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DTFIII By Other Means reviews

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DTF4 No Man's Land

DTF1 Breach The Hull

DTF2 So It Begins

DTF Publications, a division of Dark Quest Books

Danielle Ackley-McPhail's The Literary Handyman

Danielle Ackley-McPhail's Yesterdays Dream

Danielle Ackley-McPhail's Tomorrow's Memories

Danielle Ackley-McPhail's Bad-Ass Faeries

Danielle Ackley-McPhail's Bad-Ass Faeries, Just Plan Bad

Danielle Ackley-McPhail's Bad-Ass Faeries, In All Their Glory

Danielle Ackley-McPhail's Bad-Ass Faeries, The Halfling's Court

In Ar Iron Cage, edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail

The Stories In Between, contributor Danielle Ackley-McPhail

New Blood, contributor Danielle Ackley-McPhail

Space Horrors, contributor Danielle Ackley-McPhail

Space Pirates, contributor Danielle Ackley-McPhail

Bararian's At The JumpGate, contributor Danielle Ackley-McPhail


Danielle Ackley-McPhail

Danielle Ackley-McPhail
 True Colors

Ghost On The Battlefield

05-20-2011: interviews author Danielle Ackley-McPhail, contributor to the anthologies, By Other Means, and No Man's Land, in the Defending The Future series.

MilSciFi: "Welcome back. Please tell us about your story, and what was the inspiration for it?"

Ackley-McPhail: "Well, I have two stories to talk about. The first is story is True Colors, which appears in By Other Means (DTFIII). This is the third story in a series of adventures centered around 142nd Infantry, better known as Daire's Devils. The first in the series was Carbon Copy (Space Pirates, Flying Pen Press) and it was never meant to be more than just the one story. I had so much fun with the characters that I just couldn't stay away from them. Basically they are an elite special forces unit combating space pirates who are after an advanced flagship, and things just keep getting more and more interesting. In True Colors their company commander is taken hostage and it is up to the unit to get him back.

My second story is Ghosts on the Battlefield. Again, this is meant to be a standalone story about The Morrigans, a flight of ace fighter pilots used to being on the front line, suddenly relegated to babysitting duty. In this particular story the front line comes to their commander, “Scarlet Jay” Corvidae. What you have is a good, old-fashioned dogfight with supersonic craft and unmanned drones, with just one green pilot and one veteran to stave off the enemy forces. The story was a lot of fun to write. I started off with my keyboard on my lap and the documentary series Dogs of War in the DVD player. Ironically enough, most of the terms and such that I used came from the Vietnam episode, but as I still hear those phrases on modern documentaries, I'm not concerned about sounding dated. Once again, it looks like I've had so much fun with the set-up that I'm sure more stories will follow."

MilSciFi: "Is it a part of a larger universe? Any plans to continue with this storyline?"

Ackley-McPhail: "I think the answer for both questions (and stories) has to be yes. First off, both are set against the nominal backdrop of the Alliance Archives role-playing universe created by my husband, but beyond that the stories are so richly developed in terms of the characters and setting that I just know they are going to want to come out to play at some point…It might be years down the line--or it might not!--but we will see both the Devils and the Morrigans again, I am sure."

MilSciFi: "Each story is accompanied by a unique icon, can you tell us something about the relevance behind your own?"

Ackley-McPhail: "With True Colors, since it is set in an established universe and I've described the unofficial squad icon in the second story, it was merely a matter of coming up with a style we liked. In this case just a stylized devil head against a backdrop of flames, with the unit number and the squad's informal name printed below. Ironically what took the longest was finding a devil I liked. Originally—or at least in its incarnation as nose art in the story—the devil was supposed to be green and riding a rocket. For the icon that morphed a bit because we couldn't settle on a design that was simple and looked good as a patch using that composition.

For the icon accompanying Ghosts on the Battlefield we drew on mythology. The unit comes to be known as the Morrigans because they are an all-woman combat flight. The Morrigan is a Celtic goddess of war, often represented by a crow because of abundance of such birds on the field of battle. Many myth cycles have a war goddess similar to the Morrigan right down to the crow familiar, and sometimes with a similarity in the names as well. It seemed fitting to the story that the patch represent a mantled crow atop a skull, with the Morrigans below. In the background, since this is an AeroCom story (related to the Alliance Archives universe), there is an AeroCom star."

MilSciFi: "How did you become involved with the Defending the Future series?"

Ackley-McPhail: "In the front of Breach the Hull there is a dedication “To Bob – It's Your Fault”. I am “Bob” (those of you who watch Black Adder should get the joke). Basically, way back in 2005 CJ Henderson asked me for a series of anthology ideas to propose to one of his publishers. I rattled off a few, several of which were liked and I heard nothing more for a little while. About six months later while we were at Lunacon CJ and Patrick Thomas asked if I wanted to edit Breach the Hull, which was one of the ideas I had come up with. Being a bit overloaded at the time I said no, but recommended that he ask my husband, Mike. I then called up Mike and told him “The next person you talk to, say yes…” He's been cursing me ever since ;) I have been fortunate to participate in the shaping and growing of the DTF series, along with a lot of other people who made it possible, not the least of which is the editor, Mike McPhail. It has been an interesting process and I can't wait to see where the journey takes us."

MilSciFi: "What were your thoughts about the fact that this was a collection featuring all-female authors?"

Ackley-McPhail: "There wasn't much thought involved. Mike came into the office and said, “What do you think about an all-female book for the collection? We could call it No Man's Land.” He came back a few moments later and I had already invited half a dozen lady science fiction writers.

It is a fantastic idea that was long overdue. There have been other women warrior books (at least two, one from TOR and one from Daw) but those books were non-genre specific and only one of them was all women authors as well. No Man's Land is the first we have been able to find that is all women authors writing about women in war/conflict situations, completely in the military science fiction genre—a venue traditionally considered a male playground, though there are a few women playing there already. This book came about because for the first three books in the Defending The Future series, I am the only gal among the guys. We wanted to rectify that and are looking forward to recruiting some of the No Man's Land authors for future volumes just to mix things up."

MilSciFi: "What tips would you given an aspiring military science fiction author, female or otherwise?"

Ackley-McPhail: "Do your research. There are so many military service men and women out there, I'm certain everyone knows at least one. Talk to them, learn the language, training, and procedure that makes up the military mindset. If you don't have someone you can talk to, watch documentaries or pick up some old military manuals at the army/navy store or online. Hit the landmarks of military service and deportment, even if you are working with a fictitious military group. Some things are universal because it is the only way such systems can work without falling into anarchy."

MilSciFi: "Is military accuracy important to you, or can one simply 'fake' it?"

Ackley-McPhail: "I am not in the military. I have never been in the military, though technically I am a Navy brat. That puts me at something of a disadvantage since I was never really around military personnel until I was older. However, I did have something of an initiation that helps me to write military science fiction with something of the proper voice. When I met my husband, (editor Mike McPhail), he was very active in role playing games, to the point of having created his own: The Alliance Archives Martial Role-Playing Game. For many, many years I would play this game with him and his friends, all of whom were previously in the military, though none of them (at the time) were in active service. Between interacting with them and playing a military-based game I got a feel for the terminology, the mindset, and the lingo. That has added a true voice to my work, but at the same time I know there are a lot of gaps in my knowledge. I have to say that I do fake it, but I fake it with some understanding, reinforced by research. Take, for instance, Ghosts on the Battlefield; this is a good, old-fashioned dogfight. That means Air Force personnel and technical lingo and some understanding of the mechanics of flight. I don't have any of that. Fortunately, Mike is a documentary junkie. I was able to do my research and lift the language I needed from interviews with actual combat pilots recounting their experiences in war. I was as accurate as I could be, but give that it is science fiction, there is some latitude for using a military organization that is not based on the US or other national military services active today."

MilSciFi: "Have you been involved with any similar projects?"

Ackley-McPhail: "Nothing all-female, but I have definitely been featured in a number of other science fiction series or books. My story Building Blocks was published by Padwolf Publishing in the anthology Barbarians at the Jumpgate and I have three stories in the Full Throttle Fiction series, produced by Flying Pen Press: Carbon Copy is in Space Pirates (#1) and Last Man Standing is in Space Horrors (#4), both edited by David Lee Summers, and Travellin' Show has just been accepted by editor Jennifer Brozek for publication in book five in the series, Space Tramps."

MilSciFi: "With your growing success as an author, do you plan to continue writing for the Defending the Future series?"

Ackley-McPhail: "As long as they will have me! I love writing military science fiction and have established several storylines that I haven't found an end to yet. What is more gratifying, I have established somewhat of a following for those storylines. I would write them regardless, but the Defending the Future series is a popular series with great authors involved and I am proud to be among them. The series has the added benefit of forcing me to sit down and write about these characters, regardless of what else I have to do, because I have a deadline to meet. Otherwise I am afraid my schedule would derail my efforts."

MilSciFi: "Are there any upcoming projects you would like to tell us about?"

Ackley-McPhail: "I always have something going on. In the next few weeks Dark Quest Books will be publishing In An Iron Cage: The Magic of Steampunk. After that I go full bore into working on Eternal Flame (Book 2 in the Legends of a New Age series) and Bad-Ass Faeries 4: It's Elemental. I have novels and writing guides I'm working on, but those are quite a ways down the road. One of the most exciting projects I'd like to tell the readers about, though, is the Alliance Archives Martial Role-Playing Game, which will be coming out from Dark Quest Games later this year. To learn more--eventually--visit There isn't much there at the moment, but watch it closely for updates!"

MilSciFi: "And what events do you have in the months ahead?"

Ackley-McPhail: "I'm actually winding down for the summer. Other than Balticon ( where we are launching By Other Means and No Man's Land, I currently only have two events before Fall. One is the Market Street Book Fair in Wilmington, Delaware, and that is July 9th, and the other is a Dark Quest Book Launch event to be held at Between Books, an independent book store in Claymont, Delaware. Other than that, we're playing things by ear."

MilSciFi: "How can our readers find out more about your work?"

Ackley-McPhail: "Oh, goodness…okay, here we go… My websites are:,, can also be found on LiveJournal (damcphail, badassfaeries, darkquestbooks, lit_handyman), Facebook (Danielle Ackley-McPhail), and Twitter (DMcPhail). Other than that, a websearch on my name will turn up loads of stuff!"

MilSciFi: "Thank you for your time."

Danielle Ackley-McPhail's website is:

Dark Quest Books' website is:


FTC 16 CFR Part 255 Discloser:
Solicited by with no compensation.


Copyright ©2011 Mike McPhail, All Rights Reserved


The views contained in this interview are those of the author, and
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