Readers, Writers, and Affiliates: Meet the Guardian of the World-Rift Forest

By Holly Lisle

My Choose-Your-Own-Adventure email game has gone live!

You can play the game now if you’re already a list member, or restart at ANY time (using your same email) by joining the adventure at the bottom of any page on this site…

Or if you don’t see the Adventure sign-up on your browser, you can join the game HERE.

The game is not a new thing I’ve added to my email list.

It is the list, totally replacing “Welcome to the list, this is how things work, get these emails here, get announcements there.”

Now, you choose the character you want to play as, and you CAREFULLY work your way through the adventure, discovering things that interest to you, and meeting with adventure along the way.

As I have new things for you, I’ll add new sections to the adventure.

But today?

Just have fun.



Contents © Holly Lisle. All Rights Reserved

This Morning I Caught My Brain Doing Something WEIRD!

By Holly Lisle

I woke up this morning from one of those dreams that seem to go on forever, where there were international spies and murders and I was a writer working on getting a lesson done on deadline, and for some reason, my lesson was interfering with the international spies, who’d sent someone to make me stop writing it.

The lessons I’m currently writing are about creating series fiction, and I’m guessing maybe international spies are tired of being the subject of so many thrillers.

Anyway, in my dream I was looking at the lesson I was writing while I was creating it…

And my Left Brain spotted something funny on the lesson, but kept its mouth shut. Apparently because if it had said something, it would have woken me up, and it wanted to know how the dream turned out.

(I beat the international spies. With some pretty cool martial arts moves. I don’t know martial arts, but, you know… My Dream, My Right Brain’s Rules.)


Here’s some of what my Left Brain spotted, written out as best I can remember it.

My Right Brain Cant' Read

And the dreaming brain insisted those were real words in a real lesson…

I did think it was funny that I recognized both the Greek omega and the explanation point, though, even while I was asleep.

(My right brain is really, really, really, really fond of exclamation points!!!!!)

And when I woke up, my Left Brain said to my Right Brain, “YOU CAN’T READ! You don’t even recognize real letters!”

Which is probably not completely true.

My right brain might be able to recognize letters it learned as pictures (like when I was a kid and drew cats in the shape of the letter C).

But I think when I’m writing, my right brain is mostly dictating, and my left brain is mostly typing. I know some folks have anomalous wiring, so I can’t say for sure that it’s true that EVERYONE’s right brain can’t read.

This is the first time I can think of that I’ve seen how my right brain sees letters, though, and had my left brain recognize that what it was looking at was not what my right brain said it was.

And my Left Brain has been an insufferably pompous snot all morning about this.

So — ever catch YOUR brain doing something weird?


Contents © Holly Lisle. All Rights Reserved

Yes, It’s Revision… But Is It DELICIOUS?

By Holly Lisle

Like other folks, lots of writers have pets.

And while it had been a whole lot of years since I had pets, for Christmas my guys got me a cat.


Very cool cat.

Likes to help. Really likes to help with revision, which is generally not an area where I welcome help.

Here. Let me show you…

Sheldon Helping 01

Here, have a tissue.

Sheldon Helping 02

No, don’t have a tissue. I want it.

Sheldon Helping 03

Wonderful tissue smells delicious.

Sheldon Helping 04

Tissue is chewy but not tasty.

Sheldon Helping 05

I claim the pen in the name of ME!

Sheldon Helping 07

Why does the pen not leap to the floor?

Sheldon Helping 08

Something is wrong with this pen.

Sheldon Helping 09

My pen.  Mine.  Leap?  No?  Betrayed by technology…

Sheldon Helping 10


Sheldon Helping 11

Also pinned down.

Sheldon Helping 12

Could be tasty.

Sheldon Helping 13

Is definitely chewy.

Sheldon Helping 14

Is NOT delicious.

Sheldon Helping 15

If you’re going to yell at me for chewing, I’m going to sulk.

Sheldon Helping 16

I’m not looking at your stupid revision.

Sheldon Helping 17

Not looking…

Sheldon Helping 18

Definitely not looking… (But flicky tail says thinking about looking…)

Sheldon Helping 19

Oh, GAWD, yummy revision!

Sheldon Helping 20

That did not happen. See me not looking?

How about you? Have a picture or two of the “help” you get while you’re working?

If you have a photo-sharing service like Flickr (or whatever else is out there — I don’t keep up), post one or two images of your helper helping below.

I’d love to see. 😀

No more than two. My blog is set to mark as spam any replies that have more than two links in them, and I don’t want to accidentally lose your post.

Contents © Holly Lisle. All Rights Reserved

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

By Holly Lisle

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. 😀 )

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.

Contents © Holly Lisle. All Rights Reserved

Why I love history: Ancient Roman Dick Jokes

By Holly Lisle

Venus on Alert in Ancient Pompeii

Venus on Alert in Ancient Pompeii

I have been doggedly trying to find out more about the Roman Republic (pre-Caesars, pre-decline, pre-depravity). It’s almost impossible. The Romans were a successful self-governing people with a working republic for five hundred years and change, but damn near every resource I can locate begins at the point where their corrupt senators handed over control to individual despots and everything went to hell. I want to know how they succeeded for five hundred years. I think Americans, as a self-governing people, might all want to know that.But no. Apparently everyone else only wants to know how they failed.

Anyway, I was watching a history of the excavation of Pompeii. My husband was half-watching, but at the same time discussing with our son the sensationalist structure of the show we were watching and its emphasis on destruction and depravity, with the documentary collectivist mindset of “this was all the Roman people lumped into one vast generalization,” rather than “this was a one-day snapshot of the lives of some rich Romans on vacation.”

Watching the show, listening to my husband and son, an object I couldn’t quite believe passed before my eyes.

I said, “Dude, stop. Whoa, stop, stop, stop, you gotta see this. Back it up.” My husband did the Manly Remote Thing, and backed up the documentary. He didn’t have to ask me where to stop. The object on display for just that instant was a bronze phallus. Sort of. It was a bronze phallus with legs and feet, wings, a tail that ended in another phallus…and the phallus had its own phallus, neatly situated between its legs. And bells. Don’t forget the bells.

And this…er…creature…was looking around a corner.

I was laughing my ass off. My husband and son burst out laughing too.

The narrator had been droning on about the Roman equation of the phallus with luck, and here was this amazing, beautifully finished, exquisitely detailed, frikkin’ hilarious piece of artwork that some dude one day before 79 AD had created, and the massive bore of a historian and the flat-voiced narrator didn’t stop for so much as a giggle. They were intent on turning this goofy, delightful bit of creativity into a tedious proof of a deadly dull point, and frankly, I didn’t give a shit about the speculative Roman collective mentality regarding the significance of the phallus.

I wanted to know who the guy was who made that thing, because he was a funny, funny guy. It was the fact that he made the thing look around a corner that got me.

Bugger has been dead for pretty close to two thousand years now. And what he created made me laugh.

To me, this is history. Not who were those people, but who was that guy?

(Found a picture here: Tintinnabulum lookin’ around a corner.) (Opens in new tab.)


The questions really driving me batty:

  • Was this the guy’s job, or was it his hobby?

    If job, what was the job title for this particular specialty, so that if someone asked you where you got your interesting front porch ornament, you could say, “You can by them from Phallius, the … what?”

    If hobby, well—okay. Sure. I’m betting some guy in Kansas has a similar one.

  • How many guys had this job, and if so, were they in competition?

    I’m saying there were at least two, because there are some significant differences in style in some of the…chimes.Matt suspects this was two guys and an elaborate practical joke on each other, with one sneaking his latest creation onto the other guy’s front porch in the dead of night and hanging it there, and the other guy making one with one more phallus than his friend made, and hanging that thing in front of HIS house. And the two of them, caught by neighbors in the midst of these shenanigans, saying, “Oh, these are good luck charms.” And the neighbor saying, Really?! I could use some luck. Could I buy one? Only with more dicks?”

    That’s the sort of thing that could spawn an industry.

  • Was this the equivalent of the tourist T-shirt?

    Go to Pompeii, get a dick? Nobody found any of these things (that I know of) prior to the excavation of Pompeii, so was this actually a tourist collectible, emphasizing the thing the town of 20,000 was best known for? “Pompeii, Home of the Dick?”

Contents © Holly Lisle. All Rights Reserved

I’m trying again…[fingers crossed]

By Holly Lisle

The UPDATED updated front page is now…er…updated.

Please take a look and let me know here how this works for you.

Contents © Holly Lisle. All Rights Reserved

Totally Off Topic: Writers Who Role Play

By Holly Lisle

I posted this as a response to a comment about office supplies and role-playing games in one of the “Write A Book With Me” posts.

But I realized I’m curious. How many of you who write are or have also been role-playing gamers? (D&D, GURPS, another system…whatever. If you’ve sat in a room with friends talking your way through an adventure aided by the terrifying click of your DM or GM suddenly rolling dice, I wanna hear about it.)

I never got story ideas from the role playing, but I did use it as a way to test out my universe physics (the magic system, the map, the people and things that lived there) to see if anything could work better. Or worse.

So here’s my role-playing story, from when I was GMing my own campaign with a handful of friends.

I led a GURPS campaign through Arhel while I was writing in that universe and ran (tortured) some friends through the world.

It was…interesting.

One friend whose character had a rope, rope-throwing skills, and superb athletic abilities, insisted on walking through murky water instead of noticing the stalactites above and the stalagmites across the way. Insisted, against the warning of my raised eyebrow.

(I think I even asked her, “Are you sure?” If your GM ever asks you “Are you sure,” klaxons, explosions, and the question, “Think, think, what have I MISSED?!” should be running through your head.

Playing the campaign without feet until a companion figured out the heal spell proved to be a bit of a challenge for her.

Nasty, hungry things LIVE in murky water.

Another bought a flying carpet, asked for instruction on the magic word that started it—GM: “Do you do anything else before you pay for your carpet?” Him, thinking… “No.” GM raises eyebrow.—and flew off.

So he’s up in the air and flying away from the marketplace. His friends on the ground below are watching.

Him: “This is great. So, I turn and head back to the market.”

GM: “Really? How?”

Pause, while nervous expression crosses his face. Note the sudden silence among his companions on the ground below.

Him: “I say ‘Turn?’”

GM: “Nothing happens.”

Him: “I say “Turn left?”

GM: “Nothing happens.”

Him: “I lean over to see if it’ll turn like a bicycle.”

GM: “It’s still going straight.”

Him: (Sighing.) “Okay, so I crawl out to the very edge of the carpet and lift one corner of it to catch the wind like a sail and force it to turn.”

GM: “It’s a carpet, made of fabric, and at the very edge it does not support your weight. It buckles and you fall off. Dex roll to see if you manage to hang on to the edge.”

He makes his dexterity roll. Barely.

GM: “So now you’re hundreds of feet in the air, the carpet is still heading straight away from the market, and you are hanging backward from the front corner of it by your fingertips. Any thoughts here?”

Him: “I should have got all the operating instructions before I took off?”

If the Start command for your brand-new flying carpet is “Atherothromba,” the Turn command is unlikely to be “Turn.”

He was also the one who, while leading the expedition, found a room full of treasure with a clearly marked “beware all ye who enter here” type curse over the door. He entered, (GM raises eyebrow) against advice of the rest of his party, while his friends (who were getting the hang of me) waited outside the doorway.

There was a box. It had a button. The button said, “Don’t Push.”

Against advice from his colleagues and the raised eyebrow of his GM , he pushed the button. There was a moment while the clicking of dice on the table top echoed in a silent room.

Then, “poof!” He went from being the lean, handsome, square-jawed hero to being, ah… extravagantly furry. At which point, to the horror of everyone, including his footless buddy, he muttered “how much worse could it get?” and pushed the button a second time.

The soft click of dice on the table once more, as the device randomizer rolled through its possible combinations.

He became short and female. And STILL extravagantly furry.

There might possibly be good, solid reasons for NOT ignoring signs saying “Keep Out” or buttons saying “Don’t Push.”

I LIKE being a GM.

But I will note that my GMing style rewards the anxiously paranoid player over the “leap-then-look” one.

Imagine all the bad things that might be behind that door. Make them bigger. Give them more teeth.

Now ask yourself how they might be getting into position behind you while you and your companions are futzing around arguing (loudly) over whether it’s better to blow up the lock, shoot it with your arrow, or wait for the guy with the lockpick skills to see if he can get it (quietly).

Players learned to whisper in my world.

Have you ever role-played in relation to your writing? As a research tool, story generator, character development tool, or something else?

If you have, what aspects of the role-playing did you use, and how did you apply them to your work.

Contents © Holly Lisle. All Rights Reserved

Three Months Later—The Biggest Mystery of My Life, Solved

By Holly Lisle

You know how there are things about other people that you envy and wish you could emulate, but no matter how hard you try, you just never manage to pull it off?

I had this image of me someday being a person who did not have to throw stacks of books into a locked bedroom and spare children under beds in order to make my house presentable before having company over. I had visited friends, sometimes on the spur of the moment, whose houses, while they were comfortable and lived-in, were always, and I do mean always, neat.

This was a mystery to me considerably bigger than how early humans with low-tech tools managed to build the magnificent pyramids of Egypt and Central and South America.

After all, I have and have had kids for closing on 26 years now, and I know damn well how the pyramids were built. It’s called slave labor. You have one person with a vision in charge, and a whole bunch of mean dudes with whips to force the visionary’s grand concept to become a reality.

The miracle of the self-cleaning dishes? “Children, your chore this month is to wash, dry, and put away the dishes every day. You want to go to the movies this weekend, the dishes will be done, and done well.” You get some broken dishes (and some interesting attempts to hide evidence of same—one involving a garbage disposal—with this method, but it does work). I’ll bet the Egyptians had the occasional broken giant block of stone, too.

Not even with children assigned to clean up their messes when they made them, however, could I ever open the front door without being painfully aware that what people were seeing behind me was … messy.

I told myself that I worked. Hard, and a lot. Some of my friends with those enviably neat houses did not. (Some did work…but I didn’t let myself consider them. They screwed up my Bell curve.) I don’t particularly value, and definitely don’t enjoy, the act of housecleaning, either. I have countless other things I’d rather do with my time. What I needed, what I wanted, what I yearned for, was the seemingly impossible. A house that stayed clean by itself.

So three months ago we moved. And there was this little problem of going from 2000 square feet packed to the eyeballs with our stuff into 1100 square feet. It was not going to happen.

We were on a brutal clock. (The length of time we took going from having the idea to move and and finding the place we wanted to rent to actually backing the truck up to the door of our new place and offloading everything we owned was 15 days.)

In the meantime, though, we had a mass/physics issue of horrendous proportions, in that the sheer mass of stuff we had accumulated over fourteen years together could not, by any physics known to man, be made to fit into the place we were renting.

So I had this freakin’ genius idea. I told Matt, “You know those dumpsters you always see at construction sites? I’ll bet we could rent one of those. And we could get rid of a lot of stuff.”

We’d already done the local book giveaways and the yarn giveaways and the clothes-to-goodwill giveaways, but the fact was, we lived way out in the country where NObody was willing to pick up anything, we had just the trunk space of our Chevy Cobalt in which to transport stuff, and we were going to grow old trying to empty the house using that method.

You know what? You CAN rent one of those construction-site dumpsters.

So we did. And we started pitching stuff in. We’d hung onto the first fan we bought together (non-working), half a dozen non-working computers ranging back to the days of DOS, every piece of clothing we’d ever owned in every size we’d ever been, stuff that we intended to fix someday, books that we bought and then hated, old VCRs, older TVs. Everything we had ever owned, we still owned.

Once we’d given away the best stuff, we looked at everything else and lugged it out to the dumpster. We filled not one, but three of those bad boys. (Dumpsters come in all sizes. Ours were the size nicknamed “honey-do,” as in Honey, Do Get Rid of All The Crap from That Downed Tree, or Honey, Do Clean Out The Garage.)

When we were done, we were lighter on the inside, as if we’d cut some huge chains from our ankles that had been holding us to the ground. And when we backed up our moving truck, we discovered that we only owned enough stuff to fill it halfway.

We were pretty well unpacked, moved in, and living our new life inside of a week. We do not have stacks of boxes awaiting our attention. We do not have stacks of boxes.

And I have discovered the answer to the house that stays clean all by itself. Don’t have so much stuff. Don’t buy stuff you won’t use. Get rid of stuff you don’t like as soon as you discover you don’t like it. If you bring something you love into the house, make room for it by getting rid of something you don’t.

I am now the person I envied. I occasionally straighten the throw on the couch. The living room stays neat, tidy, comfortable without much effort beyond that. (Sweeping and dusting are no big deal when you don’t have to move stacks of books to get it done.) The kitchen…the same. My office…the same. Bathrooms and bedrooms, ditto. Rogue stacks of books are no longer roaming the halls accosting innocent passersby and attacking every flat surface with the intent to crush all living and inanimate things into submission.

And I never have to clean before company comes over. Which means we actually HAVE company over.

Mystery solved.

Contents © Holly Lisle. All Rights Reserved

Finishing Thorsday Night: Starting In

By Holly Lisle

Closing on ten p.m., and I’ve had and enjoyed my weekend and a break from work. And, equally important, the story has had two days to sit on the hard drive while I did not think much about it.

From time to time I’d get pings from my subconscious/ Right Brain/ muse, so I have ideas of what I need to fix. But nothing firm yet.

  • First step—read the whole story once straight through.
  • Second step—revise the index cards (all eight of them) to reflect what I want to accomplish with each scene.
  • Third step—rewrite the story to give each scene the biggest impact possible.

Ideally, I’ll have this all done in about two hours, since I generally turn into a pumpkin around midnight whether I have more to do or not. But considering I have to send this to my editor tomorrow morning, I’m up until I finish.

So… I’m starting.

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Thorsday Night: To Kill . . . Or Not To Kill

By Holly Lisle

Down to the last scene. I’ve finished 5865 words, and I’m still trying to decide if the story is better served by having the villain live, or die.

I hate him—I really, really hate him—and I want him to die. But I can nail some great plot points either way.

That and the ending are left. Having already made myself cry a couple of times this morning, I know I have the final hurdle of what is lost and what remains to get through, and I’m not anticipating doing it dry-eyed. I have it about figured out. But I suspect Right Brain has at least one more heartbreaker to hit me with. I can feel stuff moving around over there as I’m writing.

Anyway, quick stretch, and I’m back to work. I want the last 635 words to be…well…killer.

And the Scrivener video came out horrible. Absolutely impossible to see the screen. Don’t know what went wrong, but I’m going to end up doing it again another day.

Next post will be the last until I do the revision Sunday Night.

Contents © Holly Lisle. All Rights Reserved