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Year in Review: 2017

Yep. That was my 2017.

In summary, I have enough perspective to say that 2017 wasn’t as bad as 2016 by default because 2016 was nothing but a continuous stream of suckerpunches to everyone’s ‘nads, and since 2016 set the precedent that everything was going to be awful from now on, we knew to expect nothing but awful things in 2017. That’s pretty much what we got, to be honest. It wasn’t all bad, but it was pretty much mostly bad, imo.

Still, I was able to snatch just a few happy moments in this dumpster fire of a year that followed up what I considered to be the definitive apocalypse. I was able to go to Los Angeles for a week and run around being silly and doing whatever I wanted. I attended Dragon*Con and met Nathan Fillion, whom I’ve been crushing on since 2009, as well as Ming Na Wen, Michael Rosenbaum, and Steve Blum. I’ve managed to sort of dig my book sales out of its shallow grave and nudge it back towards the direction it needs to be in. I wrote a sequel to my science fiction/contemporary fantasy mashup and published an all new novella for The Black Parade series, Back to Black. I was also accepted into an anthology of black sci-fi/urban fantasy based out of Atlanta that’ll be hitting your bookshelves later this summer. I moved back to my hometown of Atlanta, GA and have been happy to remember what it feels like to be somewhere comfortable that’s also more conducive to my career.

It hasn’t been easy. I’ve been through some stuff this year that I never anticipated and I’m unsure if I’m the better for having endured these kinds of hardships, but I’m happy to have made it out alive. I’m happy that you guys survived it as well and I hope that 2018 treats you even the tiniest bit better than 2017. We still have a hard road ahead for us, but if we stick together, I think we can survive another year of metaphorical ‘nad punching by life.

As for the future, 2018 is going to be a weird year. I’ve got another Of Cinder and Bone novel on the docket for this year, though it will depend on how things go with Of Blood and Ashes in terms of if I’ll write and publish the third novel (working title is Of Scales and Shadows, but it’s subject to change) this year. Technically, I do one book a year, sometimes two if the situation calls for it, and Of Blood and Ashes came out January 2, 2018 in the Sirens and Scales boxed set, so I’ve already met my goal for 2018 publications. The third book will still get written, but I guess we’ll see what happens throughout the year to determine if I’ll publish it in 2018. This year and next year are probably the most flexible years in my writing career, as I have the room to decide what I want to do and where I go from here, since The Black Parade’s main novels are done (might do another short story collection someday, stay tuned) and this new series is about to hit its third book.

All I can say is hang in there. I’ve got some moves to make and I hope you want to be around for the ride.

See you on the salt mines, friends.

-Kyoko M

Back to Black Goodreads Giveaway!

Cover art by Marginean Anca of Brose Designz

It’s that time of year again! Please enter to win a paperback copy of my newest novella, Black to Black! Deadline is October 18, 2017. Don’t miss your chance to grab the thrilling adventures of Seers Jordan Amador and Myra Bennett, exclusive to the Creatures boxed set.

Want to read the first chapter? Go here and get crackin’! 

Hindsight is 20/20: My Fourth Year in Self-Publishing

“What’s it like to be a self-published author?”

Boy, you’d think by my fourth year I’d have less trouble answering this question, but believe it or not, I think it’s actually gotten harder to answer.

It’s no surprise that 2016 was a brutal year for everyone on the planet. Half of us didn’t survive it. 2017 is infinitely better just by comparison, but 2016 really did leave us with a lot of scars. I lost my furry best friend of twelve years, for one thing, and I had such a rough year that even my book sales slid into the trashcan (probably so they could be close to me). I’ve been struggling for the past year to drag my poor book series out of the landfill and start pushing the boulder back up the mountain. It’s a long, miserable, lonely trip.

But it ain’t all bad.

For instance, recently I was lucky enough to save up my hard-earned, retail-slave-labor cash and move back to Atlanta, Georgia, my city, my hometown, my turf. I always knew I wanted to move back and it’s not just because Florida is God’s rubber room. (Seriously, what is with you, Florida? You scare me.) If I have even the slightest chance of advancing the Black Parade series and possibly even the Of Cinder and Bone series, I need to take a page out of the Little Mermaid’s book: “I wanna be where the people are.” No man is an island and I need to network, to fellowship, and to grow as an author in a metropolitan city almost as big and diverse as New York. I want to do more than shill my books to online audiences. I want to put down some roots and start collaborating to reach a wider audience and get the Word of Mouth going eventually, even if it takes years.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

It’s okay to change your mind. For instance, after I wrote The Holy Dark, I didn’t really think I’d dive back into Jordan Amador’s insane life again, at least at length, but an irresistible opportunity presented itself and I decided to explore a story that I felt was interesting without retreading too much ground that we’ve already covered in the trilogy. After all, that’s why I didn’t make it into an ongoing chronicle. I felt that Jordan’s story is the kind that’s best told with a finite number of books. It’s not nearly as large and sprawling as something like the Dresden Files or the Kate Daniels series. However, many people asked me how Myra Bennett and Jordan Amador met before The Holy Dark and I felt like it could be a good jumping off point into a novella.

Additionally, I was misguided with the first cover to Of Cinder and Bone. I thought that going for the sci-fi romance/interracial angle would draw in some readers, but it didn’t. The book tanked. It’s still tanking, but to be fair, it’s very niche and it’s long as hell. It’s going to be a real struggle to tread water, and so that’s why after Of Blood and Ashes is on digital bookshelves, Of Cinder and Bone will become a permafree title just like The Black Parade. It turns out that I overestimated my “fanbase”—which of course is not a jab at any of my fans. Rather, I got arrogant and assumed that those who had read the Black Parade would crossover and read this new series when that isn’t the case. I’m not that big of a deal and I needed to be humbled by struggling yet again to even get 10 sales a month for the new title. Well, mission accomplished. I’ve been eating humble pie for dinner every day for the past eight months. Coincidentally, that leads me to my next lesson.

It’s okay to be wrong. I was wrong about the cover for Of Cinder and Bone. I was wrong about how I thought it would do since I had an established readership before it came out. I was wrong about advertising and marketing. I was wrong about a lot of stuff. It sucks. It hurts. But as Lonely Island says, “I’M AN ADUUUUUUUUUUUUULT!” and I will push past it and get better at what I do. This business isn’t the forgiving kind, and it’s not very patient. You work or you die. That’s the way it is.

Be open to changing gears. Even though Of Cinder and Bone is in the dumps right now, I’m still hella glad that I gave it a shot. There is something almost perversely satisfying about taking something you’re really excited about and sharing it with the world, even if not that many people care about it. I haven’t broken through to the right demographic yet, but when I’ve given the elevator pitch to the novel to people, they actually seem genuinely interested in it, as it smacks of Jurassic Park, which everyone loves. If nothing else, I’ve really come to be fond of my off-kilter premise because it feels so uniquely mine. This isn’t to say that The Black Parade isn’t as well, but I am delighted that people acknowledge that it is a cool idea even if they’re not quite ready to dive into it yet. I still have to rebuild that readership from the ground up, but at least I know there is a demand for this type of mashup. It’s definitely a risk and it’s a loss for now, but I know that if I try hard enough, I can cut through the jungle and find the right readers. I think that’s one thing that the (very, very small) success of the Black Parade series has helped with, actually: giving me the confidence to go with my gut and keep writing even if the target audience is the total opposite of what I have previously written for. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have even dreamt of writing this monstrosity, let alone publishing it, but now I’m excited to talk about it and see where it’ll lead me. Even if it never reaches the level of fans that the Black Parade series has, I still feel like it was the right way to go, to explore something I find fascinating even if I’m one of few. I think that’s something everyone should do—chasing after the thing that gets their heart racing and makes their eyes all bright and shiny, in spite of its unpopularity.

Make yourself a schedule and stick to it. My God, this is one of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with over the past year. Between a full time job, a miniature social life, and a crazy cat, it’s been extremely troublesome to schedule writing time and advertising/marketing time. What I’ve learned mostly over my fourth year is that the only way not to plummet to the bottom of Amazon’s slushpile is literally weekly promotions that rotate about every 90 days. I hate it. It’s so stressful to have to plop down on my bed for an hour and pay for promotions, but it’s how I keep bread and Nutella on the table. (*sobs* I MISS BREAD I’M ON A DIET AND I WANT MY PASTRY BACK WAAAAH!) That old saying “you gotta spend money to make money” is 100% true of self-publishing.

You have to invest in marketing or you’re going to starve. You have to schedule time to write, edit, and publish or you’ll miss every single deadline you set. Authors often think we have way more time than we actually do. Life finds a way to screw you over. It’s Murphy’s law. You have to come up with crazy contingencies and have backup plans for your writing career or you’ll be doomed. (I mean, the last Dresden Files novel came out three years ago and I’m still waiting…just sayin’, Jim Butcher. Get crackin’ or I’m gonna pull a Misery on you.) At the end of the day, your readership doesn’t care how hard you work or how difficult your life has been. Make time. Literally just conjure it out of thin air or you’ll never get another word on a page.

I’ve banged my head on almost every damn hard surface there is in self-publishing. Oh well. Time to put my helmet back on and keep stumbling along towards year five.

Thanks for being here with me in the dark, readers.

Kyoko

Back to Black Chapter 1 (Excerpt)

Cover art by Marginean Anca of Brose Designz

Guess what? The all-new Black Parade novella Back to Black is out in just one month! Time to get you all frothing at the mouth for it, so here’s Chapter One. Please remember: if you haven’t read The Black Parade, She Who Fights Monsters, and The Holy Dark, you will run into spoilers here. Back to Black takes place between She Who Fights Monsters and The Holy Dark: the second and third novels in the series. With that in mind, please enjoy. Purchase info below the cut.

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Pre-Order Back to Black!

Well, I’ve been saying I had news for months and here it is: I’ve written an all-new novella for the Black Parade series!

Cover art by Marginean Anca of Brose Designz

 

Seer and demon slayer Jordan Amador has had it rough lately: separated from her husband the archangel Michael, hated by the angels who think she betrayed them, hunted by demons who want her dead or enslaved, and rejected by her friends and family for lying to them. Disgraced and miserable, she’s all but ready to lay down and die until another Seer named Myra Bennett saves her life. Myra gives Jordan a new mission: to wipe out a nest of demons that are terrorizing her family as well as the innocent people of Houston, Texas. Jordan goes undercover to infiltrate the demons’ nest and figure out how to eliminate them. Meanwhile, she’s locked in a deadly game with the archdemon Belial, who constantly visits her night after night in her dreams to convince her to give him her soul. Between the insanely gorgeous, but dangerous archdemon poking around in her head and the vicious creatures surrounding her, she’s not sure how much longer she can survive.

Back to Black is the fifth book in the Black Parade series. It takes place between She Who Fights Monsters and The Holy Dark.

Back to Black is exclusively part of the Creatures boxed set, which features 21 other New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon bestselling authors. Pre-order it today and get your copy August 15, 2017.