"Leaping Lizards", "The Best Revenge", and "What Really Matters" are three science fiction short stories published as separate ebooks. They take place in the same universe, and mostly follow Kinahran, a young cat-centaur growing up on a clan-ship of her people.
I've read and listed them in publishing order, starting with the freebie introductory story. (Covers below link to Smashwords sites.)
As a general note I'd like to say: Elizabeth McCoy Obviously is obviously big on worldbuilding, including conlanging. The second in my eyes is a bit problematic. It's mostly that something like leaving "khih" and "nih" ("yes" and "no") and other words in the original Kintaran when translating a line of dialogue seems illogical to me, and makes reading less smooth than it could be. (The vocabulary is given in a glossary up front in each story.)
On the plus side, I think that she does a very good job of working in information about her universe in small, natural-feeling bits—in these stories I never had the feeling of being stuck in an unneccessary infodump. Aspects of Kintaran culture are shown organically through actions or thoughts of the characters in the stories.
"You're mad, Fern. I'm no scout who can sneak around alone and hope to find something other than a fall." After a few months with the hunting party, Mara was a lot more comfortable on her feet than she used to be, but the occasional cliff or ravine always made her worry about breaking bones. The odd jibe from the Northerners in the group, who insisted on calling these mountains "hills", did not change that.
Fern shrugged, spreading her hands in a what-would-you gesture. "If there are magic tripwires"—Mara noted the rising tone on the hunt-leader's calm voice, and nodded. She had not made that up.—"you are the only one who can see them, so you are the only one with a chance of not getting spotted. Finding someone else would be possible, but take too long. Unless..."
She turned to Luen, who pulled a pointed ear and went, "Um."
Mara shot him a glare. If the goblin hadn't caught a whiff of magic in the air... he would have blundered into the wards, alarming their weaver, and they might all be dead by now. And even if he alone would have been caught, Mara didn't have a reason to wish an end as a snack on him, so she rolled her eyes at herself and scrounged up a smile. "From what I hear, smell doesn't let you locate something terribly precisely."
"Not so's I'd want to bet our lives on it," Luen said.
"Do I know that feeling." She took a few careful steps towards the edge of the cliff that had been the best vantage point they could find in a hurry, shaded her eyes and again took measure of the ward. She could not see all of it, as the faint white lines faded against the bright sky even at a shorter distance than her magic sight would reach under better conditions, but enough to make out its curvature. Big enough to put a small town or big village inside. And the terrain? Hard to say when most of what Mara could see when not focusing on her magic sight were the blue-green needles of pines, with the occasional dark grey rock face at a visible bend. At least their canopy seemed quite even, hinting at relatively gentle slopes. The carpet of fallen needles also tended to keep undergrowth down. Should be manageable. Mara's eyes strayed to the sky again. The outer shell of ward-lines made it hard to make out its inner structure, but there were lines running towards its centre. Better than a compass. And she knew nothing else was a realistic option, Fern's suggestion merely a polite fiction. "All right, I signed up for this operation, so I'll do my job. What's the plan for everybody else?"
Fern glanced skywards. "They should be warned and at least on the way back to our last camp. If by now nobody else blundered into that barrier, it shouldn't happen."
Mara shuddered and hugged herself, rubbing her arms more to show she wanted to pretend the problem was the wind—which really was not chill any more at all—than believing she could fool the others.
Luen looked rather exasperated, but Fern did her the favour. She just asked, "Do you need anything from camp? I can’t tell how big an area you’re looking at."
"Just give me your canteen. I’ve got some food, and I should make it back to camp by nightfall."
Out of breath from the climb up the stairs from the parking lot to the university entrance, Kim waved a greeting, smiling at the one friend who cared about her.
He held open the door and asked, "You look tired?"
Tucking her hair behind her ears gave her a bit more time to catch her breath. "Those antidepressants are messing up my sleep rhythm. Seems to be the only thing they do."
"You sure about that?"
"This week I haven't seen you run back to your car to check if it's locked or if you forgot something. Guess it might be a sign that you're too tired to care, but looked to me like you being not so anxious any more."
That gave Kim pause. "Maybe. I'll pay attention." As she saw him smile, she thought she might more often be looking at people rather than the floor, too. There were worse thoughts to start the day on.
We all agree that having someone wait 10, 20, 30 seconds for a website to load if that can be easily avoided is a bad idea, right?
Yet if you are using a big graphic as your backround, it might be what's happening: Depending on the background colour, the text may be unreadable while the background graphic is loading. The solution is to define both a background image, and a background colour that is similar to the colour of the image.
I've made a quick mock-up to demonstrate the effect.
Finished is a science fiction adventure short story (~4800 words) published as ebook at Smashwords
A life of larceny in a half-wrong body isn't what Aldin hoped for, but right now it's all he's got and he's making the best of it. When an unwelcome surprise sends him running, his prospects hinge entirely on his wits and an unlikely ally.
Aldin (our viewpoint character) is an art thief one job away from retiring and getting his sex reassignment surgery finished. When needing to evade authorities, borrowing transportation including driver at gunpoint seemed like a good idea...
Suspense, action, and a little commentary on gender change.
Content "warning": Starts off with a short section of pillow talk shading into foreplay, before that's interrupted.
There were no spelling, grammar or similar issues that jumped out at me.
The witch queen was satisfied with her newest work. She smiled at the master artisan as she handed him the heavy purse he had earned for delivering a working basis. Creating a truly perfect duplicate of a door in the Empress's palace was impossible - if for no other reason, then for the wood grain - but the fifth attempt had been close enough to link them.
Nodding and smiling as the artisan bowed, the witch queen considered rumours about herself. A mirror that could take her wherever she wanted if she stepped through it... would that things were so easy.
From the "good things need to be shared" section, a recipe that's been floating around my mother's side of the family, for some really delicious chocolate cake. While rich in sugar and fat, it doesn't involve flour, so it should be suitable for people looking for gluten-free recipes.
200g are 7.05 ounces.
If I'm reading a cups-to-grammes conversion list correctly, we're talking
8/9 cup butter
1 1/3 cups ground almonds
8/9 cup sugar
I presume 1 packet vanilla sugar would be 4 teaspoons; the brand we have says 1 packet is "for 500g of flour", 500g being 1.1 pounds. You could probably replace it with a little vanilla aroma, or leave it out entirely.
200g dark chocolate (60% cocoa content)
200g ground almonds
1 packet vanilla sugar (meant for 500g flour)
1/2 packet (2 teaspoons) baking soda
Melt the butter and chocolate.
Add almonds, sugar, vanilla sugar and baking soda, and mix.
Whisk in eggs one by one.
Put into a round pan and bake for 40 minutes at 160° C (320 F) upper and lower heat.
The original recipe I got called for sifting powdered sugar on top after letting it cool, but I don't think that's neccessary. It's plenty rich as it is.
I had heard the name Elizabeth Moon in author recommendations, so when I saw one of her novels available for free at BAEN, I gave it a shot. It's the first volume in a fantasy series.
The prologue tells us of a written account of Paksenarrion's (here not specified) deeds being delivered to her humble family. It amazes them. Since chapter one jumps back to when she ran away from home, that prologue smells to me like a cheap ploy to build interest.
In the following, we get rather a lot of detail about basic training in a mercenary army. While we hear how to handle a spear, what the food's like, and what the unit marches past on the way to their first campaign, we don't see much character interaction beyond orders and some bullying from a fellow recruit. Paks making friends is covered with "Despite having little time to talk, she knew that Saben, Arñe, Vik, Jorti, and Coben were going to be her friends". The occasional conversation seems to be designed primarily to lay out worldbuilding details (gods, elves and dwarves, geography).
The only point which is not that boring is a sort of investigation after an offstage fight involving Paks and two fellow mercenaries, in which she is initially accused. The thing is, this has her locked up, and the interesting part is someone else showing initiative.
About a quarter of the way into the book, Paks is still a cipher to me, rather than someone I care about, and she's supposed to be the protagonist. I read too character-centered to be interested in this, and couldn't be bothered to finish.
Might might be interesting for military aficionados (Elizabeth Moon was in the US Marine Corps, so presumably it's not too far-fetched), but the more military-centered stories I read, the more I think I just should stay away from the topic/genre.