I am so pleased to welcome author J.K. Knauss to my blog! She is not only a talented writer, but is also a fellow travel enthusiast. Woohoo! Enjoy her post and pick up her book today!
(Book links embedded at the bottom of the post.)
Xo - Andi
The story of Seven Noble Knights may have really happened in the late tenth century. Scholars’ best guess is that it circulated as an epic poem, sung by traveling minstrels as a way to spread news, entertain, and bring listeners together over shared loyalties and enmities. The tenth century is more or less when Spain as we know it today became a possibility, and stories from that time are cherished in much the same way Americans might revere the Declaration of Independence.
Whether the poem was ever written down is uncertain, but in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, historians transcribed the story. Their historical prose suspiciously carries an epic meter and preserves some rhymes. These texts accompanied me at all times during the two years I was writing Seven Noble Knights.
The texts, of course, don’t include all the information I needed in order to tell a great story with developed characters and rich settings. Although I’ve visited the sites I write about in Seven Noble Knights, the story may have taken place more than a thousand years ago and the landscape has changed drastically. Some imagination is required.
I first heard about the seven noble knights of Lara when I was taking college courses in Córdoba, in Andalucía, the south of Spain. That gorgeous place is the backdrop of several pivotal scenes, including the discovery of a betrayal, mourning over a profound loss, and the blossoming of a romance.
When you walk into the Mezquita-Catedral of Córdoba, some portions of it look as they would have in the late tenth century. It was the grandest mosque built on the Iberian Peninsula, and is now an important cathedral. All you have to do is mentally delete the Christian iconography and the iron railings and pretend the light bulbs in the fixtures are burning candlewicks. The Great Mosque of Córdoba has a cameo appearance in Part One, Chapter VIII, when Don Gonzalo arrives in the most civilized city he has ever laid eyes on after two grueling weeks of travel under a relentless sun.
The Mezquita-Catedral evokes even earlier history because when it was constructed in the eighth through tenth centuries, columns complete with different capitals were repurposed from Roman structures.
In Part One, Don Gonzalo lives for some months at the palace complex of Medina Azahara, and the hero, Mudarra, is born and raised there and regretfully leaves in Chapter I of Part Two. In Seven Noble Knights we see Medina Azahara at the height of its power and elegance. Only twenty years after the novel’s events, the city was destroyed during political upheavals, and remained buried until 1911. The archaeological site today is only 10 percent unearthed, which gives me as an author a huge responsibility to flesh out my imagination with research. The photo below gives an idea of the way the terraces separated the different levels of government and the living quarters. At the right, the roof of the Ambassadors Hall, and at the left in the distance, the only surviving grand entrance to the complex with its multiple two-story archways.
In this photo, you can get a sense of the way they’re trying to restore the exquisite gardens outside the all-important Ambassadors Hall.
In this photo, I’m pretending to be a princess in the living quarters. You can also appreciate the indoor/outdoor living aspect of Medina Azahara, a city intended to delight the senses. Because I had visited the site, it was thrilling to imagine my hero growing up in such a luxurious place only to travel to the less civilized North.
Even more imagination is required in northern Spain, where most of Seven Noble Knights takes place. Here, tenth-century styles were aggressively replaced with newer Romanesque, Gothic, and modern architecture.
Barbadillo is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town today, but as the site of the infamous bloody cucumber incident (Part One, Chapter V), its modern residents honor my villainess, Doña Lambra, with street names, a hotel, and this twentieth-century statue. It shows Doña Lambra, her husband, Ruy Blásquez, and their nemesis, Mudarra.
Salas de los Infantes, the hometown of the seven noble knights, now looks nothing like it would have to Don Gonzalo and his seven sons. The town crest illustrates the story, several street names recall the characters, and the Baroque church claims to treasure the remains of the seven brothers and their tutor, Muño Salido. Local businesses also make tribute to the story. For example, Mudarra, the name of the hero of Seven Noble Knights, graces this restaurant. Though Salas plays a role in both Parts of the novel, regrettably, the restaurant doesn’t.
The wedding that goes so wrong (Part One, Chapters III and IIII) takes place in Burgos, where Mudarra is also adopted, baptized, and knighted (Part Two, Chapters VI and VII), and the villain, Ruy Blásquez, meets his judgment (Part Two, Chapter VIIII). Although a lot of decisions are made in Burgos Castle, I don’t think my characters would recognize its ruins today, with all its makeovers. Nevertheless, standing atop that summit with the winds of Castile whipping over me, I felt the spirits of my characters and the weight of history. Perhaps this view would resonate with Don Gonzalo, Doña Sancha, and Mudarra, if you subtract the power lines and metal railings.
Aside from the source material, I read about twenty scholarly texts to be sure I didn’t get my Seven Noble Knights history too far wrong. I also watched documentaries about daily life in the Middle Ages and mentally donned armor at museums. But going to the real places to tread the ground where my characters could have walked brought the most psychological depth to my research. The locations today bring the most reality to the legendary time I write about, a thousand years ago.
Amazon softcover: https://www.amazon.com/Seven-Noble-Knights-Betrayal-Medieval/dp/086698819X/
Pick up your copy today!!
If you follow me on Twitter (@andiadamswrites), you can see that I am trying really hard to commit to putting words on a page every day. I may not make 50k words in 30 days, but I will (try my damndest to) write every day for the entire month of November. I'm not gonna lie, I probably should have better prepared. A more thorough outline would be a HUGE asset right about now, but so far, I am proud that we are seven days in and I have almost 10k words down! ::Cue party dance::
Clearly, this draft is just that. I am just throwing thoughts on paper. But as a writing exercise, it has been good for me to write the words without editing along the way. I have a habit of working and reworking that material that I've written instead of continuing to move forward to just finish the draft. However, for the purpose of the exercise, I'm just shoveling sand one pile at a time. Editing will be reserved for December.
Just wanted to keep you updated on what's going on in my writing world. So what's going on in yours?
I am happy to welcome author Jessica Knauss to my blog! With lots of great info on her writing process and her inspirations, I'm sure you'll get some great insight from this guest post. Enjoy!
xo - Andi
When Characters Take Over: Jessica Knauss and Awash in Talent
Jessica Knauss’s Awash in Talent was released by Kindle Press on June 7 to praise from readers who love something different.
This is the third stop in a week-long Awash in Talent blog tour. Don’t miss the crazy character interviews and writing advice at the blogs of A.J. Culey and Carrie S. Miller, and Thursday and Friday at J.L. Gribble’s and Jennifer Loring’s blogs!
Born and raised in Northern California, Jessica Knauss has wandered all over the United States, Spain, and England. She has worked as a librarian and a Spanish teacher and earned a PhD in Medieval Spanish Literature before entering the publishing world as an editor. Her acclaimed novella, Tree/House, and short story collection, Unpredictable Worlds, are currently available. Her epic of medieval Spain, Seven Noble Knights, will be published by Bagwyn Books in December 2016. Find her on social media and updates on the sequels to Awash in Talent and Seven Noble Knights and her other writing at her website: jessicaknauss.com. Feel free to sign up for her mailing list for castles, stories, and magic.
Awash in Talent features young women and men with Talents such as telekinesis, firestarting, and the ability to see people’s thoughts. How did you come up with this story?
Awash in Talent is the rare successful story that resulted from a dream. I often scribble notes about the bizarre scenes I see at night and they go nowhere. When I told the story of a girl having aluminum removed from her digestive tract from the point of view of her cynical older sister, it gained a momentum most dream scenes lack. The power of telekinesis cropped up and the story developed a special logic I couldn’t resist writing until the characters let me stop. I set this story down and kept picking it up again for years, in between chapters of my historical epic. It was a secret side project that came into its own. So I guess you could say I didn’t come up with this story. The characters made me do it!
What drives you to write?
In the case of Awash in Talent, the characters took over in the most obvious way. But I think most of the time, I write because the characters, their story, or some greater force of will than my own compels me. As Carl Clinton Van Doren said, “it’s harder not to.”
What are some of your kookiest writing practices?
Basing stories on dreams is not usually advisable because the success rate is so low, so I’ll say that’s my kookiest practice. Geography is essential in Awash in Talent, so I boosted my memory of beautiful Providence, Rhode Island, with Google maps on a regular basis. It doesn’t sound crazy, but I felt a little odd using satellite mode and zooming in and out, trying to dive into the pictures. Some other habits I developed in the writing of my historical epic, Seven Noble Knights, include listening to music from the time period in question while writing or editing; acting out scenes by standing up, stomping around, and executing sword strokes; and examining medieval movies and documentaries, trying to imagine tastes and smells to accompany the sights and sounds.
What’s the hardest thing about balancing writing with the rest of your life?
Writing takes everything you’ve got and it seems that in today’s economy, it doesn’t give much return on investment. Writing also takes up brain space nonwriters get to use for other purposes. If you’re thinking about your day job, or your family, or whether that guy in the grocery store line was looking at you funny, your writing will suffer. I think it might be impossible to have a writing career today without a great support network of friends and other writers to remind you why you do it. I’ve been incredibly lucky because the love of my life, my husband, was my biggest fan. I dedicated Awash in Talent to him because without his support, the book would never have come about.
Any tips or tricks to help other writers?
Most importantly, find a community of writers near you. Writing doesn’t have to be the loneliest profession anymore. I Skype with my writers group now, but nothing beats being in the same room. Find a group that has similar goals to yours and where you’re not necessarily the best writer so everyone can learn and grow.
Another tip would be to not follow my example and have your day job be editing and proofreading. Because my job requires such similar effort to writing, unless I start the day with creativity, that day is lost. If I get up and do paid work, I find I can’t get into my own writing without taking extraordinary measures for concentration.
Awash in Talent was published by Kindle Press after a successful Kindle Scout campaign. What was that process like?
Kindle Scout made the normally uneventful submission process exciting. I was metaphorically pounding the pavement, trying to get nominations, every one of those 30 days, watching my statistics obsessively. In the end, I think it came down to someone or a few people at Kindle Press enjoying Awash in Talent. After acceptance, I got to speak with the author liaison there, and she assured me that everyone was excited to work with my strange little book. That and the monetary advance are two of the most exciting things that have ever happened to me as a writer! The process was quick and efficient, and although I haven’t earned out the advance yet, Awash in Talent is already my most successful book to date. I hope it’s only the beginning of a stellar career.
Awash in Talent confronts a lot of interesting social issues and could be great discussion material for a book club.
I agree! I have some ideas for fun things a book club could do:
• Serve coffee milk, Del’s lemonade, or cabinets (milkshakes—just call them cabinets!), with seafood to include quahogs, Portuguese cuisine to include sweet bread, traditional Italian food, bakery pizza, New York System hot wieners, or orchard-fresh apples in season.
• Take turns trying to read selections of the book out loud with a Rhode Island accent.
• Contact the author for a visit or Skype session!
Thanks for hosting me on your blog!
Awash in Talent
Seven Noble Knights
The Evolution of an Urban Fantasy Series
Honestly, all of this could have been avoided if my parents had paid more attention to what I was watching on television.
But I was the nerdy middle school kid who wanted to be an astronaut. I didn’t have many friends, and I spent most of my time reading. I also had an infant little sister, so perhaps my parents can be forgiven for leaving me to my own devices at that point.
What was I watching that might not have been appropriate for an 11-year-old? It all started with Highlander: The Series. I came for the epic sword fights, but I stayed for the intrigue of a hidden society of people living in a world much like ours. Unbeknownst to me, this was my introduction to the subgenre of urban fantasy! Until then, I’d mostly been reading epic fantasy with a few Star Trek novelizations thrown in for good measure. (Told you I was nerdy).
I was so taken with the concept of the show that I spontaneously invented fanfic before I knew such a thing existed and hand-wrote some short stories about a young woman training to be a Watcher (the secret society that tracks Immortals and records their histories). I still have those journals in a box somewhere, and I promise that the writing is all terrible!
But I’d caught the bug. Over the next few years, my family acquired a home computer and dial-up internet access and I discovered that a lot of other people were doing the fanfic thing, too. I filled notebook after notebook with a sprawling cast of characters set in the Highlander world. And one summer, after my third time at Space Camp (yep, still that nerdy), I realized that I’d written the equivalent of a novel, if not two. This was also about the same time that I realized that the most solid route to space (the military) wasn’t going to be for me. But I’d found something even better. I was already visiting other worlds.
Over the next few years, my reading and television habits expanded. My fanfic writing grew the same way. I got bored with writing just Highlander stories and branched out into crossovers (melding multiple universes together). Eventually, I had a few characters that I wrote many stories about. I posted them online and never got much reaction, but that didn’t matter. I was writing for me.
My senior year of high school, I wrote a series of short stories for my capstone project. At this point, my fanfic world had become so muddled and ridiculous that it didn’t take much to pluck out a magical vampire character (originally inspired by such shows as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Forever Knight) and build an entirely original world around her.
When my senior year of college rolled around, and I was once again faced with a massive capstone project, I brushed off that world. But by this point, I actually knew what urban fantasy really was. I also knew what alternate history was, and loved it, so I smashed them together and created the world of Limani. My magical vampire was a bit too ridiculous at that point, so I split her into two characters who became mother and daughter.
Since I jumped straight from undergrad into a creative writing graduate program that specialized in popular fiction, the world of Limani came with me. Over the course of two years, I wrote the novel that would eventually become Book 1 in the Steel Empires series, Steel Victory. This incarnation of the world seems to have settled and stuck with me, but that hasn’t stopped me to continuing to draw inspiration from everything around me.
But as you can see from the Steel Empires book covers, the swords are one thing that are here to stay. Thanks, Highlander.
No one uses a katana in the Steel Empires series, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time! In Steel Magic, new this week from Dog Star Books, Toria uses a swept-hilt rapier and Kane wields a scimitar.
From the back of the book:
Funerals are usually the end of the story, not the beginning.
Newly graduated warrior-mages Toria Connor and Kane Nalamas find themselves the last remaining mages in the city when a mage school teacher mysteriously falls ill and dies. But taking over the school themselves isn’t in the cards. They’re set to become professional mercenaries—if they make it through the next 18 months as journeymen first.
The debate over whether to hunt mutated monsters in the Wasteland or take posh bodyguard jobs is put on hold when a city elder hires them to solve the mystery of the disappearing mages. Toria and Kane’s quest brings them to the British colonial city of New Angouleme, where their initial investigation reveals that the problem is even greater than they feared.
But when a friend is kidnapped, they’ll have to travel to the other side of the globe to save her, save themselves, and save magic itself.
Steel Magic's Amazon Link: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/1935738852/
Author Bio: By day, J. L. Gribble is a professional medical editor. By night, she does freelance fiction editing in all genres, along with reading, playing video games, and occasionally even writing. She is currently working on the Steel Empires series for Dog Star Books, the science-fiction/adventure imprint of Raw Dog Screaming Press. Previously, she was an editor for the Far Worlds anthology.
Gribble studied English at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She received her Master’s degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, where her debut novel Steel Victory was her thesis for the program.
She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland, with her husband and three vocal Siamese cats. Find her online (www.jlgribble.com), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/jlgribblewriter), and on Twitter and Instagram (@hannaedits).
Disclaimer: As a YA author, I try to cater this blog and our posts to that kind of audience. And even though Cara McKinnon is a romance writer and the material may be a little mature for YA readers, her experiences as an author and her knowledge about the craft of writing can offer some really valuable insight. I want this blog to be about WRITING and learning about the world publishing, regardless of the genre. So hopefully you will find lots of great information in the following interview! Xo - Andi
Interview With Cara McKinnon
How did you come up with your story?
I like to say that I didn’t come up with this story. The story came to me. I had done research and made an outline for a completely different novel, but when I started writing, what came out was something completely different. Etta Mae Cook stepped from the passenger car onto the platform at Waterloo Station and stumbled.
That’s still the first line of the book. I didn’t know who this woman was or why she was in London, but by the time I got to the end of the first chapter, I was hooked on her tale. So the answer is – I honestly do not know! Depending on how you view these things, you could say that she created herself in my head. Or that I’ve read so many fantasy and historical fiction books that it was only a matter of time before those coalesced into my own story.
But I will never know for sure!
What are some of your kookiest writing practices?
I don’t like to write anywhere but at my desktop computer. I tried to write on my laptop for a while, and I can do it (it can be fun to change up the scenery and go to a coffee shop), but I am most comfortable when sitting at my desk, on a full-size keyboard, with music playing and my story up on my big monitor. I’m pretty boring, I guess. I don’t really do anything else that’s weird. I do have a very comfortable memory-foam foot pillow that sits under my desk that I like to put my feet on when I write. Is that kooky?
"Butt in chair" is the only trick I know that is universally applicable. There are all sorts of things that work for me – like turning off my inner editor, NaNoWriMo-style, outlining before I write to give myself a framework when the middle starts to sag, or making sure I have lots of research materials easily available – but the writing process is different for everyone. The only real trick is sitting down and making yourself write. Your version of “what makes me write” is probably going to be different than mine. But it will be just as effective, because it’s tailored to you.
Here’s a tip that is also universally applicable. Find really intelligent people to read your work who will give you good feedback and make your story better!
Book/authors that have heavily influenced you as a writer?
I write fantasy because my dad started me off right as a child with The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. I then devoured everything that was even remotely fantasy-like in the library at school and the local public library. But it wasn’t until sixth grade that I read Robin McKinley and realized that girls could have adventures and slay dragons, too. McKinley remains one of my favorite writers. But she’s been joined by others, such as: Kate Elliott, Sharon Shinn, Guy Gavriel Kay, Garth Nix, Anne McCaffrey, Ursula LeGuin, Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, Diana Gabaldon, Patricia Wrede, Maria V. Snyder, Patricia McKillip, and my all-time favorite author, Martha Wells.
You’ll note there are lots of ladies on that list. I think I gravitate toward female writers because they don’t ignore women in their stories. And the men on this list are all ones that give a decent amount of page-time to women, too. Often in genre fiction, the focus is on the men, and women are there for support or to motivate the hero to action. I’ll still read those books, but they’ll never be numbered among my favorites. I’m more interested in balanced stories that show all sorts of different people and recognize that everyone has a tale worth reading.
If you want to find out more about Cara and what she writes, visit her online at caramckinnon.com.
Cara McKinnon writes fantasy romances because her heart pumps equal parts magic and passion. Her love of history caused her to set her books in an alternate Victorian era, with surprisingly few changes from the real world. She lives on the East Coast of the US with her husband, two kids, and an oversized lapdog named Jake.
Images available at - https://caramckinnon.com/essential-magic-shareables/
The Humans Are Coming!
To: All Shifterville Residents
From: David Peacock, Mayor
As Shifterville prepares itself for its newest, and first human, residents, I would like to remind you of the challenges our town faces in the coming months.
Because it is absolutely critical the humans remain unaware of our existence, we must work together to ensure our newest residents never discover our secret. This work begins now, as we prepare for their arrival.
Therefore, please adhere to the following rules as we begin our preparations.
The following is a list of the buildings that will be remodeled this summer, to ensure a more human-friendly town environment. Please have patience with the crews as they carry out this very important work.
Shiffer Veterinarian Office
Shiffer Café and Restaurant
Shiffer Town Hall
Shiffer Sherriff’s Department
Shiffer Ice Cream Parlor
Additionally, a new bowling alley and movie theater will be built off the square on Main Street. We have it on good authority these are highly popular, human entertainments. Once construction is complete, we hope families will participate in these human entertainments, so as to give them an authentic, well-used air.
Thank you for your adherence to these rules and your assistance in this difficult process.
A.J. Culey was not born a shifter, much to her dismay. Despite her limitations as a human, she enjoys spending time with cats, bunnies and other animals. She hasn’t met a shifter yet, nor has she had any antlers spontaneously appear in any classroom she’s taught in, but she hasn’t given up hope that it might one day happen. In the meantime, she has fun writing about the possibilities.
I have mentioned several times (and probably will mention several more) that I consider myself quite lucky to be a part of such a wonderfully supportive and knowledgable writing community. They are the "hive-mind" that helps produce great ideas and wisdom in my moments when I am lacking both!
As an opportunity to give back and share with you some of their awesomeness, over the next few months I will be hosting some fellow writers on my blog and give them the floor to post a little bit about their experiences with writing.
We kick off the tour on Monday so get ready. ::Cue party dance::
To celebrate the release of The Girl in the Glass Box, I'm going on tour (a blog tour, more specifically) to talk about aspects of my writing process, my inspiration, and other writerly things. So click on over to check out my postings on my fellow rockin' authors' websites and also, show them some love as they come and visit my blog forum with a post of their own.
Here’s the tour schedule (click on the host name to access their blog), so be sure not to miss a date. New posts every Tuesday starting in July. Come travel with me!
Lots to learn about writing and awesome new book releases, so pack your bags and stay tuned!
My heart is broken for the state of our nation and the state of humanity. What is going on?! Scary and devastating. I'm tired of the hate and the ignorance. I'm tired of the segregation and the exclusion. WAKE UP PEOPLE! We are all humans. Black, White, Purple, Gay, Straight, Trans - HUMAN! That is it. End of equation. You may not like a certain lifestyle for yourself, but you do not have the right to tell others how to live. It seems so simple, yet we are continually facing more and more destruction at our own hands. Have we learned nothing from the Holocaust? Or the genocide in Africa? Or slavery? It really blows my mind.
I don't want this to become political or to fuel any fury. I just want to express how heartsick I am and how, as a writer, it is unfathomable that life is truly becoming stranger than fiction. I spend my days devising plots full of conflict and drama and I could never dream up the savagery that I have witnessed in recent history. And all I can do is ask WHY??
We need more love. That's it. We need to combat the hate with love. Fight the evil with good. And show the bad guys that they can't bring us down. That we are stronger than their hate. Our love and our acceptance and our unity will inevitably be the thing that triumphs. But we can't lose hope and we need to do it together. We are all we have.