A Personal Experience with “How To Write Short Stories” by Holly Lisle

I know it’s been a grand old long time since I posted anything here, and shame on me for that. However, I just couldn’t pass up this chance to offer my readers something good that has worked for me.

For years I have been taking advantage of the classes offered by Holly Lisle and have really enjoyed her insight and brand of instruction. Without investing in some of her classes, I really doubt I would have finished, let alone published, anything.

Currently, I am taking her class How to Write Short Stories.

“But T. R. Neff has already written and published short stories,” you may be wondering. That’s true enough. But here’s my problem, and it’s one of those addressed in the class: reining it in. I’ve got plenty of ideas floating around in my head, but as I start writing, the story keeps growing, and growing. Then I punish myself because “it’s not complex enough” or “the pieces don’t all fit together now” and the work stagnates, or gets shoved to the back of the hard drive and forgotten. Or, in one case, got shredded in one particular (and hopefully, last) fit of anger and self-denigration over the hopelessness of my work.

Among the other useful exercises (not just theory, that BS like “you’ve got to feel the words, make them come alive” but practical assignments that guide you to actually write) is how to pick ideas that can stay small. Not that they won’t ever become part of something larger, but keeping them small provides another huge benefit, and a concept that Holly goes over in the class: Fail Faster. Smaller, more “accomplishable” story goals allows for the rapid completion of a story that either hits the mark or falls flat. But the story is finished, and you can move on to the next. Writing, practicing the skills, not just languishing on the same piece of writing. And don’t think I am preaching at anyone here like I’m somehow above all that–I’m totally in this category, someone who frets and worries. But that’s been changing, and that’s all for the good.

So if you’re looking for a way to improve (or even begin!) your story-telling skills, I recommend virtually any of the non-fiction by Holly Lisle. There’s even a free class on writing flash fiction that she offers. Right now, however, you can still get her How to Write Short Stories for the discounted price. ‘

I’m not going to drive you to buy anything from me to get this link, since I’m already an affiliate, and I would love if you signed up for my newsletter, but I don’t have time to set anything up and think it’s really important to share this RIGHT NOW before the discounted price is gone and the price increases to the “normal” price forever. So, if you are interested, go now. There’s a timer on there that shows you how long you have left, but Holly herself gave us a warning that the seconds aren’t meshing correctly, so don’t wait until the last minute.

Disclosure: I am an affiliate, and will get a percentage of any purchase you make through the link I provide here. In other words: Links on this site may lead to products for which the site owner may receive compensation.

Published: Omen-Eyes: Glimpses of the Vindecene Empire

Omen Eyes Cover


Definitely, My Treat for You!

My first book of the year! Well, not a book, really. A collection of flash fiction, but I digress. I’d been so busy with college work and the other busyness of life that I slacked quite a bit on my fiction. Slacked on writing? Not so much. The revising and such, yes. Very much. In fact, I’ve got several more flash fiction stories in a futuristic setting that I am–crossing my fingers–hoping to release before the year is up, stories I’ve already written in first draft but put off revising until I could get Omen-Eyes out there. I’m not going to name the collection, however, until I am sure which of the stories are going to make it. That said, I am happy to introduce a new (to you, but one I’ve been working on for some time) universe, one in which the fantasy setting has a Roman instead of a Medieval basis. Roman history’s always been a fascination of mine, and while I toyed with historical dramas set in the Classical Roman era, I decided I would have more fun with it and put mythical beings and creatures into a new world I created.  Not that there’s anything wrong with historical purism. In fact, I laud it. Devour it, even. If you want fantastic stories set in ancient Rome, check out Steven Saylor’s absolutely MAGNIFICENT Roma Sub Rosa mystery series. (Gordianus the Finder and Bethesda are two of my all-time favorite characters.)

Omen-Eyes is, however, a foretaste of a longer story about the Vindecene Empire, its people and its enemies. I hope you enjoy. If you do (or even if you don’t) I value honest feedback.

You can get the collection at Amazon or Smashwords.


I haven’t dropped off the face of the planet…

…although sometimes it feels as if I have. Somehow I manage to write these “hey, guys, I’m still alive” posts more often than I’d like. Intermittent access to the internet and still wading through the day-to-day slog of a “normal” job sucks all of my time away. In this case, I had been taking Master’s-level courses in addition to the dayjob, so when it came down to “do I blog or do I dedicate time to the books/stories?” the books and stories won every time. And I am still taking courses. Well, okay, just one course this “semester.” I needed a little more time to get back into the thick of things and start marketing my work (which I suck at, completely. I’ve never been very good at selling myself. Is it because I am humble? You tell me! Hah!).

Other things which have been… interesting. I entered a story entitled “Waking Day” in a local contest, but didn’t make the cut. I missed out on the prize money, but to me that was only secondary. What I really wanted was the marketing (didn’t I already say how much I sucked at that?). Anyway, the upside is that now they don’t have exclusive one-time publishing rights to the story, so I am going to throw a couple of stories together, all in the same theme, and publish that. The working title is “The Dystopian Sextet” because there’s going to be (drumroll) six flash-length stories in it.

I’ve also got to be very careful to stay on track with those and with my novel, The Opal Necklace, because I took a night out to watch a debate at my alma mater between Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine (yes, you read that right)*. The problem with this? I really want to add a historical fiction story into my schedule, focusing on Colonial America just before and during the American Revolution. I am blessed with living in an geographic area that possesses more than a little significance during this time of American history, so the temptation transcends the flirtatious and heads right into full-blown seduction mode. If I am good with my studies and sticking to my main writing schedule, I let myself go play in that world for awhile, drumming up ideas to use later.

Bottom line, I am not dead yet, and continue in my endeavors to bring entertaining, if not earth-shatteringly literary, stories.

*These two were, sadly, not warped into the present from the Eighteenth Century by the marvels of chronological/temporal sciences to share their wisdom and experiences with us. They were, however, interpreted by excellently entertaining and informative actors from the American Historical Theatre, hosted by my college. Fantastic job, guys (and their period clothing was to die for! Did I mention I am a costume/sewing junkie? I love period clothing and elaborate movie costumes/wardrobes).

CLONES ARE PEOPLE TWO is on the Virtual Shelves

Clones are People Two


Follow the story of Aaron Maxwell Seven-Miller as he flees the CMA –Clone Management Agency– when they arrive to take him into custody.  The crime?  Being the seventh clone of convicted murderer Maxwell A. Miller, infamous linebacker for the Steering City Helixes.

Available at Amazon and Smashwords now!