About Holly

Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

Trying Again: Sign-up for the Website Paper Test Version 1.1

Paper Testing ROUND 2

I’ll be gone next week for another tongue biopsy/surgery (not sure how much he’s going to need to do, but the recovery for both is the same).

After that, I’ll set up the next paper tests. Parts of the site design look pretty close to ready. Parts of the site have proved to me that paper testing is the best thing since controllable fire.

When I’m done with ROUND 2, which people who did not sign up for ROUND ONE will be eligible for, I think I will for the first time ever have a site that is genuinely easy to use.

I only managed to get 1 person through the original paper test. It proved useful, however, because she conveyed a palpable sense of being underwhelmed by what was there.

So I rebuilt the entire front end of the paper test.

I’m now ready for volunteers for the new paper-test sessions.

Before you volunteer, please go to the ZOOM site to make sure the software will work for you.

You can use either the web login or login via free software the company provides. I’ve used both, and it’s very good.

But if it doesn’t work for you, don’t sign up. This is the only option I’m going to have for paper testing in the first round.

If it does work for you, go to the sign-up sheet:

Instructions are on the sign-up sheet,

but I’m going to add a couple of important additional points here.

Pick any of the times and days that will work for you. Plan on coming to the meeting right on time. I’ve built in some padding to let us get your screen set up and make sure your sound is working.

By the way, you’ll need a decent mic, whether built-in or stand-alone.

You do NOT need a webcam. You can use one, and I’ll be glad to see you when I talk to you, but if you don’t want to do this, that’s fin.

When you sign up, PLEASE SEND ME AN EMAIL from CONTACT link show in the image below:

I’ll need to send you the meeting link for the software we’ll be using so you can join the meeting.

And thank you very much for volunteering. I have a much more professional system in place this time. If it works smoothly, this is going to be our new live chat system.



My time is New York / Miami time.


Round 1 Testing for New Holly Lisle Writing School Website: 39 Volunteers Requested Now


WebinarJam has crashed every time but one on this, with people unable to reach rooms I’m in. I’ve checked my links, I’ve checked their links, and at this point, the only thing I can do to stop wasting people’s time is give up.

I’m going to see if there’s some way to do this same process with Skype. I’ll set the testing back up again if there is.


Today (Wednesday, September 9th) and tomorrow (Thursday, September 10th), I’m going to be doing what’s called “Paper Testing” to find usability problems with the interface the new writing school site (HollyLisleOnlineWritingSchool.com, or HLOWS.com for short).

I need a maximum of 39 volunteers (already have one) for one-on-one testing with me in a video chat room.

Paper Testing is fun, and it will take each volunteer about fifteen minutes WORST case.

Here’s how it works. I have five scripts prepared. They start with things like, “You’re a first-time visitor to the site. Find something that interests you, and tell me why.”

Or, “You’re already a member. Log in.”

Here are the instructions for doing a usability test:

Paper Test #1 for HLOWS.com

How To Do Your Usability Test

At the scheduled time, log into the web chat link I’ll send you.

Make sure I’m already in chat with you. (Have your microphone on, and say “Hi.” 😀 You’ll be coming in as a presenter, and I might hear you before I see you.)

Find the screenshare button on the left, where I’ve highlighted it. Image below.

Screenshare button on left sidebar

Screenshare button on left sidebar

To help me test, all you have to do is talk while you work your way through the instructions I give you by clicking the places on the drawings where you think the necessary actions SHOULD take place, describing what you’re trying and what you think your action will accomplish.

Google ChromeScreenSnapz005

When you complete one instruction, I’ll give you the next task. There are a MAXIMUM of six tasks in each test, and the whole test will take no more than about fifteen minutes if I’ve done a terrible job of laying out the site.

You do not need to hurry. If you make mistakes, me seeing them happen will help me figure out where I’ve made mistakes in the design. Your mistakes will make the final site better.

Take your time, think out loud, and let me know every time something doesn’t make sense to you or you cannot figure out or find a way to accomplish the instruction on your script.


Here’s what you’ll need to volunteer:

  • A microphone or mic headset that works with your computer, or a built-in mic that you know has good volume.
  • The Chrome web browser and a Gmail email address.

    Reply to this post with your Gmail address because that’s the only way I can make you a presenter in the web app, and you must be a presenter to share your screen. You’ll need Chrome because the controls I show above won’t work if you’re not using Chrome.

    I’ll also use this address to schedule our session with you.

  • A second browser that ISN’T Chrome. You’ll be using that browser to share your screen. The Paper Test is very low tech, but does require that your browser process images. This WILL NOT WORK with a cell phone because of the primitive nature of the test.

    When you have your second browser opened, you’ll click the screenshare button, highlight that browser,

    select your other browser

    Select your OTHER browser…

    and click the share button.
  • About fifteen minutes that you can block out of an hour or so of availability. If you post your response here and let me know today or tomorrow, and the time you could be available (any one-hour block from which I can pull 15 minutes, or something cool like “anytime between 10 AM and 3PM” will work, I’ll set up a schedule with testing times and mail each volunteer with your fifteen-minute block, along with the login details. (The fifteen-minute block starting at noon tomorrow is already taken, but as I write this, everything else is wide open.
  • I will be saving the screen test as a video, and Dan, the moderator, and I will be going over all of them looking for places where my initial design causes problems, and where we can make things better and easier to use, so if you volunteer, you automatically agree that I can save and use the video of your test.

Let me know you can help by posting your availability times below. NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY—if you can use your web browser, you can do this.

I’ll give you the URL for the papertest site once you arrive and have your screenshare browser set up.

I’ll be starting testing at 10 AM this morning if I have volunteers by then, and doing as many tests as I can before 3 PM. I’ll be doing the same thing on Thursday.

Thank you in advance for volunteering. I want to make sure that when we build the front end for the new site (which will NOT be what we go live with, but which will follow soon after) you’ll have a site that is easy for you to use.

By the way…

This is a sneak peek of one of the test pages:

Paper-test example page

Paper-test example page

Holly Lisle


WebinarJam has crashed every time but one on this, with people unable to reach rooms I’m in. I’ve checked my links, I’ve checked their links, and at this point, the only thing I can do to stop wasting people’s time is give up.

I’m going to see if there’s some way to do this same process with Skype. I’ll set the testing back up again if there is.



Cancelling the September 15th How To Think Sideways Live Chat

I'm Sorry

I’m Sorry

I’ve had something come up that makes doing the final live chat next Tuesday impossible. I am cancelling it rather than rescheduling it for two reasons.

  • One, if I reschedule the chat rather than cancelling it and setting up a new chat, the bugs in the current 5-chat set-up will remain, and things like surveys, polls, and links will keep not working correctly.
    I’m pretty tired of that. If you’ve been attending them, I imagine you are, too. Cancelling and setting up a brand-new chat means we start with a clean, un-buggy slate.
  • Two, I’m not sure how long it’s going to take me to get the issues standing in the way of the chat cleared.

I’ve very sorry I have to do this, and I’ll set up the final HTTS Live Chat as quickly as I can.


Video & Podcast Test: How To Write Suckitudinous Fiction

I chose one of my funnier articles on writing fiction and turned it into both a video and a podcast. I’m testing new software that I hope to use for a number of different applications, including workshops, and I’d like to know how these two formats work for you.





Replay of HTTS Q&A Live Writing Chat #5

holly-chat-5It starts with technical difficulties, as so many of my chats do. This time, the problem was that things Jean and I had set up previously that didn’t work because of software limitations we did not discover until we went live. REALLY big fun.

But the chat picks up speed a couple minutes in. I have a live workshop in the middle. There were some great questions.

You can get the workshop download, watch the replay, and get the free course I recommend all from this link:

How To Think Sideways Q&A Live Chat #5

No login required.

I also have a link on the page for folks who discover they can’t reach the Flash Fiction course from new accounts. (This is an “old account breaks new account” issue, and I have to fix it from my end.)


Don’t miss the Writing Live Chat FIVE, Aug. 18, 2015

The chat will start at 1PM EDT. It may run over an hour (the last one did).

Here’s your invitation if you haven’t yet signed up:

Here’s our discussion schedule:

  • Genre: Discussing What Genre Isn’t, and Why This Matters
  • When To Go to War Over a Book…And When NOT To
  • Writing As A Business (or A Hobby): From Getting Paid to Going Full-Time
  • Products—Novel, Short Stories, Ring Cycles, and Everything Else: A step-by-step walkthrough on deciding which products you want to create and how to go about placing them
  • Tips from the How To Think Sideways Class: Dealing with Fear, Criticism, Perfectionism, the Real WorldTM, and More

I have some questions, and will be taking more LIVE as we go through each section. And this time Jean Schara will be running the questions and getting them to me, so we should have a slightly smoother experience.

The replay plus downloads, if any, will be available from the link I’ll post here after the chat is done. No login necessary for this.


HowToThinkSideways.com will become HollyLisleOnlineWritingSchool.com


How To Think Sideways is going to change domains as well as software.

We’ll be moving to Holly Lisle Online Writing school.

And we’ll be adding some domains, because while HollyLisleOnlineWritingSchool.com is a good URL from an SEO standpoint, it’s a pain in the ass to type.

So HollyLisleOnlineWritingSchool.com

will be just the main page, surveys, and the shop,





which will be class and workshop launches and split testing,


and HLOWS.com,

which will be the community and classrooms (’cause, dammit, SHORT NAMES MATTER)! And the stuff you’re going to have to use everyday if you’re active on the site is going to be EASY.



For a while you’ll have both the old logo and the transitional logo on the new site so folks can be sure they’re in the right spot.

Then the main transitional logo will be there by itself. I have no date yet on the move. Dan and I are both hauling ass, with me looking for reliable cloud server space at the moment, because TigerTech has been telling me for a while that I have outgrown them. UGH!

I’m drinking my damn tea, but with the shop dead, I’m not working any six hours a day at the moment.


Isolated Malware Incident: Incident Report for AWeber

After receiving a number of reports from folks who received the Tuesday HTTS newsletter and reported that it was showing warnings that the links connected to malware, I received the following email from Aweber that applies a BROAD stroke of overcompensation on Google’s part:

AWeber Network Status July 28, 2015 1:50 PM
To: Holly Lisle

[AWeber status] Resolved : Isolated Malware Incident

Isolated Malware Incident

Incident Report for AWeber

New Incident Status: Resolved

Google has removed the malware alert from all emails sent through the AWeber service. Emails should no longer be flagged as containing possible malware. Thank you for your patience as we’ve worked to resolve this incident.
Jul 28, 13:50 EDT

We have disabled all links redirecting to problematic URLs, and we are actively engaged in conversations with Google to have the alerts removed from emails sent through our service.
Jul 28, 09:37 EDT

We have identified an isolated incident of a website that uses AWeber has been infected by malware. As a response, Google has marked all links from AWeber customers using click tracking (redirecting through clicks.aweber.com) as potential malware. We are working with Google to clear the misapplied alert as well as the AWeber customer to resolve the isolated malware incident. Please know that the AWeber system has not been infected by malware. We apologize for any concern or inconvenience this has caused. Thank you for your patience.
Jul 28, 09:11 EDT

I put the HTTS newsletter on hold following these reports. I have now reset it to be delivered on Tuesdays again.

Thank you to all the folks who reported the problem.


Hacking anti-cancer with green tea and attitude

Green tea---the first step in hacking anti-cancer

Green tea—the first step in hacking anti-cancer

My research starts with two core assumptions:

  1. I am not a helpless victim of my life, but an active and engaged participant capable of making changes and altering outcomes.
  2. I am bigger than my cells.

It starts with two core philosophies:

  1. Life is wonderful and worth hanging onto.
  2. Joy is a process, not a goal, and is an internal program I run intentionally and mindfully. It’s something I’ve modded into my personal copy of OS-Human, not a fantasy I chase.

And it starts with two core attitudes:

  1. Learn everything, because nothing is wasted—the weirdest bit of arcane shit may some day save your ass.
  2. I’m probably not the first person to ask this question (where this question=x) and therefore, I can probably find some answers quickly, but if I am the First Asker, I can work with that, too.

I am by nature and culture a hacker, with my day gig being to hack writing, my hobby being to hack life, and my life goal being to successfully and completely hack joy.

If you’re going to hack joy (and hacking joy is essential if you’re hacking anti-cancer), then you modify and adopt one of the core rules of writing—Don’t write the boring parts.

You modify it to “Don’t feed the boring parts of life.”

You can program your life to skip over the boring parts, and give yourself more time to think about and live the stuff that actually matters.

Here is my life-hack for skipping life’s dull spots.

That which is necessary, but which does not interest me, I automate.

My personal weird example:

I have decided that clothes are a non-optional social convention, but that they are not interesting. Wearing clothes, therefore, must be done, but doing it does not need to interrupt my thought.

So I have have a seasonal wardrobe that consists of fourteen short-sleeved women’s T-shirts (this means they’re made of high-grade cotton rather than T-shirt cotton, and that they come in blindingly bright colors, which I like). When it gets colder, I swap these out for identical shirts in identical colors, but with long sleeves.

I also own seven pairs of denim shorts, and seven pairs of denim jeans.

Life-hack note: If a social occasion mandates a dress, I’ll have to go out and buy one, and all the crap that goes with it.

I rotate my clothes directly out of the wash, with fresh clothes always going to the back, so that all shirts and pants wear out evenly.

I hang shirts to the right of my sweater storage bag. (Sweaters are not clothes, because they’re intriguing to make—they incorporate arithmetic, geometry, spatial puzzles, colorful yarn spun from cool fibers, and complicated stitch patterns which have histories and lore. I like designing and making my own sweaters).

I hang shorts/jeans to the left of sweater storage.

I have a little plastic three-drawer container on the floor where most folks store shoes. (I own three pairs of shoes: classic blue Converse sneakers and two pairs of Sketchers walking shoes which sit by the front door, so shoe storage is not an issue for me.) This little container holds socks and underwear. All my socks are identical white cotton, which goes with jeans and sneakers. All my underwear is identical. Nice…but identical.

With my system set up, I reach right for shirt, left for shorts, down for socks and underwear. I can do this in the dark in about ten seconds and have my clothes for the day. Everything will match, everything will fit, and I will be appropriately and comfortably dressed for any situation I’m likely to encounter.

I had to replace my summer shirts recently. I walked into JC Penny, found the St. John’s Bay section, picked out seven V-neck and seven U-neck short-sleeved T-shirts in my size in colors I like, and was finished with my wardrobe shopping for the next couple of summers in under ten minutes.

Having spent some concentrated time one day outlining and then building this system, I don’t ever have to waste time or thought on what I’m going to wear again. My vividly colorful uniform frees my mind to do better things.

I’ve designed most of my life this way.

And I mention this because part of my hacking anti-cancer has to be automating the stuff that is necessary but isn’t interesting, so that I’ll do it and benefit from it while getting to think about and do the things I actually love.

It turns out that doing what you love helps you hack anti-cancer, too.


Back to hacking anti-cancer

The thing about hacking (not cracking—assholes crack) is that it rewards thought, humor, exploration, curiosity, lots of reading, and is a helluva lot of fun. Hacking at its best is the process of thinking and working with joy. You cannot hack cancer, because there is nothing fun about cancer.

Anti-cancer, though, is entirely hackable.

To hack anti-cancer, you ask the question:

What can I do to give myself the healthiest cells possible?

That’s it. It’s such a simple question.

And the first answer is astonishingly simple.

Drink green tea.

The virtue of green tea is not just that it’s full of anti-oxidants. It’s that cancer cells excrete a pro-inflammatory factor called “nuclear factor kappa B” (NF-kappa-B 1, 2), and green tea contains large amount of the catechins that block its actions.3, 4, 5

I’ve never been much of a tea drinker, but after I discovered that green tea is an actual weapon against cancer, I went to Tevana at the local mall and asked the girl at the counter, “What do you have in an organic green tea?”

She set an enormous tin in front of me and popped it open, to display what looked like a bunch of bright green dried grass clippings. It was Guyokuro Imperial, a Japanese green tea, and two ounces of loose leaf cost eighteen bucks. I almost balked—but with some questioning, I discovered that you can re-use the leaves up to three times, you only need a teaspoonful to make three big cups of tea, and it stores well.

Also, after some slightly deeper thinking, the stuff costs a whole less than having to pay for radiation or chemo somewhere down the line. That may come someday, but how about I do what I can now to point myself away from that?

I am a big fan of the following concept: Prevention is better than Cure.

Partly because prevention is cheap and cure costs like hell. Partly because I like breathing, and I want to do a lot more of it.

  • So I have been drinking three big cups of green tea a day. Mostly Guyokuro Imperial, but also cheap, boxed, bagged organic green tea from Whole Foods. I like the stuff that’s mixed with pomegranate—but the Guyokuro is genuinely delicious.
  • Along with this, I’ve eliminated all but one soda a day. Have cut out sugar (turns out sugar feeds cancerous cells in preference to healthy cells, and running your blood sugar high makes it easier to activate the pre-existing proto-cancer cells we all carry around inside us). I’ve also cut out natural sweeteners (excluding that one can of diet soda a day).
  • I was already exercising—I’ll hang on to that. In the work-and-stress crush of the last couple years, I got out of the habit of meditating. For me, meditation is just sitting on the floor with my eyes closed and counting “One” on each inhale, and “Two” on each exhale, and dismissing thoughts as they bubble up with a firm “later”. There’s no mysticism to it—there’s just breathing, and focusing on my breath. So now I’m picking the habit back up, starting with ten minutes a day.
  • I was already eating Paleo, but I’ve decreased my meat intake and increased my fruit intake a bit, and am looking for free-range meat rather than conventional meat.
  • I found the way to release anger I’ve held toward two men who worked pretty hard to destroy my life, and who for a while looked like they might succeed. To set myself free, I let myself see them not as the men they were when they hurt me and my kids, but as they were as children. Both of them were horribly mistreated as kids, and neither of them was able to overcome the mistreatment; instead, they broke inside. From that perspective, I was able to let go of my anger toward them, and to find pity for them in realizing everything they lost.

Shortcutting the research

When I set out to research my situation, I already had the right assumptions, philosophies, and attitudes in place to make my research easier (listed at the top of this post).

I also asked the right question: What can I do to give myself the healthiest cells possible?

I had already decided that I would hang on to conventional medical treatment, but that I wanted to find things I could do on my own to improve on that treatment.

With those parameters set, I very quickly found a shortcut to the hard research I’d anticipated, because I was not, in fact, the first person to ask this question.

Having found the shortcut incredibly useful, I’m going to recommend it here to the following folks:

  • If you already have cancer—you’re not alone, you’re not helpless, and there are a lot of things you can do, no matter what stage your cancer is in, to improve and possibly extend your life
  • If you have faced or are facing a pre-cancerous condition
  • If you are a diabetic: Diabetes sets up conditions in the body that can encourage the growth of cancer
  • If you are overweight or obese: Fatty tissues provide available fuel and easy growth spaces for tumors, frequently in tandem with the high blood sugar tumors love
  • If you are or have been a smoker
  • If you are or have been a drinker of alcohol
  • If you routinely eat foods that contain pesticides, growth hormones, or chemical preservatives (anything that isn’t grown organically or free-range), wear perfumes, use aluminum-based anti-perspirants, or have other high-risk elements in your life

You can make a surprisingly big impact on cancer-proofing your life and yourself with small, doable steps.

Green tea is an excellent place to start.

From there, you can choose to make additional small or large modifications, depending on how YOU want to live your life.

So what was my shortcut?

It’s a book by David Servan-Schrieber, MD, PhD, titled Anticancer: A New Way of Life The link goes to the author’s website. I picked up my copy of the book for the Kindle on Amazon, but am offering the website link rather than book links because A) the author’s website has some fantastic information on it, and B) a Google search will hook you up with the actual purchasable book in about ten seconds.

The author beat brain cancer for twenty years by following his own research and recommendations, and though he died in 2011, he gave himself probably nineteen extra years of life by doing so.

While I’ll keep digging and hacking on anti-cancer, the book offers an excellent starting point with lists, diagrams, and steps you can start taking immediately to hack your own anti-cancer life.


You matter. And if you’re dealing with any of this, you can post here any time. Describe what you’re doing to hack anti-cancer. How you’re taking control. What you’re afraid of and how you’re handling that. What you life means.

I’ll cheer you on, you can cheer me and the rest of the folks on. None of us gets out of this alive—but while we’re alive, hacking joy lets us make each breath count. And we can each live so that we die with no regrets.


I’m back, I’m well, and I’m catching up. Tomorrow…research results.

This morning's mail

This morning’s mail

The image in this post is a tiny slice of my taskbar, with my mail count in bright red on my mail app.

Lotta mail. I am dedicating today to catching up—doing the help desk stuff Dan couldn’t (because receipts come directly to me), finding the critical emails in my mailbox and deleting everything that can be deleted, and doing a couple of tasks to test this build of my new classroom software.

Tomorrow I’ll post my research, and let you know some cool, surprising things that happened while I was away.

I’m glad to be back. I’ve missed being here.