Read Geekomancy for Free!

From now through February 16th, you can read the entirety of my debut novel Geekomancy for free on XOXOAfterDark!

About Geekomancy:

Ree Reyes’s life was easier when all she had to worry about was scraping together tips from her gig as a barista and comicshop worker to pursue her ambitions as a screenwriter.

When a scruffy-looking guy storms into the shop looking for a comic like his life depends on it, Ree writes it off as just another day in the land of the geeks. Until a gigantic “BOOM!” echoes from the alley a minute later, and Ree follows the rabbit hole down into her town’s magical flip-side. Here, astral cowboy hackers fight trolls, rubber-suited werewolves, and elegant Gothic Lolita witches while wielding nostalgia-powered props.

Ree joins Eastwood (aka Scruffy Guy), investigating a mysterious string of teen suicides as she tries to recover from her own drag-your-heart-through-jagged-glass breakup. But as she digs deeper, Ree discovers Eastwood may not be the knight-in-cardboard armor she thought. Will Ree be able to stop the suicides, save Eastwood from himself, and somehow keep her job?

Praise for Geekomancy:

Geekomancy is a glorious blender of genres, like a sweet candy shell filled with pop culture and high heroism. Absolutely stellar.”
– Seanan McGuire, New York Times bestselling author of Discount Armageddon

“Magic in geekery, mysticism in celebrities, the Ree Reyes series by Mike Underwood is a celebration of everything that makes being a geek cool. Can’t wait to read what he has in store next.” –Stephen Blackmoore, author of Dead Things

“If Buffy hooked up with Doctor Who while on board the Serenity, this book would be their lovechild. In other words, Geekomancy is full of epic win.”
– Marie Lu, author of the Legend trilogy

“If you took wish-fulfillment, ground it into a powder, and shot twice the recommended dosage into your eye socket, the result would look a lot like Geekomancy. I want to live in this world, where all the books and shows and movies and games I love are a source of power, not only in psychological terms, — which they already are — but practical, villain-pounding ones.”
– Marie Brennan, award winning author of A Natural History of Dragons

“Modern, sleek, and whip-smart, Geekomancy is a wonderful blend of geek and pop culture — you’ll find yourself grinning knowingly at least every other page. And Ree is the perfect protagonist to navigate Geekomancy’s world — geek enough to hold her own, yet human enough for me to be deeply invested in her struggles. I can’t wait to read the next one!”
– Cassie Alexander, author of Nightshifted

“Underwood’s Geek Fu is strong-and he’s not afraid to use it. Geekomancy is fun, fresh and full of geek culture references that will have you LOLing to the very last page. This book is one hundred percent pure awesomesauce and totally FTW.”
– Mari Mancusi, award winning author of The Blood Coven Vampire series

r/Fantasy “Stabby” Award Finalist!

 

Genrenauts Season One cover - art by Thomas WalkerI’m very pleased to share the news that Genrenauts was a Finalist for the r/Fantasy “Stabby” Award for Best Serialized Fiction. The winner was the amazing comic series The Wicked + The Divine, so I’m very happy for them, and honored for Genreauts to have gotten enough support to be a finalist.

Also, a reminder that you can still get the Genrenauts omnibus for $6.99, $3 off from the original price. And if you bought a paperback copy on Amazon, you can get the ebook edition now for $2.99 with Kindle Matchbook.

Next up is the audiobook edition of The Cupid Reconciliation (performed by the amazing Mary Robinette Kowal), coming very soon.

A Very Geekomancy Christmas

Hello, all!

Here’s a special present from me to you – a short fluffy return to the world of Ree Reyes and the Geekomancers.

 

“A Very Geekomancy Christmas”

By Michael R. Underwood

Most days, Rhiannon Anna-Maria (aka Ree) Reyes (Strength 10, Dexterity 14, Stamina 13, Will 18, IQ 16, Charisma 15 – Geek 7 / Barista 3 / Screenwriter 3 / Gamer Girl 2 / Geekomancer 3) slept in. Since she lived a co-running-a-magic-game-slash-bar-while-protecting-the-city-as-a-magical-superhero life, which came with late nights as standard. That meant sleeping in whenever possible. Though there were a lot of days where she’d be woken by some magical alarm Drake had posted around the city, or when her dad would call early about something weird or wonderful, claiming to have forgotten that yes, Pearson was still three hours behind Indiana.

But today was Christmas, and on Christmas, there was a damned good reason to wake up early. The earlier she woke up, the longer she could make the day in order to stuff in as much joy and love and peace as she could manage. Because on the 26th it’d be back to the magic and mayhem.

Ree snuck out of bed, leaving Drake snoring under the covers, muttering formulae in his sleep. She tip-toed through their apartment (lovingly dubbed “The Shithole,”), which was done up with lights and tinsel and the best in gaudy seasonal decorations that money could buy from the Dollar Store and use for years and years until they became a fire hazard. Sandra had outdone herself with the tree, decorated not just with Ree’s geeky ornaments but with papercraft snowflakes, houses, and more.

Approaching the tree, Ree smelled coffee. Glorious coffee.

Already used to waking up at six each day for her office job, Sandra Wilson (Strength 15, Dexterity 13, Stamina 13, Will 12, IQ 13, Charisma 13 – Geek 3 / Scholar 3 / Professional 3 / Dancer 1 / Teacher 1 / Waitress 1 / Chef 1) leaned against the kitchen counter, holding a steaming mug.

“Merry Christmas,” Sandra said at a whisper. She slid to the side and gestured to an empty Grognard’s Grog & Games mug, over-sized for maximum caffeination.

“Merry Christmas,” Ree answered. She picked up the coffee pot and poured herself a massive cup. “Darren up?”

She nodded. “He’s been writing for an hour.” Sandra’s boyfriend’s dissertation was due on the first day of the semester, and he had only just now started his bibliography. So his and Sandra’s holiday had turned into a series of writing dates. Shopping and writing, wrapping presents and writing, baking and writing.

“He is going to stop long enough for you to shower him with food and presents, right?”

“That’s what he promised,” Sandra said. “Drake still out?”

“And deconstructing the principle of special relativity in his sleep, from the sound of it.”

Ree and Sandra chatted for several minutes over coffee as color returned to Ree’s world thanks to the power of java. It’d be the first of many cups today, but not out of necessity for fighting back-alley monsters or tromping through the sewers after homicidal gnomes, but because she could. And the lack of urgency made the drink all that much sweeter.

***

An hour later, Drake had emerged from slumber and Darren finished his writing quota for the day. Anya and Priya arrived with armfuls of presents and food, and the six of them crowded around the tree on couches and tables and the expandable ottoman that Drake had made Priya for ease of crafting anywhere and everywhere.

Anya gestured to the tree, present-lust in her eyes. “Presents first! I’m tired of waiting to find out what’s in that huge box,” she said, pointing to a box Drake had secreted away the morning before. Anya Rustova (Strength 7, Dexterity 12, Stamina 16, Will 15, IQ 16, Charisma 15 – Musician 5 / Geek 2 / Scholar 4 / Opera Diva 3) wore a gloriously gaudy Christmas sweater in green and red and gold, her one fashion concession to the season.

“Can we eat first? I might have been up late finishing this coat. You know, hypothetically.” Priya Tharakan (Strength 8, Dexterity 13, Stamina 12, Will 16, IQ 17, Charisma 15 – Geek 3 / Professional 3 / Seamstress 4 / Steampunk 4 / Goth 2) had gone all-out, sporting a green leather Christmas elf costume, complete with a jingling sonar bell on her felted hat.

“I’ve got enough food to feed an army, and unlike the presents, this stuff will get cold,” Sandra said.

“Let’s do both,” Ree said, taking charge like she was back at Grognard’s and directing traffic. “Drake, you and Anya divvy up presents, Darren and I will serve food. Priya, can you take notes for thank you cards?”

“Certainly.” Priya whipped out her tablet, which she carried in a gear-laden carrying case, which she dubbed the “Portable Babbage Engine” model. It had become the most popular non-clothing design on her shop, copies shipping across the country and around the world. Her business was so bustling she’d hired an assistant-slash-apprentice to help with the leather-work.

“Hosts go first,” Drake said, setting the massive box on Ree’s chair, then depositing a long rectangular box at Sandra’s spot on the couch. It was heavy. Like, What the Hell Is In Here and Is it Going to Explode? heavy.

Ree speculated as to the box’s contents as she returned to the kitchen to grab the rest of the food. She emerged with three plates full of scrambled eggs, sausage links, re-heated pasteles from last night’s Nochebuena dinner, and Sandra’s picture-perfect hash browns, all stacked on her straight arm, using Veteran Server Skills. Sandra followed with a tray full of drinks – mimosas and lambics from Grognard’s new line.

Drake Winters (Strength 12, Dexterity 15, Stamina 14, Will 15, IQ 16, Charisma 15 – Inventor 6 / Gentleman 2 / Steampunk 7 / Fae-Touched 3) accepted a plate and sidled up next to her, preparing to bask in her appreciation. Drake was a thoughtful gift-giver, but most times, it seemed like he got as much joy out of the giving as Ree got out of the receiving. It was a pretty handy arrangement, especially since Ree took about as much joy figuring out weird and wonderful gifts to give him.

They were still an odd couple par excellence, Ree all hyper-modern and esoterically geeky, Drake all propriety and otherworldly tech magic, but they’d found the tools they needed to work with one another’s faults and foibles, which meant that real fights were infrequent, short, and just about always ended with laughter. And other fun things.

Ree sized up the box, lifting it (which took some effort). “Is the shakey-shakey kind of box?”

Drake’s instant look of horror was hilarious, even if Ree knew she shouldn’t torture him so. “Please no. You’ve repeatedly said that you have renter’s insurance, but it’d hardly be fun to spend the day in a hotel after the resulting fire.”

“No shaking, got it.” Ree set the box down and proceeded to tear the wrapping to shreds, revealing a carved wooden box.

“It’s a box. Presumably with a thing in it.”

“Did you carve that?” Priya asked.

“I did, in fact. Berian Balsam, procured a few months ago at the Midnight Market. It is quite sturdy and might serve well as a container for any magical implements you wished to store at Grognard’s. Though the true present lies within.”

Ree beamed, and opened the box with a flourish.

Inside was a chrome-and-brass contraption that looked like a cross between a chemistry set, a wand, and a fireplace poker.”

“It’s beautiful,” she said. “What is it?”

Drake smiled. “It is a phlogistonic flat iron. Calibrated to drastically reduce the time necessary to achieve the desired straightness of hair. Its heat is only transferrable to hair, so there should be no random burns. However, the preservation of forces means that the central chamber it’s attached to does get very hot, and should only ever be used with the chamber properly secured.”

It was bizarre, but thoughtful. And incredibly useful, considering the awesome burn she’d given herself on her ear trying to flat-iron her hair for a super-fancy dinner out with her mom two weeks previous. “It’s awesome, thank you.” She leaned in and kissed the man-out-of-time, who looked like he was the cat that had caught the canary in an elaborate Rube Goldberg machine.

Darren got Sandra fancy paper for her newfound papercraft hobby, and then the rest of the crew tore through a round of presents. For Priya, heavy needles for her leatherwork (from Sandra). Anya got a new scarf (enchanted to let her mimic voices), a present from Ree and Drake, part of their ongoing experiments in combining Ree’s geekomancy and Drake’s Fae-powered magical engineering. Darren got capacitive touch gloves from Sandra.

“So you can keep reading even if we get another ridiculous winter like last year,” Sandra said. The same winter of the blizzard and Lachesis, the second of Lucretia’s Fate Witch sisters, who’d tried to kill Eastwood. In the end, Eastwood had sacrificed himself to save them all, mostly Branwen, aka Sionnan Reyes, Ree’s mom.

Who was due to arrive in about an hour. Ree had invited her to join them for Christmas first thing, but Sionnan wanted Ree to keep her traditions, “to let the younger generation keep your fun without an old lady around to embarrass everyone.”

Ree had argued that there would be no embarrassment, but she also guessed that the play might be for her mom’s sake as much as anyone else’s. Sionnan’d had a long, hard time, imprisoned by the Thrice-Retconned Duke of Pwn, and was still getting back into the swing of the whole Living Around People and Not Demons thing.

And finally, Drake opened Ree’s present, which she’d made with her mother’s help. Drake produced a pair of rubber gloves. But not thick, clumsy rubber gloves. These were doe-skin thin, fitted perfectly.

“These are remarkable!” Drake said. “They are non-conductive, I assume?”

Ree smiled. “Not just that, they’re also temperature-proof. Mom helped me with the enchantment, and Priya cut the material with the instruments we made. This way, you can do repairs in the field, work without a ground, and whatever else you can think up on the fly.”

“They’re fabulous, my love. Thank you.” Another kiss (chaste, because company), and they were back at the top of the gifting rounds, with a break for food.

There weren’t too many presents for each person, since even as a partner at Grongard’s, Ree wasn’t swimming in money any more than her other friends. The real gift was a day free of magical interruption, free from dark magic, and spent with the people she loved most in the world. Her mom would be over later, and then they’d all head down to Grognard’s for the Christmas Day Tournament & Banquet. Ree imagined Grognard in his festive apron, the one item he wore at work that wasn’t basic black.

A few minutes later, her phone lit up with a call.

Ree stood and walked over to the kitchen to talk.

“Merry Christmas, dad.”

And it was, in fact, Merry. The whole day.

That night, as Anya led a few of Grognard’s irregulars in some caroling while Ree’s Eldar (including Harlequins in Christmas colors) Ree reflected on the day, which had turned out even better than she’d imagined. She took pictures in her mind, and thought,

 

Dear Geeky Jeebus,

               Thank you for a real, honest-to-goodness break of a holiday. A+ navidad-ing. Would Christmas again.

 

“Hey Ree,” Grognard shouted from the bar, still wearing the festive apron, sporting a leather-clad but still jolly Santa. “Looks like we need to tap another keg!”

“On it!” Ree answered, humming a song and getting back to work.

THE END

Upside Down is here + Genrenauts discounts

I have a new story out today!

 

“Can You Tell Me How To Get To Paprika Place?” appears in Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling, out today from Apex Publications.

As you might be able to guess, it’s a riff on a beloved children’s show. But it’s mostly an anti-corporatist cyberpunk story that ruminates on childhood, friendship, and re-working beloved characters into something very different. It’s the darkest short fiction piece I’ve written, but one that is ultimately hopeful.

There are a bunch of other stories and essays by fabulous writers in the collection, so I hope you’ll check it out.

 

Additionally, I’ve marked down a couple of Genrenauts ebooks. You can get The Cupid Reconciliation for just $.99 right now, and the Season One Collection is marked down from $9.99 to $6.99.

Genrenauts Season One cover - art by Thomas Walker

2016 eligibility post

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – awards eligibility season!

Yes, some people hate awards, and some people think it’s tacky to put your work forward for awards consideration. I disagree with the idea that being confident in your work and reminding people what you’ve done is anything to be ashamed of.

Here’s what I’ve done this year. If you’re only interested in reading one thing from me for award consideration, I’d recommend The Cupid Reconciliation – it’s designed as a jumping-on point for the series, and I’m very proud of it.

Novellas

The Absconded Ambassador
The Cupid Reconciliation
The Substitute Sleuth
The Failed Fellowship

The Absconded AmbassadorThe Cupid Reconciliation cover   The Substitute Sleuth - Genrenauts Episode 4 cover

The Failed Fellowship cover

 

 

 

 

 

Collection

Genrenauts Season One cover - art by Thomas Walker

Genrenauts: The Complete Season One Collection (contains all six episodes from season one)

 

Short stories

There Will Always Be a Max cover (by Goñi Montes)

“There Will Always Be a Max” (A Genrenauts story) – at Tor.com (read for free!)

“Can You Tell Me How To Get To Paprika Place” – in Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling (Apex, December 2016)

 

Podcasts

I’m on the staff of two podcasts.

The Skiffy & Fanty Show – I mostly take part in the TV/film episodes, and the occasional interview.

Speculate! The Podcast for Writers, Readers, and Fans – we do in-depth analyses of individual works, plus interviews and chats about the state of the industry.

 

Writers, Artists, and the ACA

There’s a call to action further down. If you’re already convinced that the ACA is important to keep, skip down for action steps.

A lot of people are talking about the GOP and the new Senate, Congress, and President-Elect’s likely actions on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), commonly known as the ACA or Obamacare.

I personally used the PPACA exchanges to find a cheaper and higher-quality health insurance package for my 2015 health insurance, and I personally know dozens of writers and other freelancers who use the PPACA exchanges for health insurance. I’ve seen over a dozen direct accounts from writers/artists/freelancers that they’d be dead or back in terrible day jobs without the PPACA, due to the protections it offers against being denied health insurance because of pre-existing conditions or for other reasons.

The PPACA is crucial in making it possible for many writers, artists, web designers, graphic designers, and many other freelancer able to work in their desired field full-time. We know that 20 million more people have health insurance because of the PPACA. That’s over 6%. 20 million people is greater than the population of the entire state of New York. That’s huge.

Gutting or repealing the ACA would have a massive impact on my field – SF/F prose, as well as comics, visual art, etc. The ACA has let more creatives and freelancers go full-time. If the ACA goes away, the best opportunity for full-time creatives to obtain healthcare for themselves and their families goes out the window.

Even if you don’t use ACA plans, please consider calling in support of the ACA to make sure that your favorite writer, your favorite artist or graphic designer, your favorite freelance pop culture writer, etc. will still have access to affordable health care. The ACA is not perfect, but so far, the GOP has done little more than spread lies about what the ACA does and promise to remove it and somehow give us something better. But without any details.

 

I’m not saying that the PPACA is perfect. It was the result of a lot of legislative fighting and compromise. But it’s done a lot of good, and we can build on it instead of throwing it all out and starting over or, possibly worse, trying to keep only part of it and throwing out the rest. The PPACA was designed to function because of the inter-dependent parts – the individual mandate brings people into pools so that the price of insuring high-risk people becomes more manageable for the companies and keeps costs down, etc. I’d prefer single-payer or other systems more like Canada or one of the other ally nations we have with very strong health care programs. But right now, we apparently have to fight tooth and nail to keep the imperfect but life-saving system we have.

Additionally, if you are a writer, artist, graphic designer, web designer, or other freelancer that uses the ACA plans, or someone who the ACA has personally assisted, I’d love to hear your story in the comments so other people can see just how much good it’s done.

ACTION STEPS – Copied over from material shared on FB/Twitter

If are a US person and you support the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, please consider calling or writing your elected representatives in the Senate and the House. Here’s a contact sheet with info as well as suggested scripts.

What We Can Do

I just shared some thoughts on Twitter about what straight white people and other variously-privileged folks can do in terms of trying to help make our future better in the face of Trump’s election, Brexit, etc. I’m mostly talking from my own cultural frame of reference, but maybe this will apply beyond that as well.

EDIT: There’s a specific call for suggestions at the bottom, below the thread.

EDITED TO ADD:
If you know of advocacy groups that you think people should look into, please add them in the comments.
Aggregating here:
Southern Poverty Law Center
Holocaust Museum engage.ushmm.org/support.html
Council on American Islamic Relations cair.com/donations/gene…
Society of Professional Journalists Legal Defense Fund spj.org/ldf.asp
Immigrant Defense Project immdefense.org
The Trevor Project http://www.thetrevorproject.org/
Tras Lifeline http://www.translifeline.org/

On DOCTOR STRANGE

So, I saw DOCTOR STRANGE today. Some thoughts, Storify-ed from Twitter, and then more below.

 

There are other problems – using an Asian setting for the Sorcerer’s training location but only casting one Asian character with a notable speaking role is a problem. That one character (Benedict Wong as Wong) was awesome, and I was happy that they re-framed his character from Asian Manservant to Master Sorcerer/Guardian of the Library). Even with the Ancient One as Celtic, the Sorcerer’s base and other parts of the film still had vestiges of Orientalism, from the robes to some of the symbolism to parts of the music.

The three Sanctuaries are all places where English is a major if not default language (New York, London, and Hong Kong), which very firmly centers the film in a Western & Anglophone paradigm. Have the Sanctuaries moved, or did earlier Sorcerers Supreme build the New York Sanctuary with the assistance of the Iroquoian and Algonquian? It would have been cool, for me, to have even a note of “These three haven’t always been the three. They move when they need to, or when they’re destroyed.”

But I nitpick because I love. Because I want these works to be ever-better. I thought Doctor Strange was one of the strongest first-in-series films the MCU has delivered, up there with Iron Man, Thor, and Guardians of the Galaxy. I left the theater already wanting to see the film again (I saw it in 2D and have heard the Real 3D version is really worth it. Given the content of the film, I totally see why). I know that many people are tired of origin stories, and I can definitely understand that – I want supers movies to take more chances with storytelling structure and tale-types, but for me this film wasn’t just Strange’s origin, it was also the introduction to a whole new axis of the MCU, just as Thor introduced the Space Fantasy axis and Guardians of the Galaxy introduced the Space Opera axis. Using Strange’s origin to introduce that axis was narratively expedient, though I think Feige and company could have done that work via new-to-magic viewpoint character with Strange as the expert.

So, my general response is that I really liked the movie, and that the concerns I had going in were borne out and are the complaints I spell out above. I totally get why some people are giving the movie a hard pass. If the representation question isn’t a non-starter for you, and you generally enjoy Marvel movies, I think you’ll probably really like this one.

Tor.com Novellas on Discount!

The fine folks at Tor.com have placed a number of novellas on discount, dropping the ebook price from $2.99 to just $.99. This includes The Shootout Solution (Genrenauts Episode 1), so if you have a friend who might be interested in Genrenauts, now is a great time for them to try it out.

Handy buy links included below.

 

The Shootout Solution
Michael R. Underwood

The Shootout Solution

Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Kobo * iTunes

Sunset Mantle
Alter S. Reiss
Sunset Mantle

Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Kobo * iTunes

The Last Witness
K.J. Parker

The Last Witness

Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Kobo * iTunes

Of Sorrow and Such
Angela Slatter

Of Sorrow and Such

Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Kobo * iTunes

Domnall and the Borrowed Child
Sylvia Spruck Wrigley

Domnall and the Borrowed Child

Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Kobo * iTunes

Patchwerk
David Tallerman

Patchwerk

Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Kobo * iTunes

Pieces of Hate
Tim Lebbon

Pieces of HateAmazon * Barnes & Noble * Kobo * iTunes

The Drowning Eyes
Emily Foster

The Drowning Eyes

Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Kobo * iTunes

The Emperor’s Railroad
Guy Haley

The Emperor's Railroad

Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Kobo * iTunes

Get a Free Book!

As part of spreading the word about Genrenauts, I’m offering free copies of The Cupid Reconciliation to anyone who signs up for my newsletter through InstaFreebie. This will let folks try out the series and decide if they want to go back and pick up the other episodes or to take the plunge and pick up the entire season collection.

Red - Book Page

If you haven’t given Genrenauts a try, here’s your chance to do so at the low low price of free.