Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Deep in the "Heart of Tashyas"

My recentest story, "Heart of Tashyas," has gotten some positive reviews!

Going in reverse chronological order, let's begin with Fletcher Vredenburg of Stuff I Like fame, in a review over at Black Gate:
The landscape Ordoñez has painted is liminal — a place between cultures in conflict; between badlands and forested hills; between men and wild beasts; between the mundane and the magical. Carvajal, a man divided into parts himself, seems the perfect character to explore this region. While the lust for gold seems to be his driving force, his actions reveal a compassionate, empathetic side, making him not quite a hero, but at least a man of interesting nuance. 
And then there’s the action and adventure. Carvajal’s quest brings him up against were-coyotes, a dangerous wanderer with roots in the Old World, ancient mysteries, and a sinister being of great power. This is top-flight heroic fantasy with a strong sense of place and character. It’s also got a cool picture by Ordoñez.
Next, Tangent Online sums up the story as follows:
Francisco 'El Moreno' Lopez searches for gold no matter the cost in "Heart of the Tashyas" by Raphael Ordoñez. Set in Southwest North America, Lopez drives himself nearly to death performing deeds to impress the local natives enough to get information on any potential gold. Lopez is an excellent protagonist, full of character, action and personality. The characters of the Yacasole, Guerín, and Red Cloud all stand out. The Frenchman, Guerín, makes an excellent foil to Lopez and his madness is very nearly palpable. And the 'thing' at the end really punches the sense of wonder and adventure into a fantastic whole.
The name "Lopez," incidentally, was selected as the maiden name of my great-grandmother, who died (it is said) of a broken heart, and the name of my first cousin twice removed, Perry Lopez, whom I never met, but who starred in Chinatown, Kelly's Heroes, and "Shore Leave" (and numerous other things). The family story is that my great-grandfather, a railroad worker who liked to play the numbers, sent his nephew to California with his winnings. Whether that's true or not I have no idea. Anyway, "Carvajal" was chosen because I read about an eviller-than-usual conquistador named Carvajal, a.k.a., the Demon of the Andes, in a history book. I like to think that my own Carvajal aspires to that level of badness, though of course he doesn't quite reach it.

Finally, Charles Payseur of Quick Sip Reviews reflects on Carvajal's placelessness and the story's liminal genre placement:
This is a nicely drawn historical fantasy that does a great job of capturing the time period of early exploration into what would become North America, and follows Francisco Carvajal y Lopez on a quest for gold. The sole survivor of his expedition, Carvajal, called the Moreno, is an interesting character, first and most a survivor, not greedy exactly but drawn to gold for the status that it might buy, so that he might to rise above his mixed heritage and have a place for himself. Because as he is Carvajal has no real place, no real home. He's between these things, and as much as that keeps him alone and homeless, it also has taught him how to live tough and keep going. The world that he navigates is full of things that he doesn't quite understand but that he doesn't stop to argue. [...]
I also like how the story uses magic and how it goes from being a historical fantasy to being something…a little bit different, pulling on some different traditions to make this story more interesting and complex still. There's a darkness here but it's one that's really only a shadow of the real terror lurking at the edges of this world. The story is in some ways about maps and the danger of the unexplored places, because what lurks there could be anything at all. It's another story that moves at a fast pace and manages a number of scenes of violent action. It's thrilling and it's just the right amount of creepy and it's an excellent read.
I've also gotten some positive feedback from people who appreciated seeing an underrepresented milieu in a sword-and-sorcery story. Then again, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly has really been packing in the Precolumbian / Central American weirdness of late, so I'm actually a latecomer to the party. But my story is the first one set in Texas and featuring a Puerto Rican. (I think.)

In fact, as I've mentioned before, "Heart of Tashyas" is set in the town where I live, which happens to be one of the last places in America where you have to subscribe to a print newspaper to know what's going on (and, indeed, a man's life in these parts often depends on a mere scrap of information). My story uses a lot of old-timers' lore gleaned from its pages. I'm going to try to get them to do a story about my story; if I succeed, I'll post a copy of it here. If I don't succeed, I hope I'll at least get an interesting refusal. I'll post that, too.

Well, as always, I remain very thankful to anyone who takes the time to read and comment on my stuff, even if they don't like it. It's icing on the cake to connect with people who do like it. I have a few other Carvajal stories in the hopper, set here and there between the Red and the Rio Grande. I've been disgustingly busy lately (sigh), but I'm working on them, and on Ark of the Hexaemeron, and I'm sure they'll all eventually see the light of day!

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