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Monday, March 20, 2017

Springtime Renewal with a Free Book and Big Sale

It' been a long winter. Luckily, the Vernal Equinox anthology is here, just in time to celebrate spring. This free anthology takes renewal as its theme. If you've ever wondered whether Emily from Awash in Talent is trapped forever in her bizarre forced-therapy prison, the story I contribute will show you the way she finds renewal. It's the first chapter of Awash in Talent's anticipated sequel, Call It What You Will (which is still being written). This entertaining story and nine others in the fantasy, horror, romance, and literary fiction genres are yours for free!

Author and anthology-maker Lincoln Cole's page gives you a link to Vernal Equinox and showcases all the featured novels in one convenient place.

The release of Vernal Equinox coincides with the Kindle Scout Anniversary Sale. In honor of two years of reader-powered publishing, all Kindle Press titles are only 99 cents each, today through April 3. A panoply of wonderful writing awaits, including Awash in Talent and all the books from Vernal Equinox! Check them all out at Amazon or get the deal conveniently on Awash in Talent's page.

Be sure to check out A Book A Month's appealing and well organized page for the event. Don't mess around with genres you don't care about—find your favorites with an easy click!

Also in celebration of renewal, in April my deep psychology story "The Lake," based on an Edgar Allan Poe poem, will appear in award-winning Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine.

Lest you think I haven't been busy, I'll let you in on a secret: I've been writing a fantasy story, set in Providence, Rhode Island, and another special place, with all new characters. I'm letting my imagination run wild. My writers group has called it magical, unique, vividly rendered, entertaining, and just great. It's good to have my honest efforts rewarded, and I have high hopes I'll be able to share a complete version of this story with you soon.

And last but not least, check out the popularity ranking of the Seven Noble Knights All Classical interview, also available here.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Radio Stars: Seven Noble Knights and Me

Portland's All Classical station is at the intersection of the river and the light rail. 
Picture it: You're an artist, and someone you're not related to and have never met and you know appreciates the type of art you do in general has seen your art and liked it enough to talk with you about it for thirty minutes at his radio station.

A selfie in the very moments when my authorial fame hits its zenith. 
Exciting? You bet. I know because it happened to me!

Ed Goldberg at Portland's All Classical is an avid reader, and I had the inestimable pleasure of chatting with him (at New York speed) about Seven Noble Knights.

Check it out and download it free at the station's site. It is also on iTunes (the J. K. Knauss March 1 track) also free.

The view from the studio wouldn't be complete without rain clouds. 
As you'll see when you have a listen, we crammed a lot of information into thirty minutes! I hope you enjoy listening as much as I enjoyed making the recording. Doña Sancha, Don Gonzalo, their seven sons, Mudarra, and Doña Lambra await you!

And check out the other Seven Noble Knights events in 2017, including another, shorter audio interview and a couple of book signings!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Book Club Magic with Divas, Sangría, and Medieval Spain

Reading makes you blossom 
The Literary Divas February meeting, which featured discussion of everyone's favorite epic of medieval Spain, Seven Noble Knights, had near perfect attendance and a special appearance by yours truly, the elusive author J. K. Knauss.

Seven Noble Knights, hurrah! 
The group has varied tastes and don't often agree on books, but luckily, everyone found something to like in Seven Noble Knights. I let the readers control the discussion, which ranged delightfully all over. I was tickled to hear comparisons to Game of Thrones and the consensus was that reading Seven Noble Knights is like being inside a movie. We discussed the pleasant challenges of a book with more than thirty characters and how long it takes to write an epic novel. We delved into the psychology of Doña Lambra, Zaida, Don Gonzalo, and Gonzalico, and agreed that Blanca Flor is more mysterious than I intended. Almanzor was a favorite character, and I got to explain that his reputation in history is terrifying, so it was thrilling to portray him in a positive light. My inspiration and years of research paid off when many readers picked up on subtle details.

I'm always surprised when readers want little ol' me to sign their books, but there was a whole lot of signing going on, too.

"The book club needed a book like this," one enthusiastic reader said. "It's well written and we all learned a lot!"

The group enjoyed an elegant selection of Spanish tapas: Mediterranean salad, paella, tortilla de patatas, bread, Manchego cheese, chorizo, Spanish olives, almonds, and sangría, with olive oil in almost everything and a delicious, colorful fruit tart for dessert.

The evening concluded with an impromptu reading of my prize-winning flash fiction, "Stairs to the Beach." The dark humor was highly appreciated.

You, too, can experience Seven Noble Knights with your book club! Check out suggestions here and contact the author if you'd like to schedule an author appearance or Skype session.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Today at Unusual Historicals: María de Padilla, Royal Mistress

Reenactors portray María de Padilla and King Pedro
in the Royal Palace in Sevilla. 
The theme this month at Unusual Historicals is "Mistresses." For my turn, it could be none but María de Padilla, whose legal status as queen was never confirmed. Nonetheless, she is more famous and beloved than many historical queens. The few facts that have come down about her make for great historical novel fodder! Read all about it at Unusual Historicals today.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Book Clubs, Authorial Fame, and Real Life

Look, Ma! I'm famous! 
As part of my deliberate, full-of-intention book launch for Seven Noble Knights, I arranged an interview with my local newspaper. It came out last week and looks impressive, taking up the entire content of page A3. (If you click the picture, you should be able to enlarge and read the article.)

I unexpectedly got two calls from local well-wishers when they saw the article. All right, I thought, today St. Helens, tomorrow the world! On Friday, I learned that Seven Noble Knights is the official selection of the Literary Divas Book Club for February 2017. I think the choice is a direct result of the article in the paper. I prepared for book clubs with a set of discussion questions in the back of the book, and I'm happy to visit or Skype with a book club with members who enjoy historical fiction—just contact me. I'll make an appearance at the Literary Divas meeting, which will demand an in-person performance of my authorial persona.

The authorial persona is the face an author presents to the world, an integral part of her "brand" in this new age of authorship. My persona is based heavily on the real me, but as it's developed, I've emphasized only the fun, exciting, or humorous parts of me. I figure no one wants to read books from a gloomy Gus. When circumstances have become too frustrating to bear in silence, I've blogged about them from a humorous angle to make them easier to swallow. See my posts about living in a hotel for nine months in 2013 or getting an apartment in Arizona with no furniture in 2011 for examples.

Last July, something happened to me that is not funny at all, ever, and that changed everything about my life down to the finest detail. I'm talking about the death of my beloved husband. I've written about it a couple of times here, but overall, I'm no Helen Macdonald (author of H is for Hawk) and no one wants to read about my grief, especially before I've had time to frame it with a tangible piece of wisdom.

It hasn't been easy to gauge how much of the truth to reveal during Seven Noble Knights' book release. Sometimes I mention my husband deliberately, and sometimes I gloss over his existence. Both options feel wrong. I hate to mention that death has already parted us, but we had an insanely happy marriage that deserves celebration. If I try to gloss over my grief, there's always the risk that people will ask a question whose answer cannot be fudged, and I will go too deeply into territory I don't want to visit publicly. During the book launch, these have usually been questions about my writing process and my future writing plans. My husband's love was woven throughout my life, even my writing process, and now that he's gone, I'm faced with existential questions about whether to move forward that must be answered before I can answer how.

I completed both of my novels before my husband became ill, and I dedicated both of them to him. When the page proofs of Seven Noble Knights came back with my paragraph about him in the present tense, it was intensely painful to have to remind the publisher that my husband can only be referred to in the past tense now. It doubly hurt that I had never shown the dedication to him, so he never got to see it. I had been saving it as a surprise.

My mother found a typo in the published edition, and I don't know whether it's been corrected. In the second-to-last chapter, I refer to a character as a "young window." It should be "widow." I think the typo was a Freudian slip, because I didn't want to be a widow when I first wrote the passage any more than I do now, to the extent that I didn't even want to type the word.

But these are not the anecdotes that sell a medieval epic, are they?

In the newspaper interview, I approached this issue subtly. Notice that I don't go into why I've returned home to my mother, and I only mention that because of the local connection. In any other context, it would be a nonissue. I refer to my husband simply as "late." Such a small word doesn't describe the wonders of our marriage or the yawning black abyss that is my grief—because no one wants to know about that. It provides only the bare fact. In order to maintain the positivity of my authorial persona, that small word may be as far as I can go.

The part about the idea for the sequel is true. Recently, I've recuperated hope for life, and I hope that I will actually do some writing on that project soon.

I've discussed where to draw the line with a couple of psychology professionals, and their conclusion was to "Do what makes you comfortable." Not easy, since I haven't felt comfortable about anything for more than six months! If you have brilliant ideas about how much of my own sad story to tell as part of my authorial persona, I'd love to hear them.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Unique Events in 2017 for the Seven Noble Knights Paperback Release

Historical author Maria Grace's feature, Writing Superheroes. Learn my mild-mannered secret identity and how it's actually full of superpowers, too.

The Facebook Launch Party, January 14, 7–9 pm EST (4–6 pm for us Westerners). Find out all the medieval gossip, ask the author any question you want, and win prizes including a softcover edition of Seven Noble Knights and gift certificates to La Tienda, the premiere source for delicious and beautiful imports from Spain. Find out everything about the Facebook Launch Party here.

Paperback release day! Seven Noble Knights, the softcover edition, will be available at the following links, and you can preorder a copy any time.

An appearance in the St. Helens local newspaper gives my opinion on ebooks and the lure of historical fiction.

A great conversation with my pals, the Book Doctors, at the Huffington Post. They mention a blog post about the Pitchapalooza where we met in person, and that's here

A glowing review appears in February's issue of Historical Novel Review, issue 79. It makes me glow when I read it, anyway!

Seven Noble Knights is the official February pick of the St. Helens Literary Divas Book Club. The author made a special appearance and good times were had! Contact the author to arrange a Skype or in-person visit for your book club.

An interview with All Classical Portland's book guru Ed Goldberg, crammed with noble knights, devious ladies, and ominous auguries! Check it out and download it at the station's site or at iTunes, free.

In March, Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours will organize another tremendous blog tour with reviews, interviews, and prizes.

As 2017 matures, you'll get rare opportunities to meet me, the author, in person, and get your paperback copy signed:

The Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Massachusetts

The Historical Novel Society Conference in Portland, Oregon

If you just can't get enough Seven Noble Knights, many wonders await you at the Grand Book Launch Blog Tour and these entertaining and informative posts.

Meet The Characters

The World of Seven Noble Knights

"Shrouds and Stones" is a free prequel story, a companion to Seven Noble Knights that describes the "origin story" of the villainess, Doña Lambra. Enjoy it in your choice of three formats for free. 

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016: Black stone, white stone

I'm not the only one who's had the worst year on record. It's nice not to be alone, but of course I'd rather have a more pleasant quality in common with so many people.

My beloved husband—my biggest fan, who never let me down, who is my definition of what it takes to be a good human being—died in late July 2016. Having to say or write that still stops me in my tracks. But it's been five months, and the best way to honor my husband is with a life that's about more than sadness. Slowly, painfully, I'm making plans and dreaming dreams again.

This year had some highs, as well, which deserve celebration.

December 2015: My husband and I moved back to Arizona with purpose and joyfulness.

March 2016: Awash in Talent was picked up by Kindle Press.

May: My husband and I had the best two weeks in Spain anyone has ever had. (We met Manolo García!) I'll have to blog about that trip in order to spread the joy even more.

June: Awash in Talent was published by Kindle Press.

July: I learned a lot about my friends and family and the power of these bonds.

December: Seven Noble Knights was published by Bagwyn Books.
I earned a modest placement as Publicity Assistant at Hawthorne Books, to start in January.

My husband (can you believe my luck!) illustrates the useful skill of
finding beauty among the thorns. April 2016 
I started this second part of the post in the middle of July, when I still believed my husband would recover and spend another 20 years with me. It's a partial translation of a 1990 song by Manolo García, "Canta por mí" (meaning "sing for my sake," "sing in my place").

S/he met the past along the way,
and looked at it and could not cry.
Between dusk and dawn,
s/he did nothing but let him/herself go.

On a peach-colored day,
when we're all free,
when we can eat rocks,
and no one is better than anyone else,
sing for me
if I'm not here.

The day is coming when we will be as pure
as a summer sky on the sea.
I'll sing for you
if you're not here.

This song is the most idealistic song I've ever heard. It's about spiritual awakening and hope for humanity. Note that the ideal day is far enough off that either the singer or the listener will no longer be with us, but not so far off that they'll both be dead.

Now that my true love is gone, we must be close to that peach-colored day. I know who I'll be singing for. In the meantime, I plan to do things that make him proud: show kindness, promote humanity, and express what inspiration comes to me through writing.

Happy 2017 to us all.