The Ohio Series: Novel 1 – Friday snippet (a day early) that might not make the final version

By Holly Lisle

I’m going to note that the urban fantasy series I’m writing operates around the importance of trade.

That it’s an old system, and that it operates across multiple dimensions.

And that my protagonist is a cop, and the guy she’s working with is… difficult to get a handle on.

With that set-up, this is so offbeat and was so unexpected that it might have to come out of the final draft. It might not fit once I’ve done the final worldbuilding. But with the usual caveats: 

This is rough, raw, first draft; it undoubtedly contains errors, and I do NOT make corrections from this draft; this material is copyrighted to me; do not quote or use in reviews…

The set-up is that my protagonist’s ally is explaining why he had to change his identity. Here’s the snippet…

“Building a network up from nothing is a helluva lot of work, though, and let me just say that the rewards offered by this particular world were… not enticing.”

“Prospective bride not pretty enough?”

“You ever see Star Wars?” he asked me.


“She looked a lot like Princess Leia, minus the sticky-bun hairdo. And was a real princess.”

“Then what was the problem?”

“She was a real princess. And a cannibal. She’d had two previous prospective bridegrooms killed and cooked when they failed to live up to her expectations.”

Every once in a while, the words that come out of someone else’s mouth are so utterly ludicrous that it doesn’t even matter if they could be true. Or might be horrible. The shock value of them catches you, and you crack.

I just lost it, right then, right there. Laughed my ass off. Had tears running from my eyes, had to excuse myself to go blow my nose.

When I got back, he was staring at me, an accusatory expression on his handsome face. “That wasn’t a joke.”

“Dude,” I said. “Cannibal princess. I’m sorry, but I keep seeing Princess Leia cooking Han Solo and serving him with cranberry sauce.”

Yeah. It’s definitely out there.

In other updates, the Sweater From Hell required a complete rip back of the sleeve I was starting here.

Too much flipping of the whole sweater while knitting the sleeve in.

So now I’m doing it this way…

Cropped SFH sleeve 451X600

Faster, lighter. Remarkably, however, the 2/2/8 stitch pattern is still just as inconceivably frustrating.

Contents © Holly Lisle. All Rights Reserved

Post-Vertigo: The Ohio Series, Novel One, and shifts in the story

By Holly Lisle

Had a rough last couple of days due to BPPV, but thanks to the Half-Somersault Maneuver, today I’m okay again.

And I had a great writing day, with a few caveats.

I created a character in the first half of the book that has to go. This character would have (or COULD HAVE) made things too easy for my protagonist, and easy is never good in fiction.

I’d countered the “character knows all the secrets” problem by making the character an obstinate jerk — but obstinate jerks are tiresome to read, especially in series fiction.

If I made the character likable, or even sane (since what my MC is doing is desperately important, and being the obstacle in the way of that would be suicidal), my MC would have no obstacle to discovering all the crap that’s going on.

I have the right main character. My MC is, as all good MCs are, the person who knows the least in this situation… but I have eliminated (in my thoughts and daily provisional outlining — eliminating what’s already written will have to wait for revision) the character who knows everything.

I have substituted this character for two people who each know just pieces of the puzzle. And a library full of books mostly written in languages my MC cannot yet read — a lot of which are not even languages from this world…

Or universe…

It’s a nice little library, but my MC is going to have to figure out her own way through a lot of the crap that’s now falling on her head.

She doesn’t yet realize it, but the most important question she needs to ask now is, “Why did the thing that tried to eat me explode?”

It’s a good question. Because, however, she has a whole lot of little fires igniting all around her, the point where she gets around to asking that one is going to be a long time coming.

I’m really happy. Got 2288 words today, and they felt like they were flying. With the know-it-all gone, the story is back on track. And I’m having a wonderful time figuring out what happens next.

Contents © Holly Lisle. All Rights Reserved

The Ohio Series: TGIF, and the magic digs deeper

By Holly Lisle

I made myself cry three times today in the couple hours I was writing my 2056 words.

I’m connecting deeply with the magic of a real and remembered place — with a town I loved, with a time I recall with a lot of powerful emotions.

I’m dealing with my connection to this story with my odd version of humor, but there are times when you’re writing along and being snarky and smartass, and you step right into a puddle from the past where you can put faces to names, can wrap the angle of a ray of light around the smell of a basement or a little bedroom, and suddenly you’re up to your neck in ice-cold memory. It’s a shock. A punch in the stomach, and you find yourself choking back tears at the sound of someone’s voice who’s been dead a long time.

The characters in this book aren’t me. They aren’t people close to me. No thin disguises, no ‘just the names are changed.’

I knew going in that the place I’m writing was powerful for me, so I made the people as different from me and folks I knew and loved as I could. But they have to live in the place, and they keep setting off memory minefields scattered around from this place I never wanted to leave.

I’m starting to understand what my Muse was keeping me away from in never writing about home.

But being safe is never good for your fiction. I’m seeing what I’ve been missing by not writing about home too.

Anyway… today…

My hero is a cop. She has a cookie recipe handed down to her from her mother, who got it from her grandmother, both now dead — and today she used a bit of cop-ness and the suggestion of possible cookies in the future to make the deeply disturbing discovery that the guy who has been claiming to be a lawyer isn’t one, and that there’s something weird about the cookies.

And since she knows what’s in them, and knows there are no bizarre ingredients, she can’t imagine why they have such a hold on the Old Guy.

But instinct tells her to protect this secret. That it matters.

I know — but she doesn’t — that this ties into the fictional magic of the place. I know — but she doesn’t — that the magic of the place already has its hooks in her. She could leave now.

But she isn’t going to… and the time when she can leave is growing shorter by the second.

What’s there? The secret this place is hiding? I don’t know. I’m getting hints of it as I write, the feeling from my Right-Brain muse that it knows.

I have no clue when I sit down to write what happens next. And I’ll note for the record that I HATE pantsing novels. So at some point, I’m going to work through a provisional outline, just so I have something solid that I can ignore and write against and fight with and argue with on my way to the story.

Because, dammit, the story here is big. Dark. Scary. Powerful. And the weird old lawyer who isn’t, and the locked freezer in the basement, and the fact that Tori’s mother’s room was stripped bare and wiped down and repainted with a glossy gray paint, but every item in Tori’s room is exactly where she left it when her mother took her away and went on the run, is a big part of what’s still hiding.

Contents © Holly Lisle. All Rights Reserved

Origin of the phrase WILD HAIR UP HIS ASS: a true story

By Holly Lisle

I ended up looking up the origin of the phrase “wild hair up his ass” this morning, and discovered there is shit-all about it on the internet.

This in itself is astonishing — it’s the INTERNET, you know? It knows everything. But apparently not.

The best I could find, well, the only thing I could find, was “does something completely unexpected.”

ORIGIN, folks. “This is what a phrase means” is not the same thing “where the fuck did this phrase come from?”

But now, my friend, I have discovered the origin of this phrase I’ve been hearing folks say my entire life.

I was in the bathroom this morning getting ready for work.

My cat was in the bathroom using his litter box.

And all of a sudden, he leaps out of the box, runs in tight circles in an absolute panic (which in a bathroom that small is a good trick), and comes to a skidding stop in front of my feet, at which point he crouches, body rigid, eyes black, ears locked back, tail whipping back and forth like we are both about to be devoured by aliens only he can see.

I look around to see what scared him.


I bend over, rest a hand on his shoulders, assure him that everything is okay, that he is all right, that nothing is going to get him…

And he relaxes, rolls on his side…

Which is when I spot about an inch of cat turd hanging from his butt, suspended as if by magic.

Probably NOT magic, I think, and grab a piece of toilet paper, and give the turd a gentle tug…

And slowly remove what’s holding it there, which is about six inches of one human hair.

Mine. Matt shaves his head, Joe keeps his hair short.

Guess who had a wild hair up his butt?

So now he’s calm, happy, purring. I pet his little fat head and kick him out of the bathroom, and get my shower.

Which is when I look up, and see the lizard hanging on the drywall above the tiles, eyeing me.

I just keep taking my shower — I spent time as a kid in both Costa Rica and Guatemala, and I have shared showers with scarier critters than that.

At least until this one dropped of the wall to the floor of the tub, and I did my own version of a “wild hair” dance.

Contents © Holly Lisle. 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 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. All Rights Reserved

3 Questions for My Readers (and the story behind why I’m asking)

By Holly Lisle

Survey is now closed.

This is going to sound pretty strange, but I have recently discovered that I have no clue what it is about my fiction that readers like…

And I’m a lot less certain I understand what kind of fiction I write than I was up until yesterday.

Here’s where I discovered how little I actually know about my own fiction. My daughter and I did a podcast episode on Writing to Market VS. Selling Out, in which I humorously described how I have managed to spend a thirty-plus year writing career (so far) not realizing I was a genre contrarian, and that being a genre contrarian was making it really difficult for me to connect with my readers.

Followed by the discussion in the private podcast forum… (If you’re interested, create a free account, then go here… Episode 37: Writing to Market VS Selling Out – Discussion )… in which one reader mentioned that she didn’t read a lot of my books because she had a hard time with the horror.

Here’s the quote (with her name redacted) and my posted response:

MEMBER said: Personally there are many of Holly’s books I don’t read because I don’t read Horror.

MY reply to her: Here’s the thing that stopped me cold in reading your post.


I thought, “I’ve never written horror…”


Followed by thinking through what’s in my Cadence Drake novels — genetically engineered vampires and the piles of dead with which they decorated their spaceships. And thought… Oh. I just thought of it as kind of dark science fiction, though certainly not the darkest I’ve ever read.


And then thought, How did I miss the fact that my first SF novel has horror in it…


And then I remembered where I got my worldview. 


Going hunting and fishing with my father from the time I was six, helping my father clean our kills, helping my mother cook them, enjoying eating them. I am not squeamish, a fact that served me well in my first career as a nurse.


Alaska in the children’s home when I was nine, where one boy ran away, fleeing out onto the tundra. He was never found. In the part of Alaska where we lived, the population density was about .0001 people per square mile. There were thousands of square miles of uninhabited tundra in all directions from us, rivers and lakes and sinkholes.


Being grabbed from behind and felt up by a perv at a Costa Rican bus stop when I was late-fourteen, turning and attacking him — in six-inch platform high heels with my umbrella held like a sword, filled with crazy blood rage, chasing him with the absolute intent of killing him when I caught him — with zero chance of catching him.


Guatemala in 1975/76 during its civil war, seeing boys my age (I was fifteen when we lived there) being marched into the back of a truck at gunpoint — the method by which the Guatemalan army conscripted soldiers. Round them up, shove them into a truck, shoot the ones who try to escape. (I did not see anyone get shot the day I was watching that truck, those soldiers, and those kids, and trying to understand what was going on.)


Guatemala again, walking with my family past the ruins of a magnificent old cathedral near the mission where we lived. It had collapsed in an earthquake maybe a hundred years earlier. The front was decorated with a long line of head-high freshly blood-stained bullet holes.


The emergency room where I walked in to work one morning and found both of our code rooms stacked with bodies after a drunk who’d been driving all his MANY friends home in the back of his pickup truck hit a tree at — best guess from the sheriff — eighty miles an hour.


Two young kids — 8 and 10 years old — who we coded for over an hour after a tragic accident that had happened while they were playing outside. Neither survived. They were their divorced parents’ only children.


And a long, long list of other real-life horrors and tragedies in Alaska, Costa Rica, Guatemala as a kid, and then in the ER, in the ICU, in Med-Surg.


And then even when I was writing full-time, discovering by returning some of my mother’s things to her house (about a mile from mine) after a falling out that my parents and sister no longer lived there… that they had moved away without saying goodbye or telling us they were going, or even where they were going. And having my then-nine-year-old kid try to kill himself because he thought the shitty thing they did was his fault….


And. And. And. There’s so much more. But here’s my point…


I see horror as “supernatural clowns pulling kids down gutter drains, and haunted cars eating people.”


In my mind, I never wrote a word of horror. I just translated what I’d seen in the real world into realistic but well-disguised background for my fiction. And even when Becky and I were doing this episode, I did not include horror in my description of what I’d written in Hunting the Corrigan’s Blood, because I didn’t think it had any horror in it.


And now I’m wondering if any of my other books have horror in them.


None of us see the world the same way, and my default setting is a combination of “Survive to Operate” and “don’t look away, don’t excuse, and don’t forget.” My world view is broad, real-world, and dark.


Nonetheless, I bounce out of bed every morning thrilled to be alive because I get to write fiction and nonfiction, get to be with my guys, get to talk to my other kids (a lot of days, anyway), get to play with my goofy cat…


And the odds of me having to do CPR on someone or intubate someone or watch someone I fought like hell to save die anyway, or live through my own or anyone else’s real-world horror are — on any given day — pretty low. Especially compared to what those odds used to be.


But from the responses to this episode, I have discovered that I do not understand my own fiction or its contents as well as I thought I did. So I’m going to be sending out a tiny questionnaire to the readers on my list, asking them to show me what they love about my fiction, and why, and what they hate (or avoid), and why.


I need to see how people who consider themselves my readers interpret what I do — because none of us see the world the same way, and I’m guessing the way I see it is pretty strange even for a science fiction/fantasy/suspense writer. (And accidental committer of horror.)

===== So… reader of mine…

If you’re still reading, here’s what I would greatly appreciate from you: The answers (in as much detail as you wish to give) to three questions.

Just cut and paste the following questions into a REPLY to this post, and tell me…


  • What do you specifically love about what you find in my fiction, and why — and what genre(s) would you call the parts you like?
  • What do you try to avoid in my fiction, and why — and what genre(s) would you call the parts you avoid?
  • What ONE other writer do you read who gives you what you love most about my fiction without giving you what you try to avoid in my fiction?  (With a link to your favorite book by that reader if you’re willing to recommend him or her.)


I’ve got some studying, and thinking, and rethinking to do, and if you’re willing to help me figure out what I need to do to make my fiction better for YOU, I’m grateful. If you got this far, thank you for reading this very long email. And if you’re willing to answer those three questions for me, I’ll use the email linked to your reply to send you a personal download link to a story of mine that fits what you like and avoids what you hate.

With the acknowledgement that in some cases, I might have to write that story first. So you may not get your link immediately.


Contents © Holly Lisle. All Rights Reserved

The Pointy Marketing End of Writing Fiction: Old Dog, New Trick

By Holly Lisle

No big secret that I’m working hard on making my fiction a full-time paying gig again — my objective is to earn 50% of my income from fiction, with the other 50% coming from my writing classes.

Fiction has been shoved over in a corner for years, because, well — writing good nonfiction is about a million times easier than writing good fiction, and in general it pays a lot better for significantly less work. And at the point where my writing site broke, it was getting the nonfiction up and running again that kept us from ending up living under a bridge.

And, honestly, after being taken in by that con artist John Locke, I had any hope of making a living writing fiction crushed out of me for a long time — everything that including both “indie publishing” and “earn a living doing it” looked like a scam.

But writing fiction is the dream job I love — sitting by myself in a room talking to invisible people on a page, watching them do things I don’t expect, finding better conflicts, bigger stories — and writing about what matters to me in THIS world that translates into my worlds.

I did it for free every spare minute I got for seven years before I sold anything. Did it as a commercial novelist working fiction as my full-time paying job for seventeen years. Throwing in all the years when I’ve been an indie doing fiction at least part time, I’m now over thirty years in on this — and it is STILL work I love.

When you find WORK. You. LOVE…. you do not ignore that. It’s rare. It’s astonishing.

I’m writing hard again. Fiction is what bounces me out of bed every morning. Knowing that I’m writing the stories I love, and that they will not be destroyed by bad editors or cancelled by ordering-to-the-net publishing idiocy matters to me.

Knowing that if I can get my work in front of a broader readership, what I’m writing has a chance to matter more — to me because it will help pay the bills, but to MY perfect readers, who can find something in fiction that they love, that matters to them as well — that’s what MAKES this the dream job.

I know how to write fiction. I’m good at it, and a good number of my students are making REAL money writing fiction after taking my classes.

They learned the “write good fiction” part from me.

Learning how to bring in serious money as indies? No.

That’s the part I’m learning from them.

And here are the books and here is the software they have pointed me to that I am fighting with and fighting through in order to make fiction a business, while STILL keeping it MY fiction. Good fiction.

1. Mastering Amazon Descriptions: An Author’s Guide: Copywriting for Authors
2. Mastering Amazon Ads: An Author’s Guide
3. Rapid Release: How to Write & Publish Fast For Profit
4. How to Write a Sizzling Synopsis: A Step-by-Step System for Enticing New Readers, Selling More Fiction, and Making Your Books Sound Good
5. Become a Successful Indie Author: Work Toward Your Writing Dream
6. KDP Rocket

None of these are affiliate links. They’re just links to books I’m reading and software I’m using.

I do NOT yet have numbers to prove any of this will work for me. I can prove (using KDP Rocket) that my folks are earning what they say they are. That the writers of the books above (and the maker of the software), are earning what they say they are.

So this time, I can see that there is a path that leads from where I am to where I’m going. I am going to find my way down that path.

You’re going to be seeing more split tests on this site. NOT just cover art. Sometimes cover copy. Sometimes blurbs.

If you’ll help me out by participating in the split testing (just click whatever you like best), I’ll be grateful.

The only data I’m gathering is clicks. Nothing personal, nothing identifiable, nothing that will track you across the web and show you damned advertising.

I’m simply learning the split-testing process to figure out how to write better cover copy and blurbs, and how to build better covers.

Whether you’re a reader or a writer, thank you for reading this, and thank you for your help in clicking to let me know what you like.

Contents © Holly Lisle. All Rights Reserved

The Publisher-Devils are still out there…

By Holly Lisle

So… I got this email, which wrapped up with this question:

I’ve been in contact with Christian faith publishing the past year but haven’t submitted my manuscript because I recently finished writing, reading and editing it, & wanted to know more info before doing so. They have finally informed me of production costs if my manuscript were chosen for publishing. It’s a little steep for my liking, not knowing if my book will even be successful. Could you give me a little information of what I should look for, what costs are appropriate & which companies could be suitable? I appreciate it.

And I’m beating my head on the desk, because if you’re me, you’ve already covered this on your site in a lot of places and a lot of ways, but on a really BIG site like mine, you can’t always get folks to the places they need to find.

So, because so much is on the line, I answered this one personally. As follows:



You do not pay to write. Writing is a JOB, and people who work get paid.


If you are submitting to a legitimate commercial publisher, the publisher pays you.


Up front.


With a contract that explains your initial advance, subsequent payments, your royalty schedule, what rights you retain to sell elsewhere, AND which includes details of the reacquisition of your rights if the book does not do as well as the publisher had hoped.


If the publisher wants you to pay it, and the payment is large, then you are that publisher’s product, not its client. That publisher makes its money off of you, and your book will get no distribution, no promotion, and no sales, and you will never make a dime off of it.


It you want to publish independently, that’s a completely different conversation. You can publish your own work well for free, or very nearly free, and make pretty decent money doing it. And actually get your story into the hands of readers who want to read what you’ve written, and will benefit from it.


Do not pay these thieves anything. Learn more about the business part of writing fiction, including writing Christian fiction, here:


Starting with THIS article:


DISCLAIMER: I am not a Christian, and I am not always warm and fuzzy in what I write (and while I generally don’t use profanity on my site, occasional words do creep in when I am incensed). I get incensed about seeing writers misused as this reprehensible scumbag is trying to misuse you and your work. If I whip out the wicked wango tongue in what you read, please understand that I do so because sometimes you have to call these abusive creeps what they are.



I want the assholes who do this to new writers to be eaten by rabid weasels one slow bite at a time.

And that’s my cheerful thought for the day.

Contents © Holly Lisle. All Rights Reserved

Email is the devil

By Holly Lisle

Just sayin’…Email is the devil

People disbelieve me when I say I deal with a lot of email.

Glancing over at my email box, the number on Mail was just too funny to resist.

Contents © Holly Lisle. All Rights Reserved

Grinding: Diablo 3, Knitting, Writing… LIFE

By Holly Lisle

Problem: Not Enough Noro means I have to use a fill-in yarn

2018 08 14 Noro and Rowan -- supplies chosen

SOLVED: On November 3rd, I finished my Stained Glass Sweater, a project I’d been working on in small pieces since August 18th.

Problem: About two weeks ago (late in the actual season), I discovered that the Diablo 3 season had something I wanted. A Disembodied Hand pet.


SOLVED: Sunday night,I got my Disembodied Hand by finishing the first four challenge levels of the current season of Diablo 3.

Problem: Can I show my readers enough of who the Owner is to actually have them care what happens to him?

Longview 6 The Owners Tale 250X400

SOLVED: Yesterday the comments from my Bug Hunters for The Owner’s Tale, the concluding episode of Tales from the Longviewstarted coming in. And they cared.

And it suddenly occurred to me that:

  • knitting a sweater,
  • playing a Season in Diablo,
  • and writing a novel…

have an astonishing amount in common.

My bet here is that you’re going to think I’m nuts. But watch this…

The Common Ground of Knitting, Diablo 3 Seasons, and Novel Writing

They all require grinding.

Not familiar with the concept of grinding?

When you grind, you have a set series of achievable objectives before you that, if you complete them, will give you a reward.

Grinding always includes easier objectives and tougher objectives, and if you’re smart, you do the easiest stuff first and work your way into the more difficult bits, gaining skills and technical prowess (and better armor and weapons, or tools and techniques) as you go so that you can conquer the bigger battles without getting your ass handed to you too often.

The first objective is always simply this… Figure out exactly and specifically what it is that you want to accomplish.

In Diablo, I wanted to win the pet — the disembodied hand that runs around while you’re playing and picks picks up of all your gold so you don’t have to. I love Diablo’s weird pets, and the idea of that hand made me laugh.

With The Owner’s Tale, my objective was to wrap up the entire series and answer the final mysteries, whilepresenting the Owner and having his story and his life matter to readers.

With the sweater, it was to figure out how to use some gorgeous Noro Taiyo yarn in a colorway that was no longer available, and which I didn’t have enough of to make an entire sweater for myself. On August 18th, I came up with the little swatch below, and liked it enough that I didn’t tear it apart to try something else.

August 18: Interesting, workable sweater concept, with Rowan wool worsted to use to fill out the Noro I didn’t have enough of.

Well-chosen objectives are understandable.

With Diablo, I picked a Demon Hunter (had never played one of those before), and just started playing in the evenings when Matt was playing his stuff. My objective? Finish the Season, earn the Disembodied Hand pet and maybe some of the armor.

With The Owner’s Tale, I identified as my objective that when I’d finished my story, my readers would actually meet the owner — from his own point of view, which I had kept them away from up to this point. And Keyr would show them who he was, why he did what he did, and would wrap of the biggest mystery that has run since Episode 1 — what’s really going on in the Longview? And if I did it right, when they reached the end, they would care what happened to him.

With the sweater, I located a second yarn that went nicely with my bright Noro Taiyo, a nice, slightly flecky Rowan worsted wool that wasn’t quite black, but was almost.

And my test swatch looked like stained glass to me, and reminded me of windows my father built for churches and homes. I thought, yeah, that’ll work. And set my objective as making a sweater for myself kind of like the one I’d made for Becky, only different.

Well-chosen objectives are always recognizable.

When you finish an objective, you have to know you’ve finish it.

Diablo is great for this. The game has little icons that show up on the bottom of the screen, all gilt-edged and shiny, that tell you, Hey, you did SOMETHING good.

Knitting has stitch markers if you’re working with really big pieces. If you’re knitting modularly (in little shapes that you then knit together into bigger shapes), you just count modules.

August 22nd: One Back Panel

2018 08 22 One Back Panel

In writing, you count words and scenes, and you write toward discovering your story’s best ending, which is rarely the first one you think up.

Well-chosen objectives have a clear waypoints.

Diablo 3 is excellent at setting this up for the player. You have a series of four groups of objectives that move you to the first big reward. You’ll end up doing the first groups of stuff by accident—just by playing the game. As you clear each objective, you get a bright red badge beside it, so you can see clearly how many you’ve done, and how many you have yet to do.

You get a nice sense of progression, and you get absorbed in going deeper (occasionally looking things up on the Internet) so you can find and conquer the more obscure challenges and earn the remaining, more difficult progress markers.

With knitting, you’re building pieces of a whole, and you try them on as you knit them to make sure what you’re making fits.

August 24th: Progress on Second Back Panel

2018 08 24 Starting second back and MSU

August 28th: Finished Back (stained class portion only)

2018 08 28 Finished Back SGS

September 14: Final MSU (Making Shit Up) workable idea for front pockets

2018 09 14 Major MSU pocket SGS

MSU — Making Shit Up — is a technique I use in problem-solving for both knitting and writing fiction. This requires a moment of explanation, and I’m going to discuss this from the knitting perspective.

I don’t do pockets often. I’m sure lots of folks have come up with this way of making pockets in a modular sweater, but I didn’t research “How to make pockets.”

Instead, I thought about what I wanted them to look like, and how I wanted them to work, and then I tried different approaches until I came up with this one, in which the opening for the pocket is created by not joining the modules.

September 21st: Knitting in the pocket liner

2018 09 21 Knitting In Pocket Liner SGS

And then by knitting in the pocket liner so nothing is sewn, and so the pocket will be sturdy. I’m sure lots of folks do this — but I get to claim this as my method (what Elizabeth Zimmerman would have called unventing) because even though a ton of other people have probably figured this out on their own, I figured it out on MY own. I invented this process for myself. This is what you do when you like your brain and want to keep it working. You push it to solve complicated problems every day.

As for writing fiction, Making Shit Up is one of my favorite methods for Avoiding Research. If you build the world, build the physics, build the languages, build the history, you don’t have to research the world. At its best, Making Shit Up is figuring out what you want something to do, and how you want it to work, and then experimenting until you get that.

Well-chosen objectives have achievable rewards.

Achievable means “If you do the work, you will get the reward.”

This is where Destiny and Destiny 2 are very bad games, and Diablo 3 is a very good game.

If you do the objectives in Destiny or Destiny 2, RNG (random number generation) decides whether or not you will get the rewards, and absolutely nothing you do can ensure that you will get the thing you want. Ever.

Which is why I finally quit playing Destiny.

I’m willing to grind like hell to get something, but I don’t like to have bait dangled over my head with “Yeah, you did all the stuff, but you still can’t have the thing you wanted.” Destiny is like a shitty boss who says, “Guess what? You didn’t get paid this week. But keep working. Maybe I’ll pay you next week. Or never. Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!”

Screw that. My time matters to me.

With Diablo 3, you know exactly what you’ll get if you do the specific tasks,and when you complete the last of those tasks, you get the stuff.

But you have to be persistent, because there are a LOT of tasks, and you’re starting out with a brand new, unleveled character that you have to take through the whole campaign first before moving on to doing bounties and other higher-level stuff. But if you play a little every evening (and maybe binge a bit on the weekends), you’ll get your goofy pet.

Then you have more tasks you can play through to get more stuff. I’m willing to work really hard for cool stuff, but I do require getting paid for that work. Diablo 3 pays on time and in full.

In knitting, you have to be persistent, because knitting is slow, and finicky, and you have to do a lot of ripping back and trying new things if you don’t use patterns (I never use patterns — I always just make shit up). But if you stick with it, and knit a little every day, you’ll eventually finish your sweater. And then you have something cool that you wanted.

October 17th: It took me seven tries to figure out
a way to do the sleeves that I didn’t hate,
but with this, I finally came up with something I liked.

2018 10 17 First sleeve SGS

October 23: Here you can see the sleeves coming together…2018 10 23 Partial Sleevse Yarn Shortage SGS

With writing, you have to be persistent. It, too, is something big made up of bunches of small parts. Tens or hundreds of thousands of words, dozens to hundreds of scenes, possibly dozens of chapters.

And if you show up regularly and do the work, you’ll create the small pieces that make the bigger parts that eventually finish the whole.

You do “X number of words per day” and you make that a number small enough that you CAN hit it every day you write. You don’t keep raising the number. You can write more on any give day, but your low, achievable number is your success number. So that on SHITTY days (and you will have them), you can still hit the low number, can still have a successful day, and can then go curl up on the couch with a good book and a cup of coffee and make Real Life go away for a bit.

Well-chosen objectives have to end with guaranteed success.

You set a goal you can reach, and you work to that goal.

I have my Disembodied Hand, and I get a kick out of watching it skitter around the screen picking up gold off the ground.

I have my oversized, warm, pockety sweater. All the ends are sewn in, the buttons are on, the button band came together perfectly, the Kitchener stitching on the waistband, collar, and cuffs turned out beautifully, and it’s as bright and pretty as I hoped it would be. Now I just need some cold weather so I can wear it.

November 3rd: Finished the Stained Glass Sweater

2018 11 03 Finished outside SGS

With The Owner’s Tale, I finished the story. I finished the revision. I finished the series. I made the owner of the Longview someone understandable and in some ways sympathetic. I wrote the story I wanted and needed to write, and in that, I succeeded.

Everything beyond that is out of my control, so nothing beyond that can be an objective for me.

I cannot make the story sell well. I cannot get it listed on best-seller lists. I cannot make it matter to anyone but myself. But it matters to me.

Well-chosen objectives have to matter to you.

I really wanted that hand. It’s gross, but it’s funny.

I really wanted that sweater. The more I worked on it, the more I could see what it could become if I did it right, and I wanted to wear it, to have that little tribute to the part of my father that I liked and respected, and to have something that was just that bright and cheerful and pretty.

With The Owner’s Tale, I could feel the power of the story building as I discovered the owner’s life before he started rescuing slaves on the Longview. I needed to know more about him, needed to discover why he gave a shit, needed to know why, when he got filthy rich, he didn’t just take his money and make himself a god. And I wrote the story I needed to read.

That’s what you’re looking for when you set objectives.

What you need in your life, step by step, with the end result that your life is better in big or little ways.

You cannot do everything. Cannot have everything.

But if you can identify achievements that matter to you, and can build out the steps that you can take to reach goals you can achieve on your own, and if you’re willing to then grind— to do the work, to show up in your own life and put in the effort and the focus — you can have that.


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