to expand our wares to include books and art. Our goal is to provide retail space for independent authors and artists, and hopefully venue space for musicians as well.

JK: Thanks so much for these updates. Readers will have to wait with bated breath for such brilliant projects to take off. In the meantime, you can support both Mik's writing and her exciting bookstore, etc. project by picking up Turtle or by following @BrainfoodVenue on Twitter and submitting your flash fiction and poetry for the beer bottle labels. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Turtle: The American Contrition of Franz Ferdinand by Mik Everett

Turtle is a memoir that reads like a novel. The reader might prefer it to be fiction, because no one could wish the unfathomably dysfunctional relationships and nastily random-seeming events on any real person. Unlike a lot of books I've been reading lately, I did not want to live in the world the author so vividly paints here.

As she mentions, "Squalor was the word that came to mind."

But this book does the main thing indie books alone seem to have the power to do: fly in the face of all expectations. I couldn't help but ask time and again how someone who had lived through this could come out of it with such a subtle literary touch. She manages time and again to make passages about squalor seem somehow lyrical and deeply meaningful. I also wonder how someone so young could write with so much perspective and wisdom.

So, while the subject matter could drag the reader down, by some wonderful alchemy, I felt uplifted at the end. This book actually draws the reader in to the degree that I wasn't quite ready for it end. In spite of my not having had comparable experiences, there was always some characteristic that gave the situation humanity and made me think I knew exactly what the author was talking about.

What does Franz Ferdinand have to do with anything? The poor guy didn't do much else for history than being killed. The author makes sophisticated, poetic, and startling statements about him that tie together the themes of powerlessness that run throughout the book. In the end, though, the author is not powerless because she uses her powers of perception and unique way with words to present the hand she was dealt in her own voice. In that way, she both owns her experiences and is freed from them. Unlike the supposed main character, the mother, the author can face reality without becoming emotionally dependent on any part of it. The things that happen to her don't define her. She does, if she cares to. She gets the last word.

Support this author if you're not too squeamish: paperback Kindle

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Advent by James Treadwell

On the surface, not a lot happens in Advent. A boy who feels unappreciated at home travels from London to far Cornwall by train, arrives at his aunt's house but can't find her, meets the other people who live on the manor and runs back and forth on the grounds a few times. Oh, and magic has lain dormant for half a millennium and slips back into this world in this book.

The big events are largely interior, and the main character is really the language, so Advent bucked any expectations I had by being surprisingly literary.

Here's an example that stayed with me, from page 240:

"What's happening?" The question dropped of its own accord from the block of his bewilderment, a fragment calving from a glacier.

I thought, if the author can take the time not only run the two worlds (the world we know and the magical world) together through the plain style of speech and the elegant narration but also to extend a metaphor, striking in its own right, for such a simple piece of dialogue, what other literary wonders await? The answer: an astonishing number.

Some reviewers have said that the book is slow, and it's at least partly because this example is not unusual. The whole book is like this. This is not a book I would have enjoyed as a child. A reader needs to have a certain contemplative maturity in order to enjoy what the author is trying to do. It's a book meant to be savored, set down and returned to later, not read in one night. The magical elements are intelligently plotted and crafted and the narration expects a bit of intelligent work on the part of the reader. If you like your fantasy laid out plain, this is not your book.

I enjoyed the weaving together of the Faust legend and that of the sybil Cassandra immensely. I also had a strong desire to escape to Pendurra, the estate where time has stopped or at least slowed down. The story feels complete to me, so I'm puzzled -- and maybe a little curious -- as to how much more ground can be covered in the two other books in the series. Overall, Advent delivers on the promises of its blurbs. It's original, full of mystery, and stunning.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Guest Post: The Muslim Who Persuaded Charlemagne to Invade Spain by Kim Rendfeld

Today Kim Rendfeld, author of The Cross and the Dragon, has stopped by to share her research on some of the fascinating historical figures and puzzling events surrounding the story of her novel. 

The Song of Roland

Charlemagne’s 778 invasion of Spain, commemorated inaccurately in “The Song of Roland,” is often portrayed as a type of Crusade. In fact, it was a Muslim who convinced the Frankish king to cross the Pyrenees.

A year earlier, Sulaiman Yaqzan ibn al-Arabi, a Saracen emir; his son Yusuf, and his son-in-law trekked along the steep, narrow passes of the Pyrenees and journeyed all the way to Saxony, seeking an alliance with the Frankish king and close friend of the pope.

Why would a Muslim ask for the assistance of a devout Christian?

Ibn al-Arabi, wali (governor) of Barcelona, was part of the Abbasid cause to overthrow Abd ar-Rahman, the emir of Córdoba and the last of the Umayyads. The Abbasid caliph, Al-Mansur, had tried to defeat Abd ar-Rahman in 763 and failed. In the 770s, the Abbasids and Berbers from Africa were planning to unite their forces and try again. Ibn al-Arabi must have thought they would need help and decided on a king with a reputation as a conqueror.

At this time, Charles had never lost a war during his nine years on the throne. He had subdued Aquitaine and Lombardy and so secure was he in his belief he had pacified the Saxons — beaten them into submission — that he held an assembly in his brand new palace in Paderborn, east of the Rhine. Ibn al-Arabi put his territories under King Charles’s protection.

What ibn al-Arabi told Charles is a matter of speculation, which I have included in my debut novel The Cross and the Dragon. However, judging by a 778 letter from Pope Hadrian, he might have told the Frankish king that Abd ar-Rahman wanted to extend his realm north into Francia:

“Your royal and God-constituted power has sent us word through your letter that, God opposing them, the people of the Hagarenes are intent on invading your territories to make war. This news has caused us to become greatly troubled and distressed; may our Lord God not permit such things to occur, nor also Saint Peter, prince of the apostles!”

A Truce

Charles invaded Spain with a huge army from all over his realm, but things did not go so well. At Pamplona, the fiercely independent Basques (also called the Gascons) apparently did not want a foreign king, even if he was a fellow Christian. In response, the Franks destroyed the city. When they reached Zaragoza, ibn al-Rabi tried to turn the city over to Charles. But the Muslim populace did not want Charles as king, either.

So Abd ar-Rahman and Charles reached a deal: the Umayyad would give Charles gold and hostages if the Frankish king went home. Apparently, the alliance with the Abbasid had fallen apart because Ibn al-Arabi gave hostages, too.

A hostage in this era, usually the son of a nobleman, was a form of insurance. If Abd ar-Rahman and ibn al-Arabi behaved themselves, the hostages were treated as guests. If the Muslims broke the treaty, Charles could do whatever he wanted to the hostages, including execution.

This allowed Charles to claim victory. He got booty and assurance that Abd ar-Rahman would not invade.


But disaster struck on the journey home. Perhaps in retaliation for the destruction of Pamplona, the Basques ambushed the rear guard at the Pass of Roncevaux, killing high court officials and Hruodland (Roland) of the March of Brittany. The blow to Charles was so great that the events were not recorded until after his death. (If you would like to know more about the massacre, visit a post I wrote in May for Unusual Historicals by following the link on my blog,

On top of that, Charles found out the Saxons were not pacified after all. Back in Francia, he learned they had revolted, killing and burning indiscriminately. One of the casualties was the palace in Paderborn.

Charles was able to recover and conquer more lands. Crowned emperor in 800, he reigned until his death at age 65 in 814.

Ibn al-Rabi was not as fortunate as Charles. One annal has him being taken to Francia in chains. But I am inclined to believe the grimmer fate described in the footnotes of Carolingian Chronicles: Abd ar-Rahman, the Umayyad, recaptured Zaragoza, and ibn al-Rabi was killed as a traitor to the Muslim cause.
Death of Roland in Roncevaux

Carolingian Chronicles: Royal Frankish Annals and Nithard’s Histories, Bernhard Walter Scholtz with Barbara Rogers
Charlemagne: Translated Sources, P.D. King
Einhard’s The Life of Charlemagne, translated by Evelyn Scherabon Firchow and Edwin H. Zeydel

Kim Rendfeld is the author of The Cross and the Dragon, a tale of love amid the wars and blood feuds of Charlemagne’s reign. Her novel provides an alternative interpretation of the events depicted in “The Song of Roland.” To read a sample of Kim’s novel, visit

Friday, August 17, 2012

Rhinoceros Dreams Available in Jake's Monthly (Magic Realism)

The classic rhinoceros story by rhino enthusiast and multi-published author Jessica Knauss (little me), "Rhinoceros Dreams," is now available for purchase along with nine other wonderful magic realism stories in Jake's Monthly Anthology: Magic Realism

This story appeared in an Australian magazine called This Mutant Life, which then went out of print, dashing everyone's hopes for reading a fun, rhino-filled story in the future. Weep no more! The story is back and better than ever. (I'm not just saying that -- I edited it for point of view slippage and a few other misdemeanors before I even submitted it to Jake.)

It already has a book trailer:

Referring to "Rhinoceros Dreams," the editor says, "This story is so original and surreal that it'd be a crime not to accept it. This is high-quality, intriguing-premise M[agic] R[ealism] at its finest." I've never received higher praise.  The anthology is available in all ebook formats -- check at your favorite vendor! If you go here (and get an account), you can set your own price. That's right, no one can stop you from putting a big fat 0 in the price box. It's basically free! Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Memory Lane: Tree/House Version

While I was writing Tree/House, my first big project, I went looking for all the ego-boosters I could among the educated people in my hometown. Going through my junk recently, I found a sheet of their comments. What they had to say is still music to my soul.

My then-boyfriend couldn't get over it when we discovered that I think in English prose, considering and crafting each thought before passing it through my lips or pen.

My high school junior year English teacher noted: "You have a natural and instinctual grace and elegance." My prose is "always well-dressed, finely bred and stately." My poetry "captures a freshness, innocence, and dreaminess." I have "a wonderful ear for conversation and dialogue" and my "characters converse as real, compelling people."

My high school senior year English teacher claimed I was far smarter than he. "I read in your style a passion that was uncommon, saw a tease that was subtle and alluring, felt a tickle that needed to be scratched." He also advised that I should take more risks (though mostly I have failed to undertand what that would mean  to my writing). "If you ever let loose and showed people the passion that is within you, you might cause the wig-tappers to be called out in force to straighten all the wigs you'd flip." (Yes, I used that image in Tree/House -- how could I let that slip away unwritten?)

I could never see these wonderful things in my own writing. It feels weird to type them here. I know only that I had to write. If what they said was ever true, I hope I have only improved with time!

See Tree/House at eTLC.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Thank You

While I was unable to start a global kindness movement in honor of my birthday and for the sake of the rhinos, I have been really touched by the responses I've gotten to my heartfelt pleas.

Dave Evardson, author of The Fenwold Riddle, donated to the rhino cause I directed everyone to right away, making feel the effort had already been worthwhile. Megan Eichenlaub, my colleague from Tucson and the namer of Loose Leaves Publishing (not to mention all the other talents she possesses); Sam Covell, a beautiful spirit with whom I could have had a fruitful in-person friendship if I hadn't met her so close to my departure from Tucson; B. N. Peacock, author of A Tainted Dawn, professing her love for animals; and Kim Rendfeld, author of The Cross and the Dragon and from what I've seen, a very generous person, also donated.

All of you truly moved me with your generosity. Thank you so much.

No one reported any random acts of kindness to me, but if you care to let me know, I'd love to write about something like that here! I performed a non-random act by donating many items in excellent condition to our local Goodwill, but Im sure may of you can come up with something more creative than that.

On another note, I'm on the verge of making my lifelong dream of finishing my first novel come true. It's now that I need to gear up and seriously get my name and whatever else I have to offer out there so that by the time it's published, all the right readers will be champing at the bit to purchase, read, and write reviews for The Seven Noble Knights of Lara. How to do that when marketing grates against my sensibilities as a shy person?

Lately I've been reading that some experts think the conversation of social media has been taken over by too many people using traditional advertising techniques. I agree that it's getting too loud out here, someone turn the volume down! People joke about "shameless plugs" but for me they have always been full of shame, so I've resolved not to fall into that pattern (when I can identify it).

I'll still post content I like or love, simply because I like it. In fact, next week I have a guest post by author Kim Rendfeld that I find fascinating and am genuinely excited to present. I hope you'll like it, too.

If you have any ideas for what I should do about marketing (effectively and with no money) at this important juncture, I'd love to hear it!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Guest Post Today!

I got a wonderful boost for my birthday today! My little ol' guest post is appearing on Rachelle Gardner's incomparably useful blog. Check it out!

Thank you! And many thanks to Rachelle for choosing my musings.

Authors After Dark

A wonderful writer and social media friend of mine, J. Gunnar Grey, will be attending the Authors After Dark Festival of all things Romance books. She'll be handing out goody bags, and in them you'll find some of my postcards and bookmarks and even a CD with a free pdf of my story "Rhinoceros Dreams." (This is the story that is also going to be available from Jake's Monthly: Magic Realism. Get it here, get it there, but get it while you can!)

Although I don't have what it takes to write romance, I have nothing but respect and affection for romance writers in general (and a few specific ones). So enjoy Authors After Dark today through Sunday, August 12 and look for me in the goody bags!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Readers, Only You Can Help Authors

Jeri Westerson recently laid out some things active readers can do to support their favorite authors in this exciting, confusing time. I don't necessarily think these are obligations, or even responsibilities, as she puts it, but if readers do decide to actively support a certain author, they need to know that their actions have huge, direct effects on the publishing industry, so they should purchase and engage in social media in a conscious manner.

I love being a writer, but like most other authors I'm struggling to get my writing noticed above the sound and fury.

Tomorrow is my birthday. I've already asked you to help me save the rhinos (here and here), but I have some great ideas for random acts of kindness, too. These are all things I've done to support other authors, but I figure my birthday is a great excuse to call you out in force for my sake!

You could buy my books. Try these links or request them at your local library or bookstore.

Tree/House: paperback Kindle Nook Kobo eTLC
Dusk Before Dawn: paperback Kindle Nook Kobo
Sail to Italy and Sail from Italy: paperback Kindle Nook Kobo
Threads Woven: Kindle Nook Kobo
Law and Order in Medieval Spain: paperback Kindle Nook Kobo
The Abencerraje: paperback Kindle (Also, you can still borrow it for free if you're Amazon Prime! It's like Christmas for me when you do!)

Lots to choose from!

If you have no money to spare (or, and especially if, I already gave you a free copy), these other highly appreciated acts will cost you nothing but a little bit of time.

Step 1: Log into Amazon. It's basically the same no matter which country you prefer. Search my books or use the links provided above.

Step 2: Click the Like button.

Step 3: If you've read it and liked it, write a review. If there are other reviews, click the button indicating that they were useful to you. If there are bad reviews or ones you don't agree with, vote them down. Contact me for free review copies if you haven't read it and it looks interesting to you.

Step 4: Share it via Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest (if you are so inclined).

Step 5: Scroll down until you see the section about "Tags."

With a few simple clicks, you can agree with all the relevant tags. (In this example, "crime drama" isn't relevant, so please don't agree with it.) Then you can fill in the box with any other relevant tags you can think of for that book. Creative and amusing!

Still at Amazon, you also can go to my Amazon author page and click on the Like button, look at videos, and share it via twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or even that old dinosaur, email.

It already feels better to help my cheery, thoughtful books than to play Angry Birds, doesn't it!

If you have a account (I highly recommend it!), you can add my books, rate them with four or five stars (if you like them, that is), and if you really like them, add a review and add them to lists and suggest them to other readers. You can also become my fan. I'd love to have you!

Returning to this blog, there are a few more things you can do to help out.

1. Follow this blog. Get your picture up there on the left with all the other Truly Awesome People or type in your email address (I won't spam you).

2. Use the easy-peasy buttons just below the followers to follow me on Facebook and Twitter. I also have other Facebook pages and amusing places to visit listed in the Contact Me page.

3. Use the silly simple buttons at the bottom of each post you like to share it via email, Blogger, Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus.

4. Comment on posts you like. Let's get the conversation going!

Did you even know there were so many ways you as the reader could assist your favorite authors? Every click helps raise Amazon rankings and makes books more visible to search engines so your favorite authors can find their sometimes elusive but always lovable target readers.

Thank you. Any of these actions performed in kindness will help to boost the world's karma in some small way. This is just about the only feedback I can get for my job, and I take it all very seriously.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Many Ways to Get Your Book to Your Readers

Terry Giuliano Long created a stir with the blog post Where Do Books Come From? It explains for the uninitiated (and some confused industry insiders) the differences between traditional and self-publishing and the untold advantages being unlocked by the latter in the wacky, wild, changing publishing climate.

Most of the claims in the article are undeniable. I've reviewed a few self-published novels over the life of this blog and in general, they've been worthy efforts, so I support the freedoms self-publishing provides to people with the chutzpah to do a good job.

I would really like to know: is the stigma really wearing off? What is the reader's opinion of self-published books? With the improvements in self-publishing options, how can readers distinguish which ones are of an acceptable writing quality? Does the reader ever miss the gatekeeping function of traditional publishing?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Nicest Acceptance Letter Ever

It's always a thrill to get a letter of acceptance for any publication I've submitted to, but the one I received yesterday from Jake of Jake's Monthly anthology series tops them all. Just look:

Publishers and editors, take note! It would be a crime not to accept this story! It still blows me away to read that. I'd been having a pretty listless day. I had finished my chapter for the month, and the world was lacking in splendor. But then Jake made my day. Thanks, Jake!

When the anthology comes out, I'll be sure tell you all about it. It's an amazing opportunity for writers of magic realism to get their stuff to their readers, wherever they may be.