Do I still recommend John Locke? No.

Cheaters and Liars

Cheaters and Liars

Back at the end of June, 2011, I read a book that succeeded because of a lie, and I turned my entire life upside down as a result of that lie.

The book was, of course, John Locke’s How I Sold 1 Million Ebooks in 5 Months.

Like a lot of other writers, I let myself be suckered in.

I bought the pretty lie hook, line, and sinker.

The writer, John Locke, had the bestsellers that seemed to prove the validity of his approach. I didn’t like them, but I’m not everybody’s reader. He had the seeming endorsement of Amazon, which had sent out a single-title recommendation of his book.

And mostly, I WANTED to believe.

Sadly, his whole house of cards rested on the unspoken promise that he had actually done what he said he’d done—wrote a blog post a month, hung out on Twitter, talked to people, and wrote good books.

I know I write good books. And I desperately wanted to get back to fiction, which I’d put on hold after a couple of nightmare experiences.

One nightmare was with an editor at Tor (now an ex-editor) disemboweling HAWKSPAR, a novel that I then had to fight like hell to get returned to my version, which still included both main characters.

The second was waiting six months for Scholastic to pay me, after having approved the book…and watching my finances circle the drain while I waited.

WHILE my finances were circling the drain, I started self-publishing nonfiction (Create A Character Clinic was my first onsite self-pub project), and I did very well at that. Well enough that I started creating other writing courses, and put fiction aside for a few years.

But I love fiction, and saw John Locke’s method as my opportunity to revive my Cadence Drake series (which was only ever a series to me, since Jim Baen refused to reprint HUNTING THE CORRIGAN’S BLOOD after it hit Locus bestseller lists two months running, and sold through its initial printing in four months).

I know I’m repeating what a lot of you already know. I’m sorry. I have a point.

Based on John Locke’s lies about how he hit bestseller lists, I ditched a whole long list of planned nonfiction courses, and revived my fiction career. I’m now a couple weeks out from finishing the first draft of my second Cadence Drake novel: WARPAINT.

I’ve planned the revival of another series, MOON & SUN.

I have a list of partially completed novels that have been sitting on my hard drive that I want to finish.


First, I recommended this asshole. I’m very sorry about that. I’m sorry if you bought his book on my recommendation, and I’m sorry if you—like me—thought he was telling the truth.

Second, I took a MAJOR financial hit for stopping writing course production to focus on fiction. I paid, and paid, and paid some more, and told myself it would be okay, because I write good novels, and using Locke’s method, I’d come out all right.

But I won’t. At least not anywhere near as well as what he suggested was possible. Because I won’t buy reviews. I won’t do what MAKE A KILLING ON KINDLE author Michael Alvear suggests either, and make a bunch of fake Amazon accounts so I can review my own books.

I’ve never cheated at publishing, and I’m not going to start now.

Did anything good come out of the wreckage I’ve wrought in my writing business?


  1. I’m about done with WARPAINT, and I love it, and I know I’m never walking away from my fiction again.
  2. And… And… No. That’s it. Just the one thing.

I’m picking up the teaching. Resuming creating courses, offering them exclusively on my site again—though I’ll still do Kindle and Nook versions of everything. And of course I’ll leave the HTTS Direct version available on Kindle, Nook, and Apple (still haven’t uploaded the last lessons, but I’ve been scrambling and doing damage control for a while now). Maybe it will eventually take off in those versions and make the expense worth the massive time and effort it took.

So what happens next?

First, I’ll write fiction every morning, because it remains joyful and wonderful—and moreso because I know some publisher or editor won’t manage to wreck the joy of it.

Second, I’ll create more writing courses. I’ll teach and create courses at a slower pace, because from now on, fiction gets the first few hours of my morning every day.

The plan now is, in other words, to work hard, create the best stuff I’m capable of creating, and count on quality to keep a roof over my head.

This is one of those times, though, when I wish my blog was still titled REAL WRITERS BOUNCE… because after falling for a liar’s lies, you bounce or you fail.

If you bounce, you pick yourself up, figure out how to put yourself back together, and you go on.

I’m a real writer. I know how to bounce.

New York Times
Karen Woodward
Three Percent
Tales from the Sith Witch
Jane Friedman

Join Holly Lisle's "Fun...With Teeth." Read Dangerously.
Get free test stories from my new (or rediscovered) worlds, vote on my upcoming fiction projects, and be a part of how I make fiction. And how I make it fun... With teeth...
I will not trade, share, or sell your personal information. I value your privacy and your trust. -- Holly Lisle
Print Friendly

A thoughtful post on Christian/Muslim reconciliation

The writer of this is Quaker (I used to be) and a visiting scholar at Yale Divinity School. My personal take on any religion is “no, thanks,” but I am a firm supporter of freedom of religion. And of tolerance, defined as follows: I will tolerate you, your quirks, and your beliefs, if you will tolerate me, my quirks, and my beliefs, and if nothing you do imposes on the rights of others to life, liberty, and the pursuit of lawful happiness. I, in my part, will not impose on your right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of lawful happiness.

I will not pretend to be someone I’m not in order to have you like me under false pretenses. I ask that you return the favor.

And I don’t tolerate child molesters, rapists, murderers, or factions of religions whose only happiness can be achieved if I am subsumed into their religion, or killed for not joining.

This is, I think, a reasonable definition of tolerance. It may not be perfect, but neither am I.

And with that thought, I give you Sarah Ruden writing for the Wall Street Journal on Yale’s Christian/Muslim Reconciliation Conference.

Some of what she had to say made me think of Talyn. Some of it made me think of Hawkspar.

Thanks to Jim for the link.

Print Friendly

I had to laugh at today’s Amazon e-mail

This is the first of my own books I’ve ever received a notification about. I thought it was kind of cool.

Dear Customer,

As someone who has purchased or rated books by Holly Lisle, you might like to know that Hawkspar: A Novel of Korre will be released on June 24, 2008. 
You can pre-order yours at a savings of $9.50 by following the link below.

Hawkspar: A Novel of Korre Hawkspar: A Novel of Korre

Holly Lisle

List Price: $27.95
Price: $18.45
You Save: $9.50

Release Date: June 24, 2008

Pre-order now!


“Anyone will likely be captivated by this stern and stirring treatise on the dangers of enforced peace and the virtues of paranoid preparation for the worst.”
Publishers Weekly on Talyn
“Fierce loyalties, foul magics and fresh plot twists abound in Holly Lisle’s tale of love, war and possession.”
–Jacqueline Carey, bestselling author of Kushiel’s Dart on Talyn


More to Explore

The Ruby Key (Moon & Sun)

Cry Wolf (Alpha and Omega, Book 1)

Fire Study (Study, Book 3)

The Ruby Key (Moon & Sun)
Holly Lisle

Cry Wolf (Alpha and Omega, Book 1)
Patricia Briggs

Fire Study (Study, Book 3)
Maria V. Snyder

Add to Cart

Pre-order now!

Add to Cart

Print Friendly

HAWKSPAR copyedit done

Done, done, and done the way I meant the book to be. My editor should have that massive stack of pages in her hands tomorrow. I’m relieved, exhausted, and just a little bit jubilant.

The whole book is there. In June of next year, it’ll be on shelves. Probably for about fifteen minutes, as was Talyn. But it will, by God, be mine, and not some butchered disaster.

Print Friendly


I’m doing the copyedit of HAWKSPAR right now. This time, everything is still there. It’s a much more pleasant experience than going through your manuscript and discovering your editor removed your second protagonist, lemme tell you.

Have to have the manuscript back by November 1st, and it’s a big, big book, so I’m going to be scarce for a while.

Print Friendly

Mini-HAWKSPAR update and more.

Basically, the news is, there is no news. The book’s been moved back in the schedule to June, 2008, but what we do from there is still up in the air.

I’m exhausted. I can’t stand even thinking about the book anymore. It is, I think, the best story I’ve ever told, and I can’t bear to look at it.

I sat down and figured out my options. They are:

  • It comes out at full length in one volume, prohibitively priced. It barely sells. I lose.
  • It comes fifty-five thousand words shorter, not the story I wanted to tell at all, gutted, either by me or by someone else. Whether it sells or not at that length, it isn’t the book I wrote, nor does it resemble the book I wanted it to be. I lose.
  • It comes out in two volumes, causing readers to pay twice to read one story. The books sells poorly, because the two-book gimmick is a death knell. EVERYBODY–readers, publisher, AND me–loses.
  • There is, as far as I can see, no fourth option.


My editors are all on vacation through the weekend, so I’m going to take a few days off to knit, spend time with my youngest, and breathe.

Air Force Kid got a date on shipping out. September. Not sure whether it will be Iraq or Afghanistan. He’ll be gone for nine months, and in harm’s way. This is a far bigger deal than the book. So my objective is to just deal with the fucking book, and keep my priorities straight.

Print Friendly

Yipes! It’s Friday [Snippets]!

Time flies when someone is wrecking your book. I can’t believe it’s Friday again.

Here’s Aaran (that unnecessary male) when he makes his first appearance in HAWKSPAR. Second scene–the entire second scene, not just a snippet, so it’s really long. (Hence the more note two paragraphs down so that I don’t kill the important shipping notice for international Book Giveaway folks.) This was one of about fifty scenes ripped out “in your and the book’s best interest.”

Yeah, I’m still pissed off. This scene should be restored in the version that goes to press, but I still haven’t heard anything.

NOTICE: This material is copyrighted, uncopyedited late draft, probably buggy, and possibly not even going to be in the final draft. THOUGH IT HAD BETTER BE. Do not quote or repost anywhere or in any format. Thanks

Aaran av Savissha, tracker for the Haakvaryn pack of Tonk wolf-ships, sat on the higharm, legs wrapped around the foremast, hands clutching ratlines. With his eyes closed, he tracked the fleeing slaver. “Two degrees north-west,” he bellowed over the scream of the storm.

The runner slid down the ratlines, careened across the deck to Captain Haakvar, and repeated Aaran’s direction. Within moments, he was back on the ratlines, and Aaran felt the Windsteed aligning itself with the slaver. “Dead on,” he yelled to the boy, a child who was one of the captain’s multitude of nephews, and the boy gave him an excited smile. Then the child clambered back into the riggings and settled below Aaran on the lines, waiting the next message to the captain. Continue reading

Print Friendly

And on to saner things, plus Book Giveaway update

The GREEN MAGIC I proposal left at the beginning of the week, unmentioned and unlauded, but done at last to my satisfaction. HAWKSPAR is unresolved–I won’t know anything more about it until I hear back from my agent, Robin.

And I am in the midst of happier–much happier–things. THE RUBY KEY, you see, felt short to my Scholastic editor, and since the thing I wanted most when I sent it in was more room to write it, and since all the things she asked if I could expand were things I had kept very tight for length reasons originally, I’m now coming up with cool, exciting ways to get all the stuff in there that I had to leave out initially.


Along with that, I got the last two US book boxes out the door this morning. My one paid-for foreign box will go tomorrow. The plastic things came in, finally. Turns out I had to have them, but because I do the postage online, I didn’t need the freakin’ forms.




You can now use the PayPay button at the top left to pay the shipping on your box of books. Postage to England, Australia, and all other UK addresses is 36.15, which includes one dollar toward PayPal fees and tape and packing peanuts. Shipping to Canada is $22.85, also including one extra dollar.


I have boxes. But now I’m waiting for packing tape and a big bag of packing peanuts in order to get everything else out the door, so it will probably be next week before I get any additional boxes packed.


Maybe enough to finish off the first list, but probably not. Barring some loaves-and-fishes miracle, not enough to get anyone who isn’t on the first list.

Print Friendly

So. HAWKSPAR…long story short.

It ain’t all over yet, but here’s what happened with HAWKSPAR, and where I am now:

Back in November-ish of last year, the editor working with me on HAWKSPAR (we’ll leave names out of this) told me about 55,000 words needed to come out of the 190,000-word story if I wanted to have it printed as one book instead of broken up into two (breaking it up into two dooms the book in question). I didn’t know where I could make those cuts and still leave the story intact, and said as much, and asked her to help me figure out where I could do the slicing. She agreed to help me, and I went on to write another book for another editor in the meantime. I got a couple of e-mails from her telling me it was taking longer than she’d thought, but she’d have the request for revisions to me by X date or Y date.

And then she quit her job to go elsewhere, and I still hadn’t gotten my edit requests. I got an e-mail from the new editor—again, no names—saying “Hi, I’m your new editor, I’ll be taking over HAWKSPAR.”

And then I got an e-mail forwarded through my agent asking how many galleys I wanted.

Now, a warier and more cynical person than I would have smelled a rat, but I just figured the publisher had decided to go ahead with the book at full length, and I got all happy.

Then one day a few weeks later, the copyedits showed up on my doorstep, and the other shoe dropped. Hard.

My ex-editor had not passed the book on intact. Neither had she made sensible cuts in it (which she wasn’t supposed to do anyway, but for now never mind that). She had not in any way, shape, or form edited the book. What she had done was absofuckinglutely unbelievable. She had simply removed every scene from the hero’s POV, with no regard to continuity, missing information, missing storylines, missing characters, or anything else. This brought the book down to the length the publisher wanted, but left the manuscript an incomprehensible, reeking mess in the process. The hero, after all, carried half the story, half the love interest, and about 90% of one central, especially critical, storyline, as well as large parts in almost all of the rest of them.

This editor sneaked what she did past me, never letting me know she had cut the book, never letting me see what she had done, never sending me a copy of the manuscript, or an email, or anything. Instead, she sent the gutted HAWKSPAR on to a copyeditor and to galleys simultaneously as if it were finished work approved by me, before scooting out the door to her new life. And, when I hit the ceiling over what had been done to my book, she had the nerve to defend what she did in a way that had the new editor e-mailing me and telling me “I know that the book was cut with your and its best interest in mind.”

I don’t get angry all that often, but over this, I was livid. And I’ve been fighting for the integrity of the book since then. As of today, we’re asking for an extension so that I can cut the 55,000 words in a sane fashion (won’t be asking for the help of an editor again, though). If the publisher won’t see its own editor’s responsibility in this and give me the time I’ve asked for, then the book will go out at full length, but in two volumes, where it will sell like crap (a fact the new editor admits), and sink into oblivion without further notice.

For all of you folks who think you want to make a living doing this, realize that although nothing like this little cautionary tale had happened to any of my previous long, long list of books, it happened to this one, and there’s no guarantee that I’ll be able to fix the thing.

And for those of you who are considering buying the book, check back. I’ll let you know whether I’ll be able to recommend it or not.

Print Friendly