We are at it again! Kicking off the year with a brand-new campaign: Full Steam Ahead!

Yes, we are funding more books. Yes, we would love if you would check them out, maybe show your support. But don’t think you have to do it blind. Here is a taste of A Cast of Crows, a Poe-inspired steampunk collection created in conjunction with the Tell-Tale Steampunk Festival.

The other two books funding through the campaign are Grimm Machinations – the sequel to Gaslight & Grimm, bringing you even more steampunk faerie tales; and Grease Monkeys: The Heart and Soul of Dieselpunk, an anthology that takes a look at the mechanics that keep the tech running, but more on those later.

Over the course of the campaign, we will be sharing these excerpts so you can get to know our authors’ style.

Cover Final

Ángel de la Muerte

Danielle Ackley-McPhail

Aleta Angelina Fabricio knelt before her family’s graves for a very long time.

Long enough, the end of one day became the beginning of the next. Long enough, the murmurs of the surrounding Día de los Muertos celebrations faded away as families went home or lay down to rest beside their loved ones’ graves. Long enough, the autumn night’s chill seeped through her cotton robe and into her bones. Lina nearly tumbled away at the barest touch on her shoulder, calling her back to the dark blanket of night and the low, smoldering embers of nearly spent candles glinting throughout the graveyard like fireflies. She would have fallen if not for the thick, sturdy haft bracing her. Her grip tightened on the smooth wood handle of Santa Muerte’s scythe, which had replaced the cobbled-together prop Lina had left home with.

Slowly, as if fighting to turn against thick, clinging aether, Lina glanced up over her shoulder. Her right eye burned where the thin glass lens attached to her father’s spirit goggles hugged its surface. The left merely burned from spent tears, as it bore no lens. She blinked and swayed, disoriented as the fading wisps of lingering spirits wafted in plain sight, though her goggles shouldn’t function without being paired with those worn by her father’s crow, Beltran.

Lina bit back a sob. She had lost both father and crow in one brief slash by her own hand, their spirits freed from an unfettered evil that had possessed them.

Shuttering that fresh pain, she focused on the moment, looking up at the one standing over her, nearly too far away to touch. Lina blinked and pushed the goggles to the top of her head, removing the glass disk from her eye so she could better see.

Much in the way of the restless spirits, the gaze she met swirled with intense emotion, in this instance, a mix of anger and hurt and concern. For a moment, reality seemed to flux between the spirit and mortal realm as if Lina’s prolonged use of the goggles had caused the two to overlap. Wisps of aether clung to her grandmother’s features, but Lina blinked, and they faded away. Even so, something seemed off with Abuela’s color.


Her grandmother frowned down at her. Then she took in the goggles perched on Lina’s head, paired with the calaveras mask and faded blue cotton robe she wore in a silent plea to Santa Muerte for her blessing, and the frown deepened. Lina and her grandmother had fought earlier over her manner of dress, and Abuela’s disapproval clearly had not softened. The frown turned into a scowl, and Abuela quickly shuffled away to fuss over the oferenda, though she herself had arranged the altar earlier in the day.

“You plan to stay up all night, niña?”

Niña, not mija. The surface of Lina’s heart cracked like aged porcelain.

She pushed to her feet. The hand she reached out to her grandmother trembled faintly as guilt pinched her belly. Her mother’s mother shrugged away before they could touch. Lina frowned as a small ache settled in her chest. Her grandmother was all she had left, yet the two of them only seemed to spark like flint to steel.

Bad enough, they had fought on this of all days, but worse, the precious moment she had deprived Abuela of through her obstinance. If not for Lina’s insistence on dressing as she had, her grandmother might have come with her tonight. Might have been there to greet the spirits of her daughter—Lina’s mother—and her grandson, whom neither of them had ever seen among the living; of course, if not for Papa’s goggles, of which Abuela most definitely did not approve, perhaps neither of them would have been blessed with that sight.

Lina moved to where her grandmother stood before the oferenda. “Please, Abuela. Don’t worry about that. We can take care of it tomorrow.”

“Nonsense. It is shamefully in disarray.”

Lina closed her mouth on her pointless argument, lips pressing in a thin line. She leaned her scythe against a nearby tree and bent to straighten up the altar as her grandmother wished before laying out their straw pallets for sleeping beside the grave, as the other families around them had already done. It would be an uncomfortable night, but it showed honor to the spirits of their loved ones to spend these precious hours in their presence before Death’s shroud separated them once more, until the next year.

“The food…” Abuela called out, her voice rife with censure. “Why have you not placed the food on the oferenda? Ay, dios mios! Who will do this properly when I am gone?”

Frantic, Lina glanced around in the dark for her basket, dropped in the battle with the evil spirit that had stolen her father’s form, whom she had vanquished with the help of Lady Death herself. Puzzled, Lina found the basket sitting nearby as if set down neatly and not dropped. As she knelt to pick it up, a gentle rustle reached her ears, along with a faint, familiar muttering she thought never to hear again.

Her breath trapped within her throat, she opened the basket and peered inside.

Satiny darkness and the faint gleam of a polished brass cowl stared back.

Gasping, Lina nearly tumbled back in shock.

Beltran. Her father’s crow. His spirit’s prison. Still wearing the cowl Papa had engineered to work with the goggles Lina wore, allowing the wearer to glimpse across the Veil to the spirit realm. Just hours before, Lina had cradled the crow as her scythe severed its life’s bonds and set her father’s soul free. And yet, that wicked beak now darted out and lightly pinched her finger as it had so often before. Lina laughed a startled laugh before raising her gaze to the heavens. She sent a prayer of thanks to Santa Muerte, for surely only she could have restored the crow. But why? For a moment, Lina would swear she saw a satisfied grin beneath a crown of roses among the branches overhead, followed by a shimmer of rich blue velvet fluttering out of sight.

Danielle Ackley-McPhailAward-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 Mike McPhail and Greg Schauer to form eSpec Books (

Her published works include eight novels, Yesterday’s Dreams, Tomorrow’s Memories, Today’s Promise, The Halfling’s Court, The Redcaps’ Queen, Daire’s Devils, The Play of Light, 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, The Kindly Ones, Dawns a New Day, The Fox’s Fire, Between Darkness and Light, and the non-fiction writers’ guides The Literary Handyman, More Tips from the 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. She is a full member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association.

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 four extremely spoiled cats.

Learn more about Danielle Ackley-McPhail here:

Website  *  GoodReads  * Amazon Author Page  *  BookBub  *  Newsletter  *  YouTube

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