About Holly

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

Follow-up on my resignation from SFWA, with statement from SFWA’s president

Government GrantsWhere this comes from: A new SFWA member happy to have qualified—who is also one of my writing students—contacted me privately to present misrepresentations of what I said here that were being presented in SFWA’s private forums.

  • I will post MY first reply,
  • the reply from SFWA President Steven Gould,
  • and my definitive response:


The potential for SFWA to use taxpayer money to fund grants is my ONLY objection, but a big enough objection that I resigned and that I will recommend to any students who ask me that they not join.


1) The SFWA Emergency Fund doesn’t give grants. It makes loans that must be repaid.

2) The funds for those loans are donated by organization members.

As I noted in my open letter, I think private donations are fantastic when given voluntarily by individuals to whom the service [for which] they’re donating matters. I have done a lot of individual donating in my lifetime to things that matter to me, and will continue to do so.

You are welcome to quote this in its entirety on your blog.


SFWA President Steven Gould’s response (linkback):

One of SFWA’s motivations for becoming a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation is, indeed, to be able to give outright grants for medical and legal aid rather than make loans. Another benefit is that now the donations we receive are fully tax-deductible for the donor. There are other non-monetary reasons. Under Massachusetts corporate regs, we could not hold officer elections via electronic/digital/online ballots, nor could we hold a general business meeting in another country (say if the WorldCon was in Canada.)

We do make grants for many purposes. We support AboutSF, the educational outreach program at the University of Kansas’ Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction and we’ve given a grant to the LaunchPad Astronomy Workshop for Writers. We also give a grant to the University of Northern Illinois for their Special Collections, though this is because they are SFWA’s official archive, so in a way we’re paying for services. We are implementing a program to provide technology grants to aid members whose ability to write has been impacted by a major hardware/software disaster and can’t afford to replace, repair, or upgrade their system.

A large amount of the organization’s income come from payments received from the Author’s Coalition of America, which distributes foreign non-title specific royalty payments for American works photocopied abroad. This is the closest thing we receive to “public grant money” and it is private fees paid by individuals outside of the United States.

We are certainly investigating the possibility of applying for appropriate grants from public and private sources when the purposes of those grants line up with our existing mission programs. But we have yet to do so and I seriously doubt it will ever be a significant portion of SFWA funding.


First, I applaud SFWA’s desire to give grants rather than loans to people suffering from medical emergencies. Continuing its practice of having members volunteer to fund those grants is probably the intent—but the repayment of the loans kept the fund fluid so more loans could be offered.

Under the new system, the well will run dry promptly, requiring more donations from a membership ever less eager to give, and alternate sources will need to be found—and the government is ever willing to fund grants so long as the grants are spent regularly and in a timely fashion, and not kept in storage to maintain a self-funded system.

Second, as I said right at the beginning of my original statement, I know SFWA had many GOOD reasons for wanting to move the corporation to California.

Third, however, Sun Tzu says to prepare not for what the enemy might do, but for what he CAN do.

I’ll note that I do not consider SFWA the “enemy.”

THE ART OF WAR, though, is applicable to many situations in life beyond war, and it is applicable to organizations that expand their powers and reach over time.

Organizations generally begin with the best of intentions. They generally increase the powers they give themselves for good reasons and with hopeful intent.

However, across the life of an organization, every power the organization gives itself will eventually be used, first in “exceptional” cases, and over time as a matter of course.

An organization that puts itself into position where it CAN tap into Federal funds for the purposes of redistributing them eventually WILL.

It may do so tentatively at first, but exceptions become conventions, and people who have a conscience about using money they didn’t have to earn are replaced by those who happily use promises of giving that unearned money to friends and allies within an organization in exchange for votes.

Campaigns of “FREE Writing Grants for SFWA Members! It’s YOUR Money!!” will remove those with consciences from office and replace them with those who think “free” money taken at gunpoint from taxpayers is just nifty.

Gould states, “We are certainly investigating the possibility of applying for appropriate grants from public and private sources when the purposes of those grants line up with our existing mission programs. But we have yet to do so and I seriously doubt it will ever be a significant portion of SFWA funding.”

And this is the part of that statement that proves I made the right choice in posting my open letter and walking away NOW.

“But we have yet to do so and I seriously doubt it will ever be a significant portion of SFWA funding.”

I DON’T. Organizations follow predictable paths.

Federal income tax was initially a pittance compared to revenue taxes.

SFWA is an organization with an elected government, too.

Gould and others who intend the best will be replaced (and probably must faster than they imagine) by those who want to have power within SFWA, and who see that a new path to power within the organization has just been created by the simple expedient of promising money that isn’t theirs to folks who would like have money they didn’t have to earn, and who are willing to vote to rob Peter to pay themselves.

Again, you are welcome to post my response as long as you post it in full.


ADDED LATER: My response to the angry people screaming in not-posted-and-never-going-to-be comments at me, “How dare you delete my previous comment?!” (So far, these comments have all been to the FIRST post on this subject.) [Link to original Open Letter post]

Here’s how I dare.

Point One: My blog, my rules.

Point Two: My rules are POSTED

…and have been for years. Linked right on this page, and on EVERY FREAKIN’ PAGE OF THE BLOG.

If you don’t want to be deleted, don’t break my rules.


Building a website that creates and promotes your writing in ONE step

Cartoon idea conceptNo big secret that Dan and I are building new software for my sites.

He’s developing classroom software for me for the Holly Lisle
Online Writing School
, and connectivity software for me for Readers Meet Writers.

BUT, using the same framework he’s developed, he’s also building replacement writing site software for me for HollyLisle.com with a single software with which I’ll do:

  • Writing project brainstorming (with prompts and reminders)
  • Planning and deadline setting and tracking
  • Outlining
  • Character development
  • Conflict development
  • Setting development
  • Twist development
  • Daily writing progress diary

And where I’ll have:

  • Snippets Saver
  • Comments from readers
  • Surveys
  • Book Pre-Launch and Launch Pages
  • And here’s the thing that makes me so excited about using it…
    Every single thing above will be addable to the blog if I check “add to blog,” or will remain private if I want to keep it hidden—but it will still show up in my How This Project Was Written pages.
    I’ll also be able to check boxes for Send To Twitter, Send to Newsletter, and Mark as Possible Book Launch Content.
    Private stuff will stay private, or I can take it public once the book is done.
  • Every book will get its own Project, projects can be linked by Series, everything will stay in order.

And I will only do the work once

…build my story, do my blog, promote my work, track my progress, and have all my development where I can find it, and where readers in the future will have a complete “How This Book Was Written” story if they choose to read it. It’ll be up to me to keep that story interesting.

Cliffhangers, hints, snippets, teasers, the occasional report of a character’s shocking death… Well, you know me. My characters don’t always get out of the trouble into which they get themselves.

If it can be done, I’ll have a desktop app for this that I can write in so that my work is backed up on my computer, and I’ll be able to do everything, including answering comments, from my desk…(But this is something Dan and I still have to work out.)

I was just having him build this for me, because it’s the way I want to work.

But he asked me, “Do you think this is something other writers would like?

I said, “Probably my students, because I teach the method I use—this would work for them. I don’t know about anybody else.”

So I’m asking you two questions, because I don’t want to send him off on a wild goose chase.

Does this sound like something you’d be interested in?

If it is, what about it do you think is most interesting, and what do you think you wouldn’t use?


Open Letter to SFWA Upon My Resignation

Ms. Kate Baker
Operations Manager

Dear Ms. Baker,

I’m canceling my SFWA membership.

While it was encouraging to see SFWA edging toward acceptance of the indie publishing model, it’s too little and too late, and offset by an appalling reason behind the change of SFWAs incorporating state.

SFWA moved from Massachusetts to California for the purpose of allowing SFWA to claim tax dollars to offer grants. I’m aware that there were other—good—reasons for the organization’s move, but this particular poison pill in the changes made to SFWA requires me to walk away and never look back.

The only money that can ever be honestly given comes voluntarily from the person who earned it—and taxes are not voluntary. Try not paying them if you doubt this.

Grants donated by SFWA members would have been honest and decent. But that’s not what SFWA wants to do. SFWA (and the members who voted in favor of the change of incorporation—I did not) wants to come out looking heroic for giving money that it did not earn (or receive voluntarily from members) to people who didn’t earn it either.

“Giving” grants taken from tax dollars is nothing less than theft of taxpayer money. This action forces people who have no interest in the careers of writers receiving grants to support those writers’ work, no matter how distasteful, badly written, or objectionable they might find it.

It is institutionalized thuggery, and were I to remain a member, I would brand myself complicit with the thugs.

Anyone who remains in SFWA, knowing what this organization has chosen to do, will be doing the same.

Holly Lisle

CC: My weblog as Open Letter to SFWA Upon My Resignation


Saying Goodbye to Terry Pratchett

Majestic alone beech tree on a hill slope with sunny beams at moI was a guest at the WorldCon that was held in San Fransisco some years back, and I discovered on my schedule that I was on a panel on Death, with both Haldeman brothers (whom I had never heard of at that point), someone else I had heard of but don’t now remember…and Terry Pratchett.

I’d heard of him. I’d read Strata and loved it back before he was OMG Terry PRATCHETT!!! and had tripped over and fallen in love with the Discworld series because I remembered his name from Strata.

Discovering I got to be on a panel with him, I was thrilled.

So I bopped into the green room for the panel about fifteen, maybe twenty minutes early, the way you’re supposed to when you’re a panelist, so that everyone on the panel knows what you’ll all be discussing and how the lead panelist wants to lead…

…And aside from him, I was the only one there.

I sat, and we talked. The panel was about Death, so we talked about life and death. His character DEATH, my experiences with life and death as an RN before I hung up my scrubs to write full time…and then, because we were both writers who loved what we did, about the joy and wonder of getting paid to write fiction, and the tiny little word processor he had in his backpack that only weighed a pound. Because, he said, “A pound is nothing. But two pounds is two pounds.” My monster laptop weighed somewhere between 6 and 8 pounds at that point—and so did almost everyone else’s. I wish I could remember what his device was.

In the middle of a gigantic convention, in the midst of chaos and hurrying people and everyone trying to get close to celebrities, I had a small chunk of time carved out in which I got to speak to OMG Terry PRATCHETT!!!, (because at that point in his life, that was who he was), and I got to talk to him as one writer to another. Without interruption.

He was one of the nicest people I have ever met in my life. He was off-the-cuff funny, warm, kind—the sort of writer you always hope you’ll meet when you talk to someone who’s been writing words you’ve loved for years.

I would not trade that tiny chunk of my life for any amount of money. A gift of time and a little piece of magic fell into my lap, and even today it still brings me joy.

I am sorry he is gone. The world is a better place because he lived, and will be sadly rounder and less wonderful without him.


Post-Webinar Wrap-Up: Workshops, Downloads, and More

Writing For A Living and How To Think Sideways

We ran over an hour. I knew when I had fourteen pages in small print that I was in trouble, but I tried to get through the whole thing.

I made it to page five, because some questions require deeper answers, and I wanted to make this count.

What I have may help you make up your mind about How To Thinks Sideways.

Meanwhile, I was not watching chat, but my daughter was, and she let me know that a number of folks were wondering if we could do the rest of the questions as separate workshops.

Yes. That’s actually a really good idea.

I already have the question split into topics, and I’ll do them as low-cost workshops, and then add the workshop videos to the How To Think Sideways students as an unplanned bonus.

Here’s the promised download:


The results of the poll, because I forgot to get into this:

Google ChromeScreenSnapz007


The Free Three-Four-Day Workshop is now open without registration

WorkshopToday ONLY, I have the demo workshop for How To Think Sideways open without registration.

Just go here: 3-4-Day Workshop.

The fourth day of the workshop is the video at the top of the page when you click Think Sideways Forever from the sidebar. :D I have for essential writing tips in there for folks who know they won’t be taking the How To Think Sideways Class this year.


Ask Questions for Tomorrow’s Live Writing Chat: Writing for a living, and Thinking Sideways

online workshop webinar or online smeminar meeting or conference

It’s a crazy dream—to sit down and take your thoughts, put them into a coherent order, and then sell what you imagined to strangers.

That’s what writing is, and it’s one of the weirdest ways possible to make a living.

But the funny thing is, for the first time ever, this dream is actually possible for people who are willing to sit down and do the work.

And I don’t even mean working by writing NOVELS.

My daughter got serious about writing fairly late last year, and so far, she’s exclusively writing and publishing short stories. And her income has gone from nothing, to making enough per month to cover one bill, to making enough per month to cover a lot of her bills.

I’m predicting that she will be making a full-time income by the end of this year, and that she’ll be making what writers call NICE money in about three years.

This has gone from being a field dominated by big publishers to being a field that has opened up to the people who want it enough to work hard to get it.

Don’t think it’s easy. My kid is writing three and four stories a week, and has a constant circle of manuscripts going to her beta readers and coming back, and she’s publishing with fervent regularity to a readership that is fanatical about what she’s offering.

My students are writing, and they’re selling. It’s exciting to watch. Many are going the commercial publishing route, many more are going indie.

I’ve done both, I teach both, and the question simply comes down to this.

Do you want it enough to work for it?

I’m taking questions and discussing the ins and outs of writing for a living tomorrow in a live chat.

And I promise to give you real, right-there-live-in-the-chat answers to your questions, not just a hundred variations on “Take the course.” I wouldn’t waste your time OR mine like that.

I’ll be online in my webinar room from 1:00 PM ET tomorrow until. I’ll be answering any questions you have about writing for a living, how you can get there, and how I can help you get there.

1:00 PM UNTIL?

That’s “Until you run out of questions, or I run out of energy.”

Ask your questions here before 12 NOON ET TOMORROW, Wednesday, May 5th. I’ll print them off and take them into the webinar with me.

Then register to join me in the live chat here:
http://webinarjam.net/webinar/go/1864/aecfffb17b (Link opens in new window)

I look forward to seeing you there.

And I’ll answer the obvious question ahead of time. Did my daughter take How to Think Sideways?

Yes, she did.


My free 3-day writing mini-workshop and Think Sideways

I have to close registration to my flagship writing course, How To Think Sideways, for about a year, because we’re building a new site, and I need to make sure all the subscriptions are wrapped up before we move everyone’s accounts.

So I’ve decided to wrap up HTTS on the current site with a bang. I’m offering:

  • a three-day FREE writing mini-workshop in advance of How To Think Sideways: Career Survival School for Writers one-week relaunch (IN PROGRESS NOW,
  • 25 great prizes for the first 25 folks who buy when the course goes live,
  • and a great class experience for the folks who go through the course this time. We should have a big, active class.

If you would like to do the free workshop, you still have time. Sign up here:

Think Sideways Class: Free Workshop

Added later: The fourth day of the workshops is the video at the top of the How To Think Sideways sign-up page.


The REVISED new LONGVIEW covers, and how to run a solvent self-pub business

Book covers…GOOD book covers, anyway—are a big flying pain in the ass on a good day, and they are so very much easier to get wrong than right. And blithe comments about hiring a professional cover designer don’t help.


The Longview stories are, right now, low-margin.

I am using them to give people an inexpensive route into my Settled Space universe. With that in mind, I’m looking at experimenting with pricing again, which means they’re probably going to become LOWER margin for me.

Someday, if the series develops a large enough readership that copies of the whole series are selling regularly, I may be able to hire a professional to do cover art for them, but here’s the deal on self-pubbing. You need to be able to make your investment back on each project within a set time period.

For me, that time period is two months. I need for every single thing I do to pay me as much as I’ve invested in it, including time, two months after it debuts.

My time is my biggest expense, because creating writing courses pays much better than writing fiction. I have to look at every fiction project I do, look at every nonfiction project I could do in the same amount of time, figure out whether I’ll still be able to meet my budget every month if I do fiction rather than nonfiction, and plan accordingly.

And I have the same hard expenses most people have: housing, automotive, insurance, food, etc. Plus I have independent contractors I pay monthly to help me with various aspects of my business. All of that comes out of my budget before any money comes to me.I can offset some of the cost of these stories onto the HTWAS course, but not very much of it, because I invest time into creating the HTWAS course, too.

The HTWAS course, though, is buying me the time to write Longview stories in between HTWAS modules.

And I cannot do basket accounting. Basket accounting is when you count all the money coming as one lump, and ignore how much individual projects earn. If you basket account, you can throw your heart and soul into something that is not earning its own way, and wake up to discover one day that the projects that were paying your bills have fallen off because you have not added more like them, while you have been tossing your time and work into a money-sucking black hole that has a minimal readership.

My earn-through number is two months rather than the one month for these books because I built HTWAS with planned time for writing them, and I am using them as part of the course. They are teaching me and I am teaching them. So with the Longview series, I have a tiny but real buffer.

I can pay bills and make payroll if I can get my investment of time and cost out of each book within two months.

But that means that I cannot be frivolous with expenses. I have a budget of about fifteen bucks to spend on each cover. Which means I MUST do them myself.

I paid off the software I do part of the covers with years ago, I buy stock art for the images, and, and paid off the new software that does the fonts and a couple other neat tweaks with the first course I used it on. Everything I buy, everything I do, has to pay its own way, and has to do it quickly. Stories can sit in your backlist earning you money for as long as you choose…but they have to pay back your expenses quickly, because you have to get back the money you invest in each project so you can invest it in your next project.

Your next cover, your next writing time, your next editing.If you cannot invest your last project’s earning into your next project when you’re ready to do it, you’re running your business in the red, and you won’t last long. Running in the black—making sure every project pays its own way—is the secret to being able to afford to write full time. It’s not much of a secret—but this is how you do it.

End of Digression

So the last covers were close. I had the background right. I had the concept of the font and overall look somewhere in the ballpark.

These, though, are significant tweaks.

These are PROBABLY final, but I’m going to have to run them past Matt, who first came up with the retitling fix yesterday, and then looked today at what I came up with yesterday, shook his head, and said, “Not yet.” He came up with the layout concept for these, but he and I work opposite shifts (I’m up days, he’s up nights) and I just finished these, so I’ll run these by him when he’s up and if he has any strong objections, I’ll probably do another set of tweaks.

Episode 1: The Prisoner

Tales from The Longview Episode 1: The Prisoner

Tales from The Longview
Episode 1: The Prisoner

Episode 2: The Courtesan

Tales from The Longview Episode 2: The Courtesan

Tales from The Longview
Episode 2: The Courtesan

Episode 3: The Philosopher

Tales from The Longview Episode 3: The Philosopher

Tales from The Longview
Episode 3: The Philosopher



The New Covers for Tales from The Longview… I listened.

I read every comment, made notes, came up with alternate concepts, and here are the three final results.

WITH new titles, too.

Tales from The Longview: Episode 1: The Prisoner

Tales from The Longview: Episode 1: The Prisoner


Tales from The Longview: Episode 2: The Courtesan

Tales from The Longview: Episode 2: The Courtesan


Tales from The Longview: Episode 3: The Philosopher

Tales from The Longview: Episode 3: The Philosopher

So…does this fix the many problems?