“No plan survives first contact with the enemy…”

By Holly Lisle

Or second contact… 

Or third…

The quote may  come from Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, or Carl von Clausewitz, or Dwight D. Eisenhower… or just some dude who knew shit.

But it’s true — and it isn’t just true about war.

It’s true about any sort of creation that requires spontaneous adaptation to unknowable but expected change. Like writing fiction.

I outline while knowing the nature of outlining, which is this —

The thing fictional characters do when presented with a story plan is to act around the plan — to do something that will beat the plan. Fictional heroes and villains alike invariably act like real human beings. That is, they work to improve their own odds of success inside the story, and by doing so, they invariably shift the odds in their favor, and invariably surprise me.

These surprises are good for the story — if they surprise me, they will surprise the reader.

They’re just such a pain in the ass… because my heroes AND my villains keep blowing up my nice, neat, carefully plotted outline.

But anyway, that’s where I am today — several hours into my workday, having to stop to re-plot the next few scenes of my outline to maintain the structure of the story I’m building so that I can keep the cool shit one of the little jerks just did.


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All supporters are thanked by name (withheld by request) in each book’s acknowledgements.


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Contents © Holly Lisle. https://hollylisle.com All Rights Reserved

The Wishbone Conspiracy: 2014 words, and sneaking up on my ending

By Holly Lisle

Today I discovered something I did not know — that the layered conspiracy that pulled Cady and her allies into danger did so with way more initial planning than I’d realized.

That the horrifying crimes she uncovered and solved might have just been a convenient way for someone to get her in front of a much bigger and much older secret — something that has been legally murdering people for a couple hundred years.

There are two big questions I don’t have answers for yet.

The first is: Why has it been brought to light now?

And the second is: EXACTLY why was it hidden in the first place?

I get a little shivery just thinking about the depth of deceit involved in this, and about what sort of terrifying secret might be tucked away at the back of it.

I’ll get the answer to the first question by the end of this novel.

The second question?

That’s bigger. A lot bigger. And the thing I think every time I look at it is… “When they find the answers, my folks had better be ready for the consequences.”

Contents © Holly Lisle. https://hollylisle.com All Rights Reserved

Marketing Tuesday: Cleaning and Revising Character Clinic for re-release

By Holly Lisle

I’m doing a third edition of Character Clinic — the second one had a bunch of dead links, I never did get a print version put together for it, my class website has changed domains, and a few other things.

So today I did bug-hunting, put together a new cover, (one that matches my better covers on my site), and am doing a nice Vellum version that I can put out as print and then publish wide to all my usual places.

Not done yet. But got a TON finished before I ran out of time.

Contents © Holly Lisle. https://hollylisle.com All Rights Reserved

Why I shut down my Patreon fundraiser

By Holly Lisle

I’d intended to send a Questions & Answers email to my How to Write a Novel launch list, but that’s going to have to wait.Instead, I did THIS.

Closed my “Move out of Florida while writing fiction” fundraiser.

Here’s why — it’s this clause in the Patreon Legal Agreement


By posting content to Patreon you grant us a royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, sublicensable, worldwide license to use, reproduce, distribute, perform, publicly display or prepare derivative works of your content.

Understand that I read that clause and all the rest of them before signing up.

BUT… I’m not a lawyer, and I understood that clause to mean that Patreon was claiming the right to use my Patreon-created content (in other words, my POSTS) to promote the site.

I DID NOT think that they were claiming the right to use and abuse the content I was giving my patrons. In this case, three monthly chapters of the raw first draft of one of my current novels in progress, Dead Man’s Party.

A friend emailed me with a link to this post, however:


Turns out, I was wrong. Patreon is claiming rights to my novel.

So I’m out. I sent the first copy of this email to my patrons using a private Patreon post, and then I shut down my Patreon fundraiser, and am now trying to figure out how to actually close my account.

I’m not letting this kill my dream of moving us out of Florida…
…(hopefully before the next hurricane, if not the start of the hurricane season).

How you can help, if you want to —

I have created original classes ranging from under ten dollars to way over a hundred. If one of the classes I offer could help you, then you buying it would help me.


*** How to Write a Novel *** 


(IN LAUNCH: On sale ONLY through Tuesday APRIL 8 — Final Discount Launch)

How to Revise Your Novel: 


How to Write a Series: 


How to Think Sideways: Career Survival School for Writers: 


WRITING CRAFT SERIES (Each class is under $10)

Create a Character Clinic: 


Create A Plot Clinic: 


How to Write Page-Turning Scenes: 


WORLDBUILDING SERIES (Each class is under $10)

Create A Language Clinic: 


Create a Culture Clinic: 


Create a World Clinic: 



How to Write Short Stories: 


How to Write Villains: 


How to Write Dialogue with Subtext: 


Title Cover Copy Marketing Basics: 


How to Find Your Writing Discipline: 


How to Find Your Writing Voice: 


How to Motivate Yourself: 


Beat Writer’s Block: 



How to Write Flash Fiction That Doesn’t Suck




You can help out by buying some of my indie-published fiction.


Light Through Fog: 




Strange Arrivals: 



Fire in the Mist: 


Bones of the Past:


Mind of the Magic:




Both of the Cadence Drake novels Hunting the Corrigan’s Blood and Warpaint, are off sale while I come up with new titles and new cover art for them, and new key words, descriptions, and other marketing that allows me to correctly put them in front of the audience that likes a few vampires and a bit of horror with its spaceships.

The Longview Chronicles (complete Series) is in the same universe — still dark, but without the vampires:


Or you can get the individual stories:

Born from Fire: 


Suzee Delight: 


Philosopher Gambit: 


Gunslinger Moon: 


Vipers’ Nest: 


The Owner’s Tale: 



Minerva Wakes: 



Author Page: 


Midnight Rain: 


Last Girl Dancing:


I See You: 


I have much more fiction that’s commercially published, or which is out of print and has reverted to me, but which I have not yet republished.

I’m not linking to ANY of that fiction, because your purchase of used books or books where publishers haven’t paid royalties in years will not help me.

So there we are.

I want to thank all my patrons again, and I am so sorry that I had to do this, but there is no way I can permit this:

Excerpted from Patreon Legal Terms

You keep full ownership of all content that you post on Patreon, but to operate we need licenses from you.

By posting content to Patreon you grant us a royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, sublicensable, worldwide license to use, reproduce, distribute, perform, publicly display or prepare derivative works of your content. 

No. Just NO.

P.S. I have had one of my Patreon patrons already ask me how she could continue to support me on a monthly basis.

Here’s the answer I gave her:

“I’ll look into what’s available. Right now, I’m crushed to discover the rights Patreon actually claimed, and worried about getting involved with any other site. So I’m in limbo. You’ll find my blog at HollyLisle.com. I’ll be keeping my folks there up to date on how I deal with this. It sucks.

Hugs, and thank you for asking.”

Why is EVERYBODY on my blog, my mailing list, and in my forums getting this?

Because if you know me, you’re probably either a reader or a writer. If you’re a writer, you may be considering using Patreon, and you need to know. If you’re a reader considering funding someone on Patreon, THEY need to know.

And this is the ugliest, broadest rights-grab I have personally ever seen. Or sadly, been caught up in.

Contents © Holly Lisle. https://hollylisle.com All Rights Reserved

The writing shop on HollysWritingClasses.com is now live

By Holly Lisle

Even though my new Holly’s Writing Classes site is still in high beta, I’m delighted to finally have the writing shop open.

Holly's Writing Classes

Holly’s Writing Classes
Write Your Own Sky

We haven’t made the site pretty yet, and for the moment the shop is very plain and simple (no frills), but things work now.

So I’ve brought back many of my previous classes, and am still working on getting the rest of them live.

I’m also building new workshops and classes.

The one I’m working on currently is Title. Cover. Copy. Book Marketing for Fiction Writers.

That’s going to go live in the next couple of weeks. Following that will be a workshop on developing your writing voice.

I’m excited. It’s taken a long time to get to this point, but I’m glad to finally be here.

And a quick note. Both How To Think Sideways and How to Write A Series are coming back, but are not back yet. Both classes are so big that we’re having to develop better ways for students to navigate through them easily.

Just getting from page to page was a problem in previous versions. That will not be a problem when they go live on this site.




Contents © Holly Lisle. https://hollylisle.com All Rights Reserved

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

By Holly Lisle

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

Contents © Holly Lisle. https://hollylisle.com All Rights Reserved

My bonuses: Last day for Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula

By Holly Lisle

If you buy Jeff Walker’s course through my affiliate link below, you will get the massive course and bonuses he’s offering, plus you will also get the following for free, FROM ME:


My adaptation of the PLF course to work specifically for writers, put together from my working notes as I write both fiction and nonfiction and launch the work. But this is not WATCH and learn. This Is DO-AND-LEARN.


  • Raw First Draft Mostly-Finished CREATE A WORLD CLINIC
  • My launch materials for the following upcoming launches: World Clinic, How To Write A Series Expansion: Modules 1-6, The Longview Series Stories 1-6, HTTS Walkthrough Completion. You’ll get these as JPEG and PDF downloads
  • My launch data: PDF downloads
  • My explanation (probably in really ugly video) of what I’m doing with each step of each launch and why
  • Live brainstorming—me, the other PLF owners on the board, and you—on getting YOUR launches and FICTION put together



If you put together an awesome product and a great launch, I will JV with you and mail MY list, promo your book on MY blog, and notify MY Twitter folks on your launch day.



Permanent, private, invitation-only email discussion list for members who, by the end of the 12-month workshop, have:

  • Published 3 projects (or more) that you create in this workshop. My bonus includes the step-by-step technique that will let you do this.
  • Built a 250 person double-opt-in mailing list (or better)
  • Maintained a 25% or better average open rate (this proves you’re meeting your readers’ needs by sending quality information)
  • Completeh three launches

At the end of 12 months, I’ll delete the UGLY WORKSHOP board, and the list will go live with ONLY the people who have used the course and done launches with it, so you’ll be working with other course veterans.


BONUS FOUR: UGLY-WORKSHOP-ONLY Live Teleconference with Jeff Walker and Me

  • You ask your most pressing questions about YOUR work. We’ll answer them.
  • And we’re going to be focusing on promoting fiction and other creative arts.

This is the LAST DAY. At 11:59PM Pacific time TODAY, the course closes for at least another year.

IF you want the course and want my bonuses, go now.




the instant you join the course.


NAME: (Matches what you used when buying PLF)
BOOT CAMP USERNAME: (So I can put you into class)
EMAIL: (So I can let you know that you’ve got your bonus.)

Contents © Holly Lisle. https://hollylisle.com All Rights Reserved

I have NEW Fiction and Nonfiction available!

By Holly Lisle

It’s taken a while to get past the indigestible lump that was How To Think Sideways, but from now on, I’m hoping to get at least one new item into print every month.

This month, I have two—LIGHT THROUGH FOG, the first Holly Lisle Single (short fiction), and CREATE A CHARACTER CLINIC, 2nd EDITION.

Both feature introductory discounts that end October 1st.

Some people only fall in love once…

SHORT DESCRIPTION: When a young widow abruptly loses her beloved husband, she finds a way to reconnect with him…but there’s a price.

REVIEW: “This is a hauntingly brilliant story about second chances. Sam and Sarah are married, with two wonderful kids. They are soul mates and each other’s childhood sweetheart until Sam is killed in a car accident. Sarah is devastated and bereft. In a moment of peace after the funeral Sarah retreats to a tiny island on their property where they had built a whimsical adult tree house together. Sarah plans to spread Sam’s ashes – a promise they had made to one another. As a fog rolls in she hears a voice and then a figure emerges from the mist – Sam. Whether dreaming, or going crazy or not Sarah embraces a last opportunity for a goodbye she never had the chance to say…” — SciFiGuy.ca

99¢ until OCTOBER 1st. Save $1.00

Includes a new afterword by the author.
Reprint: First published in The Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance, edited by Trisha Telep

About Holly Lisle Singles:

Along with novels, I write short fiction. Like my novels, my short work comes in all genres, in many styles, and is about all sorts of subject matter. If this is your first experience with my work, there’s a LOT more out there already.

With Holly Lisle Singles, I’m both reprinting out-of-print work and writing new stories, trying out new characters (or revisiting old ones), and exploring new genres and voices. I figure it’s a good way for folks who have never read anything by me to try out my work. Besides, short fiction is fun to write.

So with every Single, you’ll be getting something different. If you find something you love, or meet a character you would love to see more of, TELL me. Post comments and requests here, or go to my site and send me a message via SUPPORT. I listen.

You can create and write characters who live and breathe on the page; who capture the attention of readers, agents, and editors; who drive your story from a compelling start to a captivating ending.

It’s not a trick, it’s not some gift of the Fiction Fairy bestowed on only a few. You have everything you need within you to start creating brilliant characters today.
Today? Yes.

If you jumpstart with the Shadow Room exercise, you can know enough about your first new, compelling character to start writing about him…in about 15 minutes.

My system is simple, and step-by-step. I break character development down into techniques you can start following immediately. I’ll show you what I do, and then take you through doing it yourself.


And I keep it short—you shouldn’t have to wade through tons of words to find the few kernels of useful knowledge that you can start applying to your own work.

You can get your copy from:

Contents © Holly Lisle. https://hollylisle.com All Rights Reserved

Saturday Snippet, and My first week back to full-time fiction.

By Holly Lisle

She's back...

She’s back…

I had a blast this week—and fairly late yesterday, I realized why.

It is the first week in several years where all I did was write.

I did not build site infrastructure, work on website design, put together HTML for lessons, prep courses for formatting, design book covers, design lessons, test plugins, install plugins, upload self-pubbed work or build Kindle, Nook, or iTunes pages for the same, or anything else. (Well, okay. I did student support…but if I don’t do that, students complain. :D)

But this week, for the first time in years, I was just writing, revising, and…writing.

On Cadence Drake: WARPAINT, I started with 21,456 words, and finished with 28,424 (roughly 8,000 words for the week) and the realization that at some point I saved over the final version of the plot cards I’d put together for the book. So the week ended (and will begin) with me replotting the remainder of the novel. Got most of it yesterday, have a few scenes left to do.

On CREATE A CHARACTER CLINIC, 2nd Edition, I got through 178 pages of in some places HEAVY revision, and will finish up through the final manuscript page (p. 222) this weekend.

Some of the weekend revision and ebook formatting I may do while Isaac (as a tropical storm, a depression or whatever it turns into once in finishes messing around over water) either brushes west of us or, if the track shifts eastward, drops in for a visit. We have the edges of outer bands now. But mostly this one looks likely to miss us.

And the snippet.

From the 8,000-ish words I got, I decided you’d have fun with these:

NOTICE: This material is copyrighted, unchecked raw first draft, probably buggy. Please don’t post typos or corrections (I do my edits at the end of the first draft of the project and will not see your comments when I revise). This material may not survive to publication. Do not quote or repost anywhere or in any format. Thanks.

“Do you understand what happened?” I asked him.

“You made me want you.”

“Yes. You have to understand there’s something in me now—it might be something that has always been there that I never noticed, or it might be something new that came with the nanovirus—and that something wanted me to own you. To make you my captive. My slave. It wanted me to use you.”

He tugged against my grip. I did not release him. I wasn’t done making sure he understood.

“You’re going to be in this cage today. You’re going to be dealing with all of this—you and the others. You’re going to find things in yourselves that are going to want to get loose. And at some point, you and I and everyone else doing this is going to have to let set our worst demons loose in order to win over the [SPOILER DELETED].”

I released his wrist.

He studied me. “How bad is it?”

“It isn’t,” I told him. “It feels wonderful. It feels like feeding the part of you that’s been starving, giving it the best meal ever.”

“That’s a problem,” he said.

And that was an understatement.

Contents © Holly Lisle. https://hollylisle.com All Rights Reserved

Things Don’t Look Good for My Future With Apple

By Holly Lisle

This is the follow-up post to Uncrippling the Lesson.

As I said I would, I paid my book packager to create a separate version of How To Think Sideways, Lesson 6 that did not include links to Apple.

I uploaded the corrected version.

A couple days later, I got this message:

Dear Holly Lisle,

One or more assets from your submission, How to Think Sideways: Career Survival School for Writers, need to be replaced:

Ticket #: 1438977
Ticket Type: Book Asset
Apple ID: 541126811
ISBN: 9781937533304
Vendor ID: 9781937533304
Please note that the changes in this ticket were not executed. The ticket has been returned to you for additional corrections. Please make all of the changes requested below.

Full book asset:

Competing Website(s)
Rejected Reason(s):
Competing Website(s)

Jun, 29 2012, 12:13PM – Apple:
Book file contains links from competitors: Amazon, in the chapter Q&A 6, under “Question 9”
Jul, 18 2012, 4:54AM – Apple:
The following ticket task(s) have been updated by the feed: Full epub
Jul, 18 2012, 4:54AM – Apple:
Epub internals validation passed
Jul, 18 2012, 1:21PM – Apple:
Please Note: The original change request was not fulfilled. Your changes were not saved. Previous issue was not addressed. Please review your file before resubmitting it. Thank you.

Problem is, the changes WERE executed.

And I tested and uploaded the corrected file again, just to be sure. It’s still blocked with the “Fix this first” ticket attached.

I’ve contacted Apple through their producer customer service. Best case, I’ll hear back from them Monday, and this file and Lesson 13 will be cleared, and I’ll be able to continue adding the rest of the course. In the best-case scenario, it may take longer than Monday.

Worst case…

…between Lesson 6, which Apple has rejected three times now (in spite of the changes it requested having been made), and Lesson 13, which is still unavailable, though with no error message to let me know why, I’m going to end up having to pull the course off of Apple permanently. I cannot offer just SOME of the lessons.

So for those of you who are die-hard iBookstore fans, I’m preemptively stating here: “I have done everything I am willing to do to fix this.” If Apple does not want my course content, or the content of some of the lessons, on the iBookstore, I CANNOT fix that.

And if I have to pull the How to Think Sideways course from the iBookstore because some lessons do not meet whatever criteria Apple has set that are beyond what I can fix (MEANING I will NOT rewrite ANY portion of the lesson content itself), I will not waste my time trying to get How to Revise Your Novel accepted. Nor will I offer my novels there. Nor will I continue to make available those courses that have been deemed acceptable. Such of my presence as I am capable of removing, I’ll remove.

(I have no control over my work offered by other publishers.)

If that means you’ll no longer buy my work, I’m sorry. I’ll note that DRM-free epubs of the course are available from my own shop, and they will work on your iPhone and iPad. If your issue is buying things from Amazon, you don’t have to. If your issue is punishing me because I am not willing to jump through hoops beyond those through which I’ve already jumped…

…well, you wouldn’t have gotten anything useful out of the course anyway.

Contents © Holly Lisle. https://hollylisle.com All Rights Reserved