Writing books for fun and prophecy

prophetThe cool online magazine Inverse has this great column called “Ask a Prophet,” which is an interview with science fiction writers about the genre and their ideas for the future. And, well…heck, I guess I’m a prophet?

Sadly, all I got is Magic 8 Ball that I received almost two decades ago from a now-defunct e-commerce site…back when people called them “e-commerce sites.” And the 8 Ball, as you can see, is less than impressed with my prophetic skills.

Anyway, Lauren Sarner chatted with me for the column, and it turned out to be a pretty nifty interview. We talked about the Daedalus trilogy, comic book movies and diversity in the genre.  Go check it out!

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Practice makes perfect

Sketch by Anna Martinez

Sketch by Anna Martinez

My daughter has always loved art. We joke that the was the first baby in the neighborhood to stop eating crayons and start using them. It’s been a constant throughout all the phases of her life so far, from toddler to elementary school to tween, and we’ve encouraged her explorations. (Those of you who have my books might flip to the author mugshots in the back for her first professional photo credits.)

For her, art is fun and joyful, and since she has skills — objectively speaking, not just being a doting dad here — she already knows she wants to make a go of it somehow as a profession, with the current emphasis being fashion design. But there’s a difference between “fun” art and “professional” art, and that difference is training.

She hates it.

OK, hate is too strong a word, but as she goes into more advanced art classes, she’s now understanding the hard work, discipline and skill development involved. That’s made art less fun, at least for now, but it’s still necessary. Critical, even. There really is only so far you’ll go on raw talent alone. So now she’s doing a pure skills class in drawing, the result of which  you can see here. She also feels like that little guy after class sometimes, but hey, she’s 12. And that’s a good sketch.

Practice, man. It’s hard. You write and write and write, and sometimes it’s just practice — the story isn’t gonna see the light of day. While it’s not a horrible story, because you have some innate talent (you hope), it’s still not good. I remember my first stabs at fiction, oh so many years ago.  I submitted some work to White Wolf and SJG back in the day — before the dot-com bubble burst, actually — and while the editors there were kind, well…I didn’t have it. It wasn’t good enough.

And so I practiced. Now, I get to practice all kinds of writing because it’s my day job, and there’s a higher correlation between journalism, marketing copy and fiction than you’d think. I’m writing to convince people of something — whether it’s the importance of a news event, the benefits of a particular decision you’d like them to make, or the plausibility of your plot, setting and characters. There’s different aspects to each, but there’s still stuff to be learned no matter what I’m scribbling.

Prior to writing my first novel, I’d already been a writer for nearly twenty years, and still that puppy needed so much work before it hit the shelves. My novels always need more work, even when I think I hit it out of the park. (Actually, I find the more enamored I am of a piece of writing, the more work it needs. Go figure.) Revision is a kind of practice, too; you’re practicing writing that scene or chapter or book several times over before you get it right.

It can be frustrating to write something and know that it might never get published. Heck, my debut was rejected several times over before it went to Night Shade Books, and there were times when I wondered if the whole thing was just gonna be a weird lark. But I stuck with it, and I still write stuff that I’m not sure will ever get out there. It’s good to do that, to try new things, to expand the skill-set and keep plugging.

And let’s hear it for guidance, too. Ross Lockhart turned my first novel around in so many ways. Cory Allyn is a fantastic editor and collaborator. Every editor I’ve worked with in fiction has given me valuable teaching moments and made me better, rather like how my kid’s art teacher is making her a better artist.

I get a little frustrated when writers ignore the benefits of practice and guidance. They’ll rip on editors as folks who try to “commercialize” their fiction or deviate from the vision or whatever. They say revision and discipline is for hacks. They don’t think this stuff applies to them. It does. (There’s a reason the Guy In Your MFA is so popular, because every writer knows that guy.)

So practice. Nobody’s gonna skate on raw talent when it comes to writing, or any kind of art. Practice and revise, seek out guidance and get better. That’s how it’s done.

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Barnes & Noble SF/F blog reviews MJ-12: Inception, plus a shout-out from Kirkus

MJ-12-newcoverI have long held that Paul Weimer is one of the most knowledgeable critics in science fiction and fantasy, and even when he dings my work, it’s always police and constructive and makes me think, “Huh. Yeah. He’s right. Dammit.” These days, Paul’s writing on behalf of Barnes & Noble’s SF/Fantasy Blog, and he had many lovely things to say about MJ-12: Inception. Such as:

Michael J. Martinez’ MJ-12: Inception is a thriller that blends the best elements of Cold War-era spy stories, supernatural fantasy, and splashy pulp comics. … As a setup for a series, it works at an excellent pitch. I can’t wait to see if and how these characters will change the course of history as we know it. Is this a secret history or an alternate one? Only time, and more books, will tell. I look forward to finding out.

There’s a lot more in the actual review, which you can read here. Again, Paul knows his stuff, so when he says he’s looking forward to more, I’m feeling pretty good about what I’ve done so far. Thank you, Paul and B&N!

You may know Paul from his numerous contributions to the late, great SF Signal. But while that fine site is no more, former proprietor John DeNardo continues to write about SF/F for Kirkus Reviews, and he mentioned MJ-12: Inception as part of a roundup of the genre’s breadth and depth. Check it out here.

As for what I’m up to, well…I think we’re just about done with the promotional merry-go-round for MJ-12: Inception. This is the first time I’ve embarked on a new book launch while in the midst of writing the sequel, and it’s been…weird. I’m usually quite excellent about being able to ping-pong back and forth between projects, but between all the travel and the promotional writing, I’ve not been able to devote as much time to MJ-12: Shadows as I’d like.

But from here on out, that’ll change. It’ll also free up this space from constant updates and what not, and I’ll try to be more entertaining and thoughtful with posts, even as I post a bit less. Because MJ-12: Shadows ain’t gonna write itself. I’m not going to go completely dark, because the blog and Twitter entertain me even as they (hopefully?) entertain you. But let it be known, it’s time to hunker down.

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Superpowers, alienation and Deadpool

Oh, yeah. We’re gonna do a think-piece on Deadpool, baby. Grab a chimichanga and buckle up.

I admit, I didn’t see Deadpool in theaters, and only had a passing knowledge of the character to begin with. However, I’ve seen the movie several times on video – twice courtesy of United Airlines, where at least some things are still free besides dry-mouth and turbulence. And since I’m in the midst of writing about superheroes, of a sort, in the MAJESTIC-12 series, I have thoughts.

Ready? Cue the music.  Continue reading

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I’m doing an AMA on r/Fantasy today. Ask me anything!

Today I’m over at Reddit r/Fantasy doing an Ask-Me-Anything. If you have questions about MJ-12: Inception, the Daedalus trilogy, short stories, writing, publishing, beer or whatever, this is the place to go.

And as I did last year, I’m offering beer pairings for whatever you’re reading. Got a book and feeling thirsty? I’ll suggest a new beer for you to try as you read.

You need to be a registered Reddit user to post questions, but it’s super-easy to do, and r/Fantasy is a very cool community of readers, so you should totally do it. Looking forward to your questions!

UPDATE: AMA was a hoot. Thanks everyone for the questions!

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Guest posts! Interviews! A Reddit AMA! Giveaways! It’s the latest random roundup!

MJ-12-newcoverSo I’m back in the New York City area, and feeling a bit less burned out than when I posted last, which was toward the end of a very enjoyable but very long week-plus of travel. And as the rollout of MJ-12: Inception continues, I have a bunch of stuff here to share with you.

Goodreads Giveaway! It’s almost over — you have about nine hours left to sign up and get your hands on one of ten copies available. Click here to enter! (You need to be a Goodreads member to do it, which isn’t all that onerous. You like books, right? Do it!)

Guest post! Today I did a guest post for Alternate History Weekly Update — an excellent site if you’re a fan of alt-history and/or historical fantasy — on confronting racism and sexism in quasi-historical fiction, something I faced head-on while writing MJ-12: Inception. I can only hope I did it justice. Check out the post here.

Interview! I talked with Stephen Geigen-Miller over on his blog, part of a series of interviews he’s done with authors about breaking into the publishing industry. Smart question, really nice guy. Here’s what I had to say.

Thriller Roundtable! As part of International Thriller Writers’ The Big Thrill, I’m doing a roundtable with a bunch of other talented thriller authors about characters with moral ambiguity. We’ll be trading posts all week, so surf on over if you have a chance.

Reddit AMA tomorrow! I’ll post about this separately in the morning, but for now, consider this a reminder: I’m doing a Reddit AMA (that’s Reddit-speak for “Ask Me Anything”) all day tomorrow on r/Fantasy. I’ll post a link in the morning, and you can, well, ask me anything. I’ll also do beer pairings with your favorite books, since that was a fun thing I did last time.

And…whew. That’s about it. Obviously, still feeling a bit whirlwinded — I’m totally making that a word — from all the stuff going on. I’m very pleased by the reception MJ-12: Inception has received, and I thank you for giving it a go, spreading the word, and all that good stuff. My thanks also go out to all the folks who’ve hosted interviews, guest posts, giveaways, etc. You’re all awesome!

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A new review of MJ-12: Inception, plus a guest post

img_6681I’m deeply humbled and gratified by the newest review of MJ-12: Inception from Tracey (aka TrinityTwo) over at the Qwillery. Here’s the bit that knocked me over and made me do a bit of a Kermit flail:

Martinez is truly a gifted writer in that MJ-12: Inception has a distinct and utterly different flavor than his previous series. Although I only know about organizations like the CIA from books, movies and literature, his portrayal of the inner workings of government programs seems authentic. I enjoyed reading the confidential reports written from the perspective of top officials in the CIA. Martinez, a master at genre blending, has created an exciting new series by mixing a pinch of James Bond to a dash of the X-Men and then combining that with a dose of politics and old-fashioned cloak and dagger espionage.

Dude. That’s pretty swell, as they might say in 1948. You can read the whole review here, along with a guest post I wrote about my approach to writing a brand-new series.

I’m writing this in the cafe at Borderlands Books in San Francisco, which explains the rather meta image attached to this post. It’s also another lovely excuse to remind you that Borderlands is pretty much the only game online right now to get a signed copy of MJ-12: Inception, and they also have the Daedalus trilogy books in stock with my scrawl on them. Click here to get started!

Here’s something to look forward to: I recorded a Ditch Diggers podcast today, which should land online over the next few days. It was incredibly fun, and hosts Mur Lafferty and Matt Wallace are the absolute best. I’ll ping everyone when it hits, but in the meantime, there are far worse ways to spend your time than checking out past episodes, which include conversations with fantastic humans like Fran Wilde, Kameron Hurley and Chuck Wendig.

I’m heading home Saturday, and really looking forward to that. San Francisco is lovely. Borderlands is amazing. DragonCon was its usual fantastic awesomeness. But you know, I’m good with the travel for a bit. Thank you all yet again for all the love and support you’ve shown MJ-12: Inception. It really matters and you’re all awesome.

*falls asleep in the middle of Borderlands Cafe*

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