Book Title: Rarely Pure and Never Simple
Author: Angel Martinez
Publisher: Mischief Corner Books
Cover Artist: Natasha Snow
Release Date: June 28, 2022
Genres: Science Fiction, M/M Romance
Tropes: Enhanced Humans, Slow Burn Romance, Annoyances to Lovers
Themes: Minority oppression/exploitation, law vs. justice
Heat Rating: 3 flames
Length: 67 000 words
It is the first book in a new series and does not end on a cliffhanger.
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.
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.
Please welcome Angel Martinez to Romancing Riley. Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for us!
Q: What’s your favorite scene in your latest book and what makes it a fave?
One of my favorites is the scene where Damien and Blaze first discuss Shudder McKenzie (who has appeared on the news disrupting a conservative political rally.) It’s a distilled moment of both their characters and one of the embers that gets under Blaze’s skin about Damien.
Would you care to share an excerpt from the scene with us?
With that, he leaped from the stage and ran off before the city security forces could surround the square. For years Blaze had managed not to see that face, that bright halo of blond hair. He turned off newscasts when they mentioned McKenzie. Blocked the word on his personal info stream. Now here he was, smacking Blaze in the face. He glanced sideways at his passenger, annoyed that Hazelwood had the start of a smile.
The snarl came from deep in his chest. “You think that’s funny?”
“Hmm. Maybe not so much funny as intriguing. Why does he make you so angry?”
“He’s a moron.”
Hazelwood tapped on the screen, changing to a program about penguins. “I’ve heard you mutter that about a lot of people. I understand not liking people, but just dismissing them as morons is… Sorry, but it’s a little lazy, don’t you think?”
The flare of anger died in Blaze when Hazelwood squeezed his eyes shut on a shiver. Something’s triggering flashes. What the hell is he trying so hard to hide from?
“He’s making things harder for all of us,” Blaze said after a snort.
“He’s apparently fighting for variant rights.”
“You don’t do it that way!” Blaze waved a hand at the penguins where McKenzie had been and tried to stop shouting. And of course Hazelwood was defending the idiot, just like people always had. “The government’s classified him as a terrorist. People like Lawson hold him up as proof of the ‘variant threat.’ Those stunts he pulls—”
Hazelwood slid a sidelong look at him. “At least aren’t self-serving. Seemed harmless enough.”
“They’re not. Some kid is gonna get hurt someday, trampled by the crowd, hit by falling debris, and then we’re all suddenly monsters.”
Hazelwood sighed. “They already think that.”
The death of that fledgling smile annoyed Blaze more than anything in their previous conversation, and he couldn’t even say why. Ridiculous. He just cared if he was able to do his damn job. He crossed his arms and sat back, watching the stupid penguins.
Q: Let’s take off your author cap and put on your reader cap for a moment: what do you look for in a book, what sort of protagonists do you love, and do you have a favorite genre?
I do enjoy a good romance, but for me, it needs to be romance and something else. Fantasy, science fiction, historical, mystery – I want a compelling genre plot to go with the romance. Probably my most favorite character for these settings is the fallen trickster – think Loki in the Marvel series, for instance, a character who is used to pulling things off, making the big escapes, stealing the best things, and suddenly finds themself brought disastrously low.
Q: What are your least and most favorite things about being an author?
I get to make stuff up! It’s great! People, worlds, words, storylines – I get paid for my daydreams. How cool is that? The flip side of that, though, is that if I actually expect to be paid, I have to do the marketing. It’s a lot.
Q: What’s the best piece of writing/author advice you’ve ever received that you’d pass on to someone just getting started in the business?
Do not, no matter how educated or experienced you are, assume that you can edit your own writing. Do not do this.
Q: Let’s talk tropes: do you have a few favorites that you enjoy both writing and reading? If so, what are they and what makes them your favorites?
I love a good forced proximity trope and all the sub-tropes that go with it (There Was Only One Bed! Or Oh No, Now We’re Trapped Together! And so on.) Being forced to spend time together really pressurizes the characters’ feelings for one another and the tensions between them.
But I think my very favorite is a found family story. Queer people often don’t get the supportive family they need in their biological family, or bio-family tries their best, but it’s not enough. A character’s found family are the people they love including but not limited to their love interest, those people who support them emotionally and fill their needs.
Q: If you could choose one of your books to be adapted for the silver screen, which would you choose? Why do you think it would translate well to film?
I’m going to cheat and name a series – Brimstone. Ensemble cast, stakes rising as the series goes on, lots of action, humor, and spots for fun special effects, it just seems like it would do quite well onscreen. Probably as a series rather than a theater-release movie, though.
Stuff & Nonsense Questions
Q: If James Corden invited you to Carpool Karaoke, what song(s) would you sing with him?
Ones that I knew the words to 😀 Probably a lot would come from my misspent youth – Ziggy Stardust, Sometimes (from the band James), Losing My Religion. But I’d also ask that we sing Ship to Wreck from Florence and the Machine. Come on. You can’t not sing along to that.
Q: If you could travel back in time, with all your years of experience and wisdom intact, what advice would you give to your teenage self?
Young self! Hey! Yes, you. Don’t listen when they tell you that writing fiction is not a profession. Don’t listen when they tell you what to be. Don’t listen when they tell you bisexual people are gross or don’t exist or are poor confused souls. You know who you are. Be that person from the start instead of flailing around for years trying to be someone else’s you.
Q: If you were to sit down and write your autobiography today, what would the title be?
It’s Not All Chaos. Honestly.
Q: Star Trek or Star Wars – both or neither? Explain.
Both. I see no need to choose between ST or SW – they’re different kinds of stories with different purposes. I can also like Babylon Five and The Silent Sea and Firefly and The Expanse and so on. I enjoy them all for the stories they are. (Both. Both is good.)
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.
“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.
“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.”
About the Author
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.
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