Search

Author Jennifer Quail

Fantasy, Steampunk, Science Fiction, and More

Category

Updates

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!

67320684_994647694217589_8002653739041161216_n

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!

Easiest Bread Ever (Even on a Hot Day)

So I may have mentioned something about food in explaining what I wouldn’t be blogging about. Besides liking to write about it (Eva in Only Ever Slowly isn’t a baker by accident) I am an expert procrastibaker. If I want to put some things off, like writing or working out or mowing the lawn, there is always baking. If you’re hungry after reading something I wrote, you’re welcome.

So today, despite it being about 90 degrees outside, I decided to break in my new King Arthur Flour stoneware bread bowl and discovered the easiest bread ever.

No photo description available.

No, it’s not actually from that cookbook, but I am definitely channeling my Polish and Ukrainian forbearers here.

Unlike some of the other things I’ll make when I feel the need to “research” instead of write (I’m sure one of the exotic dishes Eva forced on Carl in the cafe was Crimean chebureki, though my version is healthfully baked instead of fried and there’s some pumpkin sneaked into the dough) this bread is incredibly simple. You can use a stoneware bowl, a loaf pan (I used both, since this made more dough than the bowl can hold), or add more flour to make it stiff enough to stand up on a pizza stone or a baking sheet.

So since I hate those food blogs that dink around with a mile of text and a bunch of photos and videos, here’s how to make your own easy crusty fresh bread:

Easiest-Ever Fresh Bread

Ingredients:

6-8 cups flour

(I used Gold Medal All-Purpose, you can use bread flour or AP flour. If you want to use whole wheat, your bread will be denser and I would recommend cutting it with bread flour. If you want to make rye, don’t use this recipe, or only add a cup or so. Rye flour isn’t as glutenous and won’t stretch and make structure like white and bread flour.)

About 2 teaspoons salt

(I used non-iodized table salt because that’s what I had. If you feel the need to use kosher salt or sea salt, use a little more as the crystals are larger. It won’t improve anything or make any difference as it’s all sodium chloride, but it does sound more trendy.)

3 cups warm water, about 100° F

(I used a candy thermometer to get the approximate temperature. Too hot and the water will kill the yeast, not hot enough and they won’t bloom as much.)

1 1/2 Tablespoons Rapid Rise yeast

(Get the kind in the jar if you’re going to bake often. Get the big bag of instant if you’re going to bake a lot!)

Pinch sugar
(I used brown because the only white sugar I have at the moment is vanilla sugar. Any sugar’s fine, just make sure it’s just a pinch. Do not use honey or agave or any liquids as that will change everything. It’s just there to feed the yeast. For heaven’s sake do not use artificial sweeteners. The yeast won’t like that at all.)

Oil for the bowl (I used olive oil for the rising bowl and vegetable oil for the baking dishes.)

I did this with a KitchenAid five-quart mixer, a large Rubbermaid bowl with a lid, and a four-cup small bowl for the yeast. You could hand-mix if you want, but the mixer is much easier.

In the bowl of the mixer, use the whisk attachment to mix about four cups of the flour and the salt.

In the four-cup bowl, gently mix the warm water, yeast, and the sugar. Let it sit for a bit until it gets foamy.

Replace the whisk attachment on the mixer with the dough hook. Pour the yeast mixture into the flour and begin slowly using the dough hook to combine. Add more flour until the dough becomes a single mass around the hook. Let it beat for a while. Maybe ten minutes. You’ll hear the thunking. When ready, the dough should be tacky, but not sticky. Add more flour if necessary.

Take the lidded bowl and pour a little oil into it, enough to coat the inside. Transfer the dough in a ball to the bowl and make sure to lightly coat the whole thing in oil. At this point, you can either put the lid on the dough and put it in the fridge for a slow rise. This will take several hours, but is great if you want to bake bread in the morning but not get up at baker’s hours as you can let the dough slow-rise over night. Otherwise, lightly cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and set it somewhere warm. Since it was ninety degrees out today here, that wasn’t a problem, but any warm corner of the kitchen will do. If you’re doing this in winter and your house is cold, you can turn on the oven, let it warm a bit, turn it off, and let the bowl sit on the top. Let it rise for two or three hours, until it’s a bit more than doubled. There’s no exact time on this for a reason: bread is finicky at times, and the temperature and humidity in your house or apartment or wherever you’re doing this will affect the rise time. Don’t stress about it unless it doesn’t rise at all. In which case you might have dead yeast and you’re not going to get bread from that.

After the first rise, punch down the dough. You shouldn’t need to flour your hands if it had enough flour and oil from before. I actually split the dough after punching it down and worked each loaf by hand above the bowl, rather than kneading it on the counter.

I baked the round loaf in a King Arthur Flour stoneware baking bowl and a regular loaf in a loaf pan. I oiled (not buttered/greased) both pans. You can try without, but it reduces the chances of the bread sticking. After punching and working the dough, form the loaves, put them in the pans, and cover them to rise again.

Now you can get the oven ready.  Before heating the oven, put the broiler pan on the floor of the oven, or another shallow, non-glass/non-Pyrex dish. Preheat the oven to 460° F and let the loaves rise until a little more than doubled. This again could be a half-hour, could be an hour. I let it go around an hour or a little more.

Remove the towel. (Yes, I know that, you know that, but if I don’t say it someone will forget.) Get a cup of hot water read.

Put the loaves on the middle rack of the oven. Before you close the door, empty the hot water into the broiler pan on the bottom of the oven and VERY QUICKLY close the door to trap the steam. This will help get that crusty outside.

Set the timer for about thirty minutes. Your oven times can definitely vary, but you’re probably looking at 28-32 minutes. Resist the urge to open the oven to peek as it gets close to time. Do use the oven light to check and make sure the tops aren’t browning too much. When the tops are golden and rapping with a fingernail makes a hollow sound, they’re done.

Have a couple cooling racks (ideal) or hot pads (not as much, you want the air circulating underneath for even cooling if possible) ready for when you take them out. Seriously, don’t pick up a hot pan without having a destination in mind. Let the bread cool in the pans and then turn out to finish completely before slicing. Or just tear into it as soon as it’s cool enough not to give you third-degree burns.

Available, Forthcoming, and Jet-setting!

First, Urban Crime Short Stories are now available at Amazon!

I have my own copy in my hot little hands (and a couple spares; use the contact form if you’re interested in a signed copy!)

And now on lulu, with an Amazon edition coming soon, is Machinations and Mesmerism: A Tribute to E.T.A. Hoffman from Ulthar Press, including my short story “Deadhead”. Of course I had to submit. It’s Hoffman. I read The Nutcracker every year at Christmas (and sometimes in the middle of summer, too.)

Machinations and Mesmerism: Tales Inspired by E.T.A. Hoffman

Related to that, I have my first real jet-setting author experience coming. Ulthar Press is holding a book-launch party and readings at The Footlight in Queens, New York. I will be reading, as will several other contributors (and the fact the club’s managers include my friend the amazing and talented Kendra L. Saunders is just one of those weird coincidences Hoffman I’m sure would appreciate as much as I do.)

And coming up, Smoking Pen Press, publisher of A Kiss and a Promise (featuring my short story “Only Ever Slowly”) is only weeks from release of Vampires, Zombies, and Ghosts: Volume One, which will include my short story “GhostLife.”

In non-writerly (mostly) news, I have a question: how long in advance is too long to be planning everything you want to do on your September vacation? Like, daily itinerary! And given where I’m going, I’m hoping for some inspiration for Anders (see my Urban Crime entry) and Julie and their adventures on her home turf. I wonder what Anders will think of poutine?

Hope everyone is getting better weather than here. Not that I’m biased in both respects, but around here, this is excellent weather to chill a bottle of white and stay in the shade (or the air conditioning!) with a glass of wine and a good book.

Remember This One?

If you’ll recall, I was looking for inspiration while expanding a NYC Midnight flash fiction contest entry called GhostLife into a longer work for an anthology call tentatively titled Vampires, Ghosts and Zombies from Smoking Pen Press, part of their Read on the Run series. You may remember them as the publishers of A Kiss and a Promise, which includes my short story Only Ever Slowly.

Well, I am happy to be able to announce that GhostLife survived some tough competition from hundreds of submissions and will be appearing in one of the two volumes of Vampires, Ghosts, and Zombies. I admit I was rather pleased to hear that the submissions are blind reads on the part of the editors, so they didn’t know they’d bought my work before when making their selections. Kind of makes up for not only not moving on to the final with that story, but never actually getting the judges’ feedback that everyone is supposed to get.

Meanwhile, I have started  a new one of those things 99% of writers require, a day job with an actual paycheck. Sadly my previous employer, of the fun outdoor cooking and playing dress-up, was forced to close its doors due to lack of funds. Which is sad for many reasons, and I’m going to miss working with an awesome group of people, but I was very lucky to find a new job quickly and one that’s less of a killer commute! Once my training, which I promise is as fun as it sounds like it would be, is done, I will be joining the tasting room staff of Domaine Berrien Cellars. And with my training, I’ve developed a new hobby: pairing wines with fictional characters and stories! Mostly this started as a mnemonic device for me, but I’m having far too much fun. So far, most are tied to as-yet-unpublished works or things I don’t own (I have at least two that are totally Sherlock villains), but when Flame Tree’s Urban Crime comes out, I recommend pairing my story A Father’s Child with our Wolf’s Prairie Red, which is made from cold-weather-friendly hybrids that remind me a lot of the wine I bought in Denmark, and has a subtle, smokey aroma and dry, smooth finish that fits with a good Scandi Noir.

And, though you’d never guess it looking here, I do still paint.

20190226_104625

I’m Not a Romance Writer

But somehow, that seems to be what sells.

As indicated on my “about” page, I’ve made a couple recent sales. Yes, as in “real editors are paying me real money for things I wrote.”

First, I’m very pleased that Smoking Pen Press LLC purchased my short story “Only Ever Slowly” for their new Read On The Run anthology A Kiss and a Promise. Considering that I wasn’t sure why I was responding to the call for submissions, I don’t consider myself a romance writer, and I set about to subvert or flat-out trample every romance trope I could think of including use of the word “love”, I’m somewhat surprised they liked it. But then again, I think Carl is a rather fun “romantic hero.” He’s fifty-something, a grump who’s deliberately stuck in a rut, and probably suffering from severe depression. Maybe “shut up and drink your coffee, old man” is the new “as you wish.” The story is set in Denmark, a country I’ve now had the pleasure of visiting, and if I were forced to make an elevator pitch for it, I’d probably say “It’s A Man Called Ove meets a Hallmark Channel movie. With baked goods.” (Yes, I know A Man Called Ove is set in Sweden. Went there, too. It’s also nice. Buy the chocolate herring. I take a poke at Swedish accents so it does get a name check.) The anthology is in its final stages before publishing and I put links to the e-book and paperback when they are available.

More recently, Splickety Publishing Group  (Splickety Lit-think about it) has acquired my Flash Fiction piece “Life Plans” for their Spark Magazine November issue “Lab Coats and Love Letters.” Maybe not everyone can find romance in a hospice setting, but hopefully my hero, Dr. Erik Schou, M.D., and burned-out travel blogger Margaret “Zee” Zielewski can make it work. (Even if Erik’s patient, Zee’s Aunt Dodo, has to do some prodding off-screen. And she probably will. When I have more than a thousand words to play with, I think Aunt Dodo’s going to have quite a bit to say.)

If you’re noticing a distinctly Scandinavian-tinged theme to my leading men here . . . well, you’re not wrong. Shut up. Blame casting choices made by people like Dave Filoni and Steven Moffat.

There are some irons in the fire, including two submission calls for steampunk and diesel/decopunk that may have a decidedly Slavic twist. A check of the About page here will show I’ve been visiting some points farther east than Scandinavia (at some point I  may have to do an advice feature on “how to speed-negotiate with street vendors in Saint Petersburg”.) And I do have one other project ongoing, which is strictly not for profit and entirely for fun. If you like Star Wars, Lego, chocolate, and absurdity, visit Angry Lego Thrawn on Facebook for the adventures of an inch-high blue plastic chocoholic manchild and his Lego friends.

A WordPress.com Website.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: