Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today, Angel Martinez, an amazing writer of MM sci fi and fantasy. Angel is also my co-Admin on the Queer Sci Fi site and Facebook page.
Thanks so much, Angel, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: How would you describe your writing style/genre?
Angel Martinez: I write Science Fiction and Fantasy with LGBT protagonists – some of it serious and some of it comedic. But I’m one of those people who find humor in dark situations and sometimes sorrow in funny ones, so there is humor peppered into serious stories and serious issues discussed in funny ones.
JSC: What was your first published work? Tell me a little about it.
AM: My first published work was a poem in the annual literary magazine in college. I most certainly will not talk about that. My first publication as an adult was in…2006? It was a short novella called “The Missionary” that was published by a small spec fic press, Samsdot publishing, as a chap book with illustrations about a priest sent to convert the natives of an alien planet. It seems to be available still through pirate sites. I thought the publisher’s blurb gave far too much away (the surprise at the ending, no less) and the illustrations weren’t quite right for the story, but all that was fine. Published story!
JSC: What’s your writing process?
AM: Oh, that’s right. There’s supposed to be a process. Kidding, but sometimes it feels like flailing until the story comes together.
I start with a thought. A premise. Occasionally a character, but usually something that I want to explore. A new star drive. A social issue. A conflict. A ridiculous notion. This thought is written down. Yes. In a notebook. I don’t write novels longhand anymore, but I do write notes that way.
The idea blossoms into questions for myself and then spawns possible characters. The characters begin to drive the action and I set out a skeletal plot arc – beginning, the big humps along the way, the conflict resolution moment, the proposed end. Nothing in detail. Everything is subject to change as we leave the dock, but I need signposts and buoys along the way if I want to get there without drowning.
JSC: Tell me one thing hardly anyone knows about you.
AM: I can move some of my toes independently. This is cool, freaky, or gross, depending on which of my friends and relations you question.
JSC: What was the first speculative fiction book (sci fi, paranormal, fantasy, horror) that you ever read? How did it influence you?
AM: This is a tough question for me to answer, because often fairytales and myth/legend cycles are thrown in with fantasy. I’ve had a fascination with myth and folklore since the moment I was self-aware and I probably read every book in the elementary school library on gods and heroes and fairytales. My dad read us H. G. Wells and Jules Verne and I was given my first Narnia book very young. But these were just Really Cool Stories, not ones that registered as SF or Fantasy.
The first book that made me aware that it was something different, that Science Fiction was A Thing was The Moon of Three Rings by Andre Norton. I was captivated. Enthralled. And went back to the librarian like a little story-starved Oliver Twist, holding it out to her and saying, “More of this, please?”
JSC: If you were stuck on a desert island all alone with only three things, what would they be?
AM: A telephone with GPS, a satellite dish, and a box of protein bars. What? I have to eat something while I wait for rescue.
JSC: Which of your own characters would you Kill? Fuck? Marry? And why?
AM: Kill? I’m not a violent person and probably would never kill anyone, but there are people who might drive me to violence if I had to spend time in a locked room with them. Ares from the Brandywine Investigations series comes to mind. He’s a selfish, self-centered, entitled twit. Limpet (the selkie from Endangered Fae) is a close second. Much as I love him, he’s far too high energy for me, and he’s one of those fidgety people who just can’t stop talking.
Screw? I’d have to go with Dionysus (again from Brandywine Investigations) for that one. Since he’s the original pansexual, we wouldn’t have orientation as an issue. He’d be fun, passionate, and considerate, but with him, it would be a no strings attached deal. We could have good time, enjoy each other, and walk away.
Marry? If we could set aside things like orientation and pretend there weren’t already important people in the characters lives? Probably Isaac Ozawa from Gravitational Attraction. He’s sensible, but with a creative bent, intelligent, but not to the point of being a snob about it. Although, I’d go for gruff, practical Sergeant Emma from Sub Zero just as fast. Her dry sense of humor and her no-nonsense approach to problems are things I prize in a life partner.
JSC: Do you have any strange writing habits or superstitions?
AM: No? I don’t think so? Maybe my betas and my writing partner would disagree. I do have a specific ritual for edits, though, learned from my reaction to the first real edits I received. Critique is something I have to approach sideways if I’m going to approach it constructively. The first opening of edits is a read through, one where I allow myself to react but I don’t touch the keyboard. This way I can be as annoyed as I like with the comments and corrections and it doesn’t affect the work. The second time through is for grammar corrections only. Commas, word screw-ups, sentence structure things. This may take a couple of passes with a new editor, but I don’t argue grammar/style guide issues unless the correction is in dialogue. Now I get to the comments because by now, I’ve had a chance to process and to see where the editor had some Very Good Points. The rest is a matter of negotiation. But I need this precise process in order to complete an efficient, productive edit.
JSC: Are you a plotter or a pantster?
AM: I’m a hybrid alien weirdo. I don’t do nice chapter outlines that true plotters do, but I have to have some framework on which to hang the story, so I’m not a true pantser, either. I like to think of it as house building. That A-frame has to go up before I can get rolling, but the plumbing and the wiring, the flooring, fixtures, and cabinets are all things I pick out as I go.
JSC: What are you working on now, and when can we expect it?
AM: I’m currently working on two new Brimstone stories (SF humor, demons in space.) The first is the Brimstone prequel, “Potato Surprise,” which will show readers a less experienced Shax as he and Verin try to navigate being successful spacers. The second, as yet untitled, will be the next adventure of the Brimstone crew after Shax’s War, and will feature a pet for Leopold and a “haunted” house.
Both stories should have fall release dates, more detailed dates will be available as we get closer and I actually have finished products for Mischief Corner to publish.
And now for Angel’s latest release, Flax’s Pursuit (Aura Book 2):
Quinn and Valerian have come through the trials of facing an undead lich queen and the perils of falling in love. Now they work to restore AURA to its previous strength and efficiency while navigating their new life with each other. Fortunately, they’re not in this alone.
Kai Hiltas has taken over as the head of the research department at AURA and has become everyone’s favourite workaholic, everyone except his lover Tenzin, who has had enough of his late nights and broken promises. As Kai tries to salvage his relationship, he finds a teacher for Quinn, who also happens to be one of Valerian’s new officers, Flax Wolfheart, a sexy elf with trouble written all over him.
Flax has motives beyond simply teaching Quinn to control his magic. He’s trying to recover from his own losses and failures, but he has a plan. The two newest elvish crossovers, Ash and Sage, are sizzling hot and might even like him. With them as backup as he tracks a deadly stone mage and figures out how to teach Quinn, Flax sees his chance to impress Val and snag a place by his captain’s side. On the hunt for both danger and redemption, Flax’s pursuit leads him ultimately down trails he never expected.
The weird stuff always happens when you’re picking up extra shifts. Officer Flax Wolfheart hurried down the street, following the high-pitched brownie laughter. Five of them had broken into a bakery after hours. The bakery assistant said they’d stolen the final bank deposit and everything from the day-old rack.
“I have visual. Pursuing on foot.” Flax spoke into his radio as he broke into a sprint. The suspects had ducked into an alley, probably hoping to vanish.
The radio crackled, dispatch answering, “Officer Wolfheart, backup’s on the way. Maintain open channel. Location updates.”
“As you wish,” Flax muttered, not exactly by the book, but fuck it. He skidded around the corner just in time. The last little brownie culprit was phasing through the bricks of the building to the left, pointed ears swiveling—large, dark eyes already dilated from the sugar high.
That was the problem human police officers had tracking brownies. The little shits could walk through walls, which was how they broke into establishments in the first place. Flax bared his teeth in a feral grin. Good thing he wasn’t a human police officer. He could still sense their magic trail through the building, and while he couldn’t go through the wall, he could still follow.
“Going on the roof. Same street, dispatch. Looks like we’re going building to building.”
“Damn it, Wolfheart. Your backup can’t follow you that way.”
The exasperated tone made him grin. “There are reasons why I work alone, you know.”
Flax leaped and caught hold, jamming fingers and boot toes in the joinings between bricks so he could scale up to the roof. The little creeps’ trails rambled through the building under his feet until they emerged out of the other side. Giggling and tripping over each other, the sugar high as bad as meth for humans, the brownies raced across the next alley. Rail thin, the pack of them, none more than a few inches taller than the trash cans they used as cover, Flax felt a momentary twinge.
Kids. They’re damn brownie kids and if they’re not homeless, I’ll eat my badge.
He waited until they had phased through the wall before he took two running steps and vaulted to the building they had entered. An old, rebellious part of him wanted to let them go. They were just kids. But he had his duty as an AURA officer and part of that duty was getting delinquent brownie kids off the street, hopefully to the help they needed.
His new life wasn’t so different from his old in many ways. Duty. Tenacity. The hunt. The solitude. AURA made exceptions for certain talents. Really, AURA was one big mess of exceptions, so they let Flax hunt alone. It was what he did best and how it had always been. The elven hunter on the edge of civilization, he accepted that—most of the time.
The brownies were meandering through the building below his feet, so he cast about the rooftop for anything he could use. One brownie kid he could corner and slap iron cuffs on to prevent more phasing. Five? Even he had his limits.
People left the damndest things out on city roofs. Rows of tomatoes and beans confronted him on this one, a rooftop garden with plant stakes pointing accusing fingers at the evening sky as if to say, where are the stars? Light pollution still pulled him up short sometimes.
There. A roll of wire mesh that humans used to keep animals out and sometimes in. Chicken wire. That could be useful. He undid the twist ties holding the roll together and shook it out as he crept to the edge of the building. The kids were right beneath him now, up against the outer wall, probably on their way back out. The alley ended in a chewed-up wooden fence here, a few bicycles and a dumpster the only obstacles.
He turned off his radio and gathered magical energy to his fingers as the brownie kids started to squeeze out through the wall below him.
“Hear them?” one whispered as they huddled at the end of the alley.
“No. No badges.” The tallest shook his head.
“Human badges.” The one with a pink scarf snickered, stomping around in a clumsy, lead-footed circle. “Slow. Stupid.”
They collapsed against each other in a fit of giggles.
Flax chose that moment to announce himself. “AURA enforcement! Stand where you are!”
The kids took two seconds in their sugar-addled states to register that the voice came from above them. A couple of them spouted some nasty brownie curses when they spotted him, then they did exactly what Flax had known they would. They ran for the next wall.
A wall of wind slammed out from Flax’s hands, hurling the brownie kids off their feet and tumbling them down the alley until they hit up against the wood slats in a tangled heap of limbs and wild cussing. With another blast of magically directed wind, Flax flung the rectangle of chicken wire through the air and slapped it over the heap of brownies. He had his knives out almost before the chicken wire landed. He snapped them down in precision throws, each of his wickedly curved hunting blades thunking hard through a corner of the wire mesh and into the wooden slats, trapping the brownies in an iron net that negated their ability to phase.
“You have the right to remain silent…” Flax gave the Miranda spiel in fits and starts as he clambered down the building to them. His backup was finally here, sirens wailing down the street.
Several officers swarmed down the alley to take the kids into custody. There would be human courts to deal with, but if the judge ruled that they were juveniles, they’d end up at AURA with the counseling and support staff. Maybe something would help this time. Some brownies managed to assimilate all right. They weren’t all petty criminals. Flax even knew one with an interior design business.
“Think you’re Batman now, lurking on the rooftops?” Lisa McAndrews passed him with a slap on his shoulder.
“I’m an officer of the law, ma’am,” Flax growled in mock offense and ruined it with a grin. “And I’m cooler than Batman.”
She laughed and walked off to help load the kids into the van. Flax sheathed his knives, waiting patiently for someone to claim him for the ride back to headquarters since he’d been on foot. Batman. Yeah. Though not as dark. They did both work alone, both outcasts in their own way. It was better to be alone, anyway. One-nighters who didn’t sleep over, that was best. Who wanted all that tangly, complicated relationship mess?
Flax shuddered and made his way over to Lisa’s squad car when she waved for him. Maybe he’d troll the bars and even have time for one of those quickies before he had to turn around and head right back in for the day shift.
A cold shiver ran across his shoulders and he twitched around in alarm. Was there… No, there wasn’t anything in the alley now. He shook his head, laughing at himself, and vowed to stop volunteering for so many extra shifts.
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The unlikely black sheep of an ivory tower intellectual family, Angel Martinez has managed to make her way through life reasonably unscathed. Despite a wildly misspent youth, she snagged a degree in English Lit, married once and did it right the first time, (same husband for almost twenty-four years) gave birth to one amazing son, (now in college) and realized at some point that she could get paid for writing.
Published since 2006, Angel’s cynical heart cloaks a desperate romantic. You’ll find drama and humor given equal weight in her writing and don’t expect sad endings. Life is sad enough.
She currently lives in Delaware in a drinking town with a college problem and writes Science Fiction and Fantasy centered around gay heroes.