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Year in Review: 2016

Yep. That’s my summary of 2016 in general, and also, my year in general.

I don’t think I can recall a single year in my entire life that’s taken so much from me in pretty much every aspect: my career, my day job, and my personal life. I lost my furry best friend of 12 years, my book sales tanked, and the entire country went absolutely insane in the meantime. I think like most of you, I would be happy to strike 2016 from the history books and pretend it never happened, although the damage that it did can’t be completely ignored no matter how hard we try.

However, as rotten a year as most of us had, there were some good things. For me, this tops them all:

Yes, ICYMI, that is indeed your friendly neighborhood author Kyoko M wrapped in the sinewy, perfect arms of Captain America himself, Chris Evans. Recap here. I won’t bore you with the squee-worthy details in the meantime. However, that was my Treat Yo-self 2016 trip, and the good things that happened for me in 2016 career-wise are actually still connected to conventions.

I was able to attend the State of Black Science Fiction convention in Atlanta, GA, where I was able to be on two different panels with some incredibly talented, smart, funny, dynamic authors. It was such a fantastic opportunity to break bread with people of a similar genre and just relax and talk about writing and making a living off of this crazy thing we do.

I also was able to be in an all-new boxed set, where I met other awesome urban fantasy and paranormal romance authors. I learned some new marketing strategies and advertising opportunities along the way, and started to realize that even though the writing world is highly competitive, a lot of authors have figured out that we can help each other up the ladder one rung at a time instead of always climbing over each other. I really have come to encourage new authors, or veteran authors seeking more readership, to collaborate and find their niche with people who are like-minded. Sometimes you can bust your hump as hard as you can, and still not meet your goals, so it’s great that if you search hard enough, you can find a way to break through the next barrier and find new readers by sharing the spotlight.  I am elated to see that so many authors are willing to pull together and get ourselves out there. This is one of the most labor intensive jobs on the planet, so it’s nice if one can find a way to share the load.

I won’t be boring you with a calculation of how many copies I’ve sold this year. Frankly, all you need to know is “not enough, but at least I’m not dead in a gutter somewhere.” After all, it could be much worse, and the main reason that my book sales fell to rancor is that I spent so much time putting my energy into my new first-in-series Of Cinder and Bone that I sadly started to neglect marketing the Black Parade series. It’s hard to juggle two series at once and that is the goal I have set for myself in 2017: to learn how to adequately balance marketing and promoting both series to new readers.

I sort of forgot how hard it was getting any traction with The Black Parade, and so I’m going to take a good, hard look at the last two years that have been profitable and identify what works best to get OCAB into the hands of as many readers as possible. Sometimes when you have a good year, you take for granted what got you there and forget that it’s easy to slip back down to the numbers you were at before. Hopefully, 2017 will see us back up to where we were in 2014 and 2015.

As always, I couldn’t have done any of this without you, readers. I know it’s been hard, but there are 352 new opportunities to kick ass waiting for us and if we pull together, we can make our dreams come true again.

Thanks for everything. Stay tuned. We’ve got plenty of things comin’ atcha in 2017.

New Orleans Comic Con 2016

 

Me and Chris Evans aka Captain America

Your friendly neighborhood fantasy author just had an excursion to the land of awesome jazz, rich heritage, and the best damn Southern cuisine imaginable. It was basically Treat Yourself 2016 for me, and when I treat myself, I treat myself. Hence, Captain America snuggling and languishing in my arms.

New Orleans Comic Con is a younger con, but they apparently worked out something pretty incredible to snag not only Captain America himself, Chris Evans, but half of the cast of Civil War, including Frank Grillo (Rumlo aka Crossbones), Anthony Mackie (Sam Wilson/Falcon), Hayley Atwell (Peggy Carter), Jeremy Renner (aka Clint Barton/Hawkeye) and the Russo brothers who are directing the film. I had been on Wizard World’s mailing list for some reason and as soon as they sent word that Chris Evans would be in the South (seriously, look it up, A list celebrities avoid the South like the freaking plague, man, and I’d know) I scrambled for a ticket and a photo op. It was the opportunity of a life time to meet an actual superhero (my second one, actually, as I met Kevin Conroy, the voice of Batman, in 2013) in the flesh. Plus, I’d never been to New Orleans and I was dying to get a chance to soak in some of the great things I’ve heard about Crescent City.

I flew down Thursday afternoon and stayed with a friend of mine. On Friday, we got up and had breakfast here, at The Ruby Slipper.

I had cheesecake-stuffed French toast with fresh blueberry compote and it was so delicious I’m drooling as I think about it all over again. Heavenly stuff, man.

And here’s my first street car ride!

We headed to the con to grab our badges and check out the dealer’s room, which was huge and awesome. Here are the goodies I managed to swipe for myself:

This fancy lithograph came with the hilariously expensive Chris Evans silver VIP pass. It’s basically just a glossy 11×17 photo of Captain Hotness, but hey, why not? Who doesn’t love a little smolder?

This awesomeness is a fake movie poster made by one of the artists in the dealer’s room. His concept was taking nerd culture things and turning them into the 1940’s, 50’s, and 60’s style movie posters, and this one is so gorgeous that I had to snag it to decorate my room. It’s just plain lovely.

Below is another one by the same artist, except it’s from Fallout 3 & 4.

Saturday morning at 10am, I attended the Civil War panel, which includes all the guests I mentioned above. Because I’m a huge nerd and this was a lifetime opportunity, I sat by one of the mics and was lucky enough to ask a question. Yes. I spoke to half the cast of Captain America: Civil War. That high-pitched sound you’re hearing is me screaming internally for hours.

Unfortunately, the audio is a bit janky, but here’s the whole panel. I got to ask a question at around the 26 minute mark, and their answers were priceless. I really encourage you to watch the entire video, and if one with better quality pops up, I’ll add it. It was a phenomenal panel, even with some fans asking weird questions, and the cast was beyond entertaining to experience live.

After the panel, I had the two most awesome experiences as a fangirl ever. First, was meeting Hayley Atwell, Agent Carter herself, for an autograph. I managed to hold it together and I told her that I was so grateful for her portrayal of Peggy as this powerful, amazing three dimensional female character and how it’s so important to have this awesome woman on a major network television show. I also told her that I truly hope she enjoys all the wonderful things that have happened and will happen for her as a result of portraying this character, and Ms. Atwell told me she was so humbled by my words. We shook hands and I was able to take this precious piece of personal history home with me to be framed on my wall.

After that, the main event happened. I waited in line in a freezing cold auditorium for around an hour, dressed to the nines and in full makeup, and then it happened. I walked up to Captain America, Chris Evans, for a photograph.

Now, the funny thing is…I’ve met celebrities before. Not any A-list celebrities, mind you, but celebrities like Maggie Q, Shane West, Bill Corbett, James Urbaniak, who are mostly nerd icons. Each time, I’ve managed to hold in the fangirl squeeing and ask them questions, even hold entire conversations.

But not with Chris Evans.

He was the first celebrity to ever make me 100% starstruck and tongue-tied.

Before the hug, I walked over and said hi and asked him if it would be alright for me to give him a hug for the photo. Mr. Evans smiled and said it wasn’t a problem at all, and then he wrapped his arms around me and I basically lost all mental faculties. I actually had a comment prepared–something about how proud I was of what he’s done with the character of Steve Rogers–but after that hug…yep, I was mush. I just mumbled thank you and tottered away on my heels, blinded by how utterly handsome he was. The hug was that good, but then there’s also the fact that before he let me go, he rubbed the small of my back and that’s what precipitated me turning into a pile of goo. My God. What a man, what a man, what a mighty good man.

Oh, and here’s his autograph as well (sadly not personalized, because you had to pay an extra $200 for that and as much as I ADORE Chris Evans, paying over $600 for a photo op and personalized autograph was outside of my comfort zone.)

The rest of the trip wound down after I met Cap. I swung past the famous Cafe Du Monde for beignets and coffee, which were yummy. We had dinner at this cool seafood place called Mr. Ed’s Seafood Bar and then on Sunday we just walked around town to sight-see and eat at Deannie’s before I headed home. Honestly, the city was beautiful and stuffed with all kinds of feasts for the eyes (and stomach). I’m so happy that Treat Yo-self 2016 went as smoothly as it did, and I will never forget meeting my favorite Avenger in the flesh. It was Item Number Four on my Bucket List, and I’m so giddy I managed it before I turned 30. It was unforgettable.

And for your viewing pleasure, here’s my informal account of meeting Chris Evans, for poops and giggles.