Maggie Blackbird

Romancing Canada's Indigenous People

Today, I have author Angel Martinez in the interview chair.  We’re discussing her latest release Rarely Pure and Never Simple, book one in the Variant Configurations series, a m/m sci-fi romance.  Be sure to read my review.  And don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway.

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1. Hi, Angel. First off, readers have an idea of the writer you but what about the everyday Angel? Can you share about your personal life?

Angel:  I’m probably one of the most boring people imaginable in real life. Retired from a life of corporate icky jobs, I try to keep my wild garden under control, talk to friends who don’t live nearby, and am sometimes very brave and venture to the store. My spouse sells junk…er, antiques and collectibles, so our house is full of strange and interesting things. Normally, I have cats, but due to the death of my last elderly cat and another cat going to live with my son, we are pet-less this year.

I read a lot, but that’s part of the author job.

2. I’ve been perusing your Goodreads page and see you are drawn to science fiction and fantasy. Why these genres?

Angel:  It’s what I grew up reading, to begin with. I guess I’ve never found the “real world” terribly interesting. I live here, why would I want to read fiction about it? Fantasy and science fiction let loose the imagination and allow limitless possibilities both possible and not. They also allow you to look at issues in our own world through a view once removed, letting us examine sometimes difficult or painful things from a different perspective.

3. Your latest release is Rarely Pure and Never Simple, the first book in a new series. Can you tell me what inspired you to create this series, and how you came up with the title?

Angel:  Two things: one was a submission call for superheroes and the other was a brief discussion with my content editor about amino acids. (Yes, that’s a rather typical conversation for us.) I really wanted a superhero story that leaned more toward the science fiction end of things – so there you go. Of course, there original, much shorter version, was written years ago, so it’s gone through some transformation.

The title is from The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. There are a number of reasons for this, including the fact that the MC probably read a lot of Wilde, but it just really fit the story.

4. Can you share your writing process through Rarely Pure and Never Simple?

Angel:  The original version was written under time and word constraints. It’s probably one of the few novella/short novel-length works that I wrote without much of an outline.

It showed.

When I was ready to look at the story again, it definitely needed an overhaul and a proper outline—pacing, character, plot, scene order. So much to fix. It’s the same story, in all the important ways, but I’m much happier with it. So is content editor. Though there may have been some frustrated tears along the way. It’s not easy deciding what really needs to go and what should be happening in a different order for a previously finished story.

5. Let’s talk about the main characters. What do you love most about Damien Hazelwood and what makes you want to shake him?

Angel:  Damien’s a very determined person. Some of his life has been horrific and he’s had a lot to overcome, but he’s the best at what he does and he knows it. Put him on a trail and he’s not giving up no matter how bad it gets.

One of his worst traits is that he truly believes he’s not fit for the company of others, that he is and always will be a danger to those around him, and that he’s not worthy of love. His stubborn insistence on that point makes me want to shake him until his eyeballs rattle.

6. The same for Blaze Emerson. What do you love most about him and what makes you want to shake him?

Angel:  Blaze is the definition of competence porn and manages to look badass doing it. But the cocky outer shell covers a vulnerable, broken heart. But the past, which he won’t let go of, makes him absolutely certain that everyone will leave him. He can’t see what’s right in front of him because he clings so hard to past hurt.

7. Without giving away any spoilers, what was your favourite scene to write?

Angel:  Probably the scene where Damien first meets Shudder. The volatile chemical mix of the three of them in the same room was far too much fun to write.

8. What makes Rarely Pure and Never Simple different from other m/m sci-fi romances?

Angel:  You’ll have to read it in the mirror. I wrote it backwards. (Kidding! Who has time for that?) I’ve seen far too much post-apocalyptic fiction in the last few years, and while I understand unsettled times drive that sort of fiction (the Cold War was stuffed with it), I get bored with it. I don’t want to know the horrors of living right after a ruinous series of population-decimating events. I want to know what happened later, when things started to get better.

9. If a reader asked you why they should read Rarely Pure and Never Simple, what would you tell them?

Angel:  It’s full of action and peril, the characters are (I hope) engaging, and there’s a lingerie fetish. There. I said it.

10. You can only recommend one of your novels to a reader, which would you choose from the books you’ve written so far, and why?

Angel:  Nooooo! That’s always hard for me, and I usually start off by asking a few questions. Fantasy or SF? Humorous or serious? Okay, just one. A good gateway book would be Lime Gelatin and Other Monsters since it’s the first book in an ensemble cast, fast-paced series. Paranormal police officers. Really odd ones.

11. Which novel from your backlist was your personal favourite to write, and why?

Angel:  Probably A Fine Mess, which was the finale to the Brimstone series. While Brimstone was absurdist humor about a demon prince who runs away to space, I wrote those characters for so long that they became family. This book, the final book, was the one I owed them, to wrap up all the threads I’d left lying around from the first six books and three volumes of short fiction. Secrets finally revealed, machinations and shenanigans – it was so much fun to write.

12. What can we expect from you in the future?

Angel:  In the near future, I have the rest of the Variant Configurations series to write – three total when we’re all said and done. After that, I should be able to return to the Web of Arcana series that I had to abandon because of contract issues (since resolved.)

13. I enjoy doing random questions, so humour me:

  • What’s your favourite movie?
    I do love movies, so probably a different one every time you ask. For today, I’m going to say The Emperor’s New Groove – a very underrated movie.
  • What book is currently in your e-reader?
    Nothing right this second since I’m waiting on pre-orders. The next one up is the second volume of Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu.
  • Who’s your favourite musical group?
    No, no, you can’t ask me that. There are far too many. For right now, in this moment, we’ll go with James.
  • What song puts a smile on your face?
    Lots of them  Fine, fine, picking just one. Love Cats by The Cure.

13. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Angel:  Look for the second Variant Configurations book at the end of summer – From the Noblest Motives, and the third sometime early next year, writing gods willing. Thank you and happy reading!

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Title: Rarely Pure and Never Simple
Series: Variant Configurations, Book One
Author: Angel Martinez
Genres: Science Fiction, M/M Romance
Tropes: Enhanced Humans, Slow Burn Romance, Annoyances to Lovers
Themes: Minority oppression/exploitation, law vs. justice
Release Date: June 28, 2022
Heat Rating: 3 flames
Length: 67 000 words
Publisher: Mischief Corner Books

Variant children are vanishing at an alarming rate. It will take a uniquely mismatched pair of trackers to untangle a web of conspiracy and misdirection to find them.

Blurb:  In his isolated cabin, variant Damien Hazelwood avoids human contact as much as possible to prevent attacks of blind berserker panic. But his rare talent as a locator makes him the go-to contractor for tricky missing person’s cases and when agents bring him a troubling contract involving missing variant children, he finds it impossible to refuse.

Licensed tracker Blaze Emerson can’t help being irritated when he’s expected to follow the strange, twitchy locator’s lead on his latest case. He works alone, he’s damn good, and as a variant sparker, he has both the fire and the firepower to take on anything out there. Though he has to admit there’s something intriguing about a man who can find people with his brain.

With vastly different temperaments and backgrounds, Damien and Blaze need to negotiate quickly how to work together if they’re going to crack this case. Add in the sudden appearance of Blaze’s outlaw ex, the perils of tracking in the wilds, and a maddening lack of discernible motive or method, and they soon find themselves in as much danger as the kids they’re trying to rescue.

Variant Configurations takes place in a future Earth where humanity is reclaiming its spot in a gradually healing world. This book contains mentions of past abuse, action-adventure style mayhem, and the beginning sparks of a slow burn, series-spanning relationship. It is the first book in a new series and does not end on a cliffhanger.

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The ice around the weed bed glowed blue as first morning rays stretched tentative fingers across the lake. Even the sun was smart enough not to rush out of bed on a cold-as-a-penguin’s-pecker Vermont morning. Damien, however, apparently suffered from some intellectual deficiency since he was out on the lake already with his ice chisel, chipping away at a likely spot for a fishing hole.

His breath ghosted in front of him, every gulp of air biting into his lungs. It wasn’t that he liked the cold or enjoyed the self-sufficient, mountain-man lifestyle. He hated it. His hands always hurt. He was always hungry. It took him forever to warm his lonely bed at night no matter how many pairs of socks he put on, the frame rattling with his shaking for an hour or more.

Chip-chip-chip. The ice chisel on six-inch lake ice echoed back to him off his cabin in a strange, one-sided conversation.

The move wasn’t for his health or even part of a dream of a better life. He had left Raleigh to escape. Yes, he could have taken it a step farther and vanished. Away from the coasts, out in the abandoned wilds to the west, he might have found somewhere to hole up. Much of the land surrounding the Mississippi was still poisoned, but farther out toward Kansas, the remains of chemical skirmishes diminished.

The life of a wilding was dangerous for a lone person, though, and the constant need to be on high alert against scavengers who roamed the wastelands would have worn him down to nothing within a few months. Here, he was close enough to civilization for relative safety, far enough away for some peace. He’d given a promise for a promise, after all—his promise to Dr. Parma that he would still take the jobs he was uniquely suited to and her promise that he would be a last resort.

Mostly, the arrangement worked.

Up here, they couldn’t hound him so easily with every minute need. Up here, anyone seeking him out had to go to considerable trouble to reach him. They knew where he was, of course. The inconvenient locale enforced the mandate that they think long and hard before paying a call, and now they only showed up when they had exhausted other options.

So he pretended not to hear the crunch of the snow-crawler’s treads as it trundled up the snow-crusted hill accompanied by the whisper-hum of its solar battery engine. Then he deluded himself a few more minutes with the fantasy of late-season sport fishermen. The voices, when they reached him, shattered his careful illusion.

Chip-chip-chip. If I ignore them this time, will they give up and go away? Probably not. Please go away.

“That’s him? He’s kinda puny,” an unfamiliar voice rasped.

They hadn’t sent Cummings? What idiot was in charge now? They’d sent some stranger as the messenger, someone who didn’t understand him?

“Variants come in all the usual shapes and sizes, Wirth.”

There was Cummings. Thank God for small favors.

“But Sledge—”

“Is just one guy,” Cummings snapped, obviously losing patience with what had to be a rookie.

Footsteps crunched through the snow toward him. Damien tried to block them out, but his muscles tensed. The terrible sensation of having someone walking up behind him crawled up his back on millipede legs.

Chip-chip-chip.

“Wirth, hold up! You don’t want—”

Something touched Damien’s elbow. The millipede crawling up his spine leaped into his brain and exploded in a thousand spiny pieces. He whirled, snarling, and swept the ice chisel at whatever had put a hand on him without permission.

“Holy fuck!” A dark-haired man leaped back from the makeshift halberd. He fell on his ass and scrabbled backward on the ice, his eyes cow-patty huge in shock.

“I tried to warn you,” Cummings said calmly from the bank. A squared-off man with salt-and-pepper hair, he was the perfect bland-faced federal agent. He stood with his hands in his trench-coat pockets, stance relaxed and nonthreatening. There was a reason they usually sent him alone instead of sending a team or someone from the Guild, as they’d done once or twice. Cummings didn’t judge. Cummings understood Damien’s boundaries. “Maybe you’ll learn to listen now.”

“He tried to fucking kill me!” The intrusive man, presumably Wirth, still scrambled backward as he failed to get his feet under him.

“No. You invaded his space without warning. You don’t do that. I might kill you if you don’t stop acting like a jackass,” Cummings grated out, shaking his head. Then he gave a nod to Damien and said more evenly, “Hazelwood. Good to see you.”

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I enjoy a good dystopian, being a die-hard Mad Max fan, and if you throw in two males falling for each other, that makes the book even better.  So when this title came up for review, I was in.

Damien is a variant.  This is explained in the novel through some great world-building of how they came about.  He is known as a “locator,” meaning he can track people.  Because being a variant has some hellish side effects, he lives alone in a cabin off the grid.  He has no inclination to associate with the real world.  People overwhelm him, as does society.  He is the introvert of introverts.

As for the other hero, Blaze, he is aptly named because he’s a “sparker,” meaning he can create fire through his hands.  The name also derives from his short-tempered, impatient personality.  He is the exact opposite of Damien.  Being a snarky guy, Blaze seems completely mismatched for the type of patience and sensitivity that Damien requires, but the author surprises the reader.

Then there is Shudder, Blaze’s ex, who can create earthquakes.  I must say, Shudder really stole my heart.  He is a compassionate, giving, selfless man who’s made it his cause to help other variant children, putting aside his own needs, and even giving up his relationship with Blaze, all for the sake of assisting the variant children and exposing whoever is behind the nefarious activities.

The world-building is spot on.  The author has a way of introducing the characters and their world, not through exposition, but through the personality of the characters.  Well done.  Not once was I lost.  Instead, I was able to fully immerse myself in the novel.  And since this is a series, I did not need to have all the answers, because those will come as each book is published.

The plot is more than romance, it’s action, too, with Blaze acting as Damien’s bodyguard as they head out to find the missing children, and while tracking the kids down, the two begin to form a relationship.  They truly balance each other.  Damien is just what Blaze needs to have some empathy for others and not be so self-absorbed, while Blaze offers Damien the comfort and patience he requires after leaving his world of isolation.  Then there is Shudder, who brings them into his world and introduces them to the children.

Do the characters change?  Not their quirks or personalities.  Those are who they are, and the author did a wonderful job of keeping these traits.  What changes are the mindsets of each hero.

The sex isn’t red hot, but that’s not required in this novel.  What builds the relationship between the duo is the trust they learn to find within each other and within themselves.

I must say I really enjoyed this novel.  It’s so much more than a dystopian, sci-fi romance.  It’s about people on the fringes of society, the outcasts nobody wants, and those who want to use them for their special abilities.  Yes, this plot has been done many times before, but the characters of Damien, Blaze, and Shudder are what make it stand out.  My fingers are crossed that Shudder gets a novel of his own.

I highly recommend you give this book a read.  It’s a wonderful new world the author created, and I’m much looking forward to the second book.

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Angel Martinez is the pen name of a writer of several genres who writes both kinds of queer fiction – Science Fiction and Fantasy. (What? There are others?)

Currently living part-time in the hectic sprawl of northern Delaware, (and full-time inside the author’s head) Angel has one husband, one son, at least one cat at any given time, a changing variety of other furred and scaled companions, a love of all things beautiful and a terrible addiction to the consumption of both knowledge and chocolate.

Follow Angel:  Blog/Website | Facebook | Twitter | Newsletter Sign-up

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