What’s up with Heidi, May 2016 edition

Boy, it sure has been a while since I posted! I’ve been quietly working at a lot of things.

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A rare picture of me, hard at work and contemplating making a chin-waxing appointment.

 

But, yeah. You’ll see some new work from me in the coming months — work such as:

  • Reason (A Story of Aligare) will appear in the ROAR 7 anthology. The ROAR series is an ongoing production of FurPlanet, and this year’s theme is “legend” — a perfect fit for the Aligare races and their storytelling traditions. ROAR 7 will release this July.
  • Repast (A Story of Aligare) will appear in Gods With Fur. Another Furplanet production, this anthology is helmed by long-time furry historian Fred Patten, and it explores animal/anthropomorphic gods in their many forms. Another solid fit for the Aligare series and its non-human peoples!
  • I’ll be attending What The Fur? 2016 in Montreal, Quebec this coming weekend. I’ll be selling paperbacks of all my books, plus some one-of-a-kind paper maché sculptures. I also contributed a furry spy story to the conbook.
  • This June, I’ll also be selling my books at Graphic-con,which is Sudbury, Ontario’s new SFF convention. The con was a huge success its first year, with attendance outstripping the venue’s size and causing long wait times to get in. I’m looking forward to being a part of it this year, in its much roomier location.

 

That’s all I’ve got for now. Photos and release dates will be forthcoming!


We don’t all need to be diamonds

First things first: a personal update! Yeah, I’ve been quiet these past few months, mostly because my job situation went belly-up while I was finishing Tinder Stricken. When I say that, I mean the boss thought it was fine to give me zero hours per week.

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I quit with extreme prejudice and focused solely on Tinder Stricken. After the book launch at What The Fur? 2015 — and a few merciful days of sleep — I got job hunting and found another prep cook position, one with plenty of working hours and lots of physical demands that leave me tired after work. I haven’t had much energy left over for freeform essays. That, and I simply didn’t feel like I had anything to say on this blog. I’m a big advocate of not talking just for the sake of it.

But anyway, here I am with a blog post! Because I read a metaphor today that stuck in my throat like an awkward segue, or perhaps a rock.

We Don’t All Need To Be Diamonds

I subscribe to some book bargain mailouts and today, this testimonial caught my eye:

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Not because I have any particular interest in Robin Hobb or G.R.R. Martin, but because a series of fantasy novels was described as “diamonds in a sea of zircons”. That turn of phrase saddens me.

We use diamonds as a metaphor for greatness and they are pretty remarkable stones (if not as rare as we often think). But it’s all too easy to keep barrelling past a love of greatness, right into the thought that only the #1 greatest things ever matter. Only the blockbusters and runaway hits are worth noticing. Only the hardest gemstone on Earth is worth wearing or considering beautiful.

It ties into my thought that “typical fantasy” should be an oxymoron. Sure, it’s sad to be a zircon, a material with nowhere near as much merit as the stone it mimicks. There are few things more disappointing than a fantasy story that’s clumsily imitating a better book. But when we’re considering minerals, we have more to choose from than just diamonds and zircons, just as there’s more to the fantasy genre than who writes the grittiest political coup. We’re not limited to winners and losers — why, just look at the variety out there.

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There are minerals for every purpose. Mountains of them, both literally and figuratively. There are quartz crystals for your watch components, and granite that’ll look great as a polished countertop. Quartz and granite are common, humble minerals that will never measure up to a diamond — and why should they? Olivine isn’t the most glamorous stone group around, but if you like how your peridot earrings look when they catch the light, then who cares?

This metaphor is particularly personal for me because I associate Remedy, my first-published novel, with amethysts. At the beginning of the story, Peregrine is a miner who brings home mostly amethysts. These stones aren’t ideal for common useage (clear quartz is preferred, since it’ll take any and all magical charges), but amethyst has its place in Aligare society. It’s perfect for darkcasters. Brightcasters can’t use it and that’s fine; it doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with either the caster or the stone. We all have our tastes and alignments, that’s all. Remedy is my own handful of natural amethyst — amethyst that a New York editor once told me would never be a diamond, so I should rewrite it. No, thanks. I happen to like quartz formations.

It’s great to write a classic-styled epic fantasy, or wear a diamond. But as with all things, the world needs variety. I tell myself this every time I read or write a story. There’s plenty of room in the fantasy genre for jasper and amber, and even room for an old piece of petrified wood if it manages to shine.


The phoenix has landed! Tinder Stricken now on sale

Launch day has come and gone. Which means that my Nepal-inspired story full of phoenixes, magic and other surprises can be purchased and read by you — yes, you!

 

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At the moment, Tinder Stricken is only available in ebook form through Amazon and Smashwords. That’ll change as I get the ebook ont other retailers, as well as do the formatting work for the Createspace paperback version. Check back here in a few days: I’ll update this blogsite as Tinder Stricken gets more buying options.


May 2014 update! Writing, gaming and a convention roundup

Just a quick update on my writing-related endeavours lately, for those who didn’t happen to catch my Twitter commentary:

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—My short story submission was selected for the Distorted anthology forthcoming from Transmundane Press. Distorted‘s theme is modern reimaginings of mythology — and my story puts an environmentalist spin on the oceanic Greek sirens. This is my first sale to an established fiction market, which finally makes me a professional author by conventional standards. I’m awfully amused about that! Distorted is tentatively slated for a fall 2014 release.
—This past weekend, I had a great time at What The Fur? 2014. It’s a small convention (breaking 300 attendees for the first time this year), so it’s a wonderfully friendly event to return on an annual basis.  I always see familiar faces dropping by my dealer’s table. As a first, I was invited to participate in the annual Iron Artist competition — which isn’t exactly geared to writers, but I suppose I made an interesting underdog against the three well-known visual artists! The surprise medium was cheap face paint (plus brushes and a small canvas). My painting didn’t win — that honour went to the Guest of Honour, Ookami Kemono — but I enjoyed the challenge a lot anyway.

—Work continues on the tabletop game Omens of Aligare. A small game company has expressed interest in our project! Further developments if something solidifies.

—Work also continues on the first draft of Tinderstrike, my next novel. Hopefully this summer will be a productive one.

 


Blog hiatus

A hibernating dormouse (image from BBC Nature)

A hibernating dormouse (image from BBC Nature)

 

I have a lot to consider, regarding my writing and other life endeavours. So it seems best if I go quiet for a while.

 

I’ll still be using my social media accounts, if you want to follow me! And if you’d like a notification when I resume updates on this blog, consider the Follow Blog via Email option at the top-right of this screen.

 

 


Furnal Equinox 2014, and my new writing direction

This past weekend, I attended Furnal Equinox 2014 in Toronto, Ontario. It was my first time at this particular anthopomorphic convention. I had some technical difficulties over the weekend, and my Render reading had less than a handful of attendees (possibly because of its timeslot: 1 PM on Friday, when many of the con-goers had yet to arrive).

But the convention’s atmosphere was great. I chatted up artists and costumers. I participated in a goofy scavenger hunt. I lounged in the hotel’s lobby, reading an ebook and giggling when fursuiters leaned over me to peer at my phone’s screen. Overall, I’d call it an enjoyable weekend!

My dealer's table, complete with the paper maché Render scene.

My dealer’s table, complete with the paper maché Render scene.

The view from behind my table. This was taken early in the day on Friday — again, before all of the attendees and dealers had arrived.

The view from behind my table. This was taken early in the day on Friday — again, before all of the attendees and dealers had arrived.

A few of the many fantastic fursuiters passing by!

A few of the many fantastic fursuiters passing by!

I also did a lot of thinking while sitting at my dealer’s table, waiting for people to happen by. My biggest life decisions are made while I’m away from home, it seems. So, here goes.

I’ve been giving the Stories of Aligare series the best treatment I’m capable of right now, but its very essence is also its greatest handicap: these are small, odd stories. They’re not thrill-a-minute page-turners. They’re not the kind of book people gobble down in one night and then rave about to all their friends. I firmly believe that quiet stories deserve to exist, and deserve to be read. The tiny little legion of Aligare fans is so meaningful to me — but I think I need to increase my reach as a writer and publisher, or else I’m not doing justice to this goal of mine.

I’ve got other unusual, human-free stories in mind. Some of them I’m holding back because I don’t think I’m ready to execute them well. (I felt kinship in the way Pixar’s WALL-E took years of development and tinkering with the emotional tones. ) But as a writer, I like working with a variety of literary tones and approaches. And Serpents of Sky has gotten a better reception so far than any of the Aligare books. I’m clearly able to write higher-concept stories.

So my next full-length novel won’t be a Story of Aligare. The next story (or stories) I publish will be something with broader appeal. I’ll still twist and subvert fantasy clichés wherever I find them. But I’ll see if I can tell a more crowd-pleasing story, before asking that crowd to give my weirder works a chance.

Stay tuned! I’ll tell you folks what my next book will be as soon as I’m sure myself.


Serpents of Sky progress

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The paper maché dragon is coming along! He’ll get a finishing layer and some paint, and then he’ll be ready for the cover art.

How’s Serpents of Sky coming along? Well, it’ll be a February release, I know that! I’ve got a bit of writing and editing left, then I’ll make the most agonizing decision of all: what order the stories appear in. Serious to lighthearted? Lighthearted to serious? Should the mood rise and fall like the swellings of the ocean? Soon, I’ll pick one and go with it.

Next week I’ll reveal the exact release date, plus the finished Serpents of Sky cover. I’ll be busy until then!


Fresh content next week

I was going to post on Monday, but then I got distracted cooking all the turkey and vegetables in my fridge. I looked up at the clock at 1:30 AM and my exact sentiment was, “Oh.”

So I’m going to call this week a wash. For those of you celebrating a holiday this week, I hope it’s a happy one. This coming Monday, I’ll tell you about Aligare’s Lifedancing festival, which is their lively version of a new year celebration.


What’s on tap, Heidi C. Vlach? My plans for 2014

Hey, readers! Whether you just stumbled across me in some Google result today, or you’ve been reading my fiction for years, I’m glad you’re here. Let me tell you what I’m working on for the coming year.

—That short story collection I’ve been talking about. Tentatively titled Serpents of Sky, it’ll have many different spins on dragon mythology.  One of these shorts will be a new Story of Aligare about the motherly korvi, Constezza. I predict a February 2014 release, but we’ll see how it goes.

I'm still designing the cover, so have a stock dragon from Openclipart.org.

I’m still working on original cover art, so in the meantime, have this stock dragon from Openclipart.org.

—A tabletop game called Omens of Aligare. My roommate/best friend is a tabletop game enthusiast. He’s been tinkering with the idea of a cards-and-tokens game that’s faithful to the Aligare books — because multi-racial fantasy societies can make for really interesting roleplay games. The Aligare tabletop project picked up steam when some of our other writer friends got involved, and I’ve been offering up ideas and lore that might make the game more fun. All the effort is beginning to pay off!

Playable for 2-6 players (probably), Omens of Aligare is a resource-management game where the players work together against Aligare’s “demons” of natural disaster and illness. The game is in a playable state right now but it still needs adjustments and balancing. We don’t have concrete release plans yet; crowdfunding will likely be involved. I’ll keep you posted if anything happens.

—Two convention stops this year. I’ll be attending Furnal Equinox in Toronto, Ontario for my first time. As well, I’ll be at What The Fur? in Montreal, Quebec for my fourth year running. I’ll have dealer’s tables at both events and I hope to schedule readings, so folks can hear me perform a sample of Render (A story of Aligare). With character voices, of course. You gotta do character voices.

And since we’re very near the end of 2013, I’d also like to mention that Render (A story of Aligare) is eligible for the 2013 Ursa Major Awards.

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The Ursa Majors recognise excellence in anthropomorphic art and literature — that’s anything where non-human character(s) plays a significant role. If you’re voting, please keep Render in mind for the Anthropomorphic Novel category! If you’re not voting, then I’d still recommend browsing the Ursa Majors’ recommended list for 2013, as well as previous years’ listings. They’re a helpful compendium of books, artwork and other media featuring non-human characters, with many works coming from independent artists and small presses.

That’s all I have planned for 2014 so far. I’m not sure what I’ll write after Serpents of Sky — maybe another novel in the Stories of Aligare series, or maybe something from a new world. I’ll chew what I’ve got on my plate first.

Hoping to see anything in particular from me in 2014? Doing anything special yourself? Share in the comments!


My interview with Eye on Ashenclaw

Whew, well. Thanksgiving weekend was much busier than I anticipated. I’m usually too optimistic about how my holidays will go and whether I’ll be able to write some kind of coherent blog content.

But I did answer some interview questions! I’m hosted today by Gary Vanucci, author of the Realm of Ashenclaw series. We met on Twitter — as fantasy authors often do.

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Click here to read the interview. I touch on topics like how I got started writing, my favourite Aligare character, and whether I prefer chocolate or vanilla.