Awash in Talent


So much Talent can kill you.

Welcome to Providence, Rhode Island, home of telekinetics, firestarters, and psychics!

Emily can’t escape her annoyingly Talented telekinetic healer sister without committing a crime.

Kelly must escape her pyrokinesis school and bring Emily’s sister to Boston—her mother’s life depends on it.

Appointments with Emily might drive her psychic therapist insane.

With so much Talent, sometimes it’s all you can do to function in an un-Talented society.

Latest reviews:

“…reminds me of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. Not because of the plot but because of the masterful story writing that has you question everything at the end. Things are not as they seem in Providence, Rhode Island. … The life of this story is the character development, from Emily to Patricia, be prepared to be amazed and surprised. … You can’t trust anything in this book and it’s amazing!” —Evangeline (full review)

“This is a marvelous book: fiercely intelligent, highly perceptive and beautifully written. … I was gripped throughout by her protagonists, and quite surprised to discover that the author is not in fact a practicing psychotherapist with a degree in psychology. … Jessica Knauss’s exploration of human behavior in these circumstances is razor-sharp, at times seriously painful, and always very well-written.” —author Robin Chambers (full review)

“This book grabbed me from its opening lines with the compelling voice of the initial narrator. Then, as the story progressed and I learned more about the novel’s world, I got even more drawn in. It’s a smart and original fantasy…” —author Norman Prentiss (full review)

“Think of this book as a type of X-Men, but with more relatable characters in a more realistic setting.” Yes, “More compelling than the X-Men!”

“Weird and quirky—loved it!”

“Each story hits the ground running and I couldn’t wait to see what happened next!”

“Written with a lyrical style that flows well, it is at times deeply moving and heart breaking.” —author Kristin Gleeson

“Knauss continues to surprise and excite readers taking on challenging stories.” —author Martin Hill Ortiz

“The title refers to the author, too: awash in talent!”

“The author … delivers emotional justice…. I finished this book wondering: is Talent a gift or a curse? Highly recommended.” —author Kim Rendfeld

“Knauss takes us on a wild ride into the minds of some very engaging and unusual characters who, nevertheless, seem like people we could know. Finely plotted and peopled with memorable characters that we get to know oh so well…” —literary critic Steven Strang

The proud author at local bookstore, Antigone Books, in Tucson, Arizona.



Purchase Kindle • Softcover • Softcover BN  Indiebound • Goodreads • Request it at your indie bookstore—such as Antigone Books, as shown in the photo above!

Click to download the Awash in Talent advance information sheet.

Watch an earnest video trailer.

Winter Solstice: Short Stories from the Worlds of Kindle Press Novels is a free anthology available here and many other places. The story I contribute, “Awash in Christmas Spirit,” gives the reader a cheery look at the holidays in Providence from Beth’s point of view.



Vernal Equinox: Short Stories from the Worlds of Kindle Press Novels is a free anthology available here. The story I contribute is the first chapter of the sequel to Awash in Talent, Call It What You Will. Find out whether Emily is trapped in the bizarre psychotherapy prison she finds herself in at the end of Awash!



Excerpts. Awash in Talent is one novel made up of three novellas. Enjoy these excerpts from each one.


One day, long after I’d effectively forgotten my sister’s existence, my mom was supervising while my dad resealed the heavy transparent plastic in the outer doorway of Beth’s room. They could never find an adhesive strong enough to withstand the weight of the plastic and the hermetic zipper entry, so they had to redo it every so often.

My sister was on her bed, listening to a pink plastic radio that my mother had sanitized inside its own plastic bubble before giving to her. She watched our parents rebuild her sanctuary with eyes that were only slightly deadened with the disaffection customary to going-on-thirteen-year-olds. I walked up to the plastic curtain, holding all five of my college acceptance letters.

“I’ve decided I’m going to Brown,” I announced.

My dad kept gluing, but his ears pricked up. My mother said, “I wasn’t aware you even applied to an East Coast school, Emily.”

“I did, to a couple.” The East Coast, obviously: as far away from Mom, Dad, and their constant preoccupation with Beth as physically possible. I had stacked the California pamphlets on my desk only to avoid questions.

“It sounds expensive,” my dad said, stepping off the ladder and stripping off his gloves.

“I got a scholarship,” I replied.

“But why can’t you just stay with in-state tuition?” my mother asked, shrinking in her corner of the hallway.

My heart went out to her. I was almost sorry I hadn’t let her in on the process. But no, she had been too preoccupied with washing Beth’s silverware with baking soda to notice my big decision-making saga. I held firm.

“Brown is the only university in the country with an Egyptology department.”

“Egyptology?” my parents both intoned.

The dirtiest, germiest, most contaminated subject I could imagine. Mummified bodies, dusty bandages, bones filled with age-old marrow, ancient embalming fluids, canopic jars teeming with the pulsing remains of internal organs. My mother changed my sister’s sheets every day, but these things hadn’t been washed for five thousand years.

“Egyptology,” I affirmed.


Waterfire v2Pretty soon, we were holding hands and running, and finally the questions cleared out of my head because we were headed in the direction of Waterplace Park and, was that—? Yes, through the buildings, I could see masses of people gathered along the water’s edge, and flickering, shimmering air, and tendrils of smoke. We were going to WaterFire! In sweats and flip-flops over pajamas, but still. I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be.

Before we even arrived at the waterfront, I could hear the snap-crackle of the burning wood. We gazed at the spot at the opening to the harbor where the first pyre juts out of the water. Each pyre rests a good foot or two above the water on a pole, both buoyed and anchored in place by three large black underwater spheres. Both the first pyre and the next one, headed inland at the mouth of the river, were burning low embers.

“Go ahead, Kelly. Refresh the flames,” Brian said, almost like a dare.

I started to protest, but then realized Jill had my safety sack and my patch was off for the night. The feeling of freedom almost knocked the wind out of me. I looked to make sure no one was watching—it was only farther down along the river that the real crowds started. I felt a whirlwind of crackling happiness around me and poof! The first pyre was healthily ablaze again.

“That’s so cool how you do that. You could become an arsonist and no one would ever suspect you.”


FRIENDSHIP (1)It comes through the eyes. You have a technical bent of mind, so I think you’d like to know how it works first of all. It’s a sensory experience something like sound, but muted, like the voice in your head. You can tell it’s not passing through vocal cords and over teeth. It only took me until I was five to figure that out. But it’s also a little like watching a movie that flashes and jumps. Psychologically complex people can send me pictures with a muted soundtrack that has nothing to do with what I’m seeing. I married you because you’ve never done that to me. Despite your outward histrionics, you’re a one-note sensory experience.

But I became a therapist so I could act on the information people sent me without registering as a psychic, not so I could describe my experience as a psychic accurately. Let’s call it “thought energy,” to which I and other psychics are sensitive, while most humans are less so.

Because thought energy comes through the eyes, they’ve made special sunglasses “for any psychic who registers,” according to the public service announcements. I don’t know if you’ve noticed them—Soul Stoppers, they’re called. They’re supposed to encourage registry in a population the government can have no real control over—those of us with this, the most reviled of all Talents. They should have spent more time on the design of the glasses, because they draw so much attention to the wearer. I don’t know about other psychics, but attention is the last thing I want. Those strange slats over the lenses—I think it’s so we’re prevented from looking into people’s eyes while still able to see where we’re going. I can only imagine everyone in the street looks headless. I’d much rather close my eyes and look away if I get an intolerable beam of thought energy, though I’ve sometimes wondered if that makes me look even stranger than the glasses would.

If I seem too shy, no one’s said much about it to me over the years except you. I read recently that they tried rounding up psychics in the 1880s and ended up arresting a bunch of introverts. I think all psychics must appear somewhat introverted. Most with this kind of sensitivity must avert their eyes from people’s thoughts and emotions on a regular basis. But that’s my experience. Although I can identify other psychics, registered with the government or not, I can’t know exactly what it’s like for them.

I had a friend in grade school, Danielle. One day in the middle of art class, where we were learning about papier-mâché, she just started screaming. She didn’t stop screaming her wordless terror until they decided to take her to the special school for psychics, where they found out that she was one of them. I didn’t want to be taken away, so I kept my eyes to the floor. Later, Danielle visited our school, obligated by the authorities, who wanted to show children that psychics aren’t dangerous. Any fears I had about her new school were confirmed in the ugly glasses she had to wear and her new demeanor. She was too quiet. You might think it would be a nice contrast from the screaming, but her silence, which went all the way down to her slow-moving, abnormally uncluttered thought energy, terrified me.

Although I never scream, it doesn’t take long for all the thoughts to become too much, too stimulating. I decided to become a therapist because looking into one soul at a time is easier to handle and helps me feel I’m making a difference in people’s lives.