Shattered Dreams: The Shardies War

Whew! November is very busy for us these year. This coming weekend is the only one we don’t have a convention.

Here are the schedules we have been assigned (subject to change without prior notification.) 

As always, we can be found in the dealers room at each convention when we are not on panels. Unless, of course, the dealers room is closed, in which case you’ll find us somewhere if you try hard enough, but I can’t tell you where ūüôā

DerpyCon – November 9 – 11 – Morristown, NJ

Schedule for Mike McPhail and Danielle Ackley-McPhail

Opening Ceremony Friday 2 PM-3 PM Main Events
Book Design for Beginners Friday 9:15 PM-10:15 PM Panel 2

Crowdfunding for the Beginner Saturday  2:45 PM-3:45 PM Panel 1

Publishing Q and A Sunday 10:15 AM-11:15 AM Panel 2
Sunday Morning Mad Libs Sunday 12:15-1:15 PM Panels 3 (Danielle only)

Philcon – November 16 – 18 – Cherry Hill, NJ

Schedule for Danielle Ackley-McPhail

Fri 6:00 PM in Plaza II (Two) (1 hour)
    [Panelists: Chris Kreuter (mod), Paul Levinson, Danielle
¬† ¬† Ackley-McPhail, April Grey, Michael D’Ambrosio, Russ Colchamiro]
    When is it better to shop your book around to publishers, and when
    does it make more sense to put it out yourself
Fri 7:00 PM in Executive Suite 623 (1 hour)
    [Panelists: Darrell Schweitzer (mod), Danielle Ackley-McPhail]
Sat 12:00 PM in Plaza II (Two) (1 hour)
    [Panelists: Alex Shvartsman (mod), Aaron Rosenberg, Danielle
    Ackley-McPhail, Paul Levinson, Ken Altabef]
    From cover design to distribution options, where do you take your
Sat 4:00 PM in Executive Suite 623 (1 hour)
    [Panelists: April Grey (mod), Elizabeth Crowens, Sally Wiener
    Grotta, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Roberta Rogow, Elektra Hammond]
Sat 7:00 PM in Executive Suite 823 (1 hour)
    [Panelists: Danielle Ackley-McPhail (mod), Mike McPhail]
Sun 1:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Three (1 hour)
    [Panelists: Vikki Ciaffone (mod), Steven Brust, Marshall Ryan
    Maresca, Bernie Mojzes, Danielle Ackley-McPhail]
¬† ¬† We’ve talked a lot over the years about how to avoid infodumping, or
    at least, giving your readers information in a way that is
    entertaining and easy to parse. But sometimes the question you ought
¬† ¬† to ask is not how to insert all the facts about the world you’ve
¬† ¬† built, but “is it necessary?
Schedule for Mike McPhail
Sat 10:00 AM in Plaza II (Two) (1 hour)
    [Panelists: Mike McPhail (mod), Chris Kreuter, Leighland Feinman,
    Glenn Hauman, Aaron Rosenberg, April Grey]
    How to plan the project, manage time, and stay on budget
Sat 1:00 PM in Plaza V (Five) (1 hour)
    [Panelists: Nathan Lilly (mod), Lisa Hertel, Heidi Hooper, Tess
    Kissinger, Mike McPhail, Robert Walters]
    Artists are always being asked to work for exposure. When is working
¬† ¬† for free (or ‚Äúon-spec‚ÄĚ) a bad idea? When is it a good idea? How
    do you know the difference
Sat 3:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Two (1 hour)
    [Panelists: Ray Ridenour (mod), Alan Beck, Eric Hardenbrook, Nathan
    Lilly, Mike McPhail]
    What are the best art applications? Platforms? Where do I learn to
    use them? Is a digital pen and tablet needed
Sat 7:00 PM in Executive Suite 823 (1 hour)
    [Panelists: Danielle Ackley-McPhail (mod), Mike McPhail]
Sat 9:00 PM in Plaza III (Three) (1 hour)
    [Panelists: Michael Swanwick (mod), Martin Berman-Gorvine, Eric
    Hardenbrook, Mike McPhail]
    Science Fiction is the genre best suited for ideas that challenge
    the status quo, because it is not bound by our reality as we know
    it. At the same time, SF has existed for long enough that it has
    become full of ossified paradigms that no longer force us to examine
    our perspectives. How do we keep our ideas relevant given the
    evolutionary nature of the genre while also dealing with the natural
    tendency of fiction to recycle cliches, frameworks, and touchstones
    that are familiar to us
Sun 12:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Three (1 hour)
    [Panelists: Vikki Ciaffone (mod), Brenda W. Clough, John Monahan,
    Mike McPhail, Russell J. Handelman]
¬† ¬† You’ve got maps, star charts, cultures developed for a multitude of
    different races, and a timeline of the main historical developments
¬† ¬† over the last 1,000 years. But what you don’t have is any clue what
¬† ¬† to do with it all! Let’s see if we can help with that.

ChessieCon – November 24 – 26 – Timonium, MD

Schedule for Danielle Ackley-McPhail
Running a Small Press Friday 6:45pm GS1
Reading: Broad Universe Rapid-Fire Reading Friday 9:15pm GS2
**Moderator Time Management for the Overachieving Creator Saturday 10:00am GS1
**Moderator¬†It’s OK to Not Like Things…¬†Saturday 5:30pm GS1
Group Signing Saturday 6:45pm Atrium
Reading: Danielle Ackley-McPhail Sunday 11:15am C1-2
Schedule for Mike McPhail
Real Life Military vs SF/F Friday 8:00pm GS1
Put a Pretty Face on It РCover Design in the Age of Digital Art Saturday 12:30pm GS2
Group Signing Saturday 6:45pm Atrium


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‚Äôs 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‚Äôm 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. [‚Ķ]There‚Äôs certainly something here for everyone.” ‚ÄďDon 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‚Äôre bound to like this anthology.” ‚ÄďDon 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 ūüėČ 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‚Ķ 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‚Äôs story. Eventually he sent me the statue as well ūüôā

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‚Ķand no calories, but all the yummy things ūüėČ 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‚Äôs Promise, The Halfling‚Äôs Court, The Redcaps‚Äô 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‚Äô guide, The Literary Handyman, and is the senior editor of the Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series, Gaslight & Grimm, Dragon‚Äôs 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