eSpec Books interviews Danielle Ackley-McPhail, contributor to the anthology Horns and Halos edited by John L. French and Danielle Ackley-McPhail, which is currently funding on Kickstarter.

eSB: Angels and Devils are a common theme in fiction. How did you make yours stand out? How much of a challenge was it?

DAM: I like to turn perceptions on their ear…or even dump them completely on their heads. There is this perception in lore and legend that big and scary looking equals powerful and dangerous. In my story, Lys and Shournan, holy warriors that are of the secret Order of the Lily, must search out and banish demonic forces to protect humanity, but the task is not as simple as they expect. It turns out the more powerful the demon, the more capable they are of hiding their nature until it is nearly too late. In the case of my story, one of the indicators of a demon’s power is the size of their horns. I will refrain from telling you how, as that would spoil the story.

eSB: Is your story based on particular lore or legend, or did you take the broad concept and run with it?

DAM: Well…part of my story actually draws on The Bible, or is based on passages anyway, and the Blessing of the Lily from the feast of St. Anthony, where lilies are said to bring peace and protect against evil. This story is a part of a larger universe where the Lilies—as in The Order of—literally protect against evil, in this case demons that are using religious reliquaries to anchor themselves to the mortal realm.

eSB: Is your story set in an existing universe or fresh and new for this collection?

DAM: This will be only the second story in this universe, but I do plan to expand it. I’ve had the idea for a while but wasn’t sure what form it would take until I recently revisited the seed story…just a scrap, really…and finally finished it for another upcoming anthology from Crazy 8 Press called Thrilling Adventure Yarns 2, edited by Robert Greenberger.

eSB: Is this your first time writing for a themed anthology, or have you done so before? What draws you to such projects?

DAM: I live for themed anthologies! I’ve probably created, edited, or contributed to over sixty or seventy of them at this point. The joy of themed anthologies is to find the most unexpected way of meeting the requirements of that theme. One time, as an example, I wrote a story for a themed flash fiction contest where the theme was Leaving. Just that, no other context. I looked up Leaving in the dictionary and among the various definitions I found “The act of putting forth leaves.” So you know what I wrote about? Dryads waking up in the spring and unfurling new leaves. I try to apply that same mindset to any collection I write for. See, with themed anthologies it is a given that a good number of those submitting will come up with the same general concept to write on. I never want to have one strike against my story before the editor has even read it.

eSB: What devilish thing have you done as an author?

DAM: Puns. Really bad puns. Part of what I write is military science fiction and humor is a coping mechanism in the military. Good humor…bad humor…sarcastic wit…dad jokes, whatever takes off the edge in a tense situation. One of my characters is a master at this and every once in awhile slips in really bad puns that are so bad you have to love them. In fact, one editor said that flat out. Nearly the only comment on the whole story was that he loved the ending…but would never admit it.

eSB: What angelic thing have you done as an author?

DAM: I helped organize several fund-raiser anthologies for CJ Henderson when he was battling cancer. Well, really all I did was say, hey, who wants to do this with me? And everyone piled on. As a full-time author, he really got hit hard with medical bills and such. Sadly, the final anthology started for this purpose ended up being a tribute anthology.

eSB: Could you tell us about one of your most amusing experiences promoting your books?

DAM: I once got into a shouting match with Harlan Ellison that ended in a hug. It was at the 2005 World Horror Convention. The hotel had only one bank of elevators that went down to the basement level, which is where the mass signing was being held. EVERYone was waiting for the elevator, even though it was just one flight down…and a single flight at that. I start making my way through the crowd saying “excuse me”, and Harlan says at the top of his voice “We’re all going the same place,” so I, being the brash smart-ass that I can sometimes be, answered at the top of my voice, “Fine! I’ll race you down the stairs!” He just kind of looked at me, and then said… “Where are you from.” For some bizarre reason that I don’t even know given I lived in Queens and grew up in New Jersey, I said loudly, “Brooklyn, now give me a hug!” We hugged, then I just turned around and went down the stairs, leaving everyone else behind. I picked a choice spot while they were still waiting for the elevator. It was the highlight—sadly—of that convention.

The other amusing experience was only Lunacon where CJ Henderson had a free table by himself in the hallway and our table was in the back of the dealer’s room. Mike (my husband and partner-in-publishing-crime) went out to keep him company. CJ had a number of standard phrases that made up his spiel. One of them was “I’ll dance like a monkey for a nickel.” It was pretty safe…after all, who carries change anymore? But what CJ didn’t realize this particular weekend was that Mike heard him and quietly went out to our car and grabbed all of the coins from our toll money. When CJ wasn’t looking, Mike deposited all of the nickels on the end of CJ’s table where he couldn’t see them. For about an hour, every time someone stopped at CJ’s table he actually had to get up and dance and he was dumbfounded…until he started paying attention. When he noticed where the nickels were coming from he waited for the customer to leave, then stood up, stalked around the table, and swept the remaining nickels into his pocket.

He did not use that phrase again that weekend…Mike and I still laugh about that to this day.

eSB: What is one thing you would share that would surprise your readers?

DAM: On my mom’s side of the family, I am related to Captain Kidd. On my dad’s side of the family, I am related to Grace Kelley. By right of birth, I am a bonafide Pirate Princess! That is my story and I am sticking with it!

eSB: What are some of your other works readers can look for?

DAM: I have written six novels, Yesterday’s Dreams, Tomorrow’s Memories, and Today’s Promise (the Eternal Cycle trilogy), The Halflng’s Court and The Redcaps’ Queen (Bad-Ass Faerie Tales), and Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn: A Steampunk Faerie Tale (co-written by Day Al-Mohamed). I also have five and a half short story collections, A Legacy of Stars, Transcendence, Consigned to the Sea, Flash in the Can, Eternal Wanderings, and The Die Is Cast (which is half my work and half my husband’s). And finally, I have three non-fiction books, The Literary Handyman and LH: Build-A-Book Workshop, and The Ginger KICK! Cookbook. I also have work in five or six other upcoming anthologies: Jeff Sturgeon’s The Last Cities of Earth, Bad Ass Moms, Pangaea III: Redemption, Thrilling Adventure Yarns 2, Mendie, The Post-Apocalyptic Flower Scout, and The Four ? Of the Apocalypse. At least…I’m hopeful I will get into those last two. Still waiting for story approval.

eSB: What projects of your own do you have coming up?

DAM: Right now. As in this very minute, I am supposed to be finishing up my military science fiction novel Daire’s Devils. It is the novelization of an ongoing series of stories I have written over the years for various anthologies and it is set against the backdrop of The Alliance Archives Martial Role Playing Game, a universe and system being developed by my husband, Mike McPhail.

eSB: How can readers find out more about you?

DAM: My website is currently down for renovation, but I am all over the place on the internet. Just search my name and you’ll find me somewhere…or pretty much everywhere. I have the distinction of a particularly unique name.

Kickstarter DMcPhail

Award-winning author, editor, and publisher Danielle Ackley-McPhail has worked both sides of the publishing industry for longer than she cares to admit. In 2014 she joined forces with husband Mike McPhail and friend Greg Schauer to form her own publishing house, eSpec Books.

Her published works include six novels, Yesterday’s Dreams, Tomorrow’s Memories, Today’s Promise, The Halfling’s Court, The Redcaps’ Queen, and Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, written with Day Al-Mohamed. She is also the author of the solo collections Eternal Wanderings, A Legacy of Stars, Consigned to the Sea, Flash in the Can, Transcendence, Between Darkness and Light, and the non-fiction writers’ guides The Literary Handyman and LH: Build-A-Book Workshop. She is the senior editor of the Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series, Gaslight & Grimm, Side of Good/Side of Evil, After Punk, and Footprints in the Stars. Her short stories are included in numerous other anthologies and collections.

In addition to her literary acclaim, she crafts and sells original costume horns under the moniker The Hornie Lady Custom Costume Horns, and homemade flavor-infused candied ginger under the brand of Ginger KICK! at literary conventions, on commission, and wholesale.

Danielle lives in New Jersey with husband and fellow writer, Mike McPhail, and one extremely spoiled cat.

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