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

Award Eligibility Post – 2015

So – awards and award eligibility – some people hate eligibility posts, but this is my blog, so they can deal. 🙂

Here’s what I did in 2015, and how it would qualify in award categories – Hugo, Nebula, Locus, World Fantasy Award, etc.

Best (Fantasy) Novel

Hexomancy cover

Hexomancy

The fourth story (third novel) in the Ree Reyes urban fantasy series, where fandom and love of SF/F is its own magic system. This is the novel I’m proudest of so far – I think it represents a leveling up across several craft elements, including capping off the first major story arc for the series.

 

Best Novella

The Shootout Solution cover

The Shootout Solution

Episode one of the Genrenauts series – about a group that travels to genre-informed dimensions to find and fix broken stories in order to protect their version of Earth. This kicks off the series which I hope to be writing for the next few years – it’s fun, its wacky, and it delivers both adventure and analysis of why and how we tell stories.

 

Fancast

skiffyandfanty4_banner_web

Skiffy & Fanty

 

SpeculateBanner9

Speculate!

In 2015, I joined the cast of Speculate! while continuing to work with the Skiffy and Fanty Show, which was nominated for Best Fancast in 2014. Both are fantastic shows, and, in my opinion, fill different but important niches in the SF/F podcasting community.

 

Special Award – Best Professional (World Fantasy)

Michael R. Underwood – For work at Angry Robot

In my experience, Best Professional almost always goes to a Publisher or Editor, but there’s nothing that says that a Sales/Marketing Manager couldn’t be nominated and win. I worked closely on supporting every one of Angry Robot’s 2015 releases, including two Phillip K. Dick Award nominees, the Campbell Award winner, and more. A long shot, but worth mentioning, since this is my blog.

 

Fan Writer

Most of my non-fiction in 2015 was more professional than fannish, but I leave it to you, the voter, to decide what you like. Here are some of the best of the best from me in 2015:

New York Comic-Con Schedule

If you’re heading to NYCC this week, here’s where you can find me doing official-type things! I’ll also be walking the show floor, attending panels, and scouring artists’ alley all weekend. Ping me on Twitter if you want to meet up!

Thursday, Oct 8th

Signing!
2pm – Booth #1828

In-booth signing with fellow Pocket author Kristi Charish. S&S is providing rare bound galley copies of GEEKOMANCY which we’ll have for me to sign and send home with readers.

Saturday, Oct 10th

Books to Movies Wishlist
4pm – Room A101

The Martian. Foundation. American Gods. Redshirts: So many iconic SFF novels are finally scheduled to hit the big screen, thanks to the rabid fandom of recent dramatizations of Game of Thrones, Outlander, The Hunger Games, Divergent. But what’s on the big screen wish list of this Panel of bestselling speculative fiction superstars? They all agree that the obvious franchises have been done already – and now, they want to discuss with NYCC Attendees what lesser-know/cult fave titles should invade theaters and march into cable programming! Join us for a nerdy-fun discussion about which science fiction and fantasy must-reads would really make celluloid magic!

Panel:

Charlie Jane Anders
Christopher Golden
Chuck Wendig
Jennifer Armentrout
Clay Griffith
Susan Griffith
Michael R. Underwood (Moderator)

Post-Panel Signing
5:15pm-6:15pm WORD Bookstore 1-B

Come and get books signed by the panelists, and me! We’ll have a very small # of the left-over Geekomancy galleys for people at this signing.

Hexomancy Week One

Hexomancy has been out in the world for one week, and I’m quite happy at the sales #s so far. Thank you so much to the folks who pre-ordered, spread the word, and so on.

This was a special book for me – I wrote it in just over a month, thanks to an improved outlining process and getting into a great writing rhythm. I had a ton of ideas of what I wanted to happen in the book, and I knew the characters really well, so I was able to let loose during the drafting process.

Here’s a recap of my latest PROMONADO activity:

The first review round-up from last week.

I shared my Favorite Pop-Culture Geeks over at SF Signal.

Kingdom of Evil Podcast – I talk about book publicity/promotion

Last Chance Salon Podcast – Writing! Star Wars! Laughter!

Reader Mari live-tweeted her reading of HEXOMANCY and it was amazing. There are some substantial spoilers involved, so be forewarned.

Mari also reviewed the book.

Hexomancy hits all my sweet spots for good crunchy urban fantasy fiction, with laugh out loud snark-studded dialogue, just the right amount of nostalgic callbacks to things geeks of all genre-spheres will love, and crisply paced prose that moves the story forward at downhill-on-black-ice-slope’s pace.”

If you haven’t picked up your copy of Hexomancy, here’s a handy page with an index of the various ebook retailers.

Hexomancy cover

And if you’ve read Hexomancy, please consider leaving an honest review on the various retailer sites. They have a big impact on discovery, helping readers decide if it’s a book for them.

Bonus! If you’re attending the Baltimore Book Festival this week, come to my panels or swing by during the meet-and-greet to say hello!

Hexomancy Review Roundup

Hexomancy is here, but several folks have already read it, thanks to the wonders of NetGalley. And lucky for me, they seem to be loving the book, which makes my geeky heart soar. It means a lot to me that people are still reading and reviewing the series four books in, since it’s often very hard to get reviews of books after the first in the series.

Hexomancy cover

Joe’s Geek Fest says:

Michael Underwood scores full points for a perfect hit with Hexomancy, drawing (at least the first cycle) of the Ree Reyes series (which include Geekomancy and Celebromancy along with the novella, Attack the Geek) to a full-on fun while satisfying ending. You know those episode-ending scenes around the table of Serenity from Firefly? There is a sense of camaraderie, coming home with people and life seeming to fit (even with chaos around the corner). That’s what Hexomancy is for me.

Brainfluff gives some love to the series’ lead:

Ree is an engaging, likeable heroine, with an interesting backstory. She is a ‘glass half full’ lass, rather than the tortured, angsty type, so the overall tone is fairly upbeat despite the various disasters and mayhem that befalls them. I enjoyed her positive energetic outlook and the buzz of the bar, Grognard’s, where she works as a waitress is effectively captured. That said, it isn’t all a bundle of laughs. Underwood handles the building threat well, and the action scenes whip through with plenty of tension – more so, because he isn’t afraid of offing significant characters. There was also a couple of pleasing story twists I didn’t see coming.

James at Fragile Muse loves the fun and calls out one of the primary influences of the series:

First and foremost, these books are FUN! Michael Underwood wears his geek cred on his sleeve, much like Ernest Cline who wrote Ready Player One and Armada. However, instead of just dropping geek references, he weaves our shared love of all these properties, characters and culture into the fabric of the engine which drives Ree’s powers.

Brad K. Horner says:

There’s nothing quite like this series. The rules are well defined, the characters are interesting, and the utter truckload of geeky nostalgia plows through me like the power of the dark side. Or is that Hexomancy? Hmm.

And the fine folks at Talk Supe say they Loved It:

Hexomancy was a satisfying and exciting conclusion to the first arc of Ree Reyes. There are new things that come up, when a door closes, another one opens…I’m really looking forward to reading what’s next for our adorable heroine.

 

In addition to squeeing over reviews, I’ve been making the promotional rounds to support Hexomancy. Here’s the first batch of fun:

I was the first-ever guest interviewed on Last Chance Salon Podcast (how cool!), talking about my writing journey, the Ree Reyes books, Force Friday, and more.

Over at Literary Escapism, I reflect on changes in the world of geekdom and pop culture since Geekomancy was released in the summer of 2012.

And if you’re on the fence about the books or your memory is foggy about what’s happened before Hexomancy, I gave an introduction and summary of the series at XOXO After Dark.

 

If you’re planning to buy Hexomancy and haven’t done so already, please consider picking it up this week. First week sales are an important indicator to a book’s publisher, and it helps drive momentum and discovery. Also, if you’ve already read the book, please consider leaving a review on the ebook retailers (as many as you care to cross-post to), as those also drive discovery.

And if you’ve done all of the above (my heroes!) and are hungry for more, don’t fret! Genrenauts: The Shootout Solution is only 2 months and 2 days away, and is specifically designed to be fun for Ree Reyes readers while also being totally their own thing.

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!

The Flurry Before The Storm

Hi folks! I know it’s supposed to be the calm before the storm, but sometimes I get too excited.

I wanted to give you all a heads-up that coming into next week, I’m going to be quite active with promotion for Hexomancy, the fourth Ree Reyes book, and that promo will eventually give way to promotion for Genrenauts: The Shootout Solution.

Hexomancy coverShootout Solution cover

But first, here’s a bit of catch-up of what I’ve been up to over the last month:

At GenCon, Wesley Chu (now a John W. Campbell Award-winner) and I talked with Greg Wilson and Brad Beaulieu of Speculate! The Podcast For Writers, Readers, and Fans) about our publishing journeys, as the start of a new series of episodes.

Then I turned the mic and interviewed Greg and Brad on their journeys so far, their podcasting, hobbies, and life balance.

Tor.com released a free collection with sample chapters from each of the launch list of novellas, including the first Genrenauts story.

Audec-Hal was included in Bradley Beaulieu’s List of Top 10 Metropolis stories.

And right now, Shield and Crocus is on sale for just $1.99 in ebook – grab a copy if you’ve been holding off, or buy a copy for a friend if you feel so inclined.

Deb Stanish interviewed me for the Uncanny Magazine Podcast about my essay on representation in the Marvel & DC Cinematic Universes.

And there’s plenty more to come!

HEXOMANCY on NetGalley

Hello, all!

For the reviewers among you, I’m very excited to share the news that HEXOMANCY is now live on NetGalley, ready for your requests and reading.

Hexomancy cover

I’m very proud of this novel, as it brings together a lot of threads from the three previous Ree Reyes stories, and is the conclusion of the first major arc for the series.

Go forth and happy reading!

GEEKOMANCY Daily Deal!

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!

Goals for 2015

2014 was a big year for my writing career, and I’m hoping that 2015 will be even bigger. Here’s how I’m planning on making that happen.

Going Hybrid

I’m planning on joining the growing ranks of authors who publish both traditionally and on their own, aka ‘Hybrid Authors.’ I’ve got a couple of options on how to pursue self-publishing, depending on how some things that are currently up the the air end up resolving.

Talking Shop

Last year, I got to talk about the business side of publishing at a couple of panels, to great acclaim. Like, kind of surprising attention. People are hungry for accurate, no-BS information about the industry, and I’m in a unique position to share that information, as a publishing professional with years of experience on both the staff and author side of the business.

To that end, I’m going to be focusing more of my blogging time on talking about the publishing industry in an organized fashion. This achieves several goals – it gets the information out there for people to use, and it helps me get the information down so that I can share it in multiple ways (see self-publishing ideas above).

I’ll also be proposing and hosting Business of Publishing panels at conventions across the year, starting with ConFusion next week in Michigan.

Books!

Ultimately, this is all about books and storytelling. I have one novel scheduled for this year, Hexomancy, the third Ree Reyes novel (fourth story in the series when counting Attack the Geek). The novel is written and currently with my editor. Hexomancy completes the first major arc for the series, bringing several storylines from the previous novels together for a geek-tastic plot-splosion.

But Hexomancy is not all you should expect from me in 2015, book-wise. More on that when the time is right. For know, be assured that what I’ve got in store will appeal to fans of my current work, while also moving into new ground in ways that I think are very cool.

If you want to keep up with what I’m doing for 2015, I’d point you toward my newsletter, which will be seeing more love, more exclusive content, and more giveaways this year.

Life

But that’s enough vague-blogging for now.

The biggest thing I’m doing in 2015 is getting married! This will also take up a fair bit of my attention, though my fiance and I are working on making the wedding celebrations suit our interests more than fulfilling the agenda of the Wedding-Industrial Complex. Goofy dancing, yes, zillion-dollar flower arrangements, not so much.

Here’s to 2015 and all of its promise.