She is best known for her Skyrider series about a two-fisted Action Girl space pilot in the Asteroid Belt, the first novel of which was nominated for a Locus Award. She has also written the Rosie Lavine Urban Fantasy/Detective series; a "straight" mystery novel, Through the Eyes of the Dead; and a couple of other Science Fiction novels.
She originally chose "Michaels" as a pen name to honor several important men named Michael in her life (including fellow author, Michael Kurland). In an amusing real-life twist, she ended up marrying a man whose last name was Michaels.
In addition to her writing, Michaels served as the Webmistress for the Science Fiction Writers of America for many years, for which work she received a special Nebula Award in 2007, along with Graham P. Collins.
Works by Melisa Michaels:
- Skyrider (1985-1988)
- First Battle
- Last War
- Pirate Prince
- Floater Factor
- Through the Eyes of the Dead (1988)
- Far Harbor (1989)
- Rosie Lavine (1997-1998)
- Cold Iron
- Sister to the Rain
- World-Walker (2004)
Tropes in Melisa Michaels' works include:
- Action Girl: Melacha "Skyrider" Rendell is a taciturn, two-fisted hot-shot belter pilot who likes to get into fist-fights to perk herself up after a dull run. Or to relax after an overly exciting one. Or because it's Tuesday. Really, who needs an excuse?
- Asteroid Miners: Skyrider is from the belt, and the series is heavily focused on the conflicts between the belt miners and Earth.
- Bad Dreams: In the short story, "I Have a Winter Reason" (which was repurposed as the prologue to the first Skyrider novel), Melacha ("Skyrider") is tormented by dreams of the accidental death of her lover Django, for which she feels responsible.
- Conflicting Loyalties: Skyrider's primary loyalty is to the belt, but she stayed out of the last war because she has close family still living on Earth.
- Creator Thumbprint:
- Romani (Gypsy) culture appears in many of her works. In the Skyrider series, the belt has been populated heavily by Rom, and in Through the Eyes of the Dead, the murder investigation involves several Rom families living in San Francisco.
- Hawaiian pidgin pops up regularly in her works; Melisa lived for many years on Oahu. The Translation Convention version of the Belter pidgin in the Skyrider series, for example, is strongly reminiscent of Hawaiian pidgin.
- Feminist Fantasy: The first Skyrider novel, Skirmish was republished by a house that specializes in FemLit. Whether merely starring a two-fisted Action Girl really qualifies is a matter for debate.
- First Person Snarker Melacha oh so much.
- The Grinch: In Cold Iron, which is set during the Christmas season, it's revealed that Rosie Lavine really dislikes Christmas. She knows its a personal quirk, and doesn't make a big deal of it, but the constant bombardment of Christmas carols makes it extra hard for her to remain cool, collected and objective.
- Hardboiled Detective: Rosie Lavine is basically the hardboiled archetype, lovingly Recycled In Urban Fantasy.
- Improbable Piloting Skills: Skyrider has this reputation. She's widely considered to be the best pilot in the belt. To some extent, the reputation is deserved, as she proves when she has to manually dock with a spinning, out-of-control ship, rescue its crew, and get away safely again.
- Knight In Sour Armor: Skyrider is cynical, taciturn, snarky, and anti-social, but when the chips are down, she knows she's the best, and often only, person for the job, and reluctantly picks up her metaphorical lance. Again.
- Laser Blade: When a belter picks a fight with Skyrider because she's trying to remain neutral, he ends up stabbing her with a "force blade".
- Magically Binding Contract: Much of the conflict in Cold Iron revolves around the fact that elfrock star Jorandel desperately wants out of his contract—and elven contracts are literally impossible to break.
- Neutrality Backlash: Although they admire her skill, a lot of belters don't trust Skyrider because she tried to remain neutral in the last war. On the other hand, a lot of Earthers don't trust her because she's a belter.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Skyrider considers this a problem. She thinks it's a cheesy, Embarrassing Nickname, but few people actually know her real name.
- Our Elves Are Different: In the Rosie Lavine novels, Elves are noble and beautiful and all, but the ones who come to Earth seem to really like to slum it up, and Elfrock as a genre is dark, metal-tinged and frequently drug-driven.
- Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll: In Cold Iron, the first Rosie Lavine novel, elves who come from faerie to become elfrock stars usually indulge in the worst forms of this trope, at least according to Rosie. The trope is even mentioned almost by name by another character:Hilly: Sex, drugs and elfrock ain't what their fans imagine it is.
- Stopped Numbering Sequels: The Skyrider series was originally intended to be a trilogy, and the first book was initially published as Skyrider 1: Skirmish. None of the other books in the series ever had a number, and reprintings of Skirmish omitted the "Skyrider 1" part as well.
- Title 1: The first novel of the Skyrider series was published as Skyrider 1: Skirmish.
- Translation Convention: In the Skyrider series, Belter pidgin is a language derived from several languages of the early migrants. This is rendered as something resembling Hawaiian pidgin. The narrator freely admits that she's translating it for our benefit.
- Unreliable Narrator: Both Skyrider and Rosie Lavine narrate their own stories, and both eventually reveal that their version of the story may be a little influenced by their prejudices: Skyrider with respect to Earthers, and Rosie with respect to Elves.