Guest post by Jessica Knauss
I’ve been writing ever since I can remember. I have a little book of jagged pencil lines in which, at four or five, I imitated what I thought the printed page looked like because I was so frustrated with not having been taught to write yet. Nothing makes me happier than writing stories. I get inspiration from the most unexpected places, and maybe that’s what makes them so unpredictable and so hard to categorize.
I’ve discussed before the fruitfulness of staying in bed after the alarm to remember dreams and see if any scenes come out of them, but I’ve also made stories out of things I’ve overheard on the subway, that friends have told me, or that I’ve tasted at breakfast. I recently won a prize for a strangely dark story based on a photograph of a beach house. All these stories had to end up somewhere, and many have been published. I’ve now gathered all my published stories and the best of the ones that haven’t yet seen the light of day into Unpredictable Worlds.
A teacher controls her students with an edible microchip. A reporter turns into a rhinoceros. A couple’s efforts to eat local go frighteningly awry. If you’re looking to be surprised, puzzled, or just plain entertained, pick up this omnibus. There’s something for everyone.
More than twenty years in the making, Unpredictable Worlds contains all of Jessica Knauss’s published and prize-winning short fiction as of March 2015 and a few of her best stories never before seen in print or eBook. Zany plots and outrageous characters will stretch your belief and tug at your heart.
WARNING: These stories contain exaggeration, elision, and disregard for “the real world.” Some even exhibit a tone of blatant optimism. However, they respect human speech patterns, admire good grammar, and hold proper punctuation in the highest regard.
“What She Lacked” Excerpt
Please enjoy an excerpt from “What She Lacked,” my favorite story that has never been published before.
After months of searching, I followed my instinct to Manhattan. I didn’t find my twin sister Dulcy so much by her presence as by the void she created in the commotion surrounding her. On my second morning there, she was standing in the middle of the sidewalk on Fifth Avenue, surrounded by a wave of powerwalking natives and gawk-walking tourists and endless shouts to “Get out of the *ing way!” or to “Shove over!”
The cops in Boston had been singularly unhelpful and told me they were going to close the case. “It’s policy, ma’am. If we have no leads on a case for a certain amount of time, we have to move on,” said the stern leader.
One earnest officer took me into confidence and whispered, “Pretty girls have been disappearing lately and we haven’t found any of them.”
“Am I at risk?” I had asked, figuring that if my identical twin had disappeared, I, too, would be the kidnapper’s type.
“No,” he said, too quickly. “You graduated from Harvard.”
Like most twentysomethings in Boston, I had more university degrees than life experience. But I’d had to complete the last one, in Library Science, in order to get any job at all in that market choked with able young college grads. “So?”
“Only pretty girls without degrees have been disappearing.”
So now he thought he was a profiler. It was like something from a formulaic TV show. But he was right in that, although my sister had applied to all the good drama schools in the country, nothing had worked out for her in the end. She was living with our parents because the money a person can earn from acting in commercials and student films is small and unstable. But over the years, she put a lot of speaking roles under her belt and was sure this, unlike all the other years when she’d said the same thing, was her breakthrough year. I chalked up the cops’ surrender to the fact that none of them were twins and accessed my twinly intuition—or just some solid logic—and reasoned that she must have gone to New York to increase her chances. Rather than waiting for her to call me with the news that she had been cast as Belle in Beauty and the Beast, I asked for some time off work at the library and headed out in hopes of seeing her name on the marquee myself.
I swam against the current of foot traffic and finally stood before my sister, who made no sign that she saw me. One of her eyelids was relaxed over her eye while the other flickered nervously over an orb that seemed to see nothing. A trickle of sweat appeared at her brow, but it was no wonder because it was the middle of June and she was wearing what she had been when she’d disappeared: a long wool coat complete with a Burberry scarf. The coat displayed rips and tears at every angle and swaths of caked mud across the back. Her hair, usually coiffed to perfection and shellacked to a hard sheen, floated wildly in the gusts from passing cars, trucks, and people, each with their distinct noises. Perhaps most disturbing of all, she was showing roots. My hand went to my own straight, uncolored blonde locks in the inexorable act of comparison I’d made my whole life. This was the first time I had ever come out ahead, so the panic inside me grew. The rude shouting hadn’t stopped, occasionally punctuated with, “Is she okay?” I tried to break through the din, grabbing her by the shoulders and saying, calmly and slowly, “Dulcy. Dulcy, are you in there?”
Both of her eyelids snapped open. “Christabel.” The name of our favorite literary heroine as children flowed from her lips as if she were casually conversing at a dinner party.
“No, it’s Fran. I’m your sister Fran.” […]
About the Author
Born and raised in Northern California, Jessica Knauss is a New Englander by design. 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. She has published fiction, poetry, and nonfiction in numerous venues. Her acclaimed novella about a woman’s awakening through sleeping in trees, Tree/House, is also currently available, and her contemporary paranormal Awash in Talent is coming soon. Bagwyn Books will publish her medieval epic Seven Noble Knights in late 2016. Get updates on her writing at her blog: jessicaknauss.blogspot.com. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Google+.
Unpredictable Worlds releases for Kindle on May 15 with a softcover edition available the same day. Unpredictable Worlds is already available for preorder for only 99 cents. Once it’s out there in the world, the price will go up, so save at least 66% now and have this strangely amazing book delivered to your device on release day.