This is posted via the Speculative Chic website, where eSpec author Brenda Cooper wrote a guest post for their My Favorite Things weekly feature. Enjoy!

Brenda has contributed to the anthologies Dogs of War, The Best of Defending the Future,  Man and Machine, and In Harm’s Way. (All of her eSpec works can be purchased via these Amazon Associate links.)

Brenda’s titles with us include:



We at eSpec Books would like to introduce you to our newest author, Megan Mackie. She is the author of the Lucky Devil and Saint Code series, a vibrant world of alternate Chicago where magic and cyberpunk share an uneasy existence with one another. The first title we will be re-releasing of Megan’s is Death and the Crone, a side novel to her Lucky Devil series where she explores the ageless nature of love.

IMG_0161Why should the sexy immortal guy always go for the sixteen-year-old?

Margaret has given up on life. In her late 60s, homeless, and unwanted by society, it seemed a logical thing to go with this rich, handsome stranger back to his expensive apartment. Sure it probably meant her death, but what did she have to lose anyway? But instead of finding her death, Margaret learns that nothing in her savior’s world is what it seems, including herself.

Set in the magical, technologically-advanced Chicago of The Lucky Devil series, this spin-off story is one that both new and existing fans of the series can enjoy.

Other upcoming titles:


Megan Mackie is a writer, actor, and playwright. She started her writing career as an indie author and had such smashing success in her first year with her inaugural book The Finder of the Lucky Devil, that she made the transition to traditional publishing. She has become a personality at many cons, recognizable by her iconic leather hat and engaging smile. She has recently joined Bard’s Tower, a mobile con bookstore, and has sold her books next to great authors such as Peter David, Melinda Snodgrass, Dan Wells, Claudia Gray, John Jackson Miller, and Jim Butcher, to name a few.

IMG_0449She has written four novels including The Finder of the Lucky Devil, The Saint of Liars, Death and the Crone, and Saint Code: Lost all of which will be re-releasing through eSpec Books. She is also a contributing writer in the role-playing game Legendlore soon to be published by Onyx Path Publishing.

Outside of writing, she likes to play games: board games, RPGs, and video games. She has a regular Pathfinder group who is working their way through Rapanthuk. She lives in Chicago with her husband and children, dog, three cats, and her mother in the apartment upstairs.


eSpec Books interviews Danielle Ackley-McPhail, co-editor and contributor to After Punk: Steampowered Tales of the Afterlife, edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Greg Schauer, funding now on Kickstarter.

eSB: What can you tell us about the story you have written (or plan to write) for After Punk?

DAM: Last year my best friend sent me a photograph of a bunch of statuettes he saw when on vacation with his family at Disney. There was a wide array of Disney characters, but there were also some random poses. One was a steampunk girl made out in sugar skull makeup with a crow on her shoulder. She had goggles on her head (of course 😉 and the crow had a mechanical collar and augmented eyes. Immediately my creative brain sat up and began pounding on my skull. Why? What is the story behind that figure? Ohh! We could have SO much fun telling that story… In that moment, the concept of After Punk: Steampowered Tales of the Afterlife was born and I knew I would be writing that crow-girl’s story. Eventually he sent me the statue as well 🙂

I don’t want to tell you too much. Let there be some surprises, but I will tell you that our steampunk girl’s name is Aleta Angelina Fabricio, the crow is Beltran and our tale has to do with the disappearance and assumed death of Aleta’s father, and her efforts to prove he is not dead. I’ll be playing with the connection of crows between life and afterlife and exploring the traditions surrounding Dios de la Muerte, or Day of the Dead.

eSB: Does you story introduce new characters, or are they old friends you revisit often…to torment mercilessly?

DAM: This is a brand new cast of characters for me. Currently I expect this to be a stand-alone story, but who know? My characters do have a habit of coming back…

eSB: What traditions or beliefs were you raised on regarding death or the afterlife? Did that influence your story at all?

DAM: Well, my life is a study in unconventional. I was raised by a Catholic mother, but I was sent to Protestant Sunday School…well, because they had a bus that came to pick me up. Ultimately I ended up a Methodist by choice. My mother, however, believes in astrology and reincarnation and such, so I grew up with a mixed bag of afterlife beliefs in my household. The most profound way this affected me was in making me open to possibilities and an exposure to different belief systems. I don’t necessarily believe in those things myself, but my muse believes in the potential of things to become story fodder.

eSB: Describe your ideal vision of the afterlife.

DAM: The absence of all things negative. No suffering, no hatred, no conflict. Oh…and no calories, but all the yummy things 😉 All that we love and infinite time for all the things we wanted to do that we could never get to here on earth.

eSB: The coffin or the pyre, which one for you and why?

DAM: Pyre. We’ve left enough junk on and in this planet without adding my empty husk to the pile. Besides…just in case zombies are a thing, no one wants me shambling around. Talk about scary!

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

DAM: I have quite an extensive list, but those currently available are my urban fantasy novel, Yesterday’s Dreams (Irish Elves in New York City fighting evil demigods) and my biker faerie novel, The Halfling’s Court (King of the Road versus the King of Underhill,) plus four short story collections: A Legacy of Stars (science fiction), Transcendence (urban fantasy), Consigned to the Sea (nautical fantasy), and Between Darkness and Light (mixed genre). I also have a shared anthology with Mike McPhail called The Die is Cast, a series of military science fiction stories set in the Alliance Archive universe.

eSB: How can readers find out more about you? 

DAM: My website is

Danielle Ackley-McPhailAward-winning author and editor 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 A Legacy of Stars, Consigned to the Sea, Flash in the Can, and Transcendence, the non-fiction writers’ guide, The Literary Handyman, and is the senior editor of the Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series, Gaslight & Grimm, Dragon’s Lure, and In an Iron Cage. Her short stories are included in numerous other anthologies and collections.

She is a member of Broad Universe, a writer’s organization focusing on promoting the works of women authors in the speculative genres.

In addition to her literary acclaim, she crafts and sells original costume horns under the moniker The Hornie Lady, at literary conventions, on commission, and wholesale.

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




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eSpec Books interviews Gail Z. Martin and Larry N. Martin, contributors to After Punk: Steampowered Tales of the Afterlife, edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Greg Schauer, funding now on Kickstarter.

eSB: What can you tell us about the story you have written (or plan to write) for After Punk?

GZ&LN: It will feature an archeological dig, an Edison cylinder to record the voices of the dead, Isaac Pease’s Spirit Telegraph Dial, and some other surprises!

eSB: Why did you chose that particular aspect of the afterlife to ‘punk up? How did it lend itself to the theme?

GZ&LN: Whenever there’s an archaeological dig, particularly for a culture we’re unfamiliar with, we make so many assumptions about what things were used for, how people lived. Imagine if part of the dig was also calling up their spirits and recording their narrative, although of course, you’d have to be sure they weren’t lying…..

eSB: Does you story introduce new characters, or are they old friends you revisit often…to torment mercilessly?

GZ&LN: There will be some new characters, but it will be a Storm and Fury Adventure, so set in the world of our Iron & Blood books.

eSB: Do you see this story being a one-off, or has it inspired you to further storylines? Do tell 😉

GZ&LN: When we come up with secondary characters in the short stories/novellas, they usually hang around and become part of the ongoing gang.

eSB: What traditions or beliefs were you raised on regarding death or the afterlife? Did that influence your story at all?

GZ&LN: We had the very traditional mainline Protestant upbringing, so we’ve got that in common with the characters in the story, although what they find will rock their boat and make them consider that what they’ve been told might not be the whole story.

eSB: Describe your ideal vision of the afterlife.

GZ&LN: All the people and pets we’ve ever loved, endless books, and food that tastes great with no calories!

eSB: The coffin or the pyre, which one for you and why?

GZ&LN: Pyre. Go out in style—with fireworks!

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

GZ&LN: We have Iron & Blood: A Jake Desmet Adventure, the first novel in our steampunk series (with a second novel in the works), plus all of our related short stories/novellas (which are available individually as ebooks) have now been collected for ebook and print in Storm and Fury.

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

GZ&LN: Lots! Vengeance is the second book in the Darkhurst epic fantasy series, and it will be out in April. Larry’s new Salvage Rat military SF series will be out later this year, as well as the first book in Gail’s new buddy flick epic fantasy series, Assassin’s Honor. We have new Deadly Curiosities collections in print/ebook (Trifles and Folly plus Trifles and Folly 2) and a third Deadly Curiosities novel, Tangled Web, will be out this spring.

eSB: How can readers find out more about you? 


Gail Z. Martin writes epic fantasy, urban fantasy and steampunk for Solaris Books, Orbit Books, and Falstaff Books. Series include Darkhurst, the Chronicles Of The Necromancer, the Fallen Kings Cyclethe Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, the Assassins of Landria and Deadly Curiosities. Newest titles include Scourge, Trifles & Folly2, and Assassin’s Honor.

Larry N. Martin is the author of the new sci-fi adventure novel Salvage Rat. He is the co-author (with Gail Z. Martin) of the Spells, Salt, and Steel/New Templars series; the Steampunk series Iron & Blood; and a collection of short stories and novellas: The Storm & Fury Adventures set in the Iron & Blood universe. He is also the co-author of the upcoming Wasteland Marshals series and the Cauldron/Secret Council series.


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eSpec Books interviews Jeff Young, author of Spirit Seeker and contributor to After Punk: Steampowered Tales of the Afterlife, edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Greg Schauer, funding now on Kickstarter.

eSB: What can you tell us about the story you have written (or plan to write) for After Punk?

JY: This will be the second story in Kassandra Leyden’s timeline. Now that she knows she’s one of the few that can speak with the dead, she should learn how to do it properly. Enter one Madam Foss, well know medium who has some spirits rather than skeletons in her closet. She maybe showing Kassandra her first view of the other side, but they should both beware what might enter when that door is opened.

eSB: Why did you chose that particular aspect of the afterlife to ‘punk up? How did it lend itself to the theme?

JY: A lot of the other stories in the anthology will be taking on specific legends and aspects of the afterlife, whereas I’ll be looking at the way a character interacts with it, ie. Kassandra Leyden Spirit Seeker. That doesn’t mean I won’t be doing a little world building of my own. Recently, I went for a walk on rail to trail conversion and after about a mile or two of walking on a straight path you reach a point with nothing but woods on either side. If you stop in the middle and look both ways, the path disappears into the distance and the similarity of the trees blends together. It’s an optical illusion that I’m using to describe the interface between the living and the dead. You don’t get to see the other side unless you take a one-way trip, but a medium like Kassandra can straddle the border.

eSB: Does you story introduce new characters, or are they old friends you revisit often…to torment mercilessly?

JY: I would hardly say I torment Kassandra, I see her as someone smart enough to find a way out of whatever I throw at her. On the other hand, sure there are a few new characters in the story. This is part two of her origin tale. Kassandra knows her ability to speak to the dead is unusual; now she’s going to learn from someone more experienced how to make it work for her.

eSB: Do you have any plans to expand your story…or write in the same universe? If so, what more can your readers expect?

JY: This story falls under the collective known as The Kassandra Leyden Adventures. It’s grown organically over time due to requests from various Steampunk anthologies. After a while it did occur to me that I should start filling in the gaps. So there are some stories about Kassandra growing up and then there are those where she’s partnered with Cobham Peckwith. In those cases so far the viewpoint has shifted to Cobham because since he’s not the believer in the phenomenon they experience, his view fits better with that of the reader. In the future, if the novel ever gets written, the idea is to switch viewpoints every chapter. So why keep calling it The Kassandra Leyden Adventures? Well because that sounds cooler, that’s why.

I’m sure there’s lots more to do in New Britain. One of the new stories will be about the use of pre-electronic listening devices to detect dirigibles trying to sneak across the southern border. Kassandra and Cobham will investigate the mysterious deaths of the soldiers garrisoned a listening post set in the Mississippi Delta. I am barely resisting the urge to include clockwork crocodiles.

In a longer story, I plan to bring back villain Emond Ressex who got the better of Kassandra in “Fox Chase”. Our pair of heroes are dispatched into the Red Lands to seek the aid of the natives to cure a violent outbreak of disease. When they reach the city of Cahokia they will discover that Emond is posing as a shaman and using his automaton animals and captured spirits to gather influence. The story is tentatively titled “White Shaman in Red Lands”.

There are certainly more stories to tell, but the big piece in the picture is the novel, which has the working title The Emancipation of Maxwell’s Ghosts. Kassandra and Cobham are charged with protecting dilettante genius Godfrey Kensington from assassins. When they return to Londinium from his father’s estate, they discover that Kassandra’s father has left on an illegal expedition to the Old World. Using various means of transport they follow and discover a diabolical plot to ensnare a god by Sante Moore (first introduced in “Ambergris on Ice”) and that Moore has convinced Casimir Leyden to join him. I have a certain fondness for Moore because, while I tend to let him grandstand like a Bond villain, he’s actually a morally gray character. He believes that the society can’t continue the way it has and that there most be another answer rather than steam power. He’s seen what burning wood and coal does and the effects on the environment around Londinium. I really wanted a villain who stood for something good, but was willing to do anything to achieve it, including step over socially acceptable lines. 

eSB: The coffin or the pyre, which one for you and why?

JY: Probably the pyre. I’m an outdoor person and I’ve always tried to leave things the way I find them following the minimum impact rule. I don’t really see the need to hold onto a piece of the world in terms of a cemetery plot after I’m gone. 

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

JY: This eSpec Kickstarter will be helping to put together my short story collection Spirit Seeker, which features several previously published Kassandra Leyden stories as well as some new material. These steampunk stories set in New Britain cover Kassandra’s awakening as a speaker to the departed through to her pairing with the ever practical Constable Cobham Peckwith. Fortress Publishing has published a collection of my other short stories, TOI 2 Diversiforms. I’ve been fortunate enough to have my work included in a number of other anthologies: Writers of the Future V.26, In an Iron Cage: The Magic of Steampunk, Clockwork Chaos, Gaslight and Grimm, By Any Means, Best Laid Plans, Dogs of War, Man and Machine, If We Had Known, Fantastic Futures 13, The Society for the Preservation of C.J. Henderson, TV Gods & TV Gods: Summer Programming

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

JY: Aside from writing more Kassandra Leyden stories (One short, one novella and one novel in the works), I’ve been asked to contribute to the upcoming anthology Defending the Future: In Harm’s Way. This military science fiction collection features stories about field medics and will be produced by eSpec Books. I do have a few more long term invites to other anthologies and of course there are at least a dozen other things I should be writing, editing and more but that life thing tends to get in the way.

eSB: How can readers find out more about you? 

JY: and follow or view the social media tags. Don’t worry I’m a low effort follow. Or if you prefer a little more, try the Watch the Skies website for the SF&F reading group that I run ( and facebook group ( where things are much more active.


Jeff Young is a bookseller first and a writer second – although he wouldn’t mind a reversal of fortune. He is an award winning author who contributed to the anthologies: Writers of the Future v.26, By Any Means, Best Laid Plans, Dogs of War, In an Iron Cage, Fantastic Futures 13, Clockwork Chaos, TV Gods, The Society for the Preservation of C.J. Henderson and Gaslight & Grimm. Jeff’s work was also published in the magazines eSteampunk, Realms, Cemetery Moon, Trail of Indiscretion, Realms Beyond, Carbon14 and Neuronet. He is also an editor with Fortress Publishing for their Drunken Comic Book Monkey line as well as the anthologies TV Gods and TV Gods : Summer Programming. Jeff has helped run the Watch the Skies SF&F Reading Group of Harrisburg and Camp Hill for more than fifteen years. Finally, Jeff is also the proprietor of the online eBay and Etsy shops- Helm Haven, which produces Renaissance and Steampunk costume pieces.


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eSpec Books interviews Michelle D. Sonnier, author of The Clockwork Witch, funding now on Kickstarter.

eSB: What inspired your concept for this novel?

MDS: The very first thing that inspired me for The Clockwork Witch was a necklace. It was a brass and silver chunky chainmail choker with gears and a large Lucite domed oval pendant that had small replicas of old Victorian keys suspended in it. I adored it then, and still do. My then boyfriend, and now husband, bought it for me in the Katsucon Dealer’s Room in 2010. I started to get a tickle of a Steampunk idea because of the keys and the gears, and since I usually write fantasy those elements started to creep in in the form of witches. And I started thinking, what would witches be doing in a Steampunk world? Why would keys be important to them? The first part that seemed to fall into place was the grand conclusion, which involved the keys, but as I developed the world and characters the keys and the conclusion I’d originally imagined for them drifted further and further away from the characters and plot lines that actually spoke to me. So, I’ve actually diverged quite significantly from what I originally imagined, but who knows? Perhaps my characters will lead me back to the keys and the original ending I envisioned, or perhaps they will take me somewhere even grander.

eSB: What is your favorite part of this universe?

 MDS: My favorite part of this universe is the shades of gray – in relationships, in characters, in the decisions the characters have to make. Much like in real life, almost no one is pure evil or pure good, and every decision has multiple consequences, some of them good, some of them bad, and some a mix of good and bad. Stark black and white decisions, worlds, and characters have never really interested me. It’s the shades of gray that fascinate me and make me want to dig deeper.

eSB: What makes it different from your standard steampunk realm?

MDS: Probably the political interplay between those who champion technology and wish to usher in an Industrial Revolution much like the one in our own timeline, and those who wish to keep to the old ways and keep technology small or non-existent. Of course, Arabella blows a hole right in the middle of this political jousting with her new powers and a shaky foot in each world.

eSB: What was your most unexpected development when writing this book?

MDS: The softening of Arabella’s mother was something that caught me by surprise. When I first outlined the book Minerva was strict, stiff, and completely intractable. She was most definitely Arabella’s biggest adversary. Then came the scene where Arabella’s father explains to Arabella why her mother is as tough as she is. We see Minerva in a more human light as we see the damage from her past that served as motivation for her emotional and psychic armor in the present. Minerva is still just as much as an obstacle for Arabella as she ever was, but there is a change in how Arabella sees her and deals with her as she begins to see her mother as fallible and human rather than a cold, monolithic presence in her life.

eSB: Which character did you enjoy writing the most, and why?

MDS: I think the twins, Jessamine and Josephine, were the most fun to write. They are playful and a bit secretive and appear a bit mad, so that’s fun, but are they really mad or are they playing at it for their own complex end game? And there is a bittersweetness to writing the twins in all their playful glory right now because I know what’s coming for them in future books. There is a darkness coming into their lives and I know I will cry for them when I have to write those scenes.

eSB: Which character surprised you the most, and how?

MDS: Julian Pattersby, without a doubt. When I started writing the novel I had no intention of giving Arabella a love interest so soon. She’s only 17 when the book begins, and while that wouldn’t be considered too young at all for courting and preparing for marriage in the Victorian time period, I didn’t want a romance being the central point of the narrative. I wanted Arabella’s growth and journey of self discovery to take center stage. But the first time Julian and Arabella come together, the look in their eyes and the spark between them was undeniable. I couldn’t not write Julian as a love interest for Arabella. He sees her as a force of nature to be honored and respected, and her power as a thing of beauty, which is very new for Arabella since everyone else in her life regards her and her power as either a burden or something to be used.

eSB: Do you have any plans to expand your story…or write in the same universe? If so, what more can your readers expect?

MDS: Absolutely! I have at least six more novels to write with Arabella as the main character (check out the grandfather clock scene in the novel, it will give you clues as to where we’re going), and I am currently finishing up a novella set in the same world but earlier in the timeline than Arabella’s story. The novella started out as a character study of an important character, named Macaria, who appears later in Arabella’s series. But Macaria kept talking to me and showing me her origins and poof I had a novella. Look for Macaria to make an appearance in book 3 or 4 of Arabella’s storyline, as a much older and wiser witch.

It’s also quite likely I’ll write more in this universe as time goes along. It’s a very rich world and it truly fascinates me. There are so many corners of that world yet to explore.

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

MDS: I have a short story collection called Charmed City: Thirteen Tales of the Peculiar and Obscure from Otter Libris, and many other short stories scattered through various anthologies, magazines, and websites. The Clockwork Witch is my first full-length novel.

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

MDS: I have a novel tentatively titled How the Night Ends that’s in editing with Otter Libris and expected out late summer or early fall 2018, and I’m working on a collection of novellas centered around the theme of death, tentatively titled Love Notes to the Reaper.

eSB: How can readers find out more about you?

MDS: I am most active on FaceBook, although I am in the process of rebuilding my website after it got eaten by gremlins. I’m also trying hard to get better at blogging regularly, but that is a work in progress.

Michelle D. Sonnier

Michelle D. Sonnier is a fiction writer with a specialty in mythic fiction, urban fantasy, dark fantasy, and classic horror. She delights in giving a giggle and a shiver. Look for upcoming projects from Sam’s Dot Publications and Otter Libris.


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