Tag Archives: MJ-12: Inception

MJ-12: Shadows is with my editor

I am pleased — and relieved — to report that MJ-12: Shadows, the sequel to this year’s MJ-12: Inception, is now in the capable hands of super-editor Cory Allyn over at Night Shade Books.

Why relieved? This book kicked my ass.

MJ-12: Shadows will be my fifth novel, and it was the hardest one to draft. Part of that was due to the material, part of that was due to circumstances, and part of that was just…something else, that writerly thing where you gotta grab the story and drag it kicking and screaming into the light because it doesn’t wanna go.

The material was complex enough — there are two main storylines in the book, a couple of subplots and several POVs. It’s set in 1949, which was a very busy year for the Truman Administration, the U.S. intelligence community and the Middle East, where one of the storylines is set. One of the main historical characters from MJ-12: Inception died that year under mysterious circumstances, too.

So on the one hand, the history was an absolute blessing — you can’t make some of that stuff up. But there was a lot of juggling going on in writing MJ-12: Shadows. So there’s that.

Then there’s life. I was plowing through the drafting process while preparing for the launch of MJ-12: Inception and through the launch, which included events at DragonCon and in San Francisco, plus a ton of guest blogs, interviews, podcasts and assorted bits of marketing. I know some authors loathe the marketing stuff, but it’s kind of what I do for the day job, and I’d like to think I’m pretty good at it, so I don’t mind it. But it was all happening while trying to write MJ-12: Shadows, so I was moving between stuff quite a lot.

Oh, and I do have that day job, and I happened to have the busiest autumn in said job in my nine years here. It’s nice to be in demand and appreciated, of course, and let’s face it — the day job pays the bills. On Monday, I’m about to head off on my seventh business trip of the year, so yeah, they keep me busy.

And I do have a family, which takes precedence over…well, everything else, frankly. But it’s kind of unfair to list that here, because family isn’t a burden. To me, it’s a privilege.

But story and circumstance aside, this was just a tough nut to crack. Prior to MJ-12: Shadows, three of my past four novels kind of came together easily — as easily as a major project like a novel can happen. The Venusian Gambit, which I wrote in 2014, felt like a hot mess when I was writing it, but that was largely due to my mother’s passing that summer. Cory and the NSB gang were great about giving me extra time to wrap it up, and I had apparently done a better job than I thought in the end — Gambit got a starred review from Publishers Weekly. 

But MJ-12: Shadows was different than Gambit. Sometimes, the story is stubborn, and finding the right threads to follow and the right words simply takes longer. Getting the pieces in place and the characters lined up just took more out of me. It’s kind of hard to explain, really, other than it just took longer to get it right. 

With all that said, I’m happy with how MJ-12: Shadows came out. It’s got some mystery, some slow-burn intrigue, a bunch of cool action and the ending…the ending I’m rather proud of. It explores the nature of the Variants, the source of their power and the responsibility in using that power in the world.

And now? I’m holding off on getting the third book started until Cory finishes the edits on MJ-12: Shadows and we have a chat as to how best to approach the next one. But I have a few other things to work on….



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Come and Speculate! with us on a mighty podcast

Earlier this month, I was fortunate enough to have a most excellent chat with the hosts of Speculate! The Podcast for Readers, Writers and Fans. And now you can listen to said conversation online or via your favorite podcast download app…thing. Whatever. You should listen.

I joined fellow scribes Mike Underwood and Greg Wilson for a freewheeling 50-plus minutes of writerly goodness. We talked about MJ-12: Inception and the Daedalus trilogy, of course, then delved deep into research and worldbuilding in historical fantasy, and how I did what I did on those books. We also talked about my former life as a full-time journalist and how that enters into my fiction.

And we talked about the election, because it was the day before election day. Ah, we were so naive. Alas.

I’ve known Mike for years now, and consider him one of the good guys, and I very much enjoyed chatting with Greg as well. I would encourage you to check out Mike’s blog and Greg’s blog to learn more about their books, and definitely check out the rest of Speculate!’s excellent podcasts. They also have a Patreon, so if you wanna slip ’em a few bucks, I hereby grant you extra karma points for that.

My thanks to Mike and Greg for a great conversation. Hope you folks enjoy.


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It’s Worldbuilders auction time! Bid on a critique, make the world better.

Here’s some unabashedly good news: The Worldbuilders auctions are live! There’s so much good stuff up for bid this year — and for the fourth year running, I’m offering a critique of your SF/F manuscript, up to 25,000 words to the winning bidder.

For those of you who don’t know, Worldbuilders is a fantastic charity created by the incomparable Patrick Rothfuss to support the good work of Heifer International. Worldbuilders does a bunch of stuff all year, but the end-of-year auction is the big one.

Since I started offering up stuff in 2013, and with your generous support, together we’ve raised about $1,500 through signed books, critiques and Tuckerizations just with Worldbuilders alone. (And another $500+ to Con or Bust, charity:water and Kids Need to Read, so yay!) And all because I had the damn fool notion in my head that I should write some novels, and because there are some lovely generous people out there. How cool is that?

The critique auction page is live, so if you’re in the market for some writing advice from a real, live novelist (i.e. me), check it out. You have until just after 8 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 27, to get your bid in. And let me tell you — the bidding goes up quite a bit in those final hours, so if you want it, be prepared to hang out online Sunday.

The Worldbuilders crew also has signed copies of all my books — the three volumes of the Daedalus trilogy, and MJ-12: Inception in hardcover. They’re not up for bid yet, but stay tuned. I’ll be sure to let you know when they’re live.

And of course, there’s a veritable ton of other stuff up for bid too — jewelry, signed books, critiques from authors/editors/agents, gaming swag, and yes…even a freakin’ sword. (I totally want that sword.) The eBay page for Worldbuilders has all that and more, so check it out. There’s also a Worldbuilders lottery, where you pay $10 per entry for a shot at glorious prizes — here’s the page for that.

I’ve found the SF/F community of writers, publishers and fans to be incredibly giving and generous, and I know y’all will consider chipping in again to help Heifer in its important work around the world. Thank you in advance for your donations. And thanks to Pat, Maria and the whole Worldbuilders team for all the good work they do.

Go! Get bidding!


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A quick non-post

So basically I don’t have anything new to say, but I recognize that I’ve left the blog fallow for a week, and well, I feel somewhat obligated to at least say hello. Hi, there!

I’m crunching on the final revisions to MJ-12: Shadows, the sequel to this year’s MJ-12: Inception. You won’t get to see it until late next summer, of course. For whatever reason, this one was a tougher nut to crack, story wise. Or maybe it was just writing it on top of an unusually busy year for me. Hard to say. But I’m liking how it’s turning out. Hope you will too.

I’m also resisting the urge to work on something super-shiny that the Muse is incredibly excited about. Actually, she’s shrieking in my ears about it constantly, and I’m excited about it too. It only exists in about ten pages of notes at the moment. It’ll need to stay that way for a few more weeks yet. Shut up, Muse. I got stuff to do.

The whole election thing…yeah. Still sitting poorly with me, and it’s not like the incoming administration is inspiring confidence with its various gaffes and horrible appointments. If you’ve seen my Twitter feed, you’ve seen I’ve been more political of late. That’s not likely to change. As I explained to my kid, this is our time to stand up, just like the suffragists in the ’20s and the civil rights activists in the ’60s. And I’m gonna do that.

And otherwise? Planning a quiet Thanksgiving, then a work trip to Los Angeles in early December, followed by Christmas in a warm place with a beach. (Not Los Angeles, because who wants to vacation in a place you visit for work all the time?)

That’s where I’m at.


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The Ditch Diggers podcast, and an explanation of an odd phrase

Apologies for the dearth of posts, but I’ve been traveling pretty extensively for the day-job of late. But I’m back now, and I wanted to point out that I’m on the latest episode of the fantastic Ditch Diggers podcast, hosted by Mighty Mur Lafferty and Matt F’n Wallace, two excellent authors and really great interviewers.

So what did we talk about? Ditch Diggers is about the writing life — well, the real writing life. This is not about journeys of literary self-discovery, beautiful introspection or writing-as-spirituality. This podcast is about the writing life that deals with getting the job done, getting published, doing the hard work and making sure you get paid for your efforts.

And to do that, as I noted in the podcast, you have to get your shit in one sock.

This phrase stopped my hosts in their tracks, first with laughter, then demands of an explanation. I mean, sure, I could see that, as on the surface of it, get your shit in one sock could very well describe a horrible misuse of laundry. But I didn’t remember all of the details on the podcast — but I did remember where I got it from.

My cousin John Butnor, an environmentalist and U.S. Forest Service scientist up in the great state of Vermont, first introduced me to the hosiery-defecation bon-mot many years ago, and he got it from…well, here he is with the explanation.

I was in high school, and in order to apply for ROTC or the service academies (which my father was more interested in than I was), I had to go to a recruiter to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). The recruiter said that I passed with flying colors and he hadn’t seen a score like that.

He asked what I was interested in and I said I wanted to work in in environmental protection and conservation.  He was caught off guard and suggested the Chemical Corps.  I was not impressed and said I wanted to to go to college and take a variety of subjects and not clean up after chemical or biological warfare.

He said,  “Look, a smart guy like you doesn’t need all those classes, you HAVE TO GET YOUR SHIT IN ONE SOCK!!!”  (Enunciated in typical sergeant-speak.) I took this to mean that it was more advantageous, when shitting yourself, to have it soil only one sock or the other, because soiling both is terribly inefficient.  I since learned that a ‘sock’ is slang for a Navy duffel.

Anyway, his solution to fit my shit all in one sock was: Nuclear power school.

I could go on…it made an impression.

Yes, yes it did…so much so that getting one’s shit in one’s sock has become a rather key family phrase in our house (though never within earshot of the child). Cousin John opted out of the military in favor of the Forest Service, and has surpassed the Lorax in his efforts on behalf of the nation’s trees. He’s also the most frighteningly competent person I know; he helped design and build his own home, can survive in the wild for weeks at a time, and is incredibly handy in most things mechanical.

So when the zombie apocalypse comes — and it will — I’ll be piling the family in the car and heading to John’s house. If nothing else, I can scavenge for raw materials or something. Maybe just record John’s exploits as he single-handedly reboots human civilization. Because when the zombies come, you better have your shit in one sock. And he does.

Anyway, the podcast is loads of fun, with many fine sock-shitting jokes throughout. Plus, we talk about the utility of dust jackets, how MJ-12: Inception came about, and my career with Night Shade Books thus far. Check it out at this link.


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Inspiration where you least expect it

My day-job office is at Rockefeller Center, which is pretty awesome most of the time. (The Christmas tree is beautiful for about two days, then the throngs of tourists begin to wear on one’s nerves, admittedly.) I remember the first day I arrived, I saw this plaque in the elevator lobby.


Pretty cool, eh? The office itself is pretty unremarkable now, but it’s nifty to think that a critical piece of the Allied war effort played out on the same floor where I drink coffee and talk football with my co-workers. And yes, I revisited this plaque more than once as I was writing MJ-12: Inception.

Sir William Stephenson was a Canadian businessman prior to World War II. As war broke out in Europe, Winston Churchill asked Stephenson to open up the British Security Coordination office in New York. Room 3603 in Rockefeller Center was the place he rented. Officially, he was a passport control officer. Unofficially, he helped coordinate intelligence activities throughout North America.

MJ-12-newcoverPrior to late 1941, part of Stephenson’s job was to try to sway public opinion in the U.S. in favor of aid to Britain. After the U.S. joined the war, his office in Rockefeller Center became a hub of activity, coordinating U.S., British and Canadian covert action against the Axis. He was the one who set up Camp X up in Ontario, where O.S.S. and MI6 officers trained during the war.

Yes, the Camp X training manual was a real thing, and I used it in MJ-12: Inception as a guide to how Variants would be trained at Area 51. In fact, researching Stephenson led me to Camp X, which led to that key piece in the book.

Stephenson was also instrumental in the creation of O.S.S., which would later become the CIA.

After the war, Stephenson went back to being a businessman, and I haven’t found much more about him after that. It was sorely tempting to include him somehow in the MAJESTIC-12 series, but alas, I don’t think he’ll make in there. But it’s nice to know that a piece of history is right here in my office, and helped me discover more of the history that went into my work.


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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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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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Assorted launch week news, plus signed copies of MJ-12: Inception now available from Borderlands!

I’m now in San Francisco! And yeah, I’m rather looking forward to getting home and resuming some semblance of normalcy after a busy month-plus of travel. I was in the air for most of MJ-12: Inception‘s launch day yesterday, so there’s a few items here I want to call out.

  • I was a guest on Chuck Wendig’s blog! Chuck is, of course, a fine human and a fantastic author, and I deeply appreciate all the support he’s shown over my short but busy fiction career thus far. In the blog post, which you can find here, I talk about everything I learned from The Magic School Bus. You didn’t read that wrong.
  • I was also a guest on Mary Robinette Kowal’s blog! Another fine writer and amazing person as well! On her series My Favorite Bit, I talked about superpowers and character development.
  • Finally, I was a guest on Janice Hardy’s Fiction University blog! On this one, I got to talk about opening one’s novel and different ways to do that so you can seize the reader’s attention and never let go.

I very much enjoyed visiting Borderlands Books last night here in San Francisco. The whole team there is just amazing and lovely, and we had some great conversations and some fine local beer. Right now, Borderlands is the only place on the Internet where you can order signed copies of MJ-12: Inception, and all you have to do is click here. (Well, you have to pay, of course.)

If you’re in the market for MJ-12: Inception, I strongly encourage you to get a signed copy from Borderlands. It’s a few bucks more than Amazon, but it’s signed and you’re helping to support the best darn genre bookstore around. Do it! I should also note that Borderlands has signed copies of the entire Daedalus trilogy as well!

Finally, thank you all so much for all the support and love you showed this new book yesterday. Your reviews and retweets and Facebookery matter so much when it comes to spreading the word, and I deeply appreciate it.


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