The First Rule in Speculative Fiction is to Speculate
By Danielle Ackley-McPhail
As a publisher I am often faced with hard choices. It isn’t enough for an idea to be cool. It needs weight behind it. Authors that increase visibility, an idea our audience is clamoring for, participants willing to promote. But more than that, it needs legs beyond the draw brought by the participants in the project.
Why? Because there isn’t much money in publishing. Or at least not for most of us. The return on sales is quite small once you’ve taken out discounts, production costs, and royalties to the authors. We don’t publish books to get rich, we do it because we love the written word and the wonderful things authors do with them.
This means we have to carefully consider if we can sell a book before we contract it. Because of this I have had to turn down quite a few proposals for one reason or another. Several of those proposals were by Hal Greenberg, author, game designer, and creator of The Awakened universe. I respect Hal. He’s a great idea man, but it wasn’t until his third proposal that I felt he had a project that was right for eSpec Books. This doesn’t mean his other ideas weren’t good…just that they weren’t a good fit.
The project I took a chance on is The Awakened Modern, a modern-day, urban fantasy collection that draws on the precepts of Hal’s second-world fantasy universe. In The Awakened the stories all take place on the planet Grimaton, which has two moons. The influence of the second moon potentially triggers latent abilities in the people of this world when they turn nineteen. The ability might be a special power, or it might be a bond with an animal.
In Awakened Modern, Grimaton’s second moon breaks away from its orbit and ends up circling planet Earth. Now humanity has to deal with sudden, completely unexpected powers. The only difference is, the changes take place in people of all ages…at least at first, with the new introduction of the second moon.
Hal has brought together an amazing group of authors to populate this new and changing world, Ed Greenwood, James Chambers, Torah Cottrill, Ty Johnston, Drew Bittner, Erik Scott de Bie, Ken Shannon, Walt Ciechanowski, Jennifer Brozek, and…if we hit the right stretch goals, Richard Lee Byers, James M. Ward, and Darren W. Pearce. They are all playing in the same sandbox, bringing their unique perspectives, but with a unity that makes the background universe a character in itself, consistent and aware from story to story.
Am I taking a gamble? A bit, but Hal has already proven The Awakened franchise has feet, and the concept is quite cool, so I speculate, but speculate wisely.
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. She can be found on Facebook (Danielle Ackley-McPhail) and Twitter (DMcPhail, BadAssFaeries, eSpecBooks, and TheHornieLady).
To learn more about her work, visit www.sidhenadaire.com, www.especbooks.com or www.badassfaeries.com.
The Awakened Modern is currently funding on Kickstarter http://tiny.cc/AwakenedModern