Thursday, May 31, 2012

Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Sheppard's Pie recipe

Today I'm happy to introduce award-winning author Danielle Ackley-McPhail, a fellow Broad Universe member. She has worked both sides of the publishing industry for over seventeen years. Her works include the urban fantasies, Yesterday's Dreams, Tomorrow's Memories, the upcoming Today’s Promise, and The Halfling’s Court, and the writers guide, The Literary Handyman. She edits the Bad-Ass Faeries anthologies and Dragon’s Lure, and has contributed to numerous other anthologies.She is a member of the New Jersey Authors Network and Broad Universe, a writer’s organization focusing on promoting the works of women authors in the speculative genres. She can be found on LiveJournal (damcphail, lit_handyman), Facebook (Danielle Ackley-McPhail), and Twitter (DMcPhail). Learn more at

If you were marooned on an island, and Pots & Pens granted your wish for only one book and one food, what would you choose? Hmmm…tricky…I would say Sheppard’s pie (which I happen to make…see below recipe) because it has all kinds of elements that are both yummy and good for you! Besides, I like it lots and lots, but it has to have fresh mashed potatoes on top. The book….wow…You know, I’d have to say the Bible, because it’s a heck of a lot of reading on that onion-skin paper, and if I’m marooned, I definitely need the content too. I have to admit I’d skip the begets, though.

What is your A+, number 1 writing/editing/query-reading snack?
It’s a toss-up…if I’m being good, it’s buttered popcorn with a little Nature’s Seasoning sprinkled on top. If I’m being bad it’s mint chocolate chip ice cream with redi-whip whipped cream on top…LOTS.
Hot out of the oven: What inspired your latest book, and what ingredients do you hope makes it a tasty treat for readers? I just finished Today’s Promise, which is the final novel in my Eternal Cycle series of Irish-Myth based novels, so…basically, it’s inspired by the first two novels, Yesterday’s Dreams and Tomorrow’s Memories.

The series as a whole was inspired by a conversation with one of my supervisors back when I was a volunteer for the Amazing Instant Novelist writing site on AOL. He wrote dark fiction and he was telling us one day about some of the different jobs he had had in the past. One of those jobs was as a pawnbroker. That and his chosen writing style gave me the idea for a pawn shop where an evil broker only accepted items for pawn that had a connection to the owner’s soul, for nefarious purposes, of course.

Now, that was just the seed of the idea; by the time I started to write the first novel the evil pawnbroker morphed into a good guardian elf but the pawnshop and soul-linked objects remained the same. The first two books had all the build-up. Because of that, Today’s Promise is full of spice and zest and excitement because everything is coming together and we have to wrap up a tapestry’s worth of story threads. We have banishments and demon possession; daring rescues and rousing sword-battles.

Of course, there always needs to be something to cut the tension so there is a fair amount of humor, a touch of romance, and actually…a really cool cooking scene involving homemade hot chocolate and fire sprites. 

Too much salt can ruin an exquisite meal, and the perfect dessert tempers earlier mistakes. What ingredients can destroy a book through overuse or salvage a book despite its flaws? One of the primary problems I had with Today’s Promise is, as I mentioned, the fact that it is the culmination of a series. The reason this was a problem is that there tends to be a lot of tension in when you approach the end of a story, the conflicts and the tension build. If you don’t make a concerted effort to break the tension from time to time you risk exhausting the reader. Basically, if you keep ramping things up the reader reaches a cut-off point where just they can’t escalate their reaction anymore. You either wear them out or you push them past the point of suspension of disbelief so they get annoyed with the storyline and the characters instead of being sympathetic to them.

To counteract this I’ve made sure to include brief touches of comic relief even in tense scenes, as well as relaxed moments of reflection. One of the ways I do this is through the lesser fae in my series. The sprites, mostly, particularly BeagScath (Little Shadow), the main sprite that has appeared throughout the series. He is sweet and puckish and irreverent. He certainly doesn’t care if his actions are appropriate to the situation.

1 ½ pounds of ground beef
½ cup onion, diced
2 tbs minced garlic
1 10 oz can of vegetable of choice (corn, peas,mixed vegetables)
1 cup of shredded cheese, American or cheddar
1 small jar of beef gravy, about 1 cup
2 to three cups of mashed potatoes (fresh or packaged)
Spices as desired (salt and pepper, or Morton’s Nature’s Seasoning)

Large casserole dish
Large frying pan
Cutting Board

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. In large frying pan, combine meat, spices, garlic, and onion. 

Sauté until meat is browned. Drain off the fat and move the meat to the casserole dish.

Pour in the gravy and mix well until coated. Spread meat evenly over the bottom of the dish then layer evenly with vegetables.

With your spatula, top meat and vegetable mixture with mashed potatoes to ½-inch below the casserole rim until mixture is completely covered. Do not go to the top of the dish. Spread shredded cheese on top of the mashed potatoes. 

Cover casserole with foil and place foil or catch pan beneath in case of bubble-over. Cook about 40 minutes.

Potential Substitutions

 Meat – any groundmeat of choice, stewmeat or lamb (if using chunk meat, cut into bite-sized pieces)

For individual portions, follow the above steps, but use
single-serving crocks or dishes. Be sure to check the bottoms
to confirm they are oven-rated.

1 comment:

  1. ooo yummy recipe! I'll have to try :) Great interview!