Elizabeth McCoy

Biography

Elizabeth McCoy's fiction has appeared in Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword and Sorceress #7, in the "Best In Show" anthology by Sofawolf*, and in the fanzine "Pawprints" (published by Conrad Wong & T. Jordan Peacock). Her tabletop RPG writing is published by Steve Jackson Games. As her author bios in SJ Games' material continually state, she lives in the Frozen Wastelands of New England, with a spouse, child, and assorted cats.

She hopes that her work will be enjoyed, and is always a bit awkward about referring to herself in the third person.

*Best in Show has been re-published as: "Furry!: The Best Anthropomorphic Fiction!" (Fred Patten, ed.)

Where to find Elizabeth McCoy online


Books

Принц-медведь (The Bear Prince, Russian Translation)
By Elizabeth McCoy
Series: Fantasy Folktales. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 5,330. Language: Russian. Published: January 16, 2014. Category: Fiction
"Принц-медведь" - это три народные сказки из некого вымышленного мира. Какие сказки рассказывают родители детям на ночь, если в их мире слабая магия работает по-настоящему? Какие байки плетут уличные сказители, чтобы слушатели кидали им монеты? О жизни магического мира расскажут его сказки: "Принц-медведь", "Принцесса и клок овечьей шерсти", а также "Самоцвет-Звездосвет-Луносвет".
Легенда об Утренней Звезде (Legend of the Morning Star, Russian translation)
By Elizabeth McCoy
Series: Fantasy Folktales. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 3,220. Language: Russian. Published: April 11, 2013. Category: Fiction
Давным-давно, во времена, когда драконы еще не истребили богов, жила-была принцесса... Ветерки-добродушные духи воздуха-пересмеивались и сплетничали о красивой смертной девушке, которая-ну и ну-почти не уступает им в искусстве танца. Подслушав разговоры ветерков, cолнечный бог заинтересовался. И послал своего слугу Кайро проследить за девушкой-проверить, так ли она красива, как уверяют ветерки...
Plague
By Elizabeth McCoy
Series: Lord Alchemist. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 8,060. Language: English. Published: January 17, 2013. Category: Fiction
0.75 star(4.75 from 4 reviews)
When sickness comes to the country of Cymelia, alchemists and herb-witches create the healing brews that save lives. But this illness is different; the usual measures have little effect. Master Iathor is his city's best hope to discover a cure – but even with his alchemical skills, the plague is spreading through the city, and amongst his own household... (Plague is a prequel to Herb-Witch.)
All That Glitters
By Elizabeth McCoy
Series: Lord Alchemist. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 94,590. Language: English. Published: September 21, 2012. Category: Fiction
(5.00 from 2 reviews)
Jani, hired to blackmail the Lord Alchemist into disinheriting his "mongrel" heir, Iontho, mistakes said heir for a servant - and Iontho poses as her alchemically-bound minion to uncover her mysterious employer. The travel's wretched, but the company's better than either'd hoped, and young hormones are fully engaged - but can youth and unexpected skills defeat age and treachery? (Mature scenes.)
Recruiting Drive
By Elizabeth McCoy
Series: Kintaran Universe. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 6,750. Language: English. Published: July 10, 2012. Category: Fiction
(5.00 from 1 review)
Coli and her sister have gotten their ship out of hock, but without enough crew, the Choosaraf will slide back into debt. They need a Negotiator to help the merchant clanship recover -- and Coli will have to find one on her own, without her sister guarding her back. Previously published in Fantastic Furry Stories #2 and Best in Show, this is a direct sequel to "Spoonfuls of Sugar."
Snips and Snails
By Elizabeth McCoy
Series: Kintaran Universe. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 6,590. Language: English. Published: May 4, 2012. Category: Fiction
0.75 star(4.67 from 3 reviews)
Haatha Chaas'-Eighth is an Mmsar poet, content to live alone though his brothers all have families of their own. Unfortunately, someone left a clutch of eggs in his back yard, and now he's got to deal with hatchling Mmsar, which are no better than vermin at that age. But one hatchling, despite its lack of sapience, has an intriguing cunning... (Contains possibly-disturbing alien family patterns.)
Queen of Roses
By Elizabeth McCoy
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 103,420. Language: English. Published: April 3, 2012. Category: Fiction
0.75 star(4.83 from 6 reviews)
Sarafina was content to be an accountant, insulated from the public as she kept the numbers behaving. But when the First Daris Bank is bought out, her indenture is sold to a cruise ship and Sarafina is thrust into a job she was never meant for. Now she's dealing with a motley crew, drunkard captain, flirtatious first officer, fire-sale equipment, and worst of all . . . Passengers.
Herb-Wife
By Elizabeth McCoy
Series: Lord Alchemist, Book 2. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 136,900. Language: English. Published: February 24, 2012. Category: Fiction
0.75 star(4.75 from 4 reviews)
The Lord Alchemist must be immune to hostile potions. But in all of Cymelia, there are only three: Iathor, his brother Iasen, and the half-barbarian herb-witch, Kessa. Iathor has secured a betrothal, but his brother has vowed to prevent the marriage - by any means necessary. And Kessa's own dark secrets may sabotage any hope of a happy ending.
Herb-Witch
By Elizabeth McCoy
Series: Lord Alchemist, Book 1. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 124,770. Language: English. Published: February 24, 2012. Category: Fiction
0.75 star(4.80 from 5 reviews)
The Lord Alchemist must be immune to hostile brews. But in all Cymelia, there are only two: Iathor and his feckless brother. Kessa's a half-breed herb-witch, arrested for unintended crimes. When Iathor discovers her immunity, he'll do whatever he must to court her - guilty or not. All they have in common is alchemist's immunity, and an ability to get on each other's nerves. Will it be enough?
Shadow of a Memory
By Elizabeth McCoy
Series: Kintaran Universe. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 3,660. Language: English. Published: December 23, 2011. Category: Fiction
(5.00 from 1 review)
In the universe of the Kintarans, there are tall tales of what lies in the far reaches of space. Some of them may be true... (A sequel to "Wahnt.")
Sweet Phantom
By Elizabeth McCoy
Price: Free! Words: 2,190. Language: English. Published: December 7, 2011. Category: Fiction
(5.00 from 1 review)
The story has been adapted more than once: the mysterious, somewhat murderous, Phantom of the Opera, who tutors a poor chorus girl till she can sing solo upon the stage - and kidnaps her in a fit of jealousy. But what if the Opera-house Ghost really was... dead?
Wahnt
By Elizabeth McCoy
Series: Kintaran Universe. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 9,020. Language: English. Published: October 4, 2011. Category: Fiction
0.5 star(4.50 from 2 reviews)
Kintara Station was once run by a Consortium of clans; now a single Wahn (leader) rules... uneasily. But a clan-leader has hired a notorious privateer as his champion, the shaman sire of Kintara Station's new Wahn has involved himself, and the station - lacking weapons - is a big, fat target for pirates. Previously published in Pawprints, Wahnt contains violence, and is suitable for teens and up.
Uniqueness Counts
By Elizabeth McCoy
Series: Kintaran Universe. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 10,330. Language: English. Published: July 4, 2011. Category: Fiction
(5.00 from 1 review)
Kinahran (Moonfur to humans) and her little sister are determined to make their fortunes and not return to their clanship in defeat. But fortunes require jobs, and two Kintarans with little experience can't be picky. So even if the ship crew includes a certain sensor expert from their past... and even if it's a wild merfah chase... They'll just have to do their best.
Spoonfuls of Sugar
By Elizabeth McCoy
Series: Kintaran Universe. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 10,270. Language: English. Published: June 18, 2011. Category: Fiction
(5.00 from 2 reviews)
Coli-nfaran and Klarin-yal have a problem: their clanship's new leader wants to make the ship into a pirate-hunter instead of a merchant craft. The only way they can save their home is to raise enough money to buy it out from under Daz-Ral. Volunteering as experimental subjects will make enough cash, but why is the job so profitable? It can't be that easy, for so much money...
What Really Matters
By Elizabeth McCoy
Series: Kintaran Universe. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 15,330. Language: English. Published: June 7, 2011. Category: Fiction
(5.00 from 2 reviews)
When the clanship stops at an uninhabited, terrestrial planet, Kinahran and her friends want to play and explore. But a mishap leaves their adult mentor unconscious, and when they try to radio for help, the signal is jammed! Have pirates taken Kinahran's mother and baby sister hostage? Five young Kintarans, alone in the wilderness, must find out what's going on.
The Legend of the Morning Star
By Elizabeth McCoy
Series: Lord Alchemist · Fantasy Folktales. Price: Free! Words: 3,530. Language: English. Published: May 23, 2011. Category: Fiction
0.5 star(4.50 from 4 reviews)
Mortal women have always fascinated gods - and wind-spirits have carried news of a beautiful princess to the sun-god, Allyon. But his servant, sent to investigate, falls in love and defies his master. Narrated by the Wind-priest Ches, this is the story of the Morning Star. (Set in the same universe as "The Bear Prince," this is a fantasy folktale for slightly older ears.)
The Best Revenge
By Elizabeth McCoy
Series: Kintaran Universe. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 4,230. Language: English. Published: May 18, 2011. Category: Fiction
(4.00 from 2 reviews)
When 5-year-old Kinahran breaks her hind leg falling off a crate (she was pushed!), she's stuck in her mother's cabin on their clanship, unable to play all day with her young friends. Intolerable! And it's all her cousin's fault! But she's got a computer, a screwdriver, and a plan... for the Best Revenge.
Leaping Lizards
By Elizabeth McCoy
Series: Kintaran Universe. Price: Free! Words: 7,580. Language: English. Published: May 18, 2011. Category: Fiction
(4.00 from 2 reviews)
When her clanship's sensors are damaged, Captain Klarin-yal hires an expensive human expert to effect repairs. Unfortunately, the human is afraid of reptiles. More unfortunately, during the explosion, a pregnant reptilian pet escaped into the ship... Now it's up to Kinahran, a young Kintaran, to find the pet before the human flees in disgust, leaving the clanship crippled.
The Bear Prince
By Elizabeth McCoy
Series: Lord Alchemist · Fantasy Folktales. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 6,240. Language: English. Published: February 15, 2011. Category: Fiction
(4.00 from 3 reviews)
The Bear Prince is a collection of three folktales from a fictional universe. When small magics are real, what stories do parents tell their children at night? What tales do storytellers spin, so their listeners will toss them a few coins? Find out, in "The Bear Prince," "The Princess and the Sheep's Wool," and "The Jewel of Moon and Starlight."

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Smashwords book reviews by Elizabeth McCoy

  • The Weight of Blood, (The Half-Orcs, Book 1) on April 19, 2010
    star star star
    A bloodily-fluffy read, and I bought the second book already. I found the grim-to-goofy shifts a little jarring, but still cared about what was happening to the characters. My sole complaint is that the editing -- mainly in punctuation -- started breaking down noticeably after the first few chapters. It's not horribly garbled (indeed, many people less editing-obsessed than I might not notice!) but it could use a pedantic punctuator's editing pass. (And horses are guided by reins. Reigns are what kings do.)
  • The Cost of Betrayal, (The Half-Orcs, Book 2) on June 03, 2010
    (no rating)
    Mr. Daglish could still use a copyeditor with a good grasp of punctuation (when someone asks a question, use a question mark within the quotes, and not a comma, before the "s/he asked" part), and the story drags a bit in near the middle with extremely detailed and graphic fight scenes. It's also showing its D&D roots more strongly than the first book (which could be a bonus or a drawback, depending on how one feels about D&D!). If you enjoy extremely detailed, gory, and graphic battles, though, you won't be disappointed! Characterization is still fluffy, though with enough detail that the characters rarely feel interchangeable, and very D&D in feel -- the world rates life cheaply, and forgiveness comes easy to main characters unless it personally affects them. For me, this is jarring; the detailed combat makes me want more emotional nuance and detail as well. However, Harruq's emotional crisis point (when he becomes [spoiler]) is well done; I hope that his redemption is achieved by his deeds, and not by "suffering enough" on its own. Qurrah, busily digging his own grave, has two moments of Plot-Required Stupidity (genre-savvy tip: when framed, the real criminal should be kept alive to testify), but the rest of the brothers' conflicts are within their characters and motivations. It ends on not-quite-a-cliffhanger-but-close. I'm awaiting the next book -- will be looking for it after I finish the review, in fact -- but I'm probably going to be price-sensitive on it.
  • In the Line of Duty on Sep. 24, 2010
    star star star star
    Short and straightforward, an entertaining SF story that has roots in classic SF (I've been reading old Andre Norton SF on Project Gutenberg, so that's what springs to mind), done with bioengineered nonhuman races. We are the aliens, and -- as this story shows -- we are still what makes us human. I look forward to more short stories (and possibly novellas?) in this setting.
  • Dark Lighthouse on Oct. 03, 2010
    star star star
    This book is a useful addition to the Stardancer stories -- another snapshot in the universe whose overarching theme is humanity, as seen through the lens of humanity's bioengineered creations. In this one, the focus is another aspect of how the Pelted and their creators relate to one another. The setting is, obviously, detailed beyond what we see in the story. Likewise the characters -- especially Taylitha, the viewpoint character -- are also far more detailed than the story can show. The theme, the attraction between human and Pelted, is a powerful one. Unfortunately, the story is too darn short. More unfortunately, I don't only mean that in the "I don't want to stop reading!" way (though I also mean that...). The shortness of the story is a significant flaw, because the characters don't have enough space to unfold their complexities and nuances, that are only hinted at. I'm sure that there are fully-formed characters there, but I don't get to see enough to know them. The pace is too fast; does what happens happen because of hasty choices, or are the choices driven by deep-seated character motivations? Even the set-up suffers because there's not enough narrative time to discern if the attraction is for an evening, a longer pair-bonding, or if those involved aren't even sure which. I reiterate, Dark Lighthouse is a useful addition to the universe; the background-building of the past-that-created-the-present, as well as hints about the society, are fascinating. And the price is a bargain! But the powerful theme is weakened by the brevity, turning what could have been an excellent or great story into a merely good one -- a supportive work more than a standalone. If you liked In the Line of Duty, then this short story is definitely worthwhile.
  • Second on Oct. 05, 2010
    star star star star star
    Well worth the price! This novella is where the author's abilities really shine, with the story unfolding at a good pace, the characters showing their complexities, and many (though not all) of the worldbuilding details laid out in interesting ways. There are also some extremely good lines, including one (about aliens and aunts; you'll know it when you see it) that I may yet copy so I can wave it at my friends. "Second" is set up as a "man against nature" story, which quickly *also* becomes "man against man," with a dash of "man against himself." (Okay, Pelted aren't technically human, but I'm an English Major. Work with me here.) The primary antagonist has hints of depth -- which remain hints. There is no easy redemption here. There is no easy demonizing. The ways of dealing with the antagonist... can be right *and* wrong at the same time. I want to talk more about this, and about other parallels, but I don't want to spoil this, either. Suffice it to say that there is a lot of stuff that could be talked about -- it's layered. All this *and* an uplifting ending? *Well* worth the price. My only quibble is that some of the various aliens and bioengineered Pelted could use internal art, but I'm just greedy for more of the author/artist's work.
  • Spots the Space Marine: Defense of the Fiddler on Oct. 09, 2010
    star star star star star
    I read this piece by piece when it was being written, in bite-sized gulps. It starts out seeming a bit abrupt, the world painted tersely, starkly: a warren of corridors and bunkrooms. The style matches the setting, or perhaps vice versa. It becomes natural -- and even more-so when you can get 25 of the episodes all at once, bang-bang-bang. I don't generally like military-focus SF. I bounced off of David Weber's Honor Harrington series pretty quickly, for instance. It's not H. Beam Piper's military SF I re-read. But this? I read it, and re-read it with pleasure. I figure that's worth a fifth star. *grin* All this, and it's free! Grab it.
  • Money for Sorrow, Made Joy on Oct. 13, 2010
    star star star star
    Unlike the Stardancer stories, by the same author, the Jokka stories are not about finding humanity in non-human guise. The Jokka are *not humans*, nor even a funhouse mirror to humanity. They are aliens, with a complex biology that leaves them shackled by their genders -- where humans are a complicated and thus far unknowable amalgam of biological inclination and socialization, the Jokka are defined by what their gender eventually becomes. When a full third of the species must risk insanity -- and succumb, soon or late -- lest the species die out... It makes for a harsh world, where few stories can end in anything but bittersweetness; the Jokka are born to an uncertain tragedy, and grab victory and joy where they can. "Money for Sorrow, Made Joy" is (obviously) one of the bittersweets. It is, indeed, the story that nearly defines the Jokka for me, containing necessity, sacrifice, determination, and, yes, joy. I believe it's an excellent place to start discovering the Jokka and their world. My one complaint -- aside from a terribly human tendency to want a bit more sweet to the bitter, heh -- is that I don't think there are *more* stories for ke Ekanoi and ke Ledin, and I would like to see more of their travels.
  • Freedom, Spiced and Drunk on Oct. 13, 2010
    star star star star star
    Another piece of the Jokka story, told in swift bites of time, almost a montage sequence -- no wasted words, no wasted scenes, everything building to the decision. There are many ways that Jokka face becoming, or being, female, and this is a secret way -- and a selfish one. And yet, having seen what it has seen, what else can Kediil choose? As I've mentioned in other reviews, of other stories in this setting, the Jokka are not human; there are few parallels to human questions involving sex and gender. One can only visit, half-in an alien's skin, and see how the world and their biology shape them.
  • Unspeakable on Oct. 17, 2010
    star star star star
    Unspeakable sets itself a hard goal: to draw the human reader into an alien race enough to see the horror and revulsion (and fascination) for things that, to most humans, would elicit a "...that was supposed to be shocking?" For me, it does not *quite* succeed; I do not have a visceral frisson of the illicit, of the forbidden, upon discovering the stories of Ke Pedina, the clay-keeper of naughty stories. (Which is what would've gotten a fifth star from me.) However, I am drawn in and intrigued by trying to understand the culture that deems certain of Ke Pedina's stories to be not just naughty, but outright forbidden. In the end, it's revealed *why* some of those stories were so very disquieting to Tanel, and both the individual motivations, and the racial/cultural ones become more clear. (There is one itty-bitty jarring note; the use of "okay," which seems far too human as it slides past alien fangs. I am sure that it's a translation of a similar Jokkad word, of course, but the Jokka are so very different from humans that it tweaked me. So, out of all the words in this, about two of them bug me.) I'd have dropped a buck for this one, easy -- but it's free! Quick, come and see before the clay-keeper realizes the story's been left out where anyone can read it... =)
  • His Neuter Face on Oct. 19, 2010
    star star star star star
    This is... well, a Jokka love story, in a way. (If you look, you can even see a few of the tropes for human ones!) It's also a story of Jokka who take the sweet from the bitter -- by luck and by work both -- and is therefore one of the most cheerful of the lot that I've read, thus far. (The Jokka's world is a harsh one, if you haven't read any of the others.) The ending may be trying to wrap things up just a leeeeeetle too hard -- I'd probably ding it half-a-star for that -- but is otherwise reasonably satisfying. (I say "reasonably" because I want more! Not because the story is flawed for want of length, or brimming overmuch with loose ends, but because I want to know more of Tafeth, Anel, and Sunife, and house Keloi -- there's a lot of potential for complications and growth there.) So. Good story. Lots of stars. Sunife is a scene-stealer, and it's good to see the middle ground that some of the other stories haven't shown thus far.
  • Fire in the Void on Oct. 19, 2010
    star star star star star
    A return to tragedy, if perhaps second-hand, and a charlatan fortune-teller whose usual good business sense (and other good sense) deserts him -- to his disquiet, as his predictions are more accurate than he expects. I quite like how there's a mix of his "reading the client" *and* whispers of something More. No, really, coincidence. (Keep telling yourself that, Keshul. Maybe you're right. Honest.) This is a very short story, and relatively little happens. The narrator, Keshul, carries it strongly, though. I know there are more Keshul stories, and I anticipate them with, er, anticipation. Lots of it.
  • Alysha's Fall on Oct. 21, 2010
    star star star star star
    This is, as the book itself says, a collection of short stories that theme together more as sections in a larger work. Despite the name, it is the story of Alysha's rise -- through darkness, desperation, and awful choices. In some ways, it's obviously one of the author's earlier works; the prose is lush, but occasionally flirts with "lavender" (though never quite reaching "purple prose" status). Some of the plot complications are perhaps simplified or slightly exaggerated. On the other hand, most characters are rock-solid, and carry the plot firmly. The antagonists are not so well-sketched as in later works (especially "Second"), but they're quite good enough to fill their roles. It does have Disturbing Stuff going on. One of the tags is "prostitution" and it's not the happy-romanticized-fully consenting kind. I'm *not* criticizing the work for this, but it's worth knowing in case of personal triggers. It's not graphically graphic, but the fades to black are there less to hide, and more to avoid dwelling on ugliness more than is absolutely necessary for character and plot. There are some minor technical flaws: in the conversion from a prior form, almost all instances of the word "field" have turned into "meld," and a few "fl" combinations (flee, flew) became a "n" (nee, new). I wouldn't mention it if I hadn't spent a few moments puzzling over the use of "meld" in a particular sentence, and wondering why it hadn't been defined as a world-specific usage. I've mentioned the minor weaknesses -- but I'm giving this one five stars, because even with those weaknesses, the thematic stuff going on is good, there are some unexpected developments (or possibly un-developments), there are expected developments that affirm the narrative we know in our hearts, and it wraps up with a quite satisfying conclusion. As a story arc, it has a good, solid structure, with satisfying emotional tones -- and it's not too long, nor too short. It sketches a world that is both alien and familiar. And, ha, it still contains the underlying themes: humanity, through the furred lens of the Pelted, is still human, with all that means.
  • Stormfront on Oct. 21, 2010
    star star star
    Despite me giving only 3 stars for this one, this is actually a *good* introduction to the universe -- the viewpoint character is a human, and seeing his Pelted crewmembers through his eyes provides some of the context that the others may lack. There's a bit of space battle. There's an exciting twist. There's some universe introduction and building. It's told smoothly, without huge infodumps. I'm curling up and anticipating something nice and juicy with the buildup... And it stops, and I fall splat on my face and wail, "But... Where's the REST of it?!?!" If there is later a sequel, this would probably pull up to four stars, easy, and likely even a full five. (I can't edit reviews, I think, so I won't be able to adjust it for any sequels.) On its own, it rings a little hollow as a story. But it's a freebie, and it's a good introduction to the universe if you haven't read the others, and it fills out some universe-building and technology if you *have* read the others, so it's perfectly worthwhile to pick up.
  • A Trifold Spiral Knot on Oct. 24, 2010
    star star star star
    This has some truly excellent description, and a very... *mythic* feel to it. It winds up the plot arc, it does what it sets out to do. I am, however, left feeling just a little unsatisfied -- this is very much a tidbit for understanding the Jokka and their world. It's... an ingredient, not a whole dish, complete in itself. I think that it will take subsequent stories before the themes raised in this one are truly illuminated -- and before the banquet is complete. It's a very nice ingredient, though -- one that may even be vital to the rest of the meal -- and the color imagery alone is worth the price of admission!
  • Butterfly on Dec. 11, 2010
    star star star star
    This story is, ultimately, pretty satisfying. It's primarily a look into the Hinichi culture, and their interesting religious sects -- something which has, really, echos of Barbara Hambly's well-researched (and sadly out of print) _Search the Seven Hills_/_The Quirnal Hill Affair_ book. A lot could be done with this in the future... But not in this short story, because throwing everything and the kitchen sink into it about Hinichi culture would make it far too cluttered. My one quibble is that the ending scene has a somewhat-too-abrupt cut into it. I think I see what the author's trying to do with it -- it's a twist, and a logical one -- but it jolted me. Still, this is a good, if quiet story about culture and beliefs. (I do wonder _why_ the main characters' mother married who she did, though!)
  • Tears on Dec. 18, 2010
    star star star
    This is a sweet story, about how what we see in the mirror can shape us -- whether what we see is lies or truth. It's a deep subject, treated very... quickly and a bit pat; it may seem too easy and glib. On the other hand, it's also extremely touching and well-written, and offers a lot of hope about how a change in viewpoint can change... *everything*, for the better. I suspect that what the reader brings to the story will influence what the reader gets from it, more than in many stories. And, as always, it's a look at the fascinating universe in which the Pelted live, and that's never a bad thing!
  • The Elements of Freedom on Feb. 20, 2011
    star star star star
    It took me some time to write this review, and I had to re-read it. This is a story that not only rewards re-reading, but almost requires it, I think. It is, at the core, a story about an epiphany. And epiphanies are tricky. They burst in, all at once, without -- for the person experiencing it -- any warning or foreshadowing at all. BOOM! And your head is turned inside-out and everything changes even if it's still the same. To set this up so the reader experiences the epiphany without it being a "tomato surprise" or "where did that come from" is *tricky.* For me, Elements of Freedom didn't quite manage that. So my first read, when I didn't know what was going to happen... I felt it didn't quite work, for me. I wasn't going, "OH!" so much as, "Oh. Okay. Makes sense, I guess." Re-reading, knowing what's being led up to, allows one to notice more of the delicate foreshadowing (a little *too* delicate for me, first time through) and therefore it's more effective. So overall, I'd call it 3.5 stars -- 3 first time, 4 second time. And, whatever my reaction to the epiphany, this is another piece of worldbuilding in the universe of the Pelted, and that's worth dropping a dollar into the jar just on its own.
  • Lady Ice on May 25, 2011
    star star star
    A very impressive experiment: a graphic novel in epub format! (Well, and others -- I grabbed the epub one.) If I were able to set font-size by-book and not globally, to shrink the license boilerplate text, it would have fit my iPad perfectly. As it was, I had a few pages where I was switching back and forth to read the full word-balloon -- but considering I like a very large default font for reading, that's m'own fault. For the plot, it was a nice diversion. There are a few manga-style jumps, where the reader has to work more to figure out what's going on between panels, and I would have liked to know more about the widower's former family and what happened to them. I fear that I also grumbled at people being glad that someone'd stopped being a warrior; why can't someone be a warrior *and* a lady, eh? Still, worth checking out.
  • The Blade to Your Hand on May 30, 2011
    star star star
    Mazalaen is a woman (and a lioness) who has sacrificed nearly all her self-worth to survive, hiding what few scraps of ethics she has beneath the exterior of a vicious pirate. When she sees salvation in the form of the Princess Qethryn, she leaps for it -- seeing a person greater than she has become, reaching for something bright that she can no longer dream of being without help. Saving the princess' life (twice!), Maz sacrifices her past to seal her fealty, seeking only to be a weapon to serve her new mistress. It's heady stuff -- redemption, fealty, submission (in the platonic sense, but not shallow) -- but the English major in me cries out: "But but but Maz has only saved Qethryn's _life_! How can the wheel come 'round, the story come full-circle, if she cannot also save Qethryn's _soul_?" It is, however, possible that this is just me and my BA in English. If that's the case, add another star, for the only other (albeit related!) flaw is that I wanted to spend a novella's length or longer with the princess and the pirate, and not leave them behind after a mere short story.
  • Stone Moon, Silk Scarves on June 24, 2011
    star star star star
    The only reason this is not five stars is because I have the urge to turn the author upside down and shake her until the rest of the book falls out. I mean, this is a good short story/novella! • It follows the structure of a story, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. It a societal sequel to _Worth of a Shell_ without requiring _Worth_ to understand what's going on. (Though grabbing one of the free Jokka stories first might be useful.) • It has a *fabulous* narrator, Pathen, who is part policeman, part enforcer, and part accountant. And all... Hm. I won't say snarky. He's not snarky in the way that current urban fantasy/paranormal romance narrators are snarky. But he's not really happy in his job and he's got a lovely background grump on -- while at the same time caring for people. Who he's not entirely supposed to be caring for. Hence the grump! • Parts of the plot are predictable to the reader, without quite feeling Pathen is stupid for not figuring it out sooner -- we don't go, "You idiot!" but instead giggle to ourselves in anticipation of Pathen's expression when he finds out. (It's a great expression.) • It builds a world and lets us see what Roika has wrought (and geeeeeee, you think he's holding a *grudge*? against *two whole genders*?), making a Jokkad Empire. And the trains -- if they had trains, which they don't yet -- would *totally* run on time. And, at the same time as it gives a perfectly good ending, it's also a case of "BUT WHAT HAPPENS NEXT??" So. Buy the story. First-off, it's good; every star is fairly-won! And secondly, if enough of us buy it, we can all get together and hold up little symbolic representations of the author, turn them upside down, and shake them till the rest of the nice, thick novel falls out.
  • Songs From a Conch Shell Whistle on June 25, 2011
    star star star star star
    My usual plaint of "there's more story here" is still a quiet background refrain (and, whaddya know, there's another story to read at some point!), but it's a *quiet* refrain. So. We've got aliens. And we've got tradition vs. stagnation vs. survival. And we've got people having to notice things and make changes to survive. We've got what's clearly a rich oral tradition for Living Life. We've also got some alien words which are not handed over in a Glossary, but have to be gotten in context. I like that. (And we've got three genders again, hee! But a very different sort of 3 genders than the Jokka. Though the English major in me now wants to do a compare-and-contrast of the two species, with their apparent birthplace of their respective alien seas, and their need to adapt to environmental change or die...) Right, where was I? Ah, yes. Tsipia-seekers. Very alien, without being high-tech, but also without being incomprehensible to the human readers. Good story!
  • Living the Moment on June 26, 2011
    star star star star star
    Okay, this is a great story, featuring the same species as (but without being a direct sequel to) "Songs from a Conch Shell Whistle." Details to follow. The flaws: there are two or three references to brand-name stuff that feel slightly out of place with the implication that This Is The Future. I'm not quite sure how Future this is, and it's clearly AU Future anyway, but I got a giggle from each of those. (The narrator's camera is supposed to be an expensive film camera, not digital, and there's a comment about "training the cord from the shutter release" -- must be antique, if it's not got a cordless remote!) Now that the totally tiny "this made me arch an eyebrow and/or giggle" stuff is out of the way, the rest? It's great. The narrator, Simon Voar, is a jaded photographer who works to capture "The Moment" on film. He's nearly fetishizing it, but in an emotional way. And a career of photographing humans isn't giving him the high anymore, so he's off to check out aliens. As a photographer, Simon has an attention to detail, an eye for color and composition, that make the descriptions rich. Vivid. He doesn't stint on non-visual descriptions, either -- the alien planet's air is right up there with things he notices. As a person, Simon needs to learn a lesson about emotions and about himself. And the Tsipia-alien to teach it is Omene, a married male who has a knack for guessing the meanings of human expressions, body-language, and tone of voice, even when the human himself is iffier about what he means. He takes an interest in Simon, and wants to teach Simon how to be an artist in the Tsipia-alien way of art -- because Simon is missing something crucial, to Omene's way of thinking. (Simon *is* missing something, and Simon knows it too, if only unconsciously.) Does he succeed? That would be a spoiler. The ending is not pat, not tidy, not neat, and it satisfies me quite well. (For those concerned -- while there are Adult Situations, so to speak, and discussion of the Tsipia-seeker reproductive and recreational biology, there is not a shred of direct "pr0n." Kissing, yes.)
  • Anadi Dolls on July 05, 2011
    star star star star
    There's a twist in the ending, actually -- which was somewhat unexpected, though perhaps I should've expected it. Definitely interesting. Jekun is a complex creature.
  • Season's Meaning on July 09, 2011
    star star star star
    Basically, this is The Holiday Episode, much as you'd find with many a SF series on TV. This is not a complaint! It's a bit of culture, a bit of biology, a bit of lifting of spirits, and a bit of small-scale adventure --and the whole of it is a very nice read. (Also, now I want pretzels. The description of them, though short and hardly a major plot point, is making my mouth water.)
  • Unknowable on July 20, 2011
    star star star star
    I am stingy with stars; stories have to work for each one! And "Unknowable" earns each of its quite fairly, and probably a half-star beyond. I can't give spoilers, save that the invader of the blurb is a fascinating person, and the interactions between the others are a fascinating Venn diagram. It's a story of emotions more than High Adventure, and Tanel must come to grips with the wounds within his heart, and... that's fairly satisfying. As a side-comment, bead-workers will probably enjoy some of the descriptions, though they're glancing, of Tanel's work.
  • The Perfect Totem on July 21, 2011
    star star star star star
    Okay, you might laugh out loud, or you might just snicker to yourself, but it's funny. If you have ever had to deal with an ungrateful clientele... Yeah, you'll probably like this one. I'm still snickering to myself, couple days after I finally read it. (And yup, there's not much else one can say without spoiling the punchline.)
  • The Smell of Intelligence on Aug. 10, 2011
    star star star star
    Okay, this is cool. This is also Bits Of Creepy, that... I can point to, and I can even point to some of _why_ it's creepy, but other bits I can't actually define the creepy-source. This has... some interesting application for Jokka who have ever been female, and possibly some explanations for why it's bad to breed a Jokka before her second Turning. I need to re-read it, though, and work on exactly why [plot element] is going to help with the perfumes, when it seems to also be fogging the narrator's gift with scent. Even if I didn't somehow mis-read, though, it's a very small loose end -- and this story... Drat, I just had to backspace over a paragraph of spoilers. Right. There's stuff here that, if it ever got addressed by Jokka of scientific mindset, could _seriously_ change the race. Maybe that's the creepy part, actually; no one quite comes out and thinks about the full meanings of it, because it is Just That D*** Disturbing to the Status Quo.
  • The Temporary Earl on Aug. 26, 2011
    star star star star
    This is a combination murder mystery and romance. The characters are really quite entertaining, overall, and for the most part, the off-again-on-again emotional connection of our protagonists feels pretty reasonable. The mystery part doesn't quite follow all the mystery tropes (mystery buffs may be disappointed), from what I know of mystery tropes, but it's being an unexpectedly deep backset to a romance, with romancy tropes -- and those seeking romance tropes should be satisfied, methinks. I do quibble at the scene where the readers are given the who-dun-it identity; I wish there'd been some other way to get that data across. But it's pretty minor and a personal quibble; I just don't like "spoilers" for mysteries, even when the author's doing the "spoiling"! My main complaint is the last two chapters, where the emotional half of the situation wraps up in a way that is kind of... syrupy-sweet. I think that Vanessa's personality was shifted to something overly traditional, instead of pleasingly tart. (I liked her attitude, darnit! Why shouldn't a fulfilled romance still have a few prickles amidst the roses?) Still, that's two chapters out of many, and since I can't do half-stars, I'll err on the side of more, rather than less.
  • Pantheon on Aug. 26, 2011
    star star star star star
    Fun! Fluffy, perhaps, but decidedly fun. There's a bit of Old Earth History, there's an interesting little game (if it doesn't exist, perhaps it should!), there's more Pelted customs... And a gamble and prayer to the gods! Spoil the ending? Nahhhhhhh!
  • A Touch of Night on Sep. 01, 2011
    star star star star star
    This is a very fun book. And, despite some presentational flaws, I'm rounding up five stars. (I'm an evil, evil stickler for copy-editing (watch the typos breed in my text now!), so dock half a star for typos.) The flaws: 1: There are a fair smattering of comma-errors, and one search-and-replace that turned "ramrod" to "raMr.od" -- probably because "Mr Name" is appropriate for UK/Regency spelling, and "Mr. Name" is required by American custom. There are a few other typos, but it's hardly unreadable -- and I am terribly touchy about such things. Other people are likely to be less-bothered. (And there is always a chance that the author might upload a repaired file; ebooks are handy that way!) 2: I quibble about the cover art. The dragon should be far more noble, much larger, and without the smirk. This is one of the times when the book should not be judged by the cover. So. Ignore the cover art, and cope with the typos, and develop a big grin. Pride and Prejudice meets were-creatures, from wolves to bears to dogs to dragons, and while I enjoyed the original P&P -- I do admit, adding were-dragons has quite improved it for me! No only do Miss Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy have to cope with the usual sorts of misunderstandings of the era, but certain misunderstandings are compounded by the need to speak around delicate matters, which permits people to assume... quite different things, to the amusement of the reader. Add in a dash of Noble Selflessness even when the true misunderstandings are resolved, and the romance is quite properly complicated. Also, since were-creatures' clothing does not change with them, there's a certain amount of "fan-service" -- though appropriately glossed! (No purple prose paroxysms of Paranormal P... er, Romance, though the admiring of a well-muscled body is perhaps not entirely period.) All this, and currently a freebie? Download it! It's an entertaining read.
  • Argo on Oct. 14, 2011
    star star star
    I'll be honest; this wasn't the story I was expecting and it may well be suffering by half a star to a star because of it. The protagonist, Mira, isn't allowed to find out things that the readers are and isn't allowed to change the world she's in. So as the fluffy short story I was wanting... It disappointed. As a Twilight Zone experience? It's perfect. It sets up a world, it sets up some spooky contradictions, and then it rips the rug out from under everything, leaving the *reader* viewing everything differently. Read it in that mindset, of not-quite-horror-but-disquieting, and you'll probably find it pretty darn enjoyable. Typos/Grammar issues: Minimal. I think I found one or two awkward bits that stood out, but I find those in everything because I'm a pedant. Fellow pedants should breathe relatively easy on that front.
  • Argo on Oct. 14, 2011
    star star star
    I'll be honest; this wasn't the story I was expecting and it may well be suffering by half a star to a star because of it. The protagonist, Mira, isn't allowed to find out things that the readers get to find out and isn't allowed to change the world she's in. So as the fluffy short story I was wanting... It disappointed. As a Twilight Zone experience? It's perfect. It sets up a world, it sets up some spooky contradictions, and then it rips the rug out from under everything, leaving the *reader* viewing everything differently. Read it in that mindset, of not-quite-horror-but-disquieting, and you'll probably find it pretty darn enjoyable. Typos/Grammar issues: Minimal. I think I found one or two awkward bits that stood out, but I find those in everything because I'm a pedant. Fellow pedants should breathe relatively easy on that front.
  • Even the Wingless on Oct. 22, 2011
    star star star star
    (A style note: Foreign words that come into the Chatcaavan language are marked with /slashes/, not italics. This works better, for me, in the text emails that go between Lisinthir and his Alliance contact (when the whole thing is in italics _and_ has slashes) -- but it's a deliberate style, not a sloppy formatting error. (I do think it would have worked even better in an entirely different font, but e-readers in general can be touchy about that.) ) Now, to the story. It's not a happy feelgood fluffy story, obviously. A lot of the details are left to the imagination, but in the first two chapters we find out that one of the antagonists is a sadist who thinks murder's a fine thing to do when with a female. Basically, the Chatcaavans -- draconic, mammalian humanoids -- have a violent, status-conscious, misogynistic society that makes Ferengi look egalitarian, and Klingons look refined. Into this mess comes Lisinthir, a touch-empath of a long-lived race that has a courtly society with shadings of meanings in the language that... Well, they're kinda space-elves, okay? Tall, lovely, delicate, overly-civilized, and you'd expect them to faint if they stubbed their toes or broke a nail. Suffice it to say that Lisinthir is not like his overly-civilized kinfolk -- though even he is not untouched by the morass of machismo, non-consent or dubious consent beddings, and general "wingless freaks exist to be played with and/or killed" attitudes that he finds. And he's even going to become even less-civilized before this is all done. His one ally is the Slave Queen, who barely thinks of herself as a "person." His target is the Emperor, and the Emperor's two main commanders, Second and Third (Chatcaavans think names are namby-pamby; Titles are where it's at for anyone of importance). Things get... complicated. Especially when Ambassador Lisinthir realizes that his goal, to make the Chatcaavans respect the Alliance, could backfire hugely if it succeeds. A minor flaw is that some of the darker scenes are _not_ spelled out at all explicitly. Most of the time that doesn't matter, but the impact of the first time the Emperor physically asserts his dominance over Ambassador Lisinthir... is lessened, being pretty much dealt with in one sentence. Considering the different body-structures and the empathy thing, abruptly glossing over the situation was disconcerting; there was no real way to grasp how Lisinthir was coping, or what he was using to keep himself from breaking as just about any other member of his species would have broken. One detail of interest which is absolutely never stated outright, but only implied and hinted around, is that though the Chatcaavans are not overtly living in a "fallen technolgoy" state (their tech is hidden, but quite impressive when it shows up), they _are_ living in a "fallen culture." The remnants of it are in the beauty of their gardens, their architecture, even some of their "living statue" bondage; the Slave Queen speaks of their history, before strength came to mean "must destroy so others know you're strong." So while they don't need to reclaim their technological heritage... They do need to reclaim their social legacy. And that's going to require empathy. Good thing there's a touch-empath on call, eh?
  • Broken Chains on Oct. 23, 2011
    star star star star star
    A teacher with a sorrowful secret (or two!), a student with a crush, and a lot of history of the Pelted. The bits of biology delighted me all out of proportion. Sounds simple, and there's very little "Exciting! Action!", but very rewarding for fans of the universe and fans of student-teacher interactions (not just the one with the crush, but in general). The landscape of the school is also described vividly, so fans of nature will be happy, too.
  • Precious Things on Nov. 11, 2011
    star star star
    It's a story we know: two lonely people meeting at the holidays. It's also got tidbits of information about the universe of the Pelted, of course, and one of the many takes they have on a Winter Holiday (I like it!), so it's worthwhile for those of us who'd really like to take a vacation there. But the plot is a nice, light, feel-good holiday plot -- a bit fluffy if one wants something to chew on, but perfect when you're running around during the actual holidays and need to grab a moment of peace.
  • A Rosary of Stones and Thorns on Nov. 15, 2011
    star star star star
    As with all books, what the reader brings to the reading will influence what the reader feels the book is about. I am pretty darn sure that the author didn't intend some of *my* readings -- there's a certain character I just wanted to drop an anvil on, plain and simple, with no sympathy for that sort of behavior -- but I enjoyed it anyway, so I'd say that's a win. I don't have much experience with Christian-oriented books; I mostly avoid them, being someone who tends to check "Other" on the appropriate box, and who got enough of being preached at when growing up. However, this book, though it deals with angels and priests, is *not* one I'd want to avoid. The elements of spirituality are inclusive, not excluding (unlike many of the people who preached at me when I was a kid). So even if "religious" elements might turn you off... try a sample. These are not traditional angels, being neither greeting-card-pale nor inhumanly stern. These are not traditional demons; they are neither malevolent nor anti-heroes. And the grackle... Well, bring your own experiences to the reading, and see what you come away with. Me, I came away with a lot of enjoyment.
  • The Snow Maiden, or the Case with the Holiday Blues on Dec. 22, 2011
    star star star star star
    This is the second Winter Holiday story that MCA Hogarth has written, and where the first was a fairly predictable, fluffy, feel-good story (perfectly good when one is feeling frazzled by the holidays!), this is... Well, it has a happy ending, but the path to it is, for me, rather less predictable. And it's got the telepathic xeno-therapists this time, giving a richer sense of people and not just the setting. It's the price of a (cheap!) hot chocolate, and is tasty, tasty cookies for the mind. Give yourself a present...
  • Spots the Space Marine: Letters on March 14, 2012
    star star star star
    This is not a stand-alone. If you don't read Spots the Space Marine: Defense of the Fiddler, then you won't have a *clue* what is going on. It says "epilogue" and it means it. It's also not really a wrapping up of loose ends, though it does that a bit -- it leaves some rather important ones dangling. Now, do I want to chase after the author with a foam sword for a sequel for this, or for "Worth of a Shell"... Decisions, decisions! If you enjoyed Defense of the Fiddler, you'll want this.
  • The Emperor's Edge (a high fantasy mystery in an era of steam) on March 06, 2013
    star star star star
    Feels like a first novel, & I'm enough of a punctuation pedant to wince now and then (plus: grisly, not grizzly!), but the dialogue is generally natural & the characters are fun. Some aspects of the plot/interactions feel simpler than is "realistic," which contributes to "first novel" feel. The action scenes, however, seem well-done -- not over-detailed, and no gratuitous thews. (Despite one character's wishes, probably!) There's a goodly number of amusing lines in it, which contributes to the overall "light" feel despite a high body count (mostly spear-carriers). I would bet other fans of Bujold's /Cordelia's Honor/ would find this an entertaining (if with fluffier feel) read. Usefully, while it does have a set-up for the rest of the series (of course!), it's not a frustrating cliffhanger. Always appreciated!
  • Pearl in the Void (Stone Moon Trilogy 2) on April 01, 2013
    star star star star star
    This is the sequel to _The Worth of a Shell_, which -- if people go back and look -- had me threatening to turn the author upside down and shake till the sequel fell out. Well, it finally fell out, hooray! ...and it's book 2 of a trilogy. *facepalm* But hey, we have progress! There are some motivation-spoilers in this review, but I tried to mark them below. Sorry about the incoherencies. I'm kind of excited! So, not only is this a sequel to Shell, it's also a sequel to "Fire in the Void". The narrator for Pearl is the same as Fire's: Keshul, a charlatan seer who isn't always as fake as he'd like to be. Keshul doesn't want to believe in the Void (a god or ur-spirit of at least one Jokka religion), and he doesn't want to believe he's a prophet with the real ability to foresee the future (and/or hear the decisions of the Void...), and he's about to have a Very Bad Day. Lots of them, really. In fact, just about everything he ever knew and loved is going to be ripped away from him, he's going to be handed a task which he really doesn't want, and it's going to be a long time before he gets even a sniff of the good life again. ***We now pause this review because there are going to be some implicit spoilers for motivations. The Spoiler-sensitive should now avert their eyes, please!*** (Oh, for a cut-tag for Reviews!) See, he's going to run into Roika -- remember Roika? All male, all ego, all control-freak? Yeeeeaaaaah, about that... So, that's Emperor Roika to you, these days. Roika has a dream, a dream of Jokka not, y'know, dying off. Physically, anyway. Emotionally? Spiritually? Who cares about that stuff! Roika, you're a control-freak jerk, and your little biases against neuters are going to be a real problem for you later... Unfortunately, Roika has indeed identified a problem -- and one that is also at the root of why his little Survival Of The Species At All Costs arrangement is also doomed in the form he's created. The problem is this: Jokka have three sexes. Jokka can, and frequently do, change between them at least once and sometimes twice (so a Jokka could potentially be all three in its lifetime). Fertile Jokka (male and female) are at risk of mind-death when under stress. The females tend to be particularly fragile. And therefore any Jokka should know, "That could be me, losing my mind in childbirth, had I not turned male/neuter." Their empathy is *killing* them, because they're loathe to be the ones breeding (go re-read _Worth of a Shell_), and they're loathe to breed to even replacement levels, since it's not fun to breed with a brain-damaged female, and when one survives a birthing with her mind intact, risking mind-death again is scary for all concerned... But Roika's empire, based on Male supremacy at the expense of Neuters and Females, is also forgetting this aspect -- possibly because Roika was always a Male, just as Dlane was always Female and Thenet was always Neuter. But many-to-most other Jokka will Change; the males may be "on top," but they know their childhood companions might become neuter slaves, or female wombs-on-feet... Or that they themselves might change in a second puberty. This... is not a recipe for a stable, sex-linked caste system, no matter how hard they try to indoctrinate the children in their creches. And it's up to Keshul to figure a way out of this mess, before the empire comes down around their heads, whether for the reasons of rot at the core, the mortality of a mere Male, or the pressure of the rebellious lot who dislike being micromanaged even when species survival is at stake. Indeed, the tension between individual dignity and species survival is very strong in this book... And Keshul is the Void-chosen rope between. Also included at the end is "Stone Moon, Silk Scarves" -- a short story about an enforcer for Roika's empire. If you've already got that short story, you won't have to change files to read it. If you don't already have it... now you do, and it's important, because Pathen is going to take over our story in book 3.