Pocket Full of Words: Holly Lisle’s Blog


On the new site

We thought we were going to be ready to go live with HollysWritingClasses.com December 1st. Get all the members in, have the first couple of classes done and in place with the rest in progress.

Holly's Writing Classes

Holly’s Writing Classes
Write Your Own Sky

We’ve hit a completely unexpected problem—well, the Group B beta testers have hit it, actually—and while making our desired December 1st date for taking the site live may still be possible, right now we’re probably going to slow down and try for the middle of the month or early January.

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Requesting 5 HTRYN Grad volunteers to test inside HollysWritingClasses.com

Rough tests on the first section of HollysWritingClasses.com are done.

I’m now asking for 5 students with current accounts (you’ve been using your account within the past month or two) who are graduates of HTRYN and who would be willing to go in over the weekend and use the first part of the software we’ve built.

This is still pretty rough. Rough enough that you’ll receive a “Wave 1 Tester” pip for your heroic efforts in bughunting this part of the software.

First five volunteers will receive invitations either late tomorrow or Saturday. Make sure I have good contact info for you when you post here.

Added Later

I have my five testers. If we end up making significant changes as a result of this test, I’ll invite the next folks who volunteered, in order of volunteering, and you’ll get special tester pips, too.

Thank you to everyone who’s volunteered.
You guys are wonderful. πŸ˜€

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HowToThinkSideways.com Site Move: LAST Chance to Correct Your Account

How To Think Sideways Logo

The move over at HowToThinkSideways.com is starting

We’re starting to move member accounts onto the live new software, new domain, and new classrooms this week.

In order to receive your new temporary password, you MUST have a working email address in your current account.

Here are the steps to make sure you’ll be able to get to your stuff (INCLUDING free class, worksheets, and forums).

Step One: Check your current account

Log into your current account here:

https://howtothinksideways.com/login/ (opens in new window)

If you cannot get into your account, create a Help Desk ticket for me here:


Tell me everything you remember about your account:

  • Full name
  • User name
  • current email address, plus any possible older email address that might have been attached to the account

NOT your password. Never give anyone your password.

Step Two: Once you’re logged in, check your email address

Your email address is the first and most important piece of information where your NEW account is concerned.

It will be your sign-in name. It will be your contact address in case anything on your account breaks.

And it will be where your “This is your new account” email goes, which contains the validation link you MUST click in order to receive your new temporary password.

If that email address is wrong, you will not be able to get into your classroom, and following the move while the dust settles, I am expecting LONG lines in the Help Desk.

So check your email address in your account:


You cannot fix anything you see here. This is part of the software that is broken.

So if you have an email address linked to your account that no longer works,
create a Help Desk ticket for me here:


* Tell me the email address that’s in your account
* Tell me what it I need to change it to

At this point, fixing missing classes will just slow us down

We’ll still have all the data and receipts we have right now, and will still have backups of your existing account and all previous purchases from my sites.

If you’re missing anything, gather your receipts, and once you can get into your classrooms on the new site, let me know which ones aren’t working for you there. (They’ll be the same ones.)

Right now, we have to deal with the part that will keep people out of their accounts completely.

We’ll be moving people in groups

I’m the only one doing the help desk stuff (because I’m the only one with nearly years of receipts stored on my hard drive) and having 300 people in line in the help desk is incredibly stressful. (I know this, because I’ve had this happen before.)

Massive stress is not healthy for me right now.

So Dan and I will move a group, those folks will receive their confirmation and sign-in emails, if you’re in that group, you’ll sign in and promptly check for problems with your classes, I’ll fix your account, and we’ll move another group.

We have well over 10,000 people to move. This will take some time.

But you might be in the very first group, so today you need to make sure your email address will work.

Thank you for your help on this.

And I’ll see you inside.

Write with joy,

Holly Lisle


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Writing contest sites, and fiction versus the NBA

I never recommend writing contest sites that charge an entry fee. No exceptions. I’ve never entered one, because I was out to make a living from my writing, and contests were an unnecessary diversion from my path.

Your mileage may vary. But I received an interesting request from someone building a “perpetual writing contest site” and once I removed all the identifying details, I thought you might find it interesting to observe the conversation.

Here’s the link to the article (the first one I’ve added to “Writing Mind, Heart, and Soul in a while):

From there you can come back here and add your comments on the article if you care to.

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Thank you for the birthday posts, and for reading my work

holly-2015-250x250I’ve been trying very hard to stay positive and focused these past few months. I’ve done my best to keep working during the nearly simultaneous discovery back in June of dysplasia in my tongue and the final collapse of the HowToThinkSideways.com website (when the shop is unfixably dead, the site is dead, Jim).

It’s been tough.

The fact that you came here last week, said hello, and wished me well helped more than you can imagine.

I tripped over The View From Fifty-Four this morning, and cringed at how much of a beating my life and objectives have taken in just one year.

Nothing has changed except my sense of the time I have in which to accomplish everything, but that has not changed for the better.

But having you come in and say, “I’m still here, I’m still with you…”

That helped. It helped a lot. Thank you for being here, for reading my books, my courses, my newsletters.

Thank you.

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And now I’m fifty-five. Life, health, and…yes, Destiny

DestinyI’m back from two weeks of enforced R&R, recovering from another surgery on my tongue, and then waiting for biopsy results.

I’ll tell you exactly what my doc told me. There was bad news, and there was really good news.

The bad news was there was a large area of severe dysplasia at the back of my tongue.

The good news is, he was aggressive with the removals, and he got it all. Both pieces of the biopsy came back with clear margins.

“You’re not out of the woods,” he told me. “A single missed cell could bring this back.”

But for right now, I’m good. And I had a very good 55th birthday (in spite of having to wait until the day after for the biopsy results).

My guys got me an Xbox One and gave it to me early, when we discovered that the biopsy was delayed, and I was going have to wait until Friday (instead of Tuesday) to get the results.

They also got me the full version of Destiny with all the expansions—which I’d already been playing on the PS4, and which I’d started on my old 360 when it first came out, only to abandon it very early because everyone I knew was either on the PS4 or the One.

Yep. I play Destiny.

My hunter, titan, and warlock on the PS4 are all three at level 40 with light of 290+. I’m on a fire team of three, so I haven’t yet done the Vault of Glass or any other six-person raids. But I’ve done all the other PvE, and I occasionally head into the Crucible, where I’m getting better, though I’m still a liability to anyone whose team I’m on. My K/D is generally in the .5 area right now, up from a breathtakingly awful .05 when I started a couple months ago.

(I was really, really late to the Crucible, and wouldn’t even have tried it if I hadn’t seen some Iron Banner armor on another player, and decided I wanted to earn that. I still don’t have it. πŸ˜€ )

I had characters on the Xbox that I’d started when the game first came out, and though I hadn’t looked at them in almost a year, I was pretty sure I had three, and that they were all fairly high levels.

So I ported them over—and was astonished to discover that one was barely a 26 and the other was a 10. And I had a completely empty third space.

I’ve fixed that.

At the end of my mandatory time off, I now have a 33 hunter, a 30 titan, and a 27 warlock.

So…I did very little BESIDES sleep and play Destiny while I was recovering. It kept me focused, kept my mind off the pain, kept my mind off the pending biopsy results, let me kill evil aliens with headshots and firefly (precision bounties are my absolute favorite in the game), and allowed me to have fun.

Fun is a new concept the Bungie team is experimenting with in The Taken King update

For a game development team previously focused on creating a Skinner-style rat maze designed to create addiction by the occasional removal of painful stimuli and the doling out of unreliable rewards, (the reason I quit playing the game entirely for about half its existence), the almost certain firing of the evil Skinner influence, and replacement with a real story, fun missions, well-developed character upgrade paths, FLAMING HAMMERS AND VOID-SHOOTING BOWS (oh, true love there, let me tell you) has been glorious.

Seeing purple engrams drop regularly, NEVER having a purple engram turn into shards, getting to field-test weapons for the gunsmith, and the sheer volume of new and wonderful stuff in The Taken King has brought me back.

And I gotta tell you, getting to bring in a new character, start her from the absolute beginning, and see how beautifully integrated and FUN the experience of leveling up a new character has become makes it possible for me to recommend this game to…

…Okay. I was going to say everyone, but really, I can’t.

If you’re fifty-five and female, and not like me, (in other words, you don’t like shooting things or blowing things up) you’re not going to like Destiny very much.

But if you are intrigued by the idea of weapon mechanics so brilliantly done that you can tell with your eyes closed which weapon you’re holding as it’s firing; and if you would love to insert yourself into a solar system where you are all that stands between everything and everyone you love and their annihilation at the hands of a slew of evil aliens; and if you adore the game mechanics of leveling, collection, points, feedback, exchanges, customization, awesome stats (including the Floating Numbers of Kick-Ass Real-Time Damage (oh, yeah!), in really hard missions with mostly pretty great rewards,

Destiny: The Taken King

is gonna knock your socks off.

Finally, three notes for (some) male players

  • Don’t hump my leg in the tower, then invite me to your fire team.
  • I have a female username and play female characters. This does not mean it’s okay to kill me with your sparrow when we’re doing a strike. I’m working on my bounties, just like you.
  • It’s a good idea to remember, before hitting on the cute hunter in the God of War shader, that not only do attractive young women play female characters. Guys do, too. And…ahem…55-year-old writers who happen to be grandmothers. I’m talking to you, titan who wouldn’t get off my leg.

And one note for some spectacular male players

  • If you’re one of the many guys I didn’t know who revived me while we were wiping out Taken Ultras all across Venus, Earth, and Mars—THANK YOU. You kick ass, and I hope that if there was an opportunity, I returned the favor. I do my best.
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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.

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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.” πŸ˜€ 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.


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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.

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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.




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