About Lisa Hall

I'm a writer, a survivor and I have an opinion on everything. I still can't decide if I should self publish or try a more traditional route.

Q & A: Could you write a short story or poem with the title chocolate stilettos?

Sure! Silly little random story prompts are one of my favorite activities. If you ever get a group of writers together, toss in any random phrase like this and watch them devour it like starving sharks. I strongly suspect that should I write such a thing it would be, shall we say, not safe for work. 😉

These, by the way, are Chocolate Stilettos.


That being said… if you were hoping I’d write the story out here, perhaps so you could copy it (oh, say, for your homework?) um, no. 😉


Q & A: How do I write an awesome short story?

To me, it’s harder to write a good short story than a novel. If you’re a good / great editor you have a better chance.

Typically I don’t try to tell the entire story. The first one I ever got published was a silly little romance that focused on the proposal. There was no lead up about how they met, and no conclusion about the ceremony. I just wanted to tell a “slice of life” tale about two very nervous people. It ended up being six pages long and it won me a computer. 😉

Think of something interesting. One single thing. Another story of mine was about a mother and daughter in a park. The mother was depressed, you never find out why. The little girl picked a dandelion but when she asked what it was, she misheard. She thought it was a “Daddy Lion”. So she wandered off, then returned with another. She put it in her mom’s hand and said “That one’s a Mommy Lion.” The mother saw what a little miracle her kid was, end of story.

Try to capture one emotion, one idea, one image. If you can do that you can write a great short story. 🙂

Q & A: I suffer from multiple mental illnesses and substance abuse. I am also homebound. Could I make any money writing about my struggles?

Maybe. There are a lot of factors at play here. It’s helpful if you’re a good writer, but it’s not a deal breaker. After all, Snooki got published. It’s actually much more important to have a good editor. Writing is a great occupation for someone who’s homebound. If you’re writing to either encourage or warn others, using your struggles as an example, you may find a market.

The real problem is the industry itself. Publishing wasn’t easy before 2008. But the industry took a real hit that year. Lots of little companies got gobbled up or simply closed. Until then a talented writer, with luck and perseverance, had maybe a 15% chance of being published. Now? It’s down to a 3%, and your paycheck amounts to a pittance – not even 10% of sales. Not only that, but the author is responsible for all marketing. Publishers do market their products, but only for very famous people who really don’t need it. The unwashed get no assistance, and if their book doesn’t sell they’ll never get another contract. A literary agent might help, but if you don’t have one already the chances of getting one are pretty slim.

Which leads to self-publishing. This is probably the route I’m going to take. But if the goal is to make enough money to live off of, prepare to go on a diet. The biggest and most obvious choice is Amazon. Most self-published books there sell for $5 or under. Calculating your royalties for your book is tricky, as there are several options. For the purpose of example, say you’ll make $3.50 for every $5 book sold. Amazon keeps threatening to pay for the pages the buyer reads, rather than for the entire book, but I don’t know if that panned out or not.

If the author is responsible for all marketing no matter which route they take, it makes sense to self-publish. And yes, it’s theoretically possible to make money doing it. Some people make lots of money doing it. Most do not.

If you want to look into Amazon, start here. There are several other options out there – this is just the best known. Best of luck!

Self Publishing and Free Distribution for Books, CD, DVD

Q & A: Do you think there is a good market for a story primarily set in the spirit world?

Yes and no. Right now the supernatural market is pretty saturated. However, there’s always room for a breakout story. You’ll need an original approach – something that slices through the ordinary.

My best example of that isn’t a book but a movie. On the surface Spirited Away is simply a ghost story.  But it’s so original it’s difficult to place it under a specific supernatural heading.  It has witches, dragons, plenty of ghosts (or… are they?) time travel (maybe) and a Radish Spirit.  It’s worth watching under any circumstance, but especially if you’re looking for a way to market the supernatural.

Q & A: What is your idea about the most remarkable soldier – real or fictitious – in history?

There are many incredible stories of heroism in real-life, some in my own family. However, since you included the realm of fiction in your question my choice is Paul Bäumer, the main character of “All Quiet on the Western Front”.


Sharing Paul’s story as a German soldier during World War I enables civilians to understand, at least somewhat, not only how combat veterans think, but why. When the reader finally understands the meaning of the book’s title it should haunt them.

I firmly believe that if those in power actually read this book there’d be fewer wars.

Q & A: What is your favorite novel?

My favorite book of all time is Jane Eyre.


I enjoy the story – a fine gothic-style romance with the arguably first feminist heroine. But the real treat is the language. There’s something musical in Charlotte Bronte’s writing style.  Consider her first paragraph:

“There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. We had been wandering, indeed, in the leafless shrubbery an hour in the morning; but since dinner (Mrs. Reed, when there was no company, dined early) the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so sombre, and a rain so penetrating, that further out-door exercise was now out of the question.”

At the moment I’m going through a Dystopian phase. My top four recommendations in that genre would be:



Orwell’s classic should be required reading. I think the book he wrote as a terrible warning was taken as a “how to” guide by some… and here we are.

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.”

Brave New World,


Aldous Huxley. See above re: “how to guide”.

“A squat grey building of only thirty-four stories. Over the main entrance the words, CENTRAL LONDON HATCHERY AND CONDITIONING CENTRE, and, in a shield, the World State’s motto, COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY.

The enormous room on the ground floor faced towards the north. Cold for all the summer beyond the panes, for all the tropical heat of the room itself, a harsh thin light glared through the windows, hungrily seeking some draped lay figure, some pallid shape of academic goose-flesh, but finding only the glass and nickel and bleakly shining porcelain of a laboratory. Wintriness responded to wintriness. The overalls of the workers were white, their hands gloved with a pale corpse-coloured rubber. The light was frozen, dead, a ghost. Only from the yellow barrels of the microscopes did it borrow a certain rich and living substance, lying along the polished tubes like butter, streak after luscious streak in long recession down the work tables.

“And this,” said the Director opening the door, “is the Fertilizing Room.”

The Handmaid’s Tale.


Margaret Atwood’s masterpiece. It’s listed as dystopian science fiction, but I actually think it should be found in the “horror” section. Especially if you’re female.

“There is more than one kind of freedom…Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it.”

And finally,

The Long Walk,


Stephen King’s first novel, an underrated tale written under the name Richard Bachman in 1966.  But wait!  Wasn’t “Carrie” his first?  Well yes.  It was the first book he published in 1974.  The Long Walk is the first novel he wrote.  I love the language!

“An old blue Ford pulled into the guarded parking lot that morning, looking like a small, tired dog after a hard run.”

Honorable Mention…

The Unit,


Ninni Holmqvist’s debut novel. I must confess, I didn’t enjoy reading this book. The main character annoyed me to death. I found myself wanting to shout at her. But that is why I recommend the book. I read it over a year ago, and I can already feel my anxiety rising and the walls close in as I’m writing this. The premise seems quite direct, but the effect is surprisingly subtle and long-lasting. You need to be a little bit fearless to read this book.

“It was more comfortable than I could have imagined. A room of my own with a bathroom, or rather a suite of my own, because there were two rooms: a bedroom and a living room with a kitchenette. It was light and spacious, furnished in a modern style and tastefully decorated in muted colors. True, the tiniest nook or cranny was monitored by cameras, and I would soon realize there were hidden microphones there too. But the cameras weren’t hidden. There was one in each corner of the ceiling – small but perfectly visible – and in every corner and every passageway that wasn’t visible from the ceiling; inside the wardrobes, for example, and behind doors and protruding cupboards. Even under the bed and in the cupboard under the sink in the kitchenette. Anywhere a person might crawl in or curl up, there was a camera. Sometimes as you moved through a room they followed you with their one-eyed stare.”

Q & A: What method do you use to write a novel? Please include some things you like and dislike about your method.

The only “correct” way to write is the way that works best for you. Some write longhand on a tablet. Some outline, draft, outline again, then fill in the blanks. Some write the ending first then work their way toward it. Some write sequentially though I swear I don’t know how they do it! Stephen King begins all his stories with a single thought. “Wouldn’t it be funny if…” For example, for his novella “The Mist” he thought “Wouldn’t it be funny if huge bugs attacked a supermarket?” (yeah, the guy has a warped sense of humor!)

My personal style is to listen. For example, I was walking downtown recently when I saw a street sign at an intersection. I was on 17th street, but the only marker for the cross street was a “one way” sign. And I suddenly heard a voice say “I live at the corner of 17th and One Way.” The voice was middle-aged, female, and quite British. I tried to figure out who said it, why it was important, and what the townsfolk thought about the lady who lived there. It’s one of my best stories!

Oh, also, I don’t really write. Even this answer to you – my fingers write. If I couldn’t type I’m not sure I’d be much of a writer, because most of the time they tell the tales. I sometimes feel as though I’m just along for the ride!

Q & A: How Do I Become a Writer?

Excellent question!  I think many people who aren’t actively involved in the arts are a bit intimidated when they start.  Really, the best way to be a good writer is to be a good reader. And by “good” I mean voracious. Consume books. Devour books. And when you’re not doing that, write.

Second – don’t worry. People will say you can’t do it. You’ll receive that judgey little smirk when you announce you’re writing a novel, followed by the withering down-their-nose stare when they ask how often you’ve been published. Screw ‘em. You aren’t writing for them. I worried myself straight out of a career that way. Don’t be me.

Third – listen to those who have gone before you, but don’t dwell on them. Neil Gaiman offers some nifty advice here (check out the very first thing he says and take it to heart):

FAQs | Advice to Authors

FWIW, my favorite “how to” book is written by Stephen King.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft – Wikipedia

Reading that made me feel like I was sitting down with my favorite Uncle. You know, the one who tells all the really cool stories your parents don’t want you to hear. At the same time his advice is clear, direct, and entirely useful.

Along with ditching the worry, don’t stress about getting it right. When I write I turn off both my spell check and my grammar program. If I edit as I write I’ll never finish a page. Don’t worry about “voice”. Don’t worry about “tense”. Don’t worry about format. All that comes later. Until you have something down on paper all you have is an idea.

Come on! The world needs your novel, or whatever the heck it is you’re writing. Speaking of which, one of my favorite motivations is National Novel Writing Month (aka Nanowrimo).

National Novel Writing Month

It happens every November but don’t fret. Even if you’re past the date (or too early, it really depends on your point-of-view) you’ll still find an active community of writers there. It’s great for encouragement.

One last thing. Writer’s block. It hits us all. Perhaps that’s why you were asking in the first place. If you’re still wondering how to write, what to write, when to write… do this. Snag your favorite pen, tablet, journal or word processor. Write this sentence:

“I can’t write.”

Write it out again.

“I can’t write. I can’t write.”

Try a few more. Seriously.

“I can’t write. I can’t write. I can’t write! And there’s this crazy American chick who just told me to write this stupid phrase when I really wanted to flirt with this amazing British actor. But here I am writing this stupid phrase anyway. So there, are you HAPPY NOW? Crazy American chick? I can’t write I can’t write I can’t write! I. Can’t WRITE!!!”

Congratulations. You just wrote. Not only that, you have the basis of a character! He’s talking to you. Listen to him. Write him down. In the end that’s really who you’re writing for. Your characters need a voice. Now, this one has one. Go get ‘em!

What to NEVER say to a writer. EVER.

tumblr_inline_n9g140tV701s1ll4kOr… how to earn a first class “E Ticket” into one of my stories.

I’ve seen lots of articles like this.  “10 Things To Never Say to a Writer“.  “Eight Things You Should Never Say to a Writer”  “19 Things You Should Never Say to a Budding Writer” (I like how that one tossed in “budding”).  People love lists.  And most of these cover the generic situations writers of all genres find mildly annoying.

Included in nearly every list are questions like “Will you write my paper for me?”  and “Can I be in your story?”  Personally, I’ve never met anyone bold enough to ask me to write something for them, but I’m often asked (sometimes joking, sometimes serious) if whoever I’ve just met can be a character in my book.  My friends know better.  If you end up in one of my stories, typically it’s not because I like you.  My stories are angst-fests so ending up in one generally means you’re either in for a lot of suffering (if I like you) or you’re a red shirt.

The last person I specifically wrote in was a stick-up-his-ass hotel manager in New Orleans.  I had asked if I could look around for a bit, because I’d love to use the place as a setting.  He – swear to God – had me escorted out of the building by security.  That earned him multiple appearances in several of my stories.  Usually  he ends up something like this:

Some days, it’s good to be a writer.

I found this note waiting for me on my NaNoWriMo account, from an admirer who will remain anonymous.

I thought that I signed up for the nano trial version of Scrivener and that it would last until december, however I went to use it today and was informed that the trial version was finished and would have to pay the full amount to continue.