eSpec Books interviews Danielle Ackley-McPhail, editor and contributor to The Society for the Preservation of CJ Henderson, a tribute anthology,


How did you meet CJ Henderson? Way back when I was a snot-nosed newbie I met CJ at a little convention in Poughkeepsie. It was aptly named Non-Con. Held at Vassar College, it was run for the students, by the students. There were guest and panels and a dealer’s room, but mostly the students ran around LARPing while we guests amused ourselves. CJ was very good at amusing people. A good portion of the time we sat in the dealer’s room chatting, CJ giving sage advice that serves me well to this day, and the jewel in the crown, he read to me my first ever Weslezki story. There is no better way to experience CJ’s work than to have it read to you by the master himself.

What is your favorite memory of him? You don’t believe in easy questions, do you? How to pick just one…Well, I think it would have to be a Ravencon Memory (yes, most of my in-person interactions with CJ were at cons). Again, in the dealer’s room, because that’s what we do…It was slow and many of the usual suspects were there. Across the way was Artist Robert Quill, pirate guy, next to me Christine S. manned the Griffon’s Claw Armory booth. And clear across the dealer’s room was CJ holding court over all.

Things were slow and everyone was goofing off. Christine had wandered over to Robert to give him a hug when suddenly he heaves her up and tosses her over his shoulder, her leather-clad hinny in the air. Christine is laughing and screaming all at once so everyone is looking her way, when all of a sudden we here “Wait! Wait!” in CJ’s rich, deep voice. He shuffles over in what for him is a run, places a sold swat to her butt, then shuffled back to his post.

That was the fastest I had ever seen CJ move and the startled look on Christine’s face as her head flew up the minute he smacked her was priceless. Just the perfect moment of sudden humor we all needed to relieve our boredom.

Of CJ’s vast body of works, which one has impacted you the most? For me I have to say his Rocky and Noodles universe. Not only is it funny as hell, but it also shows CJ’s genius for spinning a tale even outside of his comfort zone. Challenged to write military science fiction he found a way to do it that speaks to our hearts on so many levels but in a uniquely CJ manner. Picture a Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis buddy movie in space and you have a pretty good idea of where this is going. Only CJ could have pulled this off. Not only are the stories very enjoyable, but as a writer they taught me about finding a way to make a concept your own and how to push yourself as a writer to try new things.

What was it about his writing that spoke to you? No matter what genre CJ was writing in, his prose always held a majesty, a lyrical beauty. This was most evident when CJ read it out loud because he was, above all things, a showman, but even when reading it to yourself there was a flow, a dance to it. Some would call it purple or overwritten, but to me it spoke to a part of me that wants grand things, not tight writing. There is a beauty in language that often these days is lost in the interest of economy. CJ taught me there is a time to be concise, but also a time to unleash the vision that can only be built with words.

What is your favorite part of his sales pitch? I have to say it’s the “I’ll Dance Like a Monkey for Nickel” line, but mostly because my husband and fellow author/editor, Mike McPhail, zinged CJ with that one real good! At one show—again, when we were mostly bored—Mike slid a pile of nickels on the corner of CJ’s table where he couldn’t see them. Then he just stood there and waited. Traffic picked up and CJ went through his spiel and all of a sudden each time CJ said the Monkey line, the customer actually handed him a nickel. Now in the past this had rarely happened, but, true to his word, CJ got up and danced. That is, until he clued to what was happening. After he finished the last dance and the customer walked away, CJ stalked around the table, swept the remaining nickels into his pocket and didn’t get up from his chair the rest of the day.

Can you share with us a non-convention memory involving CJ? When I first met CJ he was gracious enough to invite me over to his house for his daughter’s birthday party, which was always  a big to-do. There was food and people everywhere. I got the tour of the house, including his attic office and the beautifully painted floor of his bedroom made to look like a lily pond. Later that night we crowded into the “movie room” and watch Big Crime Wave, which CJ considered one of the best bad movies ever. From the very beginning CJ was open and accepting, friendly and sharing. I will always remember how he invited me and my husband into his life.

What is the one characteristic of CJ as a person that has stuck with you? Very difficult to pick just one. He was a bold, vibrant, down-to-earth guy in the day to day, and in his imagination he soared and became as fantastical and creative. A quicker wit I never knew. And yet CJ never thought very much of himself. His work, yes, but not himself. So I guess what has stuck with me the most is how such a brilliant writer could have so little confidence in himself.

If you were to recommend just one of CJ’s books for a new reader to read, which one would it be and why? Well, I’m not into horror so for me it will always be Everything’s Better with Monkeys, his collection of Rocky and Noodles stories. They are great fun and yet poignant as well. The intricate nature of the tales show great skill, the songs just tickle you like nothing else, and the humor is simple and engaging. Of course, I am very fond of the original Baby’s First Mythos as well, the one with the pink and orange cover. It is just too brilliant not to appreciate, whether you are a Lovecraft fan or not.

For the interested reader, what are some of the books where they can find works by both you and CJ?

  • Bad-Ass Faeries: In All Their Glory, 9781606592083, Mundania Press, 2011
  • Bad-Ass Faeries: Just Plain Bad, 9781606592069, Mundania Press, 2009
  • Bad-Ass Faeries, 9781606592045, Mundania Press 2009
  • Dragon’s Lure, 9780982619797, Dark Quest Books, 2011
  • No Longer Dreams, 096416227X, Lite Circle Books, 2005
  • Dance Like a Monkey, Silence in the Library Press, 2014
  • Lucky 13, Padwolf Publishing, 2014
  • Fantastic Futures 13, 9781890096649, Padwolf Publishing, 2013
  • Mermaid 13, 9781890096519, Padwolf Publishing, 2012
  • Barbarians At The Jumpgate, 9781890096434, Padwolf Publishing, 2010
  • New Blood, 9781890096427, Padwolf Publishing, 2010
  • Stories in Between, (Trade Paperback) Fantasist Enterprises, 2009
  • Dogs of War (DTF), 9781937051051, Dark Quest Books, 2013
  • Best Laid Plans (DTF), 9781937051044, Dark Quest Books, 2013
  • By Other Means (DTF), 9780983099352, Dark Quest Books, 2011
  • So It Begins (DTF), 9780979690150, Dark Quest Books, 2009
  • Breach the Hull (DTF), 9780979690198, Dark Quest Books, 2009
  • Space Horrors, 9780981895765, Flying Pen Press, 2010
  • Space Pirates, 9780981895703, Flying Pen Press, 2008
  • Hear Them Roar, (Trade Paperback Only) 9781892669506, Marietta Publishing, 2008
  • Dark Furies, (Trade Paperback Only) 0975990411, Die Monster Die! Books, 2005

What can you tell us about your contribution in The Society for the Preservation of CJ Henderson? In the Dying Light was inspired by CJ. It was written, in fact, based on a challenge he issued me to write a Lovecraftian romance in space. We were driving either to or from Balticon, I can’t remember which, and we were just talking about everything under the sun. CJ liked to poke and prod at ideas, he liked to push people outside of their comfortable little boxes and make them reach for the stars. He never did tell me if I had succeeded—in his view—but I am confident myself.

What are some of your own works readers can look for? I’ve already told you about a bunch of my anthologies, so here are the novels and solo collections I have out there:

  • Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn (with Day Al-Mohamed), 9781937051952, Dark Quest Books, 2014
  • The Redcaps’ Queen: A Bad-Ass Faerie Tale, (Novel), 9781937051068, Dark Quest Books, 2013
  • The Halfling’s Court: A Bad-Ass Faerie Tale, (Novel), 9780979690167, Dark Quest Books, 2009
  • Today’s Promise – Book 3 of the Eternal Cycle Series, (Novel), 9781937051099, Dark Quest Books, 2012
  • Tomorrow’s Memories – Book 2 of the Eternal Cycle Series, (Novel), 9781937051082, Dark Quest Books, 2012
  • Yesterday’s Dreams – Book 1 of the Eternal Cycle Series, (Novel), 9781937051075, Dark Quest Books, 2012
  • A Legacy of Stars (science fiction short story collection), 9781937051952, Dark Quest Books, 2012
  • Consigned to the Sea (nautical short story collection), 9781937051969, Dark Quest Books, 2014
  • Transcendence (urban fantasy short story collection), 9781937051976, Dark Quest Books, 2014

What projects of your own do you have coming up? Well, right now I am working on Eternal Wanderings, a spin-off from my Eternal Cycle trilogy, books about Irish Elves in New York City fighting evil demigods. My main character, Kara O’Keefe has saved the world twice over and is now traveling with a Romani caravan trying to save one man’s soul while figuring out her own.

The book will be published by eSpec Books in 2015.

How can readers find out more about you?


Award-winning author Danielle Ackley-McPhail has worked both sides of the publishing industry for longer than she cares to admit. Currently, she is a project editor and promotions manager for Dark Quest Books.

Her published works include six urban fantasy novels, Yesterday’s Dreams, Tomorrow’s Memories, Today’s Promise, The Halfling’s Court: and The Redcaps’ Queen: A Bad-Ass Faerie Tale, and a young adult Steampunk novel, Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, written with Day Al-Mohamed. She is also the author of the solo science fiction collection, A Legacy of Stars, the non-fiction writers’ guide, The Literary Handyman, and is the senior editor of the Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series, Dragon’s Lure, and In an Iron Cage. Her work is included in numerous other anthologies and collections.

She is a member of the Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers, the New Jersey Authors Network, and Broad Universe, a writer’s organization focusing on promoting the works of women authors in the speculative genres.

Danielle lives in New Jersey with husband and fellow writer, Mike McPhail, mother-in-law Teresa, and three extremely spoiled cats. She can be found on Facebook (Danielle Ackley-McPhail) and Twitter (DMcPhail). To learn more about her work, visit or


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