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.

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.

 

Rape

by Holly Raychelle Hughes

 

 

15 years old.

Raped

On my parents bed.

Raped

While I lay still and thinking

“This is it? This is sex?”

Raped

Staring at the blue fern patterned wallpaper

Raped

Bleeding in the middle of the bed.

Popped.

Raped

How do I keep this secret?

Raped

What did I do to cause this?

Rape.

How old is he, 20?

Raped

My parents aren’t home.

Raped

My friend (?) Tina playing pool downstairs

in the living room with this guy’s friends.

Raped

15 years old and confused.

Raped

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

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

He’s done.

Raped

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

come from? When did he put it on?

Raped

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.

Raped

 

In the afternoon.

Raped

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

Raped

The dog jumps up and begins licking the bloody sheets.

Raped

and not understanding sex or why

he wanted to have sex with me.

Raped

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.

Raped

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.

Raped

I lay down again,

there’s another condom.

I try to learn what he is doing.

Raped

 

I try to pretend it’s my choice.

Raped

 

It’s over again.

Raped

He goes back downstairs,

Raped

I clean myself off.

I put all the sheets in the wash.

Raped

I bleed for one week from the wound.

Raped

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

Raped.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.

30-beautiful-phoenix-artworks3dabstractline-drawings-and-oil-paintigs-1dut-com-1

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

Jan 21

Happy New Year.

I’ve been sick since Christmas. Can’t seem to shake this but no matter that my doctor gave me antibiotics and a seriously strong cough medicine. This illness is slowing my roll and my creativity.

I’m in the waiting phase of querying. I wish I could reach out to the awesome agents who have DEAR DEAD DRUNK GIRL and say, “My birthday is coming up in a few weeks. You know what I’d love? For you to love my book and offer me a contract.”

But alas, that can’t happen.

So I’ll wait and continue to dream like this:

I swallowed a whole straw.

I pulled a cross between a pinch bug and a scorpion out of my eye. 3x. They were 6 inches long and mean.

My husband cheated on me and I had to sell my house to afford living on my own.

Anxiety much?

to counteract my neurosis I’ve started writing long hand. I have a few essays bouncing around and the next YA story percolating in my imagination.

Hope your new year is a good one.

 

 

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