Guest - Danielle Ackley-McPhail

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Guest - Danielle Ackley-McPhail

Good morning! We have a guest appearance by author Danielle Ackley-McPhail today. Danielle is talking about...the deep, dark subject of love affairs. Okay, love affairs with language ;-) Enjoy! And do check for the details on her giveaway!


Our Tawdry Love Affair With Language
By Danielle Ackley-McPhail
© 2011

Don’t deny it. Don’t pretend. We all of us are in love with words. Sometimes we are transported. Sometimes delighted, and yes, sometimes carried away.

It’s easy to lose control when you are having such fun. The elegance of a phrase can easily blind us to what is and is not good prose. Unfortunately there are times while we are having fun with language the reader just wants to know what the heck is going on.

(Oh, stop pouting!)

There is a time for letting go and a time for reining yourself in. Your job: figure out when is when. Let me help you out. There are several questions you can ask yourself when you are reviewing what you have written:

1)      Does it say what needs to be said? Exercising your vocabulary is all well and good, but you have to keep in mind the objective of a scene and both make sure you chosen the right words for what you want to say and that you don’t lose track of what you want to convey to begin with. (In other words, make sure the words mean what you think they do and don’t forget to get to the point.)

2)      Is it clear? When we get grand with our words there is a danger. We know what we had in mind, but if the flourishes are too grand the reader might not be able to follow. When using words that are likely to be less familiar to the reader make sure that you help define them through contextual references. . If they missed the important point all those pretty words were wasted, as was the scene. For instance kine is a cool word for a cow, but if you don’t make that clear the reader is left wondering what that strange animal on the hill is rather than paying attention to the dragon swooping down to eat it.

3)      Does it distract the reader from what is going on? What is it you are trying to get across? Are you trying to immerse the reader in your world or are you trying to give them information they need to advance the story? When you are just setting a scene or building a character your allotment of frivolous words increases; when a scene has a more specific purpose you want to be a bit more stingy because the more emphasis you put on something the more important the reader thinks it is so they might not pay attention where you want them too if there are too many things going on.

4)      Does it slow down the pacing? Fancy phrasing is not compact…you need time and space to be eloquent. The pace of a scene will slow down significantly the more intricate your prose becomes. Basically you have two choices: relaxed or tense. The more words you use to say something the less hurried the reader feels. So…describing a battlefield after the battle explore every nuance you want; gearing up for the battle itself, keep the pacing—and the wordage—tighter than a miser’s fist. The action has the wrong kind of impact if you don’t build up to it so pacing is a very important part of literary tension. You want the reader to anticipate what is coming and feel the tension the characters do so background details that are not relevant fade away, sentences get short and to the point so that while the reader is reading faster they feel like they are rushing head-on into the action.

5)      Is it appropriate? What type of setting are you writing about? What are the characters like? If you get all fancy with the language when you are writing a story about street kids in East LA the poetry of your words is going to jar against what should be gritty images and settings. Let your vocabulary out to play, but make sure it gets along with your topic, otherwise the tone of your story is going to contradict the content.

Reality Check
After you are done evaluating your work against the above checklist you have one more thing you can do yourself to make sure your piece in harmony with itself and achieving its objective. Read it. Yes, read it…out loud!

(Okay, now you’re just whining…)

The best way to catch conflicts in your own work is to read it out loud because you can hear the language and because it forces you to slow down and actually think about the words. Reading silently doesn’t cut it because everything sounds perfect in your brain and your memory helpfully supplies any details you missed adding to the page. If you read out loud it will emphasize those places where information is missing or where there is some disconnect between the language and the content, particularly in the dialogue. If a character is talking and you feel silly saying the words out loud it is much worse than if the narrative sounds a little hokey.

Summing Up

Words can be wonderful, glorious, and a lot of fun to play with. They can evoke emotion, they can transport imaginations, they can create something out of nothing, but there has to be a synergy between tone, content, pace, and characterization. Play with the language all you want but don’t lose sight of your purpose. For a writer, the language should never become more important than the story. When there is time, loosen your grip on those words and let them out, but be ready to knuckle down and get to the point so that the story flows to its conclusion naturally, rather than in meandering starts and stops.

About Danielle
Danielle Ackley-McPhail’s published works include four urban fantasy novels, Yesterday's Dreams, Tomorrow's Memories, Today’s Promise, The Halfling’s Court: and The Redcaps’ Queen: A Bad-Ass Faerie Tale. She is also the author of the non-fiction writers guide, The Literary Handyman and is the senior editor of the Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series, Dragon’s Lure, and In An Iron Cage. Her work is included in numerous other anthologies and collections. Learn more at

The Redcap's Queen

The Hunt is On!
When strength becomes weakness…
And hope becomes doubt…
As the past collides with the future…hard…
Can Suzanne—Wild Hunt biker chick and one-time member of the fae High Court—stand strong as her world falls apart? She survived an assault by redcaps, an all-out battle with the High King’s armies, and her first encounter with roller derby… but how will she fare against her inner demons? Caught in the midst of a transformation she scarcely realizes and does not understand, her hard-won convictions are tested as never before.
Suzanne is left with only one question—what if they’re wrong?
The truth could mean the difference between saving her sanity and losing her soul…

An Excerpt from The Redcaps’ Queen, by Danielle Ackley-McPhail (Dark Quest Books, 2013)

She jerked awake, sweat-soaked, her body trembling and her breath fast and shallow in reaction to the raw, brutal memory haunting her dreams. Screams still echoed in her mind. Torturous, agonized, piercing. Lance lay undisturbed beside her, arm draped over her waist, breathing in a slow, relaxed rhythm against the back of her neck. His presence calmed her, again a reminder she’d survived. Most mornings were the same lately. Ever since she had been captured by the Dubh Fae and his redcap minions—coming within seconds of death—her sleep had been a stalking ground.
She growled in frustration as she edged away from Lance’s loose grip. A grey hint of light placed the time somewhere just before dawn. Way too early to be up. She ignored the phantom, jabbing pains as she slipped from the bed. The chill of the morning air made her shiver as she ran her fingers over naked skin that should have borne scars. She caught her unblemished reflection in the bureau mirror across the room and shivered again. Damp tendrils of platinum-blonde hair clung to her face, neck, and breasts. In the low light her blue eyes shone dark and startling against her ashen skin. She scowled at her reflection and quickly shimmied into her clothes, reflexively sliding a well-worn bandana in the front pocket of her jeans, an old habit from her childhood.
Behind her, Lance stirred. His arm reached for her in his sleep. A hint of a frown furrowed his brow. Awake or not, his protective nature seeped through. As the leader of the Wild Hunt M.C. he considered himself responsible for every member, but most particularly for her.
Again, frustration burned along her nerves, causing her to tense as she willed him to remain asleep. She loved Lance, had for over twenty years…even before he turned thirteen and discovered the joy of girls, but he never seemed to get the fact that she needed to stand on her own, not because she had to, but because it was important to her to be able to. She’d even held a job once. For nearly a year she’d manned the drying furnace at the local auto plant, where intense heat baked the fresh paint into a protective shell. A very unfae occupation; that had been part of its charm. With a whole other world of resources to draw on she hadn’t needed to work. What she had needed was to prove she could. That she was strong and capable in all things. Not until she proved that to herself and everyone else, could she and Lance move forward and build the kind of life she had always longed. The life where they were never separate, where family meant love…and children.
That dream seemed even further out of reach now. If only she could conquer this crippling fear. In the military they called it PTSD—post-traumatic stress disorder. Suzanne…she called it fucked up. Just seeing the color red froze her up worse than a seized engine. If she did not overcome that fear on her own, she expected she never would. But Lance kept interfering. He just never seemed to know when to stand down and when to step in. When he’d learned about her recent issues, he’d actually gone so far as to try and ban anything red from Delilah’s, the bar that served as club house for the Wild Hunt. Well-intentioned as she recognized the effort to be, she stopped him straight away. Besides being impractical, a solution like that threatened to cripple her for good. Remnants of an older fear rose up at that thought. She would let no one make her weak again. No one.
As she stood there trying to rally for the day, the room around her took on a steadily growing red tinge reflected from the rising sun. Suzanne tensed and refused to close her eyes against the sight. She fought to get control of the panic, resisting the urge to crawl back into Lance’s arms and pretend herself safe. She wouldn’t do it, though; she made a point of never lying, as her father did, even to herself. The faster her heart beat, the more her skin crawled, as if distant eyes watched her, waiting eagerly for the chance to bleed her. Surrounded by the dawn’s haze she relived the attack; the flood of red light swept her back to the blasted crossroads, bound and helpless as the Dubh Fae’s Dragon Tears ate through her skin and flesh, and the redcaps feasted on her free-flowing blood. Suzanne shuddered. The panic gained ground until she nearly crumpled to the floor. Sheer will alone kept her standing tall, her slender frame too rigid now to tremble. An improvement after last night, where she’d been curled nearly fetal in Lance’s arms, but still unacceptable. She reminded herself that those who had harmed her couldn’t get past the shields safeguarding the property, including Delilah’s and the living space above the bar.
It didn’t help. The true demons lived in her head. 

The Halfling Court

      Get Your Bad-Ass On!

The rumble of a Harley...

The gleam of black leather...

The shine of polished chrome...

The freedom of the open road....

Motorcycles meet magic and mayhem as Lance Cosain, the halfling leader of The Wild Hunt MC, protects his turf and his people from attacks ordered by Dair na Scath, the high king of the fae.

Holding his own against rogue fae, redcaps, and pissed-off road gremlins, all Lance wants to do is settle down with his lady. Instead he goes toe-to-toe with the high king’s champion over an ancient dagger and the claim to a throne.

Who will triumph? The king of the road or the king of the realm? Either way, the Hunt is on!

Based on the stories “At the Crossroads” and “Within the Guardian Bell” from the award-winning Bad-Ass Faeries Anthology Series.

The latest from Ackley-McPhail features an intriguing mix of bikers and elves.

—Publisher’s Weekly

The Halfling Court is a well crafted and thought out book. The characters are immensely likable, and I found myself growing quite fond of them [...] a definite must read.

—5 Tombstones, Bitten By Books Review


-- Lynda Again,

  Those sound like two great books, don't they? Danielle is asking SCR readers to check out the giveaways that she has in progress. Here's the 911

To win an autographed copy of the novel, come up with your own, original derby name.
 For ideas and to see if your name is already taken, visit Please only post original names that are not in use.
 To enter: a Rafflecopter giveaway, click here
 We also have a GoodReads giveaway going on: 

Have a Blessed Day!

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6 Responses to "Guest - Danielle Ackley-McPhail "

Lynda K. Scott said...

Hi Danielle, thanks for visiting us today! Your post has a lot of tips. And that excerpt is fantastic!


Jacqueline Seewald said...


Your advice to fellow writers is excellent. Self-editing using your tips will make for a much stronger and marketable manuscript.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for having me, Lynda. This was fun.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jacqueline,

Thank you. I am glad you found the advice of use!



Unknown said...

Great tips Danielle! Thanks so much!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, lady!