A Good Beginning

I have 3 book ideas taking up space in my head, along with a plethora of essays, and several short stories. I’ve wanted to dive into my new book for a while. But querying and life got the best of me, I slipped into a deep funk, and am finally appreciating the sunshine promising me warmth at the end of my dark tunnel.

A year ago I wrote the outline for my next book. It doesn’t have a title. I felt really good about the outline. If I ever write that story it’ll be cool.

But the story has matured, risen you could say if comparing it to dough, and the outline doesn’t apply.

I wrote a few pages with 2 new characters. One male. One Female. Dueling perspectives and I fell in love with them. Both of them are complex and interesting and I can’t wait to hang out with them, make them suffer, fail, and fall in love. Then I’ll probably destroy trust and find a way back to reconciliation.

I’d tell you the mash-up except I’m superstitious and I don’t want anyone stealing my idea. People do that sunconsciously sometimes, they don’t mean to hijack an idea, but they read something and forget they read it and the idea becomes theirs.

Anyway, I’ve been rereading the pages I wrote, and looking at the monitor and thinking, Well, what are waiting for? Get cracking.


I grew sadder. My story was neglected and the voices in my head grew silent.

This pissed me off. I’m a goal oriented woman. So last night I wrote a few trusted writing friends and told them I wanted to complete a first draft by the end of summer. I counted the days, subtracted the weekends, and came up with this scary fact:

I have to write 1,000 words per day for the next 65 days.

Then I spent today feeling buried by the idea. I wrote emails and calculated the words thinking – do they count?

No, they don’t.

So this is what I realized. I don’t know my main characters well enough. I haven’t explored their flaws or fears. Their desires, wants or needs. I haven’t sunk into them. I don’t knowhow they define themselves verse how the world does.

I need to fix the problem. I began working on back story, character development and trigger points. I’m exploring the female’s strengths and weaknesses, allowing her to introduce herself to me. Fully forming her before I get deep into the story. It feels really good and I believe will help me crank out the draft in a much more meaningful way.

I wrote 1110 words- about her- about her trigger points, and made notes about which of her issues will make good plot points, highlighted what will make good conflict. I’m sinking into her skin so I can write about her and make her real to anyone reading her story.

It’s a good beginning.




Picked a book off my bookshelf and randomly opened a page. I was looking for a sign, confirmation from the universe, an I believe in you from G-d.

This is was what was written on the page:

As we begin to transform our lives and experiences true fulfillment, we are tested again and again. Each test of our ego injects doubt. The optimism and excitement we felt at the start of our journey vanishes, we start to complain, the ego is back.

Along with this name of G-d.


And this is the meditation that is linked to these thoughts.

You perceive the balance and harmony that fills all Creation, especially in the hardships, challenges, and tests that you must fact throughout life. With the power of this name, you arouse strength to pass all those tests, to rise to a higher level of being, and to gain the joy and fulfillment that accompany transformation. you unlock the chains of ego and achieve freedom.


*this information cay be found in the 72 Names of G-d, Technology for the Soul by Yehuda Berg. 


Free Query Help at Query Swap

Query Swap Twitter event Coming June 1, 2017
Your hook is your selling point. It has to be perfect. But getting good feedback can often be difficult or expensive. That’s why M.L. Keller—The Manuscript Shredder—is organizing the #QuerySwap Twitter party, an all-day event for people seeking critique partners to participate in feedback exchanges on query letters or back cover blurbs. The query swap Twitter party is designed to help writers connect with other writers. And since this is an exchange, both parties will benefit.
Query Swap is happening from 8am-8pm EST on June 1, 2017.
Query Swap isn’t a contest. It’s an opportunity for writers to help other writers. There won’t be mentors, or agents. This is for writers only. Each participant will have the opportunity to find a new critique partner and exchange feedback on queries. Everyone gets feedback. Everyone’s query improves. Everyone wins.
How to participate:
  1. Tweet a brief pitch about your MS with the tag #QuerySwap include genre and age category hashtags. (They might look familiar; they are the same as #Pitmad) No need to tweet multiple times since you can search the feed and look for a match too.
  2. Watch the feed and find someone with an MS in a similar genre, category, and tone
  3. Ask him/her to swap
  4. Exchange queries
  5. Give constructive feedback to your new Critique Partner.
Can I just recycle my #pitmad pitch?
Maybe, but it might need tweaking. In this swap, genre, category, and overall MS tone will be more important than plot in finding a good match. Someone with a snarky sensibility might be less suited to selling your Anne of Green Gables retelling, so make sure you look for a person who writes in a similar style.
example pitches:
#LGBT historic retelling of Frog Prince set in Polynesia also dragons #YA #F #R #QuerySwap
Dark portal fantasy with family drama and talking cats #MG #F #DIS #QuerySwap
Obviously, these won’t work for #pitmad, but they convey the necessary information for this event.
Hashtags … (These are the same as #pitmad)
Age Categories:
#PB = Picture Book
#C = Children’s
#CB = Chapter Book
#CL = Children’s Lit
#MG = Middle Grade
#YA = Young Adult
#NA = New Adult
#A = Adult
#AA = African American
#AD = Adventure
#CF = Christian Fiction
#CON = Contemporary
#CR = Contemporary Romance
#DIS = Disabilities
#DV = Diversity
#E = Erotica
#ER = Erotic Romance
#ES = Erotica Suspense
#F = Fantasy
#H = Horror
#HA = Humor
#HF = Historical Fiction
#HR = Historical Romance
#INSP = Inspirational
#IRMC = Interracial/Multicultural
#MR = Magical Realism
#M = Mystery
#Mem = Memoir
#LF = Literary Fiction
#NF = Non-fiction
#R = Romance
#P = Paranormal
#PR = Paranormal Romance
#RS = Romantic Suspense
#S = Suspense
#SF = SciFi
#SPF = Speculative Fiction
#T = Thriller
#UF = Urban Fantasy
#W = Westerns
#WF = Woman’s Fiction
Some tips:
  1. Don’t flood the feed with pitches for the same book. Pitching multiple books is ok
  2. Pitch only books you are querying
  3. Don’t just wait for someone to ask you first. Be proactive.
  4. Use the hashtags to simplify your search.
  5. Be polite.
  6. Remember this is a swap. Both parties must give feedback
Want to help #QuerySwap succeed? Please share via social media or reblog this post.
Questions or concerns, please leave a comment.

Rape Survivor

I write about alcoholism and rape in my young adult fiction.

I have experience with both.

These things are part of what shape me and my world view.

Today I was asked about a fictional character in another book, and how she may react to being taken advantage of. I shared my real-life story.

I think it’s worth sharing here, too.



by Holly Raychelle Hughes



15 years old.


On my parents bed.


While I lay still and thinking

“This is it? This is sex?”


Staring at the blue fern patterned wallpaper


Bleeding in the middle of the bed.



How do I keep this secret?


What did I do to cause this?


How old is he, 20?


My parents aren’t home.


My friend (?) Tina playing pool downstairs

in the living room with this guy’s friends.


15 years old and confused.


My voice is small and coming from a transistor radio across the room,

“No, stop.” the signal consumed by white noise.

He’s done.


He gets up . He’s wearing a condom, where did it

come from? When did he put it on?


He walks away and down the stairs.


Raped and sitting in my blood.

Raped and standing next to my parents bed,

looking at the bright red blood in the middle of the bed.



In the afternoon.


and cleaning up the mess on my parent’s bed.


The dog jumps up and begins licking the bloody sheets.


and not understanding sex or why

he wanted to have sex with me.


15 years old


I stand at the top of the stairs leaning over the black banister

and call him back upstairs.

Everyone in the pool room cheers.


He complies.

He walks upstairs and I lead him to my bedroom.

Four purple walls covered in Duran Duran posters.

Stuffed animals bear witness to my platform bed.


I lay down again,

there’s another condom.

I try to learn what he is doing.



I try to pretend it’s my choice.



It’s over again.


He goes back downstairs,


I clean myself off.

I put all the sheets in the wash.


I bleed for one week from the wound.


He said he couldn’t believe it was my first time



things have been challenging

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” ~Maya Angelou

2016 was a very challenging year. I lived with a great deal of physical and emotional pain. Sat next to my mother while she endured surgeries and had to recover from my own hysterectomy in early fall. While all those terrible things were happening my writing found an audience.

I was published and even went viral. One story opened many doors. I felt empowered. I felt like I found may way as a writer. My book was selected for Twitter contests. I made more writerly friends. I had all the support I could imagine, which made the rejections I received less painful.

And then I received a few R&Rs for my YA manuscript and I thought, ooooh this is it! All my hard work is paying off.

But instead of an offer my father had a heart attack and needed a triple by-pass. I rushed to NY to be with him.

The notes I received from agents about my R&R were opposing views. What one loved the other questioned. Yet another had no issues at all with anything the others did, but still wanted a R&R. I began writing to please and lost my way. I lost my MC’s voice. I lost my passion for the story. I lost all the confidence I gained and depression settled in. I had to walk away from  years of work and do self-care.

I watched as friends signed with agents, I cheered them on and believed my time was still coming, but couldn’t help but wonder, why are they signed even though they need to do significant revisions and the notes I have ae so minor for R&R? Why am I being tested? I’ve received rejections from agents who say they love my writing but they have no idea how to sell my story. Those kind of notes piled up, and even though it’s a digital note, it carried a weight. It’s message was I’m not good enough. My stories aren’t what they know. But these stories are my truth, and I began taking it personally.

I heard from old friends. They have jobs title’s with Chief in front of them. They earn lots of money. They fly places on vacation and don’t struggle with words on a page or bills.

Everything around me made me feel less than. I knew depression had me good when the crying started. I hate it when the crying starts. I began isolating myself, got off social media, and began the work of getting healthy.

Then I read a post from my friend Tod Goldberg, and despite searching FB I can’t find it now, but it basically said this:

I’m so lucky to be a writer, I spend all day using my imagination to tell stories.

And that made me cry, too. But happy tears because instead of feeling less than for not pursuing a career that would have placed a “C” in front of a long title, I choose this. I am a writer.

I will not stop writing my stories. I won’t stop sharing my experiences in essays and eventually a memoir. I will tell stories with dead people, complicated, unconventional, and messy love because all of that is my truth.

It can be incredibly hard to remain self-motivated. But I’m not a quitter.

See you on the page.

So if you’re having a bout of self-doubt, I feel you. I see you and don’t let that dark voice win.

You can come out of it.

You matter.





#DVPit & Why I Didn’t Know I Could Participate

Diversity as a trend upsets me.

Life is diverse.

People are diverse.

The world is diverse.

It is not a trend.

And as I wrestle with the term being oddly trendy while the concept is not I find myself straddling the definition, too. You see, I’m a Jewish cis woman. I never thought about myself as diverse. I’m just me, as much as you, however you see and define yourself and find yourself defined, are you.

My husband and I often debate when is being Jewish a minority and when is it a religion? Do both count when talking about diversity? Where do I fall on the spectrum of diversity? My Jewishness informs my writing. It’s an integral part of me and therefore my work. And Jews are the world’s smallest minority, but we are very rarely given the opportunities of other minorities because we are defined by religion.

Anti-Semitism. Anti-Israel fanatics. The KKK. Neo-Nazi’s. BDS movement. These are all organizations that hate me. I don’t know if they hate me because of what I look like. How I pray to God. Or old stereotypes and myths.

I’ve been confronted with this hate in the writing community. A NY Times bestselling YA author once turned to me at the LA SCBWI annual event and said, “You must be a Jew,” after hearing part of a conversation. I was appalled. Shocked into silence. The friend next to me said, “Yup,” and nodded with wide eyes and embarrassment knowing that writer is known for her wild unfiltered mouth. And of course she was drinking so she had that excuse, too.

Outside of the writing community I’ve been asked where I come from. When I tell them I was born in New York, went to school in Washington D.C., lived in LA for 18 years, but now make Charlotte my home they say, “No, what religion are you?”


“Oh,” and some walk away. Some look at me with distant eyes when a moment ago they were friendly. I become something other than the person they were just getting along with.

But why are they asking me that? I’ve been called a kike. My very own JCC received bomb threats this year. I feel threatened and viewed as an acceptable casualty in the war on terrorism because if something bad happened to me, it happening to a Jew is okay with the rest of the non-Jewish world.

DV Pit began yesterday on Twitter and I never even considered pitching. I didn’t believe others thought being Jewish was diverse. Until found this article on the We Need Diverse Books website and it meant so much to me. I always understood #DiverseBooks to mean #ownvoices. Stories written by people sharing underrepresented cultures depicting those cultural stories and truths.

Then I saw Beth Phelan’s Tweet:

You don’t need to be writing an ownvoices ms to participate, tho those are very welcome. ’s focus is on the creator themselves.

I always believed when an agent reads a story all they see are words on a page. It’s a blind audition. Why isn’t this true? Why isn’t the slush pile a place of equal opportunity?

I write essays as well as fiction and see how people of certain factions of diversity attack a writer for sharing their experience. That somehow that experience eradicates the readers experiences, belittles, and demeans them. And I think WTF are you doing? Write your own story and share your experience. Would Flannery O’Connor be able to publish today? Would we know about Huckleberry Finn or Tom Sawyer? Would the bigot Archie Bunker make it on TV? Could today’s audiences stand watching All in the Family?

I wonder why the world has to agree. We don’t. We need to have open honest conversations and hear one another. We should try seeing the world through the eyes of one another. Isn’t that the whole point of reading?

And when a terrible book comes out- why is it that people attack the author? Not the agent, publisher, editors, marketing, sales teams and printer of the book?

I wish the world would embrace our differences and not fear them. I sent a message to trusted friends explaining how I felt. And one sent me this


and I want to share it with you. I wish this for us.

I wrestle with feeling I have a right to the opportunities DVPit offers marginalized people. I’m afraid this conversation will end up with many angry at me. But all this policing is silencing some people. Making them into liars and having them doubt their own experiences. I do not know what it feels like to walk in your shoes. Do you know what it’s like to walk in mine?

What does diversity mean to you? How does it affect your habits? I’m curious. This is meant to be an open honest conversation, if you’re brave enough to share your opinion and feelings. If I see any hate I will not include it. Be respectful.


Puddle of Tears

Any time between now and tomorrow afternoon I’ll be a mess. All of the emotions I’ve kept inside and moved past so I could be next to my father while he had triple by-pass surgery will come bubbling out of me.

The tears will also be about me.

They will be tears of frustration with where I am in the querying process. They will be about the heartbreak I feel when I’m told:

How my writing touches them.

How I know how to tell a story, BUT they don’t know how to sell my kind of story.

I’ll watch as my friends, who are deserving of signing with agents, get the happy phone calls and do the work of revision with the support of a contract between them and an agent and I don’t. I feel traditional publishing is a series of test and I am running fast at the hurdles thinking fast makes it better.

Fast isn’t better- it’s quicker. And there is no fast track in publishing.

I’ve been twisting myself and my story into origami trying to please agents and a few weeks ago I realized I lost my way. I was working so hard to be accepted, the story suffered because of it. It wasn’t the story I was meant to write, it became a stinky version of it.

Going home reminded me that this is a position I found myself in a lot as a kid. I moved through the world trying to fit into it despite the fact I expereinced the world differently. I saw the world with texture and shape, but lived with those who saw shades of gray. In order to make it through high school I did my best to be me, but conformed to survive.

The thing is- life isn’t about surviving. It’s about thriving.

My dad is recovering beautifully from his surgery. It was challenging to be a helpless bystander as he was wheeled away and I had to wrestle with the fears that manifested despite my intuitive gifts telling me- he’s going to be fine. The person they were taking away was MY DAD not patient 007 as the board showed. It was my dad I waited for. My dad I saw unconscious at 9 PM not yet fully awake after a six-hour operation, with an intubation tube tugging the right side of his mouth slack and disfiguring the left side of his face. The man in ICU with saliva bubbling from his mouth, and spasming  with tubes in his throat, arms, neck, chest and legs was my dad. The man I love, the one who gave me the work ethic I have, the man who makes me crazy, the man who is sober for 12 years, the man who I look like, is vulnerable in a way I can’t protect him from.

I can’t understand why all the physical pain I’ve personally expereinced the past few years isn’t ending. I can’t grasp what the lesson is. What’s the lesson in the timing of my life?

And I want to grasp it. I held Dad’s hand to reassure him.

I want to find the person who will not only love my prose, but understand the magic in it without having to dissect it in terms of gray- a person who will see all the glorious color. I will always tell stories about complicated love because it’s what I know. It’s how I love.

You know what?

Complicated love is still love. Go and tell the person you love how much you love them. Do something nice for them- for me it’s the smallest acts of kindness that mean the most- they’re precious and life and dreams are precious.

Go cultivate precious.

I know this is rambly, my heart and mind have’t connected all the dots. I’m sad and I’m hopeful and I’m greatful and I’m disappointed.

I’m a mess. So excuse me while I cry for all of that because I know once I let it out the fighter in me will be back – and that’s what my Dad and I deserve, champions.


Ode to LA LA Land ***spoilers warning

The moment in LA LA Land when Mia walked into Seb’s club, five years after the night they said goodbye because despite the love their timing wasn’t right because love isn’t enough and I hate that it isn’t enough, guts me.

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The look in Mia’s eyes when she sees Seb used her design for the club’s logo then walks downstairs with her husband and Seb sees her and starts playing their song and we glimpse all they could have been if only…

I hovered in the air with their breath in the underground club because it made me think of you and our what if. What if you let yourself love me enough to release that part of your mind that made a vow to marry a different kind of girl. What if instead of doing what you thought was right you did what felt good? When I met you you were living a life safe between the double lines in a lane and I took your hand and helped you skip over the faux barrier, and we enjoyed freedom because loving someone for real is freedom.

Freedom to be yourself, to be your whole messed up self and be seen and loved and I gave you that. I saw you kept secrets and I let you because I didn’t know your secret was it didn’t matter you loved me because loving me was a truth with an expiration date.

Even though I sat at the table with your parents and shared dinner and holidays. And even though your father kissed me on the lips and his lips felt so similar to yours, soft and gentle, it stunned me because maybe you’d be kissing me when you were that old, too but that was the lie. Then your mother hugged me and smiled a warm welcoming smile. We even got mail sent to your house with both our names. Little did I know my expiration date was nearing.

My replacement was young, blonde, and gave you three kids and walks with you down the lane not knowing it was me who planted the garden she tends in your back yard or it was my idea to put those long windows in the living room, or it was my face in the frame that keeps your picture pressed in place.

I let myself dream along the shared heartbreaking dream with Mia what would life have been like with you? because at one point I wanted this lifetime with you.

And when we were no longer together, but not yet friends like we had been for years, before we were more, you invited me to your birthday party. And I came with a smile and your favorite cookies gift wrapped and saw how she slipped in next to you and I wanted to be nice, I did everything to be nice, but I saw my picture replaced in the frame and you laughed in embarrassment and moved it to a place I wouldn’t see, and I thanked her when she handed me a drinking glass from the cupboard I used to reach into wearing a t-shirt and panties and I had to turn away because she didn’t know we ever dated. Throughout the party I did my best not be too close to you, but there you were, at my side and it hurt so much I didn’t think I could be your friend.

Then you confessed you messed up. And I saw it in your eyes that I became one of the secrets inside you, but some of our secrets were hers now and I had to let you go. You took her to Hawaii and proposed and I fell in love with someone else. Years went by and my life took me across the country and you are still in that same house.

Then Seb finishes playing their song and I know how Mia feels. There are so many could’ve beens and almosts in life. It made me miss you.

The movie ended. I follow Mia’s lead and take my husband’s hand and catch the breath that’s been hovering in glorious color, wrapped in jazz, and live my life knowing it’s okay to let you have that piece of my heart and I’m okay being your secret.



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