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

Birthday Reflections

It feels weird to have a birthday and focus on joy with the current political climate, but the concert I went to last night was 100% what I needed. The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Pulse events present orchestral music in a fresh, accessible way, and last night they played alongside Lake Street Dive.

I listened to classical pieces (new and old) that I’d never heard and got to lose myself in the richly textured performances. Next was Lake Street Dive themselves, a band of classically-trained performers who have found solid success in popular music, thanks to technical skill, great songwriting, and a lead singer with a truly singular voice. This set was far more rocking than the festival show I saw several years ago as they were starting to break out. It brought me so much joy to see them pack and captivate a 2,000+ person room.

And then, after 100 minutes of amazing music performing each on their own, the BSO and Lake Street Dive combined for a short set of LSD’s songs with 20 performers on stage. Lake Street Dive’s music is already textured and dense, and with 5x as many instruments, the magnified effect was transcendent.

But it wasn’t just the music that made the night. Before the show, there were local food vendors and local performers, like a mini indoor festival.Food, drinks, and then unforgettable music.

But that wasn’t the end.

After, we got to go backstage.

The friend whose +1 I was knows one of the bandmates, and so we got to meet and chat with each of them. I found out that the guitarist and the guest keyboardist are both SF/F fans, so we talked science fiction, the differences between prose and music, writing across media traveling for work.

The whole night was a magnificent, life-affirming event that reminded me of the power of the arts. I’ve spent so much time these last few months on the day-to-day short-term resistance – calling, sharing info, etc. All important stuff. But to keep from burning out, I need to resist through art as well as the day-to-day. To celebrate & remember what we’re fighting for.

So the birthday gift I need to give myself is permission to rotate off the front lines and make art. I’ll still make my calls, but the last few months have been utterly exhausting, reacting to every new indignity and making dozens of calls per week to rouse my reps to action. I’ve been recovering from surgery, which has kept me from the protests, but I’ve been no less active for it.

It would be easy to focus entirely on art, but I want to fight the short-term and on the cultural level. As with many things, balance. So that’s my goal for this year. To find and maintain a balance. To live fully without burning out or hiding behind my privilege.

Kameron Hurley, a brilliant fiction writer and one of the sharpest, clearest voices in SF/F, has talked about her strategy for getting through the Trump era – she talks about how she imagines herself 30~ years from now, looking back on who she was and what she did to get through all of this. And then she tries to figure out what it will take to get through to that future.

What we do right now will be remembered. Not just personally, but by our families, our friends, our neighbors, and by the world. Most of us would prefer to live in peaceful times, to never know a massive upheaval. But that is not the world we live in.

So this year, I will fight, I will live, I will laugh, I will love. I will make art and phone calls, I will go to conventions and to rallies. I will geek out with my friends about comics and share information about executive orders or legislation.

This push for balance is not some revolutionary new idea – activists and civil rights advocates have had to find this balance throughout history. I’m just a bit late to the game, like many of us are. But we’re in this together, and there are people who have been fighting the good fights for many years, people we can support and learn from.

So if you need permission to take a break, like I did, this is me giving you permission. As the resistance shifts from the rage of the inauguration and the flurry of horrendous initial actions to the sustained opposition and campaigning for run-offs/special elections this year and the big races in 2018, we’ll all need to take care of ourselves and one another to make it through this.

Because we can do this. The DJT White House and the GOP have abandoned their duty to the American people, but we’re still here, we have the numbers and the tools to protect the vulnerable, and if we can survive to 2018 with elections about as fair as we had in 2016 (noting that the 2016 elections had major problems in voter suppression, gerrymandering, and voter intimidation), the resistance can win, and can hold DJT accountable where the GOP won’t.