Daughter of two Cuban political exiles, M.C.A. Hogarth was born a foreigner in the American melting pot and has had a fascination for the gaps in cultures and the bridges that span them ever since. She has been many things—-web database architect, product manager, technical writer and massage therapist—-but is currently a full-time parent, artist, writer and anthropologist to aliens, both human and otherwise.
Her fiction has variously been recommended for a Nebula, a finalist for the Spectrum, placed on the secondary Tiptree reading list and chosen for two best-of anthologies; her art has appeared in RPGs, magazines and on book covers.
Where to find M.C.A. Hogarth online
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Smashwords book reviews by M.C.A. Hogarth
Lovers and Beloveds: An Intimate History of the Greater Kingdom Book One
on Oct. 16, 2010
A couple of days ago, Meilin Miranda's Lovers and Beloveds: An Intimate History of the Greater Kingdom popped up for sale as an e-book. I've been intrigued by this one because the paperback version was crowdfunded completely, to the tune of several thousand dollars: enough to feed the author and hire (at respectable rates) her cover artist, an editor and a layout pro for the book block. That was a phenomenal achievement and I wanted to know what had inspired its fans to do so.
I picked it up thus, without even knowing what it was about (I know, I know), except that it was a fantasy novel. And it was, and I read it in two days.
What do I say? That I read it without a hitch, because it read like a book you'd pick up in a bookstore? It did. That the world-building was delightful and (unusually for fantasy, alas) dense and real? It was: I believed this was a world with a complicated political and magical history. That the main character, the Heir Temmin who starts the book at... 17 years old? Was written like a genuine teenager, complete with extreme self-absorption, and that his slow (and incomplete) transition to someone more adult felt real? Well, it did (and that's a hard one to pull off). That it handled a very broad cast of characters without dropping any of them or diffusing the narrative? Believe it or not... yes.
It reminded me of the Kushiel series, except not annoying because the people in it were real, normal human beings and not quasi-angelic perfections born of gods. It also reminded me of the best of Mercedes Lackey's coming-of-age stories, but with a lot more texture and a lot more sex. (Yes, there was a lot of sex, which I wasn't expecting, but almost none of it felt gratuitous, which is rather astonishing given my tastes.)
In short, had I paid $8 for it in a bookstore, I would have been satisfied. More than satisfied. It was excellent. My only complaint was that it's very obviously the first in the series, and though I spent ten minutes on the author's website I can't find any information on when the next book will be available.
So, in brief: great, complex fantasy with good characterization, dense cast handled adeptly, coming of age story liberally seasoned by romance, politics, magic and sex. Also, trains, corsets and tweed. Because when was the last time you read a magical fantasy with tweed caps and waistcoats? Go check it out if you're into that, you won't be disappointed.
Daron's Guitar Chronicles: Volume One
on Oct. 16, 2010
When I ran into this story on its website, I started reading... and didn't stop until I faceplanted two hours past my bedtime. And then I woke up the next day and did it again until I got to the end. That probably tells you everything you need to know right there. -_-
But more extensively: this is a first-person narrative set in the 80s, told by a 19-year-old musician trying to make it in the rock scene. He's got a problem family, no money, and if that wasn't enough of a challenge, he's also gay. In the 80s.
I have to be honest... I'm kind of over coming-of-age stories. I may at one point be excited about them again, but for now I'm really tired of the pinhole perspective of self-involved teens. But Daron's Guitar is missing that "this universe is populated solely by teens" feeling. Tan fills Daron's world with adults at every stage in their life, from the grizzled music veterans, the failures and the tired agents to their daughters, Daron's schoolmates and the hopefuls in the music industry. Daron observes them all; sometimes he lacks the life experience to understand them, but we know that they have a life outside Daron's limited perspective and Tan paints that very well. This world feels real: like our world, like we could run into Daron today and this will all have had happened.
Not only that, but the music details are just fabulous. This is someone who really knows her stuff. I actually laughed out loud when Daron made a reference to Jon Anderson when snarking about a former roommate who was trying to get weird/experimental. If that wasn't enough, every chapter title... is an 80s song. Not just a trip down nostalgia lane for those of us who lived through them, but an impromptu soundtrack and pretty darned clever.
Finally, I'm really impressed by the portrayal of Daron's relationship difficulties (such as he can be said to have them, given the circumstances). His struggle between the typical teen hormonal highs and lows and his need to have a meaningful tie with someone... it's poignant and deftly evoked. Such a great loneliness, conveyed so powerfully and yet without preaching.
This is incredibly skillful writing and a compelling story. Pick it up in this format, or get it off the website... you won't be disappointed either way.
The Bear Prince
on Feb. 21, 2011
A collection of fairy tales that feel like the eldest you've found: dream-like and strange and yet familiar. My favorite of the three was "The Bear Prince," with its pale palette and sense of escape through virtue; but "The Jewel of Moon and Starlight" was haunting and passing-strange in that "who thinks of these things?" way, with details to match, and "The Princess and the Sheep's Wool" is a fine retelling of the Princess and the Pea, with smell rather than touch as the royal tell-tale.
If I have an objection to these, it's that they are too few. You end up in their psychological space and just as you're accustomed to it, the e-book is over. Stories like this for me work best if they either stand alone and are over so quickly they feel like a needle to the arm, or so long a collection that you can become adrift in them.
Spoonfuls of Sugar
on Oct. 08, 2011
If you're looking for a good introduction to McCoy's work about the Kintara (centauroid feline aliens), this is my suggestion for the best start. The Kintaran stories are delightful space-opera-flavored science fiction; the aliens themselves are feline enough to charm fans of cats while not being so feline they feel precious. They have their own amusing customs, and their many flaws, and feel well-rounded as a species.
"Spoonfuls" is a good introduction because the extremely-prolific family-oriented Kintara often end up with litters (no pun intended) of cousins and siblings and babies and it can be a little dizzying to keep track of them all. This short story starts with only two of them, separates them from their family, and gives you a good chance to get to know them without having the juggle all their kin in your head too.
It's a good length. The pacing is good. There's humor. There's family focus and children play a part in the story more complicated than "let's just throw one in to allow for emotional gut-wrenching later" (so sadly rare in science fiction). The depictions of motherhood and children and their interactions are particularly good, and often very funny.
So, generally: adventure, light, fun, fast; with fun cat-like aliens and great integration of family life into spacer life. Definitely worth the price. :)
on Oct. 08, 2011
Cleverness is a frequent feature in McCoy's stories, and "Wahnt" has it, very definitely. It's the only story I've read so far in first person, which gives an interesting perspective on the events.
So, contains: cleverness, pirates and privateers, politics and eccentric felinoid centaurish aliens. This is good space adventure.
I withhold my last star because it could be longer; a few more sentences scattered here and there would have helped ground the reader further in the setting. I think writers have become chary of "infodump" and sometimes shortchange their stories a little in an effort to avoid dumping blocks of information at the reader. Btu sometimes blocks are necessary and add to the story, so!
A fun read, good for the price, and helps fill in the universe.
What Really Matters
on Oct. 08, 2011
Excellent coming-of-age fiction for aliens, this is my second favorite of the Kintaran stories, and a longish one to boot. The themes of family and growing up intertwine nicely with the alienness of the Kintarans (felineish centauroids with enough cat in them to charm cat-lovers but not enough to annoy people tired of cat-aliens).
The author's cleverness also returns in the motivations of the antagonists, which are fresh and unexpected in a story of this kind. I very much appreciated the author's take on the bad guys, and that's what earned this story its fifth star.
The pacing is good; it's long enough to really sink into the culture and get a chance to keep all the names straight--Kintarans are into big families and keeping track of all the different siblings and cousins can get dizzying in a shorter story. And it's pleasant to see coming-of-age in an alien culture where teens are judged adults by different standards than ours.
So: fun world-building, nicely complex for its length, unexpected motivations and fluffy aliens. I really liked this one.
The Legend of the Morning Star
on Oct. 08, 2011
Creepy in the way that good fairy tales are, this one is believable as a real tale, old and full of warnings. Very nicely executed.
on Oct. 08, 2011
A charming addition to the Kintaran stories, suitable for younger readers, and very true to childlike observations, worries and behavior. I see the author's experience as a parent peeking out in how well these alien children are portrayed... and it's a fun romp to boot.
This story's a bit too short for me; I find the Kintaran families are large enough and the language bits a little tanglesome enough that I like more time and longer stories to get into their mindset. Readers who've already sampled the other stories, however, will have fewer problems with that, so dive on in!
The Best Revenge
on Oct. 08, 2011
Another story that depicts children very well; I enjoyed this look into family life and the exasperation of alien parents. This is a great story to round out the other Kintaran offerings, but I find it a bit too short to effectively grapple with the dense world-building. A little bit more infodump can be a good thing.
Nevertheless, charming and family-friendly.
on Oct. 09, 2011
This is another of my favorites of the Kintaran stories by McCoy; unsurprisingly, it's one of the longer ones, and I think the longer ones are much better showcases of her talent and her flair for world-building.
I also appreciated that throughout the short stories on offer we get to know the same characters and watch them grow up; there are recurring characters in this story and it was gratifying to watch them move on with their lives and grapple with new challenges. You feel a little like you've gotten a chance to live with them, and end up sort of parentally fond of them somehow.
But anyway, this story is high on space adventure, with lots of explosions and McCoy's trademark cleverness. Since the main characters end up separated from the Kintaran clanship, there's also a lot fewer of the Kintaran family to keep track of, a definite boon to people new to the universe--the Kintarans tend to have lots and lots of family, and keeping track of them can get difficult in short fiction. This story bypasses some of that issue.
So: fun, clever, lots of various aliens, explosions, adventure and charming characters. Definitely worth the price. :)