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.

NOTHING CRACKED. NO WORDS MAGICALLY TYPED. NO STORY DEVELOPED.

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.

 

 

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Freedom

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.

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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
or
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
Genres/Sub-genres:
#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
#LGBT
#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.

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.

 

 

 

 

Reforging

My friend Kimberly posted a tweet for #MuseMon:

She took her broken pieces and threw them into the hottest part of the fire.

“Giving up?” they asked.

“Reforging,” she said.

 

I printed her luxurious words out the moment I read them and pinned them in front of my computer so I can look at them when I feel discouraged.

I’m currently querying a YA manuscript. Querying isn’t for the weak. Writing isn’t for the laissez faire. Both take courage and flexibility, but this week had too many ups and downs. My well of strength is running dry. I feel parched and spent.

I don’t feel good about myself, doubt my abilities, and creative worth.

As a writer, I know revisions take compromise and time. It can take me days or weeks to settle into notes I receive. My ego must be quieted and then I have to let my creativity find a way to tackle an issue.

The thing is, I’ve made the changes to my book I was asked for, was told I did a fantastic job, and still got turned down. I’m hardly the first writer who dealt with the ego crushing, “I’m sorry it’s a pass for me,” email.

But while reading those words I swear I saw parts of me crack and fall off as if I was being chipped away. Made to watch my own demise.

Then I looked at Kimberly’s words and I remembered who I am.

I’m a badass.

I pulled my big girl business panties on and gathered my broken parts scattered around my desk and kitchen floors, laying flat between dirty laundry, picked up the fragments left between the pages of revisions and taped myself back together enough to allow my character to shine, a bit of my quirk to sparkle, my humor and determination to pulsate before putting it all into the fire.

So don’t mind me, sizzling in these searing orange flames, a phoenix regenerating, forged in my trial by fire.

I can’t wait to see what I’ll look like when I rise.

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Hope you’re doing well, too.

 

 

 

 

 

Love kicks ass

Sold an essay today. Feel really good about it.

Guess what I wrote about?

LOVE.

You know why? The world is fucking crazy and hateful right now and my greatest strength is to write about my life and the people I love- my friends and family.

I’ll write about how I make mistakes. I’ll write about wanting more. I’ll write about missing. I’ll write about remembering. I’ll write about hope.

My goal is to write shorter pieces and get them out into the world while I wait to hear back from agents on my book. 

If you’re nervous that I’ll write about you- I just may.

xo

P2P16

On October 31st at 12Pm I was talking to my critique partner, Nic, on the phone while hitting refresh on the #P2P16 Twitter feed. I had zero expectation that I’d be selected by an editor. I was in a low point, having difficulty writing my current WIP and my body was slowly filling with self-doubt.

And then…

Alana Saltz, , has chosen to work with DEAR DEAD DRUNK GIRL by !!! tumblr_inline_mt1vvj2uIc1qz4rgp.gif

…and I yelled, “OMG! OMG! I was picked!!!!”

“See, I told you. I don’t know why you doubt yourself,” Nic said.

Seeing this Gif was visceral. It showed Mary, my MC, at her worst and I knew she’d approve. Most of all I felt understood!

Then my feed filled with congratulations. And I stared at the tiny messages of love and support and couldn’t really process it. After a year of, “No,” this was a profound, “YES!”

I hung up with Nic and made sure my fingers typed out THANK YOU!

Instead of trying NaNoWriMo, this year I’ll be working with Alana Saltz to polish DEAR DEAD DRUNK GIRL to a high shine. Over the summer I re-ordered my entire book, cut over 4k words and added new chapters. I brutally killed my favorite darlings and cut the sensations of traveling between Heaven, Earth and the Past. Beta readers asked that I explain how a soul travels, but agents didn’t care for it.

I’ve lived with Mary, my MC, for six years. She began as a secondary character in another YA book I wrote and I fell in love with her exquisite pain, her longing and missing. I knew she had lots to say. Her delivery is blunt, often brutal, despite the softness of her heart.

DEAR DEAD DRUNK GIRL is told via flashbacks, real-time and letters. I didn’t write it in order and I’ve changed the order in which it’s told 3x. It is not an easy task- yet I’m driven to perfect her story.

I’m so thankful and humbled that my story is connecting with people. I hope to share it with many more people soon.

For those writers who weren’t selected. I know your disappointment. I entered PitchWars  3 x and was never selected. I’ve done PitchMad and a bunch of other contests. I didn’t get picked, but I made friends. I cheer for them when they get agents. I watched one friend struggle to find her agent. I wrote to her when she wanted to quit writing and told her the world needs her stories- that her imagination is amazing. Her book came out last month. I’ve gone to book signings and filled my bookcase with friends accomplishments. But you know what I never did? I NEVER GAVE UP.

I have a note pinned to the wall in front of my computer. It says:

I’ll do it because I’m not a quitter. 

I never give up. I may sulk, get depressed, wonder why U see fit to ALWAYS choose the more difficult path, the one that leaves me feeling alone, isolated, and destitute one minute yet fills my mind with conversations, images, and stories the next that MUST be written or lost and I don’t want to lose them- these companions– the things that set me apart and link me. 

I will do it because I have no other choice- and ultimately I make the CHOICE every day to do it because life without writing is empty. Also I don’t like making mistakes and it would be a mistake to stop when I’ve learned so much, gotten so much better with every minute, hour day and year I’ve kept at it.

I’ll do it because I’m Holly Raychelle Hughes and I said I would.

I hope you don’t give up on your dreams and I hope you have the stamina to fight for them.

PitchSlam Team Obi-Wan and the Wookies

Team Obiwan2.jpg

This morning I woke up and found I made the PitchSlam Kimberly Vanderhorst team Obi-Wan and the Wookies and I immediately began shaking and crying tears of happiness.

Thank you Pitch Slam Jedi masters for taking the time to create this contest, for reading and critiquing all the entries sharing your feedback and rocking the Force in general.

And congrats to everyone who entered because that’s a huge deal. You were brave and you put yourself out there. I hope your books all find an audience.

Happy to be included with these fine #OWW writers.

 

Kimberly VanderHorst
#TeamOww@WritingIzzy @jessikafleck@IrateJabberwock

@shaunaholyoak@hgirlla @N_Poindexter @anomisting

@DebraSpiegel @ABusico ❤ #PitchSlam

Fickle Muse

Creativity is fickle. I wrote for eight hours yesterday- inspired thoughts rambled then lined up, my fingertips dutifully tapped away on my keyboard then I replaced my mouse’s batteries and finished writing a story. I felt good about myself. Went to bed exhausted and satisfied.

Today, I’m revising a story I wrote a week ago and it’s all hard work. Nothing feel right. I try to massage it, make it more compelling and print worthy. But my creative muse vanished she’s mute and no matter how hard I type nothing works. Or at least it’s not working for me. I’m sure you can tell- even this post is awkward.

You ever have days like that?

 

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