Hexomancy is here!




Hexomancy cover


At long last, Hexomancy has arrived!

It’s been over a year since Attack the Geek, the last Ree Reyes story, was released, and now Hexomancy closes out the first story arc of the Ree Reyes universe.

If you’re not familiar with the Ree Reyes stories, check out this series summary I wrote for XOXO After Dark to see if it catches your fancy.

For long-running readers, here’s what you can expect from Hexomancy: More Lucretia, more Drake, more Eastwood and Grognard, but also more of the Rhyming Ladies, and plots from the first three books to come back around for a reckoning. Expect Eastwood’s history to figure in a big way, and as always, there’s more of the patented Ree Reyes series pop-culture references, geeky jokes, and energetic action-adventure storytelling.

I’m really proud of Hexomancy – I think it’s the best novel I’ve written to-date, in terms of pacing, action, characterization, and interpersonal relationships. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

Click here for links to ebook retailers to get your copy now.

Until next time, Geek on!

CONvergence schedule

Hello, all! I’m headed out to the Twin Cities this week for CONvergence, a large fan-run con that’s been running for more than 15 years. I first attended two years ago as part of an Angry Robot expedition with Lee Harris and Emma Newman, and was completely bowled over by how fun and well-run the convention is.

This year, I’m on four panels and an off-site event. Here’s where to find me!

July 2nd

2pm The Smurfette Principle in Marketing (DoubleTree Atrium 6)

3:30 pm Ebooks and the Marketplace (DoubleTree Atrium 7)

July 3rd

11:00 am Storytelling in Comics and TV (DoubleTree Plaza 3)

July 4th

11:00 am The Skiffy and Fanty Show Live: Space Travel and Its Discontents (Crowne Plaza A-E-I-O)

8-9 pm:  “The Skiffy and Fanty Hangout” in the Doubletree Bar Area! — come play games (Sabacc, Koi Koi, and more!), hang with various members of the crew, and have a drink!

And – on Thursday, July 2nd, I’ll be at Source Comics & Games with several other writers for ‘Gaming with Authors’ – as fine an event idea as I’ve ever seen.


I also have a few other ideas up my sleeve, so keep an eye on Twitter.


Geekomancy Cover

Hello, all – I’m excited to share the news that GEEKOMANCY has been selected as a Kindle Daily Deal today, on sale for just $1.99. This is a great chance to pick up a copy of the book, or to buy a copy for a friend (Amazon has an easy ebook gifting system).

You can find the book on sale here to get a copy for yourself for a friend.

Additionally, I’d love your assistance in spreading the word about the deal – on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Google+, etc. Please find below a Tweet-sized message for ease of use:

What it fandom was a magic system? GEEKOMANCY by Michael R. Underwood, a Kindle Daily Deal for just $1.99! http://www.amazon.com/Geekomancy-Ree-Reyes-Book-1-ebook/dp/B007SNRRP8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1432474904&sr=8-1&keywords=geekomancy


With your help, we’re hoping to get the word out about GEEKOMANCY to lots of new readers who can then enjoy the series as we lead up to the release of HEXOMANCY in September.

Geek on!

Superhero shows I want to see

So, if Twitter and online media reviews are any indications, Daredevil is a hit. (I’m really liking it, though I’m only 9 episodes in).

We’re already in the middle of a wave of superhero TV, much of which is far better than has been made in the past.

But what’s next? Supergirl is coming, as is DC’s All-Star Team-Up (or whatever the series with ATOM/Firestorm and co. will be called).

The big Q I have right now is what superhero TV shows will be greenlit on the back of Daredevil‘s success.

What I’m hoping is that we see more supers shows developed with high production values without always already having to be gritty and morally gray. Agents of SHIELD got stronger after a weak launch, but when comparing it to The Flash or Daredevil, it’s now weak sauce.


Here are some ideas that took basically no time to come up with:

Birds of Prey  (Pitch: Girls + crime-fighting) – Batgirl and Black Canary + 1-2 other 20-something women being young and fabulous and flawed and friends while fighting crime. You could basically work directly from the Stewart/Fletcher/Tarr Batgirl run for the first season as your starting point (after adjusting the plot of Issue #37).

The Unbeatable Squirrel-Girl (Pitch: No, seriously, this will work) – Here’s part one of Marvel’s play for tween/teen audiences. The new comics run is fun, whacky, and really kid-friendly. Do it as a cartoon if you need to. Avatar: the Last Airbender has proven that cartoons can have tonal range and work across demographic categories.

Ms. Marvel (Pitch: This book is huge, just make it) — This comic is a gigantic hit barely a year into its first run. Capitalize on this sensation while you’ve got it, Marvel. Take a stand by putting a Pakistani-American young woman front-and-center in the MCU. The success of shows like Jane The Virgin and Scandal prove that a woman of color in a lead can succeed in ratings. Though I get maybe wanting to wait with her to introduce Captain Marvel first in the MCU. Doesn’t mean you couldn’t do a 616 series instead of MCU, especially in cartoon form.

Silver Surfer (Pitch: It’s an American Dr. Who) – Take your cues from the current Slott/Allred run and have a ball. Made more difficult by the shiny silver-ness of the lead, but worth considering.

She-Hulk – (Pitch: It’s Ally McBeal for the 20-teens. OR It’s feminist superpowered Law + Order). Take your cues from the recent runs and go for a procedural show where the lead is both Law + Order by herself. Cast a statuesque actress or CG her up in post-production (the former is a smarter idea) and go for episodic plots – A plot is the legal case of the week, B-plot is a superhero plot. The next week, reverse it so the supers plot is the A-plot. And then use subplots in mini and maxi-arcs to give the whole show shape.

Wonder Woman (Pitch: The West Wing + Greek Gods). This has been tried for TV, but not in the way I think would work best. Let Wonder Woman be a Big Damn Hero and an international diplomatic figure. She’s a Big Deal. Draws inspiration from the Greg Rucka run on the character, maybe mix that in with the Greek God-tastic Azzarello run.

X-Men (Pitch: It’s a CW Show. With the X-Men). HOW IS THIS NOT ALREADY HAPPENING? CW is doing a lot of SFF, and an X-Men show focusing on younger heroes, a mix of existing and brand-new mutants, with some familiar faces on faculty, WOULD ROCK. To answer my own question, I imagine this hasn’t happened mostly because of Fox and Marvel’s strained relationship, but there’s money being left on the table here, folks. Looking at shows like The Flash, I think the tech is there to start putting more visually-impressive supers on TV. The look of many visually-distinct mutants can be achieved with good makeup.


What supers shows do you want to see, and how would you do it?

Introducing GENRENAUTS

Tor.com has announced their launch roster for The Imprint, including two books by me in a new series!

When I heard the news of Tor.com launching a novella imprint, focusing on digital sales and experimenting with different sales and promotion strategies, as well as offering a higher royalty rate on digital sales, Macmillan had my curiosity.

When they hired my former Angry Robot colleague Lee Harris as the Imprint’s Senior Editor, well…

Django Unchained Gif ' You had my curiosity, but now you have my attention.'

Continue reading

New Geekomancer Under Glass

I’ve got a new post on Skiffy And Fanty in my Geekomancer Under Glass series. This time I’m talking about transmedia storytelling, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, and the MCU.

Here’s a little taste:

There have been TV->film->TV movements, from La Femme Nikita to Star Trek, Star Wars, and more. The Matrix universe delved deep into transmedia storytelling, with animated shorts, video games, and comics.

But Agents of SHIELD was something different — clearly designed as a bridge between movies, the show started weak. Really weak. The pilot episode showed some promise, with Clark Gregg as a compelling lead and Mike Peterson giving a voice to an interesting thematic question (is the American Dream a lie?).

Read the whole thing here

Marie Brennan Interview

Back in the day, when I was a fresh-faced n00b writer, I joined a writers group, including the Aggressively Competent Marie Brennan, about to debut with Doppelganger (now titled Warrior) from Warner-Aspect. Marie and I met through a gaming troupe, and it’s been a pleasure to watch her steady career growth, including a huge step up with her Memoirs of Lady Trent series (starting with A Natural History of Dragons, continuing with The Tropic of Serpents, both from Tor books)

Marie is a dear friend, so I was excited to catch up with her and share our conversation with you all.

First, a quick Bio for Marie:

Marie Brennan is a former academic with a background in archaeology, anthropology, and folklore, which she now puts to rather cockeyed use in writing fantasy. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she spends her time practicing piano, studying karate, and playing a variety of role-playing games.

Marie Brennan

And now, the interview!

Mike Underwood: Can you tell us real quick about your newest projects, Chains and Memory and The Tropic of Serpents?

Marie Brennan: They’re wildly different projects — which is a very good thing! I like getting a change of pace, rather than telling the same type of story over and over and over again. The Tropic of Serpents is the second in the Memoirs of Lady Trent, which is the autobiography of a pseudo-Victorian gentlewoman who travels the world studying dragons. These aren’t your magical, sentient creatures out of Tolkien; dragons in her world are wild animals — but no less wondrous for all of that.

Chains and Memory, on the other hand, is the sequel to a novel I published in 2012, Lies and Prophecy. The Wilders series are urban fantasies . . . or as I sometimes describe them, near-future alternate-history mildly-post-apocalyptic urban fantasies. Pyschic powers have become ubiquitous; the protagonists are college students studying magic and trying to deal with a sudden threat against one of their friends.

MU: Who did you have to kill to get that amazing Todd Lockwood art for the Dragons books?

MB: I could tell you . . . but then I’d have to kill you. 🙂

MU: That’s fair. Have you been in contact with Todd directly, or was he just working off of the manuscript?

MB: I’ve been fortunate enough to meet him a couple of times, usually when I’m passing through Seattle on book tour. We talk a bit, but mostly he works off the notes I send through my editor, describing the material to be included in the image.

MU: When you were writing Isabella’s adventures, did you have the older Isabella’s perspective already in place in the first draft, or did you draft through and then add the older Isabella perspective? What have you found to be the challenges and benefits of writing in this memoir-style POV?

MB: Oh, it’s there from the start. I couldn’t possibly write her narration without keeping in mind the fact that she’s an old woman talking about her youth; I’d end up ripping out 95% of the words and replacing them if I tried to start with the young version and then add in the old one post facto.

The challenge is that you always, always have to bear in mind that your narrator is consciously writing for her audience (i.e. the people in Isabella’s own world). That means there are things she won’t say, maybe because they’re obvious to her readers, maybe because they’re too personal and she’s not going to share them publicly. But since you’re writing for readers in your own world, you have to find a way to get that information in there regardless. On the other hand, the benefit is that she’s very self-reflexive; she can comment (often critically) on her own past decisions and attitudes, which invites the reader to then consider how they judge her judgment, if you follow me. And absolutely everything becomes characterization: I can get away with six straight paragraphs of Isabella describing the Green Hell (the jungle where she spends much of her time in The Tropic of Serpents) because it isn’t just description; it’s also character.

MU: The Wilders books (Lies and Prophecy and Chains of Memory) and  are projects you’ve had in mind for a long time. How has your perspective on the story and the characters changed since you first imagined the story?

MB: In a way, having more than a decade to mull over the story has been a good thing. I came up with the first, early ideas for it not long after I finished the original draft of Lies and Prophecy, nigh on fifteen years ago, but those ideas were just seeds. They took root in my brain and have been growing ever since — and in fact, thinking through Chains and Memory ended up feeding back into the first book as I revised and eventually published it. There are elements of Lies and Prophecy that are there because I thought, okay, if I want to make X be a big issue in the sequel, I need to establish its existence from the start. And oh, huh, if I’m going to be dealing with Y, that would probably change the way these other things get presented early on.

I wouldn’t recommend this process for every series. You have to be really passionate about a story to still care about it and want to write it a decade later. But in the case of the Wilders books, it helped make the whole thing so much richer.

MU: Can you talk about one element from the books that especially benefited from the gestation, without getting too spoiler-y? Are they questions of character, setting, plot?

MB: The biggest example is sort of half-character, half-setting. I originally wrote Lies and Prophecy as a stand-alone book — less because I thought the story itself ended there, more because after that, it didn’t seem like it was the story of my protagonists anymore. It would be in the hands of other characters. But a year or two after finishing the first draft, I realized that the nebulous shreds of additional story floating around my head all had a common element, and that was the wilders: the people born with extraordinarily strong psychic gifts, rather than developing them at puberty.

Julian, one of the two main protagonists, is a wilder, and so I’d thrown bits and pieces of background about that into the first draft of the book. As I started thinking through how I would continue the story in Chains and Memory, he grew immensely as a character, because I had to take those bits and pieces and flesh them out: think through their underpinnings and their effects and what those would mean not just for him, but for all the people like him. So that entire component of the world became 400% richer, and so did he — and by extension Kim, because of her relationship with him.

MU: Very cool. It’s fun to dig back and re-approach works after a long time – I’m so glad that you’ve been able to get the Wilders projects out, since they’ve been with you for so long.

You started with adventure fantasy, then moved on to historical fantasy, and now you’re writing contemporary and secondary world-but-kinda-historical-ish fantasy. Does one of these styles feel the most natural for you? If not, what have you done to make each mode of fantasy fit your writing?

MB: I think historical and historical-ish feel the most natural for me right now, but I also think that’s because they’re what I’ve been doing for about seven years, from the Onyx Court books up through the Memoirs. It’s been a challenge getting back into a more contemporary voice for Chains and Memory. And there’s a short story I’m working on that might become the foundation for either a linked series of stories or maybe some novels, which would be set in a non-historical secondary world; it turns out that those gears in my head are incredibly rusty. I love the inventiveness of it, but I keep reflexively thinking “okay, so what time period and place am I going to base this on?” I have to remind myself that the answer is, none of them. I can steal bits and pieces, but I’m allowed to mix and match them and make new stuff up. You don’t realize how much of a skill that is until you don’t practice it for years!

MU: I love the Driftwood setting, and have for quite a while. Could you talk a bit about how your anthropology/folklore training has impacted the way you construct Driftwood? Also, will we ever find out what’s up with Last? (I don’t have much hope for a straight answer on this one).

MB: You’ll get bits and pieces of his story, the way you have so far — but no, I’m never going to tell you exactly what’s up with him. That would ruin the fun!

Oddly, Driftwood is the setting where I tell myself to throw the anthropology and folklore out the window. My impulse is to try and create coherent, well-knit worlds, where if I say the religion preaches that the soul remains in the body forever after death, I have to think about what the consequences of that would be for funerary practices and property law and all the rest of it. That’s the anthropology talking, trying to make the cultures believable. But Driftwood isn’t about coherence and well-knit worlds: it’s about fragmentation. So I can make up anything I like and chuck in there, because the answer to “what does this mean for property law?” is “their government has fallen apart anyway and there’s only five people left in that world, surrounded by stacks of haunted corpses”. (I just made that idea up while writing this answer, and now I want to make a story out of it.) I sometimes pull bits from things I’ve read about other cultures, but a lot of it is me cutting loose and going way out on a limb.

MU: What are you working on next, writing-wise? Is there a genre, sub-genre, or medium you’d like to work in but haven’t gotten the chance to?

MB: I have one idea for a poem. One. And god help me, it wants to be a sestina. Writing a good sestina when you don’t have any skill at poetry or any other ideas to practice on turns out to be really, really hard.

At the moment I’m drafting Chains and Memory. I’m running a Kickstarter campaign to fund it, since this is a side project of mine; I met my initial goal early on, but there are some stretch goals for which I have my fingers crossed. And then after that, it’s the fourth book of the Memoirs. Fourth out of five, which means I’m already looking ahead to what I’ll do next, even though that’s a couple of years off. I’d like to get a foothold in YA, write for both audiences; the Wilders series is alllllmost YA, but not quite — college is a bit too old for that category.

MU: Could you talk a bit about the way you relate gaming (tabletop and LARP) to writing? Do you have a specific process for adapting material to or from gaming, and if so, could you share it? If not, how has each case been different?

MB: Each case has been different. In a couple of instances I’ve directly adapted bits of plot from a game; that happened with Midnight Never Come (and to a lesser extent A Star Shall Fall), and with my novelette “False Colours.” But even in those cases, what I’ve done is taken a few plot points, then said, okay, if I’m going to make those happen, what framework can I build to hold them? And the framework itself is new invention. Usually the connection is looser, though. I have an idea for a YA series that would involve taking the background I made up for my character and making that the actual story.

The two major skills I take away from gaming are character and “narrative space” — those coming from the player and game master angles, respectively. As a player, I live very intensely in the head of a single character, which means I get to know them much better than the characters of my novels, who have to share my attention with everybody else in the book. Doing that helps me port the skills over. As a game master, I make my job easier if I lay down a foundation of material within which the story can happen: political factions, different types of conflict, etc. In a game, that means the players can run around more freely, and I can easily respond on the fly. In a novel, it gives me a whole array of tools I can choose from when I’m halfway through the book and need the protagonist to find an ally or screw something up. If you want a non-game example of the latter, look no further than the dinner party in Lois McMaster Bujold’s A Civil Campaign. She didn’t have to invent things to make that party a flaming trainwreck for the characters; she just had to take the things she already had and put them in a room together. The result was spectacular.

MU: If you could train with the greatest master ever of any martial art/weapon form ever known, who/what would it be, and why?

MB: Inigo Montoya.

Was there every any doubt? He’s the reason I studied fencing in the first place. Of course I would leap at the chance to train with him.

MU: What is your favorite RPG system so far, and what makes it your favorite?

MB: I’ve become intensely fond of Legend of the Five Rings — to the point that I’m a freelancer for the RPG line now. The setting is fantasy, but inspired by Japanese history, and it’s amazingly rich: there are many different interesting factions, a thousand years of in-world backstory, and lots of little cultural details of the sort that most RPGs don’t bother with. (How many game lines devote part of their books to talking about the customs surrounding birth, marriage, and death, and how these vary from clan to clan? How many games go off onto random deep-dives about sake brewing or poetry?) The richness of the setting can be a little intimidating for newcomers, but if you’re the sort of person who digs the immersiveness of it, it’s incredibly rewarding.

MU: Major love for L5R from me, too. What would you say is your favorite clan and favorite sourcebook, and why?

MB: Dragon Clan, all the way! I actually got into freelancing for AEG because of a sidebar in the book Imperial Histories that talks about what the Empire might have been like had a different Kami won the tournament to rule it. The sidebar says that had Togashi (the founder of the Dragon Clan) won, Rokugan would have been much more like the world of a wuxia film. I loved that idea enough to write an alternate-universe version of the setting called “The Togashi Dynasty,” which ended up being published in Imperial Histories 2. The Dragon are well-suited to mysterious, mystical kinds of stories, and those are exactly the kind of thing I dig.

But one of the main strengths of L5R is that I can totally understand why somebody might be a fan of any of the clans. They all have their selling points, and even if a given one isn’t my cup of tea, I don’t doubt that it’s somebody’s. Because of that, my favorite sourcebook (so far) is probably a toss-up between The Great Clans, which spends an entire chapter exploring each of them in detail, and Emerald Empire, which is basically the anthropology book of the setting. I think I knew I was going to love L5R when I discovered there was a whole book that had not just mechanics, but chapters on religion and law enforcement and social customs and more.

Be sure to check out Marie’s Kickstarter for Chains of Memory, the second of the Wilders books – it’s in the final days, and is moving forward to some excellent stretch goals.

And while you’re at it, check out one of her novels or stories via her website.


AMA after-action

My fingers are still sore from last night’s amazing AMA over on Reddit’s r/fantasy community. I had questions about publishing, pizza, Shield and Crocus, writing technique, Geek-fu, the Ree Reyes series, fencing, board games, and tango – basically, my whole life. 🙂

Check out the AMA archive here for all of the fun.

The Skiffy & Fanty Show Nominated for Best Fancast Hugo

Dear all,

I’m over the that’s-not-a-moon to announce that The Skiffy & Fanty Show, the SF/F Podcast I joined last year, has been nominated for the 2014 Hugo Award for Best Fancast. We’re nominated with a great slate of podcasts, and it’s a great honor to be among such company.

You can find a full list of nominees here.