It has been a while since I have done one of these so the span is more like a month in reviews, rather than just a week. We are very pleased to share with you the accolades some of our titles have recently received. Congrats to the authors for this recognition of their hard work.



“Intriguing magic, gender politics, and historical detail weave together in this coming-of-age fantasy debut […] Readers will especially enjoy Sonnier’s inventive worldbuilding.
Publisher’s Weekly







“All the familiar and fun elements of the previous book are there […] Unicorn Precinct was enjoyable.”
SF Reader






“…DeCandido has presented is a police procedural set in a standard Dungeons & Dragons world. And I’m OK with that. […] A pleasant way to spend a few hours with characters that come to life in a world you can easily lose yourself in.” –SF Reader







“A fascinating premise, one that plays teasing meta-games with the whole notion of fiction and story. […]There’s certainly something here for everyone.” –Don Sakers, Analog (The Reference Library, May/June 2018)





“These stories tackle the emotional minefields that await military personnel in the reaches of space. If you like David Drake, Joe Haldeman, or Jack Campbell, you’re bound to like this anthology.” –Don Sakers, Analog (The Reference Library, May/June 2018)


“Danielle teaches a great path for any stage of writer.” -JAnn Bowers, Goodreads

“The conversational tone is appealing and accessible. This book is worth reading as a very broad overview of the writing and publishing process.” -Darcysmom, Goodreads

The Literary Handyman by Danielle Ackely-McPhail is filled with great advises for aspiring writers. The book is structured in small articles and very easy to read.”
– Guy Lou, Goodreads

“Much of the information included in this volume might be a bit basic for more accomplished or connected authors, but I think this could be a handy reference guide for just about anyone — sometimes it’s easy to forget the basics when you’re stuck in a rut.” – Jane, Goodreads



“All in all, an enjoyable collection of steampunk tales.” – David Lee Summers, Goodreads







Hard to believe that Balticon is coming up in just two weeks. Once again, eSpec will be in the dealer’s room, when not on panels. We will also be holding our annual launch party on Sunday from 7pm to 9pm. Full schedule below.

How to be a Good Moderator    Room 8029          Fri 5:00 PM

Moderating a discussion panel at a convention is both easier and harder than it looks. Experienced moderators share their tips, tricks, and guidelines for getting the most out of the panel you’re moderating.

Writing Major Minor Characters    Room 8029    Fri 8:00 PM

They may not be your protagonists, but minor characters need to be fleshed out just as much as the heroes. How do minor characters enrich a story, and how can we make them interesting without letting them steal the spotlight?

Broad Universe Rapid-Fire Reading          Kent      Sat 1:00 PM

The authors of the Broad Universe writing organization share excerpts from their upcoming works.

eSpec Readings       St. George     Sat 7:00 PM

Authors Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Ken Schrader, and Michelle Sonnier read from their work.

eSpec Book Launch Party    Baltimore Ballroom A     Book Launches     Sun 7:00 PM   

Join eSpec Books for food, fun, and prizes in celebration of the release of their newest offerings of Paranormal Steampunk, The Clockwork Witch by Michelle D. Sonnier, Spirit Seeker by Jeff Young, and After Punk: Steampowered Tales of the Afterlife.

Outlining vs. Pantsing     Mount Washington     Mon 10:00 AM

Some storytellers require a detailed outline to start fleshing out their story, but others prefer to write by the seat of the pants. What are some techniques to help you get better at one when you prefer the other? Authors and game masters welcome!



eSpec Books is proud to announce that Jack Campbell’s The Sister Paradox has won the 2018 EPIC eBook Award for the Young Readers category. Congratulations to the author for this well-deserved award. For a complete list of the winners visit the EPIC website.

Sister Paradox web

We are also proud to announce that the cover for Danielle Ackley-McPhail’s Yesterday’s Dreams, with art by L.W. Perkins and Christina Yoder, has won the 2018 EPIC Ariana Award for Fantasy cover art. Again, ladies, congratulations for a well-deserved win. For a complete list of the winners visit the EPIC website.



eSpec Books is delighted to present to you:

(cover design by Mike McPhail of McP Digital Graphics)

Steampowered Tales of the Afterlife

edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Greg Schauer

While mankind can scarce hope to pierce the Veil without crossing it, a few intrepid souls will ever bend their will against the aether, combining artifice and the arcane to uncover its secrets. 

From voodoo death cults to the Day of the Dead, mummy parties, the wheel of reincarnation, the practice of death portraits, and so much more, these tales leave no gravestone unturned. 

Be it heaven or hell or the limbo in between, the hereafter is about to get ‘Punked.

With stories by Jody Lynn Nye, David Sherman, Gail Z. Martin and Larry N. Martin, James Chambers, Michelle D. Sonnier, Jeffrey Lyman, Bernie Mojzes, Travis I. Sivart, Jeff Young, David Lee Summers, L. Jagi Lamplighter, and Danielle Ackley-McPhail.


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.




Amazon author page  




eSpec Books interviews David Lee Summers, 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?

DLS: My story is about a spiritualist who is invited to a mummy unwrapping party. When she arrives, she finds the place is swarming with scientists, some of whom have called her a fraud. She soon begins to thinks they may be playing her for a fool, but it turns out the party’s host has an experiment in mind and she’s a key element.

The story was inspired by panels I’ve done with magician Dyno Staats at a few different steampunk conventions. Ostensibly we’d talk about how Victorian science was incorporated into magic shows of the period, but no topic related to science and the mysterious was off limits. Mummy unwrapping parties and séances often found their way into our discussions.

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

DLS: Mummy unwrapping parties were, strangely and sadly, a thing during the Victorian period. Strange because it involved inviting people over to your house to unwrap an ancient, dead body. Sad because of the total disregard it represented for another culture. Of course the whole point of Egyptian mummification was to send the dead to the afterlife with body and soul. Mummies are so lifelike, I can see where it would be tempting to think one could wake them and talk to the dead.

There’s also an aspect of the story that has to do with hauntings and ghosts, as one might infer from having a spiritualist character. Although I’m a skeptic where ghosts are concerned, I have seen and experienced things that I can’t easily explain and I wanted to bring some of that mystery to this story. Of course, spiritualists and séances were a big part of the Victorian era.

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

DLS: My story introduces new characters. However, I have to admit, that prim and tormented spiritualist Dinella Stanton and showman-like chemist Augustus Harriman grew on me in their short tale and they may well have to appear again. Harriman especially has a kind of arrogance that deserves further torment.

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

DLS: I was raised in an evangelical Christian household with an idea that faithful Christians would have everlasting life in a paradise. To be honest, that idea didn’t much influence my story. A bigger influence from my upbringing was visiting the Tutankhamen exhibit that toured the United States when I was in elementary school. It engendered a fascination with Ancient Egyptian culture and funerary practices.

eSB: Describe your ideal vision of the afterlife.

DLS: In addition to being a writer, I’m a professional astronomer and I’m confronted by the sheer enormity of the universe on a day-to-day basis. My ideal vision of the afterlife would be to come into the presence of the mind that set all that in motion. I’d also hope that I could somehow use an eternal, spiritual existence to explore the vast multiverse in some form.

eSB: How would you ‘punk the grim reaper?

DLS: Forget the scythe, I’d give that boy a steam-powered combine harvester. His wardrobe is also a bit medieval. Maybe ditch the robes and give him a black tuxedo and top hat combination with a red waistcoat.

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

DLS: I always liked the fate Captain Kirk had planned for Spock at the end of The Wrath of Khan, launched into the atmosphere of a planet to go out as a shooting star.  Barring that, I lean toward the pyre. Once I’m done with my body, I don’t need it anymore. It seems the easiest way to deal with what’s left behind.

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

DLS: Readers can look for my horror novel set at an astronomical observatory called The Astronomer’s Crypt. My Clockwork Legion steampunk novels are Owl Dance, Lightning Wolves, The Brazen Shark, and Owl Riders. I’m one of the editors of Maximum Velocity: The Best of the Full-Throttle Space Tales which features a story by eSpec’s own Danielle Ackley-McPhail.

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

DLS: My fourth Clockwork Legion steampunk novel, Owl Riders, is due out this spring. I also have a spooky story about electricity rousing the dead in the anthology DeadSteam coming out this October from Grim and Grimmer Books.  My ghost story “Evicted from Heaven” will appear in the anthology Hotel Haunted coming from Wolfsinger Publishing later this year.

eSB: How can readers find out more about you? 

DLS: The easiest way for readers to learn more about me is to visit my website at and read my blog at


David Lee Summers is the author of eleven novels and numerous short stories and poems. His most recent novels are the global steampunk adventure, Owl Riders, and a horror novel set an astronomical observatory, The Astronomer’s Crypt. His short stories have appeared in such magazines and anthologies as Cemetery Dance, Realms of Fantasy, Straight Outta Tombstone, and Gaslight & Grimm. He’s one of the editors of Maximum Velocity: The Best of the Full-Throttle Space Tales from WordFire Press. He’s been nominated for the Science Fiction Poetry Association’s Rhysling and Dwarf Stars Awards. When he’s not writing, David operates telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory. Find David on the web at


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