What I’m NOT Reading: The Guild of the Cowry Catchers

This is a new series where I go through my ebook slush pile, and pull out the exact sentence where I stopped caring about a particular novel. My goal with this series is two-fold: many of our readers (and myself included) are writers, and I found this a REALLY useful exercise in tightening up the intro to my short stories and poems. Plus, this is fun.

The Guild of the Cowry Catchers — Abigail Hinton

Morchella raised her robes about her and sat down on the edge of the pool to dangle her bare legs in the water. She had pearl-white fur below her navel and pink pads on her creamy paws.

We’re 6% into the novel and the majority of the text thus far has been sumptuous description. Normally this doesn’t bother me: Guy Gavriel Kay, for example, can linger like whoa over a mosaic. However, the emphasis has consistently been on sight — is the water cool? Is Morchella (described as being a prominent priestess) young or old? Who’s the narrator, since it seems odd Morchella would take special note of her coloring? Most importantly, how do these details connect to the overarching plot, contribute to character development, or establish the novel’s feel?

Hostile Witness — Rebecca Forster

Hannah had come in with a bus full of women. She had a name, now she was a number. The others were taking off their clothes. Their bodies were ugly, their faces worn. They flaunted their ugliness as if it were a cruel joke, not on them but on those who watched. Hannah was everything they were not. Beautiful. Young. She wouldn’t stand naked in this room with these women.

Hannah might be a douche. And possibly an idiot. We’re about 2% into the story, and even though she’s apparently transported into a prison cell, so far she’s obsessed over how the other women are ugly, how her beauty (not her innocence, her type of crime, her age, no specifics) makes her ~*~different~*~, and how her lacy white thong hides her ultimate vulnerability. In a world filled with crime novels and thrillers featuring the wrongfully accused, I need to know more about your heroine than that she’s a hottie, and, apparently, the only woman upset at being forced to strip in front of male prison guards.

This may or may not become a weekly series — depends on how many clunkers I get!



  1. Maria says


    It seemed like both Morchella and the soldier she was talking to earlier were supposed to be human/animal hybrids — one had the legs of a griffin (?!?!).

  2. Laura says

    Just from that sentence, I find myself rooting for the ugly women. I could only wish that if I had to undress in front of a bunch of prison guards, I would have enough… guts? self-reliance? refusal to be cowed? to flaunt my lack of hotness as a cruel joke on them that they weren’t getting any good ogling out of me. I’d probably be cowed, and mortified, and ashamed, but… but I wish I could hold my chin up and hold them (and Hannah) in contempt instead.

  3. draconismoi says

    Hannah might be a douche? Really? Let’s be honest. Instead of identifying with the other women being forced to strip for the male gaze (god forbid they assign female guards for this job) she’s sitting there thinking about how hard it is to be so damn sexy? And the reason she is refusing to get naked is their ugliness – as opposed to…. an attempt to hold on to some dignity in an institution bent on dehumanizing or protest against the patriarchal culture that feels it is acceptable to allow creepy guards a free strip show in the name of security? Hannah IS a douche.

  4. Patrick McGraw says

    I want to see more of this series. I hope that I won’t feel the need to contribute, but crappy books will be crappy.

  5. The Other Anne says

    I like this idea for a series! It may help me with editing and writing as well, to see what other folks focus on with writing!

  6. Dani says

    What’s the point of describing the fur below Morchella’s navel? The way it’s written, it just seems like a random place to start describing a character (and then, to jump from that to “creamy paws”…)

    I also would like to see more of this series!

  7. Azzy says


    For the longest time, I thought “creamy” referred to how soft something was, not to its color. Because cream is soft, I guess. I don’t know, it made sense in my head.

    • Maria says

      It’s a fetishistic word — it combines both a kind of weird obsession with whiteness as well as the desire to consume/beauty as vulnerability.

  8. says


    *nods* I don’t read a lot of fantasy with non-human creatures, but I wondered at the combination of “creamy” and “pearl white fur” and “pink pads” – sounded awfully “white is right” to me.

  9. The Other Anne says

    Jennifer Kesler,

    Yep. Same here. (Which got me on to a big tangent in my brain about Mufasa vs Scar, and how the older healthier male lion tends to have a darker mane, so Disney color-coded based on black=bad, light=good, and that’s all just awful.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *