“Father of War” Returns in Dogs of War

DTF_Dogs_rawOriginally published by Dark Quest Books, Defending the Future, Volume 5: Dogs of War has bee re-issued by eSpec Books. This volume includes my story, “Father of War,” about a scientist taken prisoner, and the cybernetically enhanced dogs he created who attempt to rescue him. Researching military working dogs (MWDs) proved fascinating. The ability of these dogs amazed me as much as their connection to their handlers. These brave canines have saved many lives in battle over the years, though they haven’t always been treated with the respect and appreciation they earned. That situation has improved significantly in recent times, but there’s still a ways to go. This collection honors their efforts and those of their trainers and handlers. “Father of War” is the most emotionally taxing story I’ve written for DTF–but there’s a fair amount of fun to it as well, especially for those who enjoyed 1970s war comics and the artists and writers who created them. More info and the full table of contents is posted on eSpec’s website. Amazon has the book for sale in print and e-book.

“Mother of Peace” Reprinted in The Best of Defending the Future

Defending The Future is a long-running, award-winning series of military/science fiction, comprised of six volumes. I’ve been fortunate to have contributed stories to all but one volume, with special thanks to series editors Mike McPhail and Danielle Ackley-McPhail whose confidence in me allowed me the opportunity to take a crack at writing this kind of s/f. It’s a challenging genre to write, demanding of meticulous research, and I’ve turned in at least one or two “weird” stories along the way when ideas led me to strange places. Mike and Dani accepted them along with the more conventional ones, much to my great excitement. Editors aren’t always able to allow their writers that kind of freedom. For authors, it’s invaluable because it opens up opportunities to flex different writing muscles, explore new ideas, and play with genre conventions.


I’ve seen plenty of sci-fi movies that fit into this genre, with Aliens, Enemy Mine, and Starship Troopers springing to mind. But my inspiration for writing these stories lay firmly with the works of Joe Haldeman, Robert Heinlein, Larry Niven, Fred Saberhagen, and the other s/f masters I read growing up, with perhaps a dash of DC Comics’ Weird War Tales thrown in (especially for my contribution to Dogs of War). So it strikes me as a great honor that my story, “Mother of Peace,” originally published in DFT3: By Other Means has been selected for the recently published The Best of Defending the Future. The stories, chosen based on reader reaction and requests, individual reviews, and editorial judgement include a fantastic cross-section from the series and work by some of the best military/sf writers working today. More information and the full list of table of contents can be found here. The Best of Defending the Future is also available on Amazon.

“In Wolf’s Clothing”–The Twisted Steampunk Fairy Tale Your Mother Never Read to You

My latest short story, “In Wolf’s Clothing,” will appear in Gaslight and Grimm next month. A dark (and sexy!) steampunk retelling of “Little Red Riding Hood,” it also continues my Machinations Sundry short story cycle.

Once Upon a Time… ageless tales were told from one generation to the next, filled with both wonders and warnings. Tales of handsome princes and wicked queens, of good-hearted folk and evil stepmothers. Tales of danger and caution and magic…classics that still echo in our hearts and memories even to this day, told from old, cherished books or from memory at Grandma’s knee.

Oh yes, tales have been told…but never quite like these. Order here!

GaslightGrimm_Gold Leaf
Journey With tales by James Chambers ~ Christine Norris ~ Bernie Mojzes ~ Danny Birt ~ Jean Marie Ward ~ Jeff Young ~ Gail Z. and Larry N. Martin ~ Elaine Corvidae ~ David Lee Summers ~ Kelly A. Harmon ~ Jonah Knight ~ Diana Bastine ~ Jody Lynn Nye.with through the pages of Gaslight and Grimm to discover timeless truths through lenses polished in the age of steam.

An Interview with Author and Editor, Danielle Ackley-McPhail / Part 6 of 6

The final part of my conversation with Danielle Ackley-McPhail, casting an eye on the nuts and bolts of creating anthologies, finding an audience, making the most of the convention circuit, and Dani’s most recent projects and ventures. Thanks all for reading! (Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, or Part 5.)

You’re known as one of the most successful anthology editors in the specialty press, having edited, co-edited, or worked on nearly a dozen anthologies in the past decade and helped to launch them. How does your role as editor shape your work as a writer?

Well…thank you again. Editing anthologies came out of my love of creating books, something I have been doing for thirty-two years. I get ideas, I find the twist, and then I am driven to complete the project. Mostly they come about because I want to explore whatever concept has captured my mind. Consequently, of all of the anthologies I’ve been involved with in an editorial capacity only two of them do not contain stories I’ve written. So…in that context my editorial work shaped my writing by enabling me to explore some fascinating concepts as I found my tale to fit the theme. Conversely, in most other ways my editorial work just gets in the way. I find I’m so busy dealing with production and administrivia (not my phrase, though I absolutely love it!) that my writing often comes in last minute as I scramble to get my story done before we have to go to press. That, in fact, is why I only have an introduction in Bad-Ass Faeries: It’s Elemental… I just couldn’t draw my story together fast enough and we were out of time. This is the first volume in the series that doesn’t have a Wild Hunt tale. I’ve started it, but I just haven’t had time to find my way to the end. I’ll likely post it on the Bad-Ass Faeries website (www.badassfaeries.com) as a bonus freebie once it’s done.

BAF4_ElementalLooking at it first from a writer’s perspective then from an editor’s, what’s do you think it takes to connect with science-fiction and fantasy readers today?

Oh… this is so hard to say… everyone has their own tastes when it comes to fiction. And I don’t think you can really break it out by editor and writer because there is too much overlap. Good fiction, originality, excitement. And as a writer I would add a solid connection to the characters, but that is me, as I am a writer of character-driven tales. Yet I know there are those readers out there who couldn’t care less about the characters, they want the action… You know. I think in the end it comes down to one thing: whether you are in the character camp or the action camp, you have to make the reader care. It is as simple as that.

To what extent do you think a shared connection with readers, such as common interest in fandom activities or a regular presence at conventions, contributes to succeeding as a writer versus simply publishing good writing?

I don’t know how it is for every author, but I know that I would not be where I am without my personal connection with my fans. I sell more books in person than I do on-line, with much more repeat customers because they know me. They can talk to me about what they liked and what they didn’t, we can chat and hang out at a convention. Now there are a lot more authors out there that are wildly successful who don’t do this, but most of those have a big-house publisher behind them feeding the distribution machine. And even so, I say an author that gets out and moves among their following has a stronger, more loyal fan base than one who stays up on their pedestal typing away, without connecting to their readership.

In terms of bringing great fiction to your readers, how do your goals as an editor differ from those as a writer?

Whatever hat I’m wearing, I love to create cool books. I love to share the unexpected and the wonderful with readers. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but that goal is always the same.

DAMInt_WordFantasyYou’re very well plugged in to the regional science-fiction/fantasy convention scene, appearing at several cons each year, often hosting launch parties for new publications. What advice can you offer to writers about connecting with readers, editors, and publishers at these conventions?

Talk. Listen. Socialize. Don’t pitch or pimp or continually drag focus only to your book or manuscript. Build a relationship, don’t just try and make a connection. We’re all there to have fun in a community where we are comfortable and can relax. Being pushy or obnoxious gets in the way of that and will turn people off more than anything.

Where should a reader who hasn’t yet read your work start? Give us some suggestions from your short fiction as well as your long fiction.

Well… any of my first novels are good places to start, depending on the reader’s taste: Yesterday’s Dreams (Celtic urban fantasy), The Halfling’s Court (biker faeries – urban fantasy), or Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn (historic/steampunk fantasy). After all, who wants to start with book two of a series. J As for the short fiction. If a reader is partial to science fiction it would have to be the short story collection A Legacy of Stars, which contains the bulk of my sci-fi stories. For fantasy I have a collection called Transcendence coming out later this year from Dark Quest Books. It contains a nice chunk of my fantasy stories. As for individual stories… that is so much harder to recommend. I just can’t do it. Each one contains some kernel of wonder that I love, and all of them are so different from the others. There is no comparison, no way to guide someone to ease their way in. Best to leap in with both feet. J

What should readers look for next from Danielle Ackley-McPhail?

Oh goodness! Who knows what mischief I’ll get into next! I certainly don’t. There are a number of on-going projects in the works. For anthologies I’m editing: Gaslight and Grimm, Eternal Flame, The Society for the Preservation of CJ Henderson, and The Transdimensional Adventures of the Miracle Mead Men. Those I’ve contributed stories to that are coming out this year are: Dance Like a Monkey, Athena’s Daughters, Hellfire Lounge 4: Reflections of Evil, and Lucky 13. Novels I’m working on are The High King’s Fool: A Bad-Ass Faerie Tale, Daire’s Devils (military science fiction), an as-yet unnamed sequel to Baba Ali, and an unconventional vampire novel looking for a new name. So…I guess readers should expect pretty much anything!

To follow Danielle’s projects, learn more about her, or buy her books, please check out her website and visit her Amazon author page. Also, look for her on the convention circuit where she’s a steadfast con presence up and down the east coast.

An Interview with Author and Editor, Danielle Ackley-McPhail / Part 4 of 6

This week, Dani and I conclude discussing her Eternal Cycle novels and turn to her other faerie series, the Wild Hunt MC. (Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.)

Considering that some readers look to fantasy fiction for escape, do you struggle with balancing the realistic elements of your story—death and other losses, damaged relationships, abuse and victimization—with a desire to keep things from getting too grim?

The heart and soul of my fiction is the ability to make people care. To invest them in the characters I introduce and engage them to the point that they want to journey with them, no matter what they face. I write because I have tales to tell. I can hope the reader will appreciate those tales, but I can’t let them dictate the path they take…it would steal the life from the words. And…by the same consideration…I find many people find comfort in reading those harsh experiences the characters go through for several reasons. One, it is not their life so when the reader closes the book they can appreciate that this is a hardship that they did not have to go through. Two, the dark aspects in life and fiction give definition to the triumphs. Yes, we hurt for the characters that are hurting and mourn those who are dead, but there is great satisfaction in reaching the triumph conclusion with the characters you have followed through to the end. More importantly, we as readers learn from the choices these characters make and the way they face the consequences of those choices. While not always comfortable, there is satisfaction in that.

DAMInt_HalflingThe Eternal Cycle books are urban fantasies, but they include many elements of epic fantasy, including some very exciting, well-depicted combat sequences. Many of your characters come alive in new ways or reveal their character during these sequences. Are you harboring a secret desire to write an epic fantasy full of armies and earth-shaking battles?

Why…thank you. I always worry about the battle scenes. Glad to hear they come across so well. I toy with the idea of epic fantasy from time to time, but my writing style is more intimate. I like to get into the characters’ heads. I want you to care about all of them, and trying to do that in an epic setting is daunting to say the least. Time, however, is the biggest obstacle in my way. It takes time and effort to create the kind of backdrop needed to properly develop an epic fantasy realm. Thought has to go into every detail. Things need to make sense and weave together in a believable fashion. I am so overloaded that I just haven’t had the time or focus to put that much effort into such a project. In fact the first novel I tried to write is still in a box somewhere because it is exactly that kind of book. Someday, perhaps. But for now I set my stories against the backdrop of an established world any reader would recognize and build or diverge from there.

Much of what takes place in The Eternal Cycle books bridges the past and the present. What most interests you about how the past intersects with and/or shapes the present?

Decisions shape our lives. They are the most powerful tool at our disposal. Unfortunately we are often blind to which are significant and which are not, or what eventual outcome they may lead to. We may never know, but it still remains that the past is continually affecting the present, whether we realize it or not. In the context of the novel, decisions made millennia in the past culminated in the events Kara must deal with. Much like a tapestry—and my novels in general—it is an intricate weaving of thousands of threads that come together to shape a living work of art. You make the best decisions you can. Sometimes you know even as they are made that they are the wrong ones, but in the end it is the only real power we have as individuals. Our mettle is proven in how we deal with the outcome.

Events come full circle by the end of Today’s Promise, but as the story deepens and grows richer, so does the mythology you created for it. It feels like the decisions made, the battles won or lost, and the characters’ sacrifices in the trilogy will resonate deeply in this world, that we’ve seen only the tip of the iceberg. Any plans to explore those possibilities in future works?

I don’t know where I might venture in the Eternal Cycle universe, but it is pretty safe to say there will be something, eventually. I’ve already dabbled with a few ideas. Certainly unexpected ideas. There is an anthology called Fantastic Futures 13 that contains my story “Forever and A Day.” Both Beag Scath and Kara are featured in that story…along with Kara’s granddaughter. Most surprising of all is that this is a science fiction story, and it ties in to another reality of mine found in the science fiction short stories “Travellin’ Show” and “The Devil’s Own Luck,” which follow Paolo, a Romani boy living in space. Sounds odd, I know, but it actually works and I am quite excited about these seed stories that will eventually make up the novel Forever and A Day. There will likely be other books following some of the collateral storylines from the Eternal Cycle series, but they haven’t spoken to me yet the way this urban fantasy-science fiction mash-up has.

DAMInt_RedcapThe Eternal Cycle books represent only one of the richly detailed fantasy worlds you’ve created. You’ve also written a number of stories and two novels—The Halfling’s Court and The Redcap’s Queen—set in a world of faeries and mythical creatures centered around motorcycle gangs and biker faeries. Tell us about the main differences and similarities between the two worlds.

With the Eternal Cycle series I had the very specific goal of exploring Celtic mythology. So many Celtic-themed books play fast and loose with the actual mythology and I found that dissatisfying. Because my goal was so specific that very much governed my telling of the story. With the Bad-Ass Faerie Tale novels my only goal was to have fun with some really tough faeries! Those books were based on short stories that originally appeared in the Bad-Ass Faeries anthologies where we attempted to de-Disnify the faerie. If you read the original legends they are mischievous, malevolent, and warriors. We wanted to bring the faerie back to those original roots so we paired faeries with something people automatically considered bad-ass. For me that was bikers, and then roller derby. Other people did mobsters, pirates, vigilantes… whatever you could think of that was tough.

What makes the world of the Wild Hunt bikers different from Kara’s world is that I had more room to play. I didn’t need to religiously follow the details of a particular myth cycle. Other than that, they are actually the same world. In fact, I think I might have loosely linked them at some point.

Next Week: It’s all about science fiction, steampunk, and collaborations!

To follow Danielle’s projects, learn more about her, or buy her books, please check out her website and visit her Amazon author page. Also, look for her on the convention circuit where she’s a steadfast con presence up and down the east coast.

An Interview with Author and Editor, Danielle Ackley-McPhail / Part 2 of 6

Continuing my in-depth interview with author and editor Danielle Ackley-McPhail, this week we dig into some of my favorite writing topics–the alchemy of breathing life into fictional characters and how much of the real world underlies our fantasy tales. (Read the first part of this interview.)

Carman and her three sons, Calma, Dubh, and Oclas, are Athenians who attempted to invade Ireland. How did you discover that myth? Is there a connection between that story in Celtic mythology and anything in Greek mythology?

This is one of those happy accidents. See, as many already know, I occasionally use the Morality Play method of naming characters, but nothing so obvious as using Mercy, Hope, or Charity type names. If I am writing in a particular cultural heritage I like to use that language. Not for every character, but for specific ones. In the case of Yesterday’s Dreams I wanted to name my antagonist “Evil” so I picked up my Irish/English dictionary and found there were about five or six different words for “Evil”. Of those words I felt “Olcas” was the one that most resembled a name. Choice made, I fleshed things out a bit and then went and did some random reading in The Dictionary of Irish Mythology, trolling for things I could add to my story. I was very surprised to discover that there actually was a character in the legends called Olcas (at least in the version I first found. There are a couple of variations of the sons’ names, as I discovered in later research). When I made my initial discovery it solidified the story I was going to tell. It was also the point where my single novel became a trilogy. Why? Well…my simple story had gotten infinitely more complex. I was a beginner, after all. It would have been very confusing to have four major bad guys in the one novel. I chose, instead, to introduce one brother in each book, building up to the climax of the series.

Another variation I discovered in my research is that sometimes Carman was called an Athenian goddess, and other times she was called the goddess of black magic. Because it was never my intention for her to come onto the page in primary action I didn’t research too much further into Carman specifically. I also have to be honest that I never thought to see if there was a corresponding presence in Greek mythology…hmmm…very curious. I think I’ll have to go look now…Nope, a casual search did not turn up anything.

DAMInt_TomorrowsContinuing that theme, tell us about the name of Dubh, second of Carman’s sons to enter the story, which means “black,” and the name of her third son, Calma, which, oddly for a villain, means “valiant.”

The legend of Carman and her three sons have variations depending on the source where you find the reference. I first came across them in The Dictionary of Irish Mythology and there were only about two or three lines explaining the context and giving the relevant names and their meanings. Since this is the first reference I discovered I used those names, though I admit Calma didn’t make much sense to me either. If I had to theorize, though, I would think it might have a connotation related to false honor or chivalry where the appearance of being honorable is more important than actually being honorable. Just a theory, though. I discovered different names for the sons, eventually, but that wasn’t until after the second book was done and the characters were already firmly seated in my mind under the original names.

Calma, Dubh, and Oclas don’t especially respect or like one another, but they’re dependent upon each other for their existence and bound together by their family connection. This proves both a strength and a weakness for them. Had you planned that for them from the start or did it evolve as you developed the characters?

Most of what I wrote in this series was inspiration. The characters really took it on themselves to define their personalities as I wrote. In very few instances did I project my own perception on them and often when I tried they fought back and went in completely different directions. With the three brothers I mostly thought of the most dark, despicable personality traits I could and took cues from how they manifested themselves. In part this was influenced by their names. In part by events that unfolded in the book. At the beginning Lucien Blank, the first victim inhabited, read very flat and one-dimensionally evil so I compensated by contrasting that with the more layered, if still focused evil that was Olcas. In Tomorrow’s Memories, Dubh became the epitome of his name so I kept him very dark and sadistic. Calma, the last to appear, remained focused and organized and the most calculating of the three.

Some of the elements in Yesterday’s Dreams—coping with cancer, the cost of health care, facing foreclosure—resonate with timely real-world issues. An intentional as a way of contrasting the modern world with the world of myth? Or only a happy accident?

You know, it’s kind of strange. I really can’t say why I made the choices I did…the cancer part, anyway. I was looking for a strong motivator. A valid reason for Kara’s actions when she gives up the violin; see, the scene in the pawnshop was where things all started when I first wrote this. I knew what happened, I just hadn’t found the why. Once this turned into a novel cancer seemed appropriate. The rest just trailed from there in a logical progression.

The irony? After I wrote the book elements of my life started to echo the novel. I moved into a house that in many ways matched the description of Kara’s house, right down to the tree stump on the block and the bodega on the corner. Unfortunately, my mother was also diagnosed with cancer. (She has been free and clear for over ten years.) Sadly, I did not end up with a magic violin or an amusing sprite for a companion.

Protagonist, Kara O’Keefe, is a talented woman, dedicated to her family, struggling with her creative aspirations, and in possession of power she does not yet fully understand. Is there any of you in Kara? Any of the author in Maggie, the Fae who becomes Kara’s protector and mentor?

As authors, it is not possible to create characters that don’t have any glimmer of yourself in them. Even the dark ones hold the seed of potential we hope we never see realized in ourselves, but the fact that they came from within ourselves means they are touched by who we are, who we want to be, or who we are afraid we could become. That having been said, it is possible to use characters that don’t necessarily come from within us. Those are usually stock characters, part of the background of the story, but not integral to the plot. I often have Kara’s worries and Maggie’s weariness and determination. Patrick’s frustration and Beag Scath’s mischief. Lucien is actually a stock character, but the true villain, Olcas…I am sure I must have the slightest echo of him somewhere inside, if nothing else his raging against powerlessness when working with less-than-optimal resources.

Next Week: Part III, wherein we learn more about Kara O’Keefe as well as Goibhniu, the leader of the Tuatha De Danaan, and the cost of experience and personal growth.

To follow Danielle’s projects, learn more about her, or buy her books, please check out her website and visit her Amazon author page. Also, look for her on the convention circuit where she’s a steadfast con presence up and down the east coast.

An Interview with Author and Editor, Danielle Ackley-McPhail / Part 1 of 6

I’ve known Danielle Ackley-McPhail since around her second anthology, No Longer Dreams, something more than a decade now. We first met at World Horror Con in New York City, introduced by a mutual friend, the late CJ Henderson. Over the years, we’ve become good friends and colleagues and have weathered many a convention and writing project together. Danielle has remained one of my staunchest supporters as a writer, inviting me to contribute to many of her anthologies, editing my novella, Three Chords of Chaos, and generally showing the kind of unwavering belief in my work that every writer hopes for in an editor. I’m not the only one. Danielle, like our good friend and mentor who introduced us, has taken many a writer under her wing and helped them find their footing, polish their work, and launch their writing career. She has edited and launched numerous anthologies, becoming something of a legend for the launch parties she organizes for new books each year at Balticon. I believe one of the things that makes Danielle such a terrific editor is that she is also a gifted writer and thus understands exactly what each author she works with puts into their stories, what they sacrifice for their writing, and what it means to take creative risks.

A while back, I realized I’d become a huge fan of Danielle’s writing, having read many of her short stories in anthologies and then her Eternal Cycle series of novels. We spent a lot of time talking about writing, and since she was frequently my editor, my writing in particular. So I thought it would be fun to turn the tables and talk to Danielle about her writing, in-depth, and dig in behind the scenes of her many projects. As writing projects sometimes do, though, what was intended as an interview about Dani’s novels blossomed into something of a retrospective look at her entire body of work. And as delays here and there dragged out completion of our conversation, ever-busy Dani published more work–even launching her own publishing company, eSpec Books–leading us to extend the interview, and leading us finally to what will be a four-part series getting down and dirty with Dani about her books, how she does research, her thoughts on writing, editing, and publishing, and what to expect from her in the future. Check back here every Wednesday for the next month to read more!

ABOUT DANIELLE ACKLEY-MCPHAIL: Danielle is an award-winning author and editor. Her work ranges from fantasy to science fiction to steampunk to poetry and non-fiction. She is a fixture on the mid-Atlantic science-fiction and fantasy convention scene, where she frequently appears on panels, gives readings, and coordinates events at numerous conventions. Her writings include The Eternal Cycle trilogy of Celtic urban fantasy, the Wild Hunt series—including The Halfling’s Court and The Redcap’s Queen—about biker faeries, a collection of science fiction stories, A Legacy of Stars, and one of fantasy, Consigned to the Sea as well as the writing guide, The Literary Handyman—and most recently the steampunk faerie tale, Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, a novel co-authored with Day Al Mohamed. She is a co-editor of the award-winning Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series, as well as the fantasy anthology Dragon’s Lure, and the steampunk volumes, A Clockwork Chaos, In an Iron Cage, and the forthcoming Gaslight and Grimm. A costumer and multiple masquerade champion, she is also the purveyor of wickedly wonderful costume horns, for which she earned the nickname “The Hornie Lady” from the young son of a fellow author.

Inspired by a fascination with mythology, legend, and fairy tales as well as a love of creating characters, Danielle has developed a unique writing style that invites readers into her characters’ lives in an intimate and compelling fashion. Based on in-depth research and her expansive imagination, she illuminates richly detailed worlds populated by fantastic beings both noble and savage and humans who rise to extraordinary challenges or fall in the attempt. In all of her writing she strives to lead her readers to wondrous and unexpected places, to make them care deeply about her characters, and above all to create cool books. Her work spans multiple genres and forms, and she is as accomplished an editor as an author, giving her a unique perspective on the contemporary fantasy and science fiction scene. Danielle recently took the time to talk with me about the full scope of her work, her writing and editing, and how she hopes her work will leave its mark on her readers.

More about Danielle and her writing is available on her website and her Amazon author page.


The Eternal Cycle books blend old Celtic mythology with contemporary characters, themes, and settings. Do you see a role for mythology, and Celtic mythology in particular, in general in today’s world other than in fiction?

There are very few aspects of our lives that are not touched by myth or legend in some way. TV shows, movies, music, even science gives some nod to the legends most of us are familiar with in some way.

In science, technology, sports teams, and commercial concerns concepts and innovations often draw their name from the same sources, for the same reasons. The Trojan Horse as a computer virus; the Midas Touch as a corporate slogan or to indicate a successful business man; Pandora’s box referencing a treacherous situation…the examples are endless. As a people we want deeper meaning in our lives, as a society, we want to connect with celebrity, even if it is just in some small way, and the figures of myth and legend are the celebrities of the ancient world. In addition to that, society connects certain concepts with characteristics: Spartans are bad-ass, Phoenix cannot die, Venus is the epitome of beauty. Those are the kinds of connections industry wants customers to associate with their products, hoping the unconscious association will work in their favor.

The application works much the same with creative ventures, though for different reasons. The themes are universal, even if the particulars of the legends are culture-specific. This is evident by the parallels that are found in world mythology, folklore, and legend. This even includes the major religions today. In our entertainment (books, media, visual arts) the use of mythology adds depth and resonance with the audience. By drawing on that resonance the author or artist builds a foundation for the story they want to tell, helping to anchor the audience more quickly in the creative piece, regardless of genre. This is an invaluable tool for authors in particular. The content of those ancient tales can easily be adapted as the framework of a more modern or futuristic tale, or simply used as a literary allusion to enrich a creative piece. Names and elements used as background details to compliment the creator’s original concepts. Alternately, the same names and elements can be utilized to create irony or dissonance when used in ways that contradict the ancient references they are drawn from.

DAMInt_YesterdayYou researched the series thoroughly and included a bibliography of sources in each novel. Do you see research as an important part of writing fantasy? Do you find it constraining or helpful?

It really depends on the novel. With the Eternal Cycle series research was a key part because I had a specific intent: to explore Celtic myth and legend. I have always been drawn to books with a Celtic feel but was often disappointed because most of the books I picked up only utilized the flavor of the culture, loosely utilizing a generic mythos. I like to learn something even when I am reading fiction so this approach always left me wanting, even when I enjoyed the book. When I realized I was, in fact, writing a novel I decided that I needed to write the type of story I was always looking for. That meant incorporating actual Irish myth and legend (not always the same thing) into the story as both plot and background color. Know what that means? Yup…research.

I had a basis for the story before I even began so I didn’t know what I was going to need or where I was going to take it. At first, Yesterday’s Dreams was going to be a stand-alone novel…mostly because I couldn’t conceive of writing one book, let alone more than one! When I started researching the Irish myths I was just looking for elements that would dovetail with the story I had in mind.

Now with the Halfling’s Court, an unrelated novel, I needed to research for that one too. Based on my biker faerie universe created for the Bad-Ass Faeries anthologies, the Halfling’s Court draws heavily on the biker culture. Not being a biker myself I couldn’t write what I know…until I actually knew it. Fortunately for me—mostly because my husband, author and editor Mike McPhail, was not keen on my frequenting biker bars—there are quite a few sites on line dedicated to and run by bike clubs. Not only did they educate me in the proper lingo (a whole other language onto itself) but it explained things like context and usage, sprinkled with little tidbits that gave me a glimpse into the biker world.

So, to finish answering your question, yes in some ways the research constrains me as an author, but only in that I am striving for authenticity. Research also expands the depth and richness of my work and makes it much more satisfying. Yes, I could write purely from my imagination and it is unlikely anyone would see anything wrong with the finished work, after all, we are talking fiction, but research applied properly lends both validity and flavor to fiction that can only enrich the experience for the reader. Give them satisfying substance and they will come back.

In Tomorrow’s Memories (Book Two), the story, which began in New York City, moves primarily to Ireland and Tir na nÓg, the land of the Fae. Descriptions of Tir na nÓg, presumably, rise from your imagination. But your descriptions of Ireland ring true. Did you visit any of the locations you write about or did that also come from research?

You want a real laugh? I didn’t really do much research on Ireland, beyond pulling some place names from the Internet and looking at a couple of photographs related to the articles where I got those place names. Not really sure why, but there you go. Now comes the laugh part…I traveled to Ireland after the second book was written but not yet published. I made a point of visiting some of the places I mentioned by name to see if what I came up with would fly. One place in particular was St. Stephen’s Green…where I just happened to discover a space that could have been photographed to illustrate the book at the scene where Kara comes upon Olcas and Dubh holding their rally. I also visited Phoenix Park and we participated in a convention where the hotel was literally right next to the bus station mentioned in the book. Ironically, I didn’t go in…

I’m not sure why I was able to come up with descriptions that were fitting to the region I wrote about, but there really isn’t anything in the book I feel I would have to change for accuracy. Perhaps it was racial memory. Perhaps I just kept it safely neutral for the most part and the characters carried things along, but I’ve long believed that this series of books has a life of its own and experience has yet to prove me wrong.

How does your approach to writing about real world locations versus imaginary ones differ?

If I am writing in the real world I try to keep the background in the background and only bring in specifics if they are relevant to the story line. See…for the most part we don’t pay a lot of attention to our everyday surroundings and so neither would the characters. I give description filtered through the character’s experience, so while I try to give detailed descriptions when I do focus on the surroundings, it’s almost always from the character’s point of view so it blends with the action, like a tapestry where you don’t notice the individual threads until you get up real close to the image.

When I am creating a fantasy setting, such as the scenes that took place in Tir na nOg, it was very important to showcase the differences between their world and ours, thus more focus on the scenery. There I was building a world and I needed the reader to understand it was a magical, foreign place. Even then the descriptions I focused in on the most closely had the most relevance to the culture and the story line. I have to admit I am in awe at some of what developed. Even I become transported and can scarcely believe I wrote the words. Perhaps channeled them would be more appropriate.

Next Week: Part II, wherein we discuss the origin of villains and how much of an author might hide within their characters.

New Release: The Society for the Preservation of CJ Henderson

Last year, when my good friend CJ Henderson was diagnosed with lymphoma, many of his friends, fans, and colleagues rallied to help him and his family through a difficult, horrible time. Several fund-raising efforts were launched, including one spearheaded by Danielle Ackley McPhail, The Society for the Preservation of CJ Henderson. Over the course of several months, several thousand dollars were raised and directed to CJ and his family to help defray medical bills and everyday costs while CJ was unable to write or attend conventions, his primary source of income. The Society anthology was intended as a fundraiser, with all proceeds to go to CJ and his family, and as a tribute from CJ’s friends in recognition of all the years of friendship, support, and mentorship CJ shared with us.

Sadly, CJ passed away on July 4, 2014, before the anthology was completed.

Thanks to tireless efforts of Danielle and co-editor Greg Schauer, though, The Society for the Preservation of CJ Henderson has now been published by eSpec Books and all proceeds will continue going to help CJ’s family recover from medical expenses and keep on their feet.

My story, “Every Second of Every Day,” was inspired by one of my favorite stories of CJ’s, “All Around the Mulberry Bush.” It happens to be CJ’s first Monkey King story, and it was published in Weird Trails, an anthology which also included my first published piece of short fiction, “The Last Stand of Black Danny O’Barry.” CJ helped me connect with the editor and encouraged me while writing the story, so in that sense, my piece for the Society anthology comes back full circle to my short fiction beginnings. The title comes from one of the principles by which CJ lived, the idea being that we are free at any moment to choose another path, to be who we want to be or not, and that every second of every day, we make that choice. It’s a powerful idea that has stayed with me a long time, and I hope the story does it justice.

Other contributors include  John L. French, Jean Rabe, Patrick Thomas, David Boop, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Jeff Young, Leona Wisoker Robert M. Price–and featured is a previously unpublished story by CJ Henderson. Jason Whitley provided illustrations for all of the stories, and Ben Fogletto painted the covercover_societyCJH_lrg.

Clockwork Chaos Reviewed at SFRevu

Sam Tomaino has kindly reviewed Clockwork Chaos, edited by Neal Levin and Danielle Ackley-McPhail, over at SFRevu. It’s a nice, thorough, story-by-story review. About my tale, “Cat’s Cry in Pluto’s Kitchen,” he writes:

Morris Garvey, who made a fortune with his business, Steam Sweeps and Machinations Sundry, and Detective Daniel Matheson of the New Alexandria police force are trying to solve the crime of the theft of Brazilian virtuoso Felipe Sandeman’s violin in time for him to play it at the closing of the World Expo. The case gets stranger and stranger and involved the cult of Bast, the feline god of the Egyptians. We are led on a merry chase with lots of twists and turns in another great story in this book.

Sums it up nicely. This anthology is full of great writers so click over to the full review for his thoughts on the other stories. Or pick up a copy of the book on Amazon.

I’ve got one more Machinations Sundry story due for publication this year. I’m planning to write one more, and I suspect there’ll be another one after that. I do believe this Morris Garvey fellow, his home city of New Alexandria, and all his friends and enemies have become my new series.

“The Flying Rock” Coming in May in Bad-Ass Faeries: It’s Elemental

Back in the summer of 2011 I wrote a story called “The Flying Rock.” It’s one of my favorite things I’ve written.

It’s part pure fantasy, drawing on classic faerie lore and legend, on Ariel, the faerie queen of the winds, and her dark counterpart, the queen of storms. And it’s part portrait of a father struggling to help his children grow up while his family crumbles around him. And on a another level, it’s deeply personal story about the beauty of childhood and the price we all pay to grow up. I’ve been eager to see in print since I first sent it off to my editor almost three years ago.

Well, the wheels of publishing sometime move at a crawl, but move they do, and Bad-Ass Faeries: It’s Elemental, the fourth volume in the BAF series, will be published this May. I’m thrilled to be in another BAF book and grateful to my editors–Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Jeff Lyman, L. Jagi Lamplighter, and Lee C. Hillman–for keeping the series going and letting me be a regular part of it. Dark Quest Books will be launching it this in May, with a fantastic line-up of stories from many talented authors. I hope to have an excerpt from “The Flying Rock” to post soon. In the meantime, here’s the cover and the final table of contents.
















Earth Elementals

Kimberley Long-Ewing — Spin, Weave, and Measure

Jagi Lamplighter — On Rocky Ground

Judi Fleming — Friends in Dark Places

Air Elementals

James Chambers — The Flying Rock

Danny Birt — To Thy Sylph Be True

Danielle Ackley-McPhail — Ride Like the Wind


DL Thurston — The Face of the Serpent

James Daniel Ross — The Legend of Buck Cooper and the Child of Fire

James R. Stratton — Ties That Bind

Water Elementals

Patrick Thomas — Looking a Gift Horse

NR Brown — Melia’s Best Wave

Bethany Herron — Fairyland Local 2413

Spirit Elementals

Jody Lynn Nye — Fifteen Percent

Keith R. A. DeCandido — Undine the Boardwalk

Lee C. Hillman — Bad Blood

A Clockwork Chaos

Dark Quest Books has published my steampunk tale, “A Cat’s Cry in Pluto’s Kitchen,” in A Clockwork Chaos, edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Neal Levin, available in print and ebook. Although this is the second story of Morris Garvey and Machinations Sundry to be published, it’s actually the first one I wrote. Mystery and danger surround a stolen violin when the Cult of Bast returns to New Alexandria, and Morris Garvey must uncover the true motive behind the theft. The first published Machinations Sundry tale, “House of Automatons,” appeared in In an Iron Cage. The third Machinations Sundry story, “In Wolf’s Clothing,” is due out in 2014, details to come. A Clockwork Chaos include stories by Jeff Young, CJ Henderson, Patrick Thomas, Angel Leigh McCoy, James Daniel Ross, Gail Gray, N.R. Brown, and many other fine writers.


EPIC Steampunk!

I just got word from editor Danielle Ackley-McPhail that the anthology In An Iron Cage: The Magic of Steampunk has been named a finalist for the 2013 EPIC Award for Best Anthology. Congratulations to all my fellow contributors, to editors Danielle and Neal Levin, and also to editor Alma Alexander, whose anthology, River, published by Dark Quest Books, was also nomintated. My story in In An Iron Cage, “House of Automatons,” is my first published piece of steampunk fiction, although  it’s not the first I’ve written. The first piece is due to be published sometime in the not terribly near but not too, too far future–more on that soon, I hope.

UPDATE: To celebrate the In An Iron Cage’s EPIC Award nomination, the editors and Dark Quest Books are sponsoring a giveaway of three copies of the anthology on Goodreads. The contest runs through November 27.


Dark Regions Redesign! Lunacon Looms!

A pair of quick updates while I work on a couple of major announcements to come soon, including a new page to be added to this site and news of my most recent collaboration with Christopher Mills

First up, Dark Regions Press, publisher of Resurrection House and The Engines of Sacrifice, has recently launched a revamped, redesigned website, complete with a new company logo. The new site looks great and is very easy to navigate. Drop by and check it out. Meanwhile, DRP is also running a free horror books raffle. Sign up for the DRP newsletter to enter.

Second, it’s that time of year again, the time for lunacy with the Lunarians at… Lunacon! Held once again the Escher Hilton (not it’s real name) in scenic Rye Brook, New York, Lunacon will take place on March 16-18. I’ll be attending and posting my programming schedule here as soon as I have it. Also in attendance will be my frequent partners in crime: Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Mike McPhail, Russ Colchamiro, and Patrick Thomas.

The Truth About Editors

My friend and frequent editor, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, runs a nifty blog dedicated to providing advice, information, and insight for authors about the ins and outs of writing. It’s called The Literary Handyman. Occasionally she runs posts by guest bloggers, and this week, it’s my turn, writing about some things authors can do to make their life easier and be more successful with their writing by making their editor’s life easier. Read it here. Danielle has lots of other good articles archived, with new ones added regularly. Her blog is a great resource for writers.

More Love for the Dragon!

Editors are like dragons.

They’re sometimes wise, often grumpy, and they covet gold in the form of good writing. They like to sleep a lot too, under mountains of manuscripts, but once you get them going, they’ll torch villages to make sure every last mixed metaphor, split infinitive, and threadbare cliche is scorched to ash. Therefore it strikes me as most appropriate that the editors of Dragon’s Lure have garnered a nomination for Best Anthology at the 2012 EPIC Awards. My story, “He Who Burns,” appears in the book, introducting Max Toth, forensic alchemist of New Alexandria. And here’s the official announcement:

Dark Quest Books and Editors Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Jennifer Ross, and Jeffrey Lyman are proud to announce that Dragon’s Lure has been selected as a finalist for the 2012 EPIC Award for Best Anthology. Dragon’s Lure is a multi-author anthology with contributions by:  John Grant, Vonnie Winslow Crist, Patrick Thomas, James Chambers, Misty Massey, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Mike Penncavage, CE Murphy, Hildy Silverman, Bernie Mojzes, Randy Farran, CJ Henderson, Claire Stephens McMurray, Robert E. Waters, DC Wilson, Jean Marie Ward, Keith RA DeCandido, Anna Yardney, Jeffrey Lyman, James Daniel Ross, and David B. Coe.

This is not the first recognition bestowed on this collection. Recently the Washington Science Fiction Association announced the finalists for the 2011 WSFA Small Press Award,Jean Marie Ward was among those short-listed for the honor, for her short story “Lord Bai’s Discovery,” which is one of the stories in Dragon’s Lure. In addition, Vonnie Winslow Crist was among the top ten finalists in this year’s Preditors and Editors Readers’ Poll for her story Weathermaker. To learn more about the book, please visit www.sidhenadaire.com/books/DL.htm.
Congratulations go out to our contributors and all the other authors honored by the committee with finalist status in their categories.


Dragon’s Lure Review















My story, “He Who Burns,” appeared in the anthology, Dragon’s Lure.  It was one of a number of stories I’ve written where I’ve managed to surprise myself. A dragon story wasn’t on the horizon for me in any form until I was asked to contribute to this anthology. What I came up with was a definite change of pace for me, one I enjoyed writing, and one that seems to have gone over very well with readers. Most recently Dragon’s Lure garnered some kind words from the You Gotta Read Reviews blog, which said, “…each of these tales were a delight which isn’t often the case in anthologies.” My story features Max Toth, forensic alchemist in New Alexandria, a city with a salamander problem.