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.

Off to NerdCon!

NerdCon: Stories

As this post goes, live, I am on my way to Minneapolis, MN for NerdCon: Stories, a two-day celebration of the power of storytelling (October 14-15th). I’m honored to be a Featured Guest for the con. I’ll be on a gaming panel, reprising my How To Hand-Sell Your Book presentation, and reading during a showcase event. You can check out my full programming schedule for the con here.

I’ll also be running a booth at the con all weekend with my friend Jay Swanson. If you’re coming to the con, please swing by (#817) and say hello! I will have a limited # of the paperback omnibus editions of Genrenauts: The Complete Season One Collection, as well as other books.

Here’s a quick guide to where you can find Jay and my booth during the con:

 

NerdCon booth directions

 

As a special bonus, the Ree Reyes novels (speaking of Nerds + stories) are still on discount through this weekend!

Amazon * B&N Nook * Kobo * iTunes

ree-reyes-series-small

Genrenauts Season One Collection

I’m very excited (like hovering over my chair excited) because today is a big landmark in my writing career. Today marks the result of countless hours of writing, planning, and promotion, as Genrenauts: The Complete Season One Collection releases to the world.

If you’re coming here through random happenstance and haven’t about Genrenauts, it’s like Leverage meets Redshirts, where a group travels to dimensions based on narrative genres (like Fantasy, Western, Romantic Comedy, etc.) to find and fix broken stories. It’s set up like a TV series with a new adventure every episode, arranged in seasons with an overarching plot. This new book collects the first season in one volume.

Writing this series has let me really dig in and explore what makes stories tick, why we tell certain types of stories, and what I love about different genres.

I’m eager to bring Genrenauts to new readers by collecting all six episodes from Season One in this single volume, sold at a big discount compared to buying each episode individually.

You can get the Season One Collection in ebook:

Direct from Me (via Gumroad)
Amazon Kindle * Nook * Kobo * iBooks

And in paperback from:
Amazon * Barnes & Noble * IndieBound

A final bit of fun. Here’s me unboxing the first physical copy of the omnibus:

The Failed Fellowship launch!

The Failed Fellowship cover

Today marks the release of the final episode of Genreneauts season one with The Failed Fellowship. If you’re itching to pick up a copy, here are some convenient links:

Direct from the Author (via Gumroad)
Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Kobo * iTunes

And now, some reflection, in the form of the acknowledgments for this season finale.

 

Here we are, at the end of the first season of Genrenauts. It’s been an exciting, winding road, and I’ve learned a lot in the 10 months since the series launched last November. I’ve learned about the joys of writing serial episodic fiction, the challenges of promoting that kind of fiction, and I’ve learned that I can succeed as not only the author but the publisher of my own fiction.
These two episodes draw on my life-long love of the fantasy genre. I’m a writer because I love fantasy, so it only made sense to send a love letter to the genre which set me on the path to being a storyteller. The Failed Fellowship draws from The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Dungeons and Dragons, and many more heroic fantasy adventures, especially those of the role-playing persuasion. Many other fine writers have written loving parodies of the genre, and it has been an utter delight to add my voice to that chorus celebrating and gently tweaking the genre.
I’ve written before about how fantasy’s escapism is far more often one of liberation than one that’s about abandoning the world. Professor Tolkien started that line of conversation, and like so many of us in the genre, I find myself continuing the conversations he got rolling. The Tolkien tradition and D&D have given us a lot in the genre, and while we’re moving the genre forward into new and interesting directions, it’s also fun to remember how we got here and to keep those balls rolling.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned this season is that I have a wealth of people rooting me on and supporting me every step of the way. From the 321 fabulous Kickstarter backers to my marvelous production team, beta readers, and more. Thank you, one and all, for what you’ve done in supporting me as I tell this story.
Some specific shout-outs:

  • Big thanks to Effie Seiberg, Beth Cato, and Jay Swanson for their great notes on Episodes 5 & 6, helping me dig deeper with characterization and clarify places where the story had been lazy or lacking depth.
  • A hearty cheers to Bryon Quertermous, my editor, for riding with me again and posing great questions about how I could make these episodes stronger, and in doing so, elevate the entire season.
  • Richard Shealy is a freaking copyediting wizard. He’s learned my style and his copyedit passes help me do a better job of telling the story the way I wanted, without any prejudice or desire to exert influence. His addition to the work is seamless, invisible, and essential. Thanks, man.
  • I lift a great tankard of ale to Sean Glenn for once again providing the cover for this episode.
  • And to my fabulous wife, Meg White Underwood, my eternal thanks. Meg was my first confidant with the finale and my diligent final proofer before the book went off to press.
  • And again, thank you to the fabulous Kickstarter backers of Genrenauts: The Complete Season One Collection, which releases to the public on October 11th.

Now onward, to season two!

Michael R. Underwood
Baltimore, MD
September 14th, 2016

NerdCon: Stories Schedule

NerdCon: Stories

 

Hello, all!

I’m very excited to be a Featured Guest at NerdCon: Stories in Minneapolis, MN this October 14-15th. NerdCon: Stories is a new convention (in its 2nd year) celebrating stories and the power of storytelling. I couldn’t imagine a convention more up my alley if I started it myself. I heard great things about the con from several friends, and was eager to be a part of NerdCon: Stories this year.

The schedule for the con is up for all to peruse.

And here’s where you can find me during the show:

 

Saturday, October 15th:

11:00 AM – Room 101A – 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.

12:30 PM – Room 101 BCHI – Storytelling in Tabletop Games

Role-playing and other tabletop games are a fantastic catalyst for collaborative storytelling. Creating narrative frameworks and game rules that allow players to have enough control over both story and interaction can be a tricky business. How do game designers do this, and what makes a game truly great?

3:30 PM – Saturday Afternoon Variety Show

Hosted by Paul & Storm

Featuring:

  • A rapid-fire Q&A with Chris Rathjen, Eileen Cook, Joe DeGeorge, Jonathan Ying, Karen Hallion, Kevin MacLeod, Nalo Hopkinson, and Paolo Bacigalupi
  • A talk by Sara Benincasa
  • Daniel José Older and Nalo Hopkinson in conversation
  • Ms. Pacman vs the Patriarchy – a talk by Paul DeGeorge
  • A reading by Michael R. Underwood
  • A lip sync battle with Blue Delliquanti, John Scalzi, Paul Sabourin, Matt Young, Mikki Kendall, and Darin Ross
  • A talk by John Green

 

I’m very excited to reprise and further refine my How To Hand-Sell Your Book presentation, which I’ve given at the Nebula Conference and GenCon.  The other programming looks fabulous, as well. Other than this official programming, you can find me in the Expo Hall all weekend! I’m sharing a booth with fellow author Jay Swanson (check out his cool real-time fantasy blog Into The Nanten). And if all goes as planned, I will have paperback copies of the Genrenauts Season One Omnibus!

You can register for NerdCon: Stories here.

Hope to see you there!

Genrenauts Omnibus cover!

I have for you today the fabulousness that is the Genrenauts Season One omnibus cover, created by Thomas Walker.

Genrenauts Season One cover - art by Thomas Walker

When Thomas sent over his first rough, I was instantly blown away, and totally confident that I had picked exactly the right artist to capture the cross-genre adventure feel of the series. Thomas’s style is both flexible and unforgettable – he brings in elements of movie-poster-style design, and he made my art brief come alive in all of the best possible ways. It draws upon and references the individual episode covers while making a bold move into an incredibly catchy style that sums up the entire season in one amazing image. Every time I look at it, I want to jump ahead and start writing Season Two just so I can commission Thomas to do another piece of art.

But that’s getting ahead of myself. First, I’ve got to finish up the omnibus for Kickstarter backers and other lovely readers.

If you missed out on the Genrenauts Kickstarter, you can now pre-order the omnibus direct from me via Gumroad right now. Other pre-order links coming soon!

UPDATE: Soon is now!

Gumroad

Amazon

Kobo

iTunes