How about some MJ-12: Inception spoilers for you?

I’m serious here — if you’re looking forward to MJ-12: Inception and want to crack the book fresh, sans spoilers, you should probably click away now.

Good? Good.

I have an article coming out in Writer’s Digest next month about outlining in Excel. Yes, I’ve written about this before, but this is going to be in a real-deal publication for writers. I’m pretty excited. It should hit the web some time next week.

As part of that, the magazine suggested I put part of my outline for MJ-12: Inception online so folks can check it out and see how I did it. I agreed — but with the caveat that only part of the outline be used. Because, well…why put the whole thing up there when I actually want people to, you know, buy it?

So if you click here, you’ll be taken to a Writer’s Digest page that will allow you to download part of the Excel outline I used to write the book. Yes, you’ll get characters, plot points, action, setting, and a bit of detail — roughly 30% of the total book in outline form.

See? This is why I’m warning against spoilers. For real.

Now, that said, the outline did deviate from the book in ways both large and small, so this outline isn’t 100% representative of what’s coming out in just over a month. Character names have changed, the order of scenes and chapters has changed, and some stuff just didn’t make the cut. There’s also entire scenes that aren’t represented in the outline that got added in revision or on the fly.

Personally, I’m not too worried about having all this out there; I hope it entices new readers to give the book a shot. And as for spoilers, if you’ve picked up all the mass-market paperback editions of the Daedalus trilogy, you’ve already read three chapters. Plus…well, I didn’t give away the other 70%. So there’s that.

If you’re excited about the book — and I hope you are! — and want to get a sneak peek at it, and maybe see how the sausage is made, surf on over and check it out. There’s also a blank template you can download to give it a whirl on your own.

But seriously…spoilers, sweetie. Don’t do it if you’ll regret it. Go have a snack instead.

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Celebrating Gary Gygax’s birthday with the wayback machine

PlayersHandbook8CoverI very clearly remember the day I got to speak to Gary Gygax.

It was the summer of 2000, and I was a business reporter for The Associated Press in Seattle. My primary coverage areas were Microsoft, Amazon and Boeing (with Starbucks and RealNetworks in there as well), and I was waiting for a press conference to start on the Microsoft campus.

Phone rings: It’s Gary. I had reached out to him as part of a story I was doing on Wizards of the Coast’s new d20 “open-source” gaming initiative — you can read it here. The story was a bit of a passion project for me, and I took a lot of pleasure in visiting Wizards’ headquarters and talking with the team behind 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons. And of course, in the interest of balance, I felt compelled to reach out to folks at Steve Jackson Games, White Wolf…and the man who created it all.

Just then, a Microsoft P.R. person tried to herd me into the auditorium. “Mike, we’re starting in five minutes.”

I put my hand over my cell phone receiver. “One second. I got Gary Gygax on the line.”

The guy stopped and smiled. “That’s cool!”

Yes. Yes, it is very, very cool. 

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A fresh MJ-12: Inception review for your Monday

When you go and try something completely different, as compared to your previous work, you wonder how your current fans will receive it. So I’m quite pleased, and a bit relieved, to see that fellow scribe Luther Siler enjoyed MJ-12: Inception.

Luther was a big fan of the Daedalus trilogy, and MJ-12: Inception is darker and grittier and more realistic, which he notes here:

MJ-12: Inception is a very, very, very different series from the Daedalus books.  So much so, in fact, that were it not for his love of genrebending (or, perhaps, hatred of the idea of genre) bleeding through, I’d not have been able to guess that the books were by the same person.  That said, I can find out quickly if you are interested in reading the book by asking a very short question:  How do you feel about Cold War superheroes? Okay.  You just told yourself whether you should read this book or not.  And if I have any influence, you should.

For the record, I don’t hate the idea of genre! In fact, I really like playing with them — this time, meshing superheroics with those great Cold War spy thrillers and conspiracy tales I grew up with. And by all accounts, it’s seemed to have worked for readers so far. The difference in voice is a very conscious decision as well. If you’re gonna write a spy thriller, it should read like one, after all.

My thanks to Luther for his kind words. You should check out his work if you’re looking for some cool stuff to read; his Benevolence Archives stories will sate any cravings for fun and adventure.

As for MJ-12: Inception, we’re still on track for Sept. 6. I just whipped up my to-do list for launch, and there’s so much cool stuff coming down the pike. Guest posts and interviews! Podcasts! We’ll be doing giveaways! And not only will you get to see it at DragonCon, but I’ve also lined up a launch-day reading for my West Coast friends as well.

More to come. And remember, it’s up for pre-order at from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionMysterious GalaxyBorderlands Books, and/or through your local bookstore via Indie Bound. You can also order your KindleNookKobo and Apple iBook editions, too.

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Thinking about how to define authorial success

What makes a book successful? What makes an author successful? What makes some books and/or authors more successful than others? All fair questions. I saw some discussion of this among my colleagues and friends on Twitter this past week, prompted by these thoughts from the amazingly talented Delilah S. Dawson. and it gave me some things to think about.

My first novel came out in 2013 — just three short years ago! I started writing it in 2010, got my agent in 2011, and nabbed a book deal in 2012. So I’ve been at it for six years now, and a published author for just half that time. My fourth book comes out Sept. 6 in hardcover.

Have I been successful? Abso-freakin-lutely. But that’s in terms of my vision of success. And I think it’s important to define your own measures for success going in — and to keep them realistic.

(This is a long-ish post. Get comfy. Go grab a beverage if you like. I’ll be here.)

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The secret to improving writing: Just write

I was asked by a colleague today about advice for improving one’s writing, which is lovely even though it makes me feel a tad old. (That latter bit could be because I just got a haircut and all the gray is standing out now. All. The. Gray.) Anyway, the person doing the asking had a rough time with writing in college, thanks to a horribly demeaning professor, but really wanted to improve her writing regardless.

First off, props to her for taking another stab at it. It’s not easy.

I keep a binder in my office with the very first draft of The Daedalus Incident inside it, the text covered in red-pen edits. This draft, as seen here, represents maybe 60% of the concepts that ultimately became the finished product, but perhaps only 20% of the words, tops.

Why? Because that first draft was bad, man. So very not good. It had all the hubris that pushed me to write a novel, but very little of the craft that I developed over the course of multiple revisions, and none of the lessons learned from my agent and editor.

I keep it on the shelf to remind me that I’ve come a long way as a novelist, and also to keep me humble and striving to do better with each successive work. And I showed it to my colleague as a case study in how one can suck at first, and improve.

The key to improvement? Write. Write more. Then write a bunch more. Revise. Write again. And write some more. Go get some coffee. Then finally, write another thing. And revise it.

Yes, of course, classes and workshopping and reading all can contribute to improvement. But all that learning still has to be applied. And you do that by writing.

That said, I did recommend that my colleague go get her Master’s degree from her mother’s house, frame it, and keep it handy to remind her that, yes, she’s already written something truly worthy of accolade. (Heck, I don’t have a Master’s degree! That takes work!) It’s good to remember the good with the bad. Many of us tend to emphasize the criticism and minimize the success — try really hard not to do that if you can.

It’s hard if you’ve been told that your writing stinks. Getting over something like that takes guts. And even when you’ve had success, your writing will still have its critics. But the only way through that is…straight through it. Sit down, open a Word file, and go to town.

You totally got this.

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First review! Fantasy Faction says super nice things about MJ-12: Inception

They say never read the reviews, but this one was an absolute joy to read. Fantasy Faction’s Dan Hanks reviewed MJ-12: Inception and really quite liked it. A snippet for you:

MJ-12: Inception is Michael J. Martinez doing what he does best: taking a selection of great genres and mashing them up into something fresh and exciting, and quite unlike anything you’ve read before. We’ve shades of mystery and the paranormal, superheroes living in an alternate (or hidden) history, Cold War paranoia, and thrilling espionage—all set against a realistically drawn backdrop of a little explored (but key) time in our global history.

Dan has long  been a fan of my work, but it’s nice to know that the new spy-fi series — a departure, as he notes, from my Daedalus books — was still well received. Combined with the really cool things my fellow scribes said about it, I’m starting to think this is indeed a pretty good book.

We’re still a good six-plus weeks away from release; MJ-12: Inception is due out in hardcover Sept. 6, though I believe there will be copies on sale at DragonCon for those going. If you’re not heading to Atlanta, of course, you can pre-order the book from AmazonBarnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Mysterious GalaxyBorderlands Books, and/or through your local bookstore via Indie Bound. You can also pre-order your Kindle, Nook, Kobo and Apple iBook editions, too.

My thanks to Dan and the great folks at Fantasy Faction. You guys rock.

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Guest Post: Dr. Frederick Turner on his new, epic, apocalyptic poem

turnercoverYep, you read that correctly. Poem. Book-length, blank-verse iambic pentameter poem, now being serialized over at Baen.com. And it’s about an apocalypse brought about by global warming.

I know, right? I’ve read the first part — it’s being serialized until Sept. 15, when it then goes into e-book and print — and let me tell you. This is ballsy. This is beautiful. And it’s written by a gentleman who was first nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature when I wall still writing stock market briefs for The Associated Press.

Dr. Frederick Turner is the Founders Professor of Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Texas at Dallas. He was raised by his parents in Zambia, where they were doing anthropological research. Educated at Oxford. Multiple awards and honors for his poetry and other works. Nominated for the Nobel in 2004, and again in 2006, and again every year since. 

We are totally classing up this blog, y’all.

Now, normally the guest post topic is along the lines of: “What makes your work so gosh darn special?” But I think an internationally renowned poet writing an epic climate-change apocalyptic book in blank-verse iambic pentameter answers that nicely. So I’m just going to let Dr. Turner have at it:  Continue reading

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