Subscribe to Jessica's exclusive newsletter

Subscribe to Jessica's newsletter

* indicates required

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Alfonso X and Sevilla at Unusual Historicals

Check out this epic post on Unusual Historicals, in which I share a little of the history of my favorite king and his favorite city.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Coming Up In March

A rare Javan rhino
The editor of the fine web publication Linguistic Erosion has given me the great news that a flash fiction of mine will be published there in March!

In some 489 words, it explains the plight of the Javan rhinoceros, this rarest of the already rare rhinoceros species. It's one of a five-flash suite that celebrates each species in an entertaining and hopefully, at times, informative and/or artistic way. I can't wait to share it with you! And of course I hope to have news about its five companion pieces soon, too...

Monday, January 20, 2014

Magic Realism, The Class, Part II

One of the tools we used in the magical realism class I took in December was this video, which answers any questions writers might have about how to proceed and what to do as a writer in one minute and twenty-nine seconds.

We also studied "Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut. For me, it still doesn't qualify as magical realism, but it is an astounding story that everyone who likes to write and all people who like to read would do well to read carefully. Notice how it executes all the advice in the video! He practices what he preaches. Admirable, and I hope, inspiring for you all.

Magic Realism, The Class

by Rob Gonsalves
I've mused on this blog about magic realism before (here and here). It seems to be more acceptable in the mainstream as time passes, with stories like Life of Pi, to take just one example, directly addressing the question of what is the breaking point of a reader's stretched credibility. This last December, I took a course in writing magic realism online from the T. J. Eckleburg Workshops, mainly because I wanted to get a firmer grasp on what exactly it is and whether I still write it.

Overall, it was a great class. The other writers had some spectacular talent, I got to read some great stories, and I wrote two of my own. We're supposed to write three, but the final assignment prompted me to think about the last part of the Providence trilogy (which is paranormal, not magical realism) instead. It's wonderful when stories take over.

In the class, magic realism is defined as a sweet spot on a continuum between realistic fiction and fantasy. The overall world of the story is realistic, but magical or fantastical elements appear in a fleeting way that could be the result of perception or point of view. My favorite part about magical realism is that the magic is not explained. It's the reader's job to decide either what's real or what the magical element means in the realistic context, or both.

In masterpieces like "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" by Gabriel García Márquez, for example, the appearance of a winged man in the village is factual, but his meaning is the cause of lively debate both within the text and for the readers. On the other hand, this course considers "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman an early work of magical realism because of the way the author toys with perception. (Both are incredible, worthwhile stories. Read them immediately.)

When I was writing in college, I was a classic magical realist. It's not that I had the amazing discipline necessary to maintain the balance described above, but that I was reading so much twentieth-century Latin American literature and being so thrilled and inspired by it. However, lately I've tended toward paranormal and out-and-out fantasy. It might be because I can maintain the balance of magic realism in short stories, but not in the longer pieces I've been writing.

I'm going to be revising the stories I wrote for this course and letting my imagination run with the idea of how to extend a magical idea over a longer piece. It was insane to take such an inspiring class right before making what may be the biggest, most important, trans-state move of my life, but a little insanity puts the vigor in my writing, right?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Fried Chicken

My husband and I love living in New England, have been trying to get back here ever since we left, and are over the moon with joy now that we're here. In spite of all that, North Carolina was a nice place to live (in a hotel room). Although I never had a good hair day there, I do have pangs of nostalgia for the last place we lived.

For one, some parts of the hotel felt like home. On the morning we left, the staff explained that they would give themselves some time before they rented out the room where we stayed for nearly eight months to avoid the feeling that something was terribly wrong when someone else was in "our room." They also got to know my husband's morning coffee habits so well that they gave him a bagful of his favorite creamer and chocolate as a parting gift. I thought that was really touching. My husband made sure to treat everyone there well from the beginning, but I maintained my shy standoffishness even through all their southern openness and charm.

The immediate difference I've noticed has been our eating habits. In North Carolina, it was possible for me to go weeks with chicken as my only protein. Fried chicken has always been my favorite food (aside from chocolate, which is not food so much as life force), so perhaps you can imagine the bliss of living in a place where all anyone ever eats is fried chicken or pork barbecue. Every restaurant does it differently, and yet every place does it right. How can that be? Even the chain restaurants gave consistently virtuosic performances, with my favorites being Smithfield's (they show you that KFC clearly uses too much black pepper), Zaxby's, and O'Charley's. Any time one of them wants to franchise in New England, I will give them a southern welcome.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Celebrating 50,000 Hits Success

With no disrespect to Edward Hopper — yay, no more hotel room!
Thanks to everyone who made my latest Clear Your Shelf Giveaway Blog Hop such a success!

After a crazy week and a half, my husband and I have moved into an apartment. You heard that right — we no longer live in a hotel! We're in New England, where we've been trying to get back to ever since we left five years ago and we couldn't be happier in spite of all the challenges of settling in to an old building.

We managed to get the prizes off to the winners today. Winners came from five different states and all seemed to be thrilled with their prizes. I was especially proud that Tree/House ended up being the most requested title. I hope you all get as much enjoyment out of these wonderful books as I did.

2014 is off to a great start!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Egyptomania by Bob Brier

Although this book is written by an "insider" — Egyptologist Bob Brier has done all the requisite studying and publishing and even working with TV networks — Egyptomania is a read just about everyone will enjoy. It's strange, but nearly everyone on the planet seems to have at least a passing interest in some aspect of ancient Egypt.

Brier traces this preoccupation back to Roman times, when Cleopatra was a living, breathing, and breathtakingly intelligent representative of a culture that was already thousands of years old. I really enjoyed the detail with which he reported on the Renaissance transporting of the obelisk in Rome and Napoleon's savants. The excitement of the discoveries and the melding of scholarly work with popular souvenirs is palpable. There are plenty of illustrations of engravings and later paraphernalia, like cigarette cases in the shape of temples.

The author takes great care to describe the engineering marvels France, England, and New York undertook in order to obtain their obelisks, complete with severe weather and losses at sea. The exaggerated efforts required to move the obelisks in modern times only helps the reader appreciate the unknown genius of the Egyptians who constructed them in the first place.

There is sure to be something new here for even the most avid Egyptomaniac, as Brier goes into the cinematic history of mummies and Cleopatra and how they were portrayed differently according to what discoveries had been made.

Brier rounds up the book by gleefully reporting that he may have made the latest big discovery about the history of every's favorite boy king, Tutankamen. Egyptomania is a fast, enjoyable read that will fan the flames of any enthusiasm you already have (because you probably have some) for ancient Egypt.

You can win my ARC paperback copy of Egyptomania and four other great books if you enter here before January 11!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Clear Your Shelf Giveaway Hop — Celebrating 50,000 Hits!

Sometime when I wasn't looking (in October, I think), this blog hit a thrilling milestone: 50,000 page views. I never imagined it would come this far.

I've now had many more views than that, but I still thought I would take this opportunity to celebrate by giving you, my readers, FREE BOOKS.

The books up for grabs:

Egyptomania by Bob Brier. A fun study of the fascination with ancient Egypt in the Western world and a great resource for understanding what the museums are talking about. This is a publisher's Advance Reader's Edition paperback with just a few signs of wear. Full review to come later.

Dragon's Child by M. K. Hume. The first book in a new King Arthur series that's sure to enthrall all round table enthusiasts. Another publisher's Advance Reader's Edition, but with almost no signs of wear.

The Abencerraje. The softcover edition of this enchanting short story from medieval Spain includes the original Spanish with modernized spelling and the popular new English translation. A Top 20 Amazon bestseller and 2013's #2 bestseller at Açedrex Publishing, which has also been adopted as a college textbook.

Tree/House by Jessica Knauss (yours truly). The softcover edition with the gorgeous new cover of my jaw-dropping, head-scratching coming-of-age novella. Highly rated on Amazon, Tree/House gives any reader a lot to ponder.

The Fleet Angels of Lakehurst by Barbara Marriott. Loose Leaves Publishing's first book is a humorous and factual tribute to the Navy helicopter pilots from Lakehurst who saved so many lives. Seven ***** reviews on Amazon and Silver Medalist in the Stars and Flags Military Book Award!

Three fiction, two non-fiction! Prize winners and bestsellers! Have you chosen your favorite yet?


To win, just comment below. Please tell me which book you'd like and include your email (written out to avoid spam if you desire) so I can contact you for a mailing address if you're a winner. Winners will be drawn on January 11th and notified the same day. Increase the number of times your name is in the "hat" by following this blog via GFC or email, liking my and/or Açedrex Publishing's Facebook page or following me on Twitter or Pinterest. Drawing is open to US residents. (Sorry, I wish postage wasn't so expensive!)

There are a lot of other books that need new homes! Check out all the other blogs on this linky list to enter their drawings — you could get quite a library going!

Thanks for 50,000 magical internet moments! Many more to come!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Welcome 2014 with Manolo García

Note: Starting January 4, I'm participating in the Clear Your Shelf Giveaway Hop. Five prizes will be up for grabs, so stop by and check it out.

"One Year After Another" by Manolo García
English translation by Jessica Knauss
from Los días intactos (2011)

One day I realized searching
was what kept me awake.
Without a trace of treasures,
without finding answers,
in the happy morning light.
January came and went
the way a traffic light changes
on those confounded highways
where I sometimes still feel
like a donkey tied at the entrance to the dance.
New years came and passed by,
Like the lives of monks in monasteries.

One year and another, so much time,
so many August moons that pass by.
A hot wind came from the south,
the deepest south,
and in it, you came, intensifying.
One year and another.

One day I realized searching 
was what kept me awake.
Without a certain reward
asking myself questions
while dusting my own buttresses.
A wind blew from the south.
You came inside it with your heat
and your Gypsy talk.
You came joyfully in a puff
to this pile of trash
where we sometimes bog ourselves down.
You came inside a light.

Days are bullets and when you yearn to head for the horizon
you're already ploughing the deep blue.

One year and another, so much time,
so many August moons that pass by.
A hot wind came from the south,
and in it, you came, and you came yearning.
One year and another, so much time,
so many August moons that pass by.
One year and another, so much time.

A hot wind came from the south
from the deepest south,
And in it you came intensifying,
desiring new horizons.
One year and another.

Note: "Like a Donkey Tied at the Entrance of the Dance" is the title of one of Manolo García's biggest hits with his former group, El Último de la Fila.

Note: We're finally leaving the hotel! After nearly eight months! We're headed for another hotel... soon to be replaced by an apartment, complete with my books and other items necessary for feeling like home. Catch you on the other side.

Note: Happy New Year!