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Monday, December 30, 2013

Third Annual Knauss Awards for Excellent Books

Here we are again! Something that never changes from year to year is my love for reading. It seems I get to do less and less every year, and this time I was further hampered by the fact that I've lived in a hotel room for eight months. Such spaces are not known for their ample bookshelves, and I can confirm that I had zero nice places to store my books. Unless you consider a box under the bed a nice place. (Crimes against literature, I tell you.) On to the winners!

Best Fiction
The Color Master by Aimee Bender
The best fiction title of 2013 won by virtue of its being the one I most look forward to having handy on a shelf so I can open it back up and discover something new all over again. The Color Master is full of shimmering language in the service of a vigorous imagination. Read the full review here.

Best Non-Fiction
Clara's Grand Tour by Glynis Ridley
The best nonfiction title this year had more competition than I even remembered, but it's so good it beat out the others even though it was published in 2004. It researches and describes a world-changing moment (two decades) in the eighteenth century when a Dutch sea captain purchased and toured throughout Europe with a female greater one-horned rhinoceros. The author never puts forth ideas without solid evidence to back them up, but so much joy shines through her facts that the reader can't help but conjecture and imagine both the sailor and the rhino as personal acquaintances. It's everything a non-fiction book should be. (Of course, I love anything that helps me learn more about rhinos.)

Best Book I Edited
The Fiery Alphabet by Diane Lefer
This category gets more competitive by the minute. Looking back over the year, I actually find it hard to believe I edited The Fiery Alphabet in 2013. I feel like it's been with me forever. That overall fondness, coupled with its exquisite writing and historical, philosophical, sociological plot, make it the best book I edited this year. Read about its debut and an interview with the author here.

I wish I could honor every book I read because reading is such an amazing experience. Congratulations to the winners! Here's to an equally wordy 2014!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Interview: A World of Joy Author K. N. Lee

Author K. N. Lee
Please welcome prolific author K. N. Lee! Her story adds some fantasy to the holiday magic of A World of Joy.

JK: What is your story about?

KNL: "The Ticking Ring" is about a young couple in Ireland. Amidst a strange snowstorm, they experience a magical moment that reveals to them what their true dreams and priorities are. Jack and Ella discover a few spectacular things about one another. 

JK: Does the story depart from your usual writing?

KNL: While the anthology A World of Joy is about joy, goodwill, family, and the holidays, I knew that I must stay true to my fantastical style. Therefore, the reader can look forward to a few surprises and a hint of magic!

JK: What else can readers find written by you?

KNL: I am the author of the urban-fantasy, The Chronicles of Koa: Netherworld, Thicker Than Blood, and the poetry collections Wicked Webs and Empty Your Heart. The Chronicles of Koa has a sequel called Lyrinian Blade coming out this December!

JK: What are your plans for this holiday season?

KNL: I'm quite the avid traveler, so this Christmas I'll either explore Munich, Germany or go somewhere tropical! I haven't decided, but I'm certain that I'll have a blast working on my next science-fiction series, Freya's Bridge.

JK: Thank you so much for sharing the holiday spirit with us. 

KNL: Thank you! 

Visit any of K. N. Lee's many websites:
Facebook Twitter 

And of course, A World of Joy is available for download now! Thank you, readers, for spending December with the World of Joy authors. Happy Holidays! Come back December 30 for the Knauss Awards.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Interview: A World of Joy Author Juliet Kincaid

Welcome Juliet Kincaid, whose story in A World of Joy features not just people, but also Maine Coon cats.

Q: Tell us about your story.

JK: Another Christmas Carol is actually the third of the mystery stories I’ve written involving Jen Shirey, a young female private detective, and several Maine Coon cats. In the first story, “Cat Show Caper,” she meets the cats and their owners, Blanche Hubbard and Blanche’s mother, Mrs. Elvira Jones. In the second, “Catnapped!” Jen travels to the Hubbards’ bed and breakfast located in a small town much like Westin, MO. Here she meets Blanche’s personable son, Eric Hubbard. By time “Another Christmas Carol,” takes place, Eric and Jen have gotten to know each other fairly well and seem ready to take their friendship to the next level — until Eric’s old flame shows up.

Q: What was the inspiration for the tale?

JK: Part of the fun and festivity of the holidays for me is attending productions of seasonal favorites like the Nutcracker Ballet and A Christmas Carol. Also, in and around Kansas City, historical homes are often open to the public with appropriately seasonal decorations and costumed guides. Yet in Dickens’ original story and in our very real lives, we can have mixed feelings about the holidays. Partly, this arises from disappointment when holidays don’t meet our high expectations for them. So Jen’s cranky and not at all joyous to start the story, pretty much like Ebenezer Scrooge, but the story ends happily for Jen, as it does for Scrooge.

Q: What other writing are you working on?

JK: Currently I’m writing and publishing Cinderella, P. I. stories and a novel. Like “Another Christmas Carol,” they’re crime fiction, but not murder mysteries. They have humor and happy endings. Walls, a Cinderella, P. I. Novel is now available as a Kindle eBook and a trade paperback. And Cinderella, P. I., and Other Fairy Tale Mystery Stories is also available as a Kindle eBook. The trade paperback version of the story collection should become available this month. And coming in January 2014: January Jinx, the first in the Calendar historical mystery series.

Q: Do you have holiday traditions of your own? 

JK: My daughter and I are looking forward to attending a friend’s ladies tea, a mystery dinner theatre with a Roaring 20’s theme, and The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, a wild and fun variation on the usual story from the Owen/Cox Dance Group. We will spend Christmas itself quietly with just the two of us. We’ll give each other gifts, eat well (maybe we’ll roast a duck this year), and take joy in being together.

Q: Where can readers fin out more about your writing?

JK: My web site is, recently restored after a hiatus. I post blogs on a variety of subjects including my experiences launching a new career after the age of sixty and what I learn from the books I read that help me write my own.

Q: Thanks for sharing your story from this joyous anthology.

JK: Thank you so much!

Spread the yuletide cheer! A World of Joy is available for free download now.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Interview: A World of Joy Author Judith Works

Welcome Judith Works, who brings a special Italian flavor to the World of Joy anthology.

JK: What is your story about? Is it inspired by your personal experiences with the holidays?

JW: I wrote this little story about Christmas in Rome because at this time of the year my thoughts always return to Italy, where I lived for ten years. My husband and I moved to Rome when I had a job with the United Nations and he took a very early retirement from his own job to become our chef, home manager, driver and tour guide for us and for our daughter and friends who visited regularly. 

The story tells how different the holiday celebration is compared to here: much lower key, more emphasis on the Christmas story, and with its own traditional foods. Because of the happy memories from those years, we now keep some of the Italian traditions like eating panettone, and enjoying a Nativity set made in Italy. In the story, I write about the crystal drops we purchased at a flea market to hang on our Christmas tree. The drops, taken from old chandeliers, always make me think of who might have danced under the glittering lights in the 1800s —a sentimental touch for our home now so far from Italy.
JK: Do you ever get to go back to Italy?

JW: We return to Italy nearly every year to see friends and to enjoy life. This year we spent two weeks in September in Milan and Rome, and for a special treat, we are returning for Thanksgiving. Italians do not celebrate this holiday, but there are special events to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the UN World Food Program which we will attend.   
JK: What else have you written and published?

JW: I am the author of a memoir, Coins in the Fountain, which depicts the joys and travails of expat life in Italy. It is available as an ebook. I also blog at about my travel adventures. I write travel articles for two on-line magazines, Travel Belles and Plum Deluxe. My forthcoming novel, set in Rome, is in the final stages as my editor is just finishing up reviewing the last two chapters.
JK: Thank you so much for adding an international flair to the anthology.

A World of Joy is available for free download now.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Interview: World of Joy Author Diane Major

Author Diane Major
Welcome Diane Major, whose wonderful World of Joy story is "Mason and Bess at Christmas."

JK: What is your story in the anthology about?

DM: Mason and Bess live in a world named Sanctea. It is Christmas Day when the children wake up to discover their Christmas tree has vanished. Queen Anna, Mason’s mom, accompanies the children in their search for the tree. When Mason and Bess finally find the tree, they meet Father Christmas, who has a splendid surprise.

This is a story which suggests that giving presents is fine, but it is more important to bring friends and family together to celebrate the festive season.

JK: What else have you written and published? 

DM: To date, I have written several fantasy adventure novels. They range from books for adults to my children’s series about Mason and Bess. The Mason and Bess books are all fantasy adventure, or you might call them fairy tales. I wrote these stories to inspire children, but particularly boys, to enjoy reading. They are fast-paced stories about two friends who meet various creatures, both good and bad; however, they all have a happy ending.

JK: Do you have any special holiday traditions in real life?

DM: All of my relatives come together at my house for Christmas dinner. We do this on an annual basis on Christmas Day. This is the one time of the year when my mother, children, grandchildren, brother, nephew and his family, ensure we meet to celebrate the festive season as a family.

JK: What's next for you?

DM: As well as "Mason and Bess at Christmas" being available in A World of Joy, my third book in the series which is called, Mason and Bess, A Different Adventure, will be published in the very near future. This is a story when the children meet Dragons and Boggarts.

JK: Sounds cool! Thanks for sharing the seasonal joy at my blog.

DM: Thank you so much, Jessica.

Visit Diane's author page: Amazon US and Amazon UK

And don't forget to get your free copy of A World of Joy!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Interview: World of Joy Author Marcy Dyer

Welcome Marcy Dyer to the blog as the second guest in the World of Joy interview series. Her story in the anthology is called "Bleak Christmas."

JK: What is your World of Joy story about?

MD: The main character in my story is Gabby. She's grieving and wants nothing to do with Christmas. Until she meets a young girl, Jenny. Jenny's kindness changes Gabby's outlook.

JK: What was the inspiration for the story? How does it reflect your experience of the holidays?

MD: I have difficulty relating to Gabby, because I have never endured her circumstances, but as nurse who worked in hospice for many years, I've been with family members as they faced the holidays without joy because of their loss. They provided some of the inspiration for the story.

It reflects the holidays for me, because I feel Christmas should be a time of year to reach out to others — those who are hurting or less fortunate.

JK: What else have you written and published? 

MD: This story is a departure from my usual writing. I normally write Christian Suspense/Romantic Suspense. I have two books out now, Down & Out and Out for Blood. Both are available in electronic format and in February, Down & Out will come out in paperback.

JK: Thanks for visiting my blog for this joyous interview series.

Please visit Marcy's website:
Her books are available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
And don't forget to pick up your free copy of A World of Joy!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Interview: A World of Joy Author Elizabeth Rye

New Author Elizabeth Rye
Welcome our first interviewee, Elizabeth Rye, who has many reasons to celebrate, because her writing debuts in AWorld of Joy

JK: What happens in your story?

ER: Blair and Derek have been divorced for two years when out of the blue Derek calls with an odd request. His Aunt Agnes is dying of cancer and has invited the couple to spend Christmas with her. The problem is that she doesn’t know about the divorce and Derek doesn’t want to tell her. Instead he calls Blair for help. “I was hoping you’d consider being my wife for the weekend,” he asks.

Despite his hostile attitude, Blair agrees. She’s never stopped loving him and decides that now is the time to fight for what she wants — what she wants is her husband back.

Will this Christmas be one of joy? Will Blair and Derek be happily reunited? To answer these and other questions, read “Weekend Wife” by Elizabeth Rye in A World of Joy.

JK:  Where did the story’s inspiration come from? How does it reflect the holidays for you?

ER: The story came over time. One day around the holidays several years ago, Blair introduced herself to me. All I knew was that she was divorced from her husband and that he’d called because his aunt was dying and wanted to see them, not knowing about the divorce.

That was the story I had. I didn’t know what the end was. All I had was the beginning. When the holidays ended that year I had gotten no further and the inspiration for a Christmas story wasn’t there in February for me and so I put it away. I didn’t look at it again until I saw requests for the ASMSG anthology, A World of Joy.

This time, when I picked the story up, Blair was talking again, leading me onward to what her story was. Years ago I’d thought her story would be a novella but I soon realized that it wasn’t that complex. It was a simple story.

For me, Christmas is a time be thankful and a time to be with those we love. That is Blair and Derek’s story.

JK: What else do you write?

ER: I began as a writer of children’s stories and simple poetry. As the journey continued, my word vocabulary grew and I began to write adult fiction, though I still dabble with the latter two from time to time.

Currently I’m working simultaneously with a collection of essays chronicling historical events in America that have been forgotten, two romance novels and a mystery novella.

I find writing to be fun and above all, a learning experience. From all walks of life, a story waits and it is the writer who must pounce like a cat or spin a web as a spider does to catch the prey that will become our next book.

Though my short story, "Weekend Wife," will be my first official publication, I have published dozens of articles on my blog. These range from self-help essays for writers, writing exercises and advise, to historical and modern disasters and others that take on a lighter side. I believe a writer should never limit themselves. To that end I write what interests me, be it popular or neglected thoughts and dreams.

JK: Any other happy tid-bits to share?

ER: I have an old car with a warm heater. I still have enough money in the bank to pay off my Avon bill – I sell. My family and friends are supportive of my writing whether they understand/agree with it or not. In time, every story finds an ending.

JK: Can you share what you’ll be doing this Christmas?

ER: This Christmas I’ll deck the house out. This includes a green tree in the living room and a pink tree somewhere else. I don’t know if it’ll find its way to the dining room, entranceway or the landing – it’s been in all places over the years. I have my mini village from Wal-Mart/Walgreen’s/Dollar General to put up – that’s when the buildings still cost a dollar each. Stockings, of course, go over the mantle. Upstairs, I place Christmas Little Golden Books over each of the bedroom doors.

I plan to make several batches of cookies and let someone else clean up the mess. Naturally, I get to eat the first ones out of my 1926 Peoples Gas oven. I think we’ll have ham this year and I’m going to see a big mound of real mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce next to it. Surrounded by my family and my two year old turtle, Sparky, this Christmas will be one of joy.

JK: Do you have any other writing coming out soon?

ER: At present I don’t have anything else scheduled for publication. I have many irons, as they say, in the fire, with several nearing their final stages. Some of these will go the agent/publisher route, others I will self-publish.

JK: Thank you so much for being here.

ER: Thank you, Jessica, for taking the time to conduct this interview and for all your work in the writing industry. Writers' work hard and it is in these moments that our dreams are realized.

A World of Joy is available now for free download.