Good news, Book Two of the Familiar Series finally has a title: Succession of Witches. More importantly, I have a draft that I’m happy with and I think I’m going to be ready to publish it to Kindle pretty soon. I was disappointed that I couldn’t make my initial holidays 2012 release, so I definitely didn’t want to miss my spring 2013 deadline.
Right now, I need to get some feedback from a small group of prereaders, comb through the draft for typos/grammar errors, (sigh), and make some hopefully minor tweaks. I guess it’s possible I could decide to make some major changes, pushing things back further, but meh, I doubt it. I feel like I’ve been sitting on this one so long, I would need a REALLY compelling reason to do more than polishing edits at this point.
Because of that, this conversation will probably happen:
Pre-Reader: Karen, I liked the book! It was fun. Oh, but I think the pacing would definitely be improved if you just changed it so that—
Karen: SHUT YOUR MOUTH RIGHT THIS SECOND
I’ve decided it’s silly to have separate blogs for all of my projects, so I’m going to move everything, including posts on my books, to my main blog, Otakusphere.com. I’ll keep this one up for a while, but I’m moving all my posts over to that blog. This way, in addition to getting updates on new books in The Familiar Series, you can also check out some of my art and other projects if you are so inclined. Or you could do nothing of the sort, it’s all up to you!
Right now, Otakusphere is in a bit of disarray because I’m busy adding all the stuff to it that should have been there all along, but within another day or two you should be able to check out a ton of stuff, including Sterling, the comic book I drew years ago that The Familiar Series was basically spun off from. Thanks to those of you who have checked out this humble little Tumblr, it was brief but it was fun:)
This late in the game, the lack of even a proposed title for the sequel to The Problem With Black Magic is getting worrisome. The problem is, I hate any title that sounds pretentious, and I also tend to dislike cutesy titles that reference pop culture. These limitations render 99.9 percent of all possible titles off limits.
Since I can’t tell you what the book will be named, at the very least I can tell you what it probably won’t be named; I can’t say these are absolutely ruled out though, because anything’s possible if I get desperate enough.
So here are some of the titles I’ve come up with that are really very bad and probably shouldn’t be used by anyone, but I’ll try to present some of the positives just in case I need to justify this after the fact.
The Problem With White Magic
Pros: A logical progression from the first book; unquestionably accurate.
Cons: Everyone who downloads the book will instantly slip into a boredom-induced coma, because the title is just that dull.
The Problem With Familiars
Pros: Pretty representative of the actual story.
Cons: See: Cons, “The Problem With White Magic.” Besides, do I really want to use “The Problem With…” naming scheme for the whole series? That’s going to get really irritating around book 6.
Pros: Catchy, memorable, and shockingly appropriate.
Cons: As a marketing jingle, I have to assume that General Mills owns this phrase. If I try to appropriate it, I will probably be killed by a breakfast-baron assassin and buried in shallow grave next to I-95. My final resting place will be marked by a single spoonful of Lucky Charms.
Kidnapping for Fun and Profit
Pros: Catchy, I feel like I must have heard it somewhere before but it doesn’t seem to have been used as a title for many things, if anything.
Cons: I’m hesitant to use a title without any reference at all to magic, or spells, or demons, etc. I don’t want there to be any doubt that this is a fantasy book.
Solid Spell Society
Pros: Hey, that sounds like Ghost in the Shell!
Cons: Breaking my “no pop-culture references” rule; makes zero sense.
Hot Demon Erotica
Pros: I will sell enough copies to be able to put my future children through coll—well, okay, maybe not. I will sell enough copies to put ONE child through college….public college.
Cons: Totally inaccurate; will be killed by a betrayed erotica fan, my shallow grave on I-95 marked with whips and chains, or some sort of latex camisole thingy—I’m actually not that knowledgeable about that whole scene. Incidentally, this also rules out other racy titles like “Slave To Dark Passion,” and “Fifty Shades of Demon.” Blast.
Memos From Purgatory
Pros: Intriguing; takes things in a totally different direction from the first title.
Cons: This sounds slightly pretentious to me, even though I can’t quite figure out why. Similar titles, like “Postcards from Purgatory,” or “Things to See and Do in Purgatory,” are similarly bad.
Hacking Through The Moon
Pros: Sounds kind of mysterious and cool; came to me in a dream, which is often a good sign.
Cons: This dream didn’t make any more sense than dreams normally do, and I’m not sure how this relates to the story—well, maybe a little, but it’s a stretch. Besides, Deborah Geary, author of “To Have and To Code,” already owns the patent on all computer-based fantasy titles, so this is probably a bad idea. Geary seems far too nice to kill me and dump my body, but she might force-feed me chocolate chip cookies until I get diabetes; that seems more her style.
A Spell Too Far
Pros: I actually came up with this just now, and I kind of like it—simple and unpretentious, I think.
Cons: Maybe a little dull.
Pros: Simple, memorable, non-pretentious.
Cons: Already The name of a Buffy The Vampire Slayer TV episode from…yeowtch…1998. Buffy was 15 years ago, what has happened to all of us? What has happened to the world?
Pros: To the point, evokes Sam’s character in very few words.
Cons: Kim Harrison already used it in her The Hollows Series, so this one is DOA.
Pros: You know what? FUCK Kim Harrison.
Cons: No, no, I don’t hate Kim Harrison! She seems like a very nice lady- it’s Rachel Morgan you hate! RACHEL!
Pros: That’s right, I hate Rachel. How the hell is she even still alive? Arrrrrgh death to Rachel! DEATH TO RACHEL!!!!!!!!!!!
I seem to have totally forgotten what I was talking about…I’ll have to get back to you another time. I’m actually busy working on a book called…uh…something.
timsheehy asked: I'm having a hard time taking black magic seriously, is there something over-the-counter that can help with that? How will I know if black magic is right for me? Are there side-effects? Should I consult a physician before using black magic? Finally, the term black magic seems a bit droll. Could we just substitute the term dark magic? I mean, it just seems less racist.
Thank you for coming to The Problem With Black Magic with these important concerns. First, to find out if black magic is right for you, we recommend purchasing and reading The Problem With Black Magic immediately. Not only does it go into detail about all the problems with black magic, but it provides a rip-roaring good time, and certainly a better use of your open time than clipping your toe nails. If you wish to persist in the black magic lifestyle, please consult a warlock (a.k.a. “man-witch.”) Side effects include compulsive brooding, becoming yet more handsome, and constantly asking yourself “What’s happened to me? AM I A MONSTER????” while looking very fetching in a pair of slacks.
We hope this has answered your questions satisfactorily.
I didn’t end up making my self-imposed holiday 2012 deadline for Book 2, obviously. I could have rushed it to try to make the artificial deadline, but obviously, I want the book to be good first and foremost. After taking a bit of a break from writing so I could come back to it refreshed (and also to deal with some real-job stuff) I’m looking forward to finally putting down all the ideas I have for the final part of the book, although I doubt Cassie and Sam are equally enthused about what they’ll have to grapple with.
In other news, I got a Cintiq, a really cool drawing tablet, so it just got much easier to work on book covers and possibly interior art as well. I really haven’t made good on my ongoing threat to post character sketches in this space regularly so far, but now that I have a nice set up for drawing, we’ll see… I never really did feel like monkeying around with my old scanner. That’s just sooooo 1998…..
I put together a playlist on my iPhone for The Familiar Series. In theory it’s supposed to be for writing, but usually listening to music while writing distracts me too much, so I usually listen to it at other times- at the gym, while drawing, and so on. It’s a combination of songs that both deal directly with things featured in the series, like demons (hence the name) and songs that remind me of the series in some other way. Listening to it tends to get me in the mood to work on the books.
I figured I’d post this list here in case anyone else was game to create their very own Demonic Playlist. Warning: A lot of these songs may make you want to dance. Not recommended for working hours. Also, I reserve the right to shuffle and change my Demonic Playlist in the event that more sufficiently demonic music comes out.
The Hollow- A Perfect Circle
Park Avenue- Girls Against Boys
Lucky Love (Acoustic Version)- Ace of Base
Shot In The Dark- Within Temptation
Spark- Tori Amos
Closer (String Quartet)- The String Quartet Tribute to Nine Inch Nails
As Heaven is Wide- Garbage
A Demon’s Fate- Within Temptation
Somebody Told Me- The Killers
Faster- Within Temptation
Possession (live version, Mirrorball)- Sarah McLachlan
In Love With the Darkness- Xandria
The Howling- Within Temptation
Wish I Had an Angel- Nightwish
Virtue and Vice- Delain
Empty Eyes (Bonus track)- Within Temptation
Overture, Beethoven’s Last Night- Trans-Siberian Orchestra
The Beekeeper- Tori Amos
What You Want- Evanescence
Reptilian- Nine Inch Nails (remix)
Forsaken- Within Temptation
Shelter- Duran Duran
Sinead- Within Temptation
In the Springtime of His Voodoo- Tori Amos
White Wedding, Part 1- Billy Idol
Automatic Systematic Habit- Garbage
Burn My Dread (Last Battle)- Persona 3 Soundtrack
Just Like You Imagined- The String Quartet Tribute to Nine Inch Nails
Sleepwalkers Dream- Delain
Magdalena-A Perfect Circle
Young And Proud- Ace of Bace
The Air Tonight (live version, Live From Chicago)- Phil Collins
Heresy (Blind)- Nine Inch Nails remix
The Dark- Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Demon Seed- Nine Inch Nails
My Mind (Mindless Mix)- Ace of Base
More Human Than Human- White Zombie
Immigrant Song (Trent Reznor/Karen O. cover)- Led Zepellin
A Sorta Fairytale- Tori Amos
Yeah, so I like some emo music and some slightly cheesy ’80s/’90s music at times, WANNA FIGHT ABOUT IT?????
-You’ll notice there are a lot of songs by Delain and Within Temptation, which tend to lend themselves to the series for me. Virtually everything on Delain’s three albums could work on this playlist, so it was a challenge to pare it down to just the ones listed here. I think the list could probably use more Nightwish, but I need to get to know their catalogue better.
-I may actually prefer the original version of Immigrant Song to the Trent Reznor cover from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo soundtrack, but I only have the cover at the moment.
-If you aren’t an anime fan, Magia by Kalafina may seem like an obscure choice; it’s the ending theme to the 2011 anime Puella Magi Madoka Magica. It’s also a pretty spectacular gothic track.
Honorable Mentions: Songs that should be on here but aren’t
Take It Off, The Donnas- This will always be Cassie’s theme song for me, however, I feel weird putting it on the Demonic Playlist because it’s so…non-demonic? Or maybe I don’t want it on there because when I listen to this song I tend to start dancing like a maniac and then nothing gets done, so it’s counterproductive. That’s also the reason why I kept most of the hard-core industrial stuff off of here; it often works thematically, but still jolts me out of the mood.
Back On My Feet, Boom Boom Satellites- Love this song, cannot download it through iTunes; it’s not available for some reason, even though other BBS songs are. I think I will have to deal with Japanese iTunes if I really want to download this song, and that doesn’t sound like fun. Guys, please take my money! It’s much easier not to pirate music when you let me pay for it!
Vicarious, Tool- Another song that really, really belongs on here but Tool doesn’t seem to be available on iTunes in general. I actually have the CD (hey, remember those?) but I have no idea where it is. Yeah, yeah, #firstworldproblems.
To get into the Halloween spirit, here’s an old sketch of Cassie dressed up in proper witchy fashion. I’d really like to be able to post some new art of the characters instead of just older stuff, but arrgh, drawing and writing always compete with each other…I’ll figure it out one of these days.
Hey guys, this is pretty cool. I was interviewed by The Independent Book Authority and they said I could post the interview on my blog before it goes to print in their magazine! I hope you enjoy it.
TIBA: Today we’re interviewing a brand new author in the paranormal genre, Karen Mead. Thousands of people have read her freshman offering, The Problem With Black Magic, and surprisingly, some of them have even exchanged legal tender for it. I spoke to Karen over the phone shortly after she arrived home from her day job as a newspaper editor. How she remains gainfully employed in that position is one of the many mysteries that surround this beguiling young wordsmith.
Q: Thank you for speaking with us today. So, let’s get started with a question near and dear to our hearts at Indy Authority: Why did you decide to self-publish?
A: Well, these days if you want to publish professionally, you need an agent. And I knew that if I wanted to get a literary agent, I was going to have to go to New York, and, you know, that just seemed like a huge, intimidating undertaking. Self-publishing was a way to bypass all of that.
Q: Wait—I thought you lived on Long Island. Aren’t you twenty minutes away from the city?
A: Yeah, but I would have had to take the train. You can’t park in Manhattan.
Q: What’s wrong with taking the train?
A: It’s crowded. Sometimes you have to sit right next to someone you don’t know and there’s that awkward moment where your knees touch, and you’re like “Should I just pretend that didn’t happen? Is he pretending it didn’t happen? Wait, where’s his hand going?” Then there are all those strange smells, and I don’t mind if it’s a food smell or something—even if it’s not food I would necessarily eat— but occasionally you’re like, “Is the train breaking? Are we all going to die?”
Q: Let’s change gears. What kind of readers does your book appeal to?
A: I’m going for that broad demographic of people just a little too old for Twilight and a little too inhibited for 50 Shades of Grey. I just want to take all of that crippling insecurity and shameful, repressed desire and tie it all up in a neat little bow; I think my work really speaks to that.
Q: What if they aren’t too old for Twilight or too inhibited for 50 Shades? Will they still like your book?
A: That’s a good question; I’ll definitely have my people look into that.
Q: What people? I thought you were a one-woman operation.
A: I am, but in the event that I ever have my own people, that is something I would have them do. That is exactly how I would utilize them.
Q: What do you think of Harry Potter? Is that a franchise you intend to emulate in any way?
A: I have no idea. I don’t really like fantasy.
Q: If you don’t mind my asking, if you don’t like fantasy, then why do you write fantasy?
A: I don’t write fantasy: I write modern speculative paranormal literature, and I would prefer it if it you wouldn’t use that pejorative term.
Q: Okay. Moving on. Vampire fiction is very popular right now, and while not the main focus, your book does feature vampires. Did you include them specifically because teen girls seem to go crazy for them?
A: Actually, it’s quite the opposite- I hate vampires. What really convinced me to write this book, after mulling over the idea for a while, was that someone had to finally put those filthy, pasty bloodsuckers in their place. Like, in my first book, you’ll notice that the vampires are totally everyone’s little bitches and never get to win at anything. In the second book I plan to have all my primary and secondary characters kick the shit out of vampires nonstop.
Q: That’s a rather bold stance. Aren’t you afraid of backlash from genre fans?
A: I guess, but uh, don’t girls like seeing the guys they like get beaten to a pulp lately? I thought that was sort of considered a sexy thing now.
Q: Fair enough. Any other types of fantasy creatures that you hate, while we’re on the subject?
A: Does the kind of vampire that can turn into a bat count?
Q: That’s more or less the same as a regular vampire.
A: Oh….then I guess not. Maybe banshees.
Q: It’s a little unusual that your day job is also as a writer— only in newspapers. Is that a difficult balancing act for you?
A: Not really. Actually, the two complement each other sometimes. Like, I’ll be writing an article with the headline “County Budget Negotiations Grind To A Halt,” or “Two Die In Gardening Truck Crash,” and all the while I’m thinking “What aspect of this story would be improved by demons?”
Q: You know, some readers have raised concerns that because the main female character is subservient to the male in several respects, your book is misogynistic. Do you in fact hate women?
A: I don’t know—you know, being a woman myself I’d like to think that I don’t, but sometimes I wonder. You know those T-Mobile commercials? The one with the skinny girl in pink with that smug expression? I want to punch her in the face. Does that mean I’m a misogynist?
Q: No, actually that is a perfectly normal reaction.
A: Oh, thanks so much. I was getting worried there.
Q: Yeah, that bitch? Can go fuck herself. So, anything you can tell us about the second book?
A: Well the series is about Cassie’s journey as a witch, and she’ll take some very important steps in Book Two. Some of the questions readers had about her background, based on the dream sequence in the first book, will be answered. But more importantly, vampires are going to get shellacked. You will need a spatula to scrape their pale, undead asses off the pavement.
Q: Why do you hate vampires so much, by the way?
A: I had a bad experience.
Q: What kind of experience?
A: I don’t really want to talk about it, okay?
Q: Falling asleep halfway through an episode of The Vampire Diaries and then having strange dreams does not count as having a bad experience.
A: Okay first of all it was True Blood, and that wasn’t a question. I’m not sure I like the tone this is taking….
Q: Apologies. Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process?
A: I sit down with my netbook. I write. Sometimes I bug my husband to turn down his video game so I can hear myself think.
Q: …is that all?
A: Well because you asked, I tend to keep the chapters in individual documents first, then later in the process I start combining them all into a draft. I write in order and I usually re-read at least the last 40 pages before I start the next chapter, so it’s a slow process of constant revision. After I have a satisfactory draft, I make any major mechanical changes for the second draft, then I do waves of minor edits. Sometimes I’ll do a run where I go in and take out some semicolons, replacing them either with full-fledged colons or by starting new sentences; it’s really a judgment call there. Then-
Q: Let’s start wrapping this up.
A: I thought you wanted to hear about my writing process?
Q: I was disabused of that notion. What kind of criticism did you get about the first book, and how has that impacted your process going forward?
A: A bunch of people said that I spent too much time describing what my characters look like, but then an equal amount of people said they kept forgetting what the characters look like, so it was kind of a wash. [Editor’s Note: this part is actually true.]
Q: When can readers expect to download the next book in the series?
A: My target window is either before or after Christmas. Unless I end up getting Final Fantasy X and/or Persona4 for the Vita; then it will be later. Much later.
Okay, back to work! No more cowering from the summer heat or running off to get married, time to start getting ramped up for the launch of book 2 soon. Here’s a page from the original comic, featuring Sam after a long, no good, terrible, horrible, very bad day. After you read Book 2, you’ll probably pick up on something else about this page, so you might want to make a mental note to come back to it later.
One thing I wanted to mention is that I realize that many don’t want to have visuals of novel characters presented to them; they would prefer to let their own imaginations shape the characters. In general terms I agree with this (and I always think the cover paintings on fantasy novels don’t match what I imagine the characters to look like at all), but this is kind of an unusual case.
This series was a comic first, so pretending I don’t know what the characters look like would be a lie. That doesn’t mean you have to accept my versions, but I’m not going to pretend they don’t exist.
Next time, more art and maybe some talk about my current research for Book Two…I’ve really got to settle on a name for the damn thing already.
A sneak peak at a character from Book 2, because why not? The Knight never made it into the original comic despite all the drawings of her that I’ve done, so she’s completely new for the book.
By the way, I just tweaked my Tumblr settings so people can ask questions and such- I’m still learning how this system works. But now this blog doesn’t have to be a completely one-way communication :)