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Author Jennifer Quail

Fantasy, Steampunk, Science Fiction, and More

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Food and Fiction

Hopefully the folks who frequent this passes-for-a-blog and my author Facebook page have read some of my work. (If not, you can visit my Amazon Author page and see what strikes your fancy. Strange Roads is hovering at that 19 reviews threshold…) And especially if you’ve checked out A Kiss and a Promise you might have noticed I like writing about food. If you saw me on Jeopardy! you can probably guess I like food with my wine, too. One of my collection of degrees is culinary school, after all, and while I don’t get fancy all the time, I definitely like writing about food and cooking.

Given how many of my characters are Slavic, that’s probably not surprising. I’ve been working on expanding my story “Storm-Spun” (Tales of the Siblings Not-So-Grim) and keep wanting to veer off into things like the Slavic love affair with berry picking. 105699900_1135846986773986_1015250223524311536_n

When you find something edible in the woods and suddenly “I’m Katniss Everdeen, y’all!”

It IS berry season. I already have plans to torture characters with gooseberry picking (I have the scars to prove it), strawberry stands are open, and (see above) wild raspberries are ripening. I have “volunteer” sunflowers growing in my garden beds, and my gooseberry bushes produced almost nine pounds this year. The apricot, cherry, and pear trees are still too young, sadly. All of it had me thinking about what characters like Masha would be picking and preserving in a fantasy-Ukraine village, or what kind of fruit bushes and trees Eva would want from her real-world Crimean home to transplant to Denmark.

Of course, with Masha, I’ve run into a problem: when I’m writing a fantasy universe based on a Eurasia before the time of travel to the Americas . . . what would they really eat? Tonight for dinner I made a Moldavian fish casserole that involves a sauce of tomatoes (no), peppers (no), and is served over polenta (nope.) Sunflower seeds, the go-to snack of eastern Europe? Nope. North American native (though made into a commercial crop in Russia and re-imported.) All those fantasy Europes full of potatoes and pumpkins? They’re trading with the Americas somehow. No peanuts (South America.)

I ran into the opposite side of this working at the museum. I had to double-check native sources of sugar, to find that they didn’t in fact have honey. Honeybees are native to Eurasia and arrived, it’s thought, some time in the 1600s. They were alien enough some tribes referred to them as ‘white man’s flies.’ While there are maples native to Eurasia, sugar maple is a New World tree.

Maybe if I really want to make my characters do drudge work, they can try boiling birch sap. (I’ve done that research. Okay I ordered birch-sap drink from RussianFoodUSA. It’s not going on pancakes any time soon.)

So Back to Trying To Finish Things

After another miserable NYCMidnight Short Story Contest first round where, for the third year straight, I drew Horror as my category (your randomizer is broken, NYCM), I’m back to trying to get things written that I want to write. For those who enjoyed “Storm-Spun” (and if you did, please review, and if you haven’t read it yet, please grab a copy!) I’m playing around in the same universe with the same characters.

Which of course means I’m looking up riddles. I’m thinking of borrowing this one:

In the marble walls as white as milk, lined with skin as soft as silk, within a fountain crystal clear, a golden apple does appear. No doors are there to this stronghold, yet thieves break in and steal the gold.

Too obvious?

And in other news, baileyback

Bailey isn’t speaking to me because I didn’t agree that 3:30pm was suppertime. When the silent treatment didn’t work, she went and got the Corgi as backup.

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.

5000 words a day doesn’t have to be one document, right?

So while I should be either really getting going on the novel-length story featuring Aleksandra and Mattias (who’ve so far cropped up in  three flash fics and a lot of notes) or maybe that food-theme fantasy sequel to “Storm-Spun” with a December 31st deadline.

Instead I’ve got two lines for what MIGHT be an adaptation of “Ghost Life” to something a little brighter and more upbeat:

“Our arrangement probably seems strange, or it would if anyone knew about it. For the record, his being dead since before we met has only been a problem in a few, tiny ways.”

Some News You Might Have Seen

So, I may have been using a bit of dramatic understatement in saying my “appearance” singular on Jeopardy was on Wednesday. I will be returning for Monday, December 9th’s show. Yes, I really do like puffins, traveling, and have goats. Yes, I actually do know Fenway Park is in Boston, I just cannot connect Fenway and football. Alex was doing very well when I saw him October, all things considered. He’s very nice. My competitors were all very nice people.

If you are coming here via Jeopardy instead of reading this because you saw my story in an anthology or are on the Books Go Social facebook, hi, yes, I write too! Please check out my Amazon Author Page where some recent credits include Smoking Pen Press’s Vampires, Zombies, and Ghosts Volume 1 and A Kiss and a Promise, and if you’re more into crime, I have a short procedural in Flame Tree Publishing’s Urban Crime Short Stories. 

For all things Jeopardy!, random goat and Corgi pictures, and updates on publications, you can follow my Facebook page and you can follow me on Twitter @jenniferquail. I try to live-tweet Jeopardy and otherwise sporadically post things as the mood strikes me. And if you miss a game you can always visit The Jeopardy Fan for recaps, commentary, and lots and lots of math, and J-archive for full game boards and results.

Well, This is Exciting

First, Hollow Hills Press has released Tales of the Siblings Not-So-Grimm for Kindle! This anthology includes my story “Storm-Spun” and fairy-tale-inspired stories and poems with a little more upbeat tone than is maybe trendy these days. (Seriously, did Fantasy Island need a darker, grittier reboot?)

Second, today (Wednesday, December 4th, 2019) is my Jeopardy! episode!

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Check your local listings!

So, This Happened.

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So, after many tries (four different on-line tests followed by four different in-person auditions) I made the callback! I will be appearing on Jeopardy! on December 4, 2019. (Check your local listings.)

And now, how much dark suspenseful horror can I get done before a turkey coma sets in?

Nothing Gets Between Me and a Deadline!

Not even falling off the roof.

Okay, technically, falling off a ladder as it slides down, landing on my feet IN the ladder, then bouncing and landing on my back. If anyone’s wondering what I like about living in the boonies, it’s that my neighbor across the street was outside, heard me calling for help, and came over immediately. His nephew called the ambulance while my other neighbor turned up and was able to take my dog (who basically viewed it as YAY, PLAYDATE AT LEXIE’S HOUSE!)  Four hours, CT scans, and x-rays later second neighbor also came and picked me up.

Now, how this relates to deadlines: I was working on a submission for a market that has a very narrow reading window, four times a year. I had assumed I would finish it up, polish it, and I had a whole day to spare. First, my satellite internet is down. Fine, the guy is coming the next morning. Then, I fall off a ladder and lose about five hours I was going to spend tweaking, polishing, and submitting. I get home, and decide that I am not waiting until tomorrow on the assumption that the internet tech will be there right on the dot at the start of “eight to eleven.” (Good call: actual time of arrival was 10:55.) I have to go and get dinner as I was NOT feeling the cooking thing now, and I need to stock up on Tylenol and Advil, so I throw my laptop in the car.

I decide, before resorting to “sitting at McDonald’s with a laptop” to see what’s available in the grocery-store parking lot. For once, the world’s most annoying WiFi company, Xfinity, actually has something useful. Thirty minutes of free connectivity and I have one flash story submitted still with a day to spare!

For stuff that’s already been accepted and published, most without anywhere near that much drama, check out my Amazon author page. More coming soon.

And to keep yourself occupied when you’ve read all that, my friend Laurie Hicks has a story in Grumpy Old Gods, Volume 2, releasing tomorrow for Kindle!

Jet Setting in a Heat Wave!

Just back from a very fun, very fast, but very hot, trip to New York for the launch of Machinations and Mesmerism: A Tribute to E.T.A. Hoffman at The Footlight. Apparently if I’m going to New York, it’s going to be stupidly hot as instead of doing some exploring after arrival, I decided it was better to hit the hotel restaurant and take a car service over, since the heat index was pushing 105.

It was a small but enthusiastic turnout to see me, Michael Cisco, and LC von Hessen read our stories from the anthology and to hang out at the very fun little venue. Don’t let the address fool you-this is not a scary area (though the route the driver from the hotel took me gave me some interesting ideas for Aleks’s adventures as a P.A. in New York–more on her later. Remember, leash, curb, and clean up after your thug!*)

*Actual sign seen on a chain-link fence in one of the more dubious areas.

There was a strange theme of teeth going on with the readings. Of course, Sophie Vestergaard, my rather mundanely eerie character, has every good reason to be interested in them as besides her more unsavory hobbies, she’s a forensic ondontologist. I’m sure my mother (who used her DDS for much more general practice) would admit, it’s easier to examine the teeth when you can just flip the skull over and detach the lower jaw!

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I’d hoped to dress a little nicer, but after trying on everything in my closet I realized 110 in the shade combined with airline air conditioning meant jeans and a peasant blouse was the most practical thing I had. Not pictured: my new pearl-encrusted tiara from Half Lucid Jewelry, which the amazing and talented Kendra L. Saunders made me and which will be making its debut at a Cunard masquerade ball near you (if you’re in Nova Scotia or the North Atlantic.) Not only does she work for the fantastic Footlight and write the Dating an Alien Pop Star series, she makes sparkly things! For very reasonable prices, too.

Looking forward, I’m happy (and relieved) to announce that my story “Storm-Spun” will appear in the forthcoming Tales of the Siblings Not-So-Grim anthology from Hollow Hills Books. Pleased, because I’m always happy when someone decides they want to pay me for my writing, and relieved because this is a story that’s been picked at and revised and resubmitted several times, so I’m thrilled it’s finally found an appreciative home. Hopefully this means there’s a reason to keep going now I’ve decided this one has longer potential after all!

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