Monthly Archives: April 2013

One Year Since Michael R. Underwood’s GEEKOMANCY

Posted by April 8th, 2013

Meet author & Book Country member Michael R. Underwood

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“Don’t always settle for the established trope.” –Mike Underwood

Michael R. Underwood is the author of Geekomancy, an urban fantasy novel in which geek knowledge is a superpower. A year ago Pocket/Gallery editor Adam Wilson came across a sample of the manuscript on Book Country, loved it, and offered Mike a book deal.

We got in touch with Mike to commemorate the acquisition, talk about his writing, and find out how becoming a published author changed his life.

Nevena: Thank you for joining us, Mike. Let’s start with Geekomancy. When did you start writing it? And how did you come up with the idea of Geekomancers, or “humans that derive their supernatural powers from pop culture”?

Mike
Geekomancy started as a distraction. I gave myself a break from writing another novel so I could noodle with this idea I had about geek magic. I set aside the novel I’d been working on and let myself explore this new idea over Thanksgiving weekend. The genesis of the magic of Geekomancycame from a confluence of many influences and inspirations, but largely from asking myself the question, “What would geek magic be?”—and then trying to figure out the answer.

Nevena: Geek magic is a unique concept. Do you see yourself reinventing genre conventions?

Mike: When I started Geekomancy, I set out to write the kind of urban fantasy that I’d want to read. I feel like there is a thread in urban fantasy that takes the same creature types (e.g., Vampires, Wereshifters, Demons, Witches, Fae, etc.) and just re-cycles them with minimal changes. I wanted to do something different. The world of Geekomancy has vampires, werewolves and demons, but I filtered each creature type through the whacky lens of the world. So I ended up with vampires nearly extinct because they’d been lashed to the popular consciousness dominated by Twilight, werewolves that are actually humans in rubber werewolf suits, and a demon called the Thrice-Retconned Duke of Pwn.

It may not count as breaking a convention, but Geekomancy was always intended to be a comedy as much as an urban fantasy. There are other great comedic urban fantasy series (e.g.,The Dresden Files, InCryptid, The Iron Druid Chronicles), but I don’t see it as the dominant thread in urban fantasy. Many have comedy in them, but far fewer are as much comedy as they are urban fantasy.

Nevena: Are there any clichés or genre conventions in fantasy you’d like to see disappear?

Mike: No, because I keep seeing writers take something familiar and make it fresh again. I would like to challenge fantasy writers (myself included!): don’t always settle for the established trope as is. It can be tricky to find that balance—in drawing enough on what’s come before to invite audiences in through the familiar, but then delivering something that’s distinct and new enough to be worth the reader’s time. I used familiar cultural properties inGeekomancy, but I tried to put them together in a different way.

Nevena: I can see that, especially with how you’ve woven your unique sense of humor throughout the book. What’s your secret to crafting a great voice?

Mike: Thanks! I access voice through the same way I step into a character when I’m playing RPGs or acting. I learn enough about the character that I can build a worldview filter that lets me see and analyze the world through that character’s perspective. When I’ve got a clear sense of a character’s voice, it’s much easier for me to tear through the word count. For me, a well-realized voice makes for a well-realized character, and then the character can drive the story.

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Nevena: Now walk us through the book’s path to publication. What was the most challenging part about writing and publishing it?

Mike: I started writing Geekomancy in November 2010, and continued through the summer of 2011. I took a break in the summer to do a revise-and-resubmit for an agent on a previous project, then went back toGeekomancy and wrote until I finished the rough draft in late 2011. I submitted the barely-revised rough draft to a novel contest in an online writers’ group I’m in (Codex Writers), and decided to throw a sample up on Book Country as well, as a way to share my revision process online and get some extra feedback.

In January 2012, I got an email from Adam Wilson at Pocket/Gallery, who had read the partial on Book Country and asked for the full manuscript. After a good bout of Kermit flailing, I wrote back and sent the manuscript, and about a week later, I had an offer.

The most challenging part was the first draft itself. I was having a huge amount of fun writing the novel, but along the way, I had doubts—what if I was writing too obscure, too insular? Was I writing a novel only I and fifty of my friends would enjoy? I made some edits to make the book more accessible, but I think it remains a book that will best connect with particular types of readers.

I think all books have “ideal readers” who are positioned to best connect with a work. Books can connect with many other people, but the ideal readers are probably the people who will most love the work. I inadvertently gave myself the advantage of knowing quite specifically who the ideal readers for Geekomancy were—they were the people who had grown up loving many of the same things I did, who could see themselves in Ree Reyes and her friends. What started as a fear has turned out to be the work’s great strength for the ideal readers.

Nevena: I bet the concept of an ideal reader helps a lot during the writing process. What was the process of working with your editor?

MikeGeekomancy is largely the same novel it was as of the first draft. Adam helped me take the things I was trying to do and do them better, more evocatively. He also helped me foreground the magic so that it could connect with readers better and invoke the fannish joy that is intrinsic (for me) to geekdom.

I love having an editor. I’ve been a collaborative storyteller for most of my life, playing tabletop and live-action role-playing games. It’s great to have a partner who is both a skilled reader who helps me focus and clarify my work as well as a champion for the book in the industry. Adam coordinated the publishing machine that took Geekomancy from a word document on my hard drive to a completed commercial novel ready to connect with readers.

Nevena: Sounds like Adam is awesome! 🙂 How has your life changed since Geekomancy?

Mike: Life since selling the novel has been a whirlwind. Mostly, the difference has been one of intensity. Before, I was working hard on writing, but knowing that there are readers waiting for more did a great job of helping me put that extra bit of effort in every day.

Another huge change is that I now have novels out in the world, and with that come readers, reviews, and life in the public eye. Every time I see a tweet or a review, it reminds me that the writing career that I’ve wanted for so long is happening, right now. The dream has come true, but it’s a work in progress. The first deal isn’t happily ever after, not by a long shot. But I’m in the game.

Nevena: I’m really happy for you, Mike.

Geekomancy is now an audio book. Listen to a sample here. Follow Michael R. Underwood on Twitter at @MikeRUnderwood and visit his blog. He’s represented by Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary Agency.

Tune in tomorrow for Part Two of our interview with Mike, in which he talks about his new book, Celebromancy, coming out on July 15th, and being part of Book Country.

* Cover art by Trish Cramblet, Design by Min Choi

 

 

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This Week on Book Country, April 1 – 7

Posted by April 5th, 2013

A weekly update on what’s new and noteworthy on Book Country

April 1st – April 7th, 2013

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Fresh off the Press

Here are three manuscripts from brand-new members that haven’t gotten any reviews yet. Show them some love—write a review!

  • WHEN TO GET OFF THE BUS by Lela SainShe finally has an opportunity to travel to spend time with her friend. It is during her journey that she encounters several persons of interest.
  • XIMENA by Three BorzoiXimena Butler has her life turned upside down and must make her own future, discovering family secrets and uncovering a murderer along the way.
  • MARIA BLOODRITE by Helena Snow. Maria is a woman, a fighter and a vampire. Dirty dealing from the humans she thought she was helping leads to imprisonment and a single want; justice.

Did you know?

Some of the stories you might have missed this week:

  • Literary agent Deidre Knight of the Knight Agency talked to us about book publishing, including what she’s looking for now. Get the scoop.
  • Member Tabetha Waite talked about her love of Happily Ever Afters and writing historical romance. Read her member spotlight.
  • Member Herb Mallette started a discussion about rereading the Lord of the Rings books. Others chimed in to share their first time reading the books or seeing the adaptations. What a romp!
  • Meet Sarah J Smith, a NA/YA science fiction and fantasy writer who’s new on the site. Welcome, Sarah! Go say hi to her here.

Till next week!

 

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Meet Agent Deidre Knight

Posted by April 3rd, 2013

5 Questions with Kerry Schafer’s Agent

deidre_knight_photo_sm4“Out of excitement, writers pull the trigger too soon, and send a work out before it’s as sharp as it possibly can be.”

Deidre Knight is an accomplished literary agent and the founder of The Knight Agency. The agency boasts more than 2,000 titles sold to major and independent publishers, many of which have become bestsellers and received numerous awards. Deidre’s main focus as an agent is on romance and women’s fiction. 

Deidre represents Book Country member Kerry Schafer, whose sequel to BetweenWakeworld, comes out next year on February 14th. Last week, I chatted with Deidre to delve into her publishing expertise and get caught up on the most recent news about Kerry.

Nevena: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us, Deidre. Tell us, why did you become an agent? And how has agenting changed during your tenure?

Deidre: Books were always a huge part of my life growing up, as is typically the case for almost anyone in the publishing and writing professions. I began writing at age ten, when an essay of mine was published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. After studying Art History and English in college, I wound up working in the film and television business, but those crazy hours began to take their toll. So I eventually put my love of both sales/marketing and books to use by opening The Knight Agency.

I often tell people that agents are that quirky blend of both introvert and extrovert.  We have to love digging in to read and edit, but it’s also imperative that we connect with people on many levels—both with editors when selling a project or author, and in that intimate one-on-one client/agent relationship. That’s one reason why sometimes I have a very hard time finding time to actually *read*: I can get caught up in the more extroverted part of my job, like social media, or time on the phone with editors, or working closely with clients.

Needless to say our profession has changed a lot in the past seventeen years. In many ways, it was a more static profession when I first started, with a pretty set “track” to run on as an agent, at least in terms of working to be successful as possible. Now, I think the best agents must be as agile as possible, constantly making adjustments as the industry and the world around us change rapidly. To me, that just makes it a very exciting and dynamic time to do my job.  In the past, if I couldn’t sell a project to a major NYC publisher, or even to a more midsize or niche publisher, that project was something of a heartbreak for me. I’d been the work’s champion, but nobody would experience the magic that I had on the page. Now, of course, if I can’t sell a book to a major publisher, then there are all sorts of possibilities from small digital press to self-publishing to serializing the work…it’s all about being as creative as possible in strategizing what’s best for the author.

Nevena: So what kind of books are you looking for at the moment? What’s the one you wish would magically land on your doorstep?

Deidre: I am eagerly hunting for new clients right now, actually, largely in the romance and erotica area. Probably my first “shopping” choice would be a high concept single title romance—contemporary with a strong community. I won’t say “backdrop” of community because I personally want that world to be another character on the page, driving the action and the people we meet. I also love big historical romance with a big concept that links the series (family members, spinster friends, you name it!), especially series set in Victorian and Regency eras. I have a great love of women’s fiction with romantic elements, something with a ton of heart, emotion, and humor.

Nevena: I hope the Book Country members are taking notes! Deidre, you represent Kerry Schafer, whose book Between was discovered on the site. Kerry made her debut at #22 in the Bookscan Fantasy bestseller list, which is amazing! What drew you to the project? What’s next for Kerry?

Deidre: Kerry has a rare gift, especially when it comes to me as a reader. I started reading in the middle of a work morning, expecting to put the work down and move on down my “to do” list that day. Instead, I didn’t stop reading until I was about a third of the way into the book. She’s got a terrific gift for weaving a total world, one that sweeps you away in its freshness and magic. She was a truly wonderful find for me as a reader, not just as an agent. At the moment, she’s working on the next book in that series, Wakeworld. I can’t wait to see how things progress for these characters!

Nevena: Me too! Kerry crafted such a captivating world. You mentioned before that you found another writer on Book Country. How do you use the site to find new talent?

Deidre: I did sign on another author who I found on Book Country! I am shopping her work now, and will hopefully have good news to report soon. I use the site by reading what’s on there and if something really draws me in, then I ask to see more if it’s available. I’ve always marveled at the high-quality level of talent I find on the Book Country site and am itching to pay another visit soon.

Nevena: Thank you, Deidre. In your experience, what’s one common mistake that newbie writers make in submissions that our members should be mindful of? What parting words of advice do you have for our members?

Deidre: The biggest problem I see in submissions from newer authors is lack of editing and revision. Out of excitement, they pull the trigger too soon, and send a work out before it’s as sharp as it possibly can be. And as a writer myself, I certainly get that. The process of literary creation is so solitary, and in our ultra-connected world of social media and digitized everything, the act of isolated creation is more alien than ever. That said, to truly create the very best book possible really does require a certain amount of time, alone with the hands to the keyboard.

Now, the great thing about Book Country is that it conquers some of that isolation by allowing for feedback and interaction as part of the creative process. But writers should be sure that they are truly receptive to feedback and editing, not simply eager to hear how marvelous they are. Being an author is all about process, and always looking for ways to improve and grow; the day that ends, a writer’s work begins to grow stale.

Nevena: Thank you so much for your words of wisdom! I’m so glad you could join us.

Keep up with Deidre Knight on Twitter at @DeidreKnight. Learn more about her and The Knight Agency at the agency’s website. We recommend the agency’s newsletter to all budding writers! Deidre is also a New York Times bestselling author of paranormal romance novels. Visit her author website.

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Meet Writer Tabetha Waite

Posted by April 1st, 2013

Book Country Member Q&A

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“I like finishing a book on a smile, because I don’t feel we can do it enough.” –Tabetha Waite

Tabetha Waite is a romance writer and Midwestern gal from Cairo, Missouri. Her historical romance The Lustful Spy has garnered many badges on Book Country, and with good reason. It’s a riveting romp through the streets of Victorian London, in which a spinster and a duke are swept into an opium conspiracy…and fall for each other, of course. In addition to being a writer and an avid reader (some of her favorite writers include Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, and modern authors such as Sabrina Jeffries, Candace Camp, Lisa Kleypas and Andrea Kane), Tabetha is into doll collecting and antiquing, which doesn’t surprise me considering her love of historicals! 

In Tabetha’s words, she’s “just a simple person with a normal life, who likes to live her adventures through her keyboard.”

Nevena: I’m so glad you were able to join us, Tabetha. Let’s begin with the basics: when did you start writing?

Tabetha: I was nine years old. I remember this because my fourth grade teacher said she liked reading my stories and I thought, “Hey, there might be something to this!” After that, I knew the only thing I wanted to do was become an author. I started out just by putting pen to paper, then moved on to an ancient typewriter from the ‘30s, to a word processor, then finally, my computer!

Nevena: So how do you fit writing into your life?

Tabetha: I wrote a lot when I was younger. I was shy and bullied at school; that gave lots of fuel to my imagination. I took a brief break in my later teens, but then picked it up again in my mid-twenties. I really buckled down in my thirties in order to try and fulfill my goal of being published. Being a stay-at-home mom is a big plus. When the kids go to school, I have plenty of uninterrupted time to stare at the screen.

Nevena: What draws you to romance as a reader and a writer?

Tabetha: Oh, a happy ending, of course! Honestly, that’s the key to it for me. I like finishing a book on a smile, because I don’t feel we can do it enough. 🙂

Nevena: I love that. In The Lustful Spy, your big project at the moment, there’s both intrigue and love, all against the backdrop of The Opium Wars. Tell us more about the novel!

Tabetha
: Most of my favorite romance novels have an air of mystery, and if one of the characters is a spy, or has a secret identity, it grabs me every time, so that’s kind of what I was shooting for with The Lustful Spy. I wanted to catch the reader’s attention with something unique, and I hadn’t come across many stories about this particular area of history.

Nevena: So why historical romance? What’s the allure of Victorian England for you?

Tabetha: The first romance novels I ever read were Harlequins in high school. I enjoyed how the main characters overcame personal obstacles to be with the one they loved. As a fan of history, I started checking out books that dealt with the Revolutionary and Civil Wars before coming acrossMidnight Bride by Kathleen Drymon. Still one of my favorite books, it takes place in America, but the main hero is an English Lord. From there, I started reading stories that took place in London and found the aristocracy, with their rigid rules and society flair, rather fascinating. I enjoy the Regency time period as well, but there is just something about Queen Victoria and her own love story with Albert that draws me to that era.

Nevena: I understand your fascination: I’m a big Victorian gal myself! What kind of research do you do to infuse a sense of historical accuracy in your work?

Tabetha: The Internet is a wonderful resource that wasn’t available to me when I first started writing. It’s great to be able to double check a particular fact when I’m in the middle of a chapter, without having to put the manuscript on pause and drive to the local library, though I have been known to haunt it on occasion! If I find a non-fiction book that looks like it might have some good information, I usually grab it. I also like watching documentaries or period movies, because of certain historical tidbits that have come in handy.

Nevena: What’s your biggest personal writing challenge? And what keeps you going?

Tabetha: My biggest challenge used to be finishing a book, but after completing four manuscripts to date—The Lustful Spy included—I’ve found that now it’s just the hope of standing out and being given a chance to be heard. I stay motivated, because I feel I’ve grown in my writing and keep improving, and after all this time I’ve invested, why quit now?

Nevena: You go, girl! What’s your dream as a writer?

Tabetha: I would like to say that I hope to be as big as Stephen King or Nora Roberts someday, but that wouldn’t have to happen! Sure, it would be great to have a movie made from one of my novels, but I would feel I’ve accomplished my goals just to see my name in print, even if it ends up on the clearance rack!

Nevena: I can’t help but ask, why are you a Book Country member?

Tabetha: The Book Country community has been an extremely beneficial resource for me, and I will be forever grateful for it. Until your site came along, I was too scared to show my work to anyone, fearing that what I had longed to achieve wasn’t really within my reach. I needed that self-confidence boost to gain the proper amount of courage to say, “You know what? I CAN do this—and I WILL.” Without the critiques and comments, I would never have made it this far. So, thank you!

Nevena: You’re so sweet! Thank YOU for being part of the community. Is there anything else you want to share with our members?

Tabetha: I can’t read OR write without some sort of music on to set the mood for a particular scene. Also, I’d like to branch out and write a children’s series someday, and perhaps work in another romance genre. I’ve actually been working on a book called The Secrets of Shadows, which is my attempt at a gothic/paranormal romance, so we’ll see how it goes. But my first love will always be the historicals!

Nevena: Thanks for joining me, Tabetha! I hope you get your happy ending soon :).

Connect with Tabetha on Book Country and befriend her on Facebook.

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