Author Jennifer Quail

Fantasy, Steampunk, Science Fiction, and More



This is actually starting to feel a little silly.

First, if you don’t follow me on Twitter (please do) you may have missed the link to my interview on ABC 57 yesterday morning (or you were asleep, like sane people are at 6:45 in the morning.) Definitely follow me on Twitter for Jeopardy! livetweeting, dog photos, goat photos, and griping about how much writing I’m not doing.

Seriously, when Corina said “Your life is going to change” when we were setting up between episodes I didn’t know she meant “You may want a media manager.” I’ve done interviews for the local newspapers including a follow-up, and I now have  two different local-interest magazine requests pending, my undergraduate university’s alumni magazine, have done interviews on the local CBS and ABC affiliates, and have been asked do something for WNDU so I’ll have hit the big three network trifecta. Good thing it’s the slow season at work.

It’s mentally kind of draining, actually.

I’m sort of stuck on the easier (relatively) turnaround of short stories, but that keeps pushing book-length projects back. And of course, with a book, there’s always the question of . . . what do I do with it? Unpopular as this opinion is I really hate “indie” stuff. It’s too much work, it’s too much up-front expense, and if there’s one aspect I loathe it’s marketing. I realize even with real publishers that’s still mostly on the writer these days, but at least I’m not stuck doing every aspect. And of course, there’s the chances of getting lost in the shuffle.

Of course if I’m too busy doing interviews and chasing dogs trying to tire them out, I’ll never get anything done anyway!

Oh, if you aren’t following Smoking Pen Press’s newsletter check them out for at least one interview that isn’t ENTIRELY about Jeopardy! in their next edition.

Merry Christmas!


How Eva in “Only Ever Slowly” might celebrate. Via “Blog Into English.”

Kind of a quiet Christmas here, but quiet can be good. (Especially when the beagle is comfortable enough to start howling.)


Silent Night…for now.

Follow Me On Facebook!

Just up, my new author Facebook page! I’ll be sharing posts, photos, and other information there as well. Right now, the banner image is a hint of the inspiration for my current short project.

Urban Crime Author Inspiration (Flame Tree Blog)

My story “A Father’s Child” will be appearing in Flame Tree Press’s Urban Crime Short Stories anthology (available at Flame Tree Studio and for pre-order at Amazon) and Flame Tree’s blog has just posted a Q&A with some of the authors on where we got our inspiration for our stories.

For those not feeling like a click, here’s mine:

Jennifer Quail – A Father’s Child

I’m working on a longer novel featuring main character Anders Kjelsen, a major-crimes investigator with the Copenhagen Police. It also involves human trafficking but is set in Canada, so this seemed like a chance for a short introduction, where we see him on his home turf, but dealing with the same sort of crimes. Trafficking is a problem even in cities like Copenhagen where prostitution is not entirely illegal, and I found myself learning a lot about where the girls come from and how they find themselves trapped. Anders takes a special interest because the victims rarely have anyone to speak for them and pursue justice if he doesn’t.

More Inspiration


Just some more inspirational images. This is Petrykivka painting from Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine, by Olena Skytsiuk. Not Russian. But in the same ballpark. And we’ll just call them firebirds.


I’ve been working on the NYCMidnight Flash Fiction contest, and I’m expanding the ghost story I drew for round three. The link above has provided some interesting inspiration. It might just work for a call about ghosts, zombies, and vampires…

From the State Archives of Michigan. A lone house in Central, MI. 

Yes, Another Romance

Yes, this time it’s flash-fiction romance. “Life Plans” features Dr. Erik Schou (the name deserved better than a certain actor’s Peter Schou from Kongekabale) and, ironically given my not-a-blogger status, a blogger named Margaret “Zee” Zielewski. Check it out in Spark Magazine from Splickety Publishing, available at Amazon now.

Cover Image

It’s Here!

A Kiss and a Promise by [Clarke, Charley , Collier, Christine, Keating, Daniel L. , Lowe, Kate, Quail, Jennifer, Schneider, Tricia ]

A Kiss and a Promise – Kindle Edition

The print edition is coming in early October, but for now, you can check out my story “Only Ever Slowly” for Kindle, and six other romances. (For once, I’m not the one with vampires. Or ghosts. Or anything supernatural. Professor Miller of the no-genre creative writing class would be so proud of me.)


So This Villain Thing of Mine

So you might notice I have a decorating theme going on here.  Not pictured: the Sideshow 1/6 Grand Admiral Thrawn or the Gentle Giants mini-bust of same. Needless to say, it’s not really a surprise two of my most common user names on the internet since back in the days of 14kbs dial-up are “TIE Pilot” and “Imperial Girl.”  All of this can be traced back to one particular character, Grand Admiral Thrawn, antagonist of Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars trilogy of novels beginning with Heir to the Empire.  If I look at my characters, whether it’s in fan fic (where Thrawn himself plays a prominent role) or even in “real” books, particularly at characters like Mark Valentine in Strange Roads or Joszef Kiraly in the gaslamp fantasies, it’s not all that hard to see Thrawn’s influence, or that of his partial inspiration, Sherlock Holmes (who may be an unequivocal good guy, but who definitely has his anti-social moments.)   While we all know what Freud would make of my being twelve when I first read Heir on exactly why Thrawn made such an impression, influencing my switch to rooting for the Empire (and I’m not saying he’d be entirely wrong), there’s more to it than just a tall, dark (and blue) bad guy with impeccable manners and a taste for art.

Though in fairness that IS a big part of the appeal.

The reason Thrawn, some depictions of Moriarty, and other ‘cultured’ villains can be appealing to me is because the defining characteristic of these characters is they’re smart.  Sherlock Holmes, one of my favorite abridged-for-young-readers heroes as a recently-learned-to-read tiny kid, was smart first and foremost.  I’m also an enormous fan of John Bellairs, author of the Lewis Barnavelt books (starting with The House With a Clock in Its Walls) and the Johnny Dixon series (The Curse of the Blue Figurine)  in which not only are the kid heroes like Lewis, Rose Rita, Johnny, and Fergie smart, the adult good guys are not just clever but book-smart, often in obscure ways.

Where Thrawn stood out, though, was this was the first real example I had of a villain who wasn’t in it for the evil kicks.  As a little kid of the generation for whom “the sky is blue, the grass is green, Darth Vader is Luke’s father”, I was used to the bad guys being bad because they were bad.  They seemed to want to be mean mostly for fun (which tracked with my general elementary-school experience about people in general, so it worked for a time.)  Heir to the Empire, though, was the first time I was really confronted with a story where the good guys weren’t going to win just because they were, well, good.  Luke, Han, Leia, they’re all still good people, and most (though not all) of their New Republic allies are as well.  But not everyone is ready to jump on the bandwagon, and not because they’re evil.  And to beat Thrawn, they would have to out-think him.

And they couldn’t.

The good guys win basically because of a deus ex machina (a very well-set-up one that makes perfect sense and is even poetic justice, but is still out of left field).  They can’t outsmart the villain.  They don’t luck into him making a fatal error.  He’s just that good.  After a while, Thrawn does eventually cease to be a villain in backstory (go ahead, read the novella Crisis of Faith, remove what few direct reference to Star Wars canon are in it.  You just read a very entertaining sci-fi novella in which there are maybe two humans with speaking roles and in which the good guys happen to be the Empire from Star Wars.)   But even when he is the antagonist, Thrawn is good at what he does.  He makes the good guys work for the win.

As I was pretty young when I read this, it was my first real introduction to the notion of wanting my heroes to earn the win.   And . .. it works for me.  I find many of the cases where I am rooting for the villains are those where the creator seems to assume that as long as the heroes virtue-signal as nice, then any scenario that allows them to win is okay.  Note that  I don’t include Heir to the Empire here.  The good guys earn their victories there.  The best kinds of stories are not those where good triumphs because . . . good.  The best ones are where sometimes, even if it’s rather twisted, the villain might well have a point, and be good at his job, and not be a horrible person, just in opposition to the heroes.  And to beat him or her, they have to be smart.  They have to work for it.  There’s no fun in watching good triumph over evil if evil does half the work for the heroes and left on their own, they’d have trouble managing a chicken-cleaning contest, let alone defeating the villain.

And if you want to go for absolutely evil?  Go for it.  You don’t need to have them ripping the heads off babies, but remember, Darth Vader didn’t give his underlings a stern talking-to when they failed him.  But if they ARE absolutely evil, remember the big question for any character: Why?  I’ll get to that one another time.


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