Baltimore Book Festival 2017

This week I’ll be participating in the Baltimore Book Festival as part of the SFWA pavilion.

I’ll be there mostly on Friday and Sunday, spending some time on Saturday to see folks at the Comicon.

Here’s my full BBF schedule:

Friday

12PM – The Business of Writing
Let our panel answer your questions about the business side of writing. Whether you’re a curious reader or a new writer, our panelists will discuss how they got started, how to keep going, and other tips and traps of the industry.

Authors: Kate Baker, Sarah Pinsker, Bud Sparhawk, Bill Campbell, Michael R. Underwood

2PM – Pitches & Queries: How I Sold My Book
SF/F authors talk about how they got their agent or book deal, and how they crafted attention-getting queries.

Authors: Addison Gunn, Arkady Martine, K.M. Szpara, Michael R. Underwood. Moderator: KM Szpara

5PM – When Genres Collide! What happens when you mix SF and mystery, or fantasy and romance?
From robot detectives to demon lovers, literature is full of genre mashups. Let’s talk about where mysteries and SF/F and romance and literature all collide.

Authors: Anatoly Belilovsky, Marianne Kirby, Paul Levinson, Sunny Moraine, Michael R. Underwood. Moderator: Jon Skovron

 

Saturday

12PM – Signing: Carrie DiRisio and Michael R. Underwood

3PM – Where is Westeros: Secondary Worlds in SF & Fantasy
We’re not in Kansas anymore – or on Earth, for that matter. Our authors discuss how they create new worlds, whether they’re through the looking glass or in a galaxy far far away. Step through the wardrobe and into a whole new read.

Authors: Jamie Lackey, Erin Roberts, Lawrence M. Schoen, Vivian Shaw, Michael R. Underwood. Moderator: Scott H. Andrews

 

Sunday

1PM – Dangerous Voices Variety Hour Presents Daniel Jose Older and Sam. J Miller
A fast-paced quiz show in the vein of Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me! brought to you by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. Win free books and learn things you never knew about your favorite authors.

Authors: Sarah Pinsker & Michael R. Underwood host guests Daniel Jose Older and Sam J. Miller.

Light a Candle

Things have been pretty scary the past few weeks, even within the hard year that 2017 has been. We had a family health scare just a little while ago (all better now), plus the ongoing garbage fire that is US politics.

So I wanted to spend a bit of time focusing on things that have been bringing joy and light into my life, in case these things could do the same for you. At the bottom, I list some resources I’ve been using to stay up to date on politics with a minimum of hassle/frustration.

Sources of Joy

One of the things I do to relax is listening to podcasts. I started listening to podcasts over ten years ago when I was out in Oregon doing my M.A. in Folklore. Back then, the only show I listened to was Mur Lafferty’s I Should Be Writing. These days, I’m a part of two podcasts and subscribe to many more. The two below have been particularly helpful for me this summer:

Friends at the Table – A marvelous actual-play tabletop role-playing game podcast with great players, engrossing worlds, and amazing music by composer Jack de Quidt (who is also one of the players). The current season Twilight Mirage is especially engrossing, telling the tale of a far-future utopia in crisis.

Waypoint Radio – The home podcast of video game website Waypoint. They focus less on giving games scores and more on story structure, design, and the political dimensions of games. They sometimes also talk politics (esp. labor and health policy) and are clear and open in their progressive leanings.

When I’m not listening to podcasts, I am often chilling out with my wife watching TV or watching something in the background while I work on this or that. Here are some shows and video series that have brought me joy the past few months:

DuckTales – The original show was one of my favorite cartoons as a kid, and the 2017 remake on DisneyXD is very amusing so far. I am a total sucker for anything that plays in the ‘modern multi-genre pulp’ mode where mummies and vampire and Atlantis and so on are all real.

Breakfast & Battlegrounds – This is a video series on Waypoint comprised of recordings of the game Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds. Breakfast & Battlegrounds is complete with a (funny, loose) continuity, special music (boat jazz!) and fun special guests. Austin & Patrick from Waypoint play as father & son team Crowbar & Sickle, in search of the elusive Chicken Dinner of victory. The most fun I’ve had watching a video game in some time.

Killjoys – A fun, sexy, space-based action-adventure series which starts with great episodic stories and builds to a cool metaplot. The showrunner is the same as the urban fantasy series Lost GirlKilljoys is about a pair of space-age bounty hunters called Killjoys who travel The Quad (four planet/moons bound together by a corporate-owned government).

And of course, since I’m a gamer, here’s a recent game I loved playing:

Pyre – The new game from Supergiant Games, who created Bastion and Transistor. It’s a cool fantasy combination of a visual novel/choose your own adventure and a magical sports game. The biggest draw for me in this game is the cool characters and their evolving relationships with one another. Also, you can complete a play-through in about 10-12 hours.

Podcasts
Pod Save America
 – Ex-Obama staffers break down the news and snark along the way. Unabashedly Democrat-leaning & progressive, a bit bro-y, though not gross.
Pod Save The People – Activist Deray Mckesson provides a grassroots view on politics, with a strong focus on the impact to and organizing by communities of color.

Website
What The Fuck Just Happened Today? – Trump-focused digest of American political news.

A Break in the Clouds

I was shocked and relieved this morning to see that the latest ACA repeal effort failed last night. McCain came through for America in surprisingly actually sort of keeping his word from his much-lauded speech. More laudable are Senators Collins and Murkowski for sticking to their principles, and the entire Dem Senate caucus for their unified opposition to this parade of successively more terrible bills presented in ever-more-terrible fashion.

Most deserving of praise are the people of the USA. Everyone who called, emailed, faxed, wrote, rallied, marched, protested, and made their voices heard. The heroes at ADAPT deserve a special shout-out for their visible, powerful direct actions, as well as groups like Planned Parenthood, Indivisible, MoveOn, and more.

This is a big victory, and we should celebrate it. I don’t doubt that McConnell will try again, but we can win again, like we’ve won three times now in the Senate.

While we’re energized, let’s make sure to speak up in defense of and solidarity with our LGBTQIA countrypeople, especially trans countrypeople, who are being targetted by the president and his cartoonish racist asshole of an Attorney General. I will be making calls to push back on the President’s attack on the ability of trans people to participate in the armed services, and to oppose the re-interpretation of Title VII being made in order to exclude LGBTQIA people from civil rights protection.

Here’s a breakdown of the events of last night.

And information about the attacks on LGBTQIA rights.

Trans people in the armed services
Title VII

Ree Reyes series update

“So, When Is The Next Geekomancy Book?”

In the last couple of months, I’ve had several people have asked me a variation of this question. That’s great! It’s good to have people excited about your next book! And it makes sense that this is the series people ask about. The first book in the series, Geekomancy, is still my best-selling book (though 50% or more of those unit sales are at a deep discount). These books are what a lot of people best know me for, and they hold a very special place in my heart – they launched my career, they let me forge my passion for geekdom and pop culture into fiction, investigating what I loved and what I found troubling about fandom.

Unfortunately, while the first book has done very well, each successive novel in the series has sold less than half of the copies of the book before it, so that “best-selling of my books” numbers very quickly become “hard to justify continuing the series” numbers. Book #4 (Hexomancy) has been out for almost two years, and it’s sold less than 13% of what Book #1 (Geekomancy) has sold. Even if we just look at the first two years of Book #1’s sales and then the first two years of Book #4’s sales, Book #4 is not doing well.

And that’s despite Hexomancy being, in my opinion, the best-written book in the series. It’s often the case that later books in the series are better-written but don’t sell as well, due to reader attrition. There are a ton of different reasons later books might not do as well. Someone liked Book #1 but #2 didn’t do it for them, so they opt out. Or it’s too long between Book #2 and #3, so they forget about the series or miss the newer releases, etc.

Beyond the Geekomancy books, some of my other releases haven’t hit well, either. Neither Shield & Crocus and The Younger Gods sold well for the publisher to ask for sequels, despite works I’m very proud of and learned a lot from writing. A lot of books published don’t earn out their advances and/or don’t sell enough for the publisher to offer on sequels. Again, this industry is tough.

The Not-So Glamourous Writer Life

It’s not fun to talk about this. Writers are supposed to be eternally confident, never exposing weakness. Every book is spoken of only for its successes. The writer’s life is glamour and marvels, fancy cocktail parties in the Big City. I’ve been very lucky in my career so far, in having Geekomancy discovered on Book Country, in having an editor come back to me about Shield & Crocus, and in having a lot of help from friends and family.

But even with that luck and assistance, that glamorous version of the Writer’s Life isn’t the experience that I’ve had. And maintaining that illusion of Writer’s Career As Eternal Awesomeness At All Times obscures the hard realities of trying to build a career as a commercial fiction writer. Even very successful writers face challenges, doubts, and setbacks. I’ve gotten much stronger as a writer with each book I write, but there are more amazing SF/F books out there than any one person could ever hope to read, and competition is fierce. The political stuff this year and pushing myself in 2015/2016 has meant that this year I’ve had to take stock on a lot of things, and I’m trying to be kinder to myself and more open about the process, the business, and in life. So here I am, showing my cards.

I’m very glad that more and more writers are throwing back the curtain and talking candidly about their careers and about the challenges writers face, commercially and creatively. Every writer that banishes the illusions makes it easier for other writers to do so, and makes it easier for new writers to come into the field with a better understanding of the realities we face.

So, What Now?

If I didn’t have other things going on, it’d be easier to write more Geekomancy stories on spec. But I have a novel to finish revising so my agent can sell it, more Genrenauts to write to build that promising series, a Sekret Collaborative Project that is taking off now, and trying to get into comics writing. That’s honestly already too much, without even getting into my idea of returning to my geeky roots and trying to assemble writers to play RPGs live on streaming channels like Twitch and/or YouTube.

I still have stories to tell in the Geekomancy setting and want to. I said in the acknowledgments to Hexomancy that I would keep writing if people kept reading, but the trick is that if only a few people are reading, the releases will be much shorter and less frequent. I have considered running a Kickstarter to see if there’s enough interest in another book. But right now, I am focusing on other projects to move my career forward, which I hope will then put me in a position to do more with Ree & company.

I have considered running a Kickstarter to see if there’s enough interest in another book. If you’d be interested in a Ree Reyes Kickstarter for more books, please let me know (comment below). By my calculations, I’d probably set my Kickstarter goal at close to $10,000 or more to justify writing a Ree Reyes book instead of the other projects on my to-do list.

Being able to run a very successful Kickstarter would re-arrange the lines of career and financial priority, but Kickstarters also take a *lot* of effort. I’ve also considered launching a Patreon for my writings about the business of publishing/being an author, but focusing more on non-fiction writing would require taking more time away from writing fiction. The only way that becomes a really good idea is if the Patreon $$$ becomes enough to justify working less on other stuff. And launching a Patreon is, again, something that takes its own effort.

So for right now, I am focusing on other projects to move my career forward, which I hope will then put me in a position to do more with Ree & co.

There have never been more opportunities for creatives to forge their own path in building their careers and their businesses. But everything takes time, and no one can do everything at once. Non-fiction writing time means less fiction writing time. Learning how to write comics means reading more comics and less fiction, which means I am less current on what’s happening in the fiction market. It’s a lot.

The more people buy and read and review the books, the easier it will be for me to write another book and continue the series. Right now the sales have halved with each successive novel, so continuing is not viable financially.

Timely Promotions

Geekomancy and the Ree Reyes books are discounted right now in ebook. This is convenient for those who haven’t read the series or are looking to spread the word by pointing friends at the series or gifting ebook/audiobook editions to friends/family.

Right now, you can get all four books in the series for just $10.96 in the US (Book #1 and Book #4 are just $.99 each at the moment)

Ree Reyes series covers

 

Also: I do want to make sure that folks have seen the free Christmas short story I released at the end of last year as a treat for Geekomancy fans: http://michaelrunderwood.com/2016/12/25/a-very-geekomancy-christmas/

Let Me Sum Up

I’m very honored to have the every reader for the Ree Reyes books and my other works. Thanks so much for your support!

Geek on!

CONvergence schedule

Next week I will be returning to CONvergence, one of my favorite cons of the year.

Most of the weekend, I will be running the Angry Robot Books booth at Space # 15 in the Dealers’ Hall.

But I’ll also be appearing on some programming as an Invited Participant.

Thursday, July 6th

8:30 pm
Squirrel You Know It’s True – Doubletree Plaza 1

The Squirrel Girl fan panel! Let’s discuss our favorite super hero. What makes her so compelling? Will she ever get her own movie?

Panelists: Sarah Barsness (mod), Michael R Underwood, Nicole LaBat, Elise Muellerleile, Squirrel “Beth” Jankowski

Friday, July 7th

2pm
99 Problems But a Pitch Ain’t One – Doubletree Atrium 4

So you’ve got a great idea, shot a video, wrote a comic/novel…now what? Join this panel of industry professionals and learn about prepping, packaging, and presenting your content to the right people, at the right outlets, in the right way.

Panelists: Catherine Schaff-Stump, Lee Harris (mod), Michael R Underwood, Taylor Cisco, Madeleine Vasaly

5pm
Michael R. Underwood – Sheraton Ames

It’s a reading! I am working on bringing in some friends to share the time with.

Saturday, July 8th

9:30am
How To Attract an Audience – DoubleTree Atrium 7

Marketing professionals and artists with a proven track record for generating buzz share their dos and don’ts when it comes to marketing art and convincing potential audiences to pick up your book, attend your show, or follow your podcast.

Panelists: Anj Olsen, Harris O’Malley, Michael R Underwood, Tania Richter, Echo Martin

3:30pm – 6pm (I will probably leave at 5pm to get back to the booth)
Group Signing – DoubleTree Garden Court – Southwest

This signing is for Invited and other Participants to sign their work.
3:30pm-5:00pm
Panelists: Jay Gallentine, William Leisner, Tex Thompson, Adam Whitlatch, Briana Lawrence, Jessica Walsh, Joan Marie Verba, Axel Kohagen, Harris O’Malley, Michael R Underwood, Taylor Cisco, Anthony Eichenlaub, John Heimbuch, Henry Walton
5-6pm
Panelists: J. Boone Dryden, Jay Gallentine, Roy C. Booth, Catherine Schaff-Stump, William Leisner, Tex Thompson, Adam Whitlatch, Briana Lawrence, Jessica Walsh, Joan Marie Verba, Axel Kohagen, Harris O’Malley, Michael R Underwood, Henry Walton

Sunday, July 9th

9:30am
A Comprehensive Guide to Independent Publishing – DoubleTree Atrium 2

There are a lot of guides to self-publishing, independent publishing, and small presses. However, those guides may not cover everything. The purpose of this panel is to cover issues and challenges that may not be covered elsewhere. Panelists: Linda White, Harris O’Malley, Michael R Underwood, Joan Marie Verba, Ty Blauersouth (mod)

11am
When Nerd Niche Goes Mainstream – Doubletree Atrium 4

With superheroes all the rage these days, self-described old-school nerds talk about what it was like back when enjoying comic books would get you beat up in school and the pros and cons of when your niche interests go mainstream. Panelists: Dave Margosian (mod), Harris O’Malley, Michael R Underwood, Allyson Cygan, Derek Mahr

The Data Disruption launch

The new Genrenauts story is here!

Cyberpunk is one of my very favorite genres. Movies like Ghost in the Shell and Blade Runner were formative for me growing up, as well as The Matrix. I played the hell out of Netrunner card game growing up, as well as Shadowrun and Cyberpunk 2020. In school, I got to take a SF/F class from a professor whose specialty is cyberpunk.

I was a bit young to read Cyberpunk when it was first emerging in film and fiction. But as a Millennial/Gen Y/Oregon Trail generation kid, I grew up in an ever-more Cyberpunk world, with global communications technology, global mega-corps, consolidation, ever-more-impressive medical and technological breakthroughs, automation, rising corporate influence on government, and so on. It’d be pretty easy for me to argue that Cyberpunk is the genre most reflective of the world I’ve known growing up. It’s given me many of the tools I use to see and analyze the world, in terms of the social impact of technology, how labor, corporations, and politics intersect, and humanist questions about androids, robots, and so on.

Also, it’s got cool fight scenes.

So it’s little surprise that the majority of my non-novella short fiction is cyberpunk. “Kachikachi Yama” and “Can You Tell Me How To Get to Paprika Place” are both cyberpunk stories, though their focuses are very distinct. Cyberpunk aesthetics show up in the Ree Reyes series as well, especially in Hexomancy.

Acknowledgments 

I want to thank John Appel, Devan Barlow, Beth Cato, and A.F. Grappin for their great beta reader feedback on this story. Richard Shealy’s copy edit helped me say what I want to say with clarity. Thanks also to Sean Glenn for keeping the visual style of Genrenauts going with his cover design, and to Meg White Underwood for being my first reader and final proofer, as well as a marvelous brainstorming buddy. And once again, thanks to everyone who backed, promoted, and otherwise supported the Genrenauts Season One Kickstarter.

So without further ado, here’s The Data Disruption! It’s free on all ebook platforms. Check below for more information about the story.

Amazon * Barnes & Noble * iTunes
GumroadKobo

The Data Disruption cover. Design by Sean Glenn

Design by Sean Glenn

 

When Stories Break, You Send in the Genrenauts!

The Genrenauts are a group of story experts who travel to parallel worlds. Each is the home of a narrative genre—Science Fiction or Romance, Fantasy or Western—populated by archetypal characters and constantly playing out familiar stories.

The Genrenauts’ mission: find and fix broken stories. If they fail, the ripples from the story worlds will cause havoc and devastation on their home world.

In the world of Cyberpunk, D-Source, a noted hacker, has disappeared, leaving his team’s storyline to grind to a halt. Angstrom King leads the Genrenauts on a mission to find out what happened to D-Source and how to get the cyberpunks back in the action.

World-spanning megacorporations…suspicious mercenaries living on the edge…lethal computer programs designed to tear your mind to shreds…the Genrenauts will face all these and more to get the story back on track—before it’s too late.

A short story in the world of Genrenauts (a finalist for the r/Fantasy “Stabby” Award for Best Serialized Fiction.)

Those links again:
Amazon * Barnes & Noble * iTunes
GumroadKobo

The Data Disruption cover reveal

Hello, everyone! I spent the last three weekends at the Nebulas, Balticon, and then DC for a Sekret Project (which I’ll be telling you more about, soon).

But today, I am excited to bring you the cover for the new Genrenauts story, The Data Disruption!

Since Genrenauts is strongly informed by the structure and feel of television, I decided it’d be fun to write a “Lost Pilot” episode to release as a freebie prequel. It’s about 1/2 the length of a normal Genreauts episode (~15K words rather than the average of 30K).

For Genrenauts veterans, The Data Disruption takes place immediately before The Shootout Solution, taking King, Shirin, and Roman to the neon-and-chrome world of Cyberpunk. It is designed to serve as an introduction to the series, which I’ll use to invite more people into the worlds of Genrenauts.

Without further ado, here’s the cover for The Data Disruption, designed by Sean Glenn!

 

The Data Disruption cover. Design by Sean Glenn

Design by Sean Glenn

 

About The Data Disruption

When Stories Break, You Send in the Genrenauts!

The Genrenauts are a group of story experts who travel to parallel worlds. Each is the home of a narrative genre—Science Fiction or Romance, Fantasy or Western—populated by archetypal characters and constantly playing out familiar stories.

The Genrenauts’ mission: find and fix broken stories. If they fail, the ripples from the story worlds will cause havoc and devastation on their home world.

In the world of Cyberpunk, D-Source, a noted hacker, has disappeared, leaving his team’s storyline to grind to a halt. Angstrom King leads the Genrenauts on a mission to find out what happened to D-Source and how to get the cyberpunks back in the action.

World-spanning megacorporations…suspicious mercenaries living on the edge…lethal computer programs designed to tear your mind to shreds…the Genrenauts will face all these and more to get the story back on track—before it’s too late.

A short story in the world of Genrenauts (a finalist for the r/Fantasy “Stabby” Award for Best Serialized Fiction.)

The Data Disruption will be published on June 13th across all major ebook platforms for the low price of free!

Pike’s Peak Writers Conference

This week I will be appearing as a faculty member for the Pikes Peak Writers Conference in Colorado Springs, CO. This will be my first time appearing as faculty at a multi-genre writers conference, and I’m excited to share my experience and ideas with up-and-coming writers.

Here are the workshops I’ll be teaching at the conference:

BE THE RISING TIDE THAT LIFTS ALL BOATS:  Networking in the Book World

Writing compelling work is the most important factor in succeeding as a writer, but who you know makes a big impact as well. This workshop will describe and explore methods of networking and building connections in your industry/genre in order to benefit others as well as yourself.

FROM WORLD TO STORY: Science Fiction and Fantasy World Building

Science Fiction & Fantasy are famous for their settings – imagined futures and fascinating invented worlds. Many writers get bogged down in worldbuilding or struggle to move from setting to a specific story. This workshop will provide tools and example processes for developing a setting in a way that will enrich character, support plotting, and help avoid falling down the hole of endless worldbuilding.

HOW TO HAND-SELL YOUR BOOK

Author and publishing professional Mike Underwood shares lessons from seven years of hand-selling books to readers, booksellers, and sales reps.  Learn how to put your work into a market context, showcase what makes it special, and connect with readers when selling at conventions, festivals, and more.

Digital Strategy and the Future

It’s time for another Storify Post! This one is on comics & books industries, with a compare & contrast on digital strategy, overall vision, etc.

 

Norwescon Schedule

Next week, for the first time, I will be attending Norwescon in Washington. Even cooler, I’ll be attending alongside my boss, Marc Gascoigne, representing Angry Robot Books as the Spotlight Publisher for the con. It’s kind of like being a Guest of Honor, but in a publisher-specific fashion. A number of our authors will be in attendance, as well. It should be a grand old time.

Here’s my schedule! I’ve left off the specific info on things that I’m not certain are open to the full attendance of the convention. It may be that some of those are in fact open, and regardless, I hope to see people during the con!

Thurs

Opening Ceremonies
7:00pm – 8:00pm @ Grand 3 and Grand 2
Nancy Kress (M), Catska Ench, Cory Ench, Ethan Siegel, Ian McDonald, Marc Gascoigne, Mike Underwood

Friday
The Geek Life
11:00am – 12:00pm @ Cascade 9
Shannon (M), Shubzilla, Mike Underwood, Jason Bourget

Interview and Q&A with Angry Robot
1:00pm – 2:00pm @ Grand 2
Adam Rakunas (M), Marc Gascoigne, Mike Underwood

Saturday
Autograph Session 1
2:00pm – 3:00pm @ Grand 2

Autograph Session 2
3:00pm – 4:00pm @ Grand 2

What’s New at Angry Robot
5:00pm – 6:00pm @ Evergreen 1&2
Marc Gascoigne, Mike Underwood

The Evolution of Star Wars
7:00pm – 8:00pm @ Cascade 9
Spencer Ellsworth (M), Dylan Templar, David Fooden, Mike Underwood, Rob Stewart
Sunday
Closing Ceremonies
4:00pm – 5:00pm @ Evergreen 3&4
Rob Stewart (M), Catska Ench, Cory Ench, Ethan Siegel, Ian McDonald, Marc Gascoigne, Mike Underwood, Nancy Kress