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What the First Week Feels Like

 

Sometimes everything falls apart. In a way that all your accomplishments disappear. Like it never even happened.

 

When my agent quit the business in January, I thought that was the worst thing I’d face this year.

 

I was wrong.

 

I got an email from the subrights agent. Harlequin was shutting down the imprint that was going to publish my YA gothic mystery, The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts. They won’t be publishing my book.

 

The contract we spent 10 months negotiating. The editorial revisions I worked so hard on. None of it mattered. It was all for nothing.

 

The book won’t be published.

 

I wait for a termination letter. I wait to find out what happens next with my agency. I wait to find out what I can do with this book. This book I’ve never given up on. Not in the eight years it took me to revise it and shop it and get it an agent and a publisher.
Uncertainty. It’s all uncertainty. What comes next. And do I want a next?

 

Why work so hard when it can all be gone in the blink of an eye? Why do this?

 

Today, I don’t know.

 

I’ve been trying to make sense of it. But it doesn’t make sense. None of this makes any sense to me.

 

Today, I hurt. And I don’t have the energy to pretending everything is fine. It’s really not. And I don’t know when it will be again.

 

All I can do is keep working on my indie career. That’s the only thing I have that I can hold onto.

 

****

 

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What Week Two Feels Like

 

Okay, this wallowing is sucking me in too deeply.

 

I tried staying busy. Too busy to think about what this meant. Then curling up in bed for a day.

 

Next I kicked the standing bag so much it moved too close to Mom’s keyboard.

 

I can’t seem to get it out. The anger. The frustration. The sadness. The hopelessness. And the longer I think about it, the worse it feels.

 

Perspective. I need perspective. It’s my interpretation of things that is making me spiral. Reassess. Reassess.

 

Let’s think of the last two years as an experiment. An attempt at traditional publishing. A way to dip my toe in that pool. And a trial run of indie publishing.

 

So far the only bad thing about indie is people’s reaction to it. Everything else has been hard work, but it’s all mine. The awards, the reviews, the sales. They can’t disappear on me.

 

I’m good at being in charge. I like being the captain of my soul.

 

The most rewarding and stable part of my career has been the indie track.

 

Traditional publishing didn’t work out. I’ve learned to trust warning signs and gut feelings. Trust them more than you trust anyone or anything.

 

I still have DM. Right now I’m making that jump through the traditional hoops. See what happens.

 

And there are more books in me.

 

Something will find traction in the traditional world. Maybe it won’t be soon. Maybe it won’t be the next book or the next book.

 

But I can still build a career. I can keep writing. I can keep working on my craft. I can bring novels to market myself.

 

This isn’t over. I’m not over.

 

It’s just another crater in the road.

 

 

 

 

 

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Sharing My Craft

On October 18th from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., in Wolcott, CT at Alcott School (1490 Woodtick Rd) I will have a table at the 33rd Annual Arts and Crafts Fair  where I will be selling signed books and signed photography from my novel and donating 30% of the profits to the Farmingbury Woman’s Club of Wolcott.

There will be tons of crafters there. It’s the perfect place to start your holiday shopping!

***

On November 1st from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m, in Plantsville, CT at Mulberry Gardens of Southington’s Craft Fair (58 Mulberry Street), I will be selling autographed copies of my novel and my original autographed photography from my novel.

It’s a great community to support by making a few holiday purchases!

 

Drafting Update

I’m at 51,000 words in the draft of Six Train’s sequel. I’m hoping to have the first draft done by early January. It’s only a first draft so it will need several rounds of revisions and editing before it’s ready. I’m hoping to publish in the Fall/Winter of 2016.

 

Query Wars

I’m 8 weeks into querying DM. Upside is I’ve gotten the most requests ever on a manuscript. So the query is doing it’s job. I’m waiting to hear on several requests.

I continue to query because I am a very risk adverse person. I’d rather have other options out there than be blow away when one doesn’t pan out. Also, I know how rare it is for an agent to fall in love with my work. It only happened once before. So I don’t expect it to happen quickly.

 

Website Update

We had a website crisis last week when my web host decided to seamlessly change servers and took my entire site down for a day. My web designer, Jian Chan, worked tirelessly to get most of it back up. It took 3 calls to customer services (roughly 3 hours of our lives) to finally find a solution. Now the site is 100% up again. Phew.

We made some changes there. Jian branded Six Train’s page. We added my pseudonym to the top of every page. And we changed the News page to make it more reader friendly. And the table is easy to use so now I can update it myself!

We also moved sections of the site around so there were less sublevels to the site.

It was about 20 hours of work for both of us.

But I love how it looks.

 

Book Reviews

I haven’t been posting book reviews on the blog because I’m only posting 4 times a month. But I am still doing book reviews. If you want to check them out, they’re on Amazon and Goodreads. If you want me to make them one of my weekly posts, let me know.

 

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I haven’t looked at photos of me and my old travel buddy in a few years. Ever since we parted ways actually.

It was too hard to remember all those good times. To see how close we were and be reminded that it was over.

So I didn’t.

I left the photos on  my iPad and computer but never flipped through them.

Distance always makes things better.

And it did.

Until this weekend when my iPad memory got full and I needed to erase photos to make space for a software update.

Then I tiptoed down memory lane. Revisited Thailand and Shanghai. All these memories flooded back.

Life was different 3 years ago…

It was a time when I thought we’d be friends for life. I never expected it to only last 4 years. But that’s what happened.

It’s all over now.

 

Photos are so powerful. They summon a moment back into reality.

And it hurt to go there and realize that it’s over. And it can never be again.

That I’m not the same and he’s not the same and we had these amazing moments that can never happen again.

I think sometimes it’s better to not have mementos. To let things slip gently into boxes in the basement of your mind.

For a moment, I thought I should delete all my photos. Wipe them out of existence. Make the forgetting come faster.

But then I saw this gorgeous shot of the ocean. And I was right back there on the beach.

And I found myself smiling. Because those were good moments. Moments I want to hold onto.

Pictures can give you a moment back. They can let you revisit a good time even if it’s long gone.

And I’ll be keeping my photo library. Just not on my iPad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hello Baltimore! Here’s the view of Light Street from my room.

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I took Amtrak down to Baltimore on Thursday afternoon and checked into a gorgeous suite at the Marriott Residence Inn at 17 Light Street.

 

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It felt like I was back to living in an apartment. Most comfy place I’ve ever stayed.

 

 

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My hotel.

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When I got settled in on Thursday, I went out for a walk in the Inner Harbor to get a lay of the land. To see how long it took to get from one end of the festival to the other.

 

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Loved this sign.

 

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Dinner at 17 Light was crab cakes. When in Baltimore…

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 This was near the author tents. On Friday, I got to be a fan girl and go to panels and signings. It was awesome!

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Marissa Meyer was a delight to hear interviewed. Her interviewer, Catherine Asaro, took the time to get to know her and made it a really intimate chat in the Literary Salon.

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I was so wowed over by the interview, I had to get a couple of her books signed.

Waiting in line for the signing, I got to chat with Samantha, Book Vlogger, all day. We forgot to take a pic together. But she’s gorgeous and awesome and a great book festival buddy!

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Maryland Romance Writers has a great panel on Writing Science Fiction as women authors. The panel included Catherine Asaro, Jennifer Armentrout, Em Garner, Cheryl Klam, Diana Peterfreund, and M.D. Waters.

 

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Jennifer writes across genres and many of the panelists echoed her thought that they write what they write and let the agents and editors categorize it.

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There was a music stage with dancing going on.

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At 5:30 pm, I headed back to my hotel and freshed up for a night out with Lauren Moscato, one of the coolest blog buddies I have. She and her boyfriend, Sean, took me out for potato nachos at James Joyce in the East Harbor. We laughed all night.

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Lauren is the queen of good selfies. Love this shot of us that she snapped!

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And then it was Saturday. The big day for the author tent. Dad and I got there at 10:30 am to set up. We had people stopping by from 10:45 am  until 8 pm.

My table was between three awesome authors and an illustrator! E.L. Jefferson is a monster promoter of his horror novels and picture books. His wife Janet and his illustrator Tony completed  a smooth operation. They were in complete sync the whole day.

On my other side was Damien Gibbs and Tiffany Gibbs who co-write books and also are individuals authors. Another fantastic husband and wife team. They were super prolific with a memoir, picture book, spirituality, and even fantasy novels to sell.

I’m looking forward to reading E.L. and Dameon’s books!

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I was on my feet all day. I think I pitched the book to at least 80 people. I lost count after a while. I gave out hundreds of book marks. And we sold 15 books.

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Then we met my friend Megan and her husband Greg and went to Chiaparelli’s in Little Italy for dinner. For about 8 minutes, I thought we might be ghosts because all the waiters and servers ignored us and there was no hostess to greet us. But then we were seated and I breathed a sigh of relief.

 The side salad was intense. Enough for 4 people to share 1 salad intense.

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The fried provolone rocked.

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And I loved my chicken vincenza.

Megan and Greg were great dinner companions and we laughed the night away.

So glad we all survived the cab ride back too!

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We left Baltimore the next morning. It was a 6 hour drive in constant traffic back to CT. That’s why today’s post is a bit late.

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Upcoming Author Events

I’ve got two author events coming up in the next two weekends.

On Saturday September 27th, I will be at the Baltimore Book Festival  from 12 pm-8pm in the Author Tent at Bicentennial Plaza. I’ll have a giveaway you can sign up for to win author goodies and a free ebook.

I will be selling and signing books in the tent and donating 15% of the profits to the Baltimore Book Festival. Please stop by to chat, it can get awfully lonely in a tent for 8 hours.

 

On October 4th, I’ll be at Walsh’s Market in Wolcott from 10 am-3pm signing and selling books and also selling signed photography from the book. I’ll be donating 30% of the day’s profits to the Wolcott Food Pantry. Stop by and pick up a great book and support an awesome cause!

***

Six Train Sequel Drafting

I’ve drafted 34k words of the sequel. It’s a first draft so it’s still coming together.

Drafting is always a rollercoaster of emotions. Some days, I love what I’ve done. Other days, I know I’m going to need to completely rewrite it. I doubt myself. What I’m doing. Where I’m going.

I’ve taken a few days to revise this past week. I started to lose the flow of the story. To feel like it was escaping me. Going back through the 180 pages I’d written, I fixed things. I connected more deeply with my characters. And I think it’s made a big difference. At least I do today, anyways.

***

Intern Comes on Board

With three series in the works, I realized I could really use some help with everything. I reached out to an amazing, smart young lady and she has agreed to intern with me this year.

***

Query Wars Continue

I’ve been sending out 3 queries a day 5 days a week since August. I’ve gotten a great response to the query. More fulls and partials than I’ve ever had requested on a manuscript.

Now I’m waiting to hear back. Time seems to pass so slowly when you are waiting. I’ll swear it’s been 8 weeks, but my query spreadsheet says only 2 weeks since I sent something out.

 

 

 

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So you know how everyone says write the draft straight through without stopping? Well, I don’t do that.

It was during a chat with my fabulous blog buddy, Gwen Stephens in DeKalb, IL, that I confessed this for the first time. It was my dirty little writing secret.

She gave me the courage to share it here with you. Thanks Gwen!

 

Confession time:

I usually draft about 50 pages before my drafting well becomes dry. Words aren’t coming as easy. I’m scrambling to meet my word count. And I’m suddenly unsure of everything I’ve written. It’s all crap.

That’s when I take 2-3 days to reread what I’ve written and make revisions. Usually there’s something I need to figure out in those pages that will allow me to keep writing. Or I need to connect deeper with the characters’ motives and mindset to write onward.

Even with an outline, I have a tendency to meander into my story. And it takes me about 50 pages to really get into the flow of the characters again.

In the first draft, I am quite literally telling myself the story and then figuring out how to show it to the readers in an actual scene. That telling needs to be cut.

Also I am especially awful at opening a scene for the first time. It takes me 5-10 lines in before I feel anchored. And usually those 5-10 lines need to go.

So yes, I revise as a I go.

But should you?

That’s really only a question you can answer.

And it depends on how you write and how good you are setting and sticking with deadlines.

I can decide to revise for two days and then plunge back into drafting. And actually stick to the plan.

I can also keep draft while revising earlier pages of the same manuscript. That’s not easy. And I don’t recommend it unless you really really know how to compartmentalize things in your mind.

Lots of writers get bogged down in revising and wanting to make it perfect and can spend months on those first 50 pages. They lose the flow of the story and they may not get back to drafting. For them revising as they go is  the surest way to an unfinished manuscript.

But if you are stuck or losing your momentum and you need to reground yourself in the story and you can jump in and out of revising and be content with incremental improvements, then revising as you go might work for you.

Where do you stand on the drafting process? Do you just write the whole thing straight through in one go and never look back? Or do you find you tinker as you go?

 

***

For anyone who bought an earlier version of Six Train, I have a limited supply of nifty Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards Bronze Winner stickers for the book.

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If you’d like one for your copy, please email me at kourtney (dot) heintz (at) yahoo (dot) com. Give me your mailing address and I will get it out to you this week!

 

 

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The Six Train to Wisconsin won the bronze for paranormal in Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards!

Big thank you to Carrie Rubin who won the silver last year for her book, Seneca Scourge, and introduced me to this fantastic contest.

This is one of the coolest contests Six Train has been in. Because it won, copies of my book will be for sale in the Readers’ Favorite tent at the Miami Book Fair. That’s amazing discoverability!

An awards ceremony will be held in Miami during the book fair weekend for all the Readers’ Favorite winners and we will be given our medals on stage.

It’s the first time I’ve been recognized for my writing with an actual award and ceremony.

So yes, I am going to Miami in November!

I plan to spend Friday and Saturday (Nov 21 and 22) at the book fair attending panels and perusing the tents. Friday night there is going to be an networking event for Readers’ Favorite authors. Then Saturday night, I will be at the Readers’ Favorite ceremony.

 

 

 

 

 

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2014 Goals Q2 Check-In

I think I’m once again behind on the check-in. Sorry about that–July and August got away from me. I completed a goal in Q1, so there are only 3 left to check in on! Woohoo!

1) Goal: Move more 

  • Action Plan:  I will move for at least 45-80 minutes each day doing cardio, toning, or weights. I will get up from this laptop every hour for at least 5 minutes and move around. 
  • Status: Everyday, I work out for at least 70-80 minutes. I get up hourly from the laptop and try to add in different chores/tasks to move more.

 ON COURSE

 

2) Goal: Eat a lower carb lifestyle

  • Action Plan: Focus on healthier foods–fruits, vegetables, potatoes, oatmeal. Add them into each meal and cut out processed sugars and white carbs. Aim for 30-40 g of carbs per meal.

 

  • Status: Eating less carbs. Avoiding breads and white processed carbs. They are splurges and I try to not splurge more than a little once a week. Allowed fruits and veggies and dark chocolate and the occasional ice cream. Going well. Feel more energetic and healthy.

 

ON COURSE 

 

3) Goal: Draft first draft of Six Train’s sequel

  • Action Plan: Complete the outline by Feb 5th. Then switch to drafting after I finish third manuscript revisions (as long as Reckonings revisions aren’t required by Harlequin).

 

  • Status: Outline completed on February 7th. From May to July, I revised The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts for Harlequin. Then I prepared for book tour. I reviewed outline in early August and officially began drafting 1500 words 5 days a week on August 21st. Drafted about 15,000 words to date.

IN PROCESS

 

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QUERY SEASON

Query Season has kicked off for DM. That means I’m sending out three queries a day to agents until I have 50 queries out. Then I will pause and see how the responses are going. I have an agent list that I put together back in July for this book. It’s a long list because, well, I’m a cautious optimist.

So far, it’s been the best query season yet. This is the first time I’ve ever gotten full requests on the first batch of queries. It’s incredibly exciting and nail-biting. I would be thrilled to work with any of the agents reading my full right now.

AUDIO BOOK MOMENTUM

I approved the first 15 minutes of my audiobook in early August. My amazing narrator has been bogged down in upper respiratory issues, but she is on the mend. She plans to have the final audiobook to me October 15th. Then I have to review and approve it. And then it will go live on Audible.com sometime in mid to late November.

SEQUEL DRAFTING FOR SIX TRAIN

I finalized my outline for Six Train’s sequel last week. I started drafting the rough draft of the sequel. I’m being ambitious and setting a word count of 1500 words a day, 5 days a week. If all goes according to plan, I will have a rough draft by December. It will need time to breathe, then a round of revisions, then beta reading, and revisions after that, but the most time consuming part is the drafting and the time it’s with betas.

BALTIMORE BOOK FESTIVAL

I was one of the authors selected to be in the author tent at the Baltimore Book Festival on September 27th from 12 pm to 8 pm. It’s a nice chunk of the day I’ll be hanging out there. Come chat about books and if you want a personalized copy of Six Train they will be available. I’m also going to have a little giveaway going on too.

THE GIRL WHO IGNORED GHOSTS STATUS

My editorial revisions were turned in before I went to WI. I’m waiting on line edits from my editor.

BOOK SALES 

I don’t think I remembered to report book sales in June or July. Sorry about that. Anyway, June was a writing month and not a promoting month. July was mostly a promoting month.

June: 7 books

July: 41 books

 

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It’s been over 15 months since The Six Train to Wisconsin was first published. About time to stop and think about everything that has happened to me since then.

When I first embarked on this indie journey, I had no idea how many emotional highs and lows I’d hit each week. Or day. Or hour.

Every moment felt so life of death for my book. You’re up, you’re down. Sales are happening, sales stop happening. You won an award, you didn’t place for an award. But a year later, I still am selling copies.

I’ve come to realize I have no direct control over sales. And sometimes they suck. And sometimes they soar.

It’s about balancing the writing and the promoting. And being okay with ranking dropping.

I’ve come to accept that there is no exact correlation between the effort you put into promo activities and actual sales happening. You can guestimate. If a sale happens the day after an event, maybe it’s related to that event. Or maybe they heard about it on Facebook, checked out your book trailer, and decided to try it. Or maybe one of your readers recommended it to them and it had nothing at all to do with your promo work.

There is no concrete way to trace how a sale happens. So there is no definitive way to say if a promotion tactic has succeeded or failed. Maybe it didn’t motivate a sale that day, but maybe it was part of several interactions that led to a sale further down the road.

That’s why it’s so important to have a marketing strategy. A long-term approach to promoting. It has to be about getting your name out there and creating discoverability. And believing that sales will flow from there.

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I am not the same girl who trembled at the thought of giving a speech. Sure, I still get nervous and I over-practice to compensate, but I am getting better and better at doing things I used to run from. It still tires me out—I’m not a natural extrovert. So “being on” saps my energy and I need a day or two hiding in my Kour cave to recover.

I have readers. People who enjoy my novel and reach out to me! People who really connect with my story and my characters. Beyond the sales figures and the review writers, there are people who I don’t know about reading and enjoying my story. That’s pretty cool. I just wish I had a way of knowing how many of them were out there. I suspect it could be thousands. Which is really awesome.

There are also readers who dislike my book. That hurts. But it also means they aren’t my target audience. They aren’t the people I wrote the book for. And so they aren’t going to like it. Sometimes a review reveals more about a reader than a book. What they dislike is usually exactly what my target readers like.

Mostly, I’ve learned to stay the course. To believe in my book and myself. And to hire a team of people I trust in completely. They make it so much easier to manage my indie publishing career.

 

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