Cthulhu LIVES (because someone put food in a pocket)

By Holly Lisle

So, yeah. Cthulhu is alive and well, after being really dead for a while.

And partially it’s my fault, because I should have known better than to skin a Great Old One and turn him into yarn. Or try to do something useful with him. But, hey, you’d think a monster like that would knit up into something both waterproof and warm, right?

But I also blame my older son, Mark, who asked me (three years ago) to knit him a sweater. He was driving a long-haul truck at the time, had put on some weight from the combination of brutal job that prevented exercise and short stops that required pretty much living on fast food, and he said driving through the mountains out west, he spent a lot of time being cold.

Mark and the Cthuhlu Sweater

Mark and the Cthuhlu Sweater

I started on the sweater. The two of us had bounced ideas around about what would make a sweater that was both warm, and cool. That would fit him. That would fit his passions and his personality.

And fortunately for me, I also decided to make it a sweater that would be as close to one size fits all as possible. Which dictated the design—primarily 3×3 ribs, which offer both a lot of warmth and a lot of elasticity, the weirdness that … er … crawled out of doing a LOT of ribs, and the outcome. Which was the fact that when he finally had both the time off and a working vehicle he could use to come down and see me, it fit him.


Sweater back — everything’s okay, right?

In the interim, you see, he became a FedEx guy, started schlepping between 80 and 140 packages around every day, including ones that weighed a hundred pounds or more… and he lost a lot of weight.

All is NOT well…a tentacle escapes

The idea was to make a sweater that looked mostly normal, pretty mundane, but that would have a couple of interesting surprises for the observant.

The sweater was a trip to make.

I did not use a pattern.

A rib sprouts tentacles

A rib sprouts tentacles

Did not swatch. I knit the entire thing top-down in one piece including the button placket, but excluding the pockets, which are sewn on.

I used my own process of biometric knitting, in which you grab any needles you think will make the yarn look nice, any yarn, do ONE biometric measurement, cast on, and knit.

The tentacles got around

The tentacles got around

As I knit, I tried it on myself, and made sure that it was bigger. Having not seen my son for years, I had to guess at height, arm length, torso length, shoulder width, adjust for possible weight changes, and hope like hell I got it right, because there is no way to undo a single-piece sweater to make little adjustments.

Please note the visible, readable, care label, which describes NOT feeding the sweater.

And of course I signed my work, because I’m pretty happy with this.

Ribs. Ribs, I tell you. They are better than spandex or elastic.

I tried three different approaches to the sleeve and pocket tentacles before Necessity, Mother of Invention, suggested an invention that worked really well.

And the kid liked it, too.

Guy who just received a really weird sweater made by his mom.

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

Fifty-One: At The Start Of My Second Half-Century, I’m Rethinking Everything

By Holly Lisle

Follow Your Passion

Follow Your Passion

Inertia’s a bitch.

It can mean doing nothing until something kicks you out of your complacency and starts you rolling.

But inertia can also summon up Newton’s First Law, part of which is: “An object in motion remains in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”

You get rolling in a particular direction, and it make sense, so you keep on rolling in that direction, doing the same things, dealing with variants of the same problems, until your direction, your actions, and your life all start to feel inevitable.

Inertia tells you: This is what you’re doing, therefore this is what you ought to be doing. It’s working, therefore why question it?

Until now, since I started teaching writing online back in 2006, I have NEVER taken a vacation that did not include checking both e-mail and customer service at least a few times. So I never had a full stop to derail my inertia. Even if I rolled slower, I still kept moving in the same direction.

My inertia included back-to-back-to-back 70-hour seven-day-a-week work weeks, creating new writing courses, supporting older writing courses, writing newsletters about writing, building a (very cool) writing community, and a LOT more.

Recently, with the self-publishing explosion, I added getting rights back on all my out of print work, and adding in MORE work while I get those ready to reprint.

There was answering a lot of writing e-mail.

There was lots and lots and lots of customer service.

People love my writing courses and get some simply amazing results from them. So putting what I know about writing into in-depth, comprehensive courses felt like the way things ought to be. What I ought to be doing.


If you want to shake off your inertia, to actually see your life as it is, and to be able to question what you want it to be, there’s nothing like jamming a right-angle turn into your forward motion to shake you loose from everything you accepted as having a permanent place in your life. And the past two weeks have been, for me, that right-angle jump-the-tracks come-to-a-screeching-halt turn.

There was the vacation, first of all. I turned the computer off, and left it off, for two straight weeks. I did not look at e-mail, I did not touch customer service, I did not pay affiliates, I did not work on courses.

I. Was. Gone.

There was my time with the Air Force kid. My older son had a grim time in Afghanistan, which is not to say his tours of the Middle East’s other “vacation spots” have been picnics. But Afghanistan was a real nightmare, and even now that he’s home, there are parts of this last deployment he isn’t going to shake off. Not in a few weeks, a few months, a few years. Not ever. A line of ghosts follow me from my ten years in nursing. He has his line of ghosts, too, and though they’ll become less insistent over time, they won’t go away.

As much as we could, we worked around the ghosts. I loved being able to sit and talk with him again, to discuss the screenplays he wrote while he was in the desert, to talk about going indie from the film-maker’s perspective. I loved just being able to see him, and to know that he was okay, he was safe, he was home.

And I loved having nothing but time to spend with Matt and my younger son, too.

There was Steve Jobs’ death, and I’d be lying through my teeth if I suggested that was anything but a massive wake-up call. He created what he loved, not asking what people wanted but envisioning what he wanted, pushing past “that’s not possible” to make what he wanted possible, and then bringing his visions to those of us who have appreciated the hell out of them.

Figure: Having Windows eat my work, crash regularly, update constantly, welcome viruses like long-lost friends, and require constant fucking tinkering with the system, in the form of .ini files and other tweaks, just to get programs I needed to function so I could get writing, printing, and internet work done, was a part of my life, my expectation, my inertia. I backed up constantly when I remembered, and when I got into the flow of my fiction, I lost whole chapters because that’s just the way Windows is.

Until my husband bought me an early OS X Snowball Mac. I got it for Christmas in 2002. In the almost ten years since then, I have ONCE lost words. About three hundred of them, if I remember correctly. MY screw-up. The Mac asked me if I would like to save the file when Word crashed, and I, being VERY new to the system at the time, said “no.”

I haven’t lost a single word since. And since then, I’ve upgraded through iMacs and iBooks and Pros, and currently have an older Pro, the 11″ minimal-configuration Air, and the currently largest possible iMac desktop. Every Mac I ever owned still works. I just needed bigger and faster for the courses, the movies I was creating. And because, let’s face facts: I’m a total tech ho and while I don’t spend money on shoes or clothes or much of anything else, I’m white on rice when it comes to upgrading to a new computer.

So I owe Steve Jobs’ driven passion to create the best possible products—and to hell with the naysayers—for making my life measurably better.

And the wake-up call from his death, combined with the other elements above, allowed me to question my own passion.

Which takes me to Week Two of my vacation, in which, relaxed, happy, and caught up on my sleep, I wrote three and a half chapters of the new Cadence Drake novel, Warpaint.

And became reacquainted with my real passion. Which isn’t teaching. I’m good at teaching, I like it, and I love students’ success stories.

But I love to write fiction.

And when I compared four hours a day five days a week while everyone else was asleep, stretched out on the couch with the Air propped on my lap, embracing my passion by telling a story I want to tell while knowing it’s going to get published the way I want it to be published…

…Versus seventy-hour seven-days-a-week workweeks stretching as far into the future as I could see, struggling to translate how I do what I do into techniques and procedures and processes other people can use to embrace THEIR passion…


…You probably have some idea where I’m heading with this.

But I guarantee you don’t have the whole thing, so stick with me a few more minutes.

Yes. I’m going to quit teaching.

No. I’m not abandoning my students.  ALL students who are members of the big courses, including students who join the day I lock each course’s doors to new members, will have permanent access to all your purchased course materials, including, if applicable, the Walkthrough, new self-pub modules, or any other course upgrades, depending on the course in question.

No, I’m not abandoning any of my current courses.

And no, I’m not abandoning the three big promises I’ve made.

Promises first.

I’m finishing the How To Think Sideways Walkthrough. Furthermore, the online version will be the FULL version of the course, minus a few handouts I cannot include, and the Walkthrough. It will include the lessons for Self-Publishing, but it will also include the Commercial Publishing track. So it will be 29 lessons, not 25.

I’m expanding the How To Write A Series Course with what I learn while writing the Cadence Drake series.

And I’m finishing Create A World Clinic.

I’m looking at, best guess, about two more years of working insane hours while I meet these three promises, and at the same time write several Cadence Drake novels, move ALL my courses to Kindle/ Nook/ iTunes/ CreateSpace.

The rest of what I have to do:

Before I can dedicate myself to my passion, writing fiction, I also have to make sure existing big-course students can use the online version of the courses permanently.

And Margaret and I have to put together a way for the students who take my classes via the big publishing platforms (again, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and CreateSpace) have a way to join the Boot Camps writing community.

The Boot Camp Community, with its Self-Pub Resource Providers, its lesson-by-lesson discussions on How To Think Sideways, How To Revise Your Novel, and as soon as we can get the database updated, How To Write A Series, its camaraderie and friendships, will remain and continue to grow.

The Boot Camp Community currently offers free lifetime membership to students of HTTS, HTRYN, and HTWAS for their respective courses (and of course, students of all three courses have lifetime access to the entire community).

For students who take the e-book or print versions of the course, Boot Camp membership will be optional, and will require a small monthly fee or a one-time lifetime membership payment for whichever course the student is taking.

And I’ll become a Boot Camp member writer, rather than an overworked occasional visitor.

But as I get things transferred, everything else is going off my sites. I’ll be closing my little writing shop, and closing the online versions of HTTS, HTRYN, and HTWAS, as well as the Free Plot Outline course.

I’m working on transferring How To Think Sideways first, and the Walkthrough will not be included in the e-book and print versions. I may at some later date figure out a way to do the Walkthrough lessons as DVDs, but right now, my plan is to simply keep them available for Legacy HTTS students.

If you want the How To Think Sideways course with free lifetime community membership and the Walkthrough included, you’ll need to join before I post all the lessons on Amazon and Barnes & Noble (because of technical issues, I’m not sure that I’ll be able to offer the course on iTunes).

I have that pencilled in on my calendar for February, 2012. On the day the course goes live on the big platforms, the doors for the online version close permanently to new members.

How To Revise Your Novel will then follow suit as quickly as I can make it happen.

How To Write A Series will be open to new students considerably longer, because I still have to write the books that I’ll use to expand the course.

And following that, I’ll write the rest of Create A World Clinic, which will ONLY be available through the big platforms. I’ll never sell it from my own shop, which I hope to close before or around the same time I close How To Write A Series.

It comes down to time.

I’m fifty-one.

I don’t know how much I have left, but whatever time I have left, I want to invest in my passion, my true love, the thing that has made me willing to pop out of bed at six in the morning for the past twenty-seven years, just to be a part of it.

I’m going back to writing fiction exclusively.

All the existing courses will still be there for you, in one fashion or another. The community will get even better.

But no matter how long I live, I cannot live long enough to tell all the stories I still want to tell. I would, however, like to write as many of them as I can.

And I aim to give it my best shot.

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

The Air Force Kid is back from Afghanistan

By Holly Lisle

After a very bad one-year deployment in Afghanistan, my kid is is back in the States, and on his way home to see us.

I am closing EVERYTHING until he has to go back to work, and I will not be available during this time to read e-mail, check student support/customer service, or deal with any other issues. During the next two weeks, I will not be doing the Walkthrough, writing the novel, or anything else.

I’m checking to see if Margaret can cover for me during this time, but if she can’t, I’ll take care of whatever goes wrong when I get back.

If you have a problem with a class, course, or product, go to http://novelwritingschool.com/support and create a support ticket. If Margaret can cover for me, you’ll get a reply as quickly as she’s able. If she can’t, it’s going to be October 10th (or 11th, depending on how much I find waiting for me in there) before you hear ANYTHING. Please be patient. I’ll be back when I’m able, but this is my kid, and I’m not apologizing for needing this time.

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

I’m still out of action

By Holly Lisle

Still fighting regular migraines, with the icepick variety tossed in for extra fun. I can’t really say how the vertigo is coming—the last few days, I haven’t stood up long enough to find out. I am accomplishing nothing. It’s driving me nuts.

Something considerably more important: Not long back from a TDY the Middle East, the Air Force Kid has extended his enlistment in the military in order to take a year-long assignment right in the middle of harm’s way.

Please keep him in your thoughts.

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

Anyone Graduate from Full Sail?

By Holly Lisle

My older son will be getting out of the Air Force in not too long, and he’s looking into attending Full Sail for filmmaking.

Problem is, he’s heard that the school might be A) seriously overpriced, and B) not teach him what he needs to know.

So if you have graduated from Full Sail (or are a current student there), what’s your take on the place?

If you were considering going there, and didn’t, what were the deciding factors that made you change your mind?

He’s looking for clear, objective data. Not “Full Sail rocks” or “Full Sail sucks,” but WHY.

Thanks for any insight you can offer.



Because this WordPress theme won’t allow me to lock a single post, I will simply delete unread all replies to this post. Thanks for not posting.

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

DTD — 498 words, and the cop’s view of the Dead Seven

By Holly Lisle

Switched to the next scene to intro my hero in his new amalgamated form. He found something on the victims that makes him certain what looks like a weird cultish group suicide is in fact a murder, and tips him off to who the murderers may be.

I’m off my game tonight, though. The Air Force Kid is back overseas, and though this time no one is supposed to be shooting at him or shelling him or trying to blow him up (essentially his every-day job last time) he’s still in the desert, and I’ll be stressed until he gets home safely.

How were your words?

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

DTD—289 words forward, and a small clue

By Holly Lisle

Aleksa gets the first hint that what she thinks happened to her assistant is not what happened at all. Small segment tonight—I haven’t slept more than a couple of hours a night since last Friday, and I’m determined to get a full night’s sleep tonight.

So, with 21,184 words completed, I’m going to turn in.

The Air Force Kid has returned to base. I’ve been blue the better part of the day; I miss him already.

Good luck on your words, if you’re playing. I’ll check in tomorrow to see how it went for you.

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

DTD—Night off with the AFK

By Holly Lisle

I took last night off. No words. The Air Force Kid is home on leave before going back to the desert for another 6 months, and we sat up and talked and played video games and just hung out together until about 3:30 AM.

If you’re playing “Write a book with me,” here are a few options for the occasional scheduled nights when I don’t write:

  • Write whatever you’ve chosen as your minimum word count.
  • Use the night for planning upcoming scenes (write out index cards, look over what you’ve already written and take note of where you left various characters you don’t want to forget, or whatever you do to plan what comes next)
  • Research some topic you’re going to need in your book, and take notes for JUST the scene where you’ll need it.
  • Go to a movie, read a book, or study something else creative that folks have done, and ask yourself “How well did the creator do this, and why do I think that?”
  • Take the night off, too.

Today is the AFK’s last night at home, but since he has to drive tomorrow, I’m guessing it’ll be an early night…and if it is, I’ll write. If not, I’ll post tomorrow so you’ll have a place to check in with what you did.

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

DTD: 333 more words take me over 20K

By Holly Lisle

Good words last night, along with surprising action as my MC remembers something horrible that shaped her life, and decides to fight for survival.

I’m stunned to realized that working at this ambling, casual pace, I’m already over 20,000 words, and that if I were planning a normal-length book, I’d already be 20% done.

This is something I’ve forgotten over the years, and am delighted to remember. If you aren’t just teeth-grittingly desperate to get paid again, you can write even small amounts, and so long as you do it regularly, you’ll rack up an impressive word count in very little time.

What I’m doing now is amateur writing (amateur in the Latin root-word sense, amator, which means lover). I’m writing out of simple love of doing it.

This is the way anyone who loves to write can write a book. Last night I ended up working on website fixes, so only had about half an hour to actually write before I fell over in an incoherent blob right around midnight. There have been a couple of nights when I got my words in fifteen or twenty minutes, decided I liked my stopping place, and quit for the night.

Writing does not have to be an all-consuming labor of ten- to sixteen-hour days—something that’s beginning to edge its way back into my weary brain as personal truth, rather than abstract theory.

It can be play, rather than work. And you can still love the story that’s coming together.

And on that note, I have a long week planned next week. And my older son is on leave, and going to come visit for a few days before he takes off for another stint in the desert. So I’m going to knock off at noon and call it a day.

Have a wonderful weekend.

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

Visiting With the AFK

By Holly Lisle

The Kid is home from the desert and got enough leave to come down and visit us for a few days before going on to a long list of other things he HAS to do. We’re having a wonderful time, and having him home safe, where we can talk about books and writing and movies and his very scary desert adventures, and some of the funny things that happened, is wonderful.

The Air Force has given him some real clarity, as has the time he spent under fire (much more than I thought). And I’ve discovered that he’s walking much the same path I walked. I worked ER for the clarity of mission, the immediacy of need, the fact that I had to be right quickly, under pressure, the fact that other people’s lives depended on me…and the fact that it mattered. He does what he’s doing for the same reasons, and now, offered a chance for an easier path and safety, he has discovered he doesn’t want to take it.

I understand that. I wish I didn’t, because then I could urge him to take the safe job.

But I do. So I won’t. I’ll worry. But I’ll also understand.

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