Martinez on Martinez

The A stands for Awesome.  Let’s just be clear on that.

Hi.  Been a while.  Still working on finishing my current manuscript, but I can’t stay away.  It’s not fair to you, my adoring public.  You guys are my bread and butter, so I’m setting aside the manuscript for a second and posting something because I know how much you look forward to me enriching your lives with my wit, humor, and dinobot references.  Although in this post, I will endeavor to keep dinobot references to a minimum because “Me, Grimlock, love challenge!”

Damn.  So close.

Oh, well, onward and upward.  As a professional novelologist, I have a tendency not to talk about my work directly.  I feel a good book should stand on its own, and if I have to explain it to you, then I’ve failed.  And the first rule of Novelology Club is you do not talk about Novelology Club.  The second rule of Novelology Club is you do not talk about Novelology Club.  Oh, wait.  The second rule of Novelology Club is don’t use semi-colons.  Why?

We don’t talk about that.

Still I spend a lot of time working on these books, and while I realize that not all of them can be as beloved as others, I still want people to like them.  Or at least, pay me some money for them.  So I’ve decided to take a moment and talk about one of my previous novels.  But because Orbit, my current publisher, doesn’t really gain much from that, I’m also going to go ahead and talk about DIVINE MISFORTUNE, due out next month.

But first, let’s take a look at the ancient past.  Waaaay, waaay back to 2008.  (By the way, am I the only one who still gets annoyed that 2008 is “the past” and yet, when I look back on that time, I don’t think about the time the Martians blew up the moon or the armies of the mole people rose from the underrealm?)

Let’s talk about TOO MANY CURSES.

Too Many Curses might be my least successful novel.  Although I think A NAMELESS WITCH might ultimately be the winner (hooray?) on that front.  I’ll go on record saying that I think WITCH is probably my most subtle novel.  I say this because it seems to get the most varied interpretations and some of the strongest responses (both negative and positive).  Although it gets its fair share of Meh, too.  I really like Witch, and while I could discuss it at length, I think it holds up pretty well.  It did win a feminist fiction recognition (of which I am very proud), and since I actually love hearing the many interpretations, I’d rather not get too into that right now.

CURSES, on the other hand, gets shortchanged a lot.  It’s not that people don’t like it.  It’s got a solid rating on Amazon, just not many reviews.  But that’s par for the course when you’re an obscure li’l writer like yours truly.  Still, stylistically, Curses is a departure on many levels from my previous novels, and it breaks a lot of rules of what readers are trained to expect.

There’s no romance in Curses.  None.

There’s no edge.  Our heroine is not a your typical empowered woman warrior or mage in training.  She’s a housekeeper.  And she remains a housekeeper, more or less, throughout the novel.  While she does evolve over the course of the story, she doesn’t radically shift.  And that was kind of the point for me.

It has almost no world-building.  Not a single scene takes place outside of the castle walls.  And even the castle itself is left ill-defined and nebulous.  While Nessy knows how to navigate its many halls, I deliberately didn’t include a map or even bother to create one.  I couldn’t care less about those things.  They are completely unimportant to the story for me.

I wrote Curses because I wanted to write something with a lot of weird monsters in it, and a castle full of weird monsters seemed the perfect place for that.  But like any story, it evolved into something more interesting.  Curses is a story about individuals trapped in a rotten situation and just trying to make the best of it.  Even the villain of the story, The Door at the End of the Hall, is really all about growing and evolving as a person, trying to become better than you are.  But lest you think I take myself too seriously, let’s not forget some other reasons I wrote this story:

THE MONSTER THAT SHOULD NOT BE.  The Monster Under the Bed.  The Very Hungry Carpet.  The Sword in the Cabbage.  The Drowned Woman.  Olivia the Alliterative Owl.  The Toad Prince.  The Ragdoll Princess.  Decapitated Dan.  Mr. Bones.  The Vampire King.  The Hellhound.  Gnick the Gnome.  The Hanged Man.  Echo the Bodiless Poet.  Sir Thedeus the Fearless Bat Hero.  Dodger the thieving weasel.  The Jabberwock.  Fortune the black cat.  Wow.  Just writing it now, I could go on and on, and I have to say I love all these characters.  Some don’t get much more than a few pages of story time, but that’s what I love about the castle.  It feels alive, like a real place brimming with characters and life.  A small world in itself.

Also, there’s a really cool scene where a bunch of enchanted armors for fantastic creatures fight a witch who can kill you with her touch.  And the scene where Tiama the Scarred confronts THE MONSTER THAT SHOULD NOT BE is just awesomeriffic.

So if you haven’t read Curses yet, you really should.  At least I think so, and if you can’t trust my opinion, what is this world coming to?

Onto DIVINE MISFORTUNE…

This is my new novel, out this March.  It is going to be my breakout novel.  I call it here and now.  It’s going to make me rich and powerful and able to control the weather with my mind.

Plus…Laser vision!

But what’s it about?  It’s about gods.  Lazy, dumb, petty, easily confused, down-on-their-luck deities who spend most of their time watching television, playing board games, and trying to do as little as possible while gaining the most glory for themselves.

So, yeah, they’re pretty much like the rest of us.

That’s how gods used to be, y’know, and while I have nothing against the modern conceptions of divinity, they don’t really allow one to tell a great story.  Heck, once you make your protagonist all-knowing and all-powerful, it’s hard to have much conflict.  But Zeus and his ilk were that wonderful combo of all-powerful and dim-witted that allowed pretty much anything.

My gods are immortal.  Period.  They don’t die.  They can hurt each other physically (they are physical beings), but nothing leaves any permanent damage.  My gods aren’t powered by faith, which is far too nebulous a commodity.  They’re paid in tribute:  blood sacrifice, prayers, and ritual.  Or cash.  Yes, these guys take cash, too.  It’s a modern world.  The more tribute they collect, the more powerful they become.  The more powerful they become, the more tribute they collect.  Yes, even for gods, life is all a popularity contest.

The focus on the story isn’t on the celebrities of the divine, but on the working class gods.

First up, is Lucky, raccoon god of good fortune.  He’s a player, a schmoozer.  He’s not quite as charismatic as he thinks he is, but he gets by on equal parts charm, wit, and…well…luck.  That’s kind of his thing.

Then there’s Quick.  You know him better as Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec feathered serpent god.  Quick is definitely down on his luck.  He turns his back for one second and the next thing y’know, a handful of conquistadors have ruined everything.  Ain’t that always the way?

Siph the goddess of heartbreak is a former goddess of love who…well, can’t ruin everything, can I?

And let’s not forget Gorgoz, the chaos god who sulks in an unlit basement, watching Leave It to Beaver reruns and drinking beer.  Even for a god of death and destruction, he’s a real asshole.

Intrigued?  You should be because, as we’ve already covered, if you can’t trust me, who can you trust?

Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,

LEE

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4 Comments

  1. Giga Watt
    Posted February 15, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    i think you should have mentioned Monster. That book is the one that got me hooked on your writing. Yeah, I’m a bit late to board the Lee train but ever since Monster, I’ve been reading your books whenever I can. I’m currently reading In the Company of Ogres and I’m loving the last few chapters. I’m also really looking forward to Divine Misfortune. I’ve already preordered it from Amazon.

    I write my own stories too. Whenever I have a writer’s block I just sit down and read your books until it goes away(which usually happens fairly quickly). I’d like to call you a kind of idol, I guess, for me. Ever since I read Monster my writing style even changed a bit. And even better, I learn a new word from every other page of your books.

    Oh, and I was wondering if you noticed something about In the Company of Ogres? Since you like Up so much, did you notice that in your story and in the movie that there are birds that are named Kevin and are mistakenly taken for males? Just wondering.

  2. Terri Fell
    Posted February 19, 2010 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    Have you ever thought that TOO MANY CURSES is perhaps one of your more successful novels? There’s no overt romance, but a number of characters do care for Nessy, which is a far more subtle effect to achieve in a reader’s mind with these black-on-white marks.

    You know that a main character doesn’t have to be edgy…one of the primary things about a main character is their capacity to change, however great or small that change may be. To change at all is success; failure to change (or even recognize it) is the real tragedy.

    Whether you think it’s world-building or not, the environment of the castle is world-building. You set up the parameters for the changing condition of the hallways, etc. subtly, in what seem to be throwaway lines. The trick is that those aren’t throwaway lines at all, but integral to belief in the story itself. I appreciate not having been spoon-fed a map of the castle…it actually reinforces the compact between author and reader of “Let me tell you a story” where the reader is an active participant in building the world itself. It’s the old “radio” vs. “television” argument when it comes to storytelling. No visual special effect can compete for the creepiness of the success a rusty-door-squeak of a tale from an episode of “Lights Out” or “Suspense.”

    TOO MANY CURSES ranks up with GIL’S and MONSTER as among my favored ALM novels. I’ve turned on a few folks this past year to your work by having them read either CURSES or GIL’S at their first fix of Martinez. Granted, this was before MONSTER came out, but still…
    Happy Novelisting…

  3. Zovesta
    Posted April 20, 2010 at 4:21 am | Permalink

    Honestly, got to leave a comment about Too Many Curses right now…

    I’m not enjoying Gil’s half as much as I enjoyed Curses. Ok, shoot me if you want, but…I adored Curses. This could be because I’ve been reading too many romances recently and I keep spotting tipoffs, therefore, I do not view it as something “cheap” like you think people do, but…it’s still a great book. The characters are terribly fun, down to the last spider crawling back into its drab little home. The book was full of life and mystery and excitement. The interactions – I kept bursting into laughter at every conversation. I’ve put a quote or two in my signature on other sites, with the book title and author below.
    Maybe you think it’s one of your least successful, but it’s my favorite so far. And I doubt that’ll change. I mean, you’ve got a Scottish bat, where can you go wrong? OK, joking aside – the characters were fun, the conversations were fun, the plot was enough to keep them moving, the general writing style matched it PERFECTLY, and though there are some things I was disappointed with, it was a GOOD BOOK. In my opinion, at least.

  4. A. Lee Martinez
    Posted April 20, 2010 at 4:35 am | Permalink

    Zovesta, I’m not suggesting that Curses is an inferior novel. I like it quite a bit, and I’m glad you are too. When I write a new novel, I fully expect a range of reactions, and since I try to do something a little different each book, it only makes sense that different people would like different books for different reasons. For myself, I would say that Curses is as good as anything else I’ve written. Just different. And that’s a good thing. I think, as an artist, that I would rather have a body of work that was hotly debated than a single indisputable masterpiece. Although, of course, I’d be lucky to have either.

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