Variations on Strength

by Danielle Ackley-McPhail

The variations on strength are infinite, tailored to the situation that has called for it. Strength does not just come from within us. It is a product of the conflicts we face. Those of you who are writers know that no story is complete without conflict. Nay, it does not even begin without conflict. Internal. External. Divine. Infernal. Somewhere in every story there are challenges to be met and things that must be overcome. The manner in which we meet those challenges define our strength.

It is impossible to have a primary character that is not strong in some manner, if only eventually. Whether they possess it at the offset or discover it on their way, some aspect of strength will rise to the fore when needed. If not…the author has not done their job properly. This goes for characters of either gender. This is not to say there will not be weaknesses or weak characters, after all, such is the nature of humanity, but to show only weakness for a character is to make the unsympathetic.

Not only that, but life is a study in contrasts. Strength has no meaning without weakness. Do not believe that a character must show only strength in order to be strong. To do so would be to produce two-dimensional characters to which the reader could not relate.

In my story, Looking Back, which will appear in Silence in the Library’s Athena’s Daughters (Spring 2014), my main character, Lady Clara, has several strengths: social standing, a title, determination and dedication. Society perceives her weaknesses as her gender and a lack of a man to take charge of her responsibilities.

Her true weakness? Her strengths, in conjunction with her fears, make her reckless. She is not a strong woman, but she is strong-willed and though this carries her to her ultimate goal, what of the costs? Clara’s conflict comes when she must decide if her goal is worth the risk, or if prudence calls for stepping back and relinquishing control to destiny.

Story Blurb:

If necessity is the mother of invention, then desperation is its sire. Lady Clara is left with stewardship of her lost cousin’s inheritance and the uncertainty of her own fate. She employs the dubious assistance of an American inventor to find her cousin before all is lost, only neither could have anticipated the unique nature of their…success.


Athena’s Daughters is a collection of short fiction from some of the best female science fiction and fantasy authors in the industry, published by Silence in the Library Publishing. This anthology features stories written by women about women. I’m also incredibly excited to have an introduction to the anthology by retired astronaut and Space Shuttle Commander Pam Melroy. A portion of every book sold will go to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization.

Athena’s Daughters is a Kickstarter-funded project, which means readers like you bring it to life. Your contribution not only helps to create the book, but you can receive awesome rewards for participating. Become a part of the Athena’s Daughter’s journey by visiting


Award-winning author Danielle Ackley-McPhail has worked both sides of the publishing industry for longer than she cares to admit. Currently, she is a project editor and promotions manager for Dark Quest Books.

Her published works include five 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 solo science fiction collection, A Legacy of Stars, 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.

She is a member of the Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers, the New Jersey Authors Network, and Broad Universe, a writer’s organization focusing on promoting the works of women authors in the speculative genres.

Danielle lives in New Jersey with husband and fellow writer, Mike McPhail, mother-in-law Teresa, and three extremely spoiled cats. She can be found on LiveJournal (damcphail, badassfaeries, darkquestbooks, lit_handyman), Facebook (Danielle Ackley-McPhail), and Twitter (DAckley-McPhail). To learn more about her work, visit,, or

In her down time she concocts her own cookie recipes (Spirited Delights), gets crafty, and makes costume horns. All the spaces in between are filled with reading…lots of reading!

If you want to know more about what fun I had with urban fantasy, Irish myth, and some other Strong female characters I invite you to check out the Eternal Cycle trilogy and The Bad-Ass Faerie Tale series. Free excerpts of each book can be found on my website:’sPromise-EX.pdf

Website and/or blog,,
Amazon author page

Click here to listen to Danielle read an excerpt from Looking Back.

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